Monday, August 1, 2016

Paddling Is The Best Medicine!


          Kayak paddles have evolved just as much as the kayaks have in recent years, but how do they enhance your paddling experience?  The newest kayak features are usually very apparent to most paddlers but not so much with paddles. I only recognized one of these subtle improvements after it helped me recover from an injury.

            In the spring of 2014 I began to have severe pain in my right elbow. Being an Athletic Trainer I immediately knew what my problem was. Lateral Epicondylitis, or more commonly known as Tennis Elbow. This is basically an inflammation of forearm muscle tendons at the point where they attach to the bone at the elbow. The primary function of these muscles is grip and wrist stabilization. This is an overuse injury from daily work and life, but I believe that my case was severely exacerbated from the amount of paddling I was doing and the type of paddle I had.

            My pain was at the point where lifting an iPad caused great pain. I knew something had to be done, so I tried all conventional treatments such as electric stimulation, ice, ultrasound, rest and even a cortisone shot. They all provided temporary relief then the pain would inevitably come back. The reason I could never shake it was because I would eventually get back on the water and kayak fish again and then symptoms would come back. After about a year of trying different treatments and taking time off it finally hit me that maybe a change of paddle would help.

            The paddle that I was using was my Oracle Angler from Adventure Technology and I loved it, but it was just not conducive to what I need at that time. After looking at the various models I landed on the Fishstix paddle also from Adventure Technology. I had used bent shaft paddles before but never really saw the “ergonomic” advantage, but I thought at this point it couldn’t hurt. After receiving the new paddle, I immediately took it for a test drive. The bent shaft took a little bit of getting used to but after a few minutes it felt natural and after a couple months of using the Fishstix I am proud to say I was pain free.

            Was it the paddle that healed me? Was it a coincidence? I wasn’t sure so I decided to look into it a bit. I called a man named Hastings Blumer, who is the mad scientist/engineer for AT Paddles and asked him to help me out with my questions. I told my story of injury and recovery and that I believed my paddle was the answer, but I wanted his insight. What he told me solidified every suspicion I had. Blumer said that he wasn’t at all surprised by my outcome with the injury because that was specifically what the Fishstix was designed to do. I was so intrigued by the science behind this explanation that I asked Hastings if we could video chat to better understand his explanations, he kindly obliged. He asked me to make a fist, and look at the natural progression of my knuckle line. The vast majority of individuals will have a declining pattern from one knuckle to the next, because this is our natural anatomical progression. Next he asked me to hold my straight shaft paddle, and again to observe my knuckles. This time my knuckles were aligned straight parallel with each other, which was different from the natural position. This misalignment contributed to the intensity of my condition due to overstretching of those muscles and tendons on each paddle stroke. Then he asked me to do the same with my bent shaft paddle, and I did. My knuckle line this time looked like it did when I made the fist, with the declining progression.


     After seeing this difference for myself Mr. Blumer proceeded to explain why the Fishstix was different from other bent shaft paddles. Other bent shaft paddles on the market have one bend in the shaft that doesn’t exactly return the wrist and hand back to a natural position. The Fishstix has a duel axis bend that is specifically unique to the AT Fishstix. This double bend is what allows the hand and wrist to maintain correct anatomical position. Basically, this double bend or duel axis grip prevented the muscles and tendons in my wrist and forearm from being over stretched and inflamed throughout each paddle stroke.

            The Fishstix was designed to prevent and aid with injuries exactly like the one I suffered from. There is no doubt that I was able to overcome my injury because of switching paddles. This paddle truly is ergonomic in every sense of the word. I am most appreciative of the great work from Mr. Blumer and his team at Adventure Technology for designing paddles with the paddler in mind.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Bonding Time!!

     Last week I had the opportunity to get my nephew, Cash, out for his first kayak fishing trip and we had the opportunity to do a little filming as well. For two days leading up to our trip Cash talked non stop about wanting to start a YouTube channel for his little video games tutorials and random adventures that your average nine year old goes through. For some strange reason he been obsessed with state parks, so I figured we could knock a couple off his list. 
     I took Cash to Martin Creek State Park in between Longview and Tatum TX. He really wanted to get out on my kayak and paddle around, fish, and eat lunch on the big island in the middle of the lake. He's been so obsessed with creating his own YouTube channel and getting a GoPro that I had to take mine and do some filming with him and show him a little of how I do things for my videos. 
    Below is our video and I hope Cash likes it as much as I liked making it. Thank you for spending the day with me little buddy and I cant wait to see what great videos you have in store for the world to see. Dream big nephew!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Wilderness Systems iCast Feature Kayaks

     Industry leading design teams from Confluence Outdoors have struck gold again in 2016. Wilderness Systems debuted three new kayaks at iCast this year and one from Perception Kayaks. There have been rumors swirling and hype spread about the little brother to last years big reveal, the ATAK 120. Wildy has also been in the rumor mill for quite a while about a possible pedal drive kayak, and now they have delivered big time on that. I am going to break down each new boat for you below. Feel free to comment with any questions you may have.

