This page is rarely updated. The majority of my articles and reviews are now published on the main blog, or via numerous other media outlets. These outlets include the HOOK1 Kayak Fishing Blog, Kayak Anlger Magazine, Kayak Fish Magazine, Southern Kayak Fishing Magazine,The Fisherman's Journal, NC Sportsman, YakAngler, RippinLip Outdoors and others.
Gone Creek'n - Big Fish in Small Waterways
Summer Bassin' - Tips, Tricks, and Techniques
Article 4: A Jackson Kayak Coosa Elite Review
My journey with the Coosa started last December (2011) when a number of us met in Tennessee to pick up our Coosa’s from the Jackson Kayak factory. Since this allowed for a behind the scenes experience, I must add a few things that made an impact on and are important to me. First, the entire Jackson operation is top notch. They are a family friendly company and entirely US based. Their kindness and helpfulness was striking. And they really care about their customers, so much so that the feedback they have received from our group of anglers has already led to small changes in the way the Coosa is manufactured and assembled. Now, onto the real review…
I have paddled and fished from the Coosa roughly 12-15 times and I must say that I am impressed. I have broken this review into categories, in which I will address the pros and cons.
Weather/Conditions: I have paddled the Coosa all winter long, including a couple days with air temperatures in the 20’s where ice formed on the deck. However, I always felt good having extra clothes and supplies in the hull, as the Coosa has a lot of storage space. A friend of mine even stacked his full of firewood and started a nice fire on the river bank this winter. Plus, the Coosa is a pretty dry ride. And I have paddled the boat in light, moderate, and heavy winds. If the boat has a downfall, it is handling in the wind. Wind will, of course, affect any kayak, but the large front end of the Coosa (which allows for better maneuvering and stability) catches a lot of wind. And, I have found that when paddling from the high seat position I got blown quite quickly – roughly three times faster than the 10’ sit-in kayak that a fishing partner (typically my girlfriend/better half) often paddles.
Tracking/Maneuverability: The Coosa tracks OK, but make no doubt, it is a river boat. It maneuvers very well and steers, as I and others have noted, more like a creek boat – with a very responsive front end. I will note that on rivers, particularly those that are quite rocky, beginning paddlers should be cautious. When sitting high in this boat your center of gravity is quite high and getting caught on shallow rocks can be trouble if you are not ready for it.
Speed: This kayak isn’t going to win any races. However, I find it comparable to many other sit-on-top kayaks of similar size and design. It definitely moves faster from the low seat position. And from the high seat position I highly recommend a paddle of at least 240 cm length to maximize efficiency and speed. This size paddle will also help when standing.
Stability: At 11’3” with 31.5” of width, the Coosa is quite stable. And it is noted for being a kayak from which you can stand and fish. I found that it does take some adjusting, but after I got comfortable it became easy to get up from my seat, stand, and fish while floating. For reference, I am 6’ and 200 lbs. It is also easy to enter the boat from the water; however, I have yet to do so from water deeper than four feet. My first trip in saltwater will not be for another month or two, but on a very windy day on Jordan Lake it handled 2-3 foot waves with ease, so I suspect inshore applications will be a breeze.
Weight: The Coosa weighs 63 lbs without the seat, which is removable in the elite model. I have no problem loading the boat onto the roof of my SUV by myself. It is significantly (20 lbs) heavier than my other kayaks, but after a few trips I barely noticed.
Features: This yak has a number of nice features. First, it has a lot of storage space in the hull and rear tank well. It also has a small pocket for keys, wallet, camera, etc. in front of the seat, room for storage under the seat ( which fits 4 tackle boxes perfectly), and a cup holder (which if you are like me typically just fills with lures). The Coosa has an extremely comfortable removable seat, which inclines to any position. It has paddle holders on each side of the boat and a paddle “stager” in front, which is a notch to rest your paddle and is particularly helpful while standing. It has two flush mount rod holders in the back, two rod stagers on the sides (with bungees), and 3 slots that help to hold rods on the front hatch. Both hatches are also lockable, which is a great feature while traveling, particularly because you can store 4+ rods and other gear in the hull without a problem. One other nice feature on the Coosa is the recess in the back, made for a drag chain (for river guys) or anchor system of some sort.
I also have a depth finder transducer mounted in-hull, although you could mount one in a scupper if you desired. The in-hull mount works great because the Coosa has recesses in the deck that are made for Talon and RAM mounts, which make installation of a depth finder easy and keeps the deck clear and free of wires.
Now for the grand finale - check out this video filmed with my new GoPro Hero HD this past weekend on Jordan Lake when I met up with Jackson Kayak fishing team member (and friend) Herschel Finch.
Overall, I am extremely impressed with the Coosa. The positives vastly outweigh the negatives with this boat and I would recommend it to anyone from beginning paddlers to seasoned vets. I think it will also be a great boat for any body of water, ranging from freshwater rivers and lakes to saltwater marshes and inshore applications. I know I can’t wait for things to warm up so I can spend an entire year with this fishing machine!
