Kayaks and more

Imagine it’s the weekend or holidays and you are finally at the lake, but you are still tense and are awake way too early. Quietly you get out of bed (or your sleeping bag) and head outside. Standing in the stillness you inhale the fresh air and take in the mist that rises over the glass-like water. It’s cool but light as the sun starts to make it’s journey in the sky.  The only sounds are the birds and water gently lapping against the shore. The serenity of the moment begins to work on all the muscles that you’ve been holding tense all week (or all month.. all year).  You feel all tension slipping away. As your soul begins to recharge you head to the beach where your kayak waits patiently. Once your pfd is donned. the kayak is carefully placed into the water. There is a slight wobble as you climb in.  Grasping your paddle in both hands you head off. Destination relaxation. As you paddle around the lake you see the world through new eyes as  your soul is filled with peace.

Does that sound idyllic?

Maybe it’s time to start looking into adding kayaking as a new addition to your life. Kayaks are not only great exercise but they allow you to go to different lakes or rivers. You don’t need a cottage or a weekend at a campground. Just pack a lunch and snacks, a few little essentials and just head to a local lake for a couple hours of stress relief.

We have kept our inventory focused on the popular Ascend kayaks this summer but we also have the tandem Twin Heron by Old Town,  the modular Apollo (can be solo or tandem depending on whether you go with two or three segments) by Point 65 or the Stealth 9 by Malibu, All Ascend kayaks are made of high density polyethylene, which is a very tough plastic. The Ascend Kayaks are a little wider then other kayaks which allows for more stability and comfort.

The first model is a budget friendly basic beginner level kayak called the A10. At 9’10”  long,  28.5” wide and weighing only 44 pounds  this kayak will suit most people.  It comes in red or blue with a removable steel framed mesh seat and storage area with a bungee support that will hold a 36 quart cooler.

Second in line is the D10. This kayak has the same dimensions as the A10 but has added features; foot braces, a removable steel frame padded seat, cushioned thigh pads and covered stern-well that will hold a 36 quart cooler. The colour choices are red/black or purple/black.

The D10T was introduced this year, a sit on kayak with a custom designed hull for great stability (you can even stand on it!!!) foot braces, adjustable padded seat and loads of storage space. It is 10’ long, 34” wide and only 52 pounds. It  comes in red/black or titanium grey.

Next we have the D12. Stretching out a full 12 feet, this 74 pound kayak has a specialized hull design for speed, better load carrying, easy paddling and good handling in rougher waters. It comes with foot braces, two storage areas (including a dry well), 5” deck plate storage hatch for small items like your wallet, fishing license, cell-phone and keys)  and bungee system to keep all your gear with you. Colour choices are blue/black or red/black.

If you are an angler you will love the next four models in the Ascend line.

The FS10 is one of our most popular kayaks. It’s 10’2” length is perfect for most anglers. The wide cockpit allows for greater movement and stability. There are two flush rod mount holders and a fully adjustable rod tender (I don’t fish but the guys in the fishing department assure me this is a good thing to have). There are also two 4” cleats for anchoring a fish bucket or stringer. Dual bungee paddle keepers and a comfortable seat make this kayak a great choice for anglers who want to go to those tucked away places. It comes in camouflage or titanium Then we have the FS12. This 12 foot beauty is full of great features; integrated rod storage tube, full tackle rod tender on the starboard side and two rod holders behind the seat. It also has an adjustable anchor system, foot braces, cushioned thigh pads, 5” deck plate storage hatch, two big storage areas (one covered one dry) and a very comfortable seat.  You can chose from desert storm or camouflage.

Another option is the FS12T sit on kayak. This 68 pound kayak has an ultra stable hull for maximum comfort, stability and manoeuvrability. It has a moulded five position foot rest and padded seat for comfort. There are also two flush rod mount rod holders, full tackle rod tender, two storage areas and a catch all tray with two colour choices; sand or olive.

Finally we have the last in our Ascend line, a behemoth at 12 feet 8 inches in length; The FS128T. This kayak is a sit on like none we have had before. Available in camouflage or desert storm, this kayak is made to sit or stand  fish on with a tunnel hull design and solid casting platform. It also has a removable swivel seat, lots of storage, adjustable foot braces,  flush rod mounts and a rod tender.

If you prefer to have company when you meander around the lake you might want to look at canoes instead. The Old Town canoes start with the 3 person 14’ 6” Saranac then move into the 14’ Rockport and Rogue River. We also have a 16’ Saranac and 15’4” Rogue River square back.

If you think kayaking or canoeing sounds like it might be a good fit for you, visit our Vaughan store and check out our selection (the majority of boats are outside but we do have one of each Ascend model inside). If you have any questions about kayaking, canoeing or camping in general please see one of the camping associates.

Happy Paddling!

Melanie

Team Lead

Camping Department

Bass Pro Shops

Vaughan, Ontario

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How to Choose the Correct Life Jacket or PFD

A new boating season is here, and it is time to take inventory of things that you may need, or things that you may need to replace. Put Life Jackets or PFD’s at the top of that list. Every year in Alabama, people drown by falling in the water without a PFD on them, and, many times, there is one available in the boat. How many times have you heard that someone could “swim like a fish”, yet they drowned because they were not wearing a proper PFD? The old adage that “it is better to have it on and not need it than to not have it on and really need it” applies here. For your safety, make sure that you have a US Coast Guard approved PFD in good working order for everyone in the boat, and a good US Coast Guard approved throwable Life Ring or Cushion with a rope, just in case. At Bass Pro Shops, we carry many types and styles of PFD’s, so let’s go over a few so that you can make the best choice for you, your family, and your friends.

Type I Vest - A Type I type vest is usually referred to as an Offshore Vest. Normally these are offered in high visibility colors to aid in finding the man overboard. They also feature a design which includes a neck pad that rolls the wearer over in the water, leaving them in a face up position, reducing the chance of an accidental drowning. These vests are better in rougher water, and are generally the most buoyant available for long periods in the water, which is why many members of the military use them. The normal buoyance is 22 lbs.

Type II Vest – A Type II Vest is normally referred to as a Near Shore Buoyant Vest as is more comfortable, less restrictive, and less buoyant than a Type I Vest. This type is used when quick rescue is expected. The normal buoyancy is 15.5 lbs.

Type III Vest – A Type III Vest is usually the most comfortable and this category includes most of your general Recreational Vests and Fishing Vest. These are designed to be used in your more protected waters and lakes. They still offer ample buoyance for larger people, but may not roll a person over to a face up position in the water. Many of the Type III Fishing vests have pockets for stashing smaller items and are made with mesh for cooler comfort. Bass Pro Shops also carries a big selection of Type III Recreational or Ski Vest offered in nylon or neoprene. The neoprene vests are also sized to fit ladies, men, or children. The buoyancy rating for these vests is 15.5 lbs. Finally, for added convenience, Bass Pro Shops offers 4/packs of either Mae West Vests or Recreational Vest in a handy carrying case and sized in an adult universal one-size-fits-most size.

Type IV PFD’s – Type IV PFD’s include your throwable devices such as Life Rings and Seat Cushions. These can also have a rope attached for easy retrieval, and typically have 16.5 lbs. of buoyancy.

Type V PFD – Called a Type V Special Use Device, this category includes work vests, deck suits, and hybrids for restricted or special use.

Inflatable Life Vest – Depending on the design, they can fit into different categories, but all are US Coast Guard approved. Some of the vests are inflated automatically with a Co2 cartridge upon immersion, some are inflated manually upon demand by pulling a ripcord, some have oral tube inflation tubes for manual backup if the cartridge deployment fails, and some have a combination of these features. The higher end vest with Hydrostatic Valve technology can help reduce the chance of accidental deployment by rain, humidity, or bad luck. Replacement re-charge kits can cost anywhere from $25.00 to $75.00. All of these vest come with adjustable straps to ensure a comfortable all day fit for the larger boaters, and more than enough buoyancy at 24lbs or more to keep you floating until help arrives, or the gators get you. Either way, you’ll be floating.

Well, now that you have an idea what we offer at Bass Pro Shops, come on down and see us and get fixed up for the new season. We currently have several styles in all sizes on sale, so check the BPS Facebook page for constant updates. As for sizing, we do carry an extensive offering of PFD’s for infants from 0 lbs. to 30 lbs., children from 30 lbs. to 50 lbs., and youth from 50 lbs. to 90 lbs. In adult sizes, we carry everything from XS adult to 6XL adult.  

I hope to see at Bass Pro Shops in Leeds, Alabama, real soon. In the mean time, check out our website at www.basspro.com

Thanks, Jim Mann

 

 

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Mako 18LTS

Morgan CityThe 18 LTS is a whole other breed of bay boat. It takes the features, ride and versatility of larger craft and perfectly melds them with the maneuverability and shallow draft of an inshore boat. The patented Rapid Planing System not only pushes the 18 LTS up on plane in record time, but it can do it in only 24" (60.96 cm) of water! All with less horsepower! And for fishing versatility, no other boat even compares. Generous bow and stern platforms are perfect for sight casting. If you prefer to stalk your fish through extreme shallows, you can get the optional poling platform, push pole and holders.

For even more big-boat performance options, optional trim tabs, jack plates and hydraulic steering are ready to take your bay fishing trip to the max. However you choose to outfit your 18 LTS, this light tackle skiff is built to impress with its smooth ride, long list of features and all-around versatility.

From Busting Bass and Sac-au-lait (Crappie) on the bayou to the Salt Marshes and out in the bay, thisMorgan City 2 boat does it all. I recently had the opportunity to fish several days in different locations. First we hit the swamp, the Atchafalaya River Basin for Bass and Sac-Au-Lait (Crappie). This rig performed very well in the bayous and rivers. Then we went south to East Cote Blanche Bay where we encountered 3’ to 4’ rolling waves that is when I realized what a great little boat. The way this boat handles the rough seas was impressive to say the least. The next day we hit the shallow marshes for Redfish. Once again, I was impressed by how quickly and easily the boat maneuvers in shallow water and narrow waterways. If you are looking for a true fishing boat, consider the Mako 18LTS.

  • Completely bonded & lined hull/deck assembly
  • Deep ventilated step hull w/integrated transom knee laminated into hull
  • Flip-flop helm seat w/72-qt. (68.14 L) cushioned cooler
  • Center console w/analog gauges, removable windscreen, grab rail, stainless steel steering wheel & vertical rod holders
  • Forward console seat w/18-gal. (68.14 L) aerated baitwell
  • Raised fore & aft casting decks w/watertight storage compartments w/close-molded lids
  • Stainless steel cleats & bow and transom eyes
  • Self-draining deck

 Check out  the Mako 18LTS at your nearest Bass Pro Shops or authorized Mako Dealer.

Bass Wishes;

Bert Gibson

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Kayaks

Imagine it’s the weekend or holidays and you are finally at the lake, but you are still tense and are awake way too early. Quietly you get out of bed (or your sleeping bag) and head outside. Standing in the stillness you inhale the fresh air and take in the mist that rises over the glass-like water. It’s cool but light as the sun starts to make it’s journey in the sky. The only sounds are the birds and water gently lapping against the shore. The serenity of the moment begins to work on all the muscles that you’ve been holding tense all week (or all month.. all year). You feel all tension slipping away. As your soul begins to recharge you head to the beach where your kayak waits patiently. Once your pfd is donned, the kayak is carefully placed into the water. There is a slight wobble as you climb in. Grasping your paddle in both hands you head off. Destination... relaxation. As you paddle around the lake you see the world through new eyes as your soul is filled with peace.

Does that sound idyllic?

Maybe it’s time to start looking into adding kayaking as a new addition to your life. Kayaks are not only great exercise but they allow you to go to different lakes or rivers. You don’t need a cottage or a weekend at a campground. Just pack a lunch and snacks, a few little essentials and just head to a local lake for a couple hours of stress relief.

