Marcus Villanueva is our guest blogger today. Marcus is from the Austin area and fishes the Colorado River chain of lakes often. I have fished with Marcus a few times and noticed how he dissected grass beds and approached them. I didn't have a ton of experience doing this and thought you guys might learn a little something along with me. If you want to keep up with Marcus and his fishing exploits, check out his site at www.withoutapaddleblog.com and check out the pictures throughout the site that his wife Autumn produced. A true family full of talent. 



by Marcus Villanueva

Living in the Austin Texas area I am blessed with lots of lakes that have lots of grass.  As most know grass always (at least in Texas) equals big bass.  And who doesn’t like catching big bass?  No one, that’s who!
When I first started bass fishing I would always hear people say things like “that rat-l-trap would work great in the grass” or “you gotta fish in the grass”.  So naturally I did just that, threw a rat-l-trap in the grass.  What did I catch?  A ton of grass!  Eventually I got frustrated and quit fishing the grass.  I had absolutely no idea how to fish grass.  Luckily I’m stubborn and eventually figured it out (with some help) and started catching fish.  So my plan here is to help you learn some basic ways to fish grass. 

Typically when people are talking about grass they are referring to Hydrilla.  There are many ways to attack this cover.  In this first section I will discuss fishing grass that grown to the surface.  Find “holes” in the grass and pitch a weightless soft plastic into it, and just let it slowly sink.  More often than not you will get bit on the initial drop.  So don’t leave too much slack in your line and pay very close attention or it can result in a gut hooked fish.  If you don’t get bit you can give the bait a slight twitch, often which will be enough to provoke a sluggish bass.  Senkos, Rattlesnakes, and Flukes are some of my favorites for this.  Sounds easy enough right?  Practice throwing into the holes as some are small and you need to hit them perfect.  When fishing these holes often times a frog, be it a hollow body or a Ribbit type frog, works well too.  On these I like to cast past the hole and work it back loudly and slowly to the hole.  For a hollow body, once at the edge of the hole I like to make the frog act scared to enter the open water.  Slowly I’ll work it to the open water then let it sit in the middle (if the hole is big enough) for a minute.  If that doesn’t work I’ll work it out of the hole fast and erratically, like the frog is scared for its life!  Then I’ll stop it on the edge of the grass again.  This will give a would be attacker one last clear shot at the frog.  If you get a hit and miss, quickly (I mean as fast as possible) grab your weightless worm and throw it in the hole.  Don’t bother reeling in the frog; don’t even think about the frog.  You simply don’t have time for that now, just think about that weightless worm rod and making a perfect cast.  If you wait too long you will have missed an opportunity. 

Proof positive fishing holes does work.  A 6.13lber I caught about a month ago on a weightless worm.



Next is another technique for surface grass, punching.  Now like many other technique this really requires specific gear.  An extra heavy rod, high geared reel, 80lb braid, flipping hooks, 1-2oz tungsten weights, and weight pegs.  Ideally, punching grass should be planned during the winter.  Yes, plan your attack in the dead of winter!  Why?  Because Hydrilla is usually dead or mostly gone by the middle/end of winter.  This is important because when the hydrilla dies back it reveals structure.  Sure you can get lucky punching random grass but your odds go up when you know structure is present.  I don’t know a fish finder that will see structure through thick grass either.  So that’s not a good option.  Good baits to punch with are beaver style baits, Devils Spears, Mag Flukes, and crawfish baits.  Punching is like flipping trees, it’s a numbers game.  Pitch your bait out there, let it sink, and if you don’t get bit reel it up and pitch it out elsewhere.  Unlike flipping reeds you don’t need to shake the bait once it hits the bottom.  Punching is 100% about the reaction bite.  Also the saying “hooksets are free” absolutely does not apply to this technique.  Be 100% sure you have a bite before setting the hook.  Otherwise you’re asking for a trouble in the way of 1oz of tungsten and a heavy hook flying back at your face.  Yea, eye patches are cool and you’d have a heck of a conversation piece.  You’d even be able to walk around talking like a pirate every day.  But is that worth losing an eye, probably not.

