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Jackson Cuda 12 - The Boat I Can't Replace

I reviewed the Cuda 12 last year after having it for a few months and it was a positive review but made it clear that the Cuda was a good all around boat that did not excel at any one thing.  After another year behind me I think I'm coming around to a different point of view.  I think it excels at everything.  And I want to stress to you that this is after demoing about a dozen models of kayaks, owning a few besides the Cuda and looking for something that has more, so far I'm still looking.  So let me tell you about the strengths of the Cuda 12 in order of most important to least that set it apart.

1.  Gear storage!  I can't stress this one enough.  I have actually become anti-crate (a yak fisherman's best friend) because of the amazing layout of the Cuda 12.  With the upgraded seats that were released in 2015 you can store two 3600's strapped into the seat, then there is also area on both sides of the seat recessed into the hull for two more 3600's.  Then you can stack 4 3600's under the seat or clean it up a bit with one deep 3700.  In addition to that there are two stagers behind the seat in the tankwell for two additional 3700's stored on their side.  What this allows me to do is assign certain tackle to certain areas such that reaching for my crankbaits, jigs, or frogs is a one thought process.  I'm not digging through the crate trying to pull out the right box, it's always where it should be.  And since everything is so handy and accessible it keeps me from making a critical mistake many anglers make, leaving the deck cluttered.  Two reasons to keep the deck clear, makes handling fish much easier when you've got the space to do so, and if you ever flip everything that is on deck is going down.

Having owned several boats that made me rely on crates for tackle storage has made me realize how efficient the Cuda is with it's layout.  And I haven't even got to the rod storage yet.  So you're about to take out your boat in an enclosed area with trees, stumps, and whatever else might grab a vertical rod and snap it off or jerk one out laying on the deck, just throw them inside the boat.  With the center console I have stored 6 rods, not an ideal number of course but it can be done with rod sleeves, while on the water and retrieved them as needed.  This could be handy for keeping gear stored for whitewater, or the tight passages we sometimes have to yak through while busting brush, and especially the trip to and from the water.  If my yak flips over on the cart on a bumpy trail I'm not worried, my rods are inside the boat and my gear is all secured.

But what if you're not quite busting trails in your yak but you have the occasional tree you have to skirt under?  Quite a hassle to store and remove all your rods for a couple of laydowns right?  Well that's where the horizontal rod storage and tip protectors come into play.  I can store 4 rods horizontally on the sides with bungee holding the reels securely to the sides while the tips lay protected under the front cover.  Can you tell I like how this yak is laid out?   Ever lose a lure and wonder where it went?  During clean up before heading home I've noticed a few times that a frog or jig was missing and I go look around the launch and there it is.  This happened because I had some tackle that I didn't take time to put up and it fell out during the loading process.  That has almost never happened in the Cuda because of the handy center hatch that lets me store everything below deck right before taking out.  It's safe and secure until I get home to sort everything out such that it saves time and keeps me from having to wonder where I lost this or that.

2.  It can do it all.  After having another year behind me I can honestly say this boat will do anything you ask of it.  I have been on a lot of moving water, small creeks, big lakes, and nasty swamps and I've never been wanting for something more.  If the boat was longer for more speed I wouldn't like it as much in the creeks, if it was wider for more stability I wouldn't like how much it weighed.  At least for me it seems to be the perfect mix of an all terrain kayak and I think that's one of the first questions you need to ask yourself.  Am I going to use a yak for moving water only?  Lakes only?  If so get one more suited to those applications and make do with it on other waters but if you're looking for one boat that does everything really well the Cuda 12 seems to be the perfect answer while having all of the features that make it very hard to replace.  On open lakes I was able to maintain 4mph all day while on moving waters I can turn around and maneuver in tiny creeks just fine.

And that's it.  I could go on about little details but that's the meat of the story right there.  I will keep looking at other options and trying out new boats, especially since quite a few new models were just released this year, but they will all be held to the standard of the Cuda 12.  If they can't do it better I won't change.  I am curious how much a pedal drive could add to my open water abilities and I'm also curious to try out the Cuda HD that is a tiny bit longer and a little wider.  I haven't found the Cuda 12 to be lacking in stability so I'm not sure I'm willing to compromise for the higher weight, just have to try one and see.  Next time you're in the market for a new boat demo a Jackson Cuda 12 and see what you think.

Frog Fishing from a Kayak - 4 years of lessons learned - Pt. 1

First let me give you a little background on how I got into frog fishing so you can see why it appeals to me.  About 4 years ago I got into kayak fishing and started exploring new places around the area, and one of those places was a swamp called Blackwell.  It was full of vegetation unlike anything I had previously fished on the main river or in the small creeks I frequented.  Lily pads were basically blanketing the water with various types of grass woven throughout and stumps nearly every 3 feet.  At the time I thought it looked not so much fishy as snakey.  So I fished the open holes I could find just as I had the other places I fished, with a shakey head or a spinnerbait, and had some success.  However, I kept seeing wakes move about in the lily pads on the edges of the holes and felt like I was only presenting my lure to maybe 1% of the fish possible.  So after doing a little research I went back armed with a weedless selection of lures, some  tx rig plastics and a hollow body frog, I don't remember which one exactly but if I had to guess it was probably an h20 or maybe a Booyah Pad crasher.  Well the frog bite was on, nearly every other casts for the first hour of the day resulted in blow up after blow up and zero fish.  Every single one happened the same way, massive explosion, a short jerk, a hookset, and nothing.  So I decided I would let the next one chew on it before setting the hook.  Sure enough he was on the edge of one of the holes I normally fished with a spinnerbait and as I drug it out from the lily pad wall he blew up, I counted to 3 and reel down and set the hook.  Finally a fish on!  I think I was more proud of that dark 16" bass than just about any other fish I had caught in recent memory.  I had no idea that for the next 2 years a frog would be the primary lure that I used to catch fish with and that I would catch several 5+ pound fish, sometimes multiple in the same trip.  First I had to figure out how to increase my hookup ratio, so after a little research I realized the weakness in my setup was mono line.  I had never used anything but mono before and it worked well for every other technique I had tried, but the same stretch that keeps a crankbait fish hooked up in a creek was allowing bass to bury up in the grass and throw my frog.  After spooling up with some 30lb powerpro something awesome happened,  I caught a dozen bass on the frog and only missed about five.  That was an incredible increase from the one out of ten bites on my last trip, the fish were staying hooked and I guess you could say I was too.

So that's the end of the story right? Not quite, it was actually the beginning, I became obsessed with frog fishing and trying out different kinds, brands, styles, rigging, colors, etc.  If it popped, buzzed, walked the dog, or looked any different from what I already had tried, I tried it.  I've been called a frog expert, I wouldn't say I'm an expert at anything fishing, but I was definitely a frog fanatic.  I even had friends that knew I had gone frog crazy sending me emails with new frogs and asking me which ones I had tried.  Live Target, Scum Frog, Stanley Ribbits, Z-man Hard legz, Kahara diving frog, Popping pad crashers, Spro walking shad, etc etc.  They all seemed to have their own style that they brought to frog fishing but I soon had a few favorites.  One was the popping scum frog, it was cheap compared to it's competitors at $2.99 and it's hookup ratio was one of the best.  It was a very soft frog and that meant if a fish pulled it under he almost always stayed hooked up.  However, there were two things that made me look for something better, it wouldn't last for very many fish until it was taking on water, and at 5/16 oz it was a challenge to cast on anything but calm days.  After going through a few brands I finally settled on a frog that I could cast like a bullet that allowed me to target low overhangs but would survive multiple big fish, the popping pad crasher from Booyah.  However, there were times when I would see fish wake up to the bait and turn away or occasionally found grass so thick the frog wasn't able to effectively grab enough water to pop like it should.

