Tag Archives: Equipment

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.

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.

Auto vs Manual Inflate PFD: Which is Best?

When it comes to kayaking, paddling or kayak fishing, safety on the water is a critical concern for all anglers and their families. The number one tool for on the water safety is a U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD (Personal Flotation Device). When I first started kayak fishing I didn’t like wearing my PFD and sometimes would take it off while fishing. Over time I realized how dangerous this could be after hearing tragic stories about anglers who were not protected and seeing others dump in the water and need their PFD for assistance. I also realized that I wasn’t wearing my PFD because it was bulky, uncomfortable and was too hot to wear in the summer.

This is where making a change to an inflatable PFD solves many of those problems. As these continue to gain popularity in the kayak angling world, they eternal question (and argument in some cases) is whether to choose an automatic inflate model or a manual inflate. Both have real advantages and reasons for a kayak angler to choose one vs the other.

Automatic Inflatable PFD
Neptune automatic inflatable PFD from MTI
MTI’s Neptune Automatic Inflatable PFD will deploy when immersed in water for added peace of mind.

An automatic inflate PFD is designed to deploy when submerged in water, firing the CO2 cylinder and automatically inflating the air bladder. Simply getting wet from splash or rain will not trigger the C02 cylinder, immersion in the water is required for it to trigger inflation. This option is a better fit for paddling lakes or very slow moving water in a stable kayak where you have very little risk of entering the water or being hit with a big wave.

As a backup system, each inflatable PFD also comes with a manual pull cord which will trigger the CO2 cylinder to inflate. For a great automatic inflate option, check out the MTI Neptune Automatic Inflatable PFD, which weighs only 2.1 pounds and comes in high visibility orange or camo color schemes. Shane Oakes, an avid kayak angler and 2016 Angler of the Year for Western Arkansas Kayak Anglers has used an auto-inflate PFD for a few years. “I chose an inflatable PFD because of comfort, specifically less restricted in movement as well as not being as hot as a conventional life vest,” Shane explained. Why does he use an auto-inflate PFD? He has simple and straightforward reasoning. “I selected an auto-inflate in the event I was hurt in such a way that prevented me from manually activating it.”

Manual Inflatable PFD

A manual inflatable PFD has a straightforward design, you pull the manual cord and it triggers the CO2 cylinder and inflates the vest. This seems to be the most common version of inflatable PFDs used by kayak anglers because of the concern of flipping over and winding up in the water, accidentally triggering inflation. For manual inflatable PFD users, it is key for them to remember when going into the water to reach and pull the manual cord. This could be difficult to do depending on mobility, injury or if you are simply disoriented.  Other than this key difference in how it is deployed, there is little difference in manual vs automatic inflatable PFDs. The MTI Helios 2.0 manual inflatable PFD weighs only 1.6 lbs and provides flotation on demand with its

Helios inflatable PFD from MTI
The Helios 2.0 from MTI inflates with a pull on the “Jerk tag” so you have flexibility when to deploy.

easy access Jerk tag.

Wes Jones, a member of Natural State Kayak Anglers, has used a manual inflatable PFD for three years and chooses an inflatable for comfort. “As a bass fisherman, the majority of our fishing here in Arkansas is in warmer temperatures and an inflatable is so much cooler than a regular PFD,“ Wes explained. “They are also way less bulky and so much easier to move around in. I bought a regular PFD when I got my first yak, wore it one time and haven’t gone back to it since then.”  Wes chose manual because he feels like he is a very confident swimmer and has concerns about the PFD accidentally deploying when he doesn’t need it if he gets too wet.

Both manual and auto inflate versions will also have an oral air tube which allows the wearer to supply additional air to the bladder in the event it fails to fully inflate. This is a higher probability in extremely cold temperatures which may reduce the effectiveness of the initial CO2 inflation. It is important to remember that inflatable PFDs are not recommended for those who cannot swim and not for active watersports such as whitewater paddling, skiing, wakeboarding, or other uses where you may frequently take a spill into the water.