Now for some submergent grass fishing tips.  Typically grass will be below the surface if it’s deep grass or once it begins dying off in the cold weather.  Fishing submergent grass in the winter is one of my favorite techniques.  There are really only three baits I really use for this, lipless cranks, medium diving cranks, and spinnerbaits.  Crankbaits can be fished either by retrieving the bait to where it ticks the top of the grass.  Once you feel the grass, stop and let the crank float back up some.  Then begin retrieving all over until you feel the grass again.  There’s endless ways to make this more efficient by playing with crankbait sizes, line sizes, and rod angles but I will leave that discussion for another day. 

Next, lipless crankbaits.  Again experiment with sizes and weights for different depths.  A high speed reel is best for the application.  On the initial cast let the bait drop to the top of the grass and then begin your retrieve, this takes practice.  Once you figure out the timing for this you can get to work.  Begin retrieving the lure back and let it snag the grass slightly.  Don’t let it get buried in the grass or it’s basically a wasted cast.  Once the bait snags the grass you will feel the bait stop.  Once you feel that, reel in the line tight and tug the bait in a sweeping motion.  If done correctly the bait will free itself from the grass and shoot forward rapidly.  This is why you need a high speed reel, to reel in the slack quickly.  Different people prefer different setups for this technique.  I like to stick with my whippy cranking rod but some like a stiffer medium heavy worm rod.  The medium heavy rod makes it a bit easier to rip the bait from out of the grass.  Another technique for deep grass is to yo-yo the lipless crank out of the grass.  Again let the bait fall into the grass slightly, reel down, and then snap the rod up to shoot the bait up and away from the grass.  On both the ripping and yo-yo technique the strike will happen either as soon as the bait snaps forward or as it flutters back down.  So pay close attention to feel for the strike on slack line. 

Spinnerbaits are by far one of my favorite baits to fish.  They work great in the grass too.  Plus they don’t get hung up in the grass nearly as bad if you let them fall too deep in the grass.  Typically I will use a ½ oz. spinnerbait for grass up to 10’ deep.  That is my preference, I suggest you play around with different sizes and use what you like best.  Fishing a spinnerbait in grass is similar to a lipless crank.  I like to let them snag in the grass and rip them out.  Also letting them tick the top of the grass works well.  If you have a fish finder on your kayak find the grass edge and mark it with a buoy.  Line up parallel to the grass and work the spinnerbait along it.  Experiment with the distance from the grass until you find what the fish want that day. 

Last as with every technique dissect how, where, depth, retrieve speed, and bait color, of each fish caught.  Those are very important to catching fish and just as important as learning new techniques.  

I'm talking about the Black Pak from YakAttack again today over at Kayak Bass Adventures. Go check out Alan's blog and see what's up with the Black Pak. Do you need one? Is it just a milkcrate? Read this before you make up your mind. 




Don't you just love that new car smell? If the internet had come through on developing scratch and sniff you could experience the new website smell over at Mariner-Sails.com. Until then, you should go by and checkout the new look. 

So what's changed? For starters, the website is this nice, clean, easy on your eyes white which makes it easier to online shop for a few hours (guilty as charged). The search function has been upgraded to make sure you don't have to sift through hundreds of products to find the one you want. You also now have the options of shopping by vendor, part number or description. Not sure about a new product and how good it is? Check out the ratings that are listed on each product. Got something to say about a recent product you bought? Rate it and let others (and Mariner) know whether this is a good product or a not so great one. Look for the Rate This Product link. 

As if that's not enough, Mariner Sails is also the new clearing house for all kayaking events. Doing a fundraiser, tournament or get together? Let Mariner know and they'll post it up for all to see. It will definitely be nice to have one spot for all the Texas kayak activities info.

The cherry on top however is a new, upcoming Kayak Fishing Club. This is an all inclusive club (no tryouts or qualifiers needed) and will get you access to special purchase opportunities, special events and preliminary thoughts are it will be free to join. I'll have more info as the club develops but this is an exciting new addition to the many great things Mariner Sails is already doing for the kayak community. 

