Helle Viking Knife – Customer Review

Helle Viking Knife and Sheath
Helle Viking Knife and Sheath

One of our customers, Brent Baldwin, shared the following in-depth review with us about his Helle Viking Knife and we thought you might enjoy it.

“This is an excellent knife, but before you order, you should know what you are getting. Study the pictures on this website, and read other reviews.

The Viking is essentially a thousand year old design. If you want modern features in your outdoor knife, you may want to pass on it. However, if you appreciate tradition along with quality, you might like it.

The Viking is very simple in design and construction. There is no guard or bolster. The blade is of modern carbon steel (not stainless), and is quite substantial in thickness. It comes razor sharp from the factory. “HELLE” is stamped on the obverse side, but there are no other markings. The tang extends all the way through the traditional Nordic curly birch haft and is peened over a diamond-shaped “washer,” which has been typical of Scandinavian knives for centuries. The handle (or haft) is slighty barrel-shaped, thicker and wider in the middle, which facilitates a good grip. the wood is lightly stained and appears to have an oil finish.

The leather sheath is also a traditional design. It is a very close fit, and retains the knife securely without additional fasteners. There is some simple tooling on the front of the sheath, but nothing silly and no maker’s mark.

The knife comes packaged in a sturdy and tastefully marked cardboard tube, along with a wiping cloth. There is no plastic in the knife, the sheath, or the packaging.

This is a very simple, strong, functional, and traditional knife, in a pattern that dates to medieval times. It is not for everyone, but those who appreciate history and tradition along with their time outdoors should find it to their liking.”

2013 Hobie Pro Angler 12 – Fishability & Transporting

About a month ago, I was fortunate enough to pick up a brand new Hobie Pro Angler 12 from Austin Canoe and Kayak (Burnet Rd. store). I decided to give it a very in depth review and in this section focus on how it fished. You can find what I had to say about the features of the kayak, some basic first installations and the seating system. After several trips out in the Hobie Pro Angler 12 (or PA12), I can honestly say that it is one mean fishing machine!

Hobie Mirage Drive

The Mirage Drive is an amazing piece of engineering. Being that it is completely removable and adjustable makes it unbelievably easy to adjust to fit your needs and to just use in general. Once installed, the initial adjustments only take a second. Once to your liking, you simply place your feet in the peddles and go. There really is not much of a learning curve at all.

Speed of the boat is pretty good for a kayak this wide. It is not uncommon to get up to 5mph+ though sustaining that speed over a long distance could be challenging. 3 to 4 mph seems to be a more comfortable cruising speed over a longer distance. Steering is a bit hair pin which does take a little bit of getting used to. Over compensating on the rudder control can put you sideways pretty quickly. Once you get the hang of it, it’s really a non issue though. Since the kayak is so responsive, the turning radius is very small and allows you to make adjustments very quick. It does come with a paddle that can be used to minor adjustments. I take it with me every time out but have rarely used it yet.

Standing Up in the PA 12 is simple.

Standing in the PA is a breeze. The various seat positions allow for a pretty seamless transition from sitting to standing and vice versa. Not only does being able to stand in the kayak allow you to stretch your legs, but also give you a higher vantage point for sight fishing and flipping structure. Setting the hook on a fish is also not an issue. As long as your feet are far enough apart to provide you with with the proper base, you’re good to go. Not once have I felt uneasy to off balance while standing.

I would consider the Hobie PA 12 one of (if not) the top boat for kayak tournament bass fishing. Being able to hold a position on an offshore target in deep water and have your hands free to fish can be a real difference maker. Conversely, the PA’s ability to have the fins folded up under the kayak and venture into thick reeds make it a great shallow water boat as well. This versatility allows for the PA to fit pretty much all fishing styles. If you take the amount of features that are packed into this kayak and combine them with the speed, maneuverability and stability that it has, you get one complete package that is pretty much unmatched. 

Sail Mount or Pliers Holder?

While I love my paddle kayaks and will never give them up, the Hobie Pro Angler 12 and the mirage drive has opened my eyes to a new way this tournament season. I am really looking forward to many years of tournaments and just fishing in general out of my PA12. On a side note, I did find a fishing related use for the sail/accessory mount. It is the perfect size to hold a pair of pliers. Since I throw crankbaits so much, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fumbled around looking for my pliers. This certainly puts them right in front of my face. 

PA 12 loaded onto cart.

While the PA has some weight to it, it’s really not difficult at all to move around. The rigid handles make things extremely easy. I already had a cart and so far it has been working great. When I’m ready to transport the kayak from the launch to the truck, I simply lift the bow of the boat and place it on to the cart. From there, I simply grab the handle on the back of the boat and wheel it over to the truck.

Wheeling the PA is no problem.

Once wheeled over, I simply re-position the PA on the cart so that the bow is down and then load the kayak into the bed of the truck stern first. I use ratchet straps to secure it to the tie downs in my truck bed. I add a red flag to the bow handle for transport and that’s it. If I ever find that my current cart no longer meets my needs, I would more than likely go with the “plug in” heavy duty cart that Hobie makes. It seems like it does a great job of getting the balance of the kayak in a somewhat neutral position for easy transport.

