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I have not had much time to sit down and write lately as I have been busy – busy with work, busy with family, busy with life in general.  That being said this blog has been nominated again this year in the YakAngler 2014 Kayak Angler Choice Awards.  I’m honored to receive a nomination because it shows that there are kayak anglers out there that appreciate and are entertained by this blog and for that I am very thankful.  I hope I can keep things fresh and promise I will eventually find time to write (and fish) again.  If you’d like to extend a vote my way I would be happy to accept it: YakAngler 2014 Kayak Angler Choice Awards

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If you don’t know whom else to vote for in each category I will offer some suggestions:

Angler of the Year – Hands down Steve Lessard.  I can’t think of a more deserving kayak angler out there than my friend Steve.  The man consistently whoops our behinds in BCKFC and IFA tournaments and he was up to the task on foreign soil in the Hobie Worlds.  He is an exceptional angler and a great guy – he is my AOY.

Kayak of the Year – I’m a Jackson guy so I may be a little biased  but I’m torn here between the Kraken and the Big Rig.  Each of these boats is a game changer in their own way.  I got to paddle a Kraken at the Dealer Summit and can tell you that this is one slick ride.  They don’t mention it much but guys like me can stand and fish from the Kraken and still have the fastest boat on the water.

Paddle of the Year –  The Manta Ray carbon and the Surge carbon from Aqua Bound have been my two favorite paddles I’ve ever owned.  Surprisingly the Surge carbon wasn’t on the nomination list, so the nod here goes to the Manta Ray. Compare it’s weight and blade size with other paddles that have been nominated – you won’t find another high angle paddle under 30oz.

Forum of the YearBayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club is my local club.  It’s a great group, no surprise they were nominated.

Outfitter of the Year – Another local favorite here – Pack & Paddle.  Why do I love Pack & Paddle?  Let me count the ways – huge kayak rigging section, local tackle and flies, a knowledgeable staff that fishes, great seminars and demo days, Beer & Gear, and one of the best kayak displays I’ve ever seen.

Location of the Year – Grand Isle, easy.  The site of the biggest kayak fishing tournament in the World in Ride the Bull.  This place is kayak fishing mecca and I have some converts from freshwater Alabama that may agree.

Video of the Year – Business as Usual by Team HookedonYak.  I love this video because its fun, original, it comes from regular guys like you and me, not some video professionals who want to blow you away with drones and forced fishing drama.  These are some South Louisiana boys going to work on some reds showcasing the incredible fishing we have to offer.  If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and watch below.

We spent our last day in Bahia Honda fishing until lunch and then shooting some other bits for the show in the afternoon. James and Jim got into fish that morning with Jim pulling in the only grouper of the trip, but I actually got skunked. I was a little disappointed to end the fishing trip on that note, but nothing was happening for me that morning.

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(photo: Will Richardson)

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There was a little section of the island James and I explored where the rocks created a narrow chute you could paddle through. If you timed it right a swell would come through and propel you through the chute without even paddling.

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At lunch we did some other pieces for the show and began the packing process. Edwin’s daughter, Daisy, brought out some of their pet birds and Abuelo came around with some hand carved wooden bowls he had made. They were beautifully crafted and looked as if he took a lathe to them, but he assured us they were all made by hand. I think we all went home with multiple pieces.

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12625499323_70ded72662_c(photo: Will Richardson)

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Once James and I were finished with what we needed to do we headed for a last little fish in the bay with fly rods in hand. We headed for the mangroves and started working the edges. I had a few follows from some small mangrove snapper and James thought he missed a snook, but we failed to bring anything to hand. Coming from an inshore background I think it would have been really fun to devote a whole day to fishing the bay, especially the area around the mangroves. It has great potential for the light tackle fisherman. The bay is completely protected and was a great place to fly fish. I blame not catching anything on the fly rod because I didn’t have my whole arsenal of flies. It wasn’t for lack of fish, that’s for sure.

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I got to say James paddled the Big Rig the whole trip and he kept up remarkably well. It may be more at home in shallow water and around the mangroves, but I was surprised at how well it handled the open water paddling and swells. It was definitely impressive and it comes with more bells and whistles than a stealth bomber.

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The next morning we loaded up the panga with our stuff, said our goodbyes to everyone, then headed back down the coast to Santa Catalina. Staying in Bahia Honda with Edwin and Rosalind was a real treat. Their hospitality is unmatched and they have an incredible set-up to host kayak fishing parties. The fishery they live on is amazing, we barely scratched the surface during our visit, so many species, so many different opportunities. I know the big fish potential is there because we saw that with Jims rooster. If you want to check it out for yourself get with Hennie at Paddle Panama. He was an excellent guide during the trip, very knowledgeable on Panamanian fishing. He took care of everything while we were there and runs a real top notch operation. The only thing we were left to worry about was catching fish.

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12625870233_e0b521968b_c(photo: Will Richardson)

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After the long taxi ride back to Panama City, we had enough time to get dinner at a restaurant that was around the corner from our hotel. It was a much more authentic experience than T.G.I. Friday’s and the food was pretty darn good too. Glad we got to experience that while we were in Panama City. The next day our flights weren’t until that afternoon, so we put on our tourist hats in the morning and went to tour one of the Panama Canal locks. The size of the ships and the amount of elevation they have to rise in order to cross the country is impressive. As well as the fact that the canal was completed 100 years ago – quite the engineering feat. To think that the Post-Panamax ships that will come through once expansion is complete will dwarf those that are going through the locks now is mind boggling.

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After the locks we had one last meal in Panama City – dim sum, on Hennies recommendation. A Sunday tradition for he and his family and I got to admit that was pretty darn good as well. I can’t say enough good things about what Hennie has to offer here in Panama. Besides the trip we went on I think he has three or four other options available that showcase what the country has to offer for the kayak fisherman. We said our goodbyes to Hennie as he dropped us off at the airport. I hope it’s not the last time I see him because it was a blast spending time with him and I’d love to get down there again. Like I said we barely scratched the surface.

There was enough time at the airport for one more beer with the guys before we parted ways. I had never met Jim or Will before the trip and getting to know them was a lot of fun. I thought the dynamic of the group was great, which made for some really entertaining conversations. I hope to fish and work with all of them again in the future. This was loads of fun and proved to be a great learning experience. I have a lot to be thankful for to have had this opportunity. Now it’s back to the real world of dirty diapers and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for this guy.

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http://jacksonkayak.com/jk-kayaks/kayak-fishing/big-rig/

Check out the next BIG thing from Jackson Kayak, the Big Rig. I’ve yet to see it in person, but it looks to be a great platform to sightfish the flats from. This thing has more bells and whistles than a battleship, you definitely wouldn’t need to do any rigging right off the showroom floor. I’m curious to see how a boat this wide paddles, but knowing the folks at Jackson, I’m sure they dialed it in and that 37″ width will hardly be noticed. Love the endless innovation coming out of Sparta, TN.