If you're a Mariner Sails customer already, let others know and share this on Facebook, forums, You Tube and other places where friends can let friends know how awesome it is to have a storefront and online presence like Mariner Sails and Mariner-Sails.com where you know you'll always get treated right and get the product you need. 
I am a Kayak Fishing Gear Head. Certifiable. I like new gadgets that make my life simpler. Or cooler. I enjoy nice things too. Earlier in my life I went the cheapest route possible and after multiple failures, reworks and a few too many four letter words, I decided quality was a better way to go. I still like a good deal though. 

This summer, I've been eyeing a few things that have attracted my attention. Some have already arrived at my door. I'm hoping to get to test some of the others. Yep. Kayak Fishing Gear Head. 



Smith Optics Tenet Sunglasses with Polarchromic Lenses


Friends at Capital City Kayak Fishing and Whole Earth Provision Company really got my interest up in Smith Optics. The technologies they were saying these lenses had seemed highly advanced and at the same price point as other top brands. I did the research and this is what the Smith website says:


That's pretty cool. A glass lens that shifts with the light. No more trading out different pairs of glasses on different days and at different times. One pair to rule them all? Maybe so. I ordered the Tenet model and they arrived yesterday. Testing will commence soon. By just putting them on, the Smith Glass lens feels much lighter on my face that comparable sunglasses with a glass lens. I'm not naming names but you know who you are. On the water time is coming soon and of course a full report after a few trips. 




Hoo-Rag Bandana


This one was a Facebook discovery. I've owned protective gear like this in the past but have not been able to get the cool designs I like at such a good price. In addition to offering tons of cool designs, Hoo-Rag offers free shipping on all orders and can make custom designs for you! Want to get your softball league some cool Hoo-Rags with the league logo? They can do that. For all you Devil Dogs out there, they have licensed designs from the Marines available to. My first Hoo-Rag (the Hoowaiian Hook Atlantic) is on its way to my house as we speak. I'll be doing some day and night testing on the water and giving a full report back later this fall. The Hoos are $15.95 each except for the Mystery Hoo. That one is $8. And today my friends is a good day because I can save you some additional money. Hoo-Rag is offering 10% off the price of your order when you use this code:  PROMO45YX2  at checkout. 


RAM Universal Tough Clamp


Not available until the middle of October, this one has tons of uses as well. This clamp gives you the ability to mount lots of RAM products to lots of surfaces. The RAM website describes it like this:

An extra pair of hands is something that almost everyone has wished for at some point. The RAM Tough-Clamp is the solution. This extremely versatile product from RAM has endless applications and will certainly become one of your most valued tools. The RAM Tough-Clamp includes a 1" ball which can be used to mount a variety of products utilizing RAM's vast selection of mounting solutions. Attach your GoPro Camera, Smartphone, RAM AQUA BOX® Pro or similar light weight device on almost any surface. Capable of attaching to flat surfaces and square rails from 0.25" to 1.75" thick, and round rails from 0.5" to 1.75" OD, attach the RAM Tough-Clamp to any surface on your kayak, boat, motorcycle, aircraft, desk, or any other location where you simply need an extra hand.

The first idea that cropped into my mind was a GoPro camera. I don't have lots of them but like a variety of shots. If I attach a GoPro to the Tough Clamp, I can attach it to my net for the landing shot, then move it to my Park-N-Pole for a nice release shot without risking dropping a handle bar mount or screw in the water. I can also change it back to the net, attach to a tree, attach to a paddle or somewhere else with just a squeeze. I don't have one of these yet but I sure look forward to getting one. 



Have some additional ideas to share about cool products coming out? Let me know! Leave a comment here or on Facebook


Guest Blogging with us today is Alan Sladek. Alan is a Hobie Fishing Team member, TFO Rods Pro Staffer, supporter of Heroes on the Water, works with Elite Sports Training and of course, is the owner of the multimedia kayak fishing site Kayak Bass Adventures. Alan is a good friend, great fisherman and has a burning desire to keep us healthy on and off the water.

by Alan Sladek

Three years ago I was 5’9” and weighed 208. I decided to do something about it because it was affecting multiple parts of my life: Family and Fishing. I am passionate about fitness and flexibility and what that does for you in everyday life. I appreciate Payne’s Paddle Fish for allowing me to be a guest and share some things, that when done regularly will enhance your on the water adventures. For me being out of shape and inflexible was unacceptable. I hope you can gain a few tips and put them into practice.

