Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Searching the Flats

 
This past week was much friendlier to the mid-Atlantic tidewater fishermen. Cooler temps and low winds sparked the interests of local cobia hunters as well as the flats anglers. If the forecasted temperature under 90 degrees didn't get me excited, the projected winds of 0-7 knots sure did!

 
As usual, I found myself in familiar waters probing the flats for cruising redfish. The water was abnormally dirty with our recent rain showers and high tides. I ended up finding some cleaner water with schools of bait. Along with the clear water and baitfish came schools of "channel bass" aka. redfish. There is nothing like sight casting to schooling redfish!
 

Once the wind picked up and the tide came in, it was time for top water trout. Feeling the pressure of the clock working against me, I made the best attempt to land some of my speckled friends. Of the handful of blow ups on my Skitter Walk, this 20.5" actually followed the plan.



A couple of days later, Rob Choi and Alex Britland came down from Richmond to do a little late afternoon/evening flats fishing. The weatherman must have been hitting the scotch a little early because the weather was not was it was supposed to be. Winds under 8 knots my @$$!! We made the best of it and managed to fight off the wind and floating grass.



The highlight of the night was having a 23" redfish crush my top water in pure darkness. This fish must have been honed in because he got most of the bait in his chompers. Normally I don't keep a lot of fish, but when you have a "gyotaku guru" fishing near you, that's a different story. I felt very fortunate to have commissioned artist and good friend, Rob to do the fish print of this redfish. If you're wondering what "gyotaku" art is, click on this link. Rob will have some of these prints up for sale in the near future so be on the look out, they will go fast!!

Photo Credit: Rob Choi

Right now, our redfish bite is going strong! They're hitting everything from top water, soft plastics, to cut bait on the bottom. Speckled trout are hit and miss to sum them up. They're tougher to find this year, but if you find one you will find more. We're still waiting on the flounder bite to pick up but some nice fish are around at the usual locations. I don't know where I'm headed to next or what I will be targeting. One thing is for certain, I'll be back at it again very soon...

~See ya on the water!

"Sight Fishing Tips - Salt Style" post is coming up this week, stay tuned!

 



Monday, July 22, 2013

Specks & Clams

 

 "Make due with what you have."

 

That is one of life's sayings that I truly live by. Without looking into it too deep, one can incorporate that saying into their day to day routine. You can relate that to finances, health, or in this case...time.
 
It's not easy for life's schedule and Ma' Nature to work together to allow the good fortune of free time accompanied with nice weather. On this day, the overall goal was to take my Trident 13 loaded with clamming gear and bring home a shellfish dinner for the family. I never have an issue when it comes to paddling some plastic, but my mind tends to think about setting hooks into hungry mouths when the condtions are this nice!
 
I launched a few hours before low tide so I could get in a little time throwing top water for some speckled trout. It was almost like they were waiting patiently for my Skitter Walk to do a little dance above their lustful eyes. 

 
  
 
 
When you are pressed for time, you normally throw your "go to" baits instead of experimenting. I have the utmost faith in my top water presentation which 90% of the time is one of my Skitter Walks. A well known "trout legend" turned me on to this lure a while back, thanks again Forrest.
 
The conditions were ideal for top water trout action. These fish were going mid-evil on anything up top. You know you're in the feeding window when you watch specks consistently blow up baitfish on the surface. In the hour or so that I fished, I landed 4 trout up to 19 1/2" while losing a couple, not to mention the many blowups that swung and missed. This one wanted to wave his tail good bye.
 

Remembering I was there to go clamming and not play catch and release with trout, I put the rod down and grabbed the clam rake. After a couple of hours scratching the salty floor, I managed to haul in 89 clams. I can tell ya that this made for one happy family!
  

If you don't take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you, it's a good possibility that may miss out on something worthwhile. Granted I didn't catch one every cast, but I sure did have my fair share of fun and excitement. With that being said, I think another early morning journey BEFORE work is in the making...

~See ya on the water!

 

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sight Casting Redfish

 

 

Weather Forecast:

 
Temperature: High 80s'/Low 90's
Wind: W/NW at 0-5mph
Sky: Mostly Sunny
Precipitation: 10%
Tide: Low around 8:20am
 
Mark this down on the calendar because this was one of the nicest days of the summer to date! The Chesapeake Bay anglers have been waiting very patiently for days like this. It didn't take long to figure out the plan...Sight casting to redfish on flats!
 
 

  
The conditions mixed with the tide cycle equated to a sight fisherman's dream! Early, yet distinct moments can set the tone for a day. Such was the case on this trip out; I paddled to the start of a big flat and stood up with my 8' YakAttack Park N Pole in hand. Actually, this day it was my YakAttack Push Pole. Within a few silent pushes on the flat, the sight of blue tipped tail with a ever-so-distinct black dot caught my eye not 20 feet away. Not 2 minutes into the stalk...a 19 1/2" redfish started off the non stop action!
 
