Wednesday, June 29, 2016

HOW

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 soldiers 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

MTB vs. LTB


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!







       

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Wilderness Systems TarponX 130 Review

Wilderness Systems hit the nail on the head with their redesign of an old classic. The Tarpon has been a staple series of kayaks in the Wilderness family for over a decade, and now the addition of the TarponX 130 takes this family of kayaks to another level of style, comfort, and features.


First, let’s start with new features that differ from previous Tarpon models starting from bow to stern. The carry handles have been upgraded to the rigid material similar to that of the Thresher, as opposed to the soft material and rubber handles from before. The key feature that puts the X in TarponX is the addition of the flex pod OS. This is the same electronic housing unit that can be seen on the Thresher and ATAK models. Wilderness Systems has taken it a step further with the Helix electric motor drive that is designed to fit in the flex pod OS scupper.  Additionally, there has been an additional transducer scupper installed beneath the utility pod cover should angler chooses to utilize the Helix drive. This feature will allow a fish finder to be installed without having to use a drop down arm over the side of the kayak.  Other than the addition of the Flex Pod OS, the most impactful difference from previous models is the introduction of the Air Pro Lite seat. This seat is a rigid framed seat similar the Air Pro Max, but with a couple small differences. The Air Pro Lite does not have multiple positions such as hi, low, and recline that we see in the max seat. From a stability standpoint you will notice that the TarponX has been widened by 4 inches for increased stability and capacity.  The rear tank well also has been re designed to accommodate a Black Pack or other type of tackle crate better with squared of corners as opposed to the rounded ones previously. All of these changes have been made with exclusively with the serious angler in mind.



            I have had several opportunities to paddle and fish from this kayak in the last two weeks and I continue to be impressed each time I take it out.  I have to admit that I have never been interested in the Tarpon series because I had always been under the impression that Tarpons were for salt-water anglers and they didn’t suit my needs. I have only owned kayaks in the Ride series and the ATAK, till now.  Going from a Ride 135 to a 115X to an ATAK, I know what kayak stability but apparently I didn’t know what speed was. This kayak faster than any yak I’ve ever paddled. The seated stability has not been an issue in this kayak so far. I know that I probably will not be attempting to stand in this kayak but there are many times when its not even warranted. I have been pleased with the loading and unloading of this kayak since I have been in the ATAK for the past year, and the difference has been very welcomed.  Since paddling this kayak I have honestly began to question whether standing stability is a priority for me anymore over speed.  I believe that my TarponX130 will continue to be a staple in my personal fleet, and I look forward to spending many more hours in it.