At the Bass Pro Shops Vaughan location, we carry three different lines of Kayaks; Ascend, Old Town and Malibu (new this year). To keep things from getting too overwhelming I will focus on the Ascend line.

All Ascend kayaks are made of high density polyethylene, which is a very tough plastic. The Ascend Kayaks are a little wider then other kayaks which allows for more stability and comfort.

The first model is a budget friendly, basic beginner level kayak called the A10. At 9’10” long, 28.5” wide and weighing only 44 pounds this kayak will suit most people. It comes with a removable steel framed mesh seat and storage area with a bungee support that will hold a 36 quart cooler.

Second in line is the D10. This kayak has the same dimensions as the A10 but has added features; foot braces, a removable steel frame padded seat, cushioned thigh pads and covered stern-well that will hold a 36 quart cooler.

Next we have the D12. Stretching out a full 12 feet, this 74 pound kayak has a specialized hull design for speed, better load carrying, easy paddling and good handling in rougher waters. It comes with foot braces, two storage areas (including a dry well), 5” deck plate storage hatch for small items like your wallet, fishing license, cell-phone and keys, and bungee system to keep all your gear with you.

If you are an angler you will love the next three models in the Ascend line.

The FS10 is one of our most popular kayaks. It’s 10’2” length is perfect for most anglers. The wide cockpit allows for greater movement and stability. There are two flush rod mount holders and a fully adjustable rod tender (I don’t fish but the guys in the fishing department assure me this is a good thing to have). There are also two 4” cleats for anchoring a fish bucket or stringer. Dual bungee paddle keepers and a comfortable seat make this kayak a great choice for anglers who want to go to those tucked away places.

Next we have the FS12. This 12 foot beauty is full of great features; integrated rod storage tube, full tackle rod tender on the starboard side and two rod holders behind the seat. It also has an adjustable anchor system, foot braces, cushioned thigh pads, 5” deck plate storage hatch, two big storage areas (one covered one dry) and a very comfortable seat.

Finally, we have the only sit on kayak in the Ascend line; the FS12T. This 68 pound kayak has an ultra stable hull for maximum comfort, stability and maneuverability. It has a molded five position foot rest and padded seat for comfort. There are also two flush rod mount rod holders, full tackle rod tender, two storage areas and a catch all tray.

If you want to do a bit of research on all the kayaks we carry you can check out our US website www.basspro.com or the other two brands we are pleased to carry; Old Town and Malibu.

The models of Old Town we carry are; Endeavour, Excursion (the only tandem one we carry), Heron 9XT, Heron 11XT, Scrambler and Rush. At this time we only carry two models of the Malibu line; Stealth 9 and X13.

If you prefer to have company when you meander around the lake you might want to look at canoes instead. The Old Town canoes start with the 3 person 14’ 6” Saranac then move into the 14’ Rockport and Rogue River. We also have a 16’ Saranac and 15’4” Rogue River square back.

If you like even more company we have the 17’ aluminum Osagian by Osage.

If you think kayaking or canoeing sounds like it might be a good fit for you, visit our Vaughan store and check out our selection (the majority of boats are outside but we do have a few inside). If you have any questions about kayaking, canoeing or camping in general please see one of the camping associates.

Happy Paddling!

Melanie

Camping Department

Bass Pro Shops

Vaughan, Ontario

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The New Mako

Back in the day, Mako Marine had a well-deserved reputation for building solidly performing, well-built fishing boats. Indeed, through much of the 1970s and '80s, Mako virtually owned the center console fishing boat market. But just like other companies at the time, Mako eventually changed hands several times, and its reputation was worn down by poor designs and a decline in quality. I’m now relieved to inform you that the Mako of today is once again gaining ground with some innovative, practical and very affordable products. Specifically Mako's newest model the 18 LTS, which is a very nicely built and well-running boat.

Mako 18 LTS 

Not many boats this size offer you the option of efficiency with a standard 60hp four-stroke and the option for speed and efficiency with Mercury’s always popular 90hp four-stroke. With a large forward deck it gives you more than enough room for pitching live bait into the mangroves for some nice snook or throwing an 8ft castnet on some schooling mullet. The console is very compact but at the same time packs a lot of storage. Inside the console you could choose the triple battery option if you want to run a large 24v trolling motor off your bow. Also, on the front cushioned console seat hides a good size 18 gallon livewell. On the other side they have designed the console so you are able to flush mount any good size 5” or 7” fishfinder, gps etc.

 Mako 18LTS

The 18LTS has what MAKO calls a RPS (Rapid Planing System) which results in a quicker hole shot, smoother ride and quicker overall acceleration. The RPS helps Mako run a 20” shaft motor even with the 18LTS’s 25” transom. That helps the LTS get into skinnier water. Even for a bay boat the hull is designed with a large spray rail and pretty considerable bow flair for knocking down the chop as you are running to your favorite spot. I’ve currently went out for a ride in one to test it out and was quite surprised it handled rougher water. I tested out the model with the Mercury 60 four-stroke and was pleasantly surprised with it. We went out of Ft. Lauderdale with a 1-2ft chop and were cruising nicely at 27mph at 4,700rpm. The hull was extremely responsive when I had to turn off to cross over large boat wakes. We were out all day and didn’t experience one spray from the surf or larger boat wakes. At 18’6” and with a 91” beam the boat still has a deadrise of 20 degrees and I could tell the difference immediately exiting Port Everglades. You could even run the 18LTS in the skinny water just like the other skiffs, she only draws 11”. Overall with the starting price of this boat at only $19,995 I am extremely satisfied with its performance and overall quality. Comparable to other manufacturers this style and performance I would be looking to spend upwards of close to $50,000. Stop by your local Bass Pro to come and check one out.   

 Mako 18LTS

Adam Goodin
954-924-5137
Tracker Marine

 


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Wise Boat Seat

By JT Uptegrove

 wiseseat1

The Wise Boat Seat is a stylish two-tone design that comes in five colors. So no matter what kind of paint job your boat sports, there is a matching Wise Boat Seat. 

I can think of several things that get forgotten on a regular basis that no serious fisherman would want to do without. But none get taken for granted more than your boat seats. It's the resting place of your weary backside. And the truth behind the matter is the fish don't bite good all of the time, and you need to kick back and plant your rump in soft spot and drink a soda pop every now and then. 

If you're replacing boat seats or just looking for one that's a little more comfortable, Wise has the boat seats you need. Their standard seat is built better than your house's dining chairs, and it probably a lot more pleasing to sit in. I couldn't think of anything better when the fishing is slow. Or if the fishing is so good you're worn out catching and reeling you just need to rest.

The Wise Boat Seat is a stylish two-tone design that comes in five colors. So no matter what kind of paint job your boat sports, there is a matching Wise Boat Seat. Each seat is covered in a slick, high-quality vinyl.

If you've ever looked at a well-used boat, the seats will show serious wear. What you will notice is a discoloration and splotchy look to them. Normally this is mildew that has formed on the vinyl. Wise has come up with a solution to the problem. Their vinyl is specially treated to resist the plague of mildew and UV degradation.

Under that fancy vinyl is more strength than you might imagine. The frames are built of a composite polymer that is nearly indestructible. The hinges are affixed right to the high-impact frame. The result is a boat seat that will last for years. 

Comfort is not a forgone thought of the design, either. The seats have a thick layer of White Maxx foam padding to cushion your backside. If the conditions just happen to be rainy or damp, you'll still stay dry when you sit down because the foam has a moisture barrier to prevent the water from absorbing into your skivvies. 

If it's time to replace your old boat seats or you really want a new one that your rear will thank you for, pick up a Wise. It has everything needed to be the easy chair of your boat. If comfort won't sell it alone; the construction more than speaks for itself.



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65010-t.jpg Wise® Boat Seat
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Choosing a Kayak

By Tim Allard

Sit-in Kayak

The major advantage to sit-inside kayaks is that you generally stay drier when kayaking.

When shopping for a kayak, begin your search using the answers to these two very important questions: how do you intend to use your kayak, and how much money are you willing to spend? With this information sorted out, you're ready to start weighing other options such as kayak design and type, stability, length, weight and materials. No one kayak does it all, but there are plenty of models designed for a variety of applications and a range of paddling experience levels.

SOTs and SINKs
 
Two common acronyms you'll encounter when shopping for a kayak are SOTs and SINKs. SOT stands for "sit-on-top" kayak. Many recreation models fall into this category. Sit-inside (SINK) kayaks are the other style, and they represent the majority of kayaks. Both styles have pros and cons.

SOTs offer more freedom of movement for your lower body. Many kayak anglers prefer SOTs because you can dangle your feet in the water, shift sideways, and sit cross legged. Some are even stable enough you can stand up in them. With an SOT you don't need to worry about getting trapped inside should you tip because you're on top of the boat. You'll simply fall off the kayak, which is a welcome trait to some who find SINKs uncomfortable. Some beginners also find it easier to get on and off of a SOT model.

Sit-on-Top Kayak

SOTs have some disadvantages, though, too. One is that you tend to get wet more often than you do in a SINK. In this respect, SOTs are great for warm weather, but they're not as practical for cool climates. The majority of SOTs self-bail, meaning water drains from the seat and deck through scupper holes; this means there's always a bit of water in the bottom of the boat unless you buy scupper stoppers to fill the holes. If you take on too much water, simply remove the plugs to drain the excess.

SINKs provide more protection from the elements than SOTs as your lower body is inside the kayak's cockpit. Because you sit in these models, the lower half of your body is protected from the sun and the rain, unlike in a SOT. You can purchase spray skirts to prevent water from entering the inside of the kayak. The major advantage to SINKs is you stay drier when kayaking, which is critical in cool climates and foul weather.

Recreational Kayak

The downside to SINKs is you don't have as much freedom to move your legs around. SINKs tend to require a bit more finesse to get in and out of than SOTs. These models don't self drain, making them drier than SOTs, but you'll need to carry a bilge pump to remove excess water.

Whether you choose an SOT or a SINK kayak comes back to your intended use and personal preferences. If you're only looking to paddle short distances in sunny, warm weather a SOT may suit your needs best. If you plan to tour or kayak camp on multi-day outings, a SINK is probably the better option to ensure you're protected from a range of weather conditions.

Other Considerations

Up to this point, we've discussed kayak design and type and the pros and cons of each. However, we've barely scratched the surface on a variety of other choices you'll need to consider when investing in a kayak. The following are some other particulars to ponder when making a kayak purchase.

Stability

Stability is an important feature to consider. Kayaks have differing degrees of initial (primary) and final (secondary) stability. Initial stability refers to how stable a kayak is when you're sitting in it at rest. Most recreational or entry-level kayaks have good initial stability to help with the comfort level of newcomers as they explore the sport. Final stability refers to how stable a kayak is when it's being paddled and when leaned.

The unfortunate truth is kayaks must sacrifice one type of stability over another. A model with high initial stability will likely have low final stability and vice versa. Boats with high final stability tend to be catered to advanced paddlers who need final stability in rough water conditions.

Kayak Length

When it comes to kayaks, the following general rules apply. Longer boats track better than shorter ones and are good choices for paddling distances or for bigger waters. However, shorter boats are easier to maneuver and better suited for paddling smaller lakes or the moving water of rivers.

Weight

Weight is an important consideration too. The longer the kayak, the more it will weigh when compared to a shorter model made of the same materials. SOTs often need more materials and, on average, are slightly heavier than SINKs. The material a kayak is made of also influences its weight. Weight will be an important factor to consider if you'll be loading your kayak on and off of your vehicle on a regular basis. This is especially true if you anticipate you'll be doing it alone.

Materials

Plastic, fiberglass or composites are some common kayak materials. Plastic (i.e., polyethylene) is used in most recreational kayaks. It's extremely durable, requires little maintenance and is the least expensive option. The downside is that it's heavy in comparison to other materials.

Fiberglass is often used in touring models. It's lightweight and relatively durable, but more expensive than plastic and can chip if impacted.

