Turtle: Also known as flipping a kayak while you are in it

The idea of falling out of a kayak is the exact reason why people either:

#1 Don't/Won't buy a kayak

#2 Buy a particularly wide kayak

This is nothing new. People don't buy any floating vessel only to end up bobbing beside it shortly after launch but maybe they should try it.

Today we take a look at the VISICarbon Pro safety light from YakAttack. I've been using the VCP for a little over a year now. It's been with me on pretty much every single outing I've taken. I couldn't say that about the light it replaced.
Have you ever wanted to install a fish finder on your kayak but really dreaded drilling holes, snaking wires and having a permanent electronic fixture? Luther from YakAttack heard your concern and earlier this year released the Cell Blok, an all in one box to mount to a rail that will hold your fish finder, battery and transducer cable.

Known as the engine of a kayak, the paddle plays a more important role than most people realize. Having used several different types of paddles over the last 11 years, I have discovered what I like and what I don't like, what I need and what I don't need. The Bending Branches Angler Pro meets a great deal of paddlers' needs and wants. As always though, I have a few suggestions.

The Good

I have the 240cm Angler Pro with the sea green blades. I chose the sea green, which is more like a chartreuse, for visibility and in that area it does wonderfully. Even in low light conditions the blade sticks out on the landscape especially when slicing through the air.

Sunset and the AP still bright

The fiberglass blades and carbon shaft measure in at 30 ounces which is even lighter than it sounds. Coming from a Carlisle Magic that was over 36 ounces, this was a big change. At 30 ounces, fatigue is greatly reduced but that's not the end of it. To get maximum efficiency, you have to have a tough rigid blade that can move water. The 104 square inches of surface area on the blade is the reason. For mid to high angle paddlers this is going to be very important to maximum your paddle stroke. After several miles my shoulders still feel pretty good and I can make better progress into a stiff headwind. The Angler Pro really shines in every day use and paddles under six miles. Since most paddlers are mid to high angle, this paddle fits the bill for a great majority of the population.

Needs Improvement

My greatest fear in going to a paddle with fiberglass blades was shattering it on the rocks pushing off. I can say it has not done that. I've been as rough or rougher with it than all the other paddles I've used and it has done wonderfully. The one fall back you get is a little bit of "fuzziness" on the edges and a couple of small chips. After almost five months and a dozen trips, the fiberglass is starting to feather just a very little bit on the edges. Bending Branches makes a product to help with this called Rockgard that is applied to the wooden paddles. A version of this for the fiberglass paddles would be great!

Some fuzziness on the edges and a couple of small chips

The other glaring issue is weight. Another manufacturer is selling a paddle that is 7 ounces lighter. While higher in price (about $150 more), anglers and paddlers both understand that a long day on the water demands light and efficient. An even lighter version of the Angler Pro called something like the Angler Air or the Bending Branches Whisp would be beneficial. Something lighter than 25 ounces can be the difference between six miles and 10 miles at the end of the day.

Final Thoughts

I do love this paddle. Do I wish it were lighter? Sure but I also wish my bank account were more full but in both situations, I am thankful for what I have. This is a tremendous upgrade for most folks. The Angler Pro retails at $300 and comes with camo or sea green blades. Check it out at your local paddle shop today!

Going to work!

KC (Kajun Customs) Kayaks is a kayak company comprised of four graduates of Louisiana State University. It's no surprise that their K12 design is thought of with the saltwater and skinny water fisherman in mind. Recently I spent a few days in one, a bit out of its element in a deep freshwater lake. At the same time I tested out two new offerings from KC, the white bass boat style seat and the metal support frame that goes with it.

The Good

This is a skinny water kayak. As soon as I pushed off from the ramp I could feel the glide. I wanted to try to turn and with one paddle stroke the kayak spun about 135 degrees. It was impressive. Paddling was an easy task as well. At 12 feet, the K12 tracks pretty well. It has minimal nose walk. Sitting up high in the upgraded seat you will want a longer paddle (probably 260 for most folks) and it will also help when standing and paddling.