So I started looking for something to get a reaction bite and that would be effective in the thickest grass.  Stanley Ribbits seemed to be the obvious answer and I still have a place for them in my box to this day but I couldn't cast them like I needed to and they were too light to make much of a presence in the thickest mats. That being said one of my best days at the swamp was pulling ribbits across lily pads and killing it in the holes, as it fluttered down they would thump it and the hook up ratio on them is fantastic.  Stanley also offers another buzz frog but this one is unique in that is floats even when paused in open water, the Stanley Top Toad.   This lure was catching fish for me unlike any frog I had tried so far, and big fish at that.  At 3/4 oz I could cover water quickly, trigger strikes in the thickest mats, and pause it in the holes when necessary since it floated.  Also with the double take hooks if I didn't pull it away from them too quick I almost never lost a fish after the initial hookup.  I had found the perfect compliment to my popping pad crasher.

So those two frogs will catch everything that swims right?  Not exactly, I could trigger strikes in the thick mat that would blow a 10" hole in the grass but sometimes they would completely miss the frog, I could reel it in and try again but often the buzz would bring them right up to the boat and sometimes spook them.   Well, remember that H20 hollow body frog that I started with?  With a 6'6" mh rod and a 3/8 oz frog I could hit those 10" holes or just barley past them, and when that subtle movement came into the hole, maybe the injured frog the bass just blew up on?  They would hammer it.  This allowed me to capitalize on the missed strikes and not worry about trying to catch every fish that blew up on the top toad.  It was an interesting system because I was literally screaming the top toad across mats just hoping for a blow up, not even trying to catch a fish, just trying to get them to show theirselves, then that's when I started fishing for them.  I could cover 100 yards of mat in 30 minutes and cover every 3 ft.

At first I was scanning random banks without no rhyme or reason, I was basically willing to accept that for every fish caught I was probably making 100 casts.  But soon I realized a pattern, there were hot spots, where I would catch 2 or 3 fish in a small stretch and then nothing for a while and then 2 or 3.  I tried to understand the pattern but it didn't seem obvious to me at first, until I realized this blanket of grass that seemed featureless had points, pockets, seams and structures and if I was able to key in on those structures instead of mindlessly scanning the banks I could maximize my time on the water.  I also realized that almost without exception all of my fish were caught by 9 am.  There were also other variable I could go into that would require another book like post, maybe one day, that determined what lure I started with and colors etc.  But for the moment the most important thing was to start early, fish the hot spots and realize when to adjust these techniques or compliment them.  I often had 3 rods on the deck with 3 different frogs, or 2 frogs and 1 buzzbait.

So after winning a Kayak Angler for a Cause tournament on frogs, and several new PB's on frogs, what have I learned these last 3 years?

1.  Frogs catch big fish.
2. There are a few tips and tricks to increase your hook up ratio, but the biggest is to let the fish have it.  If you set the hook on the blow up you've missed it 9 out of 10 times.  See the explosion reel down and strike up.
3. People have favorite frogs from one brand or another, I haven't seen any catch more than another, I  look for a healthy mix between effective and cheap and the Booyah Pad Crashers have done that for me, as for a buzzing frog I could easily go back and forth between the hardlegz by Z-man and the Top Toad, they both work well.
4. Braided line is a must, if not for it I would have given up on frog fishing a long time ago a medium heavy or heavy rod also helps a lot as well.
5. Fish early or fish late, I have caught fish on a frog on a sunny day at noon, but it's not ideal.

I think the most important thing with a frog is being willing to give it the time to be comfortable with letting them chew on it, learn where the ambush points are in a sea of grass, and realize how versatile a frog can be.  Just the other day I started throwing frogs in a small clear creek for smallmouth after seeing Chad Hoover using one to target smallmouth in Tennessee.  You know what?  Alabama smallies like frogs just like they do up north.  I have caught more smallmouth this past month on a frog than anything else.  And I haven't completely settled on which frog I'll always use for what, when a new product comes along I like to see if I can add something to my arsenal I don't have, for example my last two big fish have come from a new frog from Academy, their H20 popping frog.

So go throw a frog, if you're just starting out grab a couple of the cheap scum frogs to ensure a good hookup ratio to help you gain confidence.  Fish them around overhangs and holes in the grass early and hold on, it's a technique that you'll not soon put down after your first few frog fish, at least not until November.

Common Questions About Kayak Fishing

I've owned a Kayak for almost 4 years now and I've went from a casual kayak angler to helping with an organization focused on kayak fishing.  I've seen the repeat posts asking questions about kayaks and kayaking in general and I thought it would be nice to have a post that I can refer to when I see these questions posted time and again.  Because ultimately the answer will never change to any of these.  Please don't think that I am saying I know it all or have the best answers, I'm just telling you what I've learned and hopefully it can help you.

1. Which kayak is the best? 

Anyone that answers that question immediately with a specific model instead of questions does not have your best interest in mind, they are just pushing a boat that they have because it must be the best if they own it right?  To truly answer that question a few questions need to be answered and above all you need to demo a few.  No matter what anyone on a forum tells you it will never replace seat time and that means more than sitting down in knee deep water and wiggling around to see if it feels stable.  You don't know if a boat is stable until you test it to it's limit and see what it takes to flip it.  Some boats that might feel a little wobbly might have a lot more in them than you think.  So here's what I would say you need to consider

 - Do you fish mainly open water like lakes or moving water like small rivers and creeks?  Maybe somewhere in the middle?  A Coosa is a great boat for creeks and small rivers but will absolutely wear you out on a windy lake trying to keep it pointed straight.  On the other hand a Hobie is the Cadillac of big water boats but you don't want to be dragging it through shoals on an upstream paddle.  Doesn't mean you can't, but you don't want to.  So once you answer that question we can then narrow it down to one or two boats from nearly every brand.

- Do you want to stand and fish?  If so you would likely want to look at boats that are 33" wide and wider.  Keep in mind you are sacrificing speed to gain stability unless you go with one of the pedal drive models, they're pricy but you can stand and fish and still outrun most other boats.

- What is your budget?  You can find a good boat anywhere from $500 - $3000.  Just depends on what features you want and if you're willing to shop used boats with a few character scratches you can save some good money.  But ultimately that will also weed out what boats you're truly after.  If your ceiling is $1500 you're likely not buying a brand new Big Tuna or Hobie.  But that doesn't mean you can't find something that will still fit the bill in another brand or model.

Ultimately, demo as many as you can and find out which ones you like best.  The most comfortable seat for me isn't likely the same for you.

2.  Where can I catch some fish?  

I doubt you'll get many straight forward answers with this question because the sport is growing and it's no longer a rare thing to see backwater creeks full of new boats that were empty last summer.  However, you can still find fresh spots by getting on google maps and finding small spots miles from the main lake.  If you find a good spot keep it to yourself and enjoy it.  If it's a small spot with good fish take your kids and friends you can trust, post too much about it online and it won't be the good spot it was when you found it very long.

To be honest the main lake isn't that bad right with the big boats, keep your wits about you so you can avoid an 80mph rocket that the operator has eyes locked onto his side scan.  Just because you're out there competing for spots with bass boats doesn't mean you can't find some great spots.  As a matter of fact one of my best days in the last month was out on a main river ledge, caught a couple dozen fish that only wanted a brushhog pulled slowly up the drop.  That's something that would be hard for a bass boat to do since the top of the ledge was inches deep but was perfect for a kayak.

