Category Archives: Reviews

Shimano Chronarch MGL Review

You have to hand it to Shimano. They’ve developed a long standing tradition for making excellent fishing gear that’s inspired fanaticism among their faithful followers. Earlier this season Shimano retired their Chronarch CI4 baitcaster and moved to the new Shimano Chronarch MGL.

Shimano Chronarch MGL Review
The Shimano Chronarch MGL is a joy to fish with.

Incoming full disclosure: I’m always a sucker when it comes to quality gear. While I’m not currently associated with a rod or reel manufacturer, it does afford me the freedom to play the field seeking great and reasonably priced equipment. What can I say? I like to fish around. So, when I had an opportunity to test out the new Chronarch MGL I leapt at the opportunity. But, will the new Chronarch MGL live up the Shimano name or fall short?

Shimano Chronarch MGL Review – Style and Specifications

I dislike reviews that focus heavily on a rod or reels appearance. Substance over style, I like to say. That being said, as guys, when we go out on a date our first impression is largely based on how the date looks. That’s the attention-getter. The date’s mannerisms largely determine if there’s any staying power. I find that equally true for our equipment. Out of the box the Chronarch MGL looks sexy. Its small aerodynamic profile looks sleek and ready for business. The Chronarch sports a gray casing with very small red to purple accenting flakes. The magnumlite spool and micro adjustment wheel features a no nonsense black finish.

For the gear head in all of us, the Chronarch MGL showcases an eight bearing system, a lighter 14 gram spool to aid in casting, and oversized brass Micro-Module Gearing. The smaller teeth in those gears enable more surface convergence area which, coupled with the aforementioned attributes, means you get a farther reaching cast and experience the patented smooth Shimano retrieve. The Chronarch also features a centrifugal breaking system adjustable from the outside, which ranges in sensitivity from 1 through 6 in sensitivity. External adjustment systems have always been a big deal to me. We’ve all been on the water those days where the wind is swirling. Sometimes you’re fishing with the wind and other times against the wind depending on the hour or minute. I like to have a quick, on the fly, adjustment system that swiftly adapts to those changing conditions.

I spooled up the Chronarch MGL (7.1 gear ratio) with 16lb Sunline fluorocarbon and I was impressed with the amount of line the reel held. Not so much that you felt like you were wasting line buried in the magnumlite spool and not so little that you felt like a wayward tree cast would leave you overly short on casting distance. In my mind, it hit the sweet spot perfectly.

I paired the Chronarch MGL with a Duckett Terex 7’ MH, and later the new Duckett Triad 7’3” MH. This is my main workhorse setup and, suffice it to say, I’ve put the reel through its paces over the last month. The initial setup and adjustment didn’t take long and Shimano includes documentation to help aid you if you’re not familiar with adjusting their reels.

Shimano Chronarch MGL Review – Performance

On the water I was quickly impressed with the Chronarch MGL’s comfort. It palms easily in your hand, even if your paw doesn’t measure up to NBA standards. Another big plus for me is it features an oversized handle.

Performance wise the MGL is a remarkable reel. Its smooth retrieval made it a joy to fish with. I immediately noticed, due to the aforementioned spool and gearing, it casts an impressive distance with a 3/8oz jig. Going from light to heavy in lure weight the MGL handled each challenge like the pro it is. From lightly weighted Senko’s to heavy flutter spoons the MGL pulled off each feat perfectly. Pitching into cover worked flawlessly and the Chronarch MGL delivers power to wench out a fish in heavy cover. I also found after a small quick adjustment I could also easily skip a jig under cover.

When it comes to a baitcaster’s drag some people prefer to forgo it all together. Tighten it down and horse’em out was my motto until I noticed I was ripping large holes in the fishes mouth and the hook would then easily fall out when the fish jumped. This made me re-evaluate my stance on drag. I’m happy to report that the MGL’s drag system is also top notch. It’s easily adjustable on the fly, via the star wheel, and it performed flawlessly. Translation? For me, it’s meant more fish pulled in and fewer rage rants shouted across the water.

The Chronarch MGL’s price point is around $280 to $300. It fills in the gap between very high end and modestly priced reels. Its components and performance left me very impressed, and feeling the price tag is certainly worth it. Matter of fact, I was so impressed that I now have a second to compliment the first.

— Review by Justin Phillips, contributor to Kayak Fishing Focus and tournament kayak angler.


Ask for Shimano at Academy Sports or local fishing tackle shop. In NW Arkansas ask for Shimano at Hook, Line and Sinker or at Southtown Sporting Goods.

