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A thread on BCKFC spurred this post on, but one of the most important decisions when first starting out kayak fishing, that a lot of people overlook, is choosing the right sized paddle. I know when I bought my first kayak I used whatever paddle came with it. I really didn’t know much about paddling or that there were even different sizes of kayak paddles. I was just happy to have a paddle and a kayak because now I could go catch redfish in my own boat. Like a lot of folks that begin kayak fishing I was a fisherman first and a paddler second and I still am, but I at least know a lot more about paddling now. At the time I didn’t know how important it would be to become a good paddler in order to become a better fisherman. Paddling is a whole different topic for another day, but needless to say your paddle is the most important tool you have while kayak fishing so spend a little time learning about paddles to know what might be right for you. You want a paddle that fits you and your paddling style.

Luckily Aqua Bound has a website that will really help shorten that learning curve. Their Kayak Paddle Sizing Guide takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process and lays out a good foundation for the beginning paddler. The guide is an excellent starting point for finding the paddle that is perfect for you.

They use a 5 step process to help determine what paddle is right for you. Step 1 of the process involves determining the dimensions of your kayak. Most fishing kayaks these days are pretty wide, especially those that we can stand in. That will play into the size of your paddle – typically the wider the boat, the longer the paddle.

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Step 2 takes a look at you and your fitness level:

  • More athletic paddlers generally want a shorter paddle with a wider blade for the extra horsepower that it provides.
  • Heavier or taller paddlers generally prefer a longer paddle with a wide blade to move their weight efficiently.
  • Smaller paddlers, those who are not into speed or those with wrist or shoulder issues typically choose blades with less surface area; those that want more power and desire a bigger bite on the water go for larger blades.

Torso-Size-Sizing-Chart

On Step 3 you want to determine the type of paddling you plan to do and the length of your outing. Most of my paddling in Louisiana is typically flat water and can involve covering some distance. I’ve done 10-12 mile round trips that often require an entire day to do, the last thing I want is to be fatigued by the weight of a paddle when I need that energy to cover ground and fight fish.

Lakes and rivers

      • If you’ll be paddling on lakes and slow-moving rivers, and spending a fair amount of time in your boat, a touring kayak paddle would be a good choice. Touring paddles are the mainstay in kayak paddles and are good for day tripping, river-running, exploring and camping.
      • On the other hand, if you don’t think you’ll spend a lot of time on the water, you might think about a recreational kayak paddle. This class of paddles is ideal for short trips, fishing, exercise, and shore exploration.
      • When paddling in shallow water, a plastic blade will provide you more durability as the blades hits gravel, sand and rocks. Many paddlers feel in these shallow conditions that a wider blade provides more bite even with half of the blade out of the water.
      • If, on the other hand, most of your paddling is in deep water, your blade shape and material are really a matter of the kind of stroke you prefer. See the following notes on your style of paddling (Step 5).
      • A kayak paddle with an ovalized shaft (vs. a perfectly round shaft) will allow you to orient the blades without looking and will be easier to hold and less fatiguing.

Extended trips on flat or moving water, including sea touring:

      • Again, if you’ll be spending a lot of time on the water, look at Touring Kayak Paddles or Performance Kayak Paddles. Generally, as you move up the line in these types of paddles, the paddles will get lighter.
      • For long trips or for paddlers who suffer from sore shoulders, some experts recommend you choose a light weight paddle with fiberglass or carbon composite blades.
      • For those who find themselves often pushing off rocks, gravel and sandy bottoms, select a paddle with injection-molded blades made of nylon or polypropylene and typically reinforced with glass or carbon fibers. These paddles provide the perfect blend of weight and durability. P.S. A kayak paddle is not a push pole. It will like you more if you get out rather than bouncing on the tip of your paddle to get off the rock you’re stuck on.
      • True enthusiasts typically choose a paddle with a stiff, efficient and responsive carbon shaft. This dramatically reduces weight, allowing for longer paddling with less fatigue.

Step 4 breaks down the types of paddles Aqua Bound offers. I have been very pleased with their products and would recommend them to anyone looking at getting a new paddle. For kayak fishing you can’t go wrong with anything in their Ray series(Manta Ray, Sting Ray, Eagle Ray), which one will depend on your paddling style.

Performance Kayak Paddles

      High-tech paddles for the kayaking enthusiast who wants the latest paddling innovations.

      • Paddles are super lightweight to reduce their swing weight and lessen fatigue.
      • Blades are stiffer to deliver more power with each stroke.
      • Shafts are all-carbon.
      • Ferrules provide more feathering options.
      • Ergonomic designs and light weight materials reduce joint strain.
      • Different blade shapes deliver a different type of experience.

