Two New Videos with Blake from Wilderness Systems!

Not only is the Kayak Angler Tournament Series (KATS) a great place to kick back and enjoy the outdoors, fishing and camaraderie but it’s also a great place to learn from the experts in their field. Wilderness Systems representative Blake Bartlett took some time off from promoting his products at the Lake Bastrop event last weekend to talk to us about the unique features of the Wilderness Systems Commander which make it ideal for the fisherman or someone looking for a canoe / kayak hybrid as well as the 2013 Wilderness Systems Ride 115 / 135 with the new, upgraded AirPro seat. I’ll hush up and let the expert do the talkin’!

-Trent @ ACK

Top 10 Kayaks For Cold Weather Paddling

A few months back, I wrote a short piece that caused a bit of a stir. Apparently “storing your kayak for the winter” didn’t resound well with many, especially those residing in more temperate regions (tongue in cheek of course). But the reality for many is that the idea of putting a kayak out of commission for a few months is unheard of because of either mild winters or the utilization paddling gear designed for cold weather paddling. I recouped some of the fury through a visual presentation highlighting cold weather paddling apparel and now, in an effort to continue this positive momentum, I’d like to offer some recommendations on kayaks that are ideal for paddling during the coldest months of the year.

The concept actually, is simple — get a kayak with a combination of a higher freeboard (hull that remains out of the water while paddling) and elevated seat that will stay dry or a kayak with a cockpit that can be fully or partially covered by a skirt. Continue reading Top 10 Kayaks For Cold Weather Paddling

Quest for a Kayak Ends at Tarpon 120

I have been on a quest the past few months. No, not for hunting dragons, but for a kayak. I have tried out tons of different models from sit insides to sit on tops and have even had a chance in the Hobie Adventure Island. I was being somewhat picky on the model of kayak I wanted, and was trying to find one that I could paddle around Austin and occasionally take down to the coast. After a few months of trying out different models I think I might have finally found the right kayak for me.

Recently, I went down to Lake Bastrop with Kristian (Austin store‘s assistant manager) and we brought with us some of new boats for me to try and paddle around. I soon found myself in the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 along with our Werner Camano Fiberglass paddle. I enjoyed the tracking, maneuverability and stability of the Tarpon 120. It was a quick boat, especially with the Camano fiber glass paddle I was using. I was able to cover most of Lake Bastrop during my paddle.

The Werner Camano series is hands down one of my favorite paddles. Unfortunately, unless I earn a huge raise, the carbon fiber paddle is out of my price range, which is why I tried out the fiberglass Camano. I feel the Camano FG was a good middle of the road paddle as it is tougher and stiffer than a nylon paddle but it will not break the bank like a carbon fiber paddle will. Also the low profile button system on all the Werner Paddles made it very easy to feather my paddles on the water.

Here’s my final word: the Tarpon 120 and the Werner Camano FG go well together like chili cheese and tater tots.

Bill @ACK Austin

Fishing Lake Fayette with Bobby Clark of Wilderness Systems

Lake Fayette is a favorite destination for anglers all over Texas (and sometimes the world) and is even one of the destinations picked out for ACK’s Kayak Angler Tournament Series. Well, I came across a video from Bobby Clark, a Wilderness Systems Pro Staff angler, fishing Fayette in his Wilderness Systems Ride 115 and I have to say that I was impressed. The video goes on for a total of eight minutes which you might think is a little long, but it’s filled with Bobby reeling in bass after bass – and they aren’t small ones, either! If you’re into kayak fishing, definitely give it a watch.

New for 2013 in Kayak Models and Features

Even though 2013 isn’t quite here yet, many of our kayak vendors have already started delivering new kayaks, some never before seen models and others with updated features. Some of the most notable launches are the new Native Watercraft Slayer, Feel Free Moken 12.5 & 14 and the sharp looking Wave Sport Ethos Ten. Also, check out some of the new features on tried and true models.

