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Gear Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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….

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….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….

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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

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Back in March I had the privilege of helping out Massey’s for a day at this year’s Louisiana Sportsman Show.  This was my first time at this show and I was amazed at the sheer size of it and the variety of goods and services offered for those that attended.  If you have any outdoor interest in the state of Louisiana, this show has you covered – from bird watching to bow fishing.  It was very cool to talk kayak fishing with lots of different people, not your typical boat show crowd – from folks who’d never even seen a kayak to guys who knew it all.

It was also cool to finally see the production model Coosa HD.  Massey’s may still have one in New Orleans if you want to check it out.  I got to paddle the prototype at the Dealer Summit and came away impressed.  Despite the name, this is a completely different boat than the Coosa.  I love the old Coosa, I’ve always said it is the best river boat out there, but I feel like the HD may be a better fit for Louisiana waters.

More about the show from their website below:

The 36th Annual Louisiana Sportsman Show and Festival, Louisiana’s largest outdoor show and boat show, was held March 12-15, 2015, at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, Louisiana. Louisiana’s premier outdoor show featured acres of boats, fishing and hunting equipment, ATVs, tractors and lawn equipment, and activities for the entire family.

Show highlights include:
• an indoor boat show featuring all the major boat brands and dealers from throughout the Baton Rouge area
• acres of fishing tackle and hunting gear for sale
• an extensive display of ATVs and off-road vehicles
• a dedicated tractor and outdoor power equipment area
• the Louisiana Sportsman Big Buck Contest, with display of some of the largest bucks killed during the 2014-15 season in Louisiana, Mississippi and across the country
• Cabela’s 3D archery range
• Splash Dogs, where participants can enter their dogs in retriever competitions
• a Kids Zone, with free admission to the show for kids on Sunday
• a Yamaha ATV test track
• a bass tank, where pros will be giving regular seminars
• fishing and hunting outfitters from across the United States
• an improved food court featuring three times the selection

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My wife has been wanting to go skiing for probably as long as I’ve known her, I was a little hesitant.  I’ve spent my entire life in the South, so the idea of cold weather flat out scares me.  The only thing I knew about skiing was that it was expensive.  I mean I would certainly entertain the idea if the timing was right.  Finally the opportunity presented itself with a friend of our’s 40th birthday.  He wanted to go skiing and was able to convince 14 friends to join him.  I still don’t know how we got that many to go or how we were able to stay pretty coordinated for the entire trip, but I gotta say, we had a blast.  We passed on formal lessons, instead relying on our buddy and I picked it up without much of an issue, Amanda wasn’t as quick, but she was an expert on the greens by day three.

We started the trip off with some snow tubing then a visit to a local brewery.  No shortage of those in Colorado.  Snow tubing was a great intro to winter recreation.

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The next three and a half days were spent in Breckenridge trying to avoid major injury.  I’m happy to report that everyone made it back to Louisiana unscathed.  Breckenridge is a cool town with tons of ski options.  Everyone was without child for 5 days, so we lived it up.  We certainly can’t party like we did back in college, especially after skiing all day, but we had a great time.

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I chickened out on bringing fly equipment and according to a couple of the fly shops I stopped in that may have been a mistake, but packing ski equipment and fishing equipment would have been a chore.  I’m glad I didn’t because I really didn’t leave myself any time to fish, I had too much fun skiing.  We’ll do it again in the future, after all we own proper clothing now, it would be a shame to see it only used once.  I am hoping to make it out West again when it is quite a bit warmer and fishing is the primary activity.  I’m also happy to report the cold weather didn’t bother me, I was very comfortable, even on the slopes.  That Columbia makes some damn fine clothes, for any activity.