 
 
 
While setting up the GoPros and tagging equipment, the sound of feeding redfish pushing bait in skinny water caught my attention. After a quick tag, photo, release, I was back in the game. Not a few moments later, my drag started to scream again.
 
 
 
 


The highlight of the day was watching 5 blue tails pop out of the flat calm water waving at the anxious angler that slowly crept within striking distance. Just as scripted...




 I hooked up with over 25 redfish ranging 17" to 20 1/2". The paddle back to the landing was long but sweet! Worn out and exhausted, yet I still sang random tunes that were passing through my head while I was relishing in the moments that just transpired. "Cat Scratch Fever..."

~See ya on the water!


P.S - Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on "Sight Fishing Tips". This will cover weather, tide, tackle, and any other detail that could be a factor for sight fishing.





Sunday, July 7, 2013

Blurred, Beaten, & Smiling





Miserable, hot, fatigued, blurred, excited, and blessed are words that could be combined to sum up my week of on the water. I have been fortunate enough to enjoy nearly a week off from work due to a birthday and a long weekend due to the 4th of July. The downside to the week was once again the weather was going to be a factor...Oh flipping well!


 

When a fisherman spends almost an entire week soaking up the hot sun and battling the strong winds, their memory tends to gets a little foggy. Trips blur together, some catches are nearly forgotten, and the angler can just be downright tired. While there are some experiences you don't mind forgetting, there are certain moments that will get engraved in your mind for you to reach back and pull out of the memory bank at any given instance.

Many hours were spent searching for redfish and speckled trout on some local inshore flats. I tried spots that have produced in the past, along with new ones that were found by doing a little homework. In most days, many hours and many miles were logged in my Trident 13 while trying to find fish and gain knowledge.




There is nothing more gratifying when your plan and ideas comes together and pay off. I had a good feeling that I would be able to get on some reds at the mouth of a creek with the wind and tide working together to funnel bait down the creek channel.


 
 


My 31st birthday is one that I won't soon forget. Even though the winds were blowing 15-25mph and the forecast called for scattered thunderstorms, I ventured out anyways. Here is an email that I received from my amazing wife on the morning of my birthday;
 
 "Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband! I hope you enjoy your "me" day and a citation- or 3!!"
 
Well, at one point I thought I was going to pull off 3 citations. Not only did I land one citation trout, I landed two! I was going to try and make her birthday wish come to pass, but the nasty thunder and lightning put the brakes on that.
 

 

Citation #1: 24" speckled trout that fell victim to top water. Gotta love water on the lens.



 
 


 

Citation #2: 24.5" speckled trout on a Z-Man Grass Kickerz






My birthday was a special one. Not only did I have a great day of landing trophy specks, my wife treated me like a king with crab bisque, bruschetta, and a birthday cake. What a day!

Umm, oh yeah...Top water strikes! There is nothing more exciting than having your top water bait get destroyed by a fish. I was expecting a big trout after a violent explosion on my super spook Jr, but this 20" red was a welcomed surprise.




The glistening blue tipped tails just breaking the surface, the slight ripple path in skinny water with the glimpse of a bronze back, and the bulrush of a feeding red into a harmless school of baitfish adds another world into the chase for redfish. The combination of hunting and fishing is a match made in heaven for me. Standing and stalking reds on shallow flats and coves keeps the adrenaline pumping at an alarming rate. My Maui Jim Sting Ray's proved to be invaluable today. The bronze lenses in the bright sunny conditions made picking out the reds a breeze. A handful of fish were landed between 19" - 21 on a Z-Man Jerk Shadz".
 




The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT) is an animal in itself. Jack Daughtry, angling-addict's Rob Choi, and I headed out for sheepshead, spadefish, and triggerfish. This was a long and grueling day filled with annoying croaker, baby sea bass, and spot. The highlight of the day was playing around with decent sized triggerfish. The biggest one I landed was 15.5" while Jack got a nice 16".


Triggerfish surrounding Jack's gulp and hooked up trigger 








By the end of the week my mind was blurred, body was beaten up, but my face still cracked a smile. In between all of that was thunderstorms, crazy wind, pulled muscles, sun burned skin, fish lost at the boat, and an array of other catches of Virginia's inshore species.  Having the opportunity to fish days in a row is not only awesome, but spoiling as well. It makes a guy want to get out even more. Well, it's back to reality and the daily grind. Hopefully, with a trip or two on the water thrown in!

~See ya on the water!




Monday, July 1, 2013

Penn Battle Spinning Reel Review

The whole purpose for the review of the Penn Battle series of spinning reels is to give the reader an actual "review" and not an advertisement or a specifications chart that you could get from the manufacture itself. I have fished these reels for almost 2 years with countless hours on each reel. With that being said, let's get started...