We’ll start with the new boats

Native Watercraft Slayer 12 & 14
Created by Native using an “automatic for the people” approach, the Slayer is the latest fishing kayak to hit the scene. It’s been referred to as a sit on top (SOT) version of the popular Ultimate model and, with a lot of the same deck features, it’s easy to see why. But that doesn’t mean that the hull is the only thing that’s changed. With a new seating system that can alternate between a high and low position, open front hatch, plenty of molded in areas designed for fishing accessories and much more, we know this is going to be popular with anglers. Already, the Slayer prototypes were a big hit at our Demo Day events! Available in a 12 ft and 14 ft option.

Wilderness Systems Aspire 105
Meant to compliment Wilderness System‘s already impressive line-up, the Aspire 105 is a new crossover boat that has replaced their Pamlico series. Whereas cross over boats generally tend to mix white water and recreational designs, the Aspire is meant for recreation and light touring. Great for both flat and moving water. This aims to be a great hybrid option for new to intermediate level paddlers. Like most other cross over boats, the Aspire has a drop down skeg to improve tracking when desired.

Wavesport Ethos 10
Wavesport
has created the Ethos as it’s foray into the river trekking category. Designed to handle waters with up to class III rapids and then track on flat water sections with help from it’s drop down skeg, the Ethos 10 can take on longer river trips. With plenty of storage space and a cockpit designed for comfort, this would be a great kayak for beginners looking to explore new environments and develop their skills on long or multiple day river trips.

Hobie Pro Angler 12
If you keep up with the kayak angling community, you’ve probably already heard of Hobie’s latest model of the Pro Angler 12 as it was released back in April. But just in case you haven’t…well, Hobie still knows how to make angler’s happy. The new Pro Angler 12 has all the bells and whistles of the 14 model and features the new vantage seating feature which will be described below. We’ve had them in stock and the reviews are good!

Perception Expression 14.5 & 15
Perception’s
new Expression offers forgiving handling and stability expected of a touring design with the performance of an expedition kayak. The up-swept bow nose and peaked deck allow the Expression 14.5 to shed water quickly, providing more speed and performance than the typical touring kayak. We can tell you one thing for sure, it’ll go fast. A perfect boat for an afternoon paddling or even multi-day tour. Offered in both 14.5 and 15 foot models.

Coming Soon: Moken 12.5 & 14
While not yet available, the new Moken 12.5 and 14 are going to be a huge hit. I personally had the pleasure of not only trying both boats at our recent demo days, we also met with Feel Free’s Head of Operations in the U.S., Jim Hager for a video shoot featuring both models. Click here to check it out.

New Features for 2013

2013 might just be the year of comfort kayak seating. With new seats from Ocean Kayak, Wilderness Systems, Hobie & Feel Free there are plenty of new ones to choose from. Sprinkle in a few other upgrades from Feel Free and Ocean Kayak and you have a pretty good list of new and notable features for the 2013 lineup of boats. Here’s what you can expect:

Wilderness Systems Phase 3 Pro Seating System

Wilderness Systems’ Phase 3 Pro Seating System
Wilderness
has always done a good job when it comes to outfitting their kayaks with comfort seating systems but this time they’ve really gone above and beyond. With complete adjustability in all aspects of the seat this really is  worthy of the word “system”. We’ve had a chance to try it out in some of the 2013 models and are very impressed. Expect most of the 2013 model Wilderness boats to come equipped with some version of the Phase 3 Pro Seating System.

Ocean Kayak Comfort Hybrid Seat

Ocean Kayak Support Track Foot Braces and Comfort Hybrid Seat Back
Ocean Kayak has gone out of it’s way to make their popular recreation and angler kayaks just a little more comfortable. They’ve rolled out both a new seat and foot peg system that aims to meet this goal. With Ocean Kayak, it’s all about making sure even the tiniest of details meet the customer’s needs.

Hobie Vantage Seating

Hobie Vantage Seating
New to both the Pro Angler 12 and 14, this is a revolutionary new seating system in terms of comfort & adjustability. Named for the vantage point it gives you for spotting fish, this seat is just another reason why the Hobie Pro Angler series if one of the top fishing kayaks around.

