Recently fished the NSKA King of the String tournament, a Major League Fishing style kayak event and chose to go to the Illinois River near Watts, Oklahoma. I didn’t do particularly well on the day, the fish would not cooperate. Overall I did not like that format scattered over many bodies of water, would be much better if all on the same lake so you are fishing the same conditions. However, the scenery was great and this was a cool place to see.
The newly redesigned Bending Branches Angler Pro paddle not only has increased performance specs but has a new lineup of innovative blade designs. These new paddles will not only move you like never before on the water – but you’re going to have a stylish and distinctive look while paddling. All of these improvements come with a lower price point than before – $299.95 for snap and $324.95 for adjustable length and feather ferrule.
New Angler Pro Paddle Designs
Previously, the Angler Pro came in a limited number of blade styles (Sea Green, Camo and Realtree Max) which were attractive but somewhat understated visual representations. I’ve been using the Sea Green primarily due to high visibility for big body of water fishing but also have the Camo version for a more stealthy approach.
With the 2018 Bending Branches Angler Pro paddles, they have really upped the game in providing some dynamic and visually striking designs. These styles are great and they did a very good job of soliciting opinions from staffers during the research phase – meaning these are designs that real kayak anglers said they would love. I’m also liking the fact that even though they are all vibrant color schemes, you can likely find one to match your kayak.
2018 Bending Branches Angler Pro PaddleStyles
Presenting the new paddle blade styles for 2018:
Read more about the efficient engineering of the Bending Branches Angler Pro and the new all-carbon Angler Pro Carbon!
The crew at Bending Branches have stepped up the paddle game once again with their newly redesigned Bending Branches Angler Pro fishing paddle. Already the best paddle on the market, the Angler Pro has received several upgrades that will enhance any kayak fishing day on the water. As an avid Angler Pro user, I’ve touted it as the toughest and best paddle on the market before. This new version has me very excited and will be worth the upgrade no matter what you are currently paddling with – and now with a lower price point!
Designed for Performance
Science has come into play in making the Bending Branches Angler Pro an even better and more efficient water moving machine. Some of the changes in the 2018 model include a reshaping and redesign of the blade to optimize water displacement with maximum effectiveness. The blade now has a ridge running down its length which directs water across the face when paddling, making entering and exiting the water almost effortless. The shape has also been enhanced, making the paddle blade a bit shorter and a bit taller.
Bending Branches has taken it to the next level in regard to strength vs weight. Already a market leader for a premier kayak fishing paddle at 30 ounces, the new Bending Branches Angler Pro sets a new bar at 28.5 ounces, a 5% weight reduction which will make a tremendous difference with hours on the water. With this weight drop, no strength or durability is sacrificed. The Angler Pro is still built with a high grade carbon shaft and tough as nails fiberglass blade.
Specifications of the Bending Branches Angler Pro:
- New, lower price points! $299.95 (Snap) $324.95 (Plus – adjustable length and feather)
- New, lower weight: 28.5 oz
- New, oversized blade shape and profile
- Available in snap lengths from 230-260cm in 10cm increments, and in the Plus ferrule, 230-245cm or 240-255cm
Read more about the dynamic new styling of the Bending Branches Angler Pro and the new all-carbon Angler Pro Carbon!
A new bait was unveiled this week as the world got a first look at the new Booyah Flex II square bill at ICAST 2017. I was lucky enough to get a sample of the new lure a few weeks prior to ICAST and have been able to give it a workout in some real-world kayak bass fishing. Spoiler alert – it catches bass!
Booyah Flex II Specifications
According to the press kit being released for the Booyah Flex II square bill, toughness and engineered erratic action are what make this lure unique. Booyah explains that the Flex II uses a foam injected molding process to give the lure properties similar to a balsa bait in an incredibly durable body. The one-piece wire design and one-piece bill and rattle chamber are some other key features which contribute to overall toughness and durability. The erratic action of the Booyah Flex II can be attributed in part to two specially designed divots on the bill that change the direction of water moving over the body of the bait – a feature not present in other squarebills. Overall the lure weighs in at ½ ounce and measures 2 ¼” long, features #6 wide-gap treble hooks and runs 2-5 feet deep. Read more about the Booyah Flex II on their website.