All in all I could not be happier with my decision to get into a Pro Angler 12. If you are looking for an all around great fishing platform, I would certainly take a look at the Pro Angler 12. Read more about the features of the kayak, the seat and the installations I made

In all it’s glory.

Colombia Boatdrainer PFG Boat Shoes – Product Review


A week ago at our Demo Days I noticed that our Austin store manager Justin was wearing a new pair of the Columbia PFG Boatdrainer Boat Shoes. These are a fairly new product that we started carrying back in February as part of Columbia’s new lineup of water shoes – which includes the Drainmaker II, Powerdrain, Drainslip & Boatdrainer. I decided to ask Justin a few questions about what made him choose these as his new watershoe and how he was liking them.

Justin says the main reason behind his choice in shoe was the mix of style and utility. They look just like a typical leather boat shoe but the key difference is that they dry out quick and are very breathable. He says the mix is perfect for an all day outing on the water with dinner plans afterwards – without having to change shoes.

As far as performance goes, Justin reminded me that these aren’t full out wet shoes like an NRS Desperado or Cross-4. Instead, he recommends them for recreational paddlers who don’t mind getting a little sand/mud in their shoe, as both can come through the ankle slit. When this does happen, it’s easy to clean them out – just give them a quick rinse under the hose  and let them dry out!

So if you’re looking for mix of style and recreational utility, the Columbia Boatdrainer just might be the ones for you. Let us know if you’ve had a chance to use them or if you have any questions by commenting below! Also, check out the other shoes from Comlumbia’s new line including the Drainmaker II, Powerdrain & Powerslip shoes.

Drainmaker II, Powerdrain & Powerslip Shoes

2013 Hobie Pro Angler 12 – Features

About a month ago, I was fortunate enough to pick up a brand new Hobie Pro Angler 12 from Austin Canoe and Kayak (Burnet Rd. store).  This review is done in parts and you can see the other articles where I  discuss the seating system, some basic first installations and, of course, how it fished.  Let’s start with the features:

Pivoting Tackle Management System

The Pro Angler has a large hatch with the pivoting tackle management system. This is absolutely great. The hatch is built to last and provides a space big enough to actually put a bunch of stuff in.

When you open the hatch, the tackle trays pivot up and are right there for you to access.

For me, the absolute best use of this space is to put items in the boat that I do not plan on taking out. For me, it’s terminal tackle. Things like, worm hooks, weights, swimbait hooks, carolina rigging items, shakey heads, scrounger heads, Paydirt Ball ‘n chains…etc etc.

Front Hatch

The front hatch is secured by two bungees and is pretty spacious. It is easily accessible while out on the water while sitting or standing. The white hatch liner insert is removable to allow for even more storage.

Rod Tubes

The PA comes equipped with 4 horizontal rod tubes near the front hatch. I have stored rods up to 7’6″ with very little to no overhang. My 8ft crankbait rods will fit but they stick out past the gear pockets.

Back Hatch

The back hatch is located between the seat and rudder and provides additional storage options including an oval hatch with a gear organizer. I will probably end up using this for first aid related items. Things that are always good to have but you won’t need them every time out.

Flush Mounted Rod Holders

Additionally, the PA 12 has two pre-molded flush mount rod holders near the rear hatch, one on either side. Each rod holder has it’s own rubberized cover that keeps water out (or in my case, those dang bees that think they own my garage).

Crate Compatibility

Even though the PA 12 has ample rod and tackle storage, I still wanted to be able to affix my crate to the boat. Before I had gotten the boat, I had already planned out how I was going to attach the crate. I had plans to install an extra set of pad eyes to accommodate it. When it came time, I quickly realized that there was nothing to do except to clip the bungees to the perfectly placed tie downs that already existed. Man these guys thought of everything!


The Seat

Rudder Control

The rudder is spring loaded and is released by pulling the rudder cord out of the cam.

Once the rudder is deployed, you have one main steering handle (pictured below on the left) and one trim control (pictured below on the right). There are interchangeable so you can put them on whichever side you prefer. Steering with either one works for me. They are very simple to use and extremely responsive.

Mirage Drive

The mirage drive is a piece of cake to install each time out. It slides into this large scupper and is secured by these locking mechanisms.



The PA 12 has a little bit of weight to it, but it comes equipped with two great handles. They really make it a breeze to move around. Front handle is pictured on the left and the rear handle is pictured on the right.

That’s it for the basic features. See some of the first installations I’ve made on it, including a fish finder mount and anchor trolley, here. Be sure to keep an eye out for my fish-ability review that I will be adding after a couple more outings with it! Thanks for reading.

2013 Hobie Pro Angler 12 – The Seat

About a month ago, I was fortunate enough to pick up a brand new Hobie Pro Angler 12 from Austin Canoe and Kayak (Burnet Rd. store). I decided to give it a very in depth review and in this section focus on the features of the seat. You can find what I had to say about the other features of the kayak, some basic first installations and, of course, how it fished.

The seat in the PA 12 is extremely comfortable and has several adjustment points. The front legs sit inside of a couple of cleats that keep it in place.