The term composite refers to the use of various materials like Kevlar, fiberglass and carbon. Companies will blend these materials to produce different ratios in the areas of lightness, impact resistance and strength.

Storing Cargo

Regardless of the duration you intend to paddle, you'll need storage. Most SOTs come with at least one hatch with larger models having more. SINKs also have hatches, and you can tuck gear behind your seat or in front of your legs in the cockpit.

Use large bow and stern hatches to store things like extra clothes and camping gear. Small, day hatches work well for keeping important items within reach, like cell phones, cameras, car keys and wallets. Hatches are not completely waterproof, so it's a good idea to invest in dry bags to protect clothing and sleeping bags. Use hard-plastic waterproof cases for electronics.

Bungee cords and tank wells are two other storage options to secure items on top of your kayak. Again, dry bags will protect your gear. You can buy storage bags to attach to the top of a kayak as well.

Seat

Make sure you get a seat with plenty of cushioning. Adjustable straps let you customize it to your liking. It may even be worth purchasing a deluxe seat to ensure you'll stay relaxed when paddling.

Other Items

To round out your purchase, you'll need to invest in some other equipment. Don't forget a paddle, and carry a spare on long trips or in rough water. Buy a kayak-specific flotation vest as they're more comfortable than traditional PFDs. Lastly, get a carrier kit so you can transport your boat to and from the water with ease.

When choosing a kayak, consider how you plan to use it to determine if you need a recreational, touring or whitewater model. Factor in your preferences over a SOT or SINK model, and test different models if you can. Weigh these elements against your financial commitment while keeping in mind other options like stability, length, weight, materials and storage, and you're sure to pick a kayak to suit your paddling needs.

View all kayaks and kayak accessories

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Guide to Portable Bait Containers

By Tim Allard

A lot of portable bait containers are designed to help you control environmental factors for specific types of bait.

In fishing, sometimes the subtleties can make the difference between a good and a bad day on the water.  Nowhere is this truer than when using live bait.  Of course, if you locate aggressive fish, sub-par bait might not make a difference; however, when enticing neutral or negative mood fish to bite, having healthy bait is a must.  Portable bait containers are crucial to keeping bait fresh during short-term storage, in transport, or when fishing.  In today's market, there are containers and materials to keep various types of bait, from minnows to leeches and from grubs to bugs.

 

Why Keep Bait?

 

Lively and healthy bait struggles on a hook, attracting the attention of nearby fish.  In many instances, the allure of fresh bait is better than sickly bait.  Sometimes it's easy to pick up bait at a tackle shop on the way to a honey hole, but in other cases you'll need to transport bait over long distances or keep bait fresh for days - this is where it pays to have the proper tools to care for critters.  The good news is that the products are available and it doesn't require a lot of gear or energy to store bait.

 

Controlling Conditions

 

Keeping bait fresh and healthy is the result of successfully controlling the conditions to create a suitable environment.  For example, if you neglect to keep grubs dormant in a cold, dark place

You can turn any bucket into a temporary "bait bucket" with aerator tablets such as these. 

and don't check on them for a while, they might have changed into flies.  When keeping any live bait the basic factors to consider are: temperature, moisture, oxygen, light, and space.  Fail to keep the above-mentioned elements in the proper range and the bait will eventually die.  (Food is rarely an issue for short-term storage and feeding bait often complicates balancing the other factors.) 

     

The good news is that most portable bait containers are designed to help you control environmental factors for specific types of bait, often based on their habitat (such as buckets for minnows and cages for crickets).  These containers serve as temporary holding spaces, but some can be used to store bait for several days or weeks.  Accessories and materials for bait containers (such as air pumps for buckets and bedding for worm boxes) increase your chances of successfully keeping bait and balancing environmental conditions.  Some common portable bait containers are: buckets, worm boxes, leech totes and insect and grub carriers.

 

Bucket Basics

     

Many anglers were introduced to fishing by using live bait and a trusty bucket was often the container of choice to carry anything from minnows, crayfish, to frogs.  The most basic buckets feature a handle and a lid, often with air holes.  There are also dozens of options associated with bait buckets.  Most are made of hard plastic, but some models are available made of soft plastic and can be collapsed when not in use.  Insulated foam buckets are another option, and traditional galvanized steel bait buckets are still found in many tackle shops.

     

A common feature in bait buckets is an inner bucket, that snugly fits inside the outer hard plastic case.

Most lids have air holes and also feature a smaller, secondary, snap-open door.  The door lets you add or remove bait while keeping the main lid on the bucket, reducing the chance of escapees.  Other features to look for in bucket lids are notches, holes, and clips for holding fishing accessories, such as: dip nets, aerators, air hoses, and pliers.  These lids keep anglers organized when moving between spots during a day's fishing.  Additionally, some buckets also serve as a seat for fisherman.  These models come in taller versions (usually 6 gallon) with a padded foam lid for a cushioned seat.

     

Another common feature in bait buckets is an inner bucket, or liner, that snugly fits inside the outer hard plastic case.  Inner buckets are sometimes perforated, resembling a strainer.  This lets anglers easily select bait from the liner after it's been lifted out of the outer bucket and the water has drained.  Once bait is selected, the liner can be returned to the outer bucket.  This system wastes little water and is particularly useful when using crayfish, as they're easier to grab out of water. 

     

Foam liners are also common in bait buckets.  These insulating liners keep minnows cool in warm months, but also reduce the freeze-rate of bait water in cold temperatures.  The dimpled surface of the foam traps air bubbles, keeping water oxygenated; however, over time liners become dirty and need to be cleaned with a fine-grit sandpaper and water to return their micro-pocketed qualities.

 

A Bucket's Buddy: Aerators

     

Investing in a quality aerator will quickly pay for itself by reducing your bucket's death rate when keeping minnows or other aquatic bait (such as shrimp).  Portable aerators have gone from basic items to more sophisticated units sporting extra features.  Portable models run on

Portable aerators have gone from basic items to more sophisticated units sporting extra features. 

batteries, using sizes from AA- to D-cells as well as some that hook up to 12-volt batteries.  The majority of portable aerators feature clips for attaching to bait bucket lids and most come with air hoses and air stones.  An On/Off switch is another feature to look for, and some models have low and high output levels. 

     

More advanced features in aerators include quality air hoses that won't kink or get brittle in cold conditions, as well as high oxygen-output air stones.  The latter put out more air bubbles than regular stones and really make a difference in the water's oxygen level.  Some aerators have a built in light.  Helpful in low light conditions, they make selecting and hooking bait easier instead of fumbling with a flash light.

     

Anglers wishing to store bait for several days should look at investing in a plug-in aerator.  These units allow you to run an aerator for days whether in your garage or at a weekend cottage.  Tackle manufacturers sell models, but savvy anglers can save a few pennies by purchasing a simple air pump at a local pet shop.  Air stones and air hoses can also be purchased at pet shops.  When storing bait with plug-in aerators, always keep the pump above the bucket's water level.  If the pump is below the bucket and there's a power failure, water can siphon through the air tube and drain from the bucket, killing bait and causing damage.  Don't store the aerator on the lid either.  Lids are often slightly rounded and the pump's vibrations will likely cause it to fall off the top. 

 

Keeping leeches cool and protected will keep them healthy. Leech Tote

     

A variation on the standard bait bucket is a leech tote.  These carriers can either be designed to sit in a boat's live well (which could also be included in a big bait bucket) or function as stand-alone unit.  Units often come with a handle and feature small holes for aeration and drainage.  Most are made of hard plastic, although mesh bags are also available.  Keeping leeches cool and protected from bright light will keep them healthy.

 

Worm Containers

     

There are a variety of options for keeping worms in good condition when fishing.  One of the first items to look for in a worm carrier is a snug-fitting, lockable lid.  Leave worms even the smallest crack and they'll crawl through it.  Containers are usually made of an insulating material, often foam, although some models feature materials that can be soaked in water to keep worms moist and cool during the day.  Portable models sometimes feature holders for ice packs to keep crawlers cool.  One or two access doors or handles are other features to look for in a container.

     

A common conundrum when keeping worms is choosing what material to store them in.  Dirt does me fine when I'm grabbing a dozen from a local tackle shop on my way to a fishing spot.  I usually bring a cooler with ice packs to keep worms cool during the outing.  Of course, the downside to this set-up (and any time you keep worms in dirt) is that the dirt always seems to find its way onto clothing and boat carpeting.  Although a quick worm-rinse before hooking can prevent a lot of mess.  Another option is transferring worms (rinsed in water first) into worm bedding, available at most tackle shops.  Bedding should also be used when storing worms for long periods in larger boxes.  Additionally, keeping worms in bedding makes temperature and moisture regulation easier.

 

Insect Carriers

     

Crickets and grasshoppers are insects used by anglers and there are portable cages for carrying them when fishing.  Cages are often made of a wire or plastic mesh and are shaped as squares or tubes, with larger wire buckets also available.  Some units have funnels at their openings so

Insect cages are often made of a wire or plastic mesh and are shaped as squares or tubes.

hoppers can be removed one at a time, eliminating escapees.  Some funnels also have a grabber at the end that'll hold the insect in place, letting you hook it while it's immobile before fully removing it from the container.  Containers also feature handles to make carrying easy. 

     

Grubs are one of the hottest baits on the ice fishing scene.  They fool panfish as well as larger biters, like walleyes.  Anglers can use various household containers (like film cases to small Tupperware boxes) to transport waxworms, mealworms, and wigglers.  Of course, pocket-sized, commercial models are also available with most containing a sorting device to help sift through sawdust and bedding, quickly delivering bait to one's fingertips.  Manufactured carriers contain tight-fitting lids and snap-shutting doors.  The availability of grubs, containers and bedding will depend on your area and local suppliers; however, don't be discouraged if your tackle shop doesn't supply this live bait, as you can order grubs and worms from large tackle distributors along with accessories and materials.  Another option is to look in pet stores, as many worms and grubs are used to feed reptiles and amphibians.

     

As anglers, we get enough challenge chasing our quarry, and don't need extra obstacles when it comes to keeping live bait.  Luckily, today's market is full of portable options for holding aquatic and terrestrial bait that won't interfere with fishing adventures.  Bait buckets, leech lockers, worm totes, cricket cages, and grub carriers are all designed to safely hold bait and make transporting it an easy task.  If you've been using the same minnow bucket for years, or have yet to invest in a decent worm tote, consider purchasing a new model.  Newer units are full of features that make live bait transport and short-term storage a simple and easy task.

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Outfitting your Fishing Canoe

By Tim Allard

Yet like any fishing rig, after tinkering, modifications and add-ons, canoes can be transformed into comfortable fishing machines.

Fishing from a canoe has many advantages over aluminum or fiberglass motorized boats.  Mainly, canoes are quiet and their portability makes them a top choice for anglers interested in remote backwaters.  In comparison to the plush seats of a bass boat, features in canoes are somewhat basic, which can leave anglers stiff and uncomfortable from several hours of fishing.  Yet like any fishing rig, after tinkering, modifications and add-ons, canoes can be transformed into comfortable fishing machines.

     

Seats and Chairs

     

A fishing canoe should be outfitted to keep anglers comfortable whether sitting or kneeling since standing in a canoe is not an option.  To outfit a canoe for kneeling, a permanent option is placing adhesive cushioning pads on the floor.  While non-permanent knee pad options include placing a spare piece of carpet, a non-adhesive pad, or perhaps your sleeping cushion (if on a camping trip) on the floor of the canoe.

     

For sitting, canoe seats in a range of designs (from bench to bucket) and many aftermarket additions are available to increase seat comfort.  A portable foam or padded seat provides extra cushioning when fishing for extended hours.  Carrying a cushion is better than sitting on a lifejacket, an innocent, but dangerous, maneuver many anglers make, transforming life vests into cushions instead of their designed use as personal flotation devices. 