Touring Kayak Paddles

      Durable paddles that are still comfortable after a full day on the water.

      • Special nylon resins and blade designs make them extremely light.
      • Blades are often reinforced with fiberglass or carbon, enhancing paddle’s durability.
      • Shafts are available in a range of options from fiberglass to carbon.
      • Ferrules provide more feathering options.
      • Different blade shapes deliver a different type of experience.

Recreational Kayak Paddles

      For short trips with your family or friends, fishing or shore exploring, these paddles are a great choice.

      • The lower-end of this paddle category is the heaviest and least expensive kayak paddle.
      • Blades are typically injection-molded plastic resin and shafts are generally aluminum or fiberglass.
      • Ferrule is straight-forward without many frills.
      • Durable and economically priced.

Finally in Step 5 determine what type of paddler you are. Kayak fishermen tend to be more high-angle paddlers using more aggressive strokes to get from one spot to another. My first Aqua Bound paddle was a Sting Ray Hybrid and I loved it. I now own a Surge Carbon and love it as well, though I am not as rough on it as I was with the Hybrid. Blake has a Manta Ray Hybrid that seems to suit him perfectly.

High-angle paddlers

High-angle paddlers keep the shaft more vertical during their stroke (perpendicular to the water). These paddlers typically use a shorter, wider blade and a paddle with a shorter shaft. This more upright paddling style permits a more powerful, athletic stroke. Paddlers who prefer to use a fast cadence (whitewater, racers, touring with fast cadence) usually prefer this shorter shaft, wider blade paddle, too.

Low-angle paddlers

Low-angle paddlers keep the paddle relatively horizontal (parallel to the water). Paddlers who use this more relaxed, cruising stroke often find that a paddle with a longer, thinner blade is most energy efficient. In fact, this is the most common paddling style in North America.

Just like with kayaks, there is no sure thing and picking one is a personal preference. The more you try out the better you’ll feel when you commit to making a purchase. Most retailers will have different paddles on hand when they hold their demo days, so try out as many as you can to find your style and size. If you can’t do that at least you’ll have this guide so you won’t be throwing darts in the dark.

Bull red season is in full swing in Louisiana and the fly of the month for November should help you get one to eat, provided you make an accurate cast of course. It is Blake’s take on a Tim Borski classic, the Chernobyl crab, that he calls the Fukushima crab.

Materials:

  • Your favorite hook – I used a mustad 34011, size 2

  • Dumbbell eyes – pick a size suitable for your hook and the depth you wish to fish

  • Marabou

  • Deer hair for spinning

  • Hackle

  • Schlappen

  • Rubber legs

Step 1. Start thread, tie in dumbbell eyes and bring thread to the start of the bend.

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Step 2. Tie in a small amount of marabou about as long as the hook shank. Wetting it slightly makes it easier to handle.

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Step 3. Tie in a few strands of natural deer body hair on the underside of the hook. This should be the length of the entire hook.

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Step 4. Tie in a few pieces of flash on either side of the hook shank. Later trim this so that it is a little bit longer than the rest of the materials.

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Step 5. Tie in a hackle feather on either side of the shank. I like for them to splay out, but I’m sure they would be fine tied in the other way also.

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Step 6. Tie in a schlappen feather.

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Step 7. Cut, clean, and stack(even the tips) a small amount of deer hair, maybe ¾ of a pencil. We aren’t packing a popper here, so you don’t need a giant amount of material. Measure the tips to make a collar at the back of the fly and spin the deer hair around the shank.

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Step 8. Tie in a set of rubber legs with figure 8 wraps. I like to add a little super glue for durability..

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Step 9. Move thread forward of the legs and spin another clump of deer hair. No need to stack this one. I cut the tips off of it since I don’t need to form a collar which leaves less material to get in the way.

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Step 10. Tie in another set of legs.

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Step 11. Spin another clump of deer hair.

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Step 12. Tie in the last pair of legs right behind the dumbbell eyes.

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Step 13. Whip finish the thread and trim the body of the crab making sure not to cut the rubber legs, the schlappen feather, or the collar. I ended up trimming the collar on the bottom of the fly and leaving it on the top of the fly.

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Step 14. Start the thread again and bring it behind the dumbbells. Palmer the schlappen up the shank and tie it in behind the eyes.

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Step 15. Dub the head with a little dubbing of your choice and whip finish the thread between the dumbbell and the eye. I like to trim the hackle on the top and bottom.

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Finished fly.

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The Borski Chernobyl crab worked a few weeks ago for Blake and Barret, so I would imagine the Fukushima would  have worked just as well.

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Enjoy.