Feel Free Uni Track System

Feel Free Uni-Track System & King Fisher Seat
Feel Free has created an easy to use track system for paddlers looking to customize their ‘yak called the Uni-Track System. It can be found on some of the latest Moken models like the already released Moken 10 Lite. This track system makes it easy to attach Scotty & Ram mounts without drilling or installing anything. Click here to see a short video clip featuring the Uni-Track System

Feel Free King Fisher Seat

Additionally, new Mokens will also feature the upgraded King Fisher Seat with a comfort seat back. I personally love this seat, so comfortable and you can’t help but think it looks pretty cool too. Wait until you see it on the new Moken 12.5 and Moken 14 coming soon.

Much to look forward to this year! As always, share your comments and questions below! – Joseph@ACK

A Father’s Day Paddling Adventure

The cars loaded with yaks, bikes and more.

This Father’s Day my dad and I ended up having a bit of an unexpected adventure. We started with plans of my dad trying a stand up paddleboard for the first time but when I showed up the day of I found myself being talked into an overnight camping trip and a five hour paddle at Colorado Bend State Park here in Texas. We had some hesitations (namely the triple digit heat and low water conditions) but I think we were both looking and ready for an adventure so a week later we put our plans into action.

On the day of the trip, we loaded up our vehicles with a Wilderness Systems Ride 135 for my dad and a Dagger Zydeco 11 for myself. Along with the kayaks our cars were packed with camping equipment including a Therm-a-Rest Sleeping Pad that I was excited to try out. My dad also attached his Yakima SwingDaddy Hitch Mount to bring along his mountain bike.

Slow moving waters made up the majority of the paddle.

One of the tricky things about paddling down a river, and the reason we brought two cars, is transportation between your put-in and take-out. Luckily, we surveyed launch points online before leaving and had been able to find an area where we could park a second car that was only a twenty minute drive north from the campground. We left our shuttle car and got ready for our paddle!

The section of the Colorado River we paddled was made up of long, slow moving bends that were broken up by faster moving shallow sections. The slow moving sections gave us ample time to take in the beauty of the Texas Hill Country and all the wildlife that made its home there but never became too dull because of the faster moving stuff. We passed by a few coldwater springs where we stopped to find some relief from the triple digit temperatures. We also made sure to make pit stops on the bank to rest and reapply sunscreen. I noticed that the Zydeco had trouble keeping up with the Ride 135 during the longer sections but really came in handy when it came to maneuvering around the shallow rocks. It also offered some protection for my legs from the sun (my poor dad’s legs were beet red by the end). All in all, it was a great boat to paddle.

Tents all setup, no rain fly's for us!

By the end of the 12 mile stretch, we were dead tired. The constant paddling and the heat really had taken it out of us so before we set up camp we jumped in Colorado Bend’s spring fed swimming hole. Contrary to what we expected, the water was warm, but still very relaxing. Eventually we made it back to camp and there were beers, steaks and stories around the campfire before finally getting to sleep. I was able to enjoy a very comfortable night’s rest using the Therm-a-Rest, although I had some trouble rolling it up for the first time the following morning (I watched a how-to and feel ready for next time though).

For those who might be considering their own paddling trip this summer, take it from me that you shouldn’t let the heat get you down! Start by picking a destination that has water nearby and plenty of trees for shade. Then remember to pack smart – you’ll need lots of drinking water, shades, a hat, sunscreen and breathable, lightweight clothes. Finally, there are lots of little things you can do like not putting a rain fly on your tent if you’re camping (unless it might rain) and taking lots of rest stops. The heat can definitely be an obstacle, but it isn’t worth missing out on a great outdoor adventure!

The springs were beautiful and relaxing.

In the end the trip was an awesome experience and a great way to spend time with my dad. Prior to the trip he kept saying how he “just wanted to see what he was capable of” since it had been a while since he had gone paddling. I think we both learned that a little 12 mile paddle wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle. Thanks for reading and happy paddling!

– Joseph@ACK

 

 

 


 

KATS Sponsor Update – Wilderness Systems

A continuation of our featured KATS sponsor blogs that we will add to in the coming weeks. We appreciate all the support our sponsors have provided us over the series!

We are lucky to have Wilderness Systems as one of our Platinum Sponsors for KATS 2012! Wilderness Systems is a customer favorite when it comes to kayaks. With innovative designs tuned for performance, premium outfitting and stunning quality, Wilderness Systems has made kayaks specific to every paddler’s journey. Some of their models include the Commander, the Ride, and the Tsunami. For this tournament, they have donated a Tarpon 120 which will be awarded to the KATS Angler of the Year. Thanks for your support Wilderness Systems!

