Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Kokatat Destination Collection Review

As kayak anglers, we are closer to the action which means closer to the water. When you made the choice to paddle a kayak you indirectly accepted the fact that you're going to get wet. Face it, it's inevitable! Along with getting wet, we also feel the effects of the sun, which is putting it lightly. Most of us know that the sun's rays reflect off the surface of the water and pretty much bake the poor paddler that was not prepared for it. So, to say that quality paddling apparel is important to kayak fishermen would be a total understatement!
The purpose of this review is to give the kayak angler some insight on the Destination Collection from Kokatat. We will talk about; overall design, features, and if it is worth owning. At the end, I will sum up my thoughts and grade it on a 5 star scale like I do for all of my other reviews. 

Kokatat's Destination Collection of apparel is made for paddlers, by paddlers. What I mean, "made for paddlers" means that each piece of clothing is tailored towards the paddler. As kayakers, we don't sit still and drive our 250hp engine from spot to spot. We are constantly moving and hardly ever just sitting still. Kokatat understands that fact and designed each piece of Destination apparel with a paddling specific design.
First up is the Paddling Shirt: MSRP $90.00.  The shirt is a long sleeve, full zip, lightweight top. This top is loaded with features! One of my favorites is the vertical shoulder vents. The slightest breeze will flow right through this shirt keeping the paddler as cool as possible. The waist has an integrated bungee which allows the paddler to tighten up the waist so the top won't ride up the back and bunch up. When paddling, you won't feel any restrictions or tightness at the top of your paddling stroke. The arms are loose and very comfortable. You will also notice that when you get water on the material, it won't soak in like a cotton t shirt. It will naturally bead up like a waxed car. Lastly and probably most importantly, the material is rated UPF 30+ which means the sun's harmful rays will not harm your skin underneath.
Comparing this top to many others that I have used in the past, this one is my favorite. The overall comfort and functionality of Kokatat's Paddling Shirt is what I love the most. You can't help but notice how comfortable the shirt really is until you put one on.
Next up is the Paddling Pant: MSRP: $80.00. These pants have similar features as the Paddling Shirt; UPF 30+, zipper fly, lightweight, and quick drying. Lightweight and quick drying are the two immediately noticeable features. Water will bead up on these pants and does not want to soak in. I have done tests where I poured water on my pants and waited for the water to soak in. It took more than 3 minutes before my leg even started to feel the slightest bit of moisture. Most people know that having a pair of paddling pants that is loose in the crotch is a blessing! Of the hours I have spent in these pants, I have never once felt any discomfort.
Overall, I could not be more impressed with these pants. Like the Paddling Shirt, these pants are incredibly comfortable. I have even put them on around the house just because of how comfortable they are. I can honestly say that I don't think you will find a nicer pair of paddling pants!
Water beaded on the Paddling Pants. Photo taken after 3 minutes of water application.

Last but not least is the Surf Trunk: MSRP $50.00. Following suit like the previous shirt and pants, the Surf Trunk is lightweight, quick drying, and features UPF 30+. These shorts have a lacing waistband along with a button fly. The Surf Trunks are very comfortable with the loose inseam. The material is very soft and just like the paddling pants, beads water on the surface instead of soaking it in. You can tell that these trunks are high quality when you put them on. One feature that I like is the zippered, self draining pocket on the leg. The pocket even has a key lanyard so you can secure a key along with keeping your ID on you at all times.

I have replaced my all of my previous board shorts with the Destination Surf Trunks. Once again, Kokatat nailed it on these shorts. The Surf Trunks are a quality piece of apparel through and through!

Alright, that pretty much sums up my experience with the Destination Collection from Kokatat. The collection does consist of much more such as headware, hand covers, along with other styles tailored for either men or women. If I had to guess, I would imagine that everything else is very similar in features and overall performance.

After hours and hours of use, I would rate the
Destination Collection...
5 out of 5 stars!
Just like all of my reviews, this is strictly from my own experience and my opinion. I logged many hours wearing this line in all sorts of weather conditions before I formed my opinion. Just like anything else, if I use something consistently, I stand by it 100%!
Believe me, it was hard giving a review a perfect rating! I seriously sat there and tried to think of something that I considered a negative or a drawback. I couldn't do it. There is really nothing that I can say is a downside or a negative. The Destination Collection screams quality and I would HIGHLY recommend this lineup of apparel to anybody! Try it out, you won't regret it.
~See ya on the water!

If you're in the market for a new PFD, or just want to read a quality review about something that you may want to consider in the future, check out the review of the Kokatat Bahia Tour PFD by Rob Choi from Angling-Addict.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Little Break

What do you do when both the weather and work schedule give you a little break?
 I know what I like to do!