First up is the ATAK 120. This kayak has been the most requested boat that I've heard since the original ATAK 140 came out. I have not personally had an opportunity to paddle this kayak since the very first prototype, however even that was a sweet ride. Excellent maneuverability, stability, and tracking without the cumbersome size of the 140. The price of the ATAK 120 will be $1,649.

Deck Height
A.T.A.K. 120
12'3" / 371 cm
35" / 88 cm
70 lbs / 32 kg
16" / 41 cm
400 lbs / 181 kg

The Radar has arrived! Wilderness Systems finally has a pedal powered kayak. All eyes have been on Wildy since Hobie first introduced their Mirage Drive. I believe that Wilderness waited until other pedal drives were on the market long enough to know what modern kayak anglers prefer and can live without in other pedal drives. Unlike the ATAK, this kayak will feature a 115 and a 135 model in its first run. Base price on the 115 will be $1,349, and the base price on the 135 will be $1,499. Helix PD pedal drive will be priced at $1,100, and the Helix Motor Drive will run $1,999. I haven't pedaled or paddled this kayak yet. I can say however that the 115 model WILL be my next boat.
Deck Height
Radar 115
11'8" / 356 cm
34.5" / 88 cm
82 lbs / 37 kg
15" / 38 cm
450 lbs / 204 kg

Deck Height
Radar 135
13'6" / 412 cm
34" / 86 cm
95 lbs / 43 kg
15.5" / 39 cm
475 lbs / 215 kg

The Helix PD is the official name of the new pedal drive system. This system is definitely unique compared to other drives on the market. 

Even though this is not a Wilderness Systems kayak, it is produced by Confluence Outdoor, which is the parent company of Wilderness Systems. Think of Perception as Wildy's smaller cousin. This offering however is huge from Perception. The first ever pedal driven kayak with  price tag of under 2k. This is going to be right in the wheelhouse both in price point, and features. Price on the Pilot will be $1,799. Look for the Pescador Pilot to make big waves soon.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


I was recently given the opportunity to volunteer for my first Heroes on the Water event. There aren’t many words that can express that experience and what it meant to me, but I’ll give it a shot.
It’s extremely humbling to be in the presence of true heroism and bravery, and those men and women acted no different than anyone else. To be honest, I was very nervous heading into the event mostly because I knew that these guys have seen more and been through more than I could ever comprehend. I eventually remembered why I wanted to volunteer and what HOW stood for and why they exist, and I put all of my anxiety aside for a higher purpose.
I arrived about thirty minutes early to help unload the kayaks, paddles, PFD’s, and whatever else needed to be set before the crowd arrived.  There is a lot more manpower, planning, and detail that goes into these events that I had previously thought. After we got everything unloaded and set up, the vets started to show up and get registered. There were guys that showed up by themselves and whole families that came to enjoy the day together. It was a cool sight to witness these real American heroes just being dads and husbands, and not the soldiers that I had envisioned. My job, after set up, was to get on the water with the vets and fish and mingle with them. I immediately found a small group of guys fishing near each other but not together and decided to plop myself in the middle and just kind of make small talk with all of them. I could tell some of them preferred to fish in quiet and that was ok, but I at least wanted to try. It didn’t take long before we were all chatting and enjoying the cool morning and calm water. We swapped fishing stories and talked about our kids, wives, and how hot it was going to get later in the day. Literally everything else seemed to fade away, or at least not matter in that moment. We paddled around together for a couple of hours and we all caught fish after fish, all the while taking grip n grin shots of each other.
After landing about 20 bass in the kayak before 11:00 it was time to paddle ashore and get ready for lunch. HOW graciously provided the vets, volunteers, and families with a delicious lunch. I had the opportunity to continue to visit with more vets and their families as well as fellow volunteers. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to listen these guys talk about how they’ve been impacted by combat both physically and mentally. I got to listen to the numerous ways that HOW has affected their lives. One brave soldier told me that these events are the few times when he doesn’t have to think about anything else other than fishing. The injuries, bills, jobs, and other points of stress do not matter on that day. It’s just a day for fishing and that’s definitely something that we can all relate to.

