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.
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.
Bass fishing is an obsession for many of us and we’re always looking for an edge when it comes to creating a bite. Scented products for bass fishing have been around for decades and are usually associated with soft plastic baits. But what about hard baits? Fish Allure is something I will be experimenting with this year and is a scented fish attracting product made for use on hard surfaces as an alternative to oils, sprays and gels.
The simplicity and cleanliness in using it is an immediate improvement over liquid or gel options – peel the small sticky tab and apply it to your hard bait lure body. No mess. Once the lure is in use, the water serves as the activator that disperses the amino acids embedded into the Fish Allure tab. The tabs come in multiple scent options.
How It Works
The peel and stick tabs are easy to apply (although I will say you want a clean, dry surface to start) to the lure and then stay on the lure well while in use. They say each tab lasts for 60 minutes in the water; once the tab is used up, you can peel it off and replace. The origin of the concept originated from the same technology involved with transdermal drug delivery patches. To read more about the science behind Fish Allure, check out the case study (PDF)that outlines how it was created. The theory of a hard bait scented product as explained to me is the added scent can help entice a trailing fish to strike. I’m very interested in learning more about how this works with lures that stay in a given area for a longer period of time – walk the dog topwaters, poppers and jerk baits for example.
I recently had an opportunity to talk to a well-known professional angler and asked him specifically about the viability of scents on hard baits. His view was that yes it does work sometimes and at the very least helps ensure you are doing everything possible to elicit a strike.
I’m looking forward to spending more time on the water this spring and really giving Fish Allure a workout. Watch for future updates as I am able to field test it this season. Anything a fisherman can do to feel more confident in their presentation will help you catch more fish – and a scented tab certainly cannot hurt! If you want to give it a try, you can order Fish Allure from Tackle Warehouse and Amazon.
Focus this week crosses over to the professional bass fishing world to some new or lesser-known products which have caught my attention recently:
I recently attended a Bass University event featuring some of the top bass fishing pros around and had a chance to visit with one of
the biggest names about kayak bass fishing. As I stood awaiting the elevator, Mike Iaconelli walks around the corner and we struck up conversation about his recent visit to Swepco Lake. The moment he heard I was a kayak angler, Ike became very interested and started asking me all sorts of questions. He’d just had Hobie out to his place with a sample Pro Angler model and he was awaiting his personal craft to be delivered soon. We talked
for while about fishing from a kayak, standing up, flipping over, and all the general questions a new kayak fisherman might ask. He was telling me that they were trying to figure out a way to mount it up on top of his truck and we talked about how heavy that boat is. At the time, I honestly wasn’t sure how serious he was about it. About two weeks later he posted this photo on his Facebook page – Ike had him a Hobie Pro Angler. I’d love to talk to him again about kayak fishing after he’s had some time on the water. (still not sure how he will load and unload that thing!)
I’ve really become interested in WASPcam as an alternative to GoPro for on the water camera action. First exposed to WASPcam through Angler Combat, as I’ve researched this Canadian company I really like some of the innovative things in their camera options. WASPcam also is at a lower overall price point than GoPro. I’m hoping to share a lot more in the future about WASPCam, including some reviews, but for now this article has some good highlights.
Kayak Fishing Blog continues to crank out great content. This time around I enjoyed the article about choosing a Pedal vs Paddle Kayak. I have owned both and still do, and they both have merit in various situations. Another recent article on Best Bargain Kayaks could be helpful to someone getting into the sport.
Some of my fellow Arkansas Kayak Angler members have been repping the Bait Sack, a product designed to reduce tangling and general mayhem caused by lures tied on your rods but not in use. Here’s a pretty good overview by The Fisherman’s Journal that talks about this tackle organization product. I’m not sure I am detail-oriented enough to use this item, but do see the value.
The new Angler Combat regional structure begins today with three geographic divisions – North, South and the Big 3 (CA, TX, FL). Angler Combat is an online bass fishing tournament with categories for Land, Kayak and Boat fishing. If you haven’t competed in Angler Combat (AC) yet or are just getting started, there are a few things to know to ensure you get the most out of the online bass fishing tournament. If you aren’t familiar with AC, take a moment toread this previous article and this oneas well.
Be sure to download theiAngler Tournament App before you get out on the water. It’s important your phone is updated to the most recent operating system and test that you can successfully log in.
Tournaments run monthly from the 1st-28th and each month has a unique monthly identifier. Look up this identifier and have it with you before you are out fishing…sometimes your mobile coverage can be spotty and you’ll need this identifier to submit a fish. If you are having poor reception, you can upload your fish after getting off the water. Photos are geotagged and you can mark the catch location in the app.
When photographing your fish, make sure to understand some specific AC requirements. No fish clips, stringers or bungies are allowed to secure the fish. With AC, the fish must be facing left with lip touching end of the board, but the mouth may be open.
