Yesterday morning was rough on the water. I launched at 5AM to what I thought was 10 mph winds. As I rounded the first bend and tasted the first wave, I knew different. Luckily I was in a 13 foot long Hobie Revolution with Mirage Drive and could battle through odd wave angles, two to three foot rollers and a nasty head wind to make my destination, but a few years ago, I didn't have a kayak with these attributes. A few years ago I heard the footsteps of death bounding for me as a freak, unannounced storm rolled in and tried to show me my maker.

Almost seven years ago now I embarked on an adventure. I was living in a new place with lots of new lakes, rivers and kayaking friends. One of these friends called me up last minute and wanted to go fish Lake Belton in our kayaks. Without hesitation I loaded up my 10 foot long sit in kayak and headed to the lake.

Lake Belton is full of large bluffs that tower above the water sometimes 50 feet. The bluffs make great shade to fish in during the boiling months of summer and this particular day called for shade. We trolled lures up and down the bluffs, staying in the shade as much as possible and being new, I trailed about two hundred yards behind my friend. I wanted to see what trees to avoid in the water and not lose any tackle.

The paddling and trolling was producing some white bass and an occasional hybrid so the time melted away. A huge jerk on my crankbait grabbed my attention and almost freed me of my rod. The kayak spun around quickly and I soon learned I had found a tree. I didn't want to lose the bait so I commenced the wizardry of trying to free a crankbait with no bait retriever that is lodged 12 feet below your kayak. After 10 minutes I finally freed the bait, looked up and my friend was gone. He must have kept going and rounded a corner into a nearby creek. With the bluffs blocking my view I could only paddle and try to catch a glimpse of where he had gone.

With the first paddle stroke I heard it. Closely behind it was another one. A loud, low booming sound filled the sky. I thought at first it was cannon fire on Ft Hood but as I listened further I knew this was a storm. With a zero percent chance of rain in the forecast my eyes tried to quickly readjust as the sky turned an angry charcoal. The wind found its breath and started frothing the water around me. Ahead I could see a small gravel bar and an overhang in the bluff wall. I leaned into my stroke and powered ahead.The sky released her hold on the rain and a torrential shower commenced.

With each stroke waves were pounding me from every side, rain blistering my face and water was collecting in the cockpit. After five minutes of paddling I had lost ground. Making no progress I headed the opposite direction, hoping the wind would help. Just trying to turn the kayak was a chore as the water was pocket high inside. I was wearing a life jacket and decisions had to be made. I decided to get into the water. I would try to tow the kayak while swimming to a small shelf I hadn't seen previously. Holding to the kayak handle the wind blew my plans away. The kayak, free of my weight was skimming across the waves. Before I could touch the bottom I had been blown 200 yards from my original position. With a more gradual slope than the steep bluff I had been near, I climbed onto the gravel bank and proceeded to flip the kayak to drain it. I sat exhausted in the pouring rain. The rain tasted salty. And then it hit me. I was crying. Scared, shaken and alone I was crying.

The old, flood-killed trees of this embankment creaked and moaned in the wind as I heard the most haunting sound I have ever heard in my life. The footsteps of death. I had very little fight left in me at this point but I was glad to be alive. The echoing booms of thunder and sprays of lightning filled the sky getting louder and brighter each second. The footsteps were drawing near. It was time to fight for my life. Another decision had to be made.

I quickly surveyed the landscape and discovered a small rock ledge that was as far away from the trees as possible. Trees are lightning magnets and I wanted no part of their potential light show. Wedging myself as deep under the ledge as I could get, I held my knees and my breath. The footsteps were getting closer. With an explosion and searing bright light a tree fell to its final resting place less than five yards away from my ledge. The ringing of my ears blocked out the thunder and I closed my eyes. If it was going to be today, I didn't want to see it coming.

As the ringing subsided a few minutes later I realized the footsteps were gone. Small rays of sunshine were peaking through and painting the now calming water. I remember thinking, "Today was not my day to go."

After surveying the skies, I emptied my kayak one last time, reboarded and went searching for my friend. In short order I discovered him around a bend, alert ok and fishing again. Apparently his time with the storm had not been as much of an ordeal. He casually asked if I was ok. I responded yes and then told him I thought I would call it a day.

The 12 foot Native Slayer is one of the most talked about new kayaks the industry has seen. Being touted as “the perfect kayak”, “the next big thing” and “the best kayak on the market” it definitely piqued my curiosity. I wanted to see exactly what this boat could do.

After close to 70 hours on the water with the Slayer, I have become very familiar with the ins and outs of the boat. Lots of things are going on in this new endeavor for Native. Some are great, some need refinement.