Bending Branches Angler Pro Carbon

You may have read my articles about the new 2018 model Bending Branches Angler Pro and how it is an elite paddle for the kayak angler. Another new paddle that us the ultimate level for kayak fishing is also being released, the brand new Bending Branches Angler Pro Carbon.

The new 2018 Bending Branches Angler Pro Carbon is the ultimate in kayak fishing paddles.
The new 2018 Bending Branches Angler Pro Carbon is the ultimate in kayak fishing paddles.

This paddle is full carbon from tip to tip, making it the toughest, lightest and highest performance kayak fishing paddle on the planet. The blade shape is the same as the new Bending Branches Angler Pro, including the performance ridge along the middle of the blade to direct water across the face when paddling, making entering and exiting the water almost effortless.

If this were not enough, the most amazing aspect of the new Bending Branches Angler Pro Carbon is an unbelievable weight of only 25.5 ounces! This is well below the weight of all other high performance fishing paddles, cutting 3 ounces off of the 2018 Angler Pro. I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on this paddle!

The Angler Pro Carbon paddle is light as a feather and carbon tough.
The Angler Pro Carbon paddle is light as a feather and carbon tough.

 

Specifications of the Bending Branches Angler Pro Carbon

$399.95 (Snap) $424.95 (Plus)
Weight: 25.5 oz
Full carbon construction from tip-to-tip
Same blade shape as the Angler Pro, but Compression Molded Carbon construction
Available in lengths from 230-260cm in 10cm increments and in the Plus ferrule, 230-245cm or 240-255cm

Read more about the engineering efficiency and the dynamic new styling of the new 2018 Bending Branches Angler Pro kayak fishing paddle or visit the Bending Branches website for more great angler paddle options.

New Angler Pro Paddle Designs

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.

Bending Branches Angler Pro paddle in Raptor. Photo courtesy: Drew Ross, Looknfishy
Bending Branches Angler Pro paddle in Raptor. Photo courtesy: Drew Ross, Looknfishy
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!

Photos courtesy of Bending Branches staffer Drew Ross and Bending Branches.

New Bending Branches Angler Pro Kayak Fishing Paddle

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!

Bending Branches Angler Pro lineup for 2017.
Bending Branches Angler Pro lineup for 2017.
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.

Newly designed Angler Pro blade displaces water for maximum efficiency. Photo courtesy: Drew Ross, Looknfishy
Newly designed Angler Pro blade displaces water for maximum efficiency. Photo courtesy: Drew Ross, Looknfishy
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!

Photos courtesy of Bending Branches staffer Drew Ross and Bending Branches.

Booyah Flex II Square Bill Review

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.

Booyah Flex II square bill in Chartreuse Blue Back color.
Booyah Flex II square bill in Chartreuse Blue Back color.

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!

Big largemouth bass caught on a Booyah Flex II square bill cranking a shallow creek channel.
Big largemouth bass caught on a Booyah Flex II square bill cranking a shallow creek channel.

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.

Reins Slip Sinker – Review

It’s no secret that fishing soft plastics is a great way to catch bass, and many of my soft plastic tackle setups include a Reins slip sinker. Whether I’m throwing a Texas rig, Carolina Rig or flipping, the Reins slip sinker in tungsten is on the line.

Black Reins slip sinker in 3/8 oz on a ribbontail worm with 4/0 Owner worm hook caught this 20" largemouth bass.
Black Reins slip sinker in 3/8 oz on a ribbontail worm with 4/0 Owner worm hook caught this 20″ largemouth bass.

Why do I prefer to use a Reins slip sinker?

The way their slip sinkers are constructed makes them the smallest profile available for their given weight, which helps them navigate through cover more easily. With a 95% tungsten and 5% nickel alloy, they are the among the most dense weights available.

As someone who fishes an exceptional amount of Texas rig, having a Reins slip sinker means the weight won’t fray or weaken my line. Many lower priced weights don’t have a protective insert like Reins does, which can cause a deterioration of your line as you fish.

It sounds a bit silly, but I really like the coating on the exterior of the Reins slip sinker. The colors (black and green pumpkin) are in a matte finish and is hard as nails. Some companies have coatings that will chip or are shiny – I prefer the more consistent natural look of Reins.

Reins slip sinkers are available from 1/16 to 2.5 oz sinkers, so they have the right size no matter what you are looking for. When Texas rigging I always use an Owner hook, P-Line flouro, and YUM plastics.

For more info on Reins, visit the Reins website, Facebook page, or watch this video below from JT Kenny about why he chooses Reins slip sinkers.