 


The Penn Battle lineup is very popular among inshore anglers. Penn has designed these reels from everything from trout, snook, redfish all the way up to cobia, tarpon, and tuna. The Battle sizes range from a small 1000 all the way up to a bigger 8000. I only have experience on the 3000 and 4000 sizes and cannot speak for the others. I will go over the pros and cons of the Penn Battle and figure out if the reel is worth its price point. I will rate it on a 5 star scale like most other reviews.

Penn Battle: From $99.99 - $119.99

Pros:                                                                           

  • price
  • sturdy feel out of the box
  • braid ready
  • smooth drag
  • anti-reverse

Cons:

  • HEAVY
  • wind knots
  • loud
  • loose feel after some use
  • rough retrieve

The first thing that jumps out about the Penn Battle is the price is soft on the eyes. It seems like a lot of anglers look around the $100 range for a good spinning reel. Even though $100 is not something everybody can just throw around, it's not a bad price tag for a "high quality" saltwater spinning reel. When you grab a Battle for the first time, you will notice that it feels sturdy and tough out of the box. The soft knob feels really nice along with a smooth retrieve. The spool comes with a rubber inlay which enables the angler to tie braid or any line of choice directly to the spool without backing the reel with mono. Myself, I back all of my reels with mono just for added insurance. It's a personal thing I guess. First impressions are lasting and my overall first impression of the Battle was a good one. The next test was how this reel would hold up to the salt water environment for the dedicated kayak angler.

On the 3000, I first started catching speckled trout and schoolie sized stripers (under 30"). The HT-100 drag system felt really smooth and didn't stick at all. Penn upgraded the Battle with carbon fiber drag washers compared to the lower grade felt drag washers. The 4000's drag was put to the test with numerous Florida bull reds. The drag didn't stick at all and felt pretty smooth. I was fairly happy with the way it handled. Along with that, the infinite anti-reverse was solid throughout the entire retrieve without any play.

On the flip side, the reel is heavier than I would like. The 3000 is over 11 ounces which may not sound like much, but when you compare it to the similar Shimano line that weighs 9.5 ounces and under, it makes difference. Many anglers like myself like a lighter reel to balance out medium light to medium setups for most inshore needs. You could attribute the Battle's weight to a full metal body and stainless steel components throughout the reel. My first time out with both reels was not what I expected. I like fishing high quality braid which is not cheap. Within the first few casts, I experienced horrible wind knots! Hoping it was only the "wind", I didn't think much of it. It kept happening during trips when the wind was not a factor. These wind knots would get so tight that it sometimes made sense to just cut the line and re-tie my leader. Remember from earlier, high quality braid is NOT CHEAP! These reels do not like a full spool of line. That's just my opinion on that.

As time went on with many hours and many fish landed between the two reels, I started noticing a downward spiral in both reels. The 3000 showed the greatest signs of a degraded reel. It didn't take long for the reel to start sounding like a meat grinder with a stiffer retrieve. As kayak anglers, we are lower to water and exposed to the elements more than the powerboat fisherman. I make sure I fresh water rinse all of my rods and reels after every use. After 6 months of use, the reel needed to go into the repair shop. At the same time, my buddy's 4000 needed to go into the shop as well. The cause was the same bearing in each reel was bad and needed to get replaced. Not something that I expected from a $100 saltwater reel. Fast forward a few months out of the shop, it's started to stiffen up again just as before. Another buddie's reel even had the internal gearing strip out during a battle with a good sized striper. After the reel was broke down, the main gear was found to be completely gone! These are just a couple of the many stories I have heard. The reel is loud, rough, and is not enjoyable to fish with.

The 4000 does not see as much use as the 3000, but I still noticed a change. I could feel that the reel became sloppier in the retrieve. The spool has more play when there is a load put on it and the overall feel of it is not as tight. I have used it to catch a lot of fish, but it feels more "broken in" than what I would like.

After weighing out all the pros and cons, I give the Penn Battle...

2.5 out of 5 stars


Overall, I expected a lot more from the Penn Battle.  The $100 price tag in my opinion is a little high for the reel you are truly getting. I would like to see the reel $10 to $15 cheaper. I suggest checking out the Shimano lineup of spinning reels. They make a reel that is suitable to any angler out there. If possible, save up an extra $20 to $30 and take a look at the Shimano Saros. You will immediately feel a difference in quality that lasts!

Like I said earlier, I'm speaking from my personal experience and other fishing partners that have directly used Penn Battles in my presence. I'm sure many fishermen will completely disagree with me on this review which is fine. For the review readers out there, remember that A LOT of reviews are written after owning the reel for a few weeks with only a handful of times actually being used. Most reels will feel nice out of the box but the true test of quality can only be measured with time and use.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to read my review of the Penn Battle series of spinning reels. I hoped you found it useful and will consider it the next time you're out reel shopping. I will continue to review products only after I feel the review is credible and will be useful. Until next time, good luck and safe fishing!

~See ya on the water!