The Good

At 12 feet long, 31 inches wide and 70 pounds, the Slayer is a boat that can be car topped, truck loaded or trailered. It offers stability in the water in both the high and low seat positions (which is about a 4 inch difference).

The front hatch cover is a major improvement over the initial offering. It can be used with scuppers in or out to offer itself as dry storage or a livewell of sorts to keep fish. Put the scuppers in and add ice to make it into a cooler. Through storms, huge swells and rain traveling down the highway, the front hatch cover held tight and kept the compartment dry. This was a huge surprise and a welcome one. The versatility of the front hatch is a great feature.

The scuppers throughout the boat are larger than your normal kayak scuppers. This helps drain water off the deck quickly when in wet situations. The Slayer paddles much drier than I thought it would. With a round nose without a ton of rocker, I expected more spray in rough conditions. What I found was quite the opposite. Water was pushed away and down the sides of the boat efficiently. I stayed dry and I like that, especially for winter river trips.

The deck is open for the most part with some pre-molded areas that are covered in a small dense foam. This quiets the deck and didn’t grab treble hooks near as readily as I feared. The front bungee clips seem out of place for my uses but I could see how a nice flybox could be secured by it.

The rear well is just a tad small on the Slayer 12. I could fit a BlackPak both directions but it was snug. There is not enough room to carry a 5 gallon bucket and a BlackPak. A little more width and 6 more inches of length in the rear well could have accomplished this.

The tag along wheel on the stern has been a point of argument since its introduction. I found myself using it more and more though I would only use it when the deck is clear and not loaded as the wheel is not wide enough to keep the kayak from tipping to one side or another if loaded.

Room for Improvement

The Slayer brags about lots of track to attach accessories to. While yes, there is lots of track on this boat, most of it is not accessible without a Phillips head screwdriver. The square hatch up front has inset track which is not usable without removal of both the hatch and the track. The track around the front hatch and rear tankwell are also bookended in by bungee clips that are screwed into place. This keeps you from being able to add or remove things on the fly without screwing and unscrewing hardware. This could be resolved with a different bungee attachment system. Creating a clip that would have a pinch to release function would fix almost all of the issues. The front square hatch just needs to be reworked. Tab screws or something would go a long way to improve this.

The biggest problem with the Slayer is no below deck storage. As a saltwater and river fisherman, I need to stow stuff below deck. I can’t do that at all in the Slayer. A rectangular access hatch in the front or back would fix this. So would closing in the front tank well. Give me something I can stow a rod or paddle below deck in and I’ll show you a kayak more people will buy.

The boat paddles well though it struggles more in wind which should be expected in a higher position with higher side walls. Where the seat is positioned heavier folks will be prone to getting water in the back well. Even with two scuppers back there, I was constantly pouring water out when I came back in. I weigh 175 and the boat has a 400 pound capacity. Be aware you may have to load balance on long trips to avoid the same thing.

The other glaring issue with the Slayer is the lack of paddle holders or rod holders. With the price point of this kayak you would think they could help you out with that. It seems they truly built this boat for a minimalist fly fisherman. For the record, paddle holders of some sort should come with a boat. Even if it’s just a bungee.

Final Thoughts

Overall the Slayer is a good boat for lots of applications. For the angler that day trips and doesn’t carry a lot of stuff, this will be a great boat. For Beyond The Breakers, I would pass. If you are looking for bay flats casting, the Slayer is also one to consider. Standing won’t be a problem for most people though it could take a few trips out to get your sea legs. It is easy to get in and out of and with the great Native seat, your back won’t mutiny after a day on the water. For around $1200, it is worth a good look. 

If you want to try one out and are in the Dallas area, call my friends at Mariner-Sails. They have demos available to paddle every week (weather allowing). 

Slayer Usable Track without screwdriver

"A trout is a moment of beauty known only to those who seek it." –Arnold Gingrich

When I close my eyes at night and have the good fortune to dream of fishing, one fish seems to make more appearances than any other. One very particular fish. Normally I chase bass of some variety or when on the coast will go after reds but a small brown trout is so often the star of my midnight matinees. 

I suppose the stars just aligned for that fish to become so prominent in my fishing memories. In 2009, my parents, siblings and our extended family of some aunts and uncles, along with our matriarch went on vacation to a little town called Almont, Colorado. I have a distant cousin who has a place there so we made the two day trek and drove. It is a truly beautiful place. Nestled north of Gunnison and east of Crested Butte, the mountains, wildflowers and three rivers create quite the spectacle. 

