Showing posts with label fishing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fishing. Show all posts

Boat Ramp Etiquette

Not all kayakers use boat ramps to launch but if you do there are unspoken rules you should know about. Unfortunately many who have never fished out of power boats may not have ever been introduced to boat ramp etiquette. Today, I’ll try to remedy that.

Public boat ramps can give you access where it is otherwise sparse. When this is the case, chances are you will eventually see other people. Help everyone avoid ramp rage and follow these simple rules.

Prepare Before You Back

Put as much of your gear in your kayak as possible before you get to the ramp. Lots of areas have staging zones well before the ramp. Even if they don’t, you can get ready in the back of the parking lot. Nobody likes waiting 15 minutes while you setup a flag, look for the whistle you need and worst of all tie all your lures on while on the ramp. Don’t do that! Most of us can’t do everything before the offload but the less time you take the better.

Don’t Be a Ramp Hog

Lots of ramps have two lanes or more. This isn’t parking at Home Depot. Do not straddle those lanes. Learn how to back by practicing in your driveway so you are ready to ace the back in when the time comes. Once you get down there, move quickly. This is not the time for a leisurely morning stroll. Showing that you’re making an effort to hurry makes a huge difference to those waiting.

Lights Off

When you do finish backing, turn your headlights off. If possible, do it on the way down. My general rule is if you are in reverse, kill the headlights.

Move to the Side

If you are flying solo and need to go park the truck, you need to find a good place to stash the kayak while doing so. Off to the side is good. Still on the ramp is not. Use an anchor, brush clip or rope to secure your kayak off the ramp and go park.

Quick Strap When You Load Up

Remember that staging area away from the ramp? It hasn’t moved. When you come in for the day, get your yak secured just enough to get you to the top of the hill and to the staging area. At that point you can batten down the hatches for the ride home. Don’t spend tons of time on the ramp securing Fort Knox.

Help a Brother Out

If you happen to be at the ramp at the same time as another kayaker, make sure and ask if they’d like help loading or unloading. It can speed things up for both of you in lots of cases. You’ll be a good ambassador for the sport and might make a new fishing buddy.

If You’re Going to Chat…

If you are a chatty Cathy at the boat ramp, at least chat while loading/unloading. If you stop to have a conversation on the ramp, someone else may have a conversation with you too and those convos are usually not pleasant. At least make progress while exercising that gift of gab.

I know these aren’t all the unspoken (and sometimes spoken) rules but these are definitely some you should know. Have additional suggestions? Let us know! 

Four Tips for First Time Kayak Buyers

It's that time of year. New kayaks are hitting the showroom floors. This is also the season when people start thinking of getting one or two new kayaks. Many times those people thinking about it will be first time owners.

 Kayak fishing forums are lighting up with requests about which boats to look at, which one is for me and myriad other questions.

So which boat should you get? It's not that simple.

You may as well ask which one main dish your town would like to eat every day for the next year. It just isn't that simple.

People have different expectations for everything. We are all unique individuals with very specific things we are looking for. Kayak fishing is no different.

So what do you do? No one will give you the answer.

So what now? Here are a few steps to help make the right-for-you decision.

#1 Make a List

You need to make a list of all the things you are going to do in the kayak and how it will be used.
Are you fishing in big lakes, the ocean, rivers, bays or all of the above?
Are you wanting to troll, drift, sit, stand, paddle, pedal or use an electric motor of some sort?
Are you fishing for bass, crappie, cats, specks, reds, flounder, anything you can catch or all of the above?
Who will be using the kayak? Will it be just you or will others be sharing it?
How will you transport it? Do you have a truck, trailer, car, van? Do you have a roof rack? Do you have cross bars on the roof rack?
How much storage do you want the kayak to have?
Do you fish in the cold much?
Do you fish in the wind much?
Where will this kayak be stored? How much room is in that place (size limits)?
Do you have any health issues that will play into your decision (bad back, bad heart, arthritis, etc)?
How much weight can you lift above your head? How much weight can you raise to your waist?
How much does the heaviest person weigh that will be using the kayak?
How tall is the tallest person that will use the kayak?
What weight capacity, gear and people, will the kayak need to have?

This is by no means the full exhaustive list but it will get you in the right frame of mind to discover what you need. Take down your answers and take them in to a dealer or with you to a demo day.

#2 Budget

This one is tough. Most people decide they want to get into kayak fishing with a max cap of $500. Some have a smaller budget than that. The problem with that number is that will usually only get you a kayak. Let's say you go to Academy and by the Perception Sport Pescador 12 ft kayak (the old Tarpon 120 body). It'll cost you $500. After tax you are already over budget. Now you need a paddle, lifejacket (PFD), and whistle just to be legal and able to go to the lake. This adds another $60 if you get the absolute cheapest stuff that's made. Throw in tax and your $500 budget is now at $670. This is when most people start to look at used boats and settle on a boat in their price range. Usually the kayak doesn't fit that list of things you wanted and more often than not, your $450 you spent on a used kayak turns into a loss because now you are selling the used kayak and stuff for $350 on Craigslist because kayak fishing just isn't for you.