There is no substitute for time on the water, I read a lot of articles and watch a lot of videos but you'll never find as many fish online as you will in your boat.  That doesn't mean you'll always be catching, but even bad days can teach you if you pay attention.

3. What's the best PFD for kayak fishing?  

I have used the inflatable and it was very comfortable but I generally prefer my NRS Chinook.  Any fishing oriented kayaking vest will have a high back to stay out of the way of the seat, large arm holes to allow a range of motion for paddling and pockets and attach points for gear.  They all run around $80 - $130 and you can often find coupon codes to Austin Kayak to get them a little cheaper.  That being said, the best PFD is the one you have on you and will actually wear.  I know of at least two cases of drownings in the last few months and neither had their jacket on, the second one was reportedly reaching for it as he went over and trying to put it on.  Trying to put it on when you need it is too late.  No one would try to put their seat belt on right as a crash is happening because it's too late.  Unfortunately it can be the same way in many situations on the water, not enough time to make it right.

The best PFD is the one that can save your life, that's all of them, just make sure you wear it.

Anything else I should add?

Why do you fish?

I've found myself asking this question more than once over the last couple of years.  When I started fishing out of my kayak a couple of years ago I would have said it was a casual past time.  It quickly changed into something else and I'd say now it's more of a passion of mine than a casual hobby, but have I let that change how I look at fishing?  It can if I'm not careful.

Last year in August I competed in the Kayak Angler for A Cause month long tournament and came in 1st place competing against anglers from across the nation.  It was a great feeling to win but I had turned my passion into an obsession for that entire month and it taught me something,  fishing was just too important to me to let competition ruin it.  I had turned what was supposed to be my cool down, chill out time into work and I was going fishing when I didn't even want to, before that month I didn't even know that feeling was possible.  I think a lot of folks have been through that struggle and you have to decide what's best for you.  Some seem to be driven by competition and it encourages them to fish harder and fish longer, I found that fishing lost it's meaning under the pressure of competition.

So why do I fish?  Simply put, because it's fun.  If I ever come off the water and decide that wasn't fun, I need to take a break or maybe even find another hobby.  Something that helps keep things is perspective is to realize that I'm always learning.  Yes even when I don't catch a single fish I learned something.  It may have been I decided on the wrong bait to use at the wrong place at the wrong time, but if you keep an open mind you can still learn from that.

Take this past weekend for example, I decided to learn a new skill, jig fishing, and it humbled me.  I have a feeling that using a jig is something that I will be perfecting for years as is the case with most fishing techniques.  It was a slow day and I saw shad schooling that would have been perfect for a weightless fluke or swimbait but I stuck with a jig.  I slowly progressed down grass line after grass line pitching to pockets and holes.  I caught 3 fish, could I have caught more doing something different?  Probably, but that wasn't going to teach me anything new and that was the ultimate goal.  Pick a technique and learn it, learn when it's good, learn when it's bad.  That will help you be a better fisherman overall and will help you realize when to use what tool and for me it helps keep things interesting.

Smallmouth - the big fighters of the skinny waters.

Last year I got hung up fishing some grassy swamps for bucket mouths because it was fun and fairly easy.  The minimum requirements were 50 lb. braid, heavy rods, and frogs with massive sharp hooks.  My dedication to the swamp all changed this year when North Alabama Kayak Anglers hosted a moving water tournament for the month of July and I decided to see what I could find in some of the small creeks in my area.  It has ruined me!  I haven't left them and it's well into the Fall. Something about these little explosive balls of power we call smallmouth has me mesmerized and keeps me coming back for more.  I have yet to find any creek fish even close to the sizes of what I found on flat water earlier this year but the enjoyment is through the roof.  How and why?  To be honest I'm not sure I understand it myself, but I'm hooked.

For one thing it's super simple, the lure selection is usually very small compared to your average fishing trip, pick a smaller topwater popper, a small crank and beetle spin and you're ready to roll.  Often one rod is sufficient for the entire trip.  Light spinning rods with 8lb mono and a light drag maximize the fight and keep the wanna be flying fish from coming unbuttoned during the fight.

Want to find the bigger fish in the creek?  It will reduce your numbers by a bit but upsize your popper, throw a spinnerbait instead of the beetle spin, and try a slush daddy by H20 express from Academy.   With these lures you may find more control and accuracy with a baitcaster.

Another reason to chase these bronze beauties is for the savage fight, the largest smallmouth I've caught so far barely broke 17.5" but he cleared 2' of air multiple times trying to throw the lure.  When I got him close he somehow found the energy to strip out another dozen feet of drag and renew the fight.   I'm still hoping to break the 20" mark before the years out and if I do I hope my gear is up for the task.

When the bite is on it's some of the easiest fishing around, cast your popper to the center of the creek, make some commotion and watch the torpedoes rocket toward your lure.  Try to concentrate on the oxygenated water below the rapids and make extra long casts.  If the water is very clear and shallow you might see wakes running away from you instead of homing in on your lure.  For me the hardest part of the whole ordeal is not to pull it away from them.  I see the wake rolling up and I am like a mouse trap ready to spring, one swirl at my bait and I'm dodging treble hooks flying back at my face.  Sometimes they can be a little finicky and slap at the bait multiple times, if you just keep the same action going that called them in closer for a look they will eventually slam it and hook themselves, once you feel the weight of a loaded up rod feel free to secure the hooks deeper.

Next time you're looking for a good fight and some simple fishing find you a small creek that has some moving water, chances are there are some big fighters in there.


Let the Fish Tell You What They Want.

You ever see those guys who catch fish, well not just fish but huge fish in quantity all the time?  Do you wonder what they are doing that sets them apart?  They must be fishing some super secret water, or maybe they have access to some custom lures or super expensive electronics.  Well some of that can make a difference but more often than not they are fishing the same waters everyone else is, they are throwing the same baits and they have the same gear, so why are they constantly able to perform above and beyond average?  They are better listeners than most people.

Read a fishing blog or watch some fishing videos and you'll hear the phrase "let the fish tell you what they want", that sounds reasonable but seeing as how fish can't talk how do you let them tell you?  It's all in the details.  Let me try to explain what I mean by giving you an example of three fisherman; they are all on the same water, they even have the same lure tied on and they are all fishing the same exact conditions.  

We will identify each of these guys as being on a different levels from 1 to 3.

Level 1 : He throws a white double bladed spinnerbait, 3/8 oz, toward a point, as he reels it in he gets a bite and catches a 3lb bass.  That's all he observes so he decides to throw a 3/8 white spinnerbait the rest of the day and catches 5 fish from 2-3lbs.

Level 2 : He throws a white double bladed spinnerbait, 3/8 oz, toward a point, as the spinnerbait ticks over rocks he gets a hit immediately after it ticked the rock.  He decides to swap to a 1/2 oz to be able to get down and start slapping rocks deeper while maintaining speed and starts casting parallel to the rock structure instead of bisecting it on casts to the bank.  He picks several points similar to this one that are rocky eliminating useless water.  He catches 15 fish with several in the 2-4lb range and a couple over 5lbs.

Level 3 :  He throws a white double bladed spinnerbait, 3/8 oz, toward a point, as the spinnerbait ticks over rocks he gets hit immediately after it ticked the rock.  He decides to swap to a 1/2oz to be able to get down and start hitting rocks deeper while maintaining speed and starts casting parallel to the rock structure.  He notices that all of his bites are on the rock ledge right as it drops off from 15-20ft.  He also notices that some of the bigger fish he is catching are hooked in the edge of the lip so he tries a few different colors, after casting a chartreuse and white a few times he has a 4.5lber inhale the entire spinnerbait.  He alternates after he has fanned an area pretty good with a spinnerbait to an 8xd in sexy shad and picks up several more fish in the 3-5lb range.  For good measure he ties on a 3/4 oz jig and drags it over the rock shelf, he gets nothing at 3 spots but on the 4th spot he picks up an 8lb largemouth on the jig.  He has one of the best days he has ever had and catches around 40 fish with the best 5 going 34lbs.