Click here to view our full line up of sponsors or here for more information about KATS.

Weekend Ride: Wilderness Systems Ride 135 Review by Jeremy Chavez

Let me start off with an introduction. My name is Jeremy Chavez and I am a passionate, i.e. obsessed, kayak fisherman. I reside in southeast Texas. On average I spend 100+ days a year on the water. Most of my fishing is on the coast where battling the elements (wind and tides) is part of the game.

Over the years I’ve paddled nearly every make and model kayak on the market. Some have suited my needs as a kayak fisherman and others not so much. The reasons why become obvious after observing my fishing style, fishing destinations, and body type. All three are very important considerations when choosing the right boat to paddle. I spend most of my time chasing redfish, so naturally I’m a marsh-rat. My domain consists of mud, oysters, and skinny water. I spent two full days in the marsh fishing out the newly remodeled Wilderness Systems Ride 135 a couple of weeks ago and these are my thoughts.

Hull and Layout
What initially intrigued me about this kayak were the design changes from the previous model. The Ride has always been a stable boat and this model is no different. The pontoon-style hull provides excellent stability when seated or standing. I have an average build (5’10” and 190lbs) and have fairly good balance and it was extremely easy and comfortable to stand and fish out of the Ride.

The Ride’s max beam is 31” which aids in its stability. The width is also a slight hindrance when paddling, especially for a guy that has grown accustomed to paddling a Tarpon 160. I would recommend a 240cm paddle when paddling this boat. My 230cm paddle was too short and would occasionally bump the sides, which was an annoyance. A minor change in paddling stroke helped alleviate this issue significantly.

The redesigned hull incorporates a hard side chine which helps the boat track straight even in a stiff wind. One disadvantage of high sides is they catch a lot of wind, which is more noticeable when drifting versus paddling since the boat tracks straight once in motion. The boat was also completely dry with no standing water in the cockpit.

The Freedom Elite seating system with Phase 3 padding and adjustability is extremely comfortable and very easy to adjust on the fly. It’s one of the most comfortable kayak seats I’ve had the pleasure to sit in. You really come to appreciate the comfort of the Ride’s seat after you leave the seat at home and are forced to sit on bare plastic. Take my word for it. The seat has a track built into the boat that allows it to be slid forward and backward. The middle strap located near the center hatch allows the seat to be slid and locked to the desired position.

Another added design feature that I like is the rear keel guard. As mentioned previously I regularly fish harsh, oyster-ridden environments and the keel of my paddle-craft bears the blunt of that abuse. The replaceable keel guard is an awesome design feature that will keep my kayak out of the repair room at my local kayak shop.

Storage
Like its predecessor there is plenty of the storage in the new Ride. The tankwell is huge. I was able to fit a standard milk crate, a large Pelican dry box, a SealLine dry bag, and a small soft-sided cooler and still had room to spare. When seated the seat has to be positioned far enough forward to reach the foot pegs so there is additional storage room behind the seat. Good place to store objects that need to be accessed quickly. The cockpit is also massive with plenty of leg room, which is nice for taller paddlers. The Ride also has interior storage accessed by two hatches: a medium-sized hatch located in the center and a large hatch at the bow.

Paddling and Handling
Despite its length and width the Ride handles quite well. The new Ride handles much like the past model, but does track noticeably straighter. The model I tried didn’t have a rudder; it could definitely use a rudder for maneuverability and control. The Ride has a decent glide after you stop your paddle stroke. It doesn’t glide as well as a Tarpon but I didn’t expect it to. One thing to keep in mind if you frequently fish extremely shallow is the draft on this kayak is about twice that of a kayak with a rounder hull. Due to the pontoon hull the ride needs about 6” of water to float.

Observations
The new Ride will excel with a person of the right body type. It’s not for a small person. It’s heavy for its size, weighing in at 85 lbs. It’s not the easiest kayak to maneuver while transporting to and from the water. Keep in mind the seat needs to positioned in the middle of the boat while paddling otherwise the weight distribution causes the bow to rise and creates plenty of hull slap because of the shape of the hull. There’s tons of storage space on this kayak, so it will be a good kayak for someone planning on taking a bunch of gear or doing overnight camping trips often. This kayak is also a great option if you want to able to stand and fish comfortably.