Speaking of standing, the KC is pretty darn stable. At 34" wide with a lot of surface area on the hull, the K12 is one of the easier kayaks to stand in that I've tested. Having a higher seat makes that task even easier.

The other place where the K12 will shine is with fly fishermen. The deck layout is very clean and free of clutter. The additional non slip foam in the floor also helps you keep that stance while whipping a fly.

The Needs Improvement

It's no secret that I like under deck storage and this kayak has almost none. One hatch toward the bow gives you some access but not enough to store camping gear below deck. It does have large tank wells above deck where you could lash things down. A curious thing about that, though there are eyelets mounted throughout the kayak, there is no bungee included.

While the K12 is stable, it is also tall. Tall in the water and the ease with which it glides also causes it to be windblown. You will want an anchor trolley (if not two) if you plan to hold your position in any kind of wind.

Probably the most frustrating thing on the K12 was the included tracks. The seat is anchored to these tracks. Unfortunately the upgrade seat that mounts to the metal frame and then slides into the included track doesn't fit. The frame uses t-bolts and they wouldn't fit in the included track. I also tried my RAM rod holders which use t-blots and then my small screw ball mounts. None of them fit. The track was too small. I had to use some southern ingenuity to get the seat to mount and it didn't feel as stable as it should. If you are going to offer track, it has to work for multiple items.

Final Thoughts

For the fly fisherman, the flats stalkers and the river runners, this is a pretty good kayak for you. If you are going to be on lakes, you'll want to look into the trolling motor mount or go a different direction. Stability is pretty good so if you want to stand and fish, this could be a great option for you. It's not versatile enough for my uses but has a definite market out there. 

Florida is no stranger to Paul van Reenen's Unfair Lures but folks around the country are starting to discover these baits. Paul's Rip N Slash is perhaps his most popular. Demand is greater than supply so I had to wait almost a month for a new production to come off of the line. That might have been lucky. It could have been longer.

Last week I was able to put the lures to the test in some less than ideal conditions (wind, muddy water and a temperature drop) on the Texas Coastal Bend. Here is the verdict.

The Good

The Rip N Slash comes in several colors to meet the conditions. I chose a black and gold, chartreuse pearl and black backed color schemes to try to give as wide of an array as possible without having to buy each color. At around $8 each, the bait is priced right with other slash baits on the market and has better finish out detailing. The red frilled gills and large eye stands out on these baits. Add in the rattles inside and you can definitely get their attention. The Suspending Rip N Slash pulls through grass like a champ and didn't hug the shell bottoms like some other baits. Even in three feet of water it suspended like it is supposed to. I could cover a lot of water very quickly with the bait and the flash was pretty good even in the stained water.

Needs Improvement

The supply for this bait needs to be ramped up. Demand is growing as people across the country are finding the bait and what it can do for them. The Rip N Slash is currently made overseas. I would love to see production moved back to the United States. Currently it is available in the 70 model. A 90 is in the works (90mm) which will be nice for some variety for when conditions call for something else. Expansion into Texas would be nice as well. Tackle Town in Rockport would be a good start.

Final Thoughts

If you are fishing along the Gulf Coast this summer, the Unfair Lures Rip N Slash is an additional bait that will put fish in the boat. If you'd like to check them out or order some see the folks at Treasure Coast Tackle. Online orders (when the bait is in stock) are processed very quickly and ship out without delays. Their site also tells you when something is unavailable so you don't waste your time. If you'd like to save a little money, Treasure Coast Tackle gave me a code you can use as well. Enter TEXAS7 at checkout. 

