Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A "Different" Feeling

Sometimes it's impossible to explain...the random thoughts about "the next cast" that wake you up in the middle of the night, the severe anticipation about the early morning's events that distract you from everything else, the different "pep in your step" as you load the kayak and gear like it's your first time ever...whatever it is, sometimes it just feels different.
This time was exactly that, my typical routine had a feeling unlike most others in the past. I always fantasize about the upcoming adventure, think about the bite, and picture my paddle out...but for some reason, this time I just had "that feeling", and it felt good.  
The sun's rays soaked into the fog lingering in the cool air just above the surface of the warmer water, leaving an orange glow that amplified the morning jitters. The buzz was felt by both Joe and I as we headed out in search of Virginia's big speckled trout.
There was a sense of deja vu as I made my first cast. It felt like I played out the scenario multiple times in my head. I knew the bait that I wanted to throw, where I wanted to throw it, and where the magic should happen. It took all of 5 casts before the hooks of my Mirrodine were set into a strong set of jaws. It seemed as if I prematurely felt the electricity of this 25.5" release citation speckled trout.
I tagged and released her to hopefully give another angler the same thrill that I just experienced. The funny thing is that as I watched the beautiful fish slowly swim away on the shallow flat, my excitement started to fade. Kind of like we had some weird, unexplainable connection that was just, well...a little different.
~See ya on the water


Monday, October 28, 2013

Tip of the Week: Layer Up

If you're still out kayak fishing through the fall and winter months, you're probably not doing it in shorts and a t shirt. During this time of year, it's all about staying warm and dry. Wearing a quality moisture-wicking base layer on your skin is the key element in comfort and safety. Moisture robs heat from your body's core leaving you feel "chilled". The base layer wicks moisture away to the next outer layer which helps retain your body heat. After the base layer, it's up to you on the route you wanna take for your remaining layers. Check out Kayak Kevin's video on how he layers up for the cold weather season. Video link below:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

YakAttack BlackPak Review

"Just another crate..."
"Too big..."
Those are the negatives that I've heard about the YakAttack BlackPak before I ever saw one in person. Even after hearing some premature comments about the product, I knew it was just a matter of time before I had to own one. When I handled the BlackPak for the first time, I noticed that it was not just another crate, or overpriced, and it definitely was not too big. I immediately thought one thing...I found my foundation to build upon! 
The purpose of this review is to give honest feedback on how this product directly affects my experiences where it matters...on the water! Here are the main points that I'm going to cover:
  • Quick overview of the YakAttack BlackPak
  • How I use my BlackPak
  • Final thoughts

Due to high demand in the kayak fishing community for an upgraded gear and tackle management system, YakAttack designed and released a product called the BlackPak. The BlackPak takes the place of the traditional milk crate with a system that features a streamlined look, sturdy feel, and endless options for additional rigging. Made from a UV resistant composite material, the BlackPak is designed to withstand the stresses of the hardcore angler along with the harmful rays of the sun. It comes with 3 rod holders that can be installed in any location, with the option to add more if wanted. The hinged lid provides ultimate security for your gear and tackle by having the option to latch the lid if desired. Built-in handles on the sides allow for easy transport to and from your kayak. The top rails accept installation of accesories that fit the Mighty Mount and GearTrac. The rails even have notched ends so that the kayaks tankwell bungee cords can secure the BlackPak to the kayak. The BlackPak will run you around $125, but we will figure out if it's worth it or not. First impression is that YakAttack put a lot of time and thought into this product! Now lets see how I use my BlackPak.
As the wheels in my head turned with idea after idea, it was quite apparent on the direction I wanted to take. First thing I did was install 3 extra rod holders to the front side of my BlackPak. Next, I installed Conseal silencing foam to any area that would make noise. I installed it at the bottom of BlackPak, as well as the sections of the lid that makes contact with the side wall. This dampens the noise drastically which helps not to spook fish! After that, I installed 12" pieces of black YakAttack GearTrac GTSL90 on each rail. The GearTracs will be the mounting point for most of my YakAttack implements. Lastly I installed 2 pieces of bungee cord down the middle to act as dividers for my tackle trays.