Don't blame the kayak. If you take a date out to McDonald's and tell her to order off of the Dollar Menu only do you think you'll get a second date? Rarely. When you buy a used boat on the cheap that you've done little research on and doesn't meet your needs, your time in kayak fishing is usually, not always, but usually short lived.

Make a realistic budget for what you can do and stick to that but make sure it meets your list. If it doesn't meet your list, save up more money to expand your budget or keep waiting. Trust me here. A boat that meets all of your needs rather than just the desire to get on the water will make you much happier in the long run.

#3 Demo, Demo, Demo

Before you make a purchase, demo lots of kayaks. Technically speaking, there are demo days almost every day of the year. Lots of dealers will meet you at the lake with a few boats you want to try. Meet up with folks who have the kayak already and give it a try. Please don't buy a boat without trying it first. It usually ends in heartbreak. Take your list and check off how many of your desires each boat has. If it is out of your budget, look for a used one or save some more money and get the one you really want.

#4 Research

Talk to people who have the kayak you have narrowed it down to. Do some web research. Look at the manufacturers website. What would they change? How did they rig their kayak for fishing? Would they buy that kayak again? Make an informed decision.

Even if you follow all of these steps, it doesn't guarantee a perfect kayak for you. Chances are, you'll change boats a few times in your life and that is good too. As your preferences change, it's possible so will the type of kayak you need. But, the chances of you buying the right kayak the first time without any of the above steps is not a very likely scenario. 

A Better Blog in Eight Steps

When I tell people I have a fishing blog, it invokes lots of facial expressions from surprise to admiration to confusion. Telling them that it’s more specifically a kayak fishing blog usually puzzles them. “How many people would actually read a kayak fishing blog?” is what their faces say. The fact is, every segment of hobby, craft, sport and trend has a following. A niche.

Millions of people like to read blogs. Those same people often have thoughts and opinions they would like to share too so in turn millions of people have blogs. Or at least they start one… or three. The concept seems simple enough: I’ll write whatever I want and lots of people will come and read it.


Your mom might read it. And some of your Facebook friends if they get around to it. You might get a few dozen visits the first week. You’ll be happy. You’ll write some more. People may or may not show up. The post you thought would intrigue the world got 24 views yesterday. You expected 2400. It’s discouraging so maybe you’ll take a short break from writing your new blog, really gather up some good stories, do an interview or maybe a review. Three weeks later you realize you haven’t written anything new and your next post gets five views. Five. “Maybe it’s not for me,” or even “I don’t have time to do this like I want to,” will play through your mind. Two months after it started, your blog is dead.

I know all of this because I have lived it. I’ve bought dozens of domains, started countless blogs and only a couple have stuck around more than three months. This one and my original, Payne's Paddle Fish

Do you know why? I finally learned the secret. Actually several of them but it all starts with one.
Here it is: You CANNOT be a good blogger, have a following, be read and published if you treat it as a casual relationship. You must be married to your blog. Your blog is your brand. To do it right, it must be a job. And you have to perform your job well. People may only know you through what you present on your blog so make it a good impression.

A few simple steps will help guide you on your way. Follow these and you will at least have the formula down. The execution is up to you.

Step 1: You need a catchy name. Debbie’s Mom Blog or Pete’s Fishing Blog are too generic and not easy to remember. Trying something like Rob Choi did: . Angling Addict . Catchy right?

Step 2: Branding. You need a good logo. It has to say what you are about without having to list it. If you are writing about kites, have a kite of some sort in your logo. It makes an impression that is then associated with your blog.

Step 3: Design. The typical free design template default from Blogger or Wordpress is not going to get it done. Plenty of fresh templates exist for free or a small price that can help set you apart. And when you are selecting fonts, Comic Sans is only acceptable…never. It’s not cute. It tells everyone you don’t take this seriously. Try a Garamond or a Century font.

Step 4: Content. Have a vision of what you want to do. Write it down. Write down all the blog entry ideas you can think of. Talk to friends and see what they would be interested in. You also have to know your audience. My kayak fishing blog readers typically are not as interested in String Theory Applications in Physics as they are about a new adventure in a just released kayak from Manufacturer X. Write for you but also write for them.

Step 5: Write on a Schedule. You need to be predictable in your writing schedule. And you need to stick pretty darn close to it. More frequent is ok if it is good content but writing less frequently is the nail in the coffin. Pick a number like once a week or twice a week that you know you can keep up with and stick to it. Your audience doesn’t know and really doesn’t care about sick days or long vacations. The more predictable and consistent your writing and publishing, the more people will visit. (If your content is good).

Step 6: Power Through. You will hit a wall. You will not feel like writing. You will think about taking a break. DON’T! This is where the work part comes in. This is a job. People are anxiously awaiting your newest post on Tuesday at Lunch. Give it to them!

Step 7: Cross Promote. If you don’t like social media, blogging probably isn’t for you. To grow your audience you need to be where they are. Blog readers are on social media! Sign up for a Facebook account, create a page, get a Twitter account and do the same. If you really want to get your social media presence going get on Pinterest, Linked In, Tumblr, Vimeo, You Tube and tons of others. It is also good to visit forums with like-minded people to let them know you have some content that is free to check out and you would appreciate feedback. Don't over do this. Pick two or three pages to post to on Facebook. If you share your own article to 47 different Facebook groups, your own mother may send you hate mail.