     

Other great accessories to outfit canoes are seat backs or chairs.  A seat back provides a back rest and most mid- to high-end models fold down when not in use.  Seat backs clip or affix with straps to canoe seats.  Chairs are "L" shaped and usually cushioned, giving you the support of a back rest as well as a padded seat.  Most chairs come with clips and straps to securely fasten to the canoe's original seats.   They come in various designs (from basic plastic mesh ones that clip onto seats to high-end padded ones) in a range of prices.  Durable seats also double as great campsite chairs for when you're sitting by a fire instead of paddling on the water.

 

Outfitting for Fishing

     

First and foremost, I like to carry plenty of rope, straps, shock cords, and carabineers to keep my gear in place and secure when canoeing.  I find my mind is slightly more at ease when padding in rough water knowing that if the canoe gets swamped or capsizes, my tackle box is secure and won't end up at the bottom of the lake.  Keeping items secure also helps you properly balance the canoe for the best performance on the water, so you can focus on fishing.

     

Waterproof bags and cases are handy accessories to use to keep clothes dry and valuables (like cameras) protected.  I also find water bottles with loop-top caps can easily be clipped to the canoe's seat with a carabineer.  This keeps water at my fingertips for when I need it, which is especially important when it's hot.  You can also clip pliers, scissors and other often-used fishing tools to a carabineers or straps to keep them close at hand.  This clip-trick also prevents items from moving around on the floor of the canoe, aiding you in keeping your canoe fishing quiet.

 

Boat Gear

     

Once you've taken care of cushioning your body and securing gear, the next step to outfitting a fishing canoe is adding the angling bells and whistles.  If you have an electric trolling motor or small gas motor (such as a 4HP), there are a few mounting options.  Square back canoes are designed to be outfitted with a small motor at the stern, while for other canoes side motor mounts are the best option.  Side mounts fit across the sides of the canoe behind the stern seat.  Having a motor makes canoe fishing a lot easier and less stressful.  I find their biggest advantage is that they allow you to maintain boat control when fighting a fish.  Otherwise in heavy winds or waves you can drift a significant distance off fertile fishing grounds when playing a fish. 

     

To compliment a motor, a portable fishfinder is another key add-on.  Most of these compact, sonar units come with transducer suction cup mounts, which work well on most canoes.  Outfitted with a motor and fish finder, a canoe can be an excellent fishing machine.  Dozens of other accessories can be added to canoes to increase their fishing functionality, but after the above big ticket items, the simplicity of a rod holder is a must.  I used to rest my fishing rod across the gunwales when paddling, but I found when an aggressive fish hit, I had to quickly reach for my rod; although I never lost a rod, I did miss a few fish.  With a rod holder I can focus on the fishfinder and maintain proper boat position without worrying about losing a rod when a fish strikes.

     

Once you've found biting fish, you may want to anchor the canoe in position.  When anchoring a canoe use two anchors to minimize the boat from swinging (unless you intentionally want to do so to fish a wider area).  To properly anchor a canoe, put one off the bow and the other directly off the stern.  Do not tie anchors off the sides of a canoe as this can lead the canoe turning over in heavy waves.  Mushroom or river anchors between eight- to 15-pounds coupled with nylon rope will work for most canoes.  When tying off anchors use quick-release knots so slack line can be let out in the event of unexpected waves surprising you to ensure the canoe doesn't become swamped.

 

Safety

     

It's important to remember the proper safety gear when operating a canoe.  Wear your life jacket at all times.  Also ensure that the bilge pump, a signaling device, and a throw bag/rope are within reach at all times.  Keep a spare paddle in the canoe as well and make sure you can access it quickly when needed.

 

Transport

     

No matter how great the fishing was, a good day can turn bad if you're not equipped to properly transport the canoe.  Tie-down or cam straps that lock in place are my top choice for securing a canoe to my car top.  If you have a roof rack on your vehicle, using tubular foam that's cut lengthwise and placed on either the rack or on the gunwales of the canoe prevents paint scratching on both the canoe and rack.  Without a roof rack, four foam blocks placed on the canoe's gunwales are a simple but extremely effective way to secure a canoe to a car top for transport.  Secure canoes to cars by strapping it down from the boat's bow, stern and sides.

     

Canoe fishing can be a good way to target your favorite fish and with the right accessories and add ons, these lightweight boats can be quite comfortable.  Although not always best for big water, canoes are one of my favorite options for accessing small lakes and river - try the above suggestions for outfitting your canoe and you'll find a new appreciation for the fishing functionality of these basic boats.

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Outfitting Your Kayak for Fishing

By Tim Allard

Kayak Rod Holder

Rod holders are critical to kayak angling, and multiple holders allow you to bring several outfits. Photo by Tim Allard.

Welcome to the wonderful world of kayak angling, a fun and effective way to catch fish. Whether you own a sit-in or a sit-on-top model, outfitting a kayak for fishing isn't much different than outfitting any other boat. The small size and storage limitations of these vessels usually create the biggest challenges when outfitting a kayak. But don't fret; there's plenty of gear to help turn your kayak into a full-fledged fishing machine.

Rod Holders

Since you can't hold a fishing pole while paddling, rod holders are critical to kayak angling, and multiple holders allow you to bring several outfits on your kayak fishing trips.

It's common practice to have one or two rod holders in front. Use removable holders so that you can take them out when not in use or during transport. Mount holders within reach, but don't mount them so close that they interfere with paddling and landing fish. Adding height extensions to your rod holders is useful so that you don't have to bend too far to grab the rod.

Most anglers will set up at least two rod holders behind the cockpit, placing one holder on each side. Flush mount holders work well for this application. This way, when not storing rods, holders won't clutter the kayak.

Flotation Vest

It's best to buy a personal flotation vest (PFD) made for kayaking. Kayak-specific designs allow for plenty of upper body movement so that you're not constricted when paddling or casting.

Some flotation vests come with storage pockets -- perfect for things like pliers, a tackle box or a portable VHF radio.

A black vest may look cool in the store, but you'll likely find it warm to wear on hot days if it doesn't have adequate ventilation. You're better off buying colors like yellow and red. They don't absorb as much heat as black and are more visible on the water.

Kayak Electronics

Most fishing kayaks have console space for electronics. Photo by Tim Allard.

Electronics

You can outfit a kayak with plenty of angling electronics. If offshore, a GPS unit is critical to safely navigating low-light or foggy conditions. GPS units are also handy for storing the coordinates of your favorite fishing spots. Get either a watertight portable unit or consider purchasing a GPS/sonar combo unit.

A fish finder is another great option when outfitting your fishing kayak. Either a portable unit or a model that you mount will work. Most fishing kayaks have console space for a small mount. If using a bigger unit, consider purchasing a RAM mount or Johnny Ray mount to create a customized, adjustable set-up for your electronics. The transducer can be mounted to shoot through the hull.

Carry a portable, waterproof VHF radio if offshore fishing. Get a durable model with a good waterproof seal.

Lastly, if you plan to fish at dusk or dawn, carry some portable navigation lights so that you are visible to other boaters.

Storage

Storage is a common topic of discussion amongst kayak anglers, and there is no shortage of options to consider. Use dry bags and secure them on top of the kayak with bungee cords to keep items dry. Bungee cords are also great for keeping rain gear secure but accessible when needed.

Packing gear in the bow and stern hatches also works. Use hard-plastic watertight containers to store fragile items.

Kayak storage deck bags are another way to increase storage space, and some are specifically designed for fishing. Deck bags have plenty of pockets and compartments to hold your tackle and gear. They easily mount on top of the kayak with bungee cords.

Other storage options include various kayak utility packs, soft coolers and small fanny packs.

Tackle Boxes and Trays

It's likely you'll purchase a variety of tackle trays to hold fishing tackle. Some kayak cockpits come with spots to hold trays. Measure these spots first to get a snug-fitting tray and maximize storage space.

You can also carry small trays in your vest or in cargo pant pockets. Purchase watertight models to prevent your baits from getting wet, which can lead to rusty hooks.

Bait Bucket

If bait fishing is your game, most fishing kayaks have tank wells with contoured notches to hold a bait bucket. Bungee cords are also standard on most tank wells to keep things secure on the water. A variety of buckets are available with plenty of features. An aerator is a worth while add-on to keep minnows and shrimp lively, and a dip net helps you capture bait easily.

Sit-On-Top Kayak

Whether you own a sit-in or a sit-on-top model, outfitting a kayak for fishing isn't much different than outfitting any other boat. Photo by Ron Brooks.

Fishing Tools

You'll want to bring some fishing tools along with you in your kayak. A lanyard is helpful to keep things like clippers, scissors, forceps and a hook file within reach. Carrying pliers or a multi-tool lets you quickly remove hooks from fish. Store them in a sheath on your belt for quick access.

Fishing nets or other landing devices, such as a boga grip or a grip master, help when landing fish from a kayak.

Anchor System

A small anchor is an important fishing accessory. Use it fishing to stay put when fishing a specific piece of structure. Harmony's Folding Kayak Anchor Kit is a good buy. It comes with a folding anchor and all the hardware you need to outfit your kayak. Consider getting an anchor; they're well worth it on windy, wavy days.

Seat Upgrade

For extra cushioning and a much more comfortable day on the water, buy a high-end kayak seat or seat back, such as Ocean Kayak's Comfort Deluxe Seat Back. Most quality kayaking seats come with lumbar support. Kayak seats also feature adjustable straps, letting you adjust the seat angle for a customized fit.

Safety and First Aid Kit

Carry a safety kit in your kayak. Check on-the-water requirements for your state or province to determine what you're mandated to carry. At a minimum, though, you'll want the following: a whistle, signal mirror, bilge pump, bail or sponge, throw rope and a flash light with working batteries.

A small first-aid kit should be in your boat at all times. Store it in a water tight container and keep it within reach.

Pack a good assortment of products to protect you from the sun and insects. Use a small tote or container to carry the essentials, such as sunscreen, lip balm with an SPF rating, and bug repellant. Make sure you pack plenty of water to stay hydrated. Paddling requires a lot of physical effort and you'll need more water than you normally do when fishing from a motorized boat.

Consider picking up a few of these items when you're rigging your kayak for fishing. They'll help keep you organized on the water, which should help you catch a few more fish this season.

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Boat Seat Buyer's Guide

By Tim Allard

Boat Seats
Choosing a style of seat suited to your boating activities ensures comfortable days on the water.

Quality seats can make a big difference when it comes to boating comfort. Anglers, hunters and pleasure boaters all rely on seats to keep their watercraft comfortable for their back and backsides. Whatever your boat seat needs, rest assured there are plenty of options to fit the bill. This guide provides an overview of the various styles, constructions and uses for boat seats.

Materials & Design

Before getting to the different types of seats available, it's important to note that you get what you pay for when shopping for seats. Spending more money equates to better materials that are more resilient to harsh marine environments and engineered to increase your comfort.

Let's look at some features that separate the different quality levels of seats. Except for the most basic models, all boat seats should have foam padding. High-end models will likely provide lumbar support, moulded or contoured cushioning, and perhaps a high-back. All these features mean extra comfort for the rider. Look for seat cushions to be covered with marine-grade vinyl. It offers durability and is usually mildew resistant. For hunters, camouflage models are often covered with 500 to 1000 denier nylon to reduce noise and sheen. Some seats are also UV resistant, preventing the premature fading of colors.

A good seat will also have a sturdy interior or exterior frame (often made of plastic). Also look for seats to be assembled with corrosion resistant parts like aluminum tubing and stainless steel hardware. A true testament to the quality of the seat you're getting is the extent of the warranty offered by the manufacturer. This service may not be important if you're outfitting a small Jon boat, but if you're upgrading your bass boat or offshore vessel, be sure to check for a complete warranty.

Much like buying a chair for your home, the quality of your boat seats ultimately comes down to materials, features and quality construction. With materials and design covered, let's look at the various seat options available.