Jeremy Chavez is a blogger and kayak fishing addict. You can read his musings and view his photography and cinematography work at his blog www.castingtales.com.

2012 Kayak and Canoe Roundup

A look into the latest from Hobie, Ocean Kayak, Necky, Wilderness Systems and more!

For those of us tuned into what’s going on in the paddling industry, August was greeted with much anticipation as manufacturers started rolling out their new kayak and canoe models. Industry professionals and consumers alike became giddy and almost child-like. August pretty much came and went and as always kayak and canoe manufacturers didn’t fail to deliver. With new and innovative features and updates to tried and true designs to shorter and longer versions of already popular models, I’ll just jump right in and sum it all up for you. I could have easily cut and pasted product descriptions but instead I wanted to share with you some of what I know and what I’ve learned over the last few weeks.

 

Wilderness Ride 115 & 135
I was trying to hold back on this one until the end but I can’t help it. The newly designed Wilderness Systems Ride 135 and it’s new sibling the 115 are not to be ignored if you enjoy kayak fishing or simply want a sit-on-top with unbeatable stability, capacity and plenty of cargo space. The most notable new feature is the Freedom Elite seating system, which simply lets you adjust the position of your seat forward and backward — something I have yet to see on any sit-on-top kayak. Another feature familiar to the popular Tarpon series is the SlideTrax accessory system making it easy to install and adjust a variety of accessories. This one gets two thumbs up from this guy! Click for specs, colors and pricing for the Ride 115 and Ride 135.

Dagger Zydeco 9.0 & 11.0
For those of you familiar with the original Zydeco, you already know what a great performer this entry-level gem can be. With it’s new slick design and features, you’d think that these boats were expensive but at less than $450 for the 9.0 and $550 for the 11.0, it’s the perfect boat for just about anyone. I’m big on quality seats and the Zydeco’s adjustable, ultra-comfortable CFS-R Seating System doesn’t disappoint. Compact, lightweight and easy to use, I think it will be hard to find another recreational sit-inside for the buck. Click for specs, colors and pricing for the Zydeco 9.0 and Zydeco 11.0.


Hobie Mirage Revolution 11
Perhaps one of the most notable launches is the new Hobie Mirage Revolution 11 offering all of the same great features as it’s bigger brother in a more compact and lighter configuration. Recently named “Best Boat” at the iCast Sportfishing Trade Show, the Revo 11 deserves it, with the same quality and features you’d come to expect from Hobie. This one is surely to be a hit amongst paddlers and kayak anglers as it lends itself to being more maneuverable making it perfect for rivers and smaller bodies of water. According to several reports, this boat has been described as one that “cuts through water like knives through butter” — sounds about right! Click for specs, colors and pricing.


Hobie Quest Deluxe 11
Why stop at the Revolution? For those who prefer to paddle over the pedal, Hobie has applied their magical shrinking potion to another popular model, the Hobie Quest. Why so magical? Because it’s pretty much an exact replica of it’s bigger brother. Rather than try to reinvent the wheel, they took an already awesome boat and simply reduced it’s size and weight making it ideal for smaller paddlers. Don’t be fooled though, it’s still packed will all the great features that you’ll find on the 13ft version such as the mesh-covered stowage pockets, molded in rod holders, high back seat, large covered bow hatch and of course a Hobie paddle. Click for specs, colors and pricing.


Necky Vector 14
Instead of a younger sibling, Necky has taken a step forward with the launch of a larger version of its only sit-on-top model the Vector 13. I haven’t paddled the Vector 13 for several months but I was left with the lasting impression of a fast boat with bullet like tracking — I can only imagine how the 14 paddles. Sleek, slender yet stable enough for any paddler, the Vector 14 is a great boat for those looking for sit inside performance in a sit on top kayak. And how can you not appreciate its good looks! Click for specs, colors and pricing.