YakAttack GearTrac GTSL90 with multiple implements mounted on 1.5" YakAttack Screwballs
Notice the notched rail end with the black bungee cord securing it in place

With my permanent attachments installed and ready to go, it's on to the gear and tackle that I like to carry on a consistent basis. Lately, 95% of my fishing has been saltwater over freshwater. For my inshore outings, I have my system pretty dialed in. Here is what I carry: 
  • 2ea Plano 3700 Stowaway cases filled with assorted topwater, jerkbaits, crankbaits, twitcbaits, etc
  • 1ea Plano 3600 Stowaway case filled with various jigs and hooks
  • Marine VHF radio
  • Sunblock and bug spray
  • Fish tagging kit
  • Container with extra camera batteries, sd cards, cleaning cloths, etc.
  • Handy dandy bag of soft plastics
  • Leader material secured with parachute cord around a rod holder 
Without the size of the BlackPak the way it is, I wouldn't be able to fit everything inside. For that fact alone, I love the size of the BlackPak. Not only that, it fits perfectly into the tankwell of my Ocean Kayak Trident 13. Now I don't feel like there is wasted space compared to when it was just my milk crate. With the BlackPak all rigged and packed up, it's time to cover my favorite configurations.
On any given basis, I could be running 2 different GoPros, an Olympus digital camera, lights, etc. The reason that I installed the GearTracs is because I want to have an infinite number of options on the location of each implement that I decide to use on a given outting. This is very important when trying to get the right camera angle for any scenario. The following photos illustrate the products I attach to the BlackPak and where I install them.

Forward rail: YakAttack VisiCarbon Pro on the port side and a YakAttack Panfish on the starboard side

Forward rail: YakAttack Zooka Tube Rod holders mounted on a 1.5" YakAttack Screwball on the starboard and port sides, YakAttack Panfish in the middle
Rear rail: YakAttack VisiCarbon Pro

Forward rail: RAM Tube 2008 rod holder mounted on a YakAttack 1.5" Screwball on port and starboard sides,
YakAttack Panfish in the middle
Rear rail: YakAttack VisiCarbon Pro

Forward rail: YakAttack Panfish on port side, YakAttack Dogbone/Panfish Portrait combo mounted on a 1.5" YakAttack Screwball on starboard side.

Forward rail: YakAttack Panfish on port side, YakAttack Dogbone/Panfish Portrait combo mounted on a 1.5" YakAttack Screwball on starboard side.

As you can see, I use my BlackPak for a lot more than just a crate. The BlackPak has allowed me to achieve certain camera angles that I would never get otherwise, store gear in a central location, carry more rods, and most of all...broaden my creative thinking when it comes to personalization for my fishing platform.
Okay, if I had to list a drawback, it would be that the BlackPak will not fit in ALL kayak tankwells. Certain kayaks, mainly the short ones, will not be able to use the BlackPak. My Old Town Predator MX tankwell is just a little too short for the BlackPak. I know that YakAttack is fully aware of that and I'm pretty sure that future designs of the BlackPak to fit smaller tankwells are in work.
Luther Cifers and Team YakAttack knocked it out of the park with the BlackPak. I'm in love with my BlackPak to say the least. Without a doubt, this is the most universal and integral tool that I have in my kayak angling arsenal. BY FAR, it's worth the price! My overall score is:
4.5 out of 5 stars
If you do not own a BlackPak but you love kayak fishing, do yourself a favor and buy one. You get what you pay for and plus it's made in the USA. Honestly, you won't regret purchasing one. They're available at HOOK1 and you can save 10% at checkout with the code HOOKLINESINKER for any HOOK1 purchase. As always...
~See ya on the water

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tip of the Week: Go Big or Go Home

As fish feel the water temperature steadily drop with the cool fall weather, they go into feed mode! Fish will feed regularly throughout the day and more often. Instead of clipping on your small to medium to sized meal, SUPERSIZE it! The saying holds true, "Big baits catch big fish!" Yes you can catch them on big baits throughout the year and yes they will still eat a small lure during fall, but if you truly want to increase your chances towards landing the trophy that you're after...Go BIG!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kayaking Self Rescue 101: Turtle Time

Scenario X:

You just bought a brand spankin' new dry top, waders, and all the layers to wear underneath. You try on everything in your living room and you feel like the abominable snowman. You even go as far as adjusting your PFD to fit, sit on the floor, and "air" paddle to make sure you're comfortable. During the next trip on the water, the air temp is in the mid 40's and the water temp is in the low 50's. You turn around to grab a rod and at the same time a wave hits you and you're swimming before you know it! As panic immediately sets it, you can't get back in your kayak...Now what?

