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I use to preach this more, but if you are new to kayak fishing or just shopping for a new boat demo days are far and away the best opportunity to see just what style of boat or even specific boat model you are most comfortable in.  They provide the opportunity to try out as many different makes and models as you feel like getting into.  These events are always free and typically come with store specials that are being run that day or week so they also make great opportunities to purchase a new boat as well.

I helped put butts in seats this past Sunday out at a demo day for Pack & Paddle that was held at Sugar Mill Pond down in Youngsville.  We had fantastic weather and I was able to try out the Blue Sky Boatworks Angler 360 for myself – what a fantastic platform to pedal and fish from.

If you’re in the market for a new kayak do yourself a favor and call up your local kayak dealer and ask when their next demo day is.  It is the best way to narrow down the ever-expanding kayak market to something more palatable. Sometimes the kayak you like best will be a surprise, which is one reason I like to work the demo days, to see someone’s reaction to a boat they may have not even considered.

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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.

When you first start out kayak fishing and you are in the process of purchasing a kayak, one of the first questions you ask yourself is what style of kayak are you interested in, “do I want a sit-on-top or a sit-in?”  This question for me was a no-brainer for many years and was usually answered with, “duh, I want a sit-on-top, I’m going to be mostly inshore fishing.”

That all changed for me the moment I took a Kilroy on a demo paddle.  It was fast and stable, a rare combination in a kayak; and at twelve foot long, it wasn’t a burden to car-top.  It was exactly what I had been looking for and I wondered if I had been missing out all these years by putting blinders on in my quest for the perfect SOT kayak.

I’m not suggesting the Kilroy is perfect, lately I’ve been paddling a Kraken 13.5 mostly, but I am trying to suggest that if you plan on buying a new kayak just have an open mind.  Sometimes the results will surprise you.  Too often folks have their minds made up with what they think they need and will ignore what is probably the best fit for them – it’s a big reason why the number one thing a new kayak fisherman will hear is “demo, demo, demo!”

So as this demo season rolls around I want to give a bit of advice to anyone out there interested in buying a new kayak – try out as many kayaks as you can and don’t limit yourself to just SOTs, or pedal boats, or hybrids, or even one brand.

 

We took advantage of a Saturday in the Park this past weekend to attend the 67th annual City Park Big Bass Rodeo and Fishtival in New Orleans. I competed in the first annual Boats on the Bayou tournament and was shocked to hear that 88 others did as well – that’s a ton of kayak fishermen for little old Bayou St. John!

With the top prizes going to those who caught the few resident bayou redfish most of that kayak fishing crowd focused their efforts on the section of bayou closest to Lake Pontchartrain. I thought that would be pretty fruitless after the massive deluge the area received leading up to the event so I focused on bass. Fishing around Demourelles Island with a Texas rigged worm netted me a few small bass – so small I was too embarrassed to take them over to the weigh station. Later in the day I was able to land a bass worthy enough to weigh – it was 13.75″ and a little over a pound. He hit the worm as I tried to untangle a terrible cast I made into a tree, quite the lucky break, maybe a sign I needed to slow it down.

The tournament was a pretty quick one, starting at 7:00am and ending at 10:30am, so I paddled toward the weigh station thinking my little bass might actually place. At the weigh station I found out it wouldn’t be the top bass as a 3+ lb’er had already been caught. I really didn’t think for a second it would win, but maybe it could place. As it turns out they only announced the weights of the winners at the awards ceremony so I still don’t know where I stacked up against the competition. One would think with 89 people signed up for a tournament, you would at least announce first through third places in each category. Still we enjoyed watching grown-ups act a fool as other grown-ups threw packs of soft plastics from the bandstand.

Unfortunately no redfish were caught during the tournament. I’m not sure if it was because of all the rain, but maybe I made the right decision not to go after them, I at least got to catch fish. I was questioning the decision not to target them though when I saw my buddy Steve with a 1.5 lb trout on a stringer immediately after I launched! Had me worried the water was salty for a moment, but I think that trout was just lost, I didn’t hear of another one caught. It is pretty cool that you can catch redfish, trout, bass and bream all out of one body of water, right here in the city. I’m not sure many places can boast that.

 

After the tournament and awards ceremony (results here) we took a stroll around the Sculpture Garden. It was the perfect time of year for it too as the azaleas are in full bloom and the live oaks are beginning to leaf out. The irises were looking a little ragged, but I’m guessing it is still a little early for them. Two of the pieces of art really wowed us and I think you’ll see why in the pictures.

 

After that we headed on up the bayou to where Massey’s was having an on the water kayak demo day. What started off as a foggy, chilly morning turned into a hot and sunny affair perfect for paddling a kayak. Marin really took to the new Cruise 10 and who could blame her – it looks like the perfect little fishing boat for tykes.

It was a beautiful day out at Lake Martin today. Sunny with temps in the upper 60s, maybe even hitting the lower 70s. Lots of folks showed up for the paddle demo day that Pack & Paddle had at Lake Martin. The P&P crew were working like a well oiled machine getting people in and out of boats and out on the water. It really was a sight to behold. John and Becky Williams really put together a great weekend of events and it showed. This only confirmed to me that kayaking is more popular now than ever. Along with it, kayak fishing has seen steady growth for several years now. That can only mean good things for the future as more retailers realize the potential.

I didn’t get any pictures, but Chris Haley of Cajun Paddle Tools was out there with a couple of his kayaks. The cajun standup bar they make are really nice and perfect for folks that want that extra stability and piece of mind that having a lean bar provides. They are really well made, awesome products.

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The demo lasted from 10 – 2, so I was able to make it home and squeeze in a trip to the pond. Caught a bass and a bunch of channel cats. I think this pond is loaded with cats because I have never really caught that many before. They are suckers for black wooly buggers stripped slow and they fight hard. They bull dog straight to the bottom and try to stay there, it’s a hoot on a light weight rod!