Bass Pro Shops has been selling kayaks for several years but took a new step this year which could change expectations. Previously only kayaks in the $1,000 range had a frame seat (think lawnchair style). That all changed earlier this year with the introduction of the redesigned Ascend FS12T. Here are my thoughts:

The Good:

The seat is definitely comfortable. This is such a vast improvement over the previous strap in seat that I had to mention it first. Stability is pretty good as well. I stood up without an assist strap and was able to rock back and forth.

The kayak paddles pretty well. Even in chop it avoids nose walking too much. The width is enough to provide stability but not too much to make it a barge in the water. This is not a kayak for the ocean but should perform well in small to medium sized lakes, rivers and coastal bays.

Possibly the best feature in the Ascend FS12T is the price. At the everyday list price of $549, this is possibly the best entry level kayak available under $600.

The old Ascend model.

Needs Improvement:

The first thing I would change is the deck layout. There are a couple of recessed areas that don't have scuppers or an ability to drain. I would also stop mounting the rod holder on the right rail. Pre-installed rod holders are rarely where the purchaser wants them, especially the non-flush mounted kind. This one is no different. It's right in the middle of the paddle stroke.

If you are using the seat in a forward position and weigh over about 150 pounds, putting pressure on the foot pegs can move the seat back into the furthest position. This isn't ideal for shorter adult paddlers but works fine for folks at or above six feet tall.

The finish out could use a little work as well. Some padding to reinforce the seat under the deck and a little less sloppy on the sealant around hatches would go a long way.

Final Thoughts:

All in all, the new Ascend FS12T is a great option for an entry level kayak. The frame seat at the sub $600 price point is breaking the ceiling of options for entry levels. This is definitely worth a test paddle.

From Dean Brown at Bass Pro Shops:

If you do have issues BPS has an Ascend Hotline for anyone with part issues.
Just give them a call and they can help with replacement parts for Ascend Kayaks.
Ascend kayaks are made by Tracker Boats, right here in the USA.

A potential fix for the home DIYer to fix the seat issues can be found here:


When most folks think of Hobie they think of the Mirage Drive. Did you know they also make kayaks you paddle? The Hobie Quest 13 is one of those in the Hobie paddle fleet and the kayak I'm breaking down today.

The Quest 13 is, as the name eludes, a 13 foot long kayak. At 28.5" wide it looks very similar to the Hobie Mirage Revolution 13, sans the Mirage. I've paddled the Quest 13 more than a dozen times in many different situations and it is definitely what I would consider a sleeper. You hear very little about it. Here is the breakdown:

The Good

The name Hobie has become synonymous with high end kayaks. The Quest 13 is no different in the quality but flips the script with the price tag. A Quest 13 at regular price is only $1149. Not only that but it comes with a nice two piece paddle ($150 if bought separately), an adjustable strap in padded seat ($100 separate) and large hatch covers front and back.

The Quest tracks pretty well and doesn't get windblown like some taller kayaks out there. Should you decide you have need of a rudder, Hobie has already pre-plumbed the kayak for a twist a stow rudder or after market to work with the foot rests.

Storage is very nice in this kayak. You have a large tank well in the back but you also have access to the entire under hull area for camping trips.

Because of the width and length of the Quest 13, it hugs the water and gets you to your destination quicker than most. The trend is toward wider kayaks but you lose speed as you get wider in most cases. The Q13 is a nice blend of stability and speed.

The Needs Improvement

The tankwell narrows a bit and ends abruptly at the round hatch. After the round hatch is a large flat area that is in essence, wasted space. I would like to see the hatch moved back to the flat area further back. Honestly you won't be able to reach the hatch while underway so moving it further back won't be problematic.

To help the Quest drain a little faster I'd like to see another pair of scuppers just in front of the seat and another pair in the tankwell. It can be a bit of a wet ride in heavy chop.

As with other Hobie reviews, I still am awaiting a better seat option. Hobie offers the frame style seat in the Pro Angler but only adjustable padded seats in the rest. It's time. All of the other major manufacturers in the US have upgraded seating options for paddle kayaks. It's time for Hobie to step up to the plate.

