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Tomorrow is the annual Beer & Gear event over at Pack & Paddle.  This is always a great event to see the latest in outdoor recreation gear.  The craft beer from across the US is a plus too.  It brings two of my favorite things together so I’m hoping I can slip away and head across the Atchafalaya Spillway.  It’s from 5-8pm so if you’re anywhere near Lafayette tomorrow evening, be sure to head over because you don’t want to miss it.  I hear the big raffle this year is Steve Lessard’s kayak from the 2016 Hobie Fishing Worlds event!

With Beer & Gear tomorrow, that also means it is the start of demo season.  On Saturday Pack & Paddle will be doing a kayak demo from 10am – 2pm over at Vermilionville.  Acadiana residents – head over there if you’re interested in trying out the latest kayaks.  Also on Saturday, if you’re around New Orleans, Massey’s will be holding their first demo day of the year at Bayou St. John, which will be from 10am – 3pm.  The location is across from Cabrini High School, 1405 Moss St.

It’s that time of year, there’s no excuse if you’re in the market for a new kayak or have been wanting to try out the new models not to head out to a demo.  They are free and are the best way to try out as many different makes and models as possible to see what will fit you best.  Whenever someone asks for some good advice in picking a new kayak, the best thing anyone can tell them is “demo, demo, demo”.  I’ve found it really important to try as many different boats as you can before making a purchase because sometimes which one is your favorite will surprise you.

The next two days were spent fishing and filming in Grand Isle.  Along with Brooks and Jameson from JK Media House I also had the pleasure of getting back on the water with Josh Tidwell, who runs a kayak outfitter near Gadsden called Big Wills Outfitters.  Josh is a good dude, I’ve known him for a long time; well since that one year I lived in Alabama post-college.  He’s the man to see if you want a Jackson Kayak in Northeast Alabama.  After seeing bull reds caught the last two days, my hopes were high that we’d be able to net a few more, only this time on camera.

We were fishing out of the new Cuda HDs, which is the reason Brooks and Jameson were down in Louisiana, to get some good footage of the new boats.  We started the day off throwing topwater at points and around rock piles getting blow ups from small trout.  Hook ups were infrequent though and we moved on toward the marsh.  I knew these guys came down to catch redfish, not load up on small trout, but it’s hard to pass up likely trout spots, you never where that 24″+ gator trout is laid up.  After coming around a big point and through a big bay I got to a bayou that runs through some marsh and saw a familiar site of shrimp popping along the grass where a red was attacking bait.  After a decent cast it was fish on!

 

It was a nice mid-slot red, Jameson was there to film a little of it, I was happy to get on the board and even more excited that they were feeding.  I started making my way further up the bayou and then Jameson gets a call that Brooks has a fish on and it’s a big one – right off that big point I just passed.  I worked the area before moving through, but just like James the day before, I passed the area a little too early and missed a shot at a big fish.  Got to be in the right place at the right time.

img_0302(Jameson Redding – JK Media House)

It was awesome to hear that a bull red was caught and Jameson was able to paddle back and take some pics. While they were busy over there, I had stumbled into a pile of little trout in the bayou and was picking through the throwbacks.  Mixed in were a few rat reds as well.  It was a nice little flurry of activity, but eventually the action tapered off.  Soon the rest of the gang caught back up to me and we fished the interior marsh off that bayou until it was getting late.   We headed back as the sun was setting, stopping to fish those trout spots, ya know, just in case.

img_0303(Brooks Beatty – JK Media House)

After a late night, with some uncoordinated Onewheel action, we bid farewell the next day to Josh and the rest of the Alabama crew, but welcomed Bart Swab from St. Augustine, Florida.  Bart operates a kayak charter business over there called Action Kayak Adventures, they do fishing trips and eco-tours.  Bart was pretty stoked to be down in redfish country and was looking forward to catching a few on the fly.  This would be the best weather day of the trip so I thought he’d have a great opportunity of doing just that.  I was able to stick around for the morning and fish, but I’d be leaving early in the day to head back to Baton Rouge.  This was my last opportunity at bull red glory.

We headed back to the same spot and the weather today let us fish a new pond that was getting hammered by wind the day before.  As soon as we hit that pond I saw a big, bright, orange pumpkin float to the surface, but after reaching for a rod he submarined and I was left fan casting the area just hoping he’d see my bait.  I came up empty there, but it didn’t take long for Bart to find a little school of reds and as he hooked up he hollered over to me to come catch another one and this time my cast was true and we were doubled up!