Necky Rip 12
The Popular Rip 10 has also joined a new generation of kayaks with siblings with the introduction of the Rip 12. The Rip is known for being an easy to use and playful boat for beginner to intermediate paddlers. The Rip 12 offers many of the sought after features and performance of the 10 but with two extra feet, you can expect enhanced tracking, speed and glide. Click for specs, colors and pricing.


Ocean Kayak Tetra 10 & 12
Probably one of the most talked about launches was the introduction of Ocean Kayak’s new family of kayaks, the Tetra 10 and 12. This is another boat I look forward to paddling soon with reports of better tracking and speed than its cousin, the Trident series. Ocean Kayak labels them as cross-over boats for paddlers who might want to dabble in several different activities. I have to agree as the Trident series was designed with the angler in mind, the Tetra is a made for everyone. You can purchase the base model or the angler version, which come with the Rod Pod II, and two flush mounted rod holders. Click for specs, colors and pricing for the 10 and 12.


Mad River Serenade 13
Just like the Native Watercraft Ultimate and Wilderness Commander, the Serenade 13 can be labeled a kayak/canoe hybrid but edges more towards a canoe in my personal opinion — which is what I love about it. This is the perfect boat for anyone looking for a comfortable kayak-like paddle with all the great features of a canoe. Steve Messana, ACK President and co-owner, had the privilege of  paddling this beautifully designed fiberglass boat and was surprised at how quick it moved and described the paddling experience as a “slick” one — lucky Steve! I haven’t tried this one myself but you can count on me being first in line.


Liquid Logic Marvel 14.5
Okay, so maybe not “new” but once a child of Native Watercraft, the Marvel series has been re-launched under the Liquid Logic brand. Why the mention? Because we are happy to announce that we are now carrying this model so I guess that makes it new to us! Our buyers were “sold” when they had the opportunity to demo this boat and were quick to offer it as part of our product line-up. I’ve personally had a lot of experience with this boat and can only describe it as one of the easiest to use and most comfortable sit-inside tandem kayaks. Complete with the ever-popular First Class seating system, which you can find on the Native Watercraft Ultimate, this one also gets my vote! Click for specs, colors and pricing.


Ocean Kayak Ultra 4.3
Although unavailable at this time, I must, at the minimum, make a quick mention of the shorter version of what many consider to be the “ultimate” kayak-fishing machine, the Ultra 4.7. At 14’ it’s still considered to be a long boat providing the performance you need when you are serious about kayak fishing — stay tuned, we expect availability before the end of the year.

So there you have it. A quick summary but do expect more in depth reviews over the next few months. If you are local to any of our stores, don’t miss out on our Demo Days where you’ll be able to demo all of these models and more.

Have you had the privilege of paddling any of these boats yet? We want to know, share your experiences with us by commenting below.

Roland
ACK HQ

Happy Birthday to Me

A coastal kayak fishing adventure by ACK Employee, Kristian Kolflat

I hadn’t planned on getting struck by the whip-like harpoon-resembling barbed tail of a large stingray, but as I shuffled foot-by-foot in the waist deep, mucky-waters of the back bays of Port Aransas’ world-class fishing waters, this seemed more and more likely. “Always shuffle your feet,” an old friend preached to me for years.

Ready, Set, Let's Go!

This trip began in Austin, where my girlfriend Jacqie and I packed my high-mileage, hail-beaten, scratched, yet ‘mint’ condition Nissan Pathfinder. After loading two Wilderness Systems Tarpon Kayaks (120 & 140), the necessary paddling accessories, fishing equipment, beach gear, food and firewood, we headed due-south towards the Texas coastline. Final destination: Port Aransas, TX. Fourteen Dairy Queen’s, AKA “Texas Stop Signs” and countless nameless towns later we reached the coastal flats where we would later be kayaking. As we waited in line for the free ferry ride over to the island I day-dreamed about the sun and sand, but mostly the fish. Tomorrow would be my birthday and I had no intention of doing anything other than sitting on the beach, swimming in the ocean, playing horseshoes and doing countless 12 oz. curls while watching the sea gulls glide over the gleaming swell of the Gulf of Mexico. All this did occur but only after a mandatory 5-mile run on the beach — Thanks Jacqie!