Beggars can't be choosers!
That's an old saying that can apply to anything. If you have a busy schedule filled with work, kids, honey-do's, and everything else thrown in the mix, than this saying probably applies to you. Take all of the above and combine the constant pouring of love from Mrs. Rain Goddess, it may be a little difficult to find time to get on the water.
With a few hours to burn and the Fishweather app not looking all evil and red, it just made sense to paddle some plastic. The sun was high, the tide was going out, and the winds were non existent. I hit one of my favorite spots with one mission...Sight casting to redfish.

The drag on my Stradic Ci4 was screaming within 10 minutes of searching. I expected that since I know the spot like the back of my hand. The beauty of doing hours and hours of homework is that you can have a spot that you don't have to waste time at. The redfish were everywhere and they were hungry. A lot of singles and doubles, and some schools of 20-30 fish.
I only used one setup the entire time. For shallow water flats, I like a texas rigged PowerTeam Lures 4.8 JP Hammer Shad on an 1/8oz screw lock EWG worm hook. This combination is straight up deadly on skinny water redfish. The texas rigged Hammer Shad glides and darts naturally and will not hang up or catch any grass. Being weedless makes this tactic one of the deadliest ways to trigger a strike from a redfish!

Those unplanned 1-2 hour windows can be a lot of fun. Sometimes a guy will have no idea if and when he gets the opportunity to sneak away for a bit. If you don't use the little breaks in the schedule and weather to get some pullage, you may find yourself reading about it instead.

~See ya on the water!


Here is the video from "The Day of Badassery". Bull reds...Big Stripers...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mr. Brown Clown

It was not long ago that we were paddling miles upon miles covering as much ground as we could in search of big bull reds at the Eastern Shore. With that fishery in the rear view mirror, it was time to focus on something else...something that I have never caught before...
(AKA: Mr. Brown, Brown Clown, Cobe, Brownsuit)

It's no secret that the Chesapeake Bay houses countless cobia throughout the summer months. This fishery is well known worldwide and rightfully so. Huge cobia are caught consistently, mainly by power boat fishermen. With that being said, catching a decent sized cobia out of a kayak is not easy at all. Most would consider it very difficult.
I'm not too shameful to admit that I'm a cobia rookie. I'll be honest, I have not chased after these fish like many of my friends have. This is my first year that I actually planned on targeting Mr. Brown. One thing that I do know is how to target certain species by doing homework and flat out putting in time on the water. I'm no rookie at that!
I met good friends Kayak Kevin, Joe Underwood, and William Ragulsky for a late afternoon cobia hunt. Chum slicks were set in the outgoing tide with hopes of getting a visit from ole' brown clown. We had a few small ones cruise through but nothing to get excited about. I decided to take a little paddle once the tide went slack. 
I cruised about a mile from the chum slick while trying to keep the sun towards my back so I could see anything cruising the surface. I saw some menhaden bust the surface so obviously it made sense to check it out. As I was making my way out something caught my eye in the choppy water. I saw a fin pop out on the surface about 40 yards away but the chop made it hard to tell what it was. Once I was within 20 yards, it showed up again...this time I could see exactly what it was. 

I saw multiple fins belonging to 3 nice cobia cruising about 20 yards off my bow. I waited until I got a good bead on their direction before I threw my first cast. I lined them up and threw out my bucktail jig. As good of a cast I thought it was, they made a slight turn and never saw it. My next cast was dead nuts in the strike zone! A few quick snaps caught their attention and they immediately went deep. About a second went by and then I felt a violent strike from hell!

If  I had to describe the fight, I would say that it's fast, intense, and violent! This fish went airborne off my bow which basically made my heart skip a beat. As I was fighting the fish, his buddy that was about 15 inches longer and MUCH wider, hung by his side for half of the fight. I quickly reeled in both of my trolling bait rods just to try and minimize the chaos.

After many blood pumping runs and relentless headshakes, I had the insane cobia on the gaff. No joke, gaffing a cobia while solo is not easy! In fact, it's a pain! As many people know, you don't want a green cobia in your lap. He's going to beat the crap out of you and everything else you have in his way. I wasted no time "putting him to sleep" with an 18oz claw hammer.

As much of a catch and release fisherman I am, I LOVE FRESH FISH! Not to mention, if I told my wife that I released this table fare, she wouldn't be thrilled to say the least. This 42.5" cobia will have a warm welcome in the Bekolay house.

A huge thank you to Joe and Billy for snapping photos and sharing the moment with me. Boy oh boy, moving in the less than 2 months is getting harder and harder. I guess my next goal is to catch one a little bit bigger...citation worthy. Either way, no matter what...I'll take a run-in with Mr. Brown Clown anytime!