All of the three above had the same opportunity and the gear to do exactly what LV3 did, but 1 and 2 didn't.  They were told something by the fish, they listened a little and didn't ask any more questions to the fish.  As you fish throughout the day you're constantly carrying on a conversation and the moment you quit listening is when you sell yourself short on what is possible on any given day.   A lot of times I have messed up a good day of fishing by telling the fish what they were going to bite instead of listening.  Here's the problem, the fish won't listen to you, they're stubborn!

Now I know I am not a level 3, some days I break out of my stubborn streak and can hit level 2 but more often than not I get 2 fish on one bait and my bait selection is done for the day.  I have been in the presence of a lv 3 and it's impressive how they can listen to what the fish are telling them and answer accordingly.  One guy I'm thinking about in particular is a crappie fisherman, he goes by the nickname Ditch Basser on one of the crappie forums and he can wear out some crappie.  I have seen him sit 20ft away with the same color lure and catch 10 to my 1.  What was different?  To be honest I don't know cause I wasn't listening that day, but he was.  Same water and the same conditions but totally different results.  So next time you're out on the water try to be a good listener and let the fish tell you what they want.

Kayak Review - Jackson Cuda 12 - the boat that is not the best at anything.

Don't let the title deceive you and you probably have an idea where I'm going, it's not the fastest or the most stable but it is a healthy does of both.   It does everything well.  When I sold my Ride 115 I had a hard time finding the perfect boat to replace it with because the Ride is a very good all around boat as well.  However one thing I realized while having the Ride was that the amount of stability required to stand was not important.  I don't stay put long enough to waste time getting up and down, it's too inefficient.  What I really wanted a boat that was stable enough that I felt comfortable in a nice high seat position but that I could also run and gun.  The Cuda 12 fits the bill just right.

Horizontal storage for rods not in use, no crate but plenty of tackle storage.  


- Love the onboard tackle storage.  A crate seems to be the standard tackle storage option on most boats but I have totally eliminated it on my Cuda 12 and can carry more than my crate ever could.   2 3700's fit nicely on either side of the tankwell, 2 3600's tuck in on the left side of my seat.  A spinnerbait binder and a tx rig binder both fit under the seat.  In the console I have 2 more 3600's and a small terminal tackle box as well as backup plastics in the front area of the console.   Show me a crate that can handle all of that tackle and I'll show you one that won't fit in the back of most boats.  It's all within easy reach, even for the 3700's I don't really have to turn around and if I get in a habit of putting my boxes in the same area I'm not having to search through what box is what. I go right to it.

-  It's a quick boat.  A tarpon 120 is still faster but you're not going to get away with the high seat in a tarpon either.  I have paddled against pretty fast current without issue and I find that it takes less effort to get it going.  That may be because of the lower weight.  At a recreational paddle it can maintain 3.0 mph in the high position.  At a pretty decent "gotta get there" stroke it's about 4.0 and if you are in race / panic mode it can do 4.5 or above.  Maybe someone in better shape could hit 5.0 but I never could.   When we fished a throwdown (check out NorthAlabamaKayakAnglers if interested) I was able to maintain 4.0 for 2 miles and didn't really feel any fatigue.  It has definitely opened up my eyes to what kind of range I can have in a quicker boat.

- It's maneuverable with a rudder.  Mine came packaged with a factory installed rudder and I have to say on open water or windy situations I miss it when it's not down.  There has been a few times I have forgot to remove the cable lock and have had to do without it.  The other day in a small creek with tight corners the rudder helped a great deal when I was able to take corners sharper than I would have imagined a 12.5 ft boat could have.

- Horizontal Rod Storage!  Yes that exclamation is there for a reason, this is one of my favorite options when I'm creek stalking.  Many of the little waters I frequent require you to put your head down and paddle through low hanging limbs.  Any rod holder pointed at any angle toward the sky is asking for broke tips or for rods to be removed from your vessel all together.  With the rod tip protector on the cuda and spots for 4 distinct rods including fly rods you can focus more on paddling than keeping your stuff from getting tangled.


- Stability, it's good enough but I would like a little more.  A few times I have had that sensation in my stomach that I've messed up and was going over.   Water entry even in knee high water can be a little sketchy.  In a way it's not fair to put this as a con because I haven't taken it out and flipped it yet.  Once I learn the breaking point I should be able to gauge what I can really get away with and from what I've read I should be able to stand in it.  I can tell you the first time I try will be unloaded for sure.

- Durability, again, another one that may not totally be fair because everything top side has been excellent.  I have just realized that if I don't store the boat properly it will form some indentions in the hull.  These usually come out with a little time on the water and have never been noticeable without rubbing a hand down the side.   Just comparing it to the ride 115 that didn't care where you laid it or how you stored it, it was built like a tank.

Could I recommend a Cuda 12 to a new angler?  Yes and No, lots of folks these days are set on standing and fishing from their kayak.  A lighter angler might be able to get away with it from day one but if I was a stand and fish angler I would have been really disappointed.  3 months in and I'm still not confident I'll be able to do so.  However, if you're looking for a fully featured boat that is fast and you don't care about standing.  Definitely.  I have to say after having a similar generation Jackson and Wildy that Jackson has Wildy beat on the features.  I liked my Ride 115 and would own another without hesitation, but the bells and whistles on the Cuda 12 are above and beyond.  Rod tip protectors, tackle storage, and a center console for storage of tackle or rods put it's on a whole other level.  It's a great boat that does nothing perfect, but everything really well.   On second thought the tackle storage is pretty perfect.

Do you ever get in a rut of catching fish?

Yeah that's a problem most people would like to have but hear me out.  Last year I had a handful of spots that all required similar presentations and I figured out how to be successful in those spots.  If you know me you know that presentation was throwing a frog.  Well around comes the winter when the frog bite died down and I didn't do as well.  Fish were still there to be caught but I had focused so much on a particular technique I had left others behind.  This was never more apparently clear than when I fished a tournament at Mud Creek this year and felt so out of place and confused on what to do and where to go.  How did this happen?  I felt like a competent angler last year, why am I so out of place now and not able to get on fish?  Because I got locked into a rut last year of catching fish in reliable, easy spots.

I hadn't become a better angler, I had become a honey hole fisherman.  I'm fairly certain that you take any seasoned angler to the spots I was fishing and they would wear it out.  So I decided this year to make a change.  I was not going to be a honey hole fisherman, instead I wanted to find new areas, new places that would challenge me to figure the fish out.  Have I caught as many fish as last year?  Nope.  Have I learned more and felt more competent finding and catching fish in new areas?  YES!  Have I been skunked a few times? Definitely, but I feel like in the long run I will be a better angler and more able to compete against other fisherman when not in my honey holes.  I have to admit that going to a new spot blind and figuring the fish out and being successful has been more rewarding than catching lots of big fish in a honey hole.

So what have I learned?

- I need to learn to throw soft plastics more, when the bite is hard natural presentations can make a huge difference.

- You can catch fish subsurface and it can be fun too. (lots better than none at all)

- A chatterbait is a wonderful lure that is a jig, spinnerbait and wakebait all in one.