Step 8: Be Thick Skinned.  When someone flames your blog, hates what you are doing, leaves nasty comments and says you’re dumb, just stay calm. Keep in mind this is not actually a personal attack. It is an attack on a thought you put out there. People disagree all the time. We’re humans after all. Free thinkers. The most controversial stuff you post will often generate the most traffic. Keeping your head about you during controversy furthers your brand image. Keep cool.

More steps exist but these eight are a good start. If you can do all this, you might have a shot at carving out your own little corner of the internet. If not, that’s fine too. At least now you’ll know going in what you are embarking upon.

The Court Jester and Lee Van Cleef

When I was very young, I remember both of my grandfathers taking me fishing. Sometimes it was on their boats, sometimes it was on the bank and sometimes in a float tube. I learned to catch perch, crappie, catfish, bass and carp. I learned different techniques, about different lures, how to cast different reels and how to watch a line.

Probably the most important lesson I learned was to appreciate nature for its great intricacies. All of the serious conversations I had with these formative men revolved around fishing stories and metaphors. I learned how to speak with adults half a century my senior when sitting at the Whataburger either before or after a trip. Nickel Mug coffee and Breakfast on a Bun still represent fishing and breakfast to me even though I can have neither.

These men were completely opposite in their personalities yet so much alike.

Papa Jim was very stoic and appeared to be the long lost brother of Lee Van Cleef. He taught me to work hard to enjoy the rewards of time off. His last words to me, as he lay in a hospital bed, were " Chris, you look bad. You're working too hard. You need to go fishing." I went that next day with my family and I caught the largest smallmouth bass I have ever caught, with my son right there helping me. He understood the seed he had helped plant had intertwined with my soul. It was something he could offer a remedy to. Though we spoke less and less as I grew older, moved away, and started a family, a glimpse of me could tell him what I needed. I miss that man every time I get on the water.

The other was a joker. PaPa, in any situation, was the court jester. My six year old has all of his spunk and fire so I am constantly reminded of him especially since his passing about a year ago. The first question we always asked each other was about the fishing report. This was a man who had pulled my leg hair with needle nose pliers, told girls I brought to the fishing hole I said they were ugly, and could find a sore spot to tease a rhino. I always had fun when I was around him. He made fishing fun. He always liked to compete too. When I was in high school and even into college I would spend spring break with him fishing at area lakes and keeping score the whole time. I can't count how many times we went fishing but it's a lot and not enough at the same time. When Papa Jim passed it was Papa that I hugged the longest. I sobbed so much I must have soaked through the shoulder of his suit. Unfortunately I had no grandfather left to comfort me when Papa passed last January. The torch had been passed to my Dad.

I see my Dad doing the same things with my son as my grandfathers did with me. I hope they come to feel this strongly for him. I am almost sure of it. Fishing, camping or even just spending time in nature with the grandfathers in your life should be a cherished time. It eventually ends and the torch may some day be passed on to you.

Fishful Thinking

With the weather acting schizophrenically, I've used the cold days to do a lot of reorganizing, rigging and prep for the upcoming tournament season. I'll only fish a handful of events but I want to at least make it worth the time and effort. Trying to figure out, by reading maps, old notes and revisiting way points has me trying to "guess" where the fish will be.

It actually reminds me of a book I enjoy reading every couple of years, Think Like a Fish: The Lure and Lore of America's Legendary Bass Fisherman by Tom Mann and Tom Carter. In it Mann talks about war, sports and fishing. This is at least two of the three if not all three, symbolically of course.

“In war, men are taught to think like their enemy. In sport, contestants should think like their opponents. Fishing is the only sport where the opponent, or prey, is usually invisible. If you can't think like him, you won't outsmart him. If you catch him without thinking, you're not skilled, you're simply lucky. Luck isn't as much fun, or as fulfilling, as strategy-born thinking.”

I’ll have my work cut out for me but it is all a part of it. I am trying to think like a fish.

If conditions are X, where would I be, what would I be looking for? Am I lethargic or am I feeding up? Am I looking for a bed or am I just storing up after the winter?

The voices of fish that have no voice or inner thought are filling my dreams both day and night. It is setting up to be a maddening couple of weeks. I have reorganized my tackle twice, respooled all of my reels, selected the six rods I’ll take, the baits they will fling and even what accessories I’ll be taking along.

Tournament fishing to me is like a fine scotch. Taken in small doses it is able to be enjoyed and my presence to others is, I would like to think, equally enjoyable. Largely consumed, no one wants to be near me or my warped verbal ramblings.

I will do my best to remain refined over the season. If you see me talking to my self and flailing wildly in the air however, best to just leave me be. It’ll go away sometime.

Not Everyone Gets a Trophy

Life teaches some hard lessons. The sooner we can learn and apply these lessons, the better our lives will be. At least that is what I am teaching my kids.

This weekend my son learned a very hard lesson. Not everyone gets a trophy.

He is 10 and has poured the last six months of his life into competing in a robotics league. He and his other four teammates, all the same age, competed against kids 9-15 years old. In the first regional competition a few months ago they swept the competition, beating out middle schoolers and teams that had been together multiple years in his team’s first year of eligibility. The win gave them great pride, lots of awards and a berth to the State Championship.