  Fold-down seats add cushioning and back support to small boats at a minimal price. Fold-Down Boat Seats

Perhaps the most common design, fold-down boat seats come in many options to suit a variety of vessels. The most basic models are made of plastic without any padding, such as Action Outdoor Folding Plastic Boat Seat. A step up from this option are seats of plastic construction teamed with padded sections. These two styles are commonly used by anglers or hunters looking to add some cushioning and back support to small boats without spending a lot of money. The compact seats' size also ensures they don't take up much space in the already tight quarters of small boats.

From these basic models, the quality of folding seats ranges from good to high-end models at various price points. Anglers and pleasure boaters will find products such as Action Products American Pro Classic Boat Seats, Tempress Navistyle Hi-Back Seats, and Wise Deluxe Hi-Back Premium Folding Fishing Chair offer excellent comfort and back support in folding seat models.

In addition to excellent cushioning and back support choices in seats, hunters have a good selection of camouflage patterns to choose from. For example, Wise Hunting Boat Seats offer Advantage Max-4 HD, Shadow Grass, Mossy Oak Break-Up, and Realtree APG HD patterns. Tempress also has Hi- and Low-Back Camo Seats available.

Pro Boat Seat
Pro seats function as a cushion to lean on -- perfect for those who prefer to stand while fishing. This style is favored among bass anglers.

 

Pro Seats

Pro seats, often referred to as "pedestal seats" or "butt seats," are designed to function more as a cushion to lean on, these seats take the weight off your feet if you prefer to stand while fishing, which helps reduce fatigue. Some popular models include Action Products Hammerhead Pro Butt Boat Seats or Wise's Pro Style Boat Seats. Pro seats also assist with stability and balancing when standing and angling in wavy conditions. In addition to buying the seat, you'll also need a pedestal. Go with an adjustable pedestal so you can customize the unit to the perfect height. Get a seat swivel as well so that the seat doesn't impede your range of motion.

Boat Chairs

Boat chairs are common in larger boats. They're different from seats as they often feature arm rests, raising the bar in the realm of open-water cruising comfort. There are two main styles of chairs: permanent chairs, which are secured to the boat deck and removable, and folding models that resemble high-end, weather-worthy lawn chairs.

Folding Boat Seat
Folding chairs are great for additional seating in large boats.

Most permanent chairs are sold in a package including the pedestal, but always verify if one's included. Buy a model with adjustable height and swivelling capabilities for the best functionality on the water. Most chairs feature quality cushioning for added comfort, some of which are removable for off-season storage or easy cleaning. Examples include Springfield's Marine Bluewater and Ladderback chairs, the Todd Mariner Boat Chairs, or the Wise Offshore Boat Chairs.

Removable, folding chairs come in one or two person sizes. These items are great for additional seating in large boats, but don't feature the adjustable features that come from pedestal-based chairs. Most do, however, include the same quality construction of foam cushioning, durable vinyl, anodized aluminum tubing and stainless steel hardware for corrosion resistance. The benefit of these removable chairs is they help conserve boat space. You can fold and stack them when not in use. Examples include the Offshore Angler's Folding Chair models and Wise's Offshore High Back Folding Deck Chair.

Bucket seats provide a snug, comfortable ride with plenty of cushion. Bucket & Sport Seats

Bucket seats and sport seats provide individuals with a snug, comfortable ride akin to sport cars. Seats feature sleek designs and stylish color patterns. They also include plenty of cushioning so you can handle a full day of bouncing across waves whether towing water skiers or simply cruising. Models like Wise's Deluxe Bucket Boat Seats feature quality materials and engineering to ensure seats can stand up to the force common in sport boat cruising, but can also resist the corrosion of marine environments. Some models, like Attwood Avenir Sport Seats, include a spring grid suspension system integrated into the seat to absorb the force of impact when the hull hits waves. Bucket and sport seats are perfect for the power-boaters looking to upgrade or revamp their boat's existing seating.

Jump Boat Seats

The design of jump seats is a great option when storage is a premium in your boat as they are built on a frame. This structure provides storage underneath the seat. Bass Pro Shops and Wise both make this style of seats. The frame also offers additional height for improved visibility without needing a pedestal.

Lounge seats fully recline and are perfect for kicking back, relaxing and soaking up the sun. Lounge Seats

Lounge seats are similar to jump models because they're also built on a frame that provides storage space. However, lounge models feature two connected seats built back-to-back, like Bass Pro Shops Deluxe Lounge Boat Seats or Wise Designer Reclining Lounge Boat Seats. These seats can fully recline and are perfect for kicking back, relaxing and soaking up the sun. Their moniker says it all; these seats are truly for lounging. When it's time to return to shore, simply set them in the upright position for cruising home.

Bench Seats

Bench Seats are used to replace the seating in bass boats. Some models, such as the Wise Deluxe 3-Piece Plush Bench Seat, offer overstuffed, contoured seat cushions and back rests for supreme comfort. On some models the entire bench folds downward. On others only the smaller, center seat folds, but the two outer seats will often hinge forward, allowing access to under-seat storage built into the boat's design.

Leaning posts give anglers reprieve during long, strenuous battles with big fish. Leaning Posts

Leaning posts give anglers reprieve during long, strenuous battles with big fish. Like pro seats, but in bench proportions, they let you take some weight off your feet and help you keep your balance in rough water. Some models are adjustable and can be converted into a bench with a back rest. Posts also function as more than just a lean-to; they often feature storage space and rod holders as part of their construction.

Swing Back

Swing back seats are similar to benches, and most are large enough to seat two individuals. They're often built with compartments included in the supporting base of the unit. Wise makes models with a cooler or live well built under the seating area. Both these products help you maximize storage space in a boat.

With so much variety available, you're sure to find a seat perfect for your boating needs. Consider investing in a quality model; it'll ensure you stay comfortable when angling or cruising the open-water.

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Fishing Footwear Guide

By Tim Allard

Fishing Shoes

Long days on the water can take a toll on your feet. Proper footwear can alleviate most of the pain and discomfort related to all-day standing.  

There are no hard-and-fast statistics on the subject, but I do know this: anglers spend a lot of time on their feet while chasing fish. Do your feet a favor and outfit them with quality footwear for the best protection and comfort on the water. Proper arch support, quality cushioning, insulation, breathability and waterproofing are all important aspects to consider when choosing angling footwear. In this guide we'll concentrate on what's available to protect your precious feet, covering boots, shoes, sandals and clogs for a variety of fishing conditions.

Hiking and Hunting Boots

Hiking boots and hunting boots can easily serve double duty as fishing footwear when you're not in the woods. Both boots provide adequate arch and ankle support, and there are dozens of styles to choose from.

During early spring and late fall when cold days are the norm, an insulated pair of hiking or hunting boots can serve you well on the water. However, once temperatures get near the freezing mark, even insulated hiking boots won't provide enough warmth or protection for a full day of fishing.

High quality boots will feature breathable materials to keep your feet comfortable, letting sweat vapor escape. Many boots contain waterproof liners and a durable water repellency treatment to prevent moisture from saturating the outer fabric. These features make them good choices if you like fishing in the rain. Other great options include rubber boots.

Rubber Boots

In warm to cool rains, it's tough to beat a pair of quality rubber boots for all-day weather protection. There are plenty of options to choose from.

Rubber Fishing Boots
Look for boots with a non-slip outsole as boat decks and docks get extremely slick when wet.

Height (or cut) is an important consideration when buying rubber boots. High-cut boots, like RedHead's Bone-Dry 16' Span Tough 600 Rubber Bottom Boots or Aigle's Bennylgrip Boots, might seem overkill if you're fishing out of a boat, but if you're a shore angler, these boots will keep your feet and lower legs dry on walks through fields of wet grass. The added height lets you walk the shallows, which is handy for landing fish along heavily treed shorelines.

If you're looking for rubber boots to keep your feet dry while boat angling in the rain, shorter cuts often feel more comfortable. Mid cuts stopping below the calf or above the ankle are often sufficient; however, consider the amount of overlap the boots provide with your rain pants if you plan to fish during downpours. When standing, you'll likely be adequately covered with an ankle cut or higher. Yet, if not protected by a console when seated, your lower legs may be exposed. In this case, a higher cut boot provides much better protection. When buying boots, wear your rain pants and try on a few different cuts while seated to determine the height of boot you need. Good choices for fishing rubber boots are Aigle's Bison Outdoor Boots, Shimano's Evair Fishing Boots, and BOGS' Classic Mid Waterproof Boots.

Insulated rubber boots will keep your feet warm when fishing on cold, crisp mornings -- especially when the forecast calls for day-long drizzle. Don't forget to look for boots with a non-slip outsole; things get slippery when wet, and buying rubber boots designed to grip soaked surfaces is important for your safety.

 

As long as you're rain pants provide adequate coverage over waterproof shoes, you're feet and lower legs will stay dry. Waterproof Shoes

Waterproof shoes function like rubber boots, just in shoe form. Examples include RedHead's Mallard Mocs Non-Insulated Shoes, BOGS' Journey Slip On Waterproof Shoes and Muck Boot Company's SUV Hiker Shoes. These shoes will serve you well from late spring to early fall in average rain conditions. Again, as long as you're rain pants provide adequate coverage over the shoes, you're feet and lower legs will stay dry. Depending on the coverage of your outerwear, you may be fine with shoes in extended downpours as well. This will suffice during summer showers. The low-cut of shoes will help keep your feet from getting too hot. In colder conditions, though, higher cut boots offer extra protection and insulation from cool, damp winds. Given this, consider waterproof shoes for warm conditions and stick to boots once temperatures get cool.

Boat and Deck Shoes

These shoes are designed specifically with anglers and boaters in mind. Pick up a quality pair, and you'll see they're packed full of features for water lovers. Most are constructed with materials offering water repellent properties. Look for models featuring non-slip, non-marking soles.

Boat & Deck Shoes
Boat shoes are available in conservative (above) and athletic styles.

Shoes should provide plenty of cushioning in the mid sole to help absorb the shock from bouncing in waves, as well as deliver day-long comfort. Models will have varying degrees of breathability built-in to their design. Mesh inlays, like those found on Woo Daves' Oxford Fishing Shoes, encourage plenty of air flow, making them extremely comfortable to wear during summer.

Boat shoes and deck shoes come in a range of styles. Both lace-up and slip-on models are available. If an athletic look is more your fashion, consider World Wide Sportsman's Bayside Hydra Reef Boat Shoes or Sperry Top-Sider's Gradiant Fishing Shoes. If you'd prefer a more conservative pair, there are plenty of options, like RedHead's Anchor Boat Shoes or Sperry Top-Sider's Barracuda Low-Profile Fishing Shoes.

Athletic Shoes

Athletic shoes are gaining ground on the fishing scene. Study fishing magazines from the last couple of years and you'll notice a trend of more anglers wearing running or cross-training shoes on the water. If you're wondering why, the answer lies in comfort.

On blue-sky, summer days, running shoes are on my feet the majority of the time. They deliver superior cushioning, and after a full day of standing and casting, my feet rarely feel overly tired.

Running and walking shoes offer plenty of cushion and arch support, and lace designs ensure a snug fit. Most feature mesh areas for superior airflow, making them ideal for warm temperatures, but not the best option for cool, windy conditions. One tip when considering athletic shoes: look for non-slip and non-marking soles; while fairly standard on boat shoes, the same can't be said for athletic footwear.

Sandals, Clogs and Flip-Flops

Sandals, clogs and flip-flops are all great warm-weather footwear options, when wind and rain aren't a concern. There are a variety of options on the market. Here are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing this type of footwear.

Fishing Sandles

Some sandals include interchangeable outsoles to adjust to varying terrain.

Flip-flops may be great for shuffling from the barbeque pit to the dinner table, but they're not likely to deliver the cushioning and arch support necessary for standing in a boat for extended periods. Sandals or clogs might be better options if you move around a lot while fishing.