Anxious to be fishing, my brother and I procured our licenses and went to it. Our paths eventually lead us to a little lake tucked away in the mountains, across grated dirt where it filled about 70 acres. I'm sure it has a name but we never knew it. As the afternoon progressed and the sun started to hide behind the towering trees, I caught my first brown trout ever. It was 16 inches long and the most beautiful fish I had ever laid eyes  on. I'm mostly and medically colorblind but this fish shown so vibrant I felt as if it were a gift. The golds, purples, pinks and greens were captivating. The only pictures I have of the fish are the ones of beauty seared deep into my memories. 

I felt like I had received a gift. I still do. Sharing such a beautiful landscape with my brother was gift enough but it was as if God Himself had changed my ability to see colors for that moment so I could truly appreciate the beauty He had created. I love that moment. It is a warm and glowing beacon that further strengthens my love of fishing. It allows me to appreciate creation as designed and know that I need to remember the One who made it possible. 

That is my moment of beauty seared deep. 

Do you have one you'd like to share? Leave a comment below or find us on Facebook at 

Before the gear heads start saying their amens and the frugal home DIYers start condemning a price tag, I want to implore you to read the rest of this post. I want you to understand why I bought what I did. Am I saying that everyone needs this tool? Need is a strong word. I am saying that I enjoy the heck out of mine and can’t imagine not having it. Let’s get on with it.

 On deck storage for fishing gear has historically been limited to milk crates or other tubs until recently. Late last year we started seeing teasers and eventually the final product called The BlackPak from YakAttack. A 10 year vet of using milk crates as storage on my kayak had me scratching my head about whether this new storage container for kayaks warranted an $85-$125 price tag (depending on the features you order.) I read up, made a few phone calls, watched a couple of videos about it and decided I needed one. Luckily I was able to get in on one of the first orders from HOOK1 and Chad Hoover got it sent to me post haste. 15 minutes after I received it, I had it put together. For the next couple of days I continually changed the configuration, added some LED lights and got it ready for the maiden voyage. I haven't fished without it since that first trip. 

I could spend the next 1,000 words talking about what the BlackPak can do but several of those things can be duplicated by a milk crate. As the title graphic says, "This Ain't No Milkcrate". (I realize that's a double negative so before you email me about grammatical law, relax a bit. Pulitzer isn't calling anytime soon.) 

Let's get right to the good stuff. These are the things that a BlackPak gives you that you can't get out of a milk crate. (Unless you basically mod it to be your own BlackPak) 

Enclosed protection from the elements. 
Protect those soft plastics from direct sunlight. While not water tight, the BP deflects most rain, splash and other intrusive water. If water does get in, it will quickly find the exit via the drains in the bottom corners.

Keep all your stuff enclosed.
Drop a 1/4 oz bullet weight into the BP and it'll be there when you get home. Same thing for hooks, split shot, worms, lures and more. Do the same in a milk crate and well, good luck. If you happen to have lures loose, they won't find their way out the sides, get tangled on items outside the crate pressed up against it or latch on to the many open gaps. Solid on all sides, everything stays inside but the water. 

Rigging readiness. 
The BlackPak has top rails that are ready to add on GearTrac or rig straight to it with a long t-bolt. The top, bottom and sides are all made of very sturdy Starboard that you can mount something directly to. It is pre-drilled on both sides to attach the optional rod holders and because the lid is inset you aren't bumping rods in the rod holder. The top rail also adds a nice lip that allows you to mount LED lights under to keep them away from water, knock out direct light at night to your eyes but still illuminate the BP. I drilled a couple of additional holes and added an on/off switch. One last thing about the top rails, they come designed with hooks so that your bungee in your tank well can secure it. No need to buy additional straps, mess with stretch hooks or any of that other mess. The BP is really only limited by your imagination and fits in almost every sit on top kayak. You can also bungee it down to the back of lots of sit ins as well.  

This is not a cheap plastic Tupperware box. I've seen guys over 250 pounds (262 according to the video) standing and JUMPING on the BlackPak. Chad wants to make sure it is sturdy so he tries it. Don't believe me? Go here:
The BlackPak is super lightweight yet rugged and durable. You aren't going to find that for $4 at WalMart. 