In Search of Reds

The following morning, I was prepared to come face-to-fin with a whale of a fish. I was plenty hydrated and my nutritional needs were met by a wonderful seafood platter from Jay’s Seafood and Spaghetti Works the night before.

Gear check: A Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140 with it’s lovely Phase 3 Seating, hassle-free Orbix hatches, adjustable foot pegs and countless bungees; an older model Tarpon 120 (which paddles the same as the newer ones, but requires a butt cushion) and a Werner Camano full carbon straight-shaft paddle that weighs in right at 25 oz. Imagine paddling with a feather rather than a sledgehammer? Lucky for me, I had the feather. Other accessories included a couple of dry bags, dry boxes, PFD’s, whistles, flares, biodegradable soap, soft-sided NRS coolers, neoprene wading boots, bruce-style claw anchors with rope, clips and anchor floats and a Mud Stick anchor (I highly recommend). Right about now you’re probably thinking, “how do you fit all on that on the boat?” Oh yea, let’s not forget the fishing gear: two Penn reels accompanied by Falcon rods, tackle, landing net, bait bucket, bait and of course a map of the area. I assure you that my gluttony for gear is not the only reason I come so heavily prepared. It’s the shear ruggedness of the coastal environment and countless encounters with despair that cause your hope to crumple beneath your waders all the while making you realize what you’ll bring next time. Believe me when I say that it’s not so much a problem fitting all this on the kayak, it’s the time it takes to pack and unpack all of this gear that hurts. I always plan on setting aside extra time for this very reason.

Exploring World Class Fishing Waters

There we were, finally on the water. After loading up the kayaks at the Lighthouse Lakes public area off of Hwy 361 we paddled across the Aransas Channel. We were not alone, several other ambitious and hopeful kayakers had beat us to the spot, so we went deeper into the Lighthouse Lake’s endless channels of mangroves and bird sanctuary islands. The waters are shallow but crystal clear. Here, people sight fish for red’s, a protected and much-prized game fish, hoping to launch a bait front and center of their flaring nares (nostrils). As we paddled through this magical place, I kept an eagle-sharp eye on the mirror-surfaced water looking for several things including tailing redfish, ripples and anything with a fin on it! I have caught many fish in the flats around this area but I can say that it is not without effort. The waters can be rough and the winds can be devastating. While the fishing can be world-class or non-existent and let’s not forget violent thunderstorms can come in un-announced. This is not a place for kids. You must be prepared to give it your all, or die trying. All joking aside, kayak fishing is a sport that must be taken seriously and you must be well prepared.

Success!

After paddling several miles, we began our return to the channel but first stopped in South Bay. Here I skimmed over a lost sheepshead and decided that this spot was fishy enough. I used my mud stick anchor to quickly anchor and proceeded to bait up. I was using both thawed menhaden (shad) and live shrimp for bait. After only a few minutes my rod doubled over and started making that sound that fishermen dream of. I set the hook and began the fight. I am at this point pretty confident that I have a redfish on the end of my line and that its going to give me its best gift — a challenge. I fight this fish in as it melts line off my reel making its powerful runs. Soon enough it surfaces and flashes its gorgeous humpback sized-tail with a nickel-sized black dot. Suddenly, Aerosmith’s “I’m Back in The Saddle” starts playing in a silent frequency that leaves my girlfriend looking puzzled as I play the air guitar with my fishing rod. The day has just taken a turn for the best, when suddenly this stubborn hardheaded fish makes a run directly at me, pivots, then hightails around the boat and gets wrapped up in my anchor line. It wasn’t the Discovery Channel landing I was hoping to share with you, but nonetheless this 25-inch red was available for a quick supra-surface photo shoot.

As for the stingrays; as many times as I slid out over the edge of my mango colored Tarpon 140, I always made sure to shuffle my feet and slowly land onto the underwater soft-bottom. Many times I saw these bottom feeding creatures eye me with their beady little eyes as they swam just past me. As with gators and crocs in the Everglades, grizzlies and buffalo in Yellowstone and the snakes of swampy Caddo Lake, my motto remains “if you don’t mess with them, they won’t mess with you.”

Have you paddled and fished Lighthouse Lakes? I hope to make it back soon but in the meantime, share your story with us!