Make sure you get a proper fit. Oversized pairs have a tendency to slip off at inopportune times. A size too small and you're toes will be exposed. I always do a tap test when buying toe-exposed footwear. It takes about ten seconds. After putting them on and tightening any straps, walk up to a wall and lightly tap your foot on it. If you're toes don't hit, it's a fit. If they slip forward and hit the wall, you either need a larger size or must adjust the straps so your heel is closer to the back. This might seem trivial, but trust me, it's worth making sure you're toes are sheltered. In fact, Keen's Newport H2 Hiking Sandals have a patented design for the ultimate in toe protection.

Some sandals and clogs are designed for getting wet. A handy feature if you're often walking in the water to launch your boat. Good options are RedHead's River Walker Sandals, Columbia's Surf Tide II Sandals or Crocs' Beach Shoes.

When it comes to materials, look for sandals or clogs that provide adequate airflow, either through open areas or mesh. You may also want to consider picking up a pair featuring anti-microbial materials to help reduce foot odor.

There are plenty of footwear options to meet the demands of different climates and weather conditions. When outfitting your feet, always ensure you've got a good fit. Lastly, don't skimp when it comes to footwear. A wise man once told me, "Always buy the best when you're putting something between you and the ground." This includes beds, chairs and footwear. Trust me -- your body's worth the investment.

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Jon Boats in Saltwater? You Bet!

By Capt. Joe Richard

Jon boat outfitted for saltwater fishing
This Jon boat is rigged with four rod holders, evenly spaced on the starboard side. Point the boat in the right direction, and you can set out a broadside of four baits.

Many saltwater anglers have recently made the switch to aluminum Jon boats after "having a go" with bigger fiberglass boats for many years. Aluminum boats cost very little to operate and can go almost anywhere given the right weather conditions. Jon boats have always been popular, but with today's leaner times, they're even more so. Boat sales may be slow, but in some parts of the country, aluminum is now neck-and-neck with fiberglass boat sales. Why? Fiberglass can't compete with aluminum in the expense column.

Say you've got your eye on one of the all-welded Jon boats or riveted Jon boats over at Trackerboats.com. You're interested in fishing all day on 2 or 3 gallons of gas, and your tow vehicle is small. That Jon boat looks perfect, right? Trailer, tow vehicle and motor issues aside (you could rate them all as small), what sort of boat are we looking at, and can it be rigged to fish saltwater?

Standard length for Jon boats is 14 feet -- at least it was for about 50 years. Today many are built much bigger. You will also see a few small 10- and 12-footers around. Unless you're motoring around on a quiet salt marsh bayou, anything under 14 feet on saltwater is probably too small. Stick with at least 14 feet. If possible, grab a 15-footer. That extra foot is nice; the 15 is normally five feet wide at the top, wide enough to lie down and take a nap. But as three generations of fishermen will attest, even the 14-footers carry a lot of fishing and camping gear.

After owning many fiberglass boats, I've scaled back to a wide, 15-foot long, flat bottom Jon boat. The price was right. (It was given to me by a friend.) It has 20 years on it and will someday be replaced with a heavier-gauge, welded model of 16 feet. It's powered with a brand new 25-horse outboard with a push-button starter, which is nice if you have a stiff lower back. I launch it and run off across the bay for a day of fishing, amazed at the new fiberglass rigs at the boat ramp, whose price tags may flirt or exceed six figures.

Saltwater Jon Boat
Pulling anchor and moving a Jon boat to the next spot. The presence of sharp oyster shell or even jetty rocks is no obstacle to an aluminum boat on a calm day.

If the weather turns rough, I switch to sheltered freshwater lakes with a minimal boat ramp, since light aluminum can be launched almost anywhere. We used to back our rigs into the surf itself in calm summer weather, cruising miles of beach while looking for tarpon. We were too far from any inlet to have competition from other boats. I've even guided people on crappie trips during spring in this Jon boat, tying up to shoreline trees next to flooded forest, with the wind howling, and filled the box with those fine fish. It's all about where and when you go when fishing with aluminum.    

Considerations for Rigging a Jon Boat

Electric motors
Electric motors bolt on at the stern where the driver spends most of his time, moving the boat short distances if the wind and current isn't strong. If you have a big, heavy Jon boat, you'll need a bigger electric placed at the bow instead of the stern.  

Push Pole
A wood or aluminum push pole, about 10 feet long, will shove your boat along past rocks, oysters and sand, without risking a propeller. If using a wood pole, bolt a couple of wood scraps on the pole's end for more gripping power on the bottom -- especially mushy bottom. In areas with a seriously muddy bottom, a paddle in practiced hands, worked at the bow, will ease a Jon boat along for 20 or 30 yards into that honey hole. You have to take wind and tide direction into account, however.  

Seats
If you're 40 and over, that lower back can stiffen up by day's end. Attach boat seats where they balance the boat during running speed, and the driver has a clear view of the water ahead. In a pinch, we've used canvas camp chairs for guests, though they tend to sag in the middle (the chairs, I mean), making it difficult to climb out and move around. A throwable flotation cushion is required on every boat, and I always carry one or two for our guests to sit on.

Drum from a Saltwater Jonboat
Happy anglers with a 25-pound drum caught from a Jon boat rigged for saltwater.

Bimini Top
A fold-down Bimini cavas top is nice when you need it, keeping out rain and sun. However, it's often in the way when folded down on the gunnel and hard to fish around. I've been experimenting with a beach umbrella that the wife can stay under during mid-day. Since our PVC rod holders point out towards the water, I drilled a small holder in the center seat, sticking straight up, where the umbrella throws maximum shade. The back of the boat is still out in the weather, where someone can sit and fish four rods if they want to. The umbrella has a low setting for windy rain, and an extender for tall shade. It fits in a clear plastic sleeve that stows away nicely.

Multiple Rod Holders
You can anticipate where you'll anchor and set out rods, but can't foresee how the day will unfold. Set up all your rod holders on one side of the boat, and another boat will block your casts, the wind will shift or the tide change. My boat now has four primary rod holders on one side, and two on the other. To prevent drilling so many holes in the boat, I rigged a 1x8 inch plank down the side of the boat, drilling in new rod holders wherever desired. And it works: if conditions are right and I'm first to reach the honeyhole, I'll anchor and fire off a broadside of four rods, exactly where I want those baits. If you use circle hooks, you can take your sweet time grabbing a bent rod; the fish will already be hooked.

Deck Boards
Since my buddies and I have always used riveted aluminum boats, we protected each boat with 1/2 inch plywood deck boards. Cut them to fit, and double coat with a light beige paint that won't soak up the sun and burn your feet. If a 300-pound guy walks around in your boat, maybe it won't spring the rivets -- or welding, for that matter. Be sure not to use pressure-treated plywood, which contains copper. Why? Copper and aluminum combined have an electrolysis effect, which eats away at aluminum.

Storage
If you can find a Jon boat with storage, that's a big plus. There's nothing like clutter in the boat to complicate the day. I prefer lots of gear, which allows for more comfort and fishing options. I'm fortunate to have a hollow seat that holds life jackets, gas tank, paddle, rope and anchor, motor oil, a few small tools and a small fire extinguisher, which is required when your gas tank is enclosed. That storage seat has even held a scuba tank from time to time.

Jon Boat in the Gulf of Mexico
Author Joe Richards running his Jon boat in the Gulf of Mexico.

Lights
Portable Navigation Lights easily attach to the boat's bow and stern and can be removed for simple day trips. They run on flashlight batteries, of course. You'll need them for night missions, such as returning from that sunset tarpon trip. If you have storage room, keep a spotlight on the boat; you never know for sure if you'll be kept out there after dark by a big fish.

Anchoring
If stealth is required, such as in shallow-water situations on saltwater flats, keep a small anchor at the stern. Why the stern? The driver can ease it overboard without getting up and making noise. You won't need a noisy anchor chain for this in very shallow water, though you should keep 3 to 4 feet of chain in the storage seat for deeper water. A Jon boat anchored by the stern is far quieter, since even tiny wavelets tend to slap-slap under the bow, spooking fish.

In waves of six inches or higher, it's hazardous to anchor by the stern however; water splashes up and soaks the motor, and winds up inside the boat.   

Bilge Pump
Most water in a Jon boat builds up at the stern. You can pop the drain plug while running, scoop water with a coffee can, or install a small bilge pump. You'll need access to a battery at the stern for power, however. Push-button start motors often have a battery right there, as does mine.

Depth Finder
It certainly helps to know your water depth and to be able to mark fish below the boat. In a Jon boat without a center console, mounting anything requires careful consideration, especially a sonar unit. Here's how Mike Meisenburg, a fishing buddy, rigged a sonar unit on his 15-foot open Jon boat:

"I went by a countertop store that had sink cutouts," Mike said. "They give away the scrap. I got some free pieces, and then had a friend trim them on a table saw and round the edges with a router. Then I got some aluminum, bent it in a 90-degree angle, and riveted it to the boat. That gave me both a horizontal and a vertical surface to mount the depth finder. I can read the depth finder real easy -- it's near my right knee -- while driving the boat with a tiller motor.

"I thought about mounting the depth finder to my ice cooler," Meisenburg continues "but you don't want that thing bouncing around. I don't have one, but a center console on these boats adds so many options for mounting electronics. With an open Jon boat, you have to be creative. Of course you run the transducer wire over the transom, and secure it like any other boat. And you need a battery close by, to supply power. I ran the wires through the chines on the side of the boat to keep them out of the way."

Patching
If your Jon boat develops a crack, have it heli-arc welded. If you have a small leak or two, put an inch of water in the boat with a garden hose, climb underneath the trailer and watch for a telltale drip. Mark it with a red Magic Marker. Let the boat dry, and then seal the hole with J-B Weld. It's good stuff.
 
Paint
There are tons of shabby-looking Jon boats out there for no other reason than the owners won't put a $15 quart of paint on them every five to 10 years. That's what it took to paint the inside of my 15-footer, though I didn't go below the plywood deck plates. The finished job with two coats looks great. (I used Rust Scat paint and their color code for olive drab is 8405). After that, a half-quart put two coats on the outer hull. Next step is beneath the plywood, to cut down on long-term corrosion, which is admittedly slow with aluminum. I prefer olive drab (OD) on my Jon boat, probably because we hunted ducks for 20 years from these same boats, and that was the standard color. Today you see fancier camo paint jobs on new Jon boats, complete with simulated marsh vegetation.

Recycle
When you've gotten full use out of that Jon boat, and it just can't be sold to another boat owner, consider recycling. A recycle center will hand you American greenback dollars and convert that worn out aluminum into another shiny new Jon boat...or beer cans. Either way, you've made somebody happy. Discarded Jon boats, especially those crushed or stove in from fallen trees, should be hauled to the scrap yard and reborn.

Joe Richard runs several charter fishing vessels and manages Seafavorites.com, a collection of several thousand fishing images taken during his 40 years of exploring the Gulf of Mexico.

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Wise Premium Fold Down Boat Seats

By Clint Craft

Wise Folding Boat Seat
Extra-thick compression foam padding provides all-day comfort.

When it comes to bass fishing, I'm a butt-seat kind of guy. (You've seen them. Those small, backless seats meant more for leaning against rather than sitting.) But for almost all other types of fishing, I'll take a cushiony fold-down seat for my backside any day.

I picked up a pair of Wise Premium Fold Down Boat Seats prior to a recent crappie fishing trip, and they were fantastic. These seats are extremely comfortable thanks to the extra-thick compression foam padding. We spent all day on the water, sunup to sundown, for three straight days, and I never once experienced a sore rump from prolonged sitting.

If you've ever spent much time sitting on cheap boat seats with thin padding, you'll know what I'm talking about. Many seats are made with insufficient padding, and after a few hours, you begin to feel the discomfort of the seat's rigid internal frame. This was definitely not the case with the Premium Boat Seats from Wise. 

Wise Folding Boat Seat
High-impact composite frames felt very sturdy and should last for years to come.