The back of the seat has two sitting heights. The low position, where the back of the chair sits back in the groove of the boat, pictured left, and the elevated position, pictured right.

The seat position can be easily be adjusted by simply leaning forward and pulling the tether marked “seat”. This will adjust the high position seat holder out of the way so that the seat can be lowered with ease.

The other main adjustable features of this seat include the lower back support which can be increased or decreased by a twist of this knob.

The thigh height adjustment which is accessed by a simple twist of the right seat handle.

The seat also lifts up to provide more standing space. As you can see the cord for the thigh adjustment is still in place. This can be removed by simply unhooking the cord from the left side of the seat. Just don’t forget to put it back when you’re done!

With the seat lifted up and the thigh adjustment cord moved there is plenty of space for storage and standing. You can also see the strap that holds the under the seat tackle storage. There is enough room for a couple of nice sized plano boxes.

As you can see, Hobie put a lot of work into making their Pro Angler seat. I look forward to putting it to the test and you should keep an eye out for a fish-ability review that I will be adding after a couple more outings with the kayak! Thanks for reading. 

Astral Brewer Shoe – Sneak Up on Simple

Gear is great. Gear is good. Let us take it to the woods, and the water, and the pub.

Some folks think they need everything in the catalog to enjoy a day outdoors. Other prefer to keep it simple by asking: What are my needs? And what gear do I really need to meet those needs? For these folks, the utility of each piece of gear is key. I relate to the latter group more these days. And, I appreciate any gear that helps me sneak up on simple. 

So, when Austin Canoe & Kayak sent a complimentary pair of Astral Brewer water shoes, my question was this: Does this shoe get in my way, or does it get me closer to simple?

To find out, I wore the Astral Brewer for a full week. The Brewer and I went kayak fishing. We walked some 20 miles around Austin. We trained muaythai in a garage gym. We did a little trail walking and caught white bass at Lake Georgetown. We went wade fly-fishing. And, to cap it all off, we went straight from a paddle trip to a client meeting and back out to another paddle trip.

The verdict in one word:

u·til·i·ty [yoo-til-i-tee] noun | def. the quality of being useful

The Brewer was great on and around the water and solid everywhere else. Most importantly, the gear didn’t get in the way of what I was trying to do. Instead of spending my time chasing down boat shoes, bar shoes, business shoes, moo shu pork, and so on, I just went and went in comfort.

A few features that made it so:

  • Weight: The shoe weighs 7.5 ounces, which is well lighter than sneakers and many water shoes and boots. The weight makes them comfortable for all-day wear. And, as it turns out, the ultra-light weight makes them good shoes for training muaythai in a garage. I did not see that one coming.
  • Traction: The Stealth Rubber sole does a good job of sticking to concrete boat ramps, rocks, and wet wooden piers. It makes the Brewer a good shoe for wade fishing as well, though I didn’t test it in strong current and can’t speak to its performance there. They’re appropriately terrible footwear for two-stepping.
  • Quick-draining & Quick-drying: Water drains out of the shoe almost immediately through four drainage holes in the sidewalls and a larger silt dump in the heel. They dry quickly due to the Cordura® and AirMesh materials, both of which Astral uses in their personal flotation devices (PFDs) or life vests. The quick-dry feature allows you to move from one activity to the next in comfort. No one wants to wear wet shoes all day. I believe, too, that these features will lessen the chances of mildew and, ultimately, help the shoe last longer.
  • Breathable: The features that drain and dry the shoe quickly also help it breathe.The airflow is important in preventing sweating if you’re using the Brewer for more than just a river shoe.
  • Looks: It doesn’t scream, “Hey, look at me I’m a river shoe!” It doesn’t scream anything. So, you can wear it with just about anything and just about anywhere. Even the branding is subtle.
  • General Design: The low cut Brewer is more comfortable than a boot, especially when using the foot braces in my fishing kayak. The laces keep the shoe in place. Though it is not a walking shoe, the Brewer is surprisingly comfortable.
Room for Improvement:

  • The Brewer sole marks linoleum and other surfaces. Be mindful where you wear it.
The Brewer is Astral’s first go at a water shoe. It’s worth a look. You can get it at ACK.com for about $100. Men’s and women’s sizes and styles available.
Race to 50 Paddles Update:
Good news: The Race to 50 Paddles project will be in book form before too long. FalconGuides will publish “Paddling Texas” in 2014. The book will include 50 beginner-friendly paddling trips around Texas rivers, streams, and coastal waters. Details to come.

Moken 12.5 Review from Feel Free Pro Staffer Tony Hart

Anglers everywhere are getting excited about the new Moken 12.5 from Feel Free and Pro Staffer Tony Hart had a first crack at it. Here’s what he had to say…

The Moken 12.5 kayak is a perfect vessel for fishing. At first glance, you’ll notice that it’s a very well thought out design and the features are ideal for the kayak angler. The kayak paddles very smoothly, and tracks extremely well. The center hatch storage system offers dry storage with an easy to open latch, which opens away from you for easy access. Continue reading Moken 12.5 Review from Feel Free Pro Staffer Tony Hart