To prep your hawg trough for use in AC (or any kayak based tournament) use a Sharpie to darken all of the lines and to draw a line along the base of the left lip plate to improve visibility.
Understand the prize payouts – with AC, the more the merrier. The prize payouts grow the more participants there are, so encourage friends to enter! There must be 10 entries per division for any prizes to be awarded. These new rules starting this month have a direct correlation between the number of entrants and the payout structure.
When reviewing the AC Leaderboards, select the Length button at the top of the standings to see each submitted fish by length for each day. Here, you an click the image icon to see full-size images of each fish. You can also click on the Summary button to see the scoring summary for every angler for each day.
After submitting your catch with the iAngler Tournament app, check back later to make sure your photos were accepted and approved. DO NOT delete your photos from your phone until you get verification of acceptance in case you need to resubmit.
Participating in AC is a good way to stay sharp when not in tournaments and can be a fun way to share your catches and compete with others in your region when the fishing heats up later in the year. You could win prizes from some of the AC partners: Jackson Kayak, Orion Coolers, WASPcam, Boonedox USA, Manley Rods and YakGear. Go sign up and give it a try!
Angler Combat is generating a lot of buzz in the kayak fishing community and is making big moves to continue their invasion of the digital fishing tournament world. If you are an angler who fishes from the bank, a kayak, or from a bass boat, I encourage you to take a look at Angler Combat. Get in now while it’s early because I predict it will explode in popularity in 2016 and beyond. They are now announcing some big changes which will help with this growth…keep reading for their big news!
OK, so what is Angler Combat? Angler Combat is a catch, photo and release (CPR) oriented digital tournament where participants compete within a broad geography against other anglers. What makes Angler Combat unique is it includes three competitive divisions – Land, Kayak and Boat. No other tournament series provides anglers from almost anywhere an ability to compete, no matter how they choose to fish. Competitors are ranked by their top five fish submitted via the iAngler Tournament app, using a unique identifier code for each 28 day tournament period. For a $10 monthly entry fee, division winners can walk away with a significant cash prize or some other high end prizes. To get an idea about the experience, read this round-table discussion about Angler Combat from some Arkansas Kayak Angler members who have been actively competing.
For a tournament series which only began in November of 2015, Angler Combat has already gained a lot of awareness and notoriety thanks to word of mouth and social media. Their officials report that they have averaged more than 100 competitors in each of the first three months, which is already ahead of their initial expectations (especially in these winter months). There has been some interesting data coming in from the first three monthly tournaments. One of the most surprising stats is that on average, anglers fishing from the bank are out-catching those in kayaks and boats. It’s reported that competitors in the “Land” category are submitting better five fish totals on average. At first this is very surprising, but they say this is likely because bank fishermen can fish more, often daily while on a lunch break or before or after work. The more you fish, the more you catch to turn in. So far the prize packages have been impressive, thanks to some of their key sponsors: Jackson Kayak, Orion Coolers, WASPcam, Boonedox USA, Manley Rods and YakGear, among others.
Big News #1 – NEW Division Structure Begins in February
The crew at Angler Combat has been listening to their participants and analyzing the data. With a bit of number crunching they have determined there is a competitive imbalance between the fishing qualities in some of the states currently in the South division. Beginning this February, Florida, Texas and California will be broken out into their own division call the Big “3” division. This may lower the participation total in the short term in each division but will be a great improvement overall and I believe will help them grow more quickly with a level playing field. This should address thetop concern about Angler Combat in our AKA roundtable discussion and review of Angler Combat.
Big News #2 – Marketing Blitz and Tournament Expansion Plans
This is only the beginning of the growth as they plan to begin to seriously market the tournament series, including a new television commercial recently filmed in Florida. Anyone who competes in Angler Combat should be pleased as they increase their TV and online marketing, which will improve the participation numbers and in turn will drive up prize values. In addition to a ramped up marketing push, there are also plans in the works for expanded contests and prizes, and eventually the launch of Striper and Redfish online tournaments.
Big News #3 – Television Series
The most intriguing and exciting news to me about the future of Angler Combat is their plan to launch a competition-style television show which would air on a well-known fishing network. This show is said to feature fishing pros competing against amateurs who are winners in Angler Combat monthly tournaments – showing their battles for supremacy. Pros against talented locals in Land, Kayak and Boat showdowns should be very entertaining. We should hear a lot more about this television project in the coming months. Stay tuned.
These are lots of positive moves which will improve or enhance an already fun online tournament which could be the next big thing. My advice? Get started now, sign up and compete. Get in early and you will be an Angler Combatveteran by the time it goes main stream.
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 Baitsis 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, thisarticle 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.
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 $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 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.