Have you ever tried to make something like this yourself? Some guys can. When I say some, I mean very few. Most of us can zip tie some stuff together to make an enclosed box, sure, but to make it this sturdy, without exposed openings in the sides and corners, with rigging hooks and top rails and just the material alone you are going to spend a nice chunk of money. I did some rough calculations for 1 18" X 18" piece in black at 1/4" thick. That's $13.50 without shipping or taxes. Check it here:
You would need 6 of those. You'll have to find some way to do corners on your own. For purchase, shipping and taxes, just the sides of this are going to cost you $102.68. Better not mess up. That's for the basic sides. You don't have top rails, rod holders, corners, hardware, bungee etc to finish this out. For $85 you could get the base setup and come out ahead. See what I'm getting at here? You can make a copy but with the same quality components, it will cost you more and look and function much worse. You come out way ahead with the deluxe model for $125 too and did I mention it's also available in white now? 

I realize some folks don't have the money or want to spend the money and that's cool. But if you think you will duplicate the BlackPak by scrapping together some plastic around a milk crate, you should think again. Just because a wagon has four wheels doesn't mean it's a Ferrari. 

If you want to see one in person and are in the Dallas area, check out the Mariner-Sails show room. They are located at 11110 Stemmons Freeway, Dallas, TX  75229.

If you aren't in the Dallas area but are ready to order one, go here:


If you've been looking for a paddle for under $150, today's Paddle Battle is for you! Two candidates take the stage today that I have been paddling with for about 40 hours each. While the price is the same, these paddles offer very different features. Here is the tale of the tape:

The Aqua Bound Manta Ray Hybrid is a lighter paddle with bigger blades. Bigger blades however, do not always equate to more efficiency in the water. The abXII blades are stiff but I would not say rigid. You can curve the tip of the blade a bit. This is not unexpected as lighter paddles often have less rigidity and thickness in the blade, not always, but usually.

I liked paddling with this paddle. I used it to push off a few times from shore and it didn't snap or give too much. It did flex which gave me pause at first but I soon realized it could handle it. Paddling I felt like the water movement was good and efficiency was where I needed it to be. In the high seat position of the Native Slayer I could really reach the water and not have to concentrate on my stroke as much because the blades are so big. In the Malibu Mini-X, sitting low I was able to skim the water without having to dig and it still moved me right along. I did prefer this paddle in the higher seated positions.

The Werner SkagIt FG IM is a little heavier than the Manta Ray but is a rigid bladed paddle. The SkagIt worked amazing for pushing off, standing and paddling and many other uses. Where it lacked was in surface area. When in the Slayer, I had to concentrate harder on my paddling to make sure I was getting enough paddle surface in the water. I didn't need as much surface area but it was a retraining exercise. When in the Malibu, the low seat paddling was a breeze. You are at the perfect position for the paddle to work at its highest efficiency and can straight up move in a low seat kayak.

I liked both paddles. They both had cool ferrule features that lesser paddles just don't offer. Both had an area they shined in. For paddling an elevated seat kayak, I would recommend the Aqua Bound. For a low seat, I would get the Werner.

If I needed a paddle for both situations, I would choose the Manta Ray because almost all other things being equal, the weight is 5.25 oz less. That makes a difference on the water, especially for long trips.

The best way to choose the right paddle for you is to demo, demo ,demo. Ask a buddy to borrow his, go to a demo that a local dealer is having or even just go into the store and hold one. Making an informed decision is always the best way to go. Both of these paddles are available at Mariner-Sails in Dallas. 


Stock markets rise and fall. Instability is a worry for many and uncertain futures leave many questioning where to invest. How do I secure my future? How do I make sure everything is ok?

Money isn't the only thing you can invest.

Admittedly, I was late to the party for Mumford & Sons. Sometimes new music doesn't get as much time as it deserves. I've been burned too many times (freaking Nickelback). I gave them a try, liked them and last month downloaded their  "Live at Red Rocks" album. I like all of it but one particular song haunts me. Literally. I'll wake up in the middle of the night with the lyrics singing in my head. I'll be at my desk and bubbling up to the top of my consciousness come the same words. The song is "Awake My Soul". The slow bellowing of the title lyrics is bad enough to cause a haunting but the bridge inspires and taunts me.

"In these bodies we will live. In these bodies we will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life."

Let that wash over you for a minute.

You get one go. One life. Whatever you choose to love is what your life will ultimately be about. Chase the dollar, that's your legacy. Stand for family, your legacy is that. But it's not just what you want it to be. It's where you actually INVEST your love.

I think of guys like Jim Dolan and Dave Potts with Heroes on the Water. That is a true investment and no doubt part of their lives.Every conversation I have ever had with these gentlemen has been about helping our wounded soldiers get on the water. The healing that this organization does is a monumental example of investing in others.

For me I struggle with irons in the fire. I have a lot of them. Do I love my 8-5 job? Not really. I invest time there to pay the bills. I do that out of love because I want to provide for my family that I love so much. It's an investment, albeit a small one.