At the state competition, things didn’t come so easily. Many of these kids came from science academies, private schools or were just more experienced. His team performed admirably and finished seventh out of 56.

During the awards ceremony, some judge’s choice awards were given out to several teams for doing this or that. His team didn’t receive such an award. No trophy, no certificate. They received the exact same thing as the last place team.

It has been a hard pill for him to swallow. He is struggling with the why, the subjectivity in judging, and the lack of respect. He feels slighted.

I’ve tried to guide his thought process as best I can. I’ve lived his disappointment many times in my life. The most important question I asked him was one I often ask myself.

“If you knew for certain that all of your hard work would result in no awards, no recognition, no scholarships and no trophy, would you still do it?”

Therein lies how I define passion. What do you do for the joy of doing, not the joy of reward?

As a kayak angler, do you fish in tournaments for the hope of gainful returns or for the true joy of competing? Are all of your attempts to educate newcomers to the sport laced with product advertisements so you can check the boxes on an agreement or can you recommend the right thing for a person rather than just your thing? Do we offer to help rig out a new guy’s kayak since we’ve done it before and he has boat hole anxiety? And if we do, are we expecting payment?

Passion is knowing not everyone gets a trophy and doing it anyway. Passion is putting forth your best effort and letting the chips fall where they may. Passion is not regretting time spent growing something for the greater good.

Kayak fishing has a lot of passionate anglers. I hope that fire burns long and hot into the future. May the new guys see the passion over commercialism, understand that hard work from the community makes us better and sometimes, you will come up short of your goals.

A job well done is a pretty good trophy. 

Why High End Sunglasses are Worth It

For the last decade I’ve been on the search for good fishing sunglasses. They needed to be polarized, help me see fish in shallow or clear water better and not be fatiguing to wear for more than a few hours.

I bought most of the brands that you know and some you might not. In total I tried 12 brands in 10 years. I started fairly cheap ($40) and worked my way up as brand after brand disappointed.
Most polarized glasses reduce glare. Some are comfortable. Only two high end lenses from two different companies ever gave me the “water vision” I wanted. 

The Costa 580 lens and the Smith ChromaPop lens are those two. Three years ago I got my first pair of Costa 580G lenses. They gave me the vision I wanted but a problem remained. Of the three frame styles I had, I got fatigue after an hour. The glass lenses were heavy and the frames weren’t kind to my head. The aching above my ears and below my temples was awful. 

I met a guy in Austin, Jesse, who talked about and taught about sunglasses for a living. He gave me the run down on several different things to look at. What he explained was exactly why high end glasses were worth the money.

Any $10 pair of sunglasses can be polarized but only the really high end ones have color filters.
In the spectrum of color that the human eye sees, all of those colors are made up from reds, greens and blues. The problem is the colors are blended. 

The colors blend into each other making many other colors. When you filter the mixed in colors, so you really only see the blues, reds and greens, it is much easier to pick out those colors, contrasts and thus, fish. Costa and Smith are the only two I tried that had the color filtering technology. 

Additionally, the really good filtering (at higher wavelengths) are the more expensive lenses.
 Not all Costas and Smiths are the same.

So back to my dilemma. Costas hurt. I needed something designed for all day use, color filtering at high wavelengths, and really made those fish standout. Enter Smith Optics.

Smith was one of the two brands Jesse had recommended. I had tried the other. Not sure of my investment dollars, I tried to be a penny pincher and went for a style of lens that wasn’t the ChromaPop. 

They were lightweight, durable, did some filtering and I was happy. That is until I tried on a pair of ChromaPops. 

Holy cats! You just really don’t know what you are missing until you spot a big fish that swims by that no one else can see because their glasses aren’t up to snuff. It happens all the time. It’s happened to me more than once this month!

Smith Dockside

I've been buying Smiths for different applications for a little over a year. I have different colors for different situations and demo them with fishermen frequently. Seriously think about what you might not be seeing. If you are just fun fishing, sure the $10 Cheapies will work. If you are tournament fishing, this is an investment you need to make. Not only that, most of the Smith Optics are $200 or less.

Smith Tenet

My two favorites are the Bronze Mirror ChromaPop lenses paired with the Tenet frame and the Blue Mirror ChromaPop lenses in the Dockside frame. These cover 95% of my fishing and go with me as standard equipment.

For the best fit and to see the difference for yourself, find a local retailer or just find me. These glasses will sell themselves once you put them on. 

Be Safe in the Cold

Fall is descending on most of the nation and even a hint of winter is showing up for a few of our folks up north. My friends in Europe have been experiencing snow for almost three weeks now. As it gets colder, carelessness with safety gets more costly than it already is. Please be safe. Have a float plan. Wear layers. Wear a life jacket.

Here is a video explaining why that life jacket is so important.

How to Pick the Perfect Kayak

I'm sorry to be the one to say it. Well... not really.

For you new guys, the lurkers and quizzers, the ones wanting to get into kayak fishing or just kayaking in general, the perfect kayak does not exist.

For you kayak fishing vets, not all of you but some of you, stop telling them Kayak XR34 is the best in the world and you have to have one or you'll be sorry!