Article 3: Having Success on Small Rivers
I grew up fishing small trout streams in central PA, so I have always felt at home on small, flowing bodies of water. In fact, I honed my skills on tiny Pine Creek - a native trout water that flows right next to my childhood home. Pine Creek is known for overhanging trees, briar bushes, and small spaces. And I, like many others, learned the hard way. But, over time I got extremely good at reading the water and learning the little skills that help double or even triple a catch rate. Pine, as well as Elk and Penns Creek, was just the starting point however. Soon I was using the same skills for smallies in skinny water, rivers in Oregon and New Mexico, and now the rivers of the NC Piedmont region. In fact, as soon as I moved to Durham, NC I fell in love with the Eno River. A small body of water the flows through north Durham and into Falls Lake.
There are a number of keys when it comes to fishing smaller flows, so I am going to try and touch on the ones I feel are most important. If you have ones to add, please do so in the comments section, as I always like to get more advice, opinions, and ideas.
First, and foremost, be quiet and stealthy. The rule, which is more than true, is typically that if you can see the fish then the fish can see you. So, I try to do little things. I wear neutral, natural colored clothing. I try and make long casts when possible. I even kneel down sometimes or hide behind logs, rocks, tall grass, etc. I also try and wade very quietly and only move my feet when I must. In fact, in good holes I often stand for a minute or two without casting to give the fish some time to settle down.
The last point, wading, is one to strongly consider. Although I love to fish from a kayak, it often isn't the best choice for smaller creeks and streams. Likewise, bank fishing often disables you from fishing a lot of good water, restricts casting, etc. So, I wade these smaller rivers year round - using waders in colder months and shorts and sneakers in warmer months. I promise you that it will pay off!
Another must is polarized sunglasses. These will help to eliminate glare on the water. This better allows you to see subsurface structure and holes as well as helping to see where you are stepping in order to remain quiet (and often, upright). Plus, you may get lucky and be able to sight fish for your target species.
One mistake I feel that many people make in skinny water is to use lures that are too small. If you want to catch bigger fish, upsize your baits. In fact, you will probably catch nearly as many fish as well. I try to use baits with bigger profiles and/or bodies no matter what species I am targeting. Likewise, especially when bass fishing, I make sure I have appropriate tackle - typically a 2500 size reel and 6'6" to 7' medium to medium-heavy, spinning rod.
Lastly (and certainly not least) is to practice casting. Accuracy is crucial because big, lazy fish don't want to come far to get their meals. Being able to throw to small areas (often under trees or bushes), flip, and skip baits are musts. This is something that takes time, practice, and patience.
I hope these tips help you tackle small bodies of water with more success in the future, as you may be suprised what giants lurk in small waters. Tight lines!
Article 2: Gearing Up...
Over the past 5-6 years I have become a bit of a gear guy when it comes to fishing. I pride myself in finding extremely good deals on high quality equipment. I like to mess with rods in stores, try other fishermen's gear, read review articles online, and just get the best feel possible for what is out there. As an angler, particularly a kayak angler, my gear gets used hard and I want to get a lot of bang for my buck. I also want my gear to cover the entire spectrum of fishing styles.
I take a lot of pride in my gear and clean it regularly. If you are in the market for new equipment remember the following things:
1. Price range - you definitely get what you pay for, but there is a ton of quality out there without breaking the bank. Wait for sales around holidays, look for coupons online, and do your research before you buy!
2. Weight/Sensitivity - when it comes to rods and reels, lighter = better and typically more sensitive.
3. Application - what are you planning on using the rod and/or reel for. This may determine size, speed, flex, and other factors.
4. Reputation - I love supporting small, local, and American based companies. However, that can get you into trouble at times if not careful.
5. Warranty - if gear doesn't carry at least a 1 year warranty (preferably 2+) then I wouldn't bother.
I would say the most overlooked feature of reels is speed. People get wrapped up in bearings, design/look, and feel, but speed is incredibly important. For instance, you wouldn't want to try and throw a buzzbait on a low speed reel (5:1), nor a deep crank on a high speed reel (7+:1). Therefore, 6:1 is often a good all purpose speed choice. Likewise, know the application you are going to use a rod for. Don't buy a light or medium-light rod as your general bass rod and don't buy a heavy rod to fight crappie. Find a middle ground. This may mean a MH, 6'6" rod or a M, 7' rod.
Here is a list of the rods and reels I currently use (sans fly fishing tackle).
- Reels -
- Abu Garcia Revo STX Gen 3 - 6.4:1 - this is my go-to, all purpose reel which performs incredibly, particularly the drag system.
- Abu Garcia REVO MGX Gen 3 - 7.9:1 - I won this reel and have reviewed it on my site. It is insanely light and powerful and can throw light baits a mile.
- Abu Garcia REVO Toro 50 (2) - 6.4:1 - One word - POWER! This reel is a beast and worth every cent. I spool one with braid and another with heavy fluoro and mainly use them to fish heavy swimbaits/A-rigs and deep crank. I also like them for fishing slop or chasing bigger species.