- The hotspots that I found in the honey holes still hold true to big water, find the points, find the transitions, find the fish.

- Be willing to change presentations, many times I leave with a preconceived idea of what will catch fish and often those days that I end up getting skunked.  On the other hand the days I leave understanding I don't know what they will bite I'm more willing to adapt and be successful.

Do you have that special spot that is easy catching?  Enjoy it, fish it, and don't tell anyone!   However, I think to become a better angler you can't rely on it.  You have to break your routine to grow as a better angler, to become more versatile, and to be more successful.  Trust me, the new stuff you learn will only help you catch more fish even in the honey hole on those off days and you're not guaranteed that honey hole forever.   One of my favorite spots experienced a fish kill last year and it has not been the same since.  Hopefully I'll discover a few more spots that will be honey holes in the future by exploring new water and learning new things.  Maybe some of the spots I don't consider honey holes now really are and I just haven't unlocked their secrets.  One thing is for sure, I won't ever know if I don't break out of that rut, so to speak, of catching fish.

A secret worth keeping

Have you ever been out on a big lake and got into a school of bass?  It was awesome wasn't it?  You went home and shared pics and details with your friends about catching dozens of 2-3lb bass on a carolina rig out on the flats near the channel.  You were using a green pumpkin lizard with the tail dipped in chartreuse slowly dragging along under schooling fish until you felt that thump, which happened nearly every cast for 2 or 3 hours.

Now lets change the setting, you're on a local small stream or backwater slough that has a fairly fixed population of fish, you typically don't have those 20+ fish days but the quality of the fish is a little better.  You're more likely to catch a nice 20" smallie or a 22" largemouth but that's out of the 5 fish you will catch all day.  These places are special in that they are out of the way, little known, little fished treasures that you have researched, put in time to find the hot spots, and earned your success so to speak.  Do you now run home and share all the details?  I hope not.  I think we can all agree that on a larger body of water your supply of fish is almost unlimited.  If there were not limits and restrictions on fish size damage could be done but those limits and sizes were selected based on the capacity of the fishery to keep it healthy.  Those calculations don't apply to these rare backwater spots, they are a special closed type of eco system that will not get replenished as easily.

Are you familiar with the word viral?  It applies to many things these days on social media, we are connected now more than ever.   Before when someone acted silly on the local news it stayed local, these days it hits youtube and gets 3 Million views in hours.  Now lets apply that logic to one of these treasured spots.  There are many people that don't want to work hard to find special spots, they don't want to spend those hours coming up empty to find the sweet spots, to eliminate dead water to find the good water.  You post up a 6 or 7lb fish and give details of the location it will go viral via private messages and word of mouth.  That is a rare fish even to boaters on many of our local waterways.   That same fish that I take special care to keep out of the water as little as possible, that I take special care to support the right way to take care of her mouth so she can eat and grow bigger, will end up on other peoples walls or tables that care more about bragging rights than preserving a fishery.   I don't think many people understand how fast information travels and what seems like harmless comments on a public board can be an open invitation to 300 people who will not respect the fishery, will fish with live bait (nothing wrong with it, but sometimes it works too well for the wrong people), and will literally harvest a good spot.   Acronyms, pics of the launch, and even pics of fish with obvious backdrops will not go unnoticed.

Why do people get upset when some joker posts 45 fish out of a local stream laying on their driveway?  Because in some local streams that is a death sentence.  So lets keep in mind what we say, who we tell, and what kind of reach we really have when we share info.  I have learned my lesson the hard way and a spot I treasured has become a community hole, when I first started fishing there I had an old timer tell me one day, "It's not like it used to be, when I was your age we could come here and catch 7lbers all day long from the bank! Then after word got around people started taking stringers of big fish home and it hasn't been the same since."  I fear that is the fate of my honey hole and I won't let it be the fate of another.  The next time I find a treasure it will stay between me and the bass, is that because I'm selfish and want to keep it to myself?  No, realistically I will share it with a few key people that I know respect the fishery like I do.   If you don't get an invite... sorry, it's a secret worth keeping.

Your Sphere of Influence

No I'm not talking about the influence you have on the people around you, instead I'm talking about the affect you have on big bass in your vicinity.  I have read a few articles that have made me scratch my head about how quiet or stealthy you have to be to catch big fish.

One such article, if I could find it again I would post it, demonstrated how a 10 lb bass loved to hang on a cypress stump, it was tagged and they could follow it's movements on the lake.  An angler wanted to test a theory about trolling motors and the affect they have on fish so they floated via wind or current by this cypress stump and the beeper indicated that the fish was present.  They repositioned the boat upwind again and this time merely bumped the trolling motor on and off at an average distance that you would make a cast.  They were able to follow the beeps of the tracker away from the cypress stump and into the refuge of deeper water.   In that case the sphere of influence changed from maybe 4-8ft to over 50ft.

Here's another article (https://www.gon.com/article.php?id=2352) discussing catching huge bass at night on buzzbaits, this is nothing new but I think lots of people miss this key point.

 “You just want to use your wrist to snap a cast. I believe if you make a big, animated arm motion, you can spook a trophy bass,” he said.

I know you're thinking, well I've caught tons of fish under the boat with the trolling motor running and right while my kids were jumping around in the bottom of the boat.  Not saying it can't be done, just saying that sometimes fish, especially bigger fish, might be a little harder to catch if they know you're there at all.  I started researching this a bit after I had seen some evidence myself, especially at night, where fish would spook from 10-20ft away if I made a hard cast.  Why?  Because of the shockwaves, if you don't think your kayak is noisy mount a gopro to the hull and listen to the sounds it records when you are paddling slowly.  Now imagine what it sounds like when you bump a paddle or drop a rod into the floor, these are all clues to fish that something is amiss in there environment.

I've heard many people say big fish didn't get big by being dumb.  In other words for a fish to get big, it's a cautious fish and one that has likely learned the cues that help it avoid being caught.  Just something to think about the next time you wonder if conseal or seadek might be worth the price.

Now all that being said, there are days when you can throw everything out the window and catch huge bass while dropping a paddle and banging all over your boat, they just don't care.  These days are rare so enjoy them, just don't expect it to be the norm.

Kayak Review - Diablo Paddlesports Amigo

I recently had a chance to demo a Diablo Amigo from one of the local dealers of Diablo Paddlesports, (The Tackle Trap in Boaz Alabama).  I took the boat on open water, running water, and everything in between with wind, without wind, with current etc.  It is a great platform for standing and fishing if you're no wanting to drop a paycheck on a Jackson Big Rig you can have a similar platform for $999.  At 37" wide it is extremely stable yet manageable at 75lbs and it has a neat high low seating option with a larry chair and a standard kayak chair combo you can swap out positions on the water.  To be fair I only used the boat with the high chair since I knew that was the most comfortable position.

So for all the good things what was the chink in the armor?  Well it did have a very minimalist layout, which some consider to be a good thing but I like that most boats come with tracks already installed.  Even though the Diablo had impressions for your tracks to mount none were included with the boat.

It's a wide stable boat, does it paddle like a wide stable boat?  Yes.  I knew there would be some sacrifice on speed and glide for all the stability but it was more than I'm willing to give.  I know you don't fish at full paddle speed but wearing yourself out getting from point a-b can shorten your day and range.  I paddled against current alongside a Big Rig and a Nucanoe Frontier and both seemed to maintain about the same pace, so I would say it's not any slower than the other boats in it's class it's just slower than I'm willing to accept.