As crazy as that scenario sounds, it happens more often than most people think. You can have the right clothing and gear, but not wearing it properly or not being able to re-enter your kayak can make the difference between life or death. Do yourself and your family a favor and practice exiting your kayak along with re-entry as if your life depended on it.

Treat this as if you were really going fishing and not as a joke! Before I put on all of my outer garments, I do a quick inspection to look for tears, broken zippers or snaps, seam integrity, etc. Something that many people overlook is wearing all of their gear correctly. Let's take a dry top and waders combination for example:
  • Always make sure you seal off the top of your waders with a wading belt if it's not already built in. This will keep the water from pouring into your legs which would prevent you from re-entering your kayak. I wear Kokatat Whirlpool bibs which has a neoprene belt that's built into the material. Wearing an additional wading belt would not hurt.
  • The dry top is pretty self-explanatory as far as wear is concerned. Make sure both the neck and wrist gaskets are not folded over and that they provide a good seal to your skin. I recently upgraded to a Gore-Tex Kokatat Rogue dry top which is leaps and bounds above my previous one. 
  • Another important factor is the fit of your PFD. You want to make sure that your PFD is loose enough not to feel constrained, but tight enough that it won't slide up your torso and get in the way if you're in the water. Now that you're wearing your gear correctly, it's time to go swimming!

Before you actually flip your kayak, have a little fun and jump out of it. This will get you wet without having to worry about flipping your kayak over before you re-enter. This tactic would be used if you fell out and your kayak was still upright:
  • Approach your kayak from the side, either port or starboard
  • Take a couple of deep breaths to calm down and gather your composure
  • Try and make this a one shot deal, you don't want to make multiple attempts which wastes precious energy
  • Brace yourself with your hands on the deck and try to explode over the kayak using both your upper body to push and your lower body to kick
  • Once your laying across your kayak, maneuver yourself back into the seated position

Alright, that is the best case scenario. If you're going in, it's ideal to try to make sure your kayak stays upright. I know, that is not always the case. But if you can help it, try and keep it upright! Let's say in the blink of an eye, you flipped your kayak upside down and you're swimming next to it, you just "turtled". A couple of helpful techniques to remember when trying to upright your kayak.
  • Just as re-entry, approach your kayak from either the port or starboard side
  • Position your body where the side handle is hitting you in the chest (you'll grab the handle on the opposite side)
  • Locate your scupper holes in your seatwell and cockpit deck (you will use them as grips)
  • Grab a hold of the scupper holes and just like the technique you used earlier for re-entry, explode up to the point your stomach is laying over the middle of the kayak and that you can reach across to the side handle
  • While lying on the kayak and holding the handle, slide back off the kayak towards where you started. Make sure you don't lose grip of the handle!
  • Your kayak should now be upright for you to re-enter

Practice this as many times as it takes for you to feel comfortable. As you practice, you may find a certain way works better for you, AWESOME! Whatever it takes for you to re-enter your kayak as fast and safe as possible. Remember, the more you comfortable and confident you are in self-rescue techniques, the greater your chances are in surviving a deadly situation.

~See ya on the water!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tip of the Week: Spray off the Salt

Salt vs. Angler

All kayak anglers know the importance of keeping your gear, especially your expensive reels, in good working condition. For the salt water angler, removing the salt from your gear is the most critical step of preventative maintenance on your angling tools. Adding a fresh water filled "garden sprayer" to your angling arsenal not only keeps your gear and tackle salt free, it will help keep your reels away from the repair shop which will save you money in the long run. Check out this link to Rob Choi's for a full write up on this helpful tool!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Early Fall Reds


Leaves are changing colors

water has more of chilly bite than a warming touch

air conditioning is turned off in the house...Thank the Lord, Fall is finally here!

I tell ya what, nothing makes me "tick" more than the transition from muggy summer into chilly fall. My body clock must have been programmed around the autumn time frame because during this time of year, I feel alive! It's not just me, Chesapeake Bay's red drum recently shifted into high gear and they're not letting up any...