- Abu Garica REVO STX Gen 2- 6.4:1 - this thing can crank and crank and crank...you can guess how I mainly use it.
- Abu Garcia REVO STX Gen 3 - 6.4:1, LH - I have this reel on my jig and worm rod and use it mainly to pitch and flip
- Abu Garcia Orra S 30 (x 3) - super light and a great reel. These are becoming my go-to spinning reels.
- Abu Garcia Orra SX 40 - this is a well designed reel with a great drag system.
- Abu Garcia Orra S 20 - this is a great trout, crappie, panfish reel that is really smooth.
- Abu Garcia Orra S 10 - Another trout, crappie, panfish reel that is even lighter, but with a great drag for the price point
- Rods -
- Carolina Custom Rods Jig & Worm - 7', MH - a sensitive, light rod made to fish jigs and plastics, although it can really do it all. It has a sweet Duke theme too!
- Carolina Custom Rods Crankbait Rod- 7', MH - this glass cranker is incredibly sensitive and has just the right amount of backbone
- Carolina Custom Rods "Power Fishing" Rod - 7'6", M-MH - this is my rod that does it all in regard to moving baits (spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, swimbaits, etc). It is incredibly light, but stout too.
- Carolina Custom Rods "All Star" - 7'6", MH - This thing can do it all and do it well!
- Carolina Custom Rods Deep Cranker - 7'10", MH+ - glass composite, deep cranking rod made for chunking big cranks all day. It also has a custom Duke theme.
- Carolina Custom Rods A-Rig/Swimbait Special - 7'10", H - the name says it all!
- Carolina Custom Rods Finesse Special - 6'10" - the best spinning rod I have ever touched
- Carolina Custom Rods All-Around - 7' - this rod is super sensitive and has a million applications
- Carolina Custom Rods Plastics Rod - 6'8" - another insanely sensitive rod great for lightweight plastics
- Abu Garcia Veritas 7', M - A rod with a lot of backbone, great for fishing shakyheads
- Bass Pro Shops Micro - 5'10", UL - this rod is about 15 years old and is an amazing ultralight pole.
Picking out a new rod and reel is a big investment for most of us. It is also one filled with anticipation and angst, but should not be done hastily. Hopefully this sheds a little light on the gear I use and what I look for when purchasing equipment. Tight lines!
Article 1: My favorite lure?
When people find out I fish, the generic question is "What is your favorite lure." Typically I smile, pause, and realize that my real answer is going to bore them - so I come up with a brief answer that I think they will understand and blurt out the first bait that comes to mind.
In reality, my favorite bait depends on the body of water I am fishing, the species I am targeting, the daily conditions, and my daily goals. In other words, my favorite bait is the one that puts fish on the end of my line. But, if I had to choose one, it would be a crankbait. If you asked me to choose just one crankbait, it would be a 1-4 ft diver, but I would prefer to have 3 choices - 1 shallow, medium, and deep running crankbait.
Spring and fall are obvious times to throw a crank because bass are chasing bait fishing and fattening up either for the spawn or winter. Both lipped and lipless cranks can really produce at these times. However, most people tend to overlook cranks in the summer and even winter. In lakes with good baitfish forage you can catch summer bass on cranks in 1 to 25+ feet of water depending on the time of day and conditions. It is important to change your retrieve speed during the summer and often switching from a rattling to silent crankbait will increase the number of strikes you get. During the winter bass are deep and lethargic. A deep diving crank fished slowly over ledges can often produce bass in cold weather months.
Now, if I had to pick specific crankbaits (barring color), here are my 6:
1. Favorite Shallow Crank - Lucky Craft SKT MR
This bait is silent, has a great wobble, and works year round. Plus it has some great color choices, is 3/8 oz, and deflects well.
2. Favorite 'Bang for the Buck' Crank - Cotton Cordell Big-O
This bait is one of the 'old faithful' baits in my box. They always run true from the package, are affordable, and just flat out catch fish.
3. Favorite Square Billed Crank - Bandit 100 Series
These baits have a nice wobble, deflect well, and tend to not hang up when fished in shallow wood. They are also easy on the wallet. My only qualm is that they are a little on the light side.
4. Favorite Medium Diving Crank - Lucky Craft CB250 or CB350
The Lucky Craft craftmanship really shines on this one. It runs true and deflects well for a round billed bait. A great medium diving bait that is easy to crank all day - this one is the king of 7+ lb fish for me.
5. Favorite Deep Diving Crank - Spro Little John DD
This crank is fairly new and I love it. It has a really big profile (which will ward off some smaller fish) and you can cast it a mile. It also has a different rattle than most deep cranks.
6. Favorite Lipless Crank - Strike King Red Eye Shad
As you can tell, one of the reasons I love cranks is because they are so versatile. Color, wobble, retrieve speed, sound, vibration, bill shape, lure size, and the gear you fish cranks on are all very important pieces of the crankbait puzzle. If you take the time to learn the intricacies of fishing cranks, I guarantee it will pay off in the long run! Tight lines!