So who's it good for?  If you want a boat to fly fish out of it's phenomenal.  That's actually what the boat is geared for and what the designer had in mind.  Could that translate to flipping and pitching jigs?  Definitely!  Even at the end of my demo period I said if I was stuck with it for the rest of the year I would be fine.  I would be pulling up the rear more than not but I would be fine.  I think if you fish moving water most of the time this is a nice size boat that maneuvers really well, is extremely stable, and can track well enough under power to get where you're wanting to go.  I would hate for it to be my only boat forever since I fish more than moving water, it would be a good compliment boat to go along with a Cuda 14 or a Tarpon 120, something with a little speed when you want to hit open water where you might have to fight the wind on a long distance paddle.

Kayak Review -2014 Wilderness Ride 115X -(Actually more of a rant...)

I have had a love / hate relationship with the 115X, however I only loved my standard 115.  It all started with a super good sale at the closest Wildy dealer so I drove up and picked up a 115X for a steal.  I don't have the space for 2 115's and selling the old one made the new one a much sweeter deal.

To give perspective I have caught 100's of fish out of the 115 in the year I've had it and have never had a complaint.  It was a great boat with tremendous stability and I wrote a review about it previously here.  Ride 115 Review  The new boat is exactly the same hull design so it performs exactly the same, everything the 115 did the 115X also does, just as well.  So what's the problem?

Well it all started when I was fishing a few locations with gravel takeouts, for a year straight I have paddled at a decent speed and let the boat slide up so I could walk the front deck and step out on dry ground.  Much like I've seen everyone do on any kayak regardless of brand or design.  Ok I have seen one guy in a hand built wood boat exit a little gentler but other than that you run aground and step out dry.  So I had been doing similarly in the 115X for about a month when I was loading it on the jeep one day and noticed that it had some crazy wear.  On the 115's there is a skid plate toward the rear for dragging on rough surfaces that can be replaced when it wears out.  The X needs one in front of the transducer cut out that was introduced in the 115X.  I'm not sure how thick the plastic is but I could tell I had already turned a beveled surface very flat in short order.  This is concerning and while the design was great in theory, on the showroom floor and on sandy beaches in the real world most people launch and take out in less than silky smooth locations.  I can't even imagine what would happen to someone that runs a ton of rivers and scrapes rocks on a regular basis.  Once I noticed the wear I checked my old 115 thinking I had probably nearly wore a hole in it by now.  But since the load is spread out over a much larger space there is nothing substantial on the classic 115.  Again this was in 3 months which meant 15 trips max.  I have since talked to a couple of Widly guys and they assure me that this is thick enough to take the abuse and it will be fine but still something I would keep an eye on.

Have you heard that Wilderness came out with a new seat that lets you have high and low positions in one seat?  This is a new development since previously you had to switch out entire seats to go from low to high.  Well mine wasn't as sweet as the propaganda made it out to be and since then there has been a large group of people on the Wildy Ride owners FB page show similar disapproval.  The problem comes from the fit on boats made prior to 2015.  The literature says that the new AirPro Max seat is suitable for any Ride 115 but that is simply not the case.  After posting a few questions about it I was assured by their prostaff that the mold had not changed one bit from the 14 to 15 models, which mine was a 2014.  You know what?  They are right, the mold didn't change a drop, but if you take a close look at the seat rest you'll notice that it is not part of the mold.  It is welded in and has a line around it such that it can be tweaked without touching the mold.  Even the literature included with the seat suggested that pre-2015 models might be tight at first when inserting the seat so you know Wildy realized there were tolerance differences.  The problems on my seat specifically was not how tight it fit but the huge 1/4 gap below each of the lower support rails.  What this did was put 225 lbs of force on the floating lips instead of putting the weight evenly on the upper lip and the lower ledge.  Which the lower ledge should take the bulk of the force since it directly rests on the mold of the boat.  What really freaked me out is every time I sat down the sides of the boat would curl in until the rails were resting on the lower edge.  Even now one of the welded in rail supports I mentioned early is recessed about 1/16 and I believe it is a result of the Airpro Max seat.  Also every time I moved with the amount of slop in the seat it would rattle and shift.  I couldn't even think about wether it was comfortable or not since so much noise was made while paddling or casting.  The fish may not care but I like to be a ninja while on the water not making a sound and that was not possible with this seat.  I gave it to a friend with another 115 to test and he had the exact same issues, he was more ambitious than I was and bought it from me and performed mods to make it usable.

Update** - So apparently there is a reason for the problem and therefore a fix.  People were seeing this issue on new boats and used ones alike so it couldn't be the storage after purchase.  It so happens it's storage before purchase.  When Widly boats are shipped they are stacked 4 high.  Well that puts about 240lbs of force on the lowest boat and 160lbs on then next to lowest boat.  So what's the fix?  Good ole fashioned ratchet straps and hot water.    If you put your seat in the boat and ratchet with a couple of straps gently while pouring hot water or hot air on the hull to make it gently mold into place and leave it until it cools.  I imagine you could use sunlight as I've heard about people leaving their boats in the sun to remove dents.  Now you can permanently damage your boat and your seat if you add too much heat or too much tension with the straps, this would be a slow process that you might have to repeat, but it should take the play out of your seat and make it worth having for those of us that have had issues.  If you choose to do the above good luck and don't blame me if you destroy your boat or seat.

So I have overcome the first two issues by sticking with the old seat and being mindful about how I beach my boat and have been fairly happy.  The wound was reopened the other day.  Another nice feature of the 115X is the console that is Lowrance ready.  I had a transducer arm on my 115 that worked out pretty good but the self contained console was a neat idea since you had nothing hanging off the sides and it could be removed in seconds.  Well this past Saturday after a nice long trip in the backwaters I bring my console in to remove the battery and store the depth finder.  When I set the console on the counter water poured out of it.  That was odd I thought, had never happened before even though I had only used the console about 5 times when exploring new waters or deeper water.  I didn't really need it in the swamps so it stayed home until it got colder when the bass move deeper.  I start checking out the box to see where the water entered and best I can tell it's either through a seam in the box or the mount holes for the transducer.  Either way this is unacceptable and I will be seeking a warranty claim to see if anything can be done.  Both of the previous problems I've tried to blame on myself in the way I treated it or a new product without enough testing.  I can make both of those my problems even though I shouldn't have to, this one I can't.  Sure I can caulk up the seams but this isn't a $300 pelican.  This is a $1200 boat and every bit of it should be perfect for $1200.  Just my opinion anyway.

So much negative, is there anything better about the x?  Yes, the console is cool and it encourages me to use my depth finder more than I normally would since it's easy to load / unload and use.  The rear rails have been better than I would have imagined.  They allow me to mount lights, flags, or cameras with ease and put them where I need them quickly.

The seat issue does not seem to be there with 2015 models and if the place that wears really quick in front of the transducer is really thick you won't hear of issues with it either.  If it's not I can see some problems showing up before too long.  After inspecting the console it seems like it has some really incomplete junky welds.  Hopefully those have improved on the newer boats as well.  It is still one of the most stable boats for the price and is packed for features though I think I would shoot for a regular 115 and add some rails to the rear and maybe use scupper mount transducer and be just as happy.  More = better right?  Not so much in this case.

Bassin in the Backwaters 2014

It's been an unbelievable year and I can't wait to see what lies ahead.  Thanks for all those who have shared the blog, the Facebook page, or the YouTube vids.  I appreciate your support and I hope to give you something worth reading in the year to come.  There are lots of tournaments, new places, and bigger fish that I have on the list, we'll see what happens!