I get it. You love your kayak. You think it's the best. And here's the thing: For you it might be!

But let it be said once and for all, there is no perfect kayak for all people in all situations.

People with a bad back will need a lighter kayak or a trailer. People with only $400 to spend can't afford the Hobie Pro Angler 14 so stop suggesting it.

People who want a river boat may not want the Native Mariner. Especially in low water conditions.

I get it. You are loyal to your favorite brand. That's good. Please understand however, not all kayaks fit all people and situations the way it might fit you.

To grow the sport the most important thing we can do is encourage people to demo as many boats as possible. Sure, you might encourage a certain brand. I think we all do but please, whenever possible, don't encourage someone to buy a kayak "dry". If a person has never been in a kayak and you are encouraging them to buy the XR34, you are rushing. Asking lifestyle questions will lead you to only a handful of kayaks to choose from.

Hey, new guy! Does it seem overwhelming picking your first kayak? I've been there. I bought the only one I could afford. It got me on the water and that was good but it could be very frustrating and I almost died once because of a bad choice of a kayak. Please new guy, be patient. We understand you are super excited to try this cool sport out. We love it too but we have all made different mistakes. I made a really bad one that almost pushed me out of kayak fishing all together.

I purchased a kayak, sight unseen, dry with no demo about five years ago. It was such a good deal I couldn't believe it. So I bought it. Later that week I took it for its maiden voyage and almost turtled a dozen times. I hated that kayak. I felt like I was fighting it the whole time. It was awful and I sold it a month later and lost money. Since then I have purchased several kayaks for different purposes. I have a small water/buddy kayak, a big water kayak, and a family kayak (tandem). All three are different brands. I like them all and they have different purposes. For anyone to tell me that I could get all of my wants in one kayak would seem a fairy tale and frankly, unrealistic. I fish a wide variety of situations. Most people do.

If you only fish one set of ponds or one stretch of river, you might could find one kayak that works well and it could be perfect for you. That doesn't make it perfect for your buddy or that new guy on the forum.

Lots of places around the country have kayak dealers who specialize in kayaks, not just a bait store or grocery store that sells them. Ask them for a demo. Most of these places have people on staff who specialize in kayak fishing and who have paddled all the different brands they carry.Take a look around and see what you can find. If you still don't see a dealer in site, ask on the local fishing forum. Lots of people would be happy to let you try their kayak. I take new people out all the time just to share the kayaking experience with them.

So new guys, demo, demo, demo. Only you can choose for you.

Kayak addicts, encourage them to demo. Don't just be a boat pusher.

Review: Malone DownLoader Kayak Carrier

I recently purchased the DownLoader from Malone for my wife's minivan. We've been able to take our kayaks on the van a little over 1,000 miles and put them through the ringer. I'll give you the dish below but first a little from Malone:
The DownLoader™ is the keystone of our J-Style carrier line and features every possible option for low clearance requirements; ease of loading; boat protection and universal fit requirements.
A quick pull on the Release Pins allow the carriers to rotate up for transport or down for garage access. We added thick adjustable foam padding wrapped with tough nylon sleeves to protect the boat's finish. The built-in boarding ramps completely eliminate the need to lift the kayak up and into the carriers. Simply set the boat up against the ramps and slide it in!
The "no tools required" installation is one step with the Jawz universal adapter system that fits round, square or factory oval load bars. For extra thick bars, there are optional length bolts available in the BUY SPARE PARTS section of the website.
Furnished with all hardware, heavy duty load straps and bow & stern safety tie-downs for one kayak.
  • Fold-down design with release pin activation
  • Integrated kayak boarding ramps
  • Three layers of corrosion resistant coating
  • Oversize padding with nylon sleeves
  • Universal fit hardware for round, square and factory oval load bars
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Optional MPG351 Telos Kayak Loading Assist available
  • Capacity: For kayaks up to 36" wide and 75 LB
  • Dimensions: 17" (L) x 6" (W) x 19.5" (H) raised and 6" (H) lowered
  • Frame: Coated steel, Injection molded nylon
  • Weight: 16 LB (set of 2)

The Good

Installation was easy. Everything you need to do the install is right there in the box. I already had Malone crossbars so it wasn't a problem. The approximate install per set was less than five minutes. 

I love the ability to lay these hooks down and lock them when not in use. They are pretty low profile and allowed us to get into low clearance areas. 

The straps and rope that come with the kit were more than plenty to secure the kayaks. Driving through rain, wind gusts and fields of grasshoppers we still had no issues (other than a dirty car). 

The price is right too. At $159 per set, these beat out several other brands selling similar models with fewer features at larger prices. 

The Needs Improvement

On the back of the hook is a U that the strap runs through to keep it close to the hook. While strapping up, these came out a couple of times (loading by myself). I'd like to see the U enclosed to become an O so that once threaded, the strap will keep its place.

The locking mechanism is plastic and could be a little more sturdy. It's a push in pull out type secure button that needed a little coaxing the first time I used it. Eventually I was able to figure where to apply pressure to get it to lock. An aluminum interlock would be better here for longevity and more precise fitting. 