Final Thoughts

The Hobie Quest 13 is an overlooked kayak that offers a great paddling kayak package right out of the shipping wrapper. The price point is very competitive and for what you get, should be a consideration. The biggest issue the Q13 has is living out its existence in the shadow of the Hobie giants like the Pro Angler, Outback, Revo and Adventure Island. Next time you find youself at a Hobie demo day, ask to paddle the Quest 13. It'll surprise you!

Two years ago the Jackson Coosa caught fire and a buying frenzy ensued. As Jackson continued to release new models like the Cuda 12, the Big Tuna and the Big Rig, less attention has been given the Coosa yet for river rats everywhere, the Coosa is still a strong contender.

I've had more than a couple of adventures in a Jackson Coosa that have shaped my thoughts on where it exceeds expectations and what future improvements could be.

The Good

The Jackson Hi/Lo Seat is nice. The frame is comfortable, more ergonomic than in years past and allows you to keep fishing rather than giving in to back cramps and strains. 

The underdeck storage on the Coosa is amazing. River camping trips or stowing gear to run rapids is no problem. The large hatch in the front and nice sized hatch in the back make it easy to stow and retrieve gear. 
They also have reinforcements which enable them to be locked when you run into the store or overnight parking and don't want people getting into your stuff.

The Coosa is a shallow water kayak. Skimming through water only a few inches deep is no problem.

Fly fishermen should definitely think about this kayak. The open deck layout is pretty clean of excess gadgets and gizmos. The Coosa is a blank slate. 

The stern skid plate is really nice too. I had quite an ordeal happen going to fish with a buddy where my Coosa decided to escape. Lets just say that thanks to a removable skid plate my day wasn't ruined. If you'd like to read about it, click here.

Needs Improvement 

All of the videos I remember seeing that talked about rod stagers showed casting rods, not spinning. Spinning rods don't fit well in the rod stagers or the rod rest on the sides. I had to flip the reel skyward to secure it down on the side and the downward facing eyes on a spinning rod don't sit on the v style stagers. A groove in front of the stagers could accommodate those of us who like spinning gear on the river. It would cradle one of the eyes on the rod and keep it from sliding everywhere. 

Standard gear tracks should be available on the Coosa. Most folks are adding them after market and even if you don't use them, they don't get in the way. Make them recessed with three inches of room on each end to slide t-bolts in and out of the groove. I know the YakAttack Coosa has the orange poly track GT90 up front but you have to buy that color and package or you are on your own. 

I'd also like to see the recessed track in the back as opposed to the predrilled holes for a RAM mount. What if I don't want it in that exact position?  Give me some track and I can slide it forward and back. 

Final Thoughts

The Jackson Coosa doesn't get as much talk as it one did but it is a very nice kayak for running rivers, small lakes and ponds. In protected marshes it could also do well. The hard thing to overcome for the Coosa is wind. If you are in an area unprotected from the wind, it's going to be a long day. 

Stability is a big seller but it is important to know that what you see on TV or in pictures is not always the case. Each person is built differently and each has a different balance than the next. Just because Joe can stand in a kayak doesn't mean you can. Please demo this kayak and any others you are wanting to be able to stand and fish in. Guys like Drew Gregory who have been doing this forever and a day make it look easy. Test it before you buy it and you'll know for sure. 

You have the kayak but now you need a life jacket (Personal Flotation Device,PFD). What should you look at? What should you buy?

In PFDs there are three basic styles.

#1- Inflatables- These are lightweight and do not float you until you hit the water, at which point it inflates and floats you to the top. These are easy to wear but also easy to forget so be aware. It is also important to test them and if it has been inflated once, you have to go buy a new cartridge so it will work next time.

#2- Permanently Buoyant- These are the typical life jackets that are worn. They can be a bit bulky and usually get stowed because of it. A stowed PFD rarely saves a life when compared to one that is worn.