Be Prepared with C02 Backup

If you are using an inflatable PFD, it is a best practice to keep an extra CO2 tube handy just in case you have to re-arm the vest on the go. In a past Razoryak Tournament Trail event at Lake Fort Smith, Arkansas, an angler had a mishap right at take-off and his auto-inflate fired. This could cause a problem for a kayak tournament angler. All reputable kayak fishing tournaments require a functional PFD be worn by anglers at all times while fishing. Veteran tournament director Jeff Malott confirms that an inflatable PFD not properly armed with a working CO2 cylinder would be a problem. He recommends carrying a spare CO2 cylinder or a backup PFD in your kayak storage so you can stay in the game in case of a mishap.

I haven’t decided as of yet whether I’ll be using a manual or automatic inflatable version in tournaments, but I’m leaning toward the automatic for the additional peace of mind and safety. It is easy to rearm if deployed and I just cannot predict the situation when I will need it and know if I can successfully pull the jerk cord. Whether you choose an automatic inflatable PFD or a manual inflate PFD or a more traditional PFD, the important thing is to ensure you are protected on the water while kayak fishing. Always wear a personal flotation device equipped with a whistle when kayaking. If you currently aren’t wearing one because of comfort, take some time to look into an inflatable version from MTI or other manufacturers.

Lindy Elite Rod Bag Review

Packing my gear for the upcoming trip to Lake Fork for the Yak4It Tournament of Champions is giving me a chance to once again use a great Lindy rod bag that a friend recommended to me a few months ago.

Lindy rod bag holds 4 to 6 rods with reels.
Lindy Elite Rod Bag Packaging

I had been looking for a way to efficiently carry multiple rods in my truck while on kayak bass fishing road trips and the Lindy Elite Rod Bag has been a great and inexpensive solution. I love my Dobyns fishing rods and want to keep them protected and make them easy to carry. Lindy says on the package it is for 4-6 fishing rods, but I’ve been able to put as many as eight in the bag at once, although six seems to be the best fit with baitcasters.

Lindy rod bag protects your reels.
Lindy Elite rod bag is a safe way to transport multiple rods.

When placing rods in the bag I prefer to have them in rod sleeves, which just makes them easy to handle and gives some extra protection. Once inserted into place, there are two velcro straps that help secure the reels/handles so they don’t slide around. Having them all in the bag makes it easy to carry to and from the truck and it fits great in the cab. I also like the security of having my nice rods and reels covered up in the bag instead of exposed to someone walking by the vehicle.

Dobyns rods secured in the Lindy rod bag.
My Dobyns Fury Series rods are nestled nicely in the Lindy Elite rod bag and ready to go.
Reel Protection

The area around the rod handle end has a bit of extra padding to help protect your reels and thankfully the zipper performs flawlessly when opening or closing. Many times zippers are cheap and get hung up and difficult to use…very annoying and not a problem with the Lindy rod bag.  The handles on the bag are placed at a perfect spot for balance and the rod bag stays parallel to the floor while being carried.

Lindy rod bag zips up cleanly.
All zipped up, the Lindy Elite rod bag has handles for easy transport.

This bag is made of a very thin but tough material that makes it very lightweight and easy to fold up into a small profile for easy storage. The nylon for the bag is also quick drying, so no worry about moisture issues. I also have a couple of longer fishing rods and was worried they wouldn’t fit – but Lindy added a small velcro opening at the end of the bag to let a rod tip through if needed.  Each end of the bag also has a cord loop you can use to hang up the bag if necessary.

The Lindy rod bag is good quality and was a good price, at just over $30. You can order one from Lurenet.com directly.

Spotlight: Yak4It Tournament of Champions, Heddon Video, Fishing with Kids, Lurenet.com

This recent spotlight features one of the most exclusive kayak bass fishing tournaments in the country, a product feature, tips for fishing with kids and one of my favorite tackle sources:

The Yak4It Tournament of Champions at Lake Fork, Texas, is coming up in November and I’m excited to have qualified again this year to compete. This tournament is by invitation only and qualifiers are selected from tournament circuits or events around the country yak4it-toc-300x257based on how the anglers have performed in those events. This is the second year in a row I will be competing representing Arkansas along with other qualifiers from the state. The tournament is held at famous Lake Fork and Lake Fork Marina and Motel serves as the epicenter of the event. Last year was my first time on the lake, am hoping for a better finish this year.

