This past Sunday I was out fishing and broke the tip off of one of my key rods which I will need for the Arkansas State Championship less than a week later. Oh no! I contacted Dobyns on Monday and explained the situation. Their staff was great in taking care of me and getting a new rod out immediately so I could have it for Lake Dardanelle. Sure enough, the replacement arrived on Thursday and is ready to go.
Kayak anglers need a reliable and quality rod that won’t break the bank. I cannot more highly recommend the Fury series for affordable quality!
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 newShimano Chronarch MGL.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 Calcuttaand 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.
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
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 theMTI 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 PFDweighs only 1.6 lbs and provides flotation on demand with its
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.