#3- Hybrids- These are a mix of the two types and offer some flotation with being inflated.

The US Coat Guard classifies PFDs into five different types.

Type I- This is a PFD that will float a person right side up in the water. It is typically used in ocean vessels or places where rescue will be a long way off.

Type II- This is similar to a Type I. It doesn't have the same flotation power however and may not right you in the water. These are for offshore uses where rescue may be a bit faster and you can see land.

Type III- This is your typical recreation life jacket. It will float you but won't right you and this should only be used in lakes, not open water, and rescue should be at hand.

Type IV- Remember the life preservers from the Love Boat? Ok, maybe not. Remember the big ring at the lifeguard stand? That's a Type IV. Anything you can throw that will help someone float that isn't worn typically falls under this category.

Type V- These are specialized PFDs for activities like kayaking, skiing, and other water sports.

One last thing before we get to the selections:
Remember that in Texas:

  • Children under 13 years of age in or on vessels under 26 feet must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable PFD while underway.
  • All vessels under 16 feet (including canoes and kayaks) must be equipped with one Type I, II, III or V for each person on board.
  • Vessels 16 feet and longer, in addition to the Type I, II, III or V for each person on board, must have one Type IV throwable device which must be readily accessible. Canoes and kayaks over 16 feet are exempt from the Type IV requirement.

Ok, so I am assuming that if you are here you are a paddler, boater or family member/friend. Moving on that assumption there are two types of life jackets that work best for paddling, Type V and Type III. In these, there are several choices to make.In the styles, I want permanence. This is strictly a preference but I don't trust inflatables. They work great 99.9999% of the time but I need one that'll float me regardless. 

Call me old fashioned but if I am going down the Devils River, far away from rescue, fall out of my kayak, my PFD inflates and then it gets punctured by a rock, limb, fishing hook etc, I am then in very bad shape. I don't want multiple life jackets for different scenarios. I want one. One that will do everything I need. I paddle in a PFD that will always float me and not fail me because a mechanism went out. Or a cartridge. There is plenty to think about as safety goes without worrying about maintenance on a PFD. So here are my recommendations:

If you are fishing from your kayak, I like these- 
Stohlquist Pi-Seas PFD

The Stohlquist offers good arm clearance, shoulder webbing, good cinching to avoid ride up, the back cushioning is high enough to avoid that backrest on your seat and has multiple tethers and pockets to keep everything close at hand. This is a universal fit jacket up to a 54" chest so almost everyone can enjoy utility and comfort at the same time. It even has a net ring on the back collar so you can dip up that prize catch without fumbling for the net. This is the PFD I have fished out of every single trip for more than a year. I love it. It is a Type III PFD.

NRS Chinook

The Chinook has pockets, pockets and more pockets. The total count is seven. Throw in a tool tether, strobe holder, net ring and eight adjustment points and you can have your gear and be comfortable at the same time. This is quickly becoming one of the most popular PFDs among kayak fishermen. It is also a Type III. 

You don't have to buy these to be safe but if functionality and safety are a must at all times for you, these two will give you good bang for the buck, last a long time and become part of your paddling equipment that is a "Don't leave home without it". 

The best way to make sure it is what you are expecting is to go into a local paddle shop and try it on! In the Dallas area, Mariner Sails has both of these in stock as well of an assortment of inflatables. Try it on before you put down the cash and you too could have a lasting relationship with a PFD that could one day save your life. As long as you wear it. 

What to do? You have a limited budget to get a kayak. You hear great things about a couple of kayaks that you feel would fit your needs. Now you go to a demo day and pick the one you like but there's one problem. You are $200 short of the asking price.

It can be a very deflating experience but it doesn't have to be. If you know where to look, you might be able to get that kayak for the price you can pay.

How? Buy a used kayak. If you follow a few simple rules that I talked about last week, buying a used kayak can get you on the water at your price.

I've bought used several times and even my current Commander 140 had a previous owner. On top of that, buying used has many advantages.