If you've ever looked at a well-used boat, the seats will show serious wear. What you'll often notice is a discoloration and splotchy look. Normally, this is from mildew forming on the vinyl. Wise has come up with a solution to this problem: vinyl specially treated to resist the plague of mildew and UV degradation. The vinyl used on their Premium Fold Down Boat Seats is a heavy-duty 28-ounce marine-grade variety.

Under the tough vinyl and thick foam is more strength than you might imagine. The frames are built of a high-impact composite polymer that is nearly indestructible. The hinges are affixed right to the high-impact frame, but on the outside of the vinyl. The result is a boat seat that will last for years and years.

These seats include the hardware necessary to attach them to a seat mount or swivel. I used the Wise Boat Seat Swivel to attach these seats as that was the best option my needs.

If it's time to replace your old boat seats due to extensive wear, or if you just want a seat with a little more cushion for your backside, pick up a set of Premium Fold Down Boat Seats from Wise. They're not just comfortable; they're built to last.



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Wise Plush Pro Boat Seats

By Clint Craft

Wise Plush Pro Boat Seat
Wise Plush Pro Boat Seat in and Gray/Red.

Take a look around next time you're on the water, and you'll likely notice that boat seat preferences vary from angler to angler. Most choices regarding seat style aren't haphazardly made, however. Styles usually are determined by the species one chooses to pursue as well as the tactics employed by that particular angler.

For the most part, I'm a stand-up fisherman. I'm more aware and ready for the strike when I'm on my feet. However, standing for the entire length of a 10 hour tournament is tough, and it's often a relief to lean, removing some pressure from the feet. A seat to lean against also seems to make running the trolling motor easier while chunking and winding.

Pro seats (or "butt" seats as they're sometimes called) are perfect for the stand-up angler that sometimes desires a little assistance, and the Plush Pro Boat Seat from Wise is a quality representation of this seat style.

"Plush" is an apt name for this seat, too, as it features some very comfortable compression-foam padding. We've all experienced cheap boat seats with insufficient foam padding; those inferior seats don't offer enough cushion to protect your rear from the frame and can wreak havoc on your hind side after a long day on the drink. This isn't the case with the Wise Plush Pro Boat Seat, which has plenty of cushion to protect you from the seat's rigid frame, which is made of aluminum. Not only are aluminum-frame seats corrosion resistant, they tend to be sturdier and longer lasting than seats with a plastic frame.   

Covering the aluminum frame and compression-foam padding is a UV-treated, heavy-duty, marine-grade vinyl upholstery. UV treatment prevents the seat's attractive, colorful upholstery from premature fading.

If you're the type of angler who prefers to stand or lean while fishing and you're in the market for a new boat seat, you won't be disappointed by the comfort and quality construction of the Wise Plush Pro Boat Seat.



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Lazy Days, Small Streams and Southern Catfish

By Wade Bourne

Biologists in state fisheries agencies confirm that underutilized catfish populations exist in smaller creeks and rivers from Virginia to Texas.

"No business; no plans; no worries; no money; no future.  Too healthy to beg; too lazy to work; too old to steal.  Ain't got much; don't want anything.  Ain't mad at nobody.  Ain't running for nothing.  Waiting for the 3rd of the month." 

 

Joe B. Sweeney, Retired.  Lobelville, Tennessee.

     

Actually, Joe Sweeney's "business card" lacks one additional, important inscription:  "River rat, specializing on catching catfish."

     

And so he does!  This laid-back angler took early retirement a few years ago to fish and enjoy life.  This morning he's on the Buffalo River, across the highway from his house, doing what he does three to four times a week from late spring through mid-fall:  Rod-and-reel fishing for cats.  Shafts of sunlight are shining through sycamore and maple trees along the east bank.  In a few hours the morning will turn hot, but for now the air is fresh and cool.  A light breeze and a swaying current soothe Sweeney's soul as he watches his rods and waits for a bite.

     

"Isn't this the life?" he muses.  "This is what fishing ought to be, quiet and peaceful.  And I can pretty near always catch a mess of fish.  Just give me three fiddlers, some french fries and hushpuppies, and I'm in hog heaven!"

     

Suddenly, the tip of one of Sweeney's rods begins jerking.  The angler picks up the rod and waits.  Now his mood has changed from relaxed to ready.  He's like a cat about to pounce on a mouse.  "Gotta let'im take it," he coaches himself.  "Gotta let'im nibble 'til he pulls the rod down.  Go on, big boy, take it all..."

     

As though following Sweeney's command, the fish pulls the rod tip down with a decisive thump, and the angler quickly sets the hook.  Then a brief fight ensues, the fish wallowing in the current, then burrowing under the boat as Sweeney takes line.  However, the catfish's evasions are fruitless, and soon this squirming one-pounder is airlifted over the gunnels.  After a brief moment of admiration, the angler deposits the fish into a bucket holding two similar-sized members of its kind.  "Get the grease hot, mama!" he laughs.

     

Joe Sweeney has had plenty such chuckles on the Buffalo River over the years, because he's done this so many times before.  He's lived - and fished - here all his life.  When he was little, his father and grandfather taught him where to find smallmouth bass; how to gig for suckers, buffalo and carp; and how to catch catfish as a matter of routine.  "I used to specialize on fly fishing for smallmouth," Sweeney explains.  "But as I've gotten older, I've turned more to catfishing.  It doesn't take as much effort, and I can just about always count on getting a few."

     

And so can other southern fishermen who apply Sweeney's simple methods in creeks and rivers near their homes.  Channel, flathead and blue catfish abound in many of this region's small running waters, and they are vastly overlooked by anglers more attuned to big lakes and such "glory species" as bass and crappie.  Fishermen armed with minimal tackle, bait and knowledge can enjoy this almost-untapped resource with pleasing consistency.  The fish are abundant, and bites are frequent.  As Sweeney says, this truly is fishing like it should be.

 

Small Stream Catfishing:  An Overview

     

The Buffalo River in central Tennessee is typical of many streams in the mid-South:  Moderate in size, depth and current.  It meanders through quiet fields lined by rolling hardwood ridges.  The river course is a continuous series of shallow, swift riffles, deep pools below the riffles, then runs of medium depth and speed.  The Buffalo's water quality is good enough to support ample populations of smallmouth and rock bass, a variety of other sunfish, several species of rough fish, a hodgepodge of creek minnows, and catfish, which grow in surprising number and size.

     

"My biggest catfish from the Buffalo weighed 38 pounds, but I've hooked fish I know were bigger," Sweeney narrates.  "Also, I've heard stories about yellow cats (flatheads) up to 80 pounds.  Most of these bigger fish were taken on trotlines or limb lines.

     

"I catch mostly smaller fish -- 1/2-3 pounds.  There are a lot more of these, plus they're better to eat.  In fact, if I catch a catfish much bigger than this, I pitch him back in the river.  He won't be nearly as good as the little ones."

     

Biologists in state fisheries agencies confirm that underutilized catfish populations exist in smaller creeks and rivers from Virginia to Texas.  Catfish can live in any but cold streams at high elevations.  These fish are adaptable to a broad range of current and turbidity conditions, thus their abundance.  Also, they are extremely hardy, and they will eat virtually anything organic.   

     

Sweeney begins fishing for stream cats in late April, and action picks up as the weather warms.  "My favorite months are June, July and August," he notes.  "This is when the fish bite the best."

     

Though catfish are known as night feeders, Sweeney goes after them only during the daytime.  "I catch all I want in early morning and late afternoon," he continues. 


"However, when the sun starts shining in over the trees, the action slacks off.  I think the bright light drives the fish back under logs and into holes, and they quit feeding until the shadows reappear."

     

For this reason, Sweeney prefers an overcast sky to a clear one.  When clouds block the sunlight, catfish may feed right through the day.  "I especially like a still, humid morning following a night of lightning and thunder.  I don't know why such a morning is better, but it is."

     

A crucial element in Sweeney's stream-fishing pattern is location of the fish.  "Most people think catfish hang in deep, quiet holes.  This may be true of the bigger ones, but smaller cats feed in shallow, swift areas.  I'm talking about runs that are 2-3 feet deep and exposed to direct current.  Also, a spot is better if it has a clean gravel or clay bottom instead of a mud bottom.  Catfish hold around cover (logs, treetops, rocks, etc.) in these areas and move out into the current to find food.  In fact, they feed a lot like a bass."

 

Tackle, Rigging, Baits, Boat

     

Joe Sweeney's tackle for stream catfish is both elementary and inexpensive.  He uses two 6-foot medium action fiberglass casting rods fitted with spincast reels.  (He notes, "It's hard to beat the old Zebco 33 for what I do.")  He spools 8-12 lb. test line onto these reels.

     

To rig up, Sweeney ties on two hooks and a combination of sinkers matched to the depth and current.  "I prefer smaller hooks than most catfishermen do," he remarks.  "I use #4 Eagle Claw wire hooks.  I'll tie the first hook directly into my line with a granny knot some 18 inches above the end.  Then I'll tie on my second hook 8-10 inches below this.

     

To rig up, Sweeney ties on two hooks and a combination of sinkers matched to the depth and current.

"Last, I add my weights.  I'll run two or three egg sinkers up the line, then clamp a small split shot on the end to keep the egg sinkers from sliding off.  For fishing the Buffalo in the summer, I like about an ounce of lead.  This is plenty weight to hold the bait on bottom in swift current.  Fishermen on other streams may add more or less weight as differences in depth and current require."

     

Sweeney says catfishermen can bait with any of a range of cut-up fish pieces, crawfish tails, stink baits, worms, insects, etc.  However, he has narrowed his bait choice to three top performers:  Red worms, chicken livers and catalpa worms.

     

"I raise my own red worms; they're always good for catfish.  Fresh chicken liver is also a standard, and it's one of the cheapest baits you can use.  A box costs around 75 cents.  Chicken livers are messy to handle and hard to keep on the hook, but that blood and liver smell sure attract catfish.  When I use liver, I'll cut off a thumb-sized piece and run the hook through it two or three times."

     

However, Sweeney says his favorite bait for stream catfish is a live catalpa worm.  "I planted three catalpa trees in my yard in 1956 just so I'd have a supply of these worms.  I get two crops a year, one in June and the other in August.  When I notice the leaves starting to disappear off my trees, I can collect catalpa worms by the dozens.  They're big and tough, and they stay on the hook well.  Catfish absolutely love'em."

     

Sweeney routinely fishes different baits on his two rods to see if the catfish have a preference.  "One day they might want worms, the next day livers.  But they'll eat just about anything. 

     

"For instance, one of my neighbors lives on a bluff overlooking the Buffalo, and a couple of years back he cooked a country ham and trimmed off some fat and skin and threw it in the river.  The next morning I was fishing under the bluff, and I caught a cat that weighed about 3 pounds.  When I cleaned it, there was that ham fat and skin rolled up in a ball in its belly."

     

Sweeney's boat/motor combo is as simple as his taste in fishing.  He runs a 14-foot aluminum johnboat powered by a 15-horse outboard.  He outfits his boat with a bucket or cooler to hold his fish, seat cushions, paddle, and two anchors - one attached to the bow of the boat, the other to the stern.

 

Streamfishing Methods

     

Thus rigged, baited and boated, Joe Sweeney is ready to begin his quest.

     

"Again, most people fish the deep holes, but in summer I catch a lot more in the shallow, fast runs," he reiterates.  "I look for logs, rocks or undercut banks in direct, moderately strong current.  Then I anchor just upstream from this cover and cast downstream beside it.  When the weight hits bottom, I reel up slack line and set the rod in the boat with the tip sticking over the gunnels.  Then I just sit back and watch for a bite."

     

When fishing alone, Sweeney anchors only one end of his johnboat.  The other end swings downcurrent, and his lines extend beyond into his target area.  However, when accompanied by a partner, Sweeney anchors his boat across the current with anchors on the bow and stern, then both anglers fish the downcurrent side.