The padding is still good but seems a bit thin. I worry that in the Texas heat the adhesive might start to give way in the future. It hasn't yet and this is just speculation. Time will tell. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, this is a great product that performed well on the fly, is easily installed and removed, and helped us turn mom's minivan into a fun adventuring machine with kayaks. I'd definitely recommend purchasing these to friends and family. 

What's Your Favorite Color?

The age old question with a fishing twist: What's your favorite color?

Family discussions at my house always gravitate toward fishing. Almost every time, color and style comes up. We fish a lost of soft plastics in our family. They are versatile, fairly inexpensive and produce every season of the year. The styles and colors however, are diverse.

My brother loves to throw a Junebug colored Yum Dinger. He especially likes to throw these when he can find it in the 3" variety but now they're almost all 4". I'd call him crazy but I've seen him consistently put fish in the boat.

My Dad throws a lot of different baits but if I made him choose one, and he could find it, I'd bank on the 4" Berkley Power Worm in Camo. A close second would be a sandworm.

For me, it's a 4" Hag's Tornado in Watermelon Chartreuse. Is it any wonder I do a lot of finesse fishing? My whole family does it and has for decades. 

So if we fish the same waters primarily,together much of the time, why different color preferences?

Catches and Confidence.

I feel like I could catch Moby Dick on a 4" Hag's in WC. I have consistently put fish in the kayak. If I have a skunk day going on, I know I can catch fish on it. The first time I thought it could happen and it did, the confidence started to build. As I repeated the cycle and it continued to be true, it became known to me that I could put a fish in the boat with this bait. I proved it again on Friday. No fish the first three hours. Switched back to my confidence bait and bam, two fish in 10 minutes.

I have seen my brother catch what had to be every fish off of a bank on his bait. The same for my Dad. When I try to use their colors the results are underwhelming.

The cool thing is, it might be a color on a crankbait at a certain lake. I know a guy like that. He has won a lot of money (some of it mine) on a Central Texas lake with one particular color. He knows it's special too because that is a secret color only a few know.

I have another buddy who has a particular style and color of trailer he uses on spinnerbaits.

Call it hocum, voodoo, confidence or coincidence but I bet if you think about it for two seconds, you have a color you always go back to.

So, what is it? Let me know here in the comments or on Facebook.

Wilderness System Thresher Thoughts (So Far)

photo via Chad Hoover
ICAST is proving to be a surprise factory as normal but one of the hot chatter items this year hasn't been much of a surprise at all. The Wilderness Systems Thresher (prototype) has had three videos released already showing off its ability to climb the surf and handle foamy chop. A few photos have surfaced as well.

A Real Drag


     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.

Sharing a Secret Spot: Is It Safe?

You've done the work, put in the time and verified your hypothesis. You haven't verified a new scientific law, no, this discovery is fish. You have a new secret fishing spot. Maybe it's offshore, maybe a secret creek, maybe a back bay that you have to slog through mud to get to. Whichever the case may be, you have a very precious secret.

And then you do the unthinkable: you tell someone else.

Fishermen's spots are guarded like a super secret handshake or old family recipe for chili. Often, only after trust is established will these spots be shared if ever at all. And then the unthinkable happens, someone shares what you shared.

This scenario has played out time and time again over history. New fishing spots are the equivalent of celebrity gossip in other circles. And most of the time, the sharing wasn't done maliciously. It was done out of excitement.

I have several spots that I've been sworn to secrecy about. They have shared them with me and specifically asked that I not share. And I don't.

We have more and more people that join our sport every year. We can't possibly expect them to know all of the nuance and decorum that we have spent years learning. They don't know about giving space, asking to fish through, circling around another way, not crowding when catching and most of all, just because someone throws you a bone and shares a spot with you, you aren't supposed to post it on forums and tell all your buddies.

More Spots I've Found (and sometimes shared)

Remember the influx of new golfers (me included) in the mid to late 1990s? Most of us didn't know that the out player went first, you aren't supposed to walk through someone else's line and that you drop your pants to hit your next shot if you can't get your drive past the ladie's tee box. We all learned. It was painful for those with us but eventually we learned.

Here are a couple of things for the new folks to think about:

If you don't know if a person is telling you about a secret spot ask. If you forget to ask, don't tell anyone else about the spot. Nobody owns these spots (unless they are private property) but they have put in the work and time to locate and pattern the fish. Don't blow out the spot. Be respectful of their work and of their trust that you won't share.

If you fish with a guide and he shows you some spots, make sure to have a conversation about them. Ask if it's ok to share or if these are "client only" spots. It'd be hard for me to make a living if every time I came in the office someone else was sitting at my computer, checking my email and playing solitaire. It's similar for the guides.

I'll occasionally share spots, especially if someone is targeting a particular species that I have a pretty good lock on. Usually all I ask for in return is some secrecy. The info is very specific and almost always produces results. Often, as a show of good faith, they will send me a spot or two or some local intel for their area. I don't ask for it but it helps the trust factor.

Should we share spots? It's really up to the angler who found them. Communication is the key so each party knows what the expectations are. They won't always be followed but more often than not, you'll make some new friends and have a blast catching fish together. As long as they can keep it a secret. 