First up was a shot at the bay's behemoth bull reds. I joined Kayak Kevin at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to hopefully get into some fish before the sun went down. It didn't take long before Kevin said, "Here we go!" I knew he had a good fish judging by the speed of his bull driven sleigh ride. That's the outcome when you have a 49" slob of a red drum go ape $#%T with "Drum Jesus" at the other end of the line.

Shortly after Kevin left, I had one take down which striped a foot of line or so before dropping the annihilated pinfish. The pinfish was battered, beaten...and dead as could be. That was it for the action that night.

Next time out was to one of my favorite flats in Tidewater. Bulls were not the target this time, but it was stout slot reds that I was after. This day was filled with violent reds between 22" and 25.25".

Friend and fellow teammate Drew Camp also got into some nice reds. Drew decided to bring out the SUP board along with his fly gear. Drew spent most of his time standing on top of his cooler while sight casting to schools of hungry drum. Here is a nice 25" that fell for the fly:

Once the crappy wind and rain combination decides to leave the mid-Atlantic, it will be game time again! Huge bulls are on the move heading south, but there are still plenty to be had by the aspiring angler. Slot sized drum are in full force, cleaning house on the flats and shallow shorelines. Don't put the kayak up just yet, the fun is far from over!

~See ya on the water!

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Tip of the Week: Tactical Anglers Clip

Tired of constantly having to cut your line and re-tie every time you want to change your lure?

Sometimes you may change your lure out every 5 minutes and spend more time tying on different lures than actually fishing. For most anglers, time is precious and cannot be wasted! With the Tactical Anglers Clip, an angler can change their lures in seconds which saves time and leader material. The Tactical Anglers Clip comes in 3 sizes (50lb, 125lb, 175lb). The clip actually acts like a "loop knot" giving the lure more action than just tying a knot directly to the lure itself. Check out the Tactical Anglers website for more information or at Tackle Direct to purchase.

50lb Pictured above

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Practice Makes Not-So Perfect

Most people that know me can say that I have had one thing on my mind recently, and that was the annual TKAA tournament. To be honest, I felt more pressure this year than last. Taking 1st place in the Slam division the year prior not only put added pressure on myself, but it put a target on my back for my buddies to shoot at. This year I felt like football player going through a summer of rigorous training camp. You can say that I threw my fair share of casts in preparation.

Just like last year, my good friend and fishing partner Joe Underwood and I shared previous trip experiences, potential tactics, and possible game plans for the upcoming big dance. We pre-fished a few days in a row to exhaust a few "crazy ideas" while narrowing down a solid plan. One thing that many tournament fishermen know is that the weather that you get for pre-fishing will normally be the polar opposite for tournament day. This year was no different as the weather leading up to the weekend of the event was beautiful.

Kayaker: Joe Underwood
I pre-fished extremely hard and had a great idea of what I wanted to do. The Wednesday prior to the tournament went exactly like I had planned. I hit my first spot to specifically target speckled trout and red drum. My ultimate goal was to get at least 40" between the biggest trout and red. Well, I beat that by over 8".

I ended that day with landing 6 trout with the biggest going 25" (Virginia release citation) and a dozen or so reds up to 23.25". I had a good pattern with the trout bite and had the schools of slot sized red drum locked down. If the weather would just hold up, I would be in business!

The Captains Meeting came and went and it was time to shine, at least that was the plan anyways. Well, who would have guessed that the weather would make an abrupt turn heading straight to hell! The lovely Nor'easter winds totally demolished the game plan and we were left calling last minute audibles at the ramp. Long story short, my tournament day was a total bust. I caught reds up to 20" and specked trout that could be used for flounder bait. Oh well, that's tournament fishing! No repeat this year...

Congrats to Jarred Koons out of Norfolk, Virginia as he was the Slam winner. For his 54" Slam, Jarred won a 2014 Hobie Pro Angler 14. Great job Jarred and all the anglers who placed despite horrendous conditions!

Now the bullseye is on Jarred's back and you can be sure that I will have my sights dialed in and focused again in 2014. Next year's training camp will come with a lot less pressure, that's for sure! In the mean time it's back to the flats for more citation trout and schooling reds. Good times...

~See ya on the water!