North Alabama Kayak Anglers - Check em out

So over the last year I was introduced to competitive fishing with kayaks and I was even lucky enough to win a tournament hosted by Kayak Anglers for a Cause in August.   If you've followed the kayak fishing scene over the last year you can see that it is growing exponentially and there are people all over trying to be a part of the expansion.  This is where North Alabama Kayak Anglers comes in, a few of us got together and said if we can offer tournaments that are fun they will be successful, if we can be transparent, people will trust us, if we can be fair, people will respect us, and if we do it right, it will grow.  I think we've got a pretty good start so far and I invite you to check it out.

There are two main types of tournaments being offered in 2015 that you can take advantage of here in North Alabama.  The first one is what we've dubbed #NAKAbigbass, it's an online month or longer tournament that allows people to compete at a cheap price with a flexible schedule.  For $5 you sign up through a Paypal payment to Northalabamakayakanglers@gmail.com and you receive an identifier to submit with all of your fish pictures, each contestant will also receive an individual number that will verify that payment was received and it should be clearly visible on the identifier.   A standard measuring board will be used such as a hawg trough or a Plano bump board and there are guidelines provided with each tournament on acceptable bait, type of fish, and measuring specifications.

The other tournament format is just like any other tournament in that we all meet at a central location and fish from safe light to a determined time.  The one exception is that we still CPR (Catch - Photo -Release) the fish so that we don't have to rig up some kind of live-well system and worry about stressing the fish.  After all kayaking is about simplicity and this is how we keep it simple.   There are currently 4 stops schedule for the 2015 year from Guntersville to Wheeler and depending on how it goes this year we may try and expand that going forward.

If nothing else check it out, we had a great turnout with the October #NAKAbigbass tournament with some real monsters being submitted on a regular basis.  Robert Brown started out the month with a 22.25 to set the bar high except it was quickly set higher by Chris McNeil with a 23.75.  You'd think that was big enough right?  Nope, Eric Atkins won the big fish pot with a once in a lifetime 24.75 beast.  Just goes to show you that you never know what can happen with the waters we have available.  There are surely some big fish in North Alabama.

All I could manage all month was a 21.75 that didn't even place in the top 3!
If you're interested in checking out the group of following the tournament trail next year check them out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/northalabamakayakanglers.  Also there is a really long #NAKAbigbass tournament going on right now if you'd like to sign up through the end of November.  It's stretched out to give anglers a chance to find fish during the cold of winter and to fish around these crazy weather patterns we have in Alabama.

Looking and Listening for Big Bass

When big bass are feeding they are like a kid in a toy store, they aren't sitting still and they aren't being quiet about it.  Many times early in the morning before sunrise I have found fish by not fishing.  Sounds a little counterintuitive right?  I read an article the other day where a guy was telling his tactics for catching 10lb bass, apparently he has caught over 1,000 10lb or better fish in his lifetime so he knows how to target big fish.  One tactic to help him target big fish is to sit and listen to tell which side of the lake to fish.  Sounds too easy right?  I have found this to be true by accident. Let me tell you about a few scenarios where being observant has paid off big time.

Most recently my big fish of the summer came while I was fishing a small hole in the grass before sunrise and I was being very quiet.  I caught a little 13" bass on a frog and suddenly I heard an explosion 75 ft to my left in a little bit bigger hole.  At first I thought I had spooked a beaver but usually beavers will have a characteristic slap right as the splash happens and this sounded more like a concrete block being dropped in the water.  I kept watching the hole trying to see the beaver wake as he left the hole but I couldn't see anything.  This peaked my curiosity so I eased over to the bigger hole as quietly as I could and cast out a black top toad with as little motion being translated to the boat as I could.  The big 3/4 ounce frog slapped down with a pop and I began the slow retrieve, shortly after starting the retrieve I heard the big explosion again except this time it was my frog that exploded.  I swung for the fences with my hookset and pretty soon I had 23" of bass sitting in my lap.  I caught a fish I wouldn't even have fished for if she didn't show herself to me while I was paying attention.

Another case of being observant was this past weekend. I already had a game plan to fish open areas in the grass where baitfish were schooling.  I was sitting on a grass line casting into the void when I heard a suction like when you drop and anchor in the water.  Not really a splash just the sound of suction and the sound of water filling the void and I saw a ripple in the middle of the grass mat over to my right.  I got lucky and cast my frog about 2 ft past the disturbance and directly in line with it.  I worked the popping frog slowly and quitely, not really utilizing the pop but just gently walked the dog across the grass till I got to the void the fish had created and let it rest.  5 seconds pass by and about the time I think maybe it was just a gar and I start to retrieve for another cast my frog disappears with a jolt on the line.  I set the hook and shortly thereafter 21.5 inches of bass is in my lap.

This past Monday I was out before first light and nothing was producing in my normal spots but I kept hearing activity in a area I never fish.  I paddled over toward the area and as soon as I hit a clearing I started working a buzzbait in the open water.  One fish hit the bait pretty quick and I had 15" of bass, another hit 2 casts later at about 14".  I kept scanning the area and before I left the area I tried a couple of holes, next thing I know I have 21" of bass on the buzzbait and the hardest fighting bass I've ever caught.  This guy pulled my boat around like no other fish so far and was wild as could be, he rammed the boat, almost jumped in on his on, and finally I pulled him in with the line since I couldn't get a hand on him to lip him.  3 fish in 15 minutes in an area I would have passed up except for their noisy feeding.

I could add countless more examples of seeing wakes and hearing pops and fishing activity.  The common denominator between all of it is being observant with your eyes and ears.  I admit most days I fish dead still water and catch fish exploding on top water baits that never let you know they were there, but if fish are being noisy chances are they are eating and are a little easier to catch.

Bassin in the Swamp

Out of all the videos I have this one is a class on hesitating to set the hook.  Since the pads were thick I knew I had to wait to feel them because they were completely missing the frog about 50% of the time.  In turn this made it such that I hardly had a short strike.

5 Baits Rigged 5 Ways In 5 Colors

I like to test lures, if I know bass are present and biting I will actually change up what I'm using to see if they bite better or if they ignore the bait totally.  This has taught me that there are days when it really doesn't matter what you throw and there are others where if you don't have the magic ingredient you're not getting bit.  In my testing I've found 5 plastics that seem to be more productive than not and a few colors that seem to be more effective than others.

Top 5 baits

1. Grub -  Zoom Fat Albert Grubs
2. Creature - Zoom Baby Brush Hogs
3. Beaver - Big Bite Baits Yo Mamma
4. Worm - Zoom Trick Worm / Big Bite Baits Coontail
5. Soft Jerk Bait - Zoom Super Fluke

Top 5 colors

1. Watermelon with Red Flake
2. Green Pumpkin
3. Green Pumpkin / Blue Swirl
4. Black
5. White

Top 5 ways to Rig

1. Shakey Head
2. Texas Rig
3. Weightless Tx Rig
4. Carolina Rig
5. Drop Shot

Nope, I'm not sponsored by Zoom, they just make good stuff. However, I don't like their beaver option, the Zoom Z-hog has never impressed me much.

In any of the rigs mentioned I like the least amount of weight possible to accomplish what I'm trying to do.  If I'm fishing the Flint River it's the least amount of weight to make the Shaky head slow down in the current and catch on rocks.  If I'm in the swamp it's the least amount of weight that will let the lure break through the canopy.  Sometimes that's 3/8 ounce and sometimes thats 3/4 ounce.  Rarely do I need to go above 3/4 if I hit key areas and have a little patience.