~See ya on the water!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Nature Day

You could say that anything less than the last trip (citation red drum and stripers) would be kind of a let down. I knew the chances of repeating "The Day of Badassery" were close to non-existent. In fact, it didn't even matter to me if I landed a fish or not. Just being out at the Eastern Shore of Virginia is amazing in itself.
Damien checking out the bait pods
I joined Kayak Kevin and Damien Hall for a day at the familiar bull red hunting grounds. This year's bull red season is a far cry from last season. Last year, the reds arrived fairly early and stayed around for a while. Kayak anglers had a solid 2 months of good red drum fishing. This year, it seemed like it took forever for the bulls to get in town. Once they arrived, it didn't take long before the water temperature raised and spread the big reds out through the bay. The kayaker's season for these fish was about 1/2 the length of last year, bummer!

Prepping to punch through a little surf
Warmer water..TONS of rays (big and small)...yeah, it feels like summer!

The man, the myth...Kayak Kevin

We paddled here, we paddled there, we paddled around everywhere! The big red behemoths were nowhere to be found. Days like that is when I like to bust out my DSLR camera and try and get a couple of cool "nature" photos. There were a couple of times I wish I had my camera in my hand. Capturing the "moment" can be equally as challenging as capturing a big fish.

The opportunity to catch a big red drum is still out there, no doubt about it! These fish can be at any place, and at any time. The one consistent denominator about the Eastern Shore is that the pattern can turn on a dime and leave you bewildered. Those who put in the consistent trips, log miles upon miles on the water, and use each trip as a learning experience are typically the anglers that are holding up a big red drum for a photo. Ya know what, you can't catch em on the couch!

~See ya on the water!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Day of "Badassery"

 WARNING - Picture-heavy post!
Still gleaming from the first trip of the season which produced my first Virginia citation red drum, I anxiously planned and packed for another Eastern Shore excursion. With my schedule aligning with the weather forecast, it was a no-brainer decision to break out the tent and load the Trident 13 for a night under the stars. This time it would be a 2 day trip with a night of camping on the beach to break it up.

 The first day was a complete bust! Perfect winds, perfect skies, perfect weather...crap fishing. We put on miles and miles to no avail. It was an instant reality check that the Eastern Shore is far from predictable. The long day on the water with nothing to show for it made the "screw this, time to paddle to the campsite" decision pretty easy.  



On the second day, Rob Choi (angling-addict), Joe Underwood (Hooked Up), and I teamed up for the outing. We had a good plan..Paddle our butts off for miles and miles until we find the reds. Done deal!


Alright...Let's hit fast forward! Time to let the pictures do most of the talking
Joe with a 49" red...First of the day

 I wasted no time on getting on the board...
47 1/2" red

Photo Credit: Rob Choi

Photo Credit: Rob Choi

Photo Credit: Rob Choi

For those kayak anglers familiar with the Eastern Shore spring time fishery, most know that big reds are not the only species entering the bay this time of year. Big stripers also migrate through the same water as the reds do. This combination can make for a pretty exciting day if you happen to hit it just right.

Guess what...

48" Virginia Citation Striper

Seeing a thick black blob swarming the shallows told us right away...Big Stripers! I wasted no time dive bombing my PowerTeam Lures Swinging Hammer into the chaos. I could barely get my hand on the reel when the bait was engulfed. My new personal best striper, and not on an eel!

Getting one species citation is tough, let alone getting two different species citations in the same day! From what I hear, those two species in the same day is not very common. Knowing that Joe and I accomplished that in kayaks feels pretty darn cool!

 Another serious accomplishment that I was fortunate enough to witness was equally (if not more) impressive. Watching Rob Choi sight cast a 40"+ striper with a fly rod was nothing short of bad@$$!

Myself w/ a 48", and Rob w/ a 41" on the FLYROD!!

If the day ended there, I would have been good with that. We all caught quality fish and shared plenty of "HELL YEAH's". Good thing for us is the day didn't end there, and neither did the fishing.

Picture the civil war, the north and south faced off in a wide open field to do battle. They went head to head and fought till the death.

This was sort of like that. Joe and I spotted a big sea of red coming for us head on. It was obvious what it was...Oh, it's on now!
Two swimbaits go out, two swimbaits get smashed!

Matching 48" bull reds

It was nothing but laughs as my red-driven sleigh ride cruised by Joe as he was fighting his fish. This fish fought so hard, I thought he was going to get my kayak on plane. I just sat back, locked the drag down, and enjoyed the ride...
Not long after we released the pair, my Humminbird side imaging lights up with a school. There was no doubt about it, we were on them again. As Joe's trolling rod goes down, a fish slams my blind casted swimbait.




So, thats it in a nut shell. Grand total for the day...

Joe: 49" red, 48" red, 47 1/2" red, 40" red, 46" striper

Rob: 41" striper, 40" striper (lived and died by the fly rod all day long. Mad respect for that.)

Richie: 48" red, 47 1/2" red, 47" red, 48" striper, 40" striper

All in all, 8 citation class fish were landed that day. It will be pretty hard to top that one. I would have to say that was my best day in a kayak! Rob pretty much summed it up by saying, "This day was awesome...Pure badassery!"

~See ya on the water!