 

img_0299(Brooks Beatty – JK Media House)

It was very cool to get that double, which was the start to a pretty good week for Bart, as he’d move with the guys the next day from Grand Isle to Point-aux-Chenes where the weather and fish continued to cooperate from what I understand.  I pushed on sight fishing the big pond and eventually did see another good bull red.  This time I was able to make a good cast, then another good cast, and finally a third good cast, the fish just didn’t eat.  I couldn’t believe that I finally had a great opportunity to catch a bull and the damn fish didn’t want to eat!  Jameson on the other hand had hung around that area I saw that first bull red and saw the fish again, this time he was able to get it to eat and for the fifth time in four days someone I was fishing with had landed a bull red.

img_0304(Brooks Beatty – JK Media House)

bulls

Five bull reds, four different fishing partners – I was turning into quite the guide.  It was getting to be that time when I was needing to head out, so I bid everyone adieu and before I hit the big open water, I made one last stop to a flat to see if anyone was home.  Lucky for me a few fish were home and a junior bull was my consolation prize.  Of course it came when the professional cameras weren’t around, but I was happy to at least catch one over-slot fish in Grand Isle.

The Cuda HD is another winner from Jackson Kayak.  The hull is fantastic, it’s a very stable boat that tracks well and is fairly quick.  It’s not Kraken fast, but that’s not what the Cuda HD is designed to do.  This is an inshore boat and it’s going to be a great one.  The redesigned front hatch is very nice and simple to use and there is no shortage of built-in rod storage options.  It’s a tad on the heavy side for a 13′ boat at 85 lbs, so cartopping just means you’ll have to lift one end at a time.

The past four days were a blast!  Fishing was very productive for the Alabama crew and it was just starting to heat up for the Jackson guys.  I had a great time fishing with so many different people, but maybe had more fun just hanging out with everyone at night, just shooting the shit under the camp.  It’s trips and tournaments like this that make kayak fishing so special.

 

I picked up a new boat from Massey’s the other day – the Jackson Kraken 13.5.  This is a brand new boat for 2016, a shorter version of their original Kraken, a boat designed with help from Jim Sammons that has been really popular with offshore kayak anglers since it’s debut.

I don’t intend to use it much offshore, but I liked the design and think it will be a great fit for inshore fishing down here in Louisiana.  Jackson really didn’t have a dedicated kayak fishing boat in the 13 foot range that wasn’t a tandem, so this one piqued my interest when I heard about it’s release.

I’m hoping a boat in this size will hit a sweet spot for me between speed, stability, and weight.  I picked up the Elite version which comes with it’s own color coordinating K-Krate.  Not sure if it will take the place of the tried-and-true milk crate, but we shall see.

I got a chance to take it out this past weekend in less-than-spectacular conditions.  I caught some trout, the boat performed well.  I’ll hold off on a full review, but suffice it to say I am pretty excited about the new ride.

For more info on the new Kraken 13.5, check out these articles:

Had a chance to get out and fish on Monday thanks to the Labor Day holiday.  The weather ended up being very nice; light winds in the morning, picking up throughout the day, partly cloudy skies.  It was hot, but it’s always hot down here in summer so you get used to it.  Conditions would have been ideal for sight fishing had water clarity been a bit improved.  The closer I got to the Gulf though, the better the water looked.  The tide fell throughout the day and by the time I picked up it was too low to paddle in some spots.

It couldn’t have been better timing to finally get back on the water as I had just received the new Power-Pole Micro battery pack in the mail this past week.  I have been stubbornly waiting on this battery pack to come out for probably around two years now.  That’s about how long the Power-Pole Micro has been sitting on a shelf in my garage.  I’m not big on electronics in kayaks as I’ve never needed to run them or wanted to fool with batteries or wires, so I initially passed on the Micro.  It looked like it would be a great tool for my style of fishing though and was something that could make things a bit easier for me on the water so when I was told that a battery pack was in development for the Micro, I jumped on the opportunity to get one.  Little did I know that the folks at Power-Pole still had a lot of hurdles to jump before they could distribute their battery pack.

I got to a familiar spot just before sun up and started to rig up.  The plan was to hit some familiar bull red and big trout water and hope for the best.  Every trip out is an opportunity to upgrade my fish in the year-long Massey’s Fish Pics tournament run through Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club so I wanted to hit some potential big fish water that would give me a good shot at an upgrade.  I caught a red fairly early on, in the first big pond I went in.  He was cruising a shoreline and I was able to intercept his path with a Matrix shad.  It is always a good feeling to get that first fish on the board.  I tagged him, took a pic, and then we parted ways.