On the Water
My sample Booyah Flex II was in the Chartreuse Blue Back color and features an aggressive looking 3D eye and a wide, distinctive square bill. Living in northwest Arkansas, I had to wait for an opportunity when the clear water dirtied up before I could really use this color bait. Recent storms did the trick and I was able to get out and start deflecting this bad boy off of some cover. I caught several fish, and I caught some really nice bass including a 23” 8lb giant largemouth!
This was an area of the lake where a creek ran in that had become dingy due to the new water. The arm was a flat with a small creek channel to one side. I was working the Booyah Flex II along the edges where the flat and the channel edge met, which was right around 4-5’ deep. Every fish I stuck, stayed on the lure and made it into the kayak.
What I liked about the new Booyah Flex II
First of all, love the size of the body and the size and shape of the bill. The body isn’t tiny, but isn’t huge, which I think makes it very versatile. The bill creates a confidence-building barrier in preventing getting snagged. Even though it was my only one, I really ran it through some cover and it performed very well. When not hitting cover or scraping bottom, you can feel the erratic action in the lure and know it is hunting bass while you retrieve it.
Secondly, it is tough and that’s apparent from the start. For whatever reason, I have broken a lot of lips on crankbaits and I just don’t see that happening here. It casts well and after repeatedly hitting it off of rocks and docks it doesn’t appear to show any damage at all.
Finally, I almost always change my treble hooks on crankbaits (shout-out to Owner Hooks!), but I don’t see that as a necessity here. The hooks appear to be of good quality and I’ve been using it with the ones right out of the package. Not sure who makes these hooks, but they remind me of the ones on the discontinued XCalibur square bills. If you loved XCalibur square bills, I really think you need to check out the Booyah Flex II options.
The color patterns look great and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of these options: Smoke Shad, Nubone, Threadfin Shad, Copper Head, Chartreuse Blue Back, Chartreuse Black Back, Ruby Craw, Bluegill Bobo Craw, Blush, and Hazel Craw.
The Booyah Flex II square bills and the new Booyah Streak IV deep-diving crankbait will be on sale by mid-July at Tackle Warehouse and will retail for $9.99 – check them out! Below is a great video
from Chad Warner of Booyah with some live action of the new bait.
This article on scented baits by Fish Allure staff member Alex Burton is a great breakdown of how scent can affect your fishing. This write-up was originally published in the Fish Allure newsletter and he’s graciously allowed me to share it with you here.
Do Scents on Baits Really Matter?
When it comes to using scents on lures fisherman are split down the middle. Some will not throw a lure without it, while others think it is just a gimmick. So do scents really help you put more fish in the boat?
Let’s start with how a fish “smells”. Fish have nostrils on each side of their snouts. Unlike us they don’t start sniffing around when they detect something in the water. As they move water flows into one nostril and out the other. Special nerves between the nostrils then pick up on various molecules in the water that the fish’s brain then interpret as scent.A fish’s sense of smell is roughly 1000 times greater than a dog. They use this incredible ability to associate certain smells to things in their environment. Be it specific plant life, other fish in their school, or food. They can also learn to associate certain smells to a positive or negative depending on how their experience with that particular scent was.
Obviously some fish rely more upon their sense of smell to catch prey, like catfish for instance. So what about more predatory fish like bass who rely more on sight and sound to find their food? The answer is yes, scent is essentially the icing on the cake for them.
When a bass is on the hunt they slowly patrol their territory. They watch for flashes in the water, feeling for vibrations of struggling or unsuspecting prey near them. After locking in on the location of potential prey they start circling in to check it out. As they move closer scent fills their nostrils signaling that this is indeed their next meal as they go in for the strike.
Based on what we know from above adding scent to your lures gives them that realism, bigger bass especially, need to commit to the strike. How often have you watched a bass follow closely behind your lure, but never actually touch it? That is why, they never got that final assurance they needed to go for it.