As the tournament season begins to close, I want to thank brands who have shown the support for me this year on the tournament trail: Bending Branches, Dobyns Rods, YUM, Booyah, Rebel, Norman, Smithwick, Arbogast, Cotton Cordell, Bandit, Bomber, Heddon, Fish Allure and Stormr.

Heddon is an old school fishing brand that I love to throw because I simply catch fish with these lures. Here is a nice video from Heddon showing off some pond fishin’ with a Pop’n Image.

Kayak Fishing Blog is my favorite website for reading about kayak fishing topics and once again they have a great article, this one on 15 Tips for Kayaking with Kids. Taking kids out on the water is a great way to create a legacy and grow the sport. Make it a great trip by using the tips in their handy infographic.

If your local big box store doesn’t carry some of the plastics or lure variations you need, check out Lurenet.com for baits. This site carries only certain product lines (including some big ones like YUM and Booyah) but has the deepest selection from within their offerings. For example, I like to use the YUM 10″ Ribbontail worm in Black/Blue flake, but this is a hard one to find. Lurenet.com has it and a lot more.

Spotlight – Drop Shot Tips, Dobyns Fury Series Rods, Cold Water Kayaking Dangers, Katrina’s Story

Here’s a roundup of some of the things that caught my eye this week that are worth a look from fellow kayak bass fishing anglers:

Tim Hotchkin is once again back with a solid video, this time he is breaking down his approach with drop shot fishing. He’s an excellent drop shot fisherman and I’ve learned a lot from him on the water about this topic. Golden’s Baits is featured – they make some great plastic bait options. Check out this video for some insider tips:

I’ve recently written a Dobyns Rods review here on this blog, but here is a more comprehensive breakdown on the Dobyns Fury Series by Justin Brouillard that identifies five of the best rod options in this new rod set. I’ve been using a 734C version and like it so much I am currently adding more to my arsenal. This article has been very helpful in reviewing options – hopefully it helps you as well. For value-minded kayak fishing shoppers, Dobyns Fury series is a quality option at a really nice price point.

Safety is always a paramount concern when kayaking, kayak fishing or just paddling. Increased danger emerges in winter when water temps start dropping and flipping your kayak can put you in a life-threatening situation. With the recent news of multiple fatal accidents, I’m hoping people will take extra caution when hitting the water. This article on Dangerous Cold Water Submersion by Chris Payne at Kayak Fishing Blog is a harrowing account of an experience he and his son had in a cold water situation. Additionally, this article and video from Paddling.net are good for anyone who kayaks in the winter to see. Be safe out there!

On a local note, this blog article on Yakfisharkansas.com is a touching story by Katrina DeGraff about why she joined the Arkansas Kayak Anglers and really illustrates the community aspect of kayak fishing. Katrina is a great person and I look forward to continue to get to know her and Luke better at future events.

Spotlight – New Year’s Resolutions, Kayak Buying Tips, Paddle Questions and Destroyer Baits

It’s a new year and a good time to get your gear right and your mind right for the upcoming kayak fishing season. Here is a roundup of some of the best kayak bass fishing articles this week:

Our friends at Yakfisharkansas.com talk about New Year’s Resolutions, including a couple that resonate with me. They mention improving with a hard jerkbait (which I believe is difficult to fish from a kayak) and drop shot. For me, I have a focus on improving with jigs and swimbaits in 2016.

Did you get a new kayak for Christmas, or want to know how to get started kayak fishing? There are a couple of good articles this week worth a read. First up is Four Tips for First Time Kayak Buyers from Kayak Fishing Blog which has some good items to consider. It touches on budgeting for your kayak purchase, which should include additional funds for the key accessories and paddle.  I’d like to underscore though, invest in the most comfortable kayak you can possibly afford – sitting in one for hours will make you regret going cheap on the seat situation.

Next up is an article by a good guy I know, Garett VanWie, on Where to Begin for kayak bass fishing. Garett echos my assertion of buying the right kayak and paddle instead of simply buying the cheapest. Congrats to Garett for this article on Bassresource.com.