My real love investment comes packaged as time. My kids ask very little of me except for time. I am blessed that they love the outdoors as much as I do. Sharing time on the water with them is a huge investment I want to make more deposits into. Seeing my  eight year old son manhandle a kayak in rough winds and grinning ear to ear while doing so radiates a deep warmth in the caverns of my soul. It awakens me to love and life. It combines two strong loves to create what I hope to be my legacy one day.

When it is all said and done, where will you invest your life?
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Thinking about some LED lights for that kayak? Maybe even the deck, the power boat or the dock? It is important you know that not all LED lights are the same

Most of the LED lights that are sold to fishermen and even kayak fishermen are either a type 3528 or 5050. These numbers derive from the size of the chip used to run the lights. 3528 lights have a chip that is 3.5mm X 2.8mm. A 5050 is 5.0mm X 5.0mm. See where the name came from? 

As you have probably guessed by now, a 5050 is brighter in almost all scenarios when compared to a 3528. A big part of this is because the 5050 has three LED chips in one housing as compared to the one chip per housing of the 3528. 

5050 chip
3528 chip
Because of the size of the chip in a 5050, the number of LEDs per foot could be less than a 3528 but rarely is. Most companies sell 20" strips that have 30 LEDs regardless of the chip. 

Another thing to consider is the wire that is attached to the LED strips and the extra wire that may come with it. Is it marine grade? Are the connections heat shrink sealed? Is it tiny little 28 gauge wire? 22? 16? Remember the lower the number the thicker and usually more durable it is. A marine grade 20 gauge wire will outperform a non-marine grade 20 gauge wire in water applications. It may outlast a non-marine 18 or 16 too. 

LED lights typically go one of two places: inside the boat or outside the boat.
Marine grade wire on the left
The outside lights are the ones you should think about when you ponder wear and tear. How is the casing built? What adhesive is used? Is it filled with silicone, resin, nothing or is it open air? How are the ends capped? The better made case will be the one you want. 

I ordered a couple of different strips from two different companies to do a comparison. I took the best pictures I could so you could see what I am seeing during testing. Both are blue lights. One is a 5050 and the other is a 3528. Both are offered to kayak fishermen as solutions. Others exist, these were just two I had heard of and wanted to do a side by side. Some companies don't tell you which chip size you are ordering so make sure you ask!

I have used a set of 3528s on a Cobra Navigator I used to own. I bought what I thought I could afford which was about $50. Only 5 of the 6 worked out of the box. Within two months I had busted the casing on two more. They were not the greatest but they worked. I just wished they had worked longer. But for $50, what can you expect?

I recently was fishing with a friend who had installed some 5050 lights. He flipped the switch to turn them on and it was blinding. They definitely outshined the lights I had bought. In my comparisons, it wasn't hard to tell which was brighter. 

Some final thoughts. 

Do the 5050 light cost more? Yes, they do. Are they better lights? Yes and then say it one more time for emphasis.YES! 

When you start looking for LEDs, stop looking at price first and look at components first. After you are comparing apples to apples, then look at price. 

Can I recommend a place to buy 5050 lights? I sure can. The ones I saw and then tested are actually made and sold by a guy here in Texas. He is a fellow kayaker and sponsors several kayak events every year. 

For my recommendation on getting the best lights with the best components and the ones that I tested here, visit with Dez Davis of Austin, TX. To check out his full lineup of LEDs for all applications both on water and off, go to

In addition to using all of the components listed above, SuperNova LEDs use a fully enclosed plastic jacket that's injected with resin and an adhesive lined heatshrink as well.

Dez knows his stuff and can help you with whatever you need including custom lights. 

The kit I am using now is the Extreme Kayak Kit

  • 2- 28LED Light Strips, 20"
  • 2- 13LED Light Strips, 10"
  • 4- 4LED Light Strips, 4"
  • 3M Adhesion Promoter
  • 2 Switches and Waterproofing Boots
  • 8 Pieces Heat Shrink
  • 6 Wire Management Pads
  • 10 Tie Wraps
  • 5amp Fuse
  • 6' Extra 22AWG Wire
  • 1 In-line Fuse Holder

The SuperNova Kayak Kit includes 8 strips of lights for the front, rear and cabin of your kayak, which ensures ample visability of all structures at casting distance and the cabin lights give adequate worklight, and can be switched off and on as needed.
See what's out there and most important, be seen by others on the water." from SuperNova.
Hopefully these insights will help you make the right choice for you. Informed buying is smart buying, wherever you decide to buy. 

Time to get on that night bite!

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