I couldn’t have asked for a better experience in my first HOW event. I leave a more humbled man, and a man that sees first hand the sacrifices made in the name of freedom. It was a day that has left a lasting imprint in my life, and I’m chomping at the bit to get to the next one. For more information about HOW, volunteering, or donating, please click the link below.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Tackle subscription boxes have been around since 2012, and have made big splashes in the fishing industry. The top two companies offering this service are Mystery Tackle Box and Lucky Tackle Box. In a nutshell, these two companies have several options of boxes for a monthly fee with varying fishing lures dedicated to the species of your choice. For example, I will receive the “Bass” box which will have several lures designed to catch only bass. They offer different species to choose from to suit your style of fishing, and the angler has the option to switch boxes from month to month.

I found myself in a unique position with one box from each company this month, so I thought I would use this opportunity to compare them. Upon first look there is no discernible difference between the two boxes. Both boxes contain a magazine of some sort, a sticker, and about 5-6 lures. One thing I do really like about both boxes is that the lures are all for different styles of fishing. Both boxes contained top water lures, mid water lures, and some sort of soft plastics for bottom fishing. I don’t think either box stands apart as far as the variety of lures offered in the boxes. I want to go through each box, item by item, and break down what’s inside. Please keep in mind that the monthly subscription fee for this MTB is $25 and this LTB is $15.

Mystery Tackle Box: $47.16 of product value 
            Bruiser Baits Thrasher – This is a soft plastic bait that looks to be a quality candidate for spinner, swim bait, or jig trailer. $4.29
            6th Sense Provoke – This bait is a hard suspended jerk bait with about a 3-6 max depth and is about 4 inches long.  $11.29
            River2Sea Spittin Wa – Standard hollow body top water frog with a popper mouth. I’ve traditionally been a fan of the Booyah pad crasher frogs but I’m very familiar with the R2S brand so I am very excited to give this one a shot. $10.50
            Skinny Bear “Big Guy” Spinnerbait – Another brand I haven’t heard of, but that doesn’t scare me in any way. This is a very large spinnerbait, as the name suggests, and has impressive detail. $10.00
            Mustad Screw Lock Hooks – Pretty straight forward. Soft plastic swim bait hook, with a screw lock that inserts into the nose of the bait. $5.59
            Reins 4” Bubbling Shaker worm – Another soft plastic ribbed style worm with a tapered body. It looks like it could be good weightless or on a drop shot. $5.49

Lucky Tackle Box –  $42.00 of product value
             Throwback Lures Walkin' Paycheck – These have been a very difficult brand to track down. Its obviously a Chinese owned company with a poor website. I was able to track down the website but there are no prices and no places to order. From what I could find of the other brands baits on another discount tackle website the price is around $15. $15.00
             Biwaa 4” Deus – A soft plastic swim bait with a paddle tail. The profile look like it would be decent. $6.00
             Road Runner Randy's Bass Buffet Rig -  A duel mounted jig head with a soft plastic body and an under mount spinner blade.  I’m familiar with the Road Runner brand and have own several in the past. This looks like a fun bait to throw and I’m excited to see what I can land on it. $6.00
             Mustad Wide Gap Hooks – This is a 2/0 hook with a wide gap for soft plastics. I could find these exact hooks on any web site so they may be new or discontinued. $5.00
             Snag Proof Double Hook Jig -  Honestly, this looks like a kind of hokey gimmick bait that you would see on a isle display at Wal-Mart. It has a double, frog style, hook and sport a double weed guard on a brush puppy jig head. I’m not saying I won’t flip this baby into some heavy cover, but it wouldn’t be my first choice to buy. $6.00
              Buddha Baits 4” Baby Momma – This one is a beaver/flipper style soft plastic. This is another product that isn’t listed on the website. Again, I don’t know if its old and discontinued or so new that it hasn’t shown up on the site yet. Either way, this is a good-looking bait to try on my Black Angel jigs. $4.00

As you can see, both boxes have a wide variety of lures in them. This allows me an opportunity to expand my arsenal and allow me to become and even more well rounded angler. I think these boxes can be that catalyst that prevents us from sticking with the same old baits that we are comfortable with and to branch out with minimal risk involved. I think on all levels these two services are pretty even, and you couldn’t go wrong either way. I will say that the only nit picking difference I could see was that all the lures in the Mystery Tackle Box were easy to locate online for future purchasing, and I had a really hard time tracking down some of the Lucky Tackle Box products.  From this point on I will be receiving the Lucky Tackle Box subscription for the next six months. I may decide to stay or switch to MTB at that point, but either way, receiving that box in the mail is damn exciting!