After a month of waiting, Fall N Tide VIII finally took place this past Saturday down in Venice, Louisiana. My wife never ceases to amaze me and this time it was by graciously allowing me to make the trip down so that I could try and defend my slam title from last year. I’m not sure of many other women whom would have felt the same way with a two week old in the house. That’s why she’s the best!

I made the drive down Friday afternoon, which didn’t leave me any time to fish that day, but it did give me time to enjoy rush hour traffic through New Orleans! At least I had plenty of time to make the captain’s meeting and bounce a few strategies off my kayak fishing cohorts.

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After all was said and done I decided to see if I could make lightning strike twice and cover the same area I did last year, hoping the fish would be in a similar pattern. It was a safe spot to try with the forecast high winds, but I was a little unsure with the tournament being postponed a full month. Cold fronts have begun to move through South Louisiana and water temps have dropped quite a bit. It is an area however that I’m most familiar with in Plaquemines Parish, so with familiarity comes comfort and that strategy paid off last year so what the heck.

As it turned out the weathermen were wrong and things ended up being much nicer than the forecast (that never happens). I stayed with my strategy and went to work much like last year, looking for flounder and trout. As the morning progressed it was becoming evident that neither the trout or the flounder were there, so it was time to move on.

I paddled out and hit spot after spot after spot looking for trout and not finding a single one. It was downright pathetic. By lunch time I don’t think I even had a fish to the boat and had only missed one strike. I decided to head to an area that might be better for redfish and fish it back to the launch.

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Of course as I decide to finally dedicate time to redfish the winds decide to pick up and make sightfishing difficult. Shortly after lunch I caught my first red in a little marsh cut, 22″. Keep prying that area for flounder as it was a series of cuts and drains, habitat that flounder typically frequent, but caught nothing. I moved on to a flat I know I’d have luck on, but I also knew it rarely held upper slot reds – the kind you need for a tournament, but at this point I just wanted to salvage the day and catch some fish.

As soon as I got there I was into fish – go figure. I probably could have spent all day here picking up reds until I had a leopard or one of those coveted 26.99″ fish, but I didn’t leave myself enough time. I finished out my limit and headed back to the launch. The best redfish I had went 24.5″ and had 5 spots.

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Fishing was tough for me early on and for awhile there it was smelling skunky, but I was glad the redfish were there in the afternoon to bail me out. I went to the weigh in knowing that I probably didn’t have a shot, but you never know, so you always weigh your fish. Sure enough my red came up short in both categories and it wasn’t even close. The redfish category had some of the heaviest slot reds I’ve ever seen weighed in.  The winner, Jason Austin, brought in a slot red that went 8.73lbs! The rest of the results are below:

Cajun Slam

1. Rick Dembrun – 11.38 lbs

2. Brendan Bayard – 11.06 lbs

3. Tommy Eubanks – 11.05 lbs

4. David Torregrossa – 9.92 lbs

5. Donnie Elliot – 9.7 lbs

6. Mark Delatte – 9.37 lbs

7. Sherman Walker – 9.24 lbs

Redfish

1. Jason Austin – 8.73 lbs
2. Joseph Chevalier – 8.12 lbs
3. Sean Rasanis – 7.92 lbs
4. Adam Rockweiler – 7.89 lbs
5. Brian Sherman – 7.83 lbs

Trout

1. Smokey Cook – 3.32 lbs
2. Devon Beltz – 3.18 lbs
3. Joe Cantino – 2.87 lbs
4. Eric Muhoberac – 2.65 lbs
5. Chris Holmes – 2.43 lbs

Flounder

1. Toby Armond – 3.6 lbs
2. Steve Neece – 2.79 lbs
3. Gary Williamson – 1.64 lbs
4. Danny Ziegler – 1.21 lbs
5. Todd Lewis – 1.14 lbs

Leopard Red

1. Clayton Shilling – 11 spots
2. Eric Stacey – 10 spots
3. Jonathan Craft – 10 spots
4. Kenneth Owings – 10 spots
5. Nathan Grammes – 10 spots

Ladies Slam

Barbara Johnston – Red 6.76 lbs, Trout 1.11 lbs

Kids

Rory Craft – Trout 0.73 lbs

A big congrats to all the winners and a big thanks to all those that helped make the tournament possible. It takes a lot of volunteer work on the part of BCKFC officers and members to make events like this happen and often times it’s a thank-less job. It’s cool to see a lot of names on the leaderboard that I don’t recognize. The sport continues to grow and as it does it brings in a lot of great fishermen which will make each tournament down the road that much more competitive. These things should be a lot of fun for years to come.

One last thing I have to point out is that Rick also paddles a Cuda 12, so for two years in a row the slam division at Fall N Tide was taken by someone piloting a Jackson Kayak!