 

Bending Branches Angler Pro Paddle Review – The Ultimate Kayak Fishing Paddle

As a competitive kayak fishing tournament angler I am a big believer in the importance of having a quality paddle while fishing. Other than your kayak and your PFD, it is the next most important piece of equipment you can have on the water. In this Bending Branches Angler Pro Paddle Review I’ll share some thoughts on why this is the ultimate paddle for kayak fishing.

Angler Pro Paddle Review
Pro Angler blade in Camo color.

My fleet consists of three kayaks (Wilderness Tarpon100, Wilderness Ride115, and Hobie Pro Angler 12) and four Bending Branches paddles (Sunrise, Angler Ace and two Angler Pros). Bending Branches is my preferred brand because of their superior

engineering, durability, flawless construction and they are assembled in the USA. Within their paddle lineup, the Angler Ace is a great option, but this is an Angler Pro paddle review, so we’ll focus on that model.

More Power, Faster Speed

Whether using a full paddle with my Ride115 or a half paddle on my Hobie PA12, the 104″ surface area of the blade on the Angler Pro provides maximum water displacement to help move you along  quickly or to make a turn easier and with less effort. The T-700 Carbon shaft makes a long day on the water easier on your shoulders and joints by providing just the right amount of flex to maximize your paddle stroke and minimizing strain. At only 30 oz. this paddling power comes in an amazingly light package.

Tough as Nails

When I got my first Angler Pro it was a thing of beauty, I was sooo paranoid about scuffing it or messing it up because it looked awesome. Soon though I was using it to fend off everything from rocks to docks and have really put a lot of stress on the blades. This thing is practically indestructible and still looks great. For off the water toughness, just read this previous article about how I used my paddle to help rescue someone on the side of the interstate. The blade on this paddle stands up to anything I’ve been able to throw at it thanks to multi-layer fiberglass blades.

Pro-Level Features

In addition to paddling power and toughness, the Angler Pro comes with several other elite features that make it the ultimate paddle for kayak fishing:

  • Comes either with a three hole snap-button ferrule feature allowing you to feather the blade angles, and also available with a telescoping ferrule for an adjustable length.
  • Tape measure imprinted on handle…I use mine sometimes to
    Angler Pro Paddle Review
    Chasing bass with a Pro Angler in Sea Green.

    determine water visibility by putting one end of the paddle down and measuring with the handle.

  • Stylish color options include Sea Green, Camo and RealTree Max5. I have one in Sea Grean which is a high visibility color for safety on the water and one in Camo which is a sharp, understated look.
  • The Angler Pro with a snap-button ferrule comes in sizes ranging from 220cm to 260cm, in 10cm increments. With the Plus ferrule, the Angler Pro is available in adjustable lengths of 230-245cm and 240-255cm. For larger sit on top kayaks, or taller anglers, lean toward the longer length.

Although the price of $329.95 isn’t cheap, you truly get what you pay for. And, what you get with this paddle is unparalleled performance and toughness to give you a competitive edge on the water.  I hope you enjoyed this Pro Angler paddle review and will consider it for your kayak fishing needs.

Tear Em Up Fishing – Making the Outdoors Great Again

Mark Collier is on a mission to get anyone and everyone out fishing and his new brand Tear Em Up Fishing is designed to do just that. I’ve fished with Mark before and he’s a good guy who’s also a great ambassador for the sport of kayak fishing. I was intrigued by what he was doing with Tear Em Up Fishing and asked if he’d answer some of my questions about his new movement.

Tear Em Up Fishing Logo

What is Tear Em Up Fishing?

Tear Em Up Fishing is something I have wanted to do for a very long time. As long as I can remember, if anyone asked if we were catching anything, my stock answer was always, we are tearing em up! It didn’t matter if we were catching a boat load or nothing at all. We were…TEARING EM UP!

I started fishing at a very young age with my parents and have been fortunate to have fished on both coasts, the Midwest and in the South. It doesn’t matter what part of the country you are in, everyone says tearing em up when describing their fishing success (or lack thereof). The average Joe can relate to Tearing Em Up and that is our target audience.

What made you start Tear Em Up fishing?

The inspiration was a desire to have fishing apparel at an affordable price and available to the average Joe. And, I wanted to encourage folks to get out and go fishing. Young or old, short or tall – go fishing and experience the thrill of tearing em up!

What are your goals with Tear Em Up Fishing?

As I’ve mentioned, we want to spread the word about Tear Em Up Fishing. We want to build a brand the average outdoorsman can relate to. We want to offer products that ANYONE can afford, offer products that people will like, find comfortable and be a little different. Tear Em Up Fishing is definitely not ever going to be a cookie cutter business!