A Used Kayak Typically Comes With Accessories

My Commander already had the rudder, a bow skirt and some additional Gear Trac installed. I saved money and time.

A Used Kayak Holds Value

A new kayak is hard to sell for the money you paid for it at the store especially once it's been out. If you buy a used kayak, the chances are you can get what you paid and maybe even a little more as long as you don't over pay (within the first year or so).

A Used Kayak Can Have Mojo

Fish catching mojo transfers with a kayak. Call me superstitious but it does. Find a fish magnet and buy it.You won't be sorry.

There are several different places to look for used kayaks. Sometimes Craigslist can be ok but lately it is filled with people asking new retail prices for used, worn down kayaks. If you want to find a bargain from people who can tell you about the kayak you are buying, look at your local fishing forums.

Here in Texas I would search out texaskayakfisherman.com  texasfishingforum.com and a Buy/Sell/Trade group on Facebook. Each region will have their own websites where fishermen swap lies, sell gear and give fishing reports. They are a good place to start.

If you have your doubts, take a knowledgeable buddy. Don't be afraid to ask questions and definitely go and read my article on yakangler.com called "Buying a Used Kayak? Don't Get Swindled!"

     In early 2004 my Dad heard from a friend of a friend about some public water that was full of bass and rarely fished. We called it Lake X.

     Hearing of such things was a lot more common in the 80s and even 90s but in this new millennium where land owners had purchased almost everything available to make it private, this small parcel of land with two lakes existed. Possibly.

     We planned a trip and found it to be everything promised. It was remote, full of bass yet hard to fish from the bank. I immediately started planning a return trip with my kayak.

     Two obstacles presented themselves that I needed to plan for. The first was very primitive access. No vehicles could get within a mile of the water. The road was blocked off. The only way in was on foot. How could I transport the kayak that far?

     The second obstacle was the distance. The drive was a little over two hours but it was remote and cell phones didn’t work out there. I needed another kayak buddy to be safe while out in this barren country just in case something happened. I only knew one other kayaker at this point in my life and he was up for the challenge.

A couple of hours before the drag
     In April of 2004 we set out for our little oasis in the scrub brush with hopes of catching every bass in the lake. I had rigged a golf club caddy as a cart to tote my kayak the mile down the road needed. Aaron stacked his kayak on a make shift cart as well and we headed off. 20 minutes later the water greeted us and huge smiles broke across our faces. A minute later we were racing across the water to different spots and after the first few casts we landed a pair of bass.

     This pattern repeated itself throughout the day and we lost count after 150 bass. This truly was an unknown, untapped resource willing to reward those determined enough to reach her banks.Sun kissed and weary, we decided to head back around six that evening. Darkness was only an hour away and the barren landscape would be full of wild hogs, snakes and bobcats sooner than later.We strapped in our kayaks and headed back down the path to our vehicles. Less than 50 yards from our departure spot disaster struck. The axle of my cart gave out and dropped my kayak and gear to the ground with a thud.

     A mile from safety we quickly became desperate. We tried to stack my kayak on top of Aaron’s to cart back but it quickly folded his cart. We were able to repair it and decided to scrap the piggy back idea. The only other option was to turn my anchor rope into a harness and drag the kayak back. Either that or leave it until we could return. I wasn’t prepared to give up my freedom or my investment so the harness was made. It quickly became apparent that the walk to the water slanted downhill which made this more of a gradual climb back to the vehicles.

     An hour after we started, darkness setting in and after being startled by a rattlesnake and a herd of wild hogs, we saw the last stretch of road. A welcome sight if ever I’ve seen one. The last of the expected guests scurried across the road and the deed was done. I said a quick goodbye and loaded my kayak, exhausted and weary.

     The long drive home blurred into highway stripes and headlights. I remember both exhilaration and exhaustion equally.

     It turned out the kayak was ok. Scarred but war proven we would make the trip just one more time.
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