1. Zoom Fat Albert Grubs - I caught more bass last year fishing the Tennessee River on a simple grub than all of my other plastics combined and rarely do you tie one on without finding a few bass that will eat it.  It has so many applications in that you can swim it, jig it, or even use it as a spinnerbait trailer.  My two favorite methods as mentioned earlier are jigging it on a jig head or swimming it on a light Tx Rig.  I usually stick to two colors for this bait, green pumpkin and white.  The green pumpkin imitates minnows or crawfish and the white looks like a shad.


2. Zoom Baby Brush Hog - This is a bait that has been mentioned in everyone's top 5 for years, I'm not sure what it imitates except for everything.  It looks like a lizard, crawfish and even a minnow all at once.  Since it is a little bit longer bait I haven't used it much on the jig but I might try it this year.  Most of my success has come on a light Tx Rig dropping it through the cracks in the lily pads or tossing it against undercut banks in creeks.  I've stuck with my go to color of watermelon with red flake and haven't found a need to experiment yet.  That color seems to catch them no matter what.


3. Beavers - This is where I go a little crazy with my options.  I have had really good success on flowing water, swamps, and everything in between with beavers and it led me to experiment with many different brands and so far they all catch fish.  The Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver is a favorite in Green Pumpkin as well as the Yo Mamma from Big Bite Baits in Watermelon Red Flake.  When I want the beaver to also be able to imitate a frog I switch over to the Ugly Otter by Gambler in Watermelon Red Flake.  If I want to imitate a bream foraging through spawning grounds I use the Missile Baits D-Bomb in Green Pumpkin.  I don't really think you need more than one beaver in your box and if I could only recommend one it would be the Big Bite Baits Yo Momma because of it's price, availability, and that it catches fish.   I like to rig it on a shaky head or a weightless Tx Rig and it will float unbelievably slow and even swim with a 1/16 ounce bullet.   Favorite colors are definitely Green Pumpkin and Watermelon Red Flake.


4. Worms - Specifically Zoom trick worms and Big Bite Baits Coontail.  I used to use finesse worms by Zoom but I never saw a difference in the bite between the slightly larger trick worms so to reduce my options I just use them. I figure it they ever want something smaller I can just cut it down to size. The coontail offers a beefier profile and sometimes they will hit it over the thinner profile of the trick worm.  This is one bait you can rig every way there is, drop shot, Tx Rig, Carolina Rig, but my favorite if possible is still the Shakey head.   If I'm in an area that I believe a Shakey head will hang up I swap over to a light or weightless Tx Rig.  Favorite colors in these baits are a little wider than some of the others.  I actually like to use black, white, and watermelon in the trick worm.  I use these baits in so many variations that I find sometimes a little contrast is better than a natural look.  Especially if I'm fishing thick grass.  With the coontail I keep it fairly simple, watermelon magic and green pumpkin/blue swirl.  One day in the Flint I literally would change colors every time one got a little tore up and caught fish on every color I had but these two are my go to.


5. Fluke - Specifically the Zoom Super Fluke, this bait is another one that can be fished so many different ways but I like to keep it simple - Weightless Tx Rig.  I believe this is one of the most effective ways to fish the bait since it lets it dart and move just like a dying shad.  Since a dying shad is what I'm trying to imitate I keep the color simple as well - White.   If you're careful you can actually rig the bait so you can walk the dog sub surface and retrieve it without line twist.  Though if the bite is on and you're in a hurry you hardly take the time to keep it straight.  This is where a swivel becomes a must because it will cause you some major issues if you don't, especially on a spinning rod.  I was throwing a fluke one day and I noticed my line kept wrapping around the tip more than usual but braid will do that sometimes so I dismissed it.  Before I knew it this huge wind knot had formed from the line trying to untwist and that rod was pretty much out for the day.

H20 Ethos Rods - Academy Sports House Brand

I'm tough on rods and reels.  I break rods pulling them through over hanging trees or by not leaving enough line out so I have to double the rod over to reach the fish.  Both of those scenarios will break anything but a fiberglass buggy whip and those aren't great for fishing.

So I've been able to try lots of rods and I've discovered some that are easy on my budget but still offer excellent performance and even stand up to some of my abuse.  The H20 Ethos rods at Academy sports.  There are few different variations but I have settled on the Blue Ethos rods that retail for $60 and go on sale fairly often for $40.  

These rods are lightweight and sensitive.  I've tried the md-hvy, hvy, and xtra hvy.  I really liked the md hvy for spinnerbaits since it would load up on big bass but not jerk it away from them.  And I've had great success with the hvy and xtra hvy for jigs and frogs.  Frogging is hard on any rod with 50lb braid and full length hooksets but these rods have held up wonderfully.

Next time you're in an Academy pick one up and see what you think.  If you get one and don't like it therein lies another perk.  Academy stands behind their store products 100% with or without a receipt.  Take it back broke or not and they will replace it with another product of comparable value.  Hard to beat that kind of service.

Don't just take my word for it, check out tons of reviews at Bassresource.com and other fishing sites on the web.  You'll see that lots of people decided to try them and now own several.

As you can see the Ethos rods stand up to winching big mouths out of grass.

How to sell your kayak

I've bought and sold a few boats over the last few years and some were new and some were used.  One thing I always knew going in that if I didn't get a great deal on the front end that getting 75% of my money back was going to be hard.  Lots of people don't understand that and are confused why they can't sell their boat for 95% of new retail.

Some ads seem to imply...  "I put a new paddle holder and I'll even throw in a paddle leash so I'm going to mark it up $200." or  "I bought it at full price and paid $200 shipping to my house so I need all that back.  You see  it's only been wet 3 times since I didn't demo it and didn't like it cause I'm 150lbs over the rated weight limit of the boat."

Too bad, those were customizations you put on the boat and I'm only interested in the boat. I can't help that you attached your Lowrance elite 7x HDI to the boat with JB weld and it has to go with it in the sale.  Not my problem.  You're making an assumption that I'm even interested in a fish finder much less your fish finder.  As far as I'm concerned the accessories added to a boat = $0 for a sale unless I happen to have the exact same vision as you and see value in it.  That's a rare occasion for two people to have the same thoughts on value and how to customize their boat.

If you weren't aware Dicks Sporting goods puts their boats on sale 2 or 3 times a year for $200 - $300 dollars off.  Also places like Hook1 and Austin Kayak often clearance boats out at huge discounts to get ready for new stock towards the end of the season.  At the Christmas in July sale at Hook1 they were letting Wildy boats go for 25% off and if you were lucky enough to get some discounted gift cards you could even deepen the discount close to 50%.

If you want to sell your kayak, price it appropriately knowing that retailers often have decent discounts on new boats and you're most likely going to need to beat that.  Also consider that all of your rod holders, paddle keepers, and fancy stickers don't amount to much when selling the boat.  Those are all your mods and you might as well chalk those up to increasing your enjoyment of the boat when it was yours.
As a basic rule I price my boat close to 75% of retail knowing that I might have to drop a little off the price down to 70% or even 65%.  Also don't be in a hurry to sell your boat.  Lots of people will shoot you low ball offers pretty quick hoping to get a great deal off of a good deal.  Don't let them sucker you into thinking you'll miss out on being able to sell the boat since there is always someone looking to pickup a good starter kayak.  This is from experience because I can't tell you how many times I've sold stuff on craigslist at 10% below my asking price just to have multiple people offer me full price in the following days.

Consider the season when selling your kayak as well.  If you start listing the boat around November it's probably going to sit a while.  Only a few crazies like me consider Nov-Feb to be kayak weather and without it being on most peoples mind they won't be looking for a boat.  Come March - June and everyone is thinking about getting out on the water and enjoying the warm days.

Either way good luck, only take cash, meet in public places and be willing to let offers go.  If everything falls through then you still own a kayak and that's never a bad thing.