I know you’ve created and marketed Tear Em Up apparel. If someone wears your branded apparel, what does that say about them?
Tear Em Up Fishing Kayak Mark Collier
River fishing in the Ozarks.

Yes. We are in the process of launching our website to get the word out about the Tear Em Up Fishing brand. We are also working on getting our name trademarked along with some other marketing activities. Our brand says, “We love to fish, are passionate about the outdoors and like supporting the little guy.” The brand will not be the big name apparel that you can get at a box store.

Tear Em Up fishing has been sponsoring or donating prizes to some kayak or fishing groups, which ones and why are you supporting them?

Some of the groups we have sponsored or donated to include: Hooked On Heroes; Malvern Boys & Girls Club; River Bassin Tournament Trail; Kayak Bass Series Tournament Trail; and Kayak Bass Anglers of Central Arkansas. Supporting Hooked On Heroes is easy – look at what they do for our Veterans!

We support the Malvern Boys & Girls Club because of what they do for kids – they are our future! Take a kid fishing, introduce them to what we all love. There is nothing better and more rewarding personally than introducing a young person to fishing.

We also sponsor some great tournament anglers around the country who are really helping us advance the brand. Tear Em Up Fishing has Pro-Staff  in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri and Ohio.

You have been working some fishing shows recently, what are you working to accomplish and how has the reception been?

We had a booth at the Wichita Sports Show and we also had one at the Big Bass Bash at Lake of the Ozarks in the fall. Tear Em Up was received very well at the shows. Wichita was our first big show, with our Tear Em Up towels, hats and T-shirts selling very well very well there. We are planning on setting up at FLW events in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. We want Tear Em Up Fishing in the public for folks to see. The more exposure we get the better for our brand. Along with Tear Em Up apparel, we are dealers for Carrot Stix rods, Cal Coast Fishing, and Glo-Pro lures. We will also be carrying, hunting, fishing and other outdoor merchandise.

What is the best way for people to keep up with Tear Em Up Fishing and what all you have now and into the future?

Right now, the best way to check out our merchandise is on our Facebook page, and our website www.tearemupfishing.net should be launched this month . People can also follow us on Instagram, YouTube channel and Twitter.

I noticed a phone number on your Facebook page cover photo which is unusual for a company to do. Why publish a direct phone number?

Phone number is for anyone to call with questions, wanting information or wanting to make an order. We want people to be able to talk to someone personally if they need to reach our customer service. Folks fish for a reason – usually a personal reason and we want to be responsive and available to Tear Em Up Fishing’s customers.

Mark and the Tear Em Up Fishing team are headed in the right direction and from what I’ve seen their brand is catching on among anglers who are looking for their own voice in the average Joe fishing space. Great things seem to be headed their way due to their clear vision of message and no-nonsense approach. We have little doubt that a year from now when we ask Mark how it’s going, we’ll know what he’ll say – “We are TEARING EM UP!”

MTI Kayak Fishing PFDs Review

The most important item for a kayak angler other than the kayak itself is a quality PFD (Personal Flotation Device) which is there to protect you in the event of an accident on the water. When I first began kayak fishing, I bought a very cheap life vest from a big box store and almost immediately began not to where it while on the water…it was too bulky, too hot, and overall just didn’t fit well.

I quickly realized I needed a new vest and based on seeing some fellow kayak anglers here in Arkansas with MTI, I made the choice to purchase the MTI Solaris F-Spec. I’ve recently also been trying out MTI’s auto-inflate options, the Helios 2.0 and the Neptune. In this article I’ll do a brief review of each inflatable PFD, including strengths and weaknesses.

The Solaris F-Spec has been a great PFD for me over the last couple of years, taking me safely through a couple of hundred fishing

MTI Solaris F-Spec PFD is loaded with extra features.
MTI Solaris F-Spec PFD is loaded with extra features.

outings and in more than 40 tournament events. MTI makes PFDs specifically for paddlers, so it is has a really nice design to make it comfortable while in the yak. First of all, as a more traditional non-inflatable PFD, it isn’t bulky and has high back design, keeping it from getting in the way between you and the back of your kayak seat. It also has many handy features that really make it convenient to keep everything you need in reach on the water. There is a pin-on retractor holder, multiple lash points, D-ring attachments, zippered pockets on the chest and an innovative drop-down fishing bridge that is great to use as a mini platform while tying baits or for a quick storage of small items. When in this vest, I have my phone, survival knife, keys, whistle, line snips and other tackle stowed in the PFD – making it extremely versatile. It’s comfortable, can easily fit a larger angler and extremely durable.