Many of us travel great distances to fish and we are so excited to arrive that we often time don’t think to stretch out or warm the muscles up. I know stretching is the last thing on our minds when we arrive at the water, but taking four minutes to warm up your muscles and to stretch out will pay major dividends over the course of a long day chasing the dream. These series of stretches are simple, but effective.

Pass Thru Stretch: Take your paddle and form a wide grip and begin passing the paddle over your head from front to back. Each time you pass thru you should slide your hands closer together. This will open up the shoulder and begin to warm up the muscle along with loosening up the rotator area.





Flagpole Stretch: Take a stakeout pole or a five foot piece of PVC pipe and hold it straight out in front of you. Take your right hand and place it on top and bend your head down toward your chest. This will again open your shoulders and loosen up your lateral muscles. Once you have completed with the right hand switch to the left hand.


Sampson Stretch: This is a great stretch not only for the shoulders but also opens up the hip flexor. Take the Paddle or PVC over head and go into a deep lounge. You will need to flex your butt in order to feel the stretch in your hip flexor. It is also important to try to pull the bar apart, while overhead. This will open your shoulders and get them ready for your paddle.  This is my go to stretch and I perform it at the beginning, middle and end of the day. I feel that hip flexors and shoulders are the most important part of kayaking.





Air Squat: This exercise is great to loosen up your quads and get the blood pumping in your legs. To perform the exercise place your feet shoulder width apart and descend until you achieve a parallel position. Keep your weight in the heals.  Perform 10 air squats and on the tenth one stay down and move side to side in the squat to loosen up the ankle. Note: If you have balance issues use the side of your trailer or the bumper of your vehicle to steady yourself while in the squat.






These stretches and pre-paddle warm ups will help you with paddle efficiency and stamina. The more you stretch the better you will feel when you come off the water. There are many great reasons to stay flexible. You will reduce the chances of straining a muscle or disc that routinely happen when turning over in bed; shoulder injuries that may be caused from lifting or reaching; lower back aches that you get from bending over or walking up or down stairs. Lastly, the ability to sit in different positions and place your body in confined spaces for long periods of time and be comfortable, Kayak’s Anyone?
KEEP LIVING THE DREAM!




Cody Carpenter is today's guest blogger. Cody is an avid kayak fisherman, an ambassador for Mariner Sails of Dallas, TX, a TCU Horned Frog and runs a blog called YakSmack.com Always up for trying new things, Cody shares with us a guided adventure he recently embarked upon with Dean "Slow Ride" Thomas. 


by Cody Carpenter 

I recently took a trip down the coast and stayed in Port Aransas for a week. This was our second time down there and I love it more each time I visit there. This was also my first coastal trip since my addiction to kayak fishing started. There was no doubt that I was fishing from a kayak, in the ocean at some point on this trip.

     I mainly stick to lakes and ponds and occasionally a river or two, so to venture out into the big blue was going to be quite a new experience for me. I can watch all the You Tube videos I want, but nothing compares to actually being there and having first hand knowledge about what you're doing. I
decided to book a guide for my first ocean fishing experience for a variety of reasons. I knew nothing about tides, how shifty the coastal weather can be, fish patterns, and the list goes on and on. I simply didn't have enough experience in my mind to be on my own in the ocean and I didn't want to compromise my safety and the well being of my two buddies with me. I called Slow Ride Guide Services in Aransas Pass and booked a trip with Dean Thomas who is the owner of Slow Ride and one of the first to be on the Wilderness Systems Pro Staff. I had heard about what a character Dean was and what a good time he shows his clients on the water, and he didn't disappoint. After I hung up the phone with Dean, many months in advance, I looked at my wife and told her, "I think I'm going fishing with Matthew McConaughey." He had that kind of Texan surfer thing going on in his voice and I knew it would be a lot of fun.