As I said earlier fish can also begin to associate some scents negatively, causing them to turn away from that particular source. This is especially true on higher pressured bodies of water where bass are already weary from constant pursuit. Subtle scents like nicotine from smoking or even sunblock will cause fish to shut down in an area.
Great article by Alex that emphasizes the importance of using scent to improve your fishing. If you liked this information, sign up now for the Fish Allure Email Newsletter or more articles like this delivered to your inbox!
When the weather heats up for summer it is time to break out the Carolina Rig to catch bass. Finding the bass can be difficult in the summer and getting them to bite can be even more challenging. One thing I really like about Carolina Rig summer bass fishing is how versatile it can be – allowing me to fish it quickly in areas to locate bass, but also can really slow it down to entice a bite.
For my Carolina Rig summer setup I use a fairly lightweight and downsized rig. For the weight I’ll use a 1/2 oz Reins tungsten slip sinker. Using a tungsten sinker allows you to really feel the bottom to detect cover, and the Reins slip sinker comes with an insert which reduces abrasion of your fishing line. For line, especially at night I like to use the extra strong P-Line CXX co-polymer line with t blacklight visibility.
For the hook, I use the super sharp Owner hooks, and the size will vary from 3/0 to 5/0 depending on what bait i’m adding to the Carolina Rig. Add in a swivel, beads and a mono leader and you are all set. Leader length also varies, but I’ll generally have a longer leader in daytime and a shorter leader at night. Type of rod can vary to taste, but overall I will use a Dobyns jig rod so it is stiff enough to cast the rig as far as possible.
Plastics for Carolina Rig Summer Bass Fishing
One of the great things about a Carolina Rig is how many options you have for plastic baits. Although I have some favorites, it can be good to have a few options available and cycle through them until you can determine what the bass will bite. Some of the YUM bait options I’ll use include a Ribbontail worm, YUM Dinger, Christie Craw or a Wooly Hawg Craw.
Good luck with your Carolina Rig summer bass fishing!
Predictions prior to this year’s river focused event said that there would be a lot of fish caught, and some big limits turned in. These predictions were mostly correct regarding the Natural State Kayak Angler’s River Road Runner from the weekend. Due to the heavy canoe and tube traffic on some area rivers in June this should be called the “Ya’ll catching anything?” event. For the most part, NSKA fishermen were able to say “Heck, yeah!”
In the tournament preview article, Jeff Malott and Sam Philip almost hit big bass on the nose, while Sam was ultimately the closest in predicting the winning length.
On a sunny, breezy, day in June, 26 of 38 (64%) anglers were credited with a limit. Although there were some big fish caught, there weren’t very many. Only five fish 17″ or larger were caught, by a total of four anglers. Having a good kicker was key to placing near the top in this event.
I was lucky enough to finish 1st for this event with 81.5″, Dwain Batey 2nd with 78.75″ and Jonathan Brewer 3rd with a solid 76.25″ limit. Big Bass was won by John Evans with a 20.25″ largemouth, while I won runner-up Big Bass with a 20″ largemouth.
The Top 10 looked like this:
- Jason Kincy
- Dwain Batey
- Jonathan Brewer
- Jeriamy Vann
- Faron Davidson
- Tim Hotchkin
- Jose Rodriguez
- Roy Roberts
- Josh Sherrill
- John Evans
Jason – Not knowing hardly any rivers in the area at all, I went to the Elk River, the one with which I had at least some experience. Started out throwing my favorite baits (topwater) but only caught a few small ones. After switching to a squarebill I caught a 17″ off a log, and was catching some others off wood with a ned rig. One of these bass had a large craw claw (2.75 inches! Who knew they had crawdads that big in the Elk?) in its throat that had a blue/green color to it. This clued me in to what they were feeding on, so at this point I pulled out a YUM worm in blue laminate with a claw-like tail. From that point forward I spent most of the rest of the day dragging that worm slowly around logs and wood.