When to Say When in the Wind

Fishing in Texas, wind is inevitable. The problem with it is the constant change and knowing when to say when. Knowing when can be the difference between frustration and potential disaster.

Recently I had a day off midweek and decided I was going to fish no matter what. I received a tip of where some good fish were staging and made the trek to the lake. I looked at the wind forecast and knew it was going to be a little windy (15mph SSE). As I pulled up to the launch the forecast proved wrong. It was closer to 20mph with gusts to what I can only assume were nearing 40.

Decision time. I brought the Commander with me. It has a rudder but no scuppers so I would need to be careful. I knew it could cut the waves and with my anchor trolley I could position my bow into the wind. I did drive all the way down so I figured, let's try it.

The launch was uneventful. As soon as I started heading into the wind the Commander did what it was made to do. The rudder helped with steering and it was fairly effortless to get where I was going. I found my offshore spot, slid my trolley up to the bow, slipped the anchor into the water and started fishing. I won't lie, it was pretty rough. I could feel the waves below the boat as they were parted and spray was hitting me in the face as the rocker split break after break.  Just 15 minutes into fishing I had a decision to make. The wind was gaining speed, the water was visibly accumulating in the bottom of the kayak and to get back to the launch I was going to have to turn broadside at some point to get turned around or try to go Paris Hilton style (backwards) for the 200 yards back to the ramp. 14 feet of kayak is a lot to turn even with a rudder in this chop but I also knew there was a good chance of damaging the rudder once I got near the launch if I went backwards. I opted to paddle away from the launch and turn broadside for only long enough to get going nose first toward the launch.

This should have been my first clue

Now only 20 minutes into my trip I pulled my anchor and started digging into the passing waves. It was a struggle. The wind was pushing 25+ now and apparently some onlookers had gathered. I paddled fiercely and deeply for another 10 minutes and made my turnaround point. As I swung the rudder and plowed the paddle down for the turn a wave smashed the side of the boat soaking everything. I shook it off, made one more hard stroke and had my nose pointed at the launch.

Maybe an overreaction but glad they came to look

It was now evident how dire my situation looked. Someone from the bank had called the cops. A cruiser was pulling up to the launch as I made the turn. I raised my hand to wave at him and gave him an ok sign. He seemed good with that and pulled in to park and watch. With the wind now at my back the paddle back was quick and uneventful. As soon as I made land I waived at the officer, he waived back and headed on to more important things. A few of the onlookers dispersed and a couple came and visited for a bit.

As I loaded up the kayak the wind continued to build. I bailed a little more than 64 ounces from the kayak. It wasn't a dangerous amount of water but that number would have grown quickly had I stayed. Knowing when to say when made a potential disaster story really nothing more than a long blog post and a lot of frustration. That's a lot better than what it could have been.

Should i have attempted it? Maybe not.

So the lesson here is knowing when to give up, regardless of the investment in time or potential benefits. Swamp out my gear to catch big fish? No thanks.

You have to know when to say when in the wind.

Fishing with Kids: Adventure Over Fish

If you enjoy the outdoors and have young children, you may have thought about taking them fishing. Some of the hesitant dads I've visited with worry about if they will like it. They worry about not catching fish. They worry their kids will not really want to fish. 

The fact is, kids are just kids. They don't have the hangups and expectations you do. The outside world is a bigger playground to explore with boundless limits. If you decide to spend your time fishing on a fishing trip with kids, don't plan on fishing. Plan to spend time giving instruction and celebrating small victories. Don't be surprised when your future fisherman wants to explore and look for bugs or fossils rather than fish. Encourage it. 

The adventure of the trip is what will keep them wanting to come back. 

If you have a kayak, take your child along. Rent a small kayak for them or just go play in yours. Eventually as they get more comfortable you can incorporate fishing too. Tandem kayaks are great for these outings and are often available for rental if you don't have one. 

I didn't get my start in fishing from a kayak but it was an adventure that kept me coming back for more.

I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn't have a fishing pole. I also can’t remember the first time I went fishing. I have a few vague, water color type memories of small bream and a sunset but nothing else to really tie them together as a memory.

I do remember when I became hooked on fishing though. Every single detail.

My dad had taken me to Lake Trammel, a small impoundment outside Sweetwater, Texas. He and my grandfathers had outfitted me with a few lures they felt they could part with, a rod, a Zebco 33 and a lot of smiles, shoved into a small tackle box. Dad had found an area with lots of coontail that held some black bass. When we arrived, he tried every avenue to convince me to not tie on a lipless crankbait. He knew in short order the gold Cordell Rattlin’ Spot I tied on my line would be a donation to Poseidon. 

30 seconds later he thought he was right. After a short cast and a couple of cranks I was tugging, pulling and making quite a racket. I couldn't get my lure back. He sauntered over with a half smirk on his face when I was pulled forward. Weeds don’t pull back! After a short fight he held the fish while I ran to get that blue stringer I had insisted on bringing along.

 A two and a half pound giant black bass was toted home and shown to anyone who would look. After a few pictures, most of which I cried through because of the bristled teeth of my foe, the bass was prepared and made into a nice meal. The cycle had been completed and a new angler born. Little did any of us know that this one bass would start a fire that has yet to be put out.