    
On the day of our trip we arrived at the kayak shop at about 5:30 in the morning and followed Dean to the marina. There we launched in his brand new skiff, this is one impressive boat, and took off to the location that we would be fishing. I could tell that Dean was a little worried that fishing would be slow, due to unusually high winds and extremely low tides, but I wasn't worried. As we passed several different flat areas they were eerily dried up to the bone and the shallow water along the shore line looked like it could be a problem trying to anchor up. We managed to find a nice branch that Dean had suspected to hold fish based on the bait traveling patterns due to the dried up flats. We immediately untied and launched our Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120's and got straight to fishing. right off the bat we could see Mullet jumping across the surface and the torpedo like wake behind them. This we were informed was our target, the Redfish or Red Drum, would produce a very noticeable wake and sometimes they could even be spotted in only a few inches of water with backs and tails breeching the surface. For the next five hours Dean paddled along side us pointing out signs of our prey and how to catch them, it was like having our own fishing coach. All morning there were signs of life and action. Early in the morning I landed a Skip Jack that put up an impressive fight for how small he was, and it looked like it was going to an action packed day. As the day progressed we all had top water blow up after blow up but could not get the fish to actually bite the hook, and that's pretty much how it remained the rest of the outing. It was very frustrating all day because we could plainly see fish everywhere, they were just lazy and didn't want to commit to biting our hooks.

     Disappointed? Yes, of course, but what angler wouldn't be? However, I don't walk away from this trip empty handed at all. This experience has poured a foundation of experience that I feel I can build on for many future trips to come. I have gained invaluable information from my five hours with Dean Thomas that has helped me to consider all the underlying factors that come along with kayak fishing in the saltwater. I know that Dean was disappointed that we walked away without any fish, but like I told him, you put us on the fish, you cant make them bite too. I will 100% book a trip with Dean next time I'm in Port A, just for the good time.
It was grueling. It was hot. It was maybe a little stupid, but I did it. And more importantly, I don't regret it.

Last Saturday was the two man team event for Capital City Kayak Fishing Tournament Series at Fayette County Lake outside La Grange, TX. Fate played a cruel trick on me and I had a double date in Austin Friday night. Ouch. I live in Temple, about an hour north of Austin. For fear of getting my kayak stolen while we were playing downtown, I opted to drive to Austin, have some fun and then drive back to Temple, load up my kayak and gear and drive to Fayette, two and a half hours away. I would get there during the registration period and be on the water shortly after arrival at about 3:30 AM. The tourney started at 4 and went until noon. How could I pull this off? And why?

My dad taught me a trick a long time ago that works for staying awake late at night while driving. Sunflower seeds. I stopped into a local gas station on my way out of town, got my liquids and snacks for the day and picked up a large coffee cup and bag of sunflower seeds. I hit the road and started working the seeds. As long as I kept hulling and spitting, my mind stayed sharp. It was keeping it busy I suppose and it worked.I arrived without incident and pretty darn alert. But why would I do this?

First off, I told my partner I would be there. Fishing a lake I had never been on, I didn't have great expectations but a promise is a promise. Secondly, the CapCity tournaments have huge payouts. 17 teams fished and first place took home over $1100. Big bass was $340. That's pretty decent for a $50 buy in. Additionally, the sponsors that Beau Reed has lined up with these events are amazingly gracious with their prizes. Smith Optics, HOOK1,Powell Rods, Lone Star Beer and many others donate prizes and refreshments. To go one further, these guys are pretty cool to hang with. As a newcomer to the group this year, I have been able to visit with lots of these guys. They share information, like to tease and have a good time. I haven't left any event with the Austin boys where I have felt like I never wanted to be around them. Maybe it's kayaking in general that calms everyone down but when a guy or team comes in with 120 inches of fish, you know how hard it was to do that. Everyone appreciates the accomplishment, enjoys a cold Lone Star and kicks it at the ramp.

My day was short lived. I fished until about 10:30 and I hit the wall. The heat, sleep deprivation and not enough fish to keep me in contention had me beat. I caught plenty of fish but only one measured over 14" so one fish for me. I made the long trek back to my launch point, struggled to load up and drive back to the weigh in. I called my partner on the way in and he was struggling too. We didn't finish last but we didn't finish well either. I visited with Beau and Chewy Linton at the weigh in for a bit and hit the road. Again munching my seeds and trying to stay awake before the impending sleep coma set in. I made it home and hit the hay.