While in that same pond I posted up by the outlet and began to fish a spot where the tide was pulling water out into a canal.  I noticed something yellow up under the mangroves not too far from where I anchored and after watching it for awhile I noticed it was alive and moving.  It was a small tripletail floating on his side!  They aren’t unheard of to be in the marsh, but it is pretty rare.  So I re-rigged my fly rod with a smaller shrimp imitation and tried my best to convince him to eat, only he wasn’t having it.  I finally got hung on the mangrove and he spooked as I tried to retrieve my fly.  A pretty neat experience though I was a little bummed to not catch him, but I pressed on.

As I said earlier the closer I got toward the Gulf the better the water looked and when I got out to some rocks I started working the Matrix shad and suspending baits looking for trout.  A few ladyfish and a catfish later I changed it up and started throwing the topwater.  Don’t let anyone tell you a topwater is only for first light.  I ended catching a handful of keeper trout and had a blast doing it.  Shoot, it was a hoot to watch the ladyfish blast the topwater out of the water.

I was really hoping to luck into a bull red on topwater, but unfortunately they weren’t anywhere to be found.  I headed back into the marsh after things slowed down and shifted my focus to sight fishing.  The falling tide was a pretty big one and it had the water clarity even worse than in the morning, so things were tough.  Plus the wind picked up and made things that much tougher.  Luckily for me there were still a fair amount of active reds patrolling the shoreline and I caught a few reds by sound more than sight.  They were crashing crabs around exposed oyster beds with reckless abandon and as long as you got your lure right in front of their face they would eat it.

I had made my way back to that first big pond I went in and decided to go see if that tripletail was still around.  Sure enough, I could spot that yellow fish from across the pond.  I tossed that same shrimp fly in his direction and he wasn’t interested.  Eventually I had floated close enough to where I just assume net him, so I grabbed my landing net, calmly slid it under him, then scooped up and just like that I had caught a tripletail.  He didn’t move much while in the water which had me thinking he wasn’t 100%, but once that net hit him he definitely livened up.

A bizarre way to land a fish, but it’s actually not the first time I’ve done it.  I caught a black drum like that once in the kayak.  Only when I went to net the drum he launched himself out of the water and onto the shore.  That’s what I love about kayaks, we can get right on top of these fish at times and they have no idea.

All in all it was a good trip, caught a few trout and a few reds and had an interesting tripletail experience to boot.  I wasn’t able to upgrade any fish for the Massey’s tournament, but that’s what is great about year-long tournaments, there is still plenty of time for that.

A quick word on the Micro after the first trip out.  It worked well, loved having the ability to press a button to drop anchor or pick up when I needed to.  It does take a little bit of time to get use to it while standing.  I found the extra weight on the back end of the kayak and the 8′ pole sticking in the air increased the wobble you feel when standing up  That wobble increased camera shake on the GoPro – which I actually used for the first time in a long time – but it also threw the boat’s stability off.  I was in the Cuda 14 – I’m interested to get it mounted on the Kilroy and see how it reacts.  With the Cuda 14 mount from YakAttack, it is actually the Micro is actually off to the side of the back end of the boat and not over center – that may have something to do with that increased wobble.  The Micro does come with a quick release mount, which is nice because it came in handy while sightfishing, but I really did not need it while I was fishing for trout.  With a boat like the Cuda the 8′ pole stores in the hull without a problem – so if I needed to I could have set it up while out on the water, parked on the shore.  I look forward to using it more and being able to give a better review of it down the road.

Earlier this month I spent the week at the beach for a much needed family vacation.  I had planned on doing a little kayak fishing at some point during the week, but when I got in beach-mode those plans sort of tapered off.  I brought an Orion 65 to use for keeping drinks in the room cold, freeing up space in the fridge for food.  This would be the first real opportunity for me to put it to the test.  We filled it with two 10lb bags of ice and room temperature beers and waters on day 1….

….and by day 5 we were left with cold water and still a few chilled drinks.  It was kept in an air conditioned condo the whole time and saw plenty of opening and closing of the lid.  Not exactly a real scientific test, but I was happy with how it performed.  I fully intended to take a daily picture, but I dropped the ball on that.  The only other shot I got was from day 3 when we had to add more beer….

By the end of the trip I found the Orion to be more than adequate for my family vacation.  I know my research was hardly anything you could use for comparison sake, but more of a real world example. I’m not equipped for comparisons, I’ll leave that up to the professionals.  Just so happens one came out recently from the folks over at Rokslide Essentials – http://www.rokslide.com/2012-01-09-05-09-42/essentials/363-the-big-cooler-showdown

Cooler_showdown