My biggest fish, a 20″ largemouth bass came off some submerged brush and when I hooked it I was sure it was a gar or catfish or something because it just would not surface. Once I caught this fish a bit after noon, I knew it might be possible to contend. About 30 minutes before the end of regulation I hooked a 15.25″ to cull a 13″ and was hoping at that point that I had enough to place a top three. Four of my top five fish came from that worm imitating the craw claw, so I was very fortunate to spot that and have a great YUM bait to turn to. The rest of that rig setup was a 3/8 oz Reins slip sinker, Owner all-purpose worm hook, 12lb P-Line CXX Floro, Shimano Curado70 and Dobyns rod.
Dwain – Last year was my first year to fish kayak tournaments and the River Road Runner event last year was by far my worst finish, so this year I really wanted to make a better showing. I had intended to pre-fish some rivers in the year between these events, but never did. So I got on trusty Google Earth and tried to find an area within bounds that looked like it was deep enough to use my pedal drive and might hold larger fish. I settled on an area of the Illinois River in Oklahoma near Watts that looked like it would be a good fit.
I started off the morning throwing a buzz bait, and it paid off quickly with a limit of fish, including my best of the day a 17.75 inch largemouth. I milked the buzz bait bite most of the day, but shortly after catching my best Smallmouth bass of the day on it I discovered an area that I could catch fish on a crankbait. It was an area about 200 yards long that was around 4 or 5 feet deep from the shore out to about 10 feet from the bank, and then also had a flat where the water became shallow between two pools. I first found the fish in the shallow area, and then followed this area up the bank. I was cranking the Skirmish Baits MP7 (a small squarebill), and it was producing both Smallmouth and Spotted Bass. I caught about 10 fish on my first pass, and one of them was a nice Smallmouth that gave me a decent cull. A second pass produced more fish but no culls, so I switched to an M9 squarebill which is a larger profile, and caught a very nice Spotted Bass on the same run with the larger bait. That was my final cull of the day, and I was more than happy to get a 2nd place finish in a river event since 99% of my fishing is on lakes. The area I found happens to be really close to my house, and I’ll probably go back during the year and refine my knowledge of the area, and up my river fishing game.
Jonathan – I chose the Elk River to fish this event this year, and started off fishing a topwater bait. Caught a limit within the first 30 minutes and two of those I was able to use for my best five. After that they were still busting the topwater but I think they were seeing it too well so I switched to my personal go-to bait on rivers and creeks (the Wiggle Wart). I was able to add three more decent fish to my limit on that bait. Overall, I couldn’t tell you how many fish I caught – it was a blast.
River Valley – Lee Creek
On the same day as the NWA event, those in the River Valley had an NSKA river event on Lee Creek. I’ve fished there twice now, one time was good, one time was really bad. Looks like they had a tough day out there, with only four of 16 entrants turning in a limit. The winners were:
- Toby Bogart 74. 75″ (Plus Big Bass at 18″)
- Scott Accord 70.25″
- Lloyd Mize 66″
Congrats to these kayak anglers!
Was doing some Lake Wilson fishing at the local Thursday night yakpot and caught this 5.5 lb largemouth bass on a Rebel Pop-R to win Big Bass for the evening. I was fishing back in the flat where the creeks run in and was throwing a Heddon Zara Spook when this giant blew up on it but missed. Grabbed the Pop-R and threw it in there letting it sit with a couple of small twitches and then it was pulled under.
My full gear setup on the Zara Spook rod included 12 lb P-Line Floroclear, Owner Stinger Trebles, Dobyns crankbait rod and Fish Allure scented tab. For the Pop-R I had 10 lb P-Line Floroclear, Owner Stinger Trebles, Dobyns crankbait rod and my awesome Shimano Citica baitcast reel. Like always, I had my MTI life jacket on board and on my body – wear a life jacket!
Was tough that night with Lake Wilson Fishing, but this big bite made it worth the trip.