The trip was exhausting but I don't regret it at all. I'll be back, hopefully with better planning. If you are in the Central Texas area, you should come see what this Cap City thing is all about. Just bring your cash and a good attitude!


Starting off the Guest Blog Series this week is James Belekanich. James is a fisherman, fly fisherman, conservationist and a Florida Gator. In addition to getting time on the water, James also runs a blog over at theyakpond.com  Give him a look. He's a great photographer too!


by James Belekanich

Picking up after other people doesn’t have to be burdensome. Trash, such as empty beverage containers, candy wrappers, plastic bags, worm cups and old fishing line, not only are an eyesore, but some of it can also be harmful to people, fish and other wildlife. Broken glass, torn aluminum and old fishing line are hazards for obvious reasons. It’s not just beer bottles, soda cans and sports drink bottles that are the problem. It includes leaving fish on shore, after you've gutted them. That leaves a terrible, smelly mess and attracts an army of insects. Littering has gotten so bad many consider those among the fishing community the worst group of litterbugs. That's pretty disappointing and frankly, very embarrassing.

Photo Courtesy of James Belekanich


Fishing line pollution poses a real threat to wildlife, not to mention a hazard to boaters, divers and kayakers. The most common type of fishing line, monofilament, is made from various types of polymers which take a very long time to break down. Discarded monofilament line can last for hundreds of years in the environment. There are some simple things that we can do, as anglers, to help reduce fishing line pollution. If you see old line, please do your part and discard it. It'll take two minutes.

Like most of us, I normally take an assortment of rods, reels and tackle when I go fish. But lately, I've made it a point not to leave home without a plastic trash bag. My personal ambition to rid DFW area fishing holes of garbage one piece at a time. It only takes a few minutes and I feel better for doing it, and everything looks better too. It's our duty to keep our waters clean.

If everyone just did their part and picked up a little, it wouldn’t take long before we’d have all our lakes and rivers cleaned up. It’s really pretty simple.


Photo Courtesy of James Belekanich

__________________________________________________________

If you have a topic you are passionate about and want to share, drop me a line at paynefish@gmail.com
Many thanks to James for reminding us that we all share the Earth and need to take care of it. 


My name is Chris and I frequent sporting goods stores. No, seriously. It is frequent. Probably three times a week into each of the two big box stores near me. I don't buy very often but I am always scanning for a clearance deal, new bait or some hidden gem. Both of these stores sell kayaks so I often spend some time looking at the entry level kayaks. I know folks are going to be asking about them on the forums and Facebook so it's better to know what they are talking about in order to give an informed answer.

This loitering causes me some problems. From an early age I have had to learn to keep my mouth shut. Invariably if it stays open long enough, a foot will fly into it. I've gotten better at it but the control factor has me wondering if I am not saying enough. In certain situations anyway.

This week I was in one of the big box retailers and saw a father and son purchasing a kayak. The store associate helping them asked if they needed a paddle or lifejacket to go with it. I waited for the answer, standing in the middle of the aisle staring as if Bill Dance and Hank Parker just offered to buy me lunch. The dad says "No, we have a friend with a paddle we can use and my boy knows how to swim." I wanted to scream but before I could say anything (the shock took a minute to wear off), they were at the checkout line.

I had a huge battle going on in my head. I was debating back and forth whether to approach them and explain the dangers of kayaking without a PFD. I might risk making them angry. Dad was in his mid to late 40s so a younger guy telling him how to parent might not go over so well. A migraine was developing from all the internal dialogue.

Do I speak up or stay silent?

Though I feel regret now, I stayed silent. I kept my mouth shut, my feet on the ground and left. It's torture to want to educate people but at the same time, is a public retail shop with strangers the best place to try to correct a mistake in progress? Hopefully someone talks some sense into these folks. It should have been me.

What would you do? What will you do?