Mine is still in great shape after many, many hours on the water. Overall, the Solaris F-Spec is lightweight at 1.7 lbs, is USGC III rated, and is worth every penny of the $89.95 price point. The only negative at all with this PFD is simply that although it breathes well for a foam PFD, it still covers your back shoulders and chest, which can be hot in an Arkansas summer.

Inflatable PFDs
The Helios 2.0 PFD from MTI is lightweight and extremely comfortable.
The Helios 2.0 PFD from MTI is lightweight and extremely comfortable.

I’ve recently been trying out a couple of MTI’s inflatable PFDs, the Helios 2.0 and the brand new Neptune. The obvious advantage of the inflatable PFD is that it covers much less of your torso and is cooler when the weather is hot. They also can provide a greater range of movement to the angler than some traditional PFDs. In using both versions, I don’t have a clear favorite between the two versions, and choosing which to wear really comes down to whether or not I wish to have auto-inflate or manual inflate on the given trip. Read more about auto-inflate vs manual inflate PFDs here.

Both the Helios 2.0 and Neptune use a quality Halkey Roberts inflator with a bayonet-style CO2 cylinder with a handy arming status indicator window and are USGC III rated. Both also have a very comfortable neoprene neck collar, easily adjustable harness straps and a zippered pocket with safety whistle included. They each are lightweight, with the Helios at 1.6 lbs and the Neptune coming in
at 2.1 lbs. So far, in my experience I have really been surprised h

MTI has a new PFD, Neptune on the market with an auto-inflate feature for added peace of mind.
MTI has a new PFD, Neptune on the market with an auto-inflate feature for added peace of mind.

ow much I enjoy these inflatable PFDs, they really are quite a bit more comfortable than a traditional vest. They also are very well constructed, although they are lightweight and flexible, you can tell how durable the materials and stitching are. The Neptune is a little longer than the Helios on the chest, which doesn’t bother me but could be an issue for a shorter angler. The only negative with these inflatables is that although comfort is at a maximum, there are very
limited storage options due to only one pocket, no D-rings or lash points. While giving both of inflatable PFDs an “A” overall, I probably will most commonly use the auto-inflate Neptune for maximum safety just in case something happens and I can’t pull the jerk cord on my own.

Although I haven’t tried them personally, the Calcutta and Fisher PFDs also look like solid options. In some conversations with them you can really tell they are passionate about safety, quality and the outdoors. Finally, a word about MTI (Marine Technologies International), they are a 25 year old company based in Massachusetts where paddlers make PFDs for paddlers and kayakers. The care they put into each vest really comes through in the products they make. If you are considering a new kayak fishing PFD, please take a moment to look at what I believe to be the best quality vests available.

Power Plant Lake Winter Fishing

I want to share a technique I used this past December on a power plant lake in Arkansas to catch a large number of big bass, probably my most fun month of fishing this year. Almost all of them were caught using a Norman Lures DD22 or Deep Little N crankbait.

This fatty had been feeding on shad when it bit my Norman Deep Little N in white green fleck.
This fatty had been feeding on shad when it bit my Norman Deep Little N in white green fleck.
Bass about to move up on some shad.
Bass about to move up on some shad.

At Swepco Lake in Gentry, Arkansas, bass boat and kayak anglers fill the parking lots and storm the water when winter arrives. This year is no different, with a chill in the air and ice on the banks, the “hot tub” was a nice 74-76 degrees near the plant discharge. There are a lot of ways to catch good fish at a lake like this, particularly when the bite is on.

For me, the most effective and consistent method for bigger bass this time was to do some deep cranking, going after bass which were herding shad and then feeding. A second key was identifying the depth of the bass and then choosing the correct crankbait to use so that it would run just a few feet above the bass. A Norman DD22 runs as deep as 17 feet and a Deep Little N runs as deep as 12 feet.

When a school was identified and depth determined, I’d simply deploy the crankbait and repeatedly retrieve it in the vecinity of the bass. To keep things moving slowly, my setup was a 5:4:1 Lews reel on a Dobyns FR 705CB crankbait rod.  To get the bait as deep as possible, I used a light 8 lb mono and thumbed the reel instead of setting my drag. Finally, for some extra persuasion, I used a Fish Allure scented tab (shad) on the baits, on the body, just behind the front treble.

Norman DD22 in Firetiger gel coat and Deep Little N in white green fleck.
Norman DD22 in Firetiger gel coat and Deep Little N in white green fleck.

This technique netted dozens of bass and was a fun combination of electronics, crankbaits and gear that all came together at this power plant lake. Hopefully this gives you some insight or ideas on something to try on your next trip.