The adventure, the story I would tell is what kept me asking to go back for more. The approval I was met with was great but when I think fondly about that trip, I see the trees, the water, the big, big world that was different than what I was used to. I remember the stringer. I remember that lure. I remember it 30 years later like it was yesterday. The adventure is what I seek and crave even to this day. That's why a day on the water without catching a fish is still a relaxing, refreshing experience. 

Go out and create some adventure!

Kayak Gear Guru

As Payne's Paddle Fish has developed over the last two years, a couple of different paths have emerged. I have realized that there are topics that are umbrella like and should be talked about time and again. Safety is one of those. Other topics like gear are sought after as well but because of the format of my blog and so many topics to cover, gear reviews and kayak reviews often get lost in the shuffle.

This was an opportunity. For the last 11 years I've been in the kayak fishing game and have seen the emergence of the community. The sharing of ideas, products and rigging have allowed our sport to grow. Unfortunately, our sport is at a deficit when it comes to straight talk about gear. Most of the reviews that are out there only speak highly of the products. This is where Kayak Gear Guru comes in.

Kayak Gear Guru is a website where products will be talked about just as I'd tell you about them around the campfire. If a manufacturer doesn't want constructive notes on how to improve, they should stay with their staffers to do the reviews. If a product is great, I'll call it that. If it's not great, I'll tell you why, give points for improvement and then make a recommendation that is better.

New reviews will come out each Monday. In May there will be videos that accompany each review so you can see it, read about it and feel like you've seen the product before you lay out your hard earned cash for it. When buying a kayak we say demo, demo, demo. Why should gear be any different? You should at least see some pictures and get an overview video. Right?

If there is a product you'd like to see covered, let me know and I'll see what we can do. Not all products will be able to be reviewed (I'm just one guy) but we will try to cover the array of gear you want to know about.

Please go by the Facebook page and give it a like and be sure to read some previous reviews already available on While you're there you can subscribe (also on the right) and get an email when a new review is posted (no spam, I promise!).

On the right hand side, there is a list of upcoming product reviews. Make sure to tell your friends. When the video channel is ready to go, you'll be the first to know.

Thanks so much for continuing to help Payne's Paddle Fish grow, for your support in these new projects and for telling everyone you know about how awesome kayak fishing is. ------Chris Payne

New to Kayaking? Check the Law.

In the state of Texas, you don't have to register your kayak in most cases. If it has a motor, trolling or otherwise yes, but in most cases no. Laws are different in each state so make sure you check them out carefully before venturing out. Here is how it reads in Texas:

The following vessels when on Texas public water are required to have current registration, including when docked, moored, or stored.

  • All motorized boats, regardless of length;
  • All sailboats 14 feet in length or longer or any sailboat with an auxiliary engine(s); and
  • USCG Documented vessels (New — see section below).
  • Exempted vessels — Non-motorized canoes, kayaks, punts, rowboats, or rubber rafts (regardless of length) when paddled, poled, or oared and sailboats under 14 feet in length when windblown. Adding an outboard or trolling motor to one of these types requires titling and registration.
  • An exempt boat may have previously been titled as a motorboat. You can check whether a title has been issued for free.
That is great news but slow down for a second and let's really look at this. Just because you don't have to register your boat (as long as you meet the above criteria) doesn't mean you can stroll down to Mariner-Sails and pick a boat and a paddle and be on the lake before sunset. There are some other things to look at within the laws. 

Just to get on the water you need to read this:

All vessels, including canoes and kayaks, must be equipped with one Type I, II, III or V wearable PFD for each person on board. A Type V PFD is acceptable only if used in accordance with the specific instructions on the label of the device.

Need some help picking one out? Visit a kayak dealer and try some on. For more info, check out this post here. And if you want a direct link to a recommended manufacturer? You should check out NRS or Stohlquist. PFDs are what they do. 

If you are going to paddle at night:

Remember that you must carry one bright white light that can be exhibited in time to prevent a collision. It is recommended that you carry a lantern, flashlight, or other attached white light that will be visible from 360 degrees. Regulations state that canoes, kayaks, and all other manually driven vessels may exhibit sidelights and a sternlight, and shall exhibit at least one bright light, lantern, or flashlight from sunset to sunrise when not at dock.

Need some help? For the absolute best you need to look at the YakAttack VisiCarbon Pro Light. You can find it here with a Mighty Mount (others are available). It also has a hi-vis flag so people will see you during the day as well. 

A general warning to have your safety items:

Operating Vessels without Required Equipment is Prohibited - No person may operate or give permission for the operation of a vessel that is not provided with the required safety equipment. An operator may not permit a person under the age of 13 to be on board the vessel while the vessel is underway if the person is not wearing a USCG approved wearable PFD. Marine enforcement officers regularly perform vessel safety checks to ensure the safety of boat owners and passengers.

One more thing you will need by law:

Any vessel less than 12 meters in length (39.4 ft.) is required to carry a whistle or horn, or some other means to make an efficient sound to signal intentions and position in periods of reduced visibility.

As you are thinking about total purchase price, a weekend trip down the Brazos, Guad or just a play day at the lake, make sure you have a PFD (life jacket),  whistle, and if paddling at night, a 360 light. 

Stay safe, not only will it save you money but it might save your life!

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