  
Sometimes as a blogger, you wonder if anyone is actually listening. Page views are fine but I look at it like conversations. I wonder if I gave the people reading something memorable, useful or entertaining. With the reviews that I do, I wonder if the companies are listening. I know for sure that one of them is.

A year ago I ordered a pair of Astral Brewer kayaking/all purpose/water shoes. A real hybrid between night on the boardwalk and river running shoes, the Astral Brewer looked great, had amazing features and was to be my last kayaking shoe purchase until I wore them out. During the review period, actually, the very first day, my hopes were dashed by blisters. An awful exposed seam in the toe box was causing me problems. I bought some nylon socks to wear the shoes with and the blisters stopped but honestly, who wants to wear socks with kayaking shoes? Probably the same guys that wear socks with flip flops.

A few months ago Astral contacted me about the review. They knew of my review and wanted to see what I thought of the new revised Brewer. I happily agreed and a few days later, I had a box waiting on me when I got home.

I quickly tore into the box, pulled out the black and white shoes and sunk my hand deep into the interior. Strangely, though I should have expected it, the previous harsh seam was barely there in the new version. I took the shoe, still on my hand, out to the garage and found the previous Brewer pair, a charcoal and green , and did a side by side interior feel test. It was worlds different. That's all well and good but I don't really have baby soft hands. I needed to put them on my feet.

A charcoal Brewer on one foot and a black one on the other, I walked around outside, sans socks, and causing the neighborhood to have Punky Brewster flashbacks. After about three minutes of this, I took of the charcoal shoe, Version 1.0 from Astral. Blisters were on the verge. The black shoe though, this Version 2.0, it felt great. My foot was comfortable, it wasn't slipping, and the interior and exterior traction were great as always. I went back in the house, retrieved the mate shoe and paired them up on my feet. I went back outside, walking around for a while and my wife comes outside and tells me to get in the house. I look crazy pacing and looking at my feet apparently.

The next step was to do some water testing. I'll spare the finite details but I put them through sand, mud, rocks and trees with no issues. I washed them thoroughly after four days and started the daily wear test. I wore these new Brewers everyday for five days, without socks, all day. I even wore them to church. After five days, they didn't stink, my feet didn't hurt and I had talked to dozens of people about my footwear choice.

Success!!!!

I have since worn these shoes at almost every outdoor opportunity and even on a couple of dates. This Brewer, Version 2.0 as I am calling it, is what I expect (demand?) in a water shoe. Astral has gone out of their way to prove they listen to the consumer. They want you to love these shoes. I can tell you after a few months of kayak fishing in them, I do. 
Outdoor Retailer is underway in Salt Lake City this week and new gear abounds. While I’d love to have the new solar powered tent from Eddie Bauer or the Vibram LED shoes, the price point is going to place that out of the realm of possibility for, well…most of us.

Three useful new items are rolling out this week however, (though some have had 30-60 days of market presence), that I felt were definitely worth mentioning. The best part is, you can get all three for less than $25! Skip the movie with the significant other, cuddle on the couch with a Redbox or Netflix and BOOM!, $25 for a new gadget.




This emergency “knife” is safe to carry on your hip, lightweight and has a blunt end with protected blades. Great for cutting fishing line, rope, trot lines, and other tangled messes, this could be the new safety knife that becomes a kayaking favorite. Right at $25, it is significantly cheaper than other safety knives on the market and may be safer and more user friendly. If I had the Trilobite a few years ago my hands would have a lot fewer scars.




Zippo Firestarter


Kayak camping demands planning but the weather can often make it difficult. When everything is soaked, it’s good to have a back up plan. The Firestarter is that plan. At $10, it has a small lightweight package but includes all the things you will need in a damp (or dry) environment to get a fire going and your gear to drying. Small and easy to pack, this should be a consideration for all your overnight trips.





YakAttack GTSL Gear Tracs


This newest addition to the Gear Trac family from YakAttack has changed rigging options once again for kayaks. This high performance polymer trac comes in a variety of colors, can curve easier than its anodized aluminum brothers, and has a lower price tag than any previous trac offering. From as low as $8 and available very soon, you can get trac and show off your personality at the same time. Rigging just got easier, more affordable and has a new personalized look.