I personally use a Bending Branches Angler Pro paddle, which I love. Having the right paddle for you is very important to fully enjoy the sport of kayak bass fishing. This article, Kayak Paddle Questions, provides some sample questions in evaluating the key aspects of choosing the right paddle for you. Like a kayak, my advice is to do your research, talk to some expert staff at a quality sales outlet and get the best paddle you can afford. Durability and weight are a couple of key factors for me – a heavy paddle makes for a long day on the water.

My friend Tim Hotchkin has a good breakdown of Destroyer Bait Spy Jigs. Shout-out to him for a great job with the video.

 

Dobyns Rods Fury Series Review

As mentioned in a previous post, I have been wanting to try out a new Dobyns Rod I’d picked up recently while on the road at a tournament event. Then I wanted to do a Dobyns Rods review.

A friend had told my about Dobyns Rods and suggested I try one out, so I did – and he was right, I’m impressed. My Dobyns is a Fury Series 734C, one of their more affordable rods with a suggested retail price of Dobyns Rods review$109.99, but it is balanced and has the feel to me of a higher end casting rod. The 734C is 7’3″ long and is geared toward techniques including buzzbaits, horny toads, jigs, senkos, swimbaits and spinnerbaits. The Fury Series hasn’t been around long, just been since May of 2015.

For the Dobyns rods review I was able to get out and use the rod extensively on a fishing trip to the Elk River and it performed very well. The first thing you notice is how comfortable the grip is with a nice cork main handle and then a butt covered in a “Hypalon” material, giving you more grip for long casts. Starting out with a Booyah spinnerbait I had a nice bass hooked within the first 30 minutes and the rod performed beautifully. Whether launching long, accurate casts, setting the hook, or reeling in an upset largemouth, it felt silky smooth. Again, feeling in the hand like a higher end rod than the actual price. Later on when switching to a jig, it was no problem for shorter and more accurate casts.

Dobyns Fury Series Rod

Dobyns does offer four other levels of rods: Champion Extreme, Champion, Savvy, and Savvy Micro Guide. Overall I am very pleased with this Dobyns Fury series rod, a great value for the price and plan to look into more Dobyns rods in the future. Find them at an local dealer or online at sources such as Tackle Warehouse.

Norman Lures Acquired

Thinn
Norman’s Thin N

One bit of news in the tackle business world caught my attention as Norman Lures was recently acquired. Norman Lures is a local company (based in Greenwood, Ark.) and has been producing
baits for more than 50 years. This news is interesting to me because of the fact Norman Lures is a local company, one of the oldest and well-respected bass fishing brands and is a producer of some of my favorite crankbaits.

Depending on the time of year, my kayak has several Norman lures on board including the Deep Little N, Thin N and Fat Boy in particular. It’s been announced that the specific Norman lures like the DD22, Deep Little N, Mad N, Flat Broke, and Fat Boy will be continued. No definitive word yet on some of their other lures. I’m personally a big fan of the Thin N, so I hope they keep it around.  The Thin N has a unique “coffin-bill” shaped lip that combines with the thin profile to give it a different wiggle than many other squarebills. This could mean I need to stash some more Thin N lures just in case they become unavailable.

Overall, this seems like positive news and will allow a great brand and some great baits to continue to be available to fishermen. Norman Lures was purchased by PRADCO Outdoor Brands, and you can read more about the acquisition in the Southwest Times Record. PRADCO produces many brands that I love to use including Booyah, Yum, Smithwick, Bomber, Bandit, Heddon, Rebel and Arbogast.

Great Service by Dobyns Rods

Would like to recognize Dobyns Rods for some excellent service recently, which is important from a fishing equipment company. At a recent visit to Lake Fork I purchased a Dobyns Rod at the tackle shop and once I was home recognized a small problem with it. Being hundreds of miles from where I purchased it in Texas, this kayak fisherman was at a loss of what to do.

One email to Dobyns Rods directly with an explanation of my problem resulted in a quick reply from them with a proposal to fix the issue. The assistance was quick, it was courteous and I could tell they really wanted to help me out. I’ll be reviewing my Dobyns rod very soon here on the blog. As I previously wrote, I’m looking for a new go-to rod company and they have certainly made a great impression so far.