I’m a big proponent of throwing topwater lures, particularly walking baits in spring. One of the reasons I like a walking bait this time of year is that if you can work it correctly, it will stay in the strike zone for an irritatingly long time.
For hard baits, particularly topwaters, using Fish Allure scented tabs can help improve your chances of a bite. I’ve written previously about these water activated adhesive scents designed for hard baits.
It’s easy to determine where to add your Fish Allure tab to a walking bait such as a Heddon Zara Spook. Because the tab is activated by water, I want it to stay in the water as much as possible, so I’ll place the tab on the belly, just in front of the first hook on a two treble Spook or between the first and second hook on a three treble Spook.
Below is Fish Allure pro staff member Fred “Boom Boom” Roumbanis talking about using scented tabs to catch more bass. Check out Fish Allure on Tackle Warehouse and order some today.
The scenic rivers of NW Arkansas will be the site for the June 10 NSKA River Road Runner tournament. Paddlers will be choosing their fishing location from moving bodies of water within a 50 mile radius of Cabela’s. Originally scheduled for May, the heavy spring rains moved this event to June.
As anglers choose their water, the key is understanding the “scenic river” requirement. There are some important boundary rules you need to know. Beavertown (and below Beaver Dam) is out of play. On the White River, only above (south of) Twin Bridges is in play, and on War Eagle, only above (south of) the War Eagle Mill is in play. Several other rivers mentioned below are also options for the NSKA River Road Runner.
River Run Roundtable
I don’t have much data for use in trying to determine how this will go down so I asked a couple of local kayak river rats to help with the preview – Sam Philip and Jason Cossey.
With a 50 mile radius and “scenic river” waters, what are the main rivers you think will be used by anglers?
- Jason – The Elk, Illinois and Kings will probably be the best, but you can’t rule our the White and War Eagle.
- Sam – Elk River, Illinois River, Kings River, War Eagle and Indian Creek.
How will river fishing affect the number of limits and the size of the fish in the limits?
- Jason – Rivers can have big fish, but I think a 14″ limit with a 18-19″ kicker will take the top spot.
- Sam – In general you average fish length will be smaller, however, there are several locations on the rivers mentioned where “lake” sized limits can be caught.
What is your prediction on winning limit length and big bass?
- Jason – 72-74″ is my prediction but could go bigger.
- Sam – I think 84-85 inches will be a good number for this event. Big bass being 20.50.
How do you think rains over the last month will affect the event?
- Jason – Rains will bring up the levels and make them muddy, but they clear pretty fast. It will hurt smaller waters because of the muddy conditions.
- Sam – The rains of late haven’t been enough to really affect the smaller rivers. Unless we see a large amount of rain on Thursday or Friday I don’t see it being an issue at all. The smaller rivers can clear up and level out within 24 hours.
Sam also added that he always looks forward to river events and that he’s curious to see who fishes actual scenic rivers, and who seeks out the slower, deeper waters in a few of the larger ones. Overall I’m also curious how this will play out. For me, as primarily a lake angler, I’m completely out of my element in a river event. I’ll happy if I can just get a limit.
I’m thinking some of the same things as Jason and Sam for the weekend. I’ve always fished Beavertown in river events, so will have to try somewhere else. I have a feeling War Eagle or the Illinois just into Oklahoma will produce the top limit. This year, every tournament has over-performed previous trends on winning length, but I think this time we’ll be looking to top out around 75″ for first place, partly because with a big turnout, there will be a lot of yaks in the water on these small tributaries.
NSKA Tournament Director Jeff Malott has larger expectations for the weekend. He’s predicting a 90+” limit with a 20″ big bass based on folks he’s been talking to who have been pre-fishing.
A few important reminders:
- Captains meeting will be online Friday night, must view this! Jeff will also be doing a FB Live rules update tonight (Wed, June 7) that you should view as well.
- For NSKA, you CANNOT fish from outside your kayak at any time. You can get out to stretch, drag your boat, etc., but casts must be made from inside your kayak.
- 50 mile radius is as the crow flies, not by road.
Good luck to all, wear your PDF and have fun!