     

Sweeney likes to anchor approximately 20 yards upcurrent from his target area, and he casts as close to his target cover as possible.  Then, with his first rod propped up, he casts his second line a few feet out from the first, and he sets this rod up in a like manner.  Then the waiting game begins.

     

When a catfish starts nibbling, the line pulses, and the rod tip jumps.  Sweeney picks up the rod, slowly reels his line tight and waits until the fish takes a big bite.  When the rod tip dips convincingly, he sets back and plays the hooked fish to the boat.

     

In the course of a morning, Sweeney will fish several different spots.  "I don't stay at one place more than 15-20 minutes," he says.  "If catfish are there, they'll usually bite right away.  The normal routine is to catch two or three fish from a spot, then the bites quit coming.  So this is sort of a hit and run method.  I don't wait in one place for very long hoping to get a bite."

     

One nemesis to Sweeney's technique is hangups.  "It's very common to hang and break your rig off, but that's just a drawback that goes with the fun.  I keep the hook and sinker people in business," he notes.

 

Philosophy of Stream Catfishing

     

Joe Sweeney and his methods typify the casual approach that goes along with small streams, catfishing, and lazy summer mornings.  There is none of the hustle of the big lakes, no fast boats, crowded ramps, expensive gadgetry or sophisticated techniques.  Rather, this is old-fashioned fishing-for-dinner and a chance to shift into low gear......

     

"See how the current's eating this field away?" Sweeney observes at one particular turn where a high bank shows five feet of topsoil.  "The river's always changing.  There's something different every year, new trees in the water, old ones gone, a fresh cut, an island washed away."

     

In a way, the river resembles the lives of those who fish it.  They, too, are always changing.  "A lot of people just don't go fishing anymore," Sweeney muses.  "My grandsons used to go with me, but now they're into the two G's:  Girls and golf.  So mostly I fish alone, or sometimes I'll take a neighbor."  He threads a fresh worm on his hook.

     

"There are a lot of canoeists on the river in the summer, and sometimes all the boat traffic interferes with fishermen.  I usually fish early and late and leave the water to the paddlers during the mid-day hours.

     

"And while I'm talking about canoeists, I don't think some of them have as much respect for the river as they should.  They throw cans and Styrofoam cups and other trash in the water.  I hate that."  Sweeney casts his freshly baited rig downstream, waits for the weight to hit bottom, then sets his rod against the gunnels.

     

"I used to raise red worms to sell.  Whenever I'd be away from the house, I'd leave several boxes of worms out where people could find them, and they'd drop their money in a cigar box.  This business ran on the honor system, and I never knew it if anybody beat me out of a cent."

     

In a few minutes Sweeney gets a bite, and he quickly lands a channel catfish the size of a large corncob.  "Big enough to bite, big enough to keep," he judges, dropping the fish into the bucket. 

     

In the next hour, Sweeney talks about whatever enters his mind.  He explains how his father and grandfather built flat-bottomed boats out of poplar planks, then sunk them in the river so they would swell and seal.  He talks about old friends and favorite fishing spots.  He laments the fast pace of life and the fact that modern parents spend so little time with their children.  He says, "My motto is, 'Don't send'em.  Go with'em.'  In this age you've gotta spend time with kids to keep'em out of trouble."

     

That's the way it is with small rivers and catfishing; there's plenty time to think.  You can ponder whatever is important in your life.  You can remember yesterday, reflect on tomorrow, share an opinion or tell a tale. 

     

The only trouble is, all too often a sneaky fish will snatch your bait and steal you away from your meditations.  You have to stop and reel the vagrant in, but putting up with such a "nuisance" is a fair price to pay for the pleasures of this summer sport and setting.

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Boating Safety is No Accident

By Keith Sutton

Today, there are thousands of people on the water who have very little experience with boats.

It started like many family outings. It ended in tragedy.

The family motored down the lake enjoying a beautiful June day. The kids were riding a jet ski; the grown-ups were alongside in a ski boat enjoying a few beers and wine coolers and shooting video of the happy children.

The accident happened abruptly, unexpectedly. Two girls, ages 11 and 10, were riding the water bike, jumping waves behind the boat. Both were wearing life jackets, but neither was old enough to legally operate the craft.

According to one witness, the girls passed the boat, then cut sharply into its path. The jet ski and boat collided, bow to bow. One girl's father was piloting the boat. Before he could react, his daughter was thrown over the boat's bow, hit the windshield and rolled into the lake. The boat struck the other girl, pushing her beneath the water.

The frightened adults pulled the unconscious children from the water and quickly transported them to a nearby marina. A helicopter and ambulance were dispatched to scene, while rescuers administered CPR to the older girl. Despite efforts to save her, the 11-year-old died that night from severe trauma. Her younger cousin was hospitalized in serious condition and later released.

The fact the young girl died so unnecessarily is terribly disturbing. The fact her parents are partly to blame for the accident compounds the devastation they still feel. More than likely, all involved will always bear the mental scars of this tragedy.

The fish weren't biting much that May afternoon, so the two anglers stayed on the lake a little longer to see if their luck might change. By the time they headed in, darkness had fallen.
The boat didn't have running lights, but the men didn't give it much thought. They didn't even bother to post a lookout to watch the waters ahead. The landing wasn't far, and they decided to cover the distance as quickly as possible. It was a fatal decision.

"The two of us started down the lake to go fishing," a man in the second boat reported later. "A few boats were still out; we could see their lights. We turned our running lights on before leaving the ramp.

"We were running down the lake around 30 miles per hour. Then all at once I could see a boat coming straight for us. It had no lights on and was traveling fast. I immediately turned to the right, but the other boat went the same way. I turned the boat hard back to the left, and at that time, the other boat rammed us."

The collision threw all four men, none of whom was wearing a life jacket, into the water. One boat sank almost immediately. The other ran wildly in circles, threatening to run the men down.
A third boat arrived on the scene seconds after the collision. They picked up the three survivors. The driver of the first boat died from internal injuries.

When skiing, have at least two people in the boat: one to drive, one to watch the skier.

There was never any indication of trouble. Then suddenly, for some unexplained reason, the motor caught fire. They'd been water-skiing when it happened: the man, his wife, their two daughters, and a young friend.

The friend had on a life jacket and was in the water, preparing to ski, when the flames erupted. The parents threw the girls into the lake, tossed life jackets to them and jumped in to keep them afloat.

Help came almost immediately. Seeing the fire, two boaters motored quickly to the scene. But for the parents, it was too late. The children were rescued, but their mother and father drowned trying to save them. In the scramble to abandon the boat, the parents, both experienced swimmers, left their own life jackets behind.

These three stories are re-creations of three boating accidents reported in recent years. Each story is tragic, but no more so than many other mishaps that could also have been easily prevented. Two people drown when their old boat, a hole in its side, sinks. A party barge operating at night with no lights is struck from behind by another vessel; the barge operator is killed. A man's body is found floating with no life jacket; his blood alcohol content is double the legal limit for highway drivers. A boat sinks when an anchor is thrown out in swift water; no life jackets are in use, and one man dies. A small boat overloaded with six passengers and camping gear capsizes in high water; a 10-year-old boy drowns.

The stories go on and on, a litany of grievous disasters, most of which could have been prevented had someone stopped to consider the results of their inattentive actions.
The 5,705 boating accidents reported in the U.S. in 2002 (the most recent year figures are available) resulted in 750 fatalities, 4,062 injuries and property damage totaling $39,185,172. The 750 fatalities reverse a downward trend and are at their highest level since 1998 when 815 fatalities were reported.

Too many people fail to realize driving a boat is just as serious as driving a car, and in some ways more dangerous. Automobile drivers have well-defined roads, traffic signals, brakes and seat belts to ensure safe motoring. Boating is much less controlled, multiplying the opportunities for accidents.

One of the simplest precautions boaters can take is wearing a life jacket at all times.

Another problem is the number of inexperienced boaters on the water today. Years ago, we didn't have as many boats. And the people who used those boats grew up around them. They learned safe boating when they were young. Today, there are thousands of people on the water who have very little experience with boats. It's not surprising they don't know everything they should about boating safety.

The causes of boating accidents are many, but in almost every case, each was preventable had the boaters followed common sense safety precautions. This is evident when you look at some of the factors most often responsible for boating accidents: excessive speed, no proper lookout, overloading, boating in hazardous waters, alcohol use, faulty equipment, operator inexperience, and operator inattention.

One of the simplest precautions boaters can take is wearing a personal flotation device (PFD), or life jacket, at all times. This includes all passengers, but especially children. Seventy percent of all fatal boating accident victims in 2002 drowned (524 out of 750). Nearly 85 percent of the victims who drowned were not wearing their PFD. Overall, fatal accident data show approximately 440 lives could have been saved that year if boaters had worn their lifejackets.

Boating safety experts also stress the fact that alcohol consumption and boating are a deadly combination. People who wouldn't think of drinking beer all day and driving often think nothing of drinking while piloting a boat. The Coast Guard estimates more than half of all boating fatalities involve alcohol. Each year, the combination of boating and drinking leads to needless injuries and deaths.

Besides these measures, boaters should also learn and follow these safety tips:
  • Operate a safe, well-equipped boat. Before each outing, check trailer lights, tires, hitches, motors, steering cables, fuel lines, and lights.

Equip your craft with a fire extinguisher, horn and paddles, plus tools and spare parts (light bulbs, shear pins, etc.) for equipment repair. Always watch for other boats, swimmers, fishermen, divers, and obstacles in the water. Keep your eyes on the water ahead. Stop before reaching for a drink, a blown-off hat or other objects. Never drive at speeds exceeding safe, reasonable limits. Slow down when making sharp turns. Don't create a hazardous wake when approaching or passing other boats, and use caution when crossing wakes created by other boats. Never overload a boat with equipment or people. Look at the capacity plate on the boat's transom, and stay within that limit. Never boat at night unless your craft is equipped with proper lighting. Check the lights before launching, and carry a flashlight or spotlight for signaling other boats and watching for obstacles. Monitor your fuel supply. Remember the 1/3 rule: 1/3 of your fuel for going, 1/3 for returning, 1/3 for an emergency. Inform others where you plan to go and when you will return, and don't deviate from that plan. Don't allow anyone to stand in the boat or sit on the gunwales or on the decking over the bow while underway. Stay off the water during periods of high wind, fog, or other inclement weather. Check weather forecasts, and watch for signs of change. Don't use a boat in dangerous or off-limits waters at any time. Be especially careful above and below dams and around bridges. Use caution in all unfamiliar waters. When operating a boat, wear a kill switch to stop the engine if you fall or are thrown overboard. Remember the "rules of the road" when on the water. When meeting another boat, pass on the right just as you would when driving a car. Keep to the right in narrow channels, beware when rounding bends, and maintain a safe distance when overtaking and passing other boats. Powerboats must yield to sailboats. Use care when refueling your craft. Ventilate your boat after fueling. Open any hatches, run the blower, and carefully sniff for gas fumes in the fuel and engine areas before starting your engine. Never tamper with backfire flame arrestors or other safety equipment on the motor. Experienced mechanics should make equipment repairs. Improper anchoring can cause a boat to capsize. Don't anchor in swift or exceedingly choppy waters. Use a quick-release hitch or tie that allows you to drop the anchor immediately in case of emergency. Be extremely careful when motoring into the sun, and don't let passengers block your view. Beware of objects ahead until your boat planes out and you can see in front of you. Be certain your motor is out of gear before starting it.

Hunters and other cold-weather boaters must be especially conscious of boating safety, because a spill in frigid water can lead to death from hypothermia. In addition to other safety precautions, avoid wearing hip boots or waders when traveling to and from a hunting area. Bring along extra clothing in case you fall while putting out decoys or retrieving game. Be especially mindful to put the drain plug in your boat before launching.

Don't allow younger operators to jump wakes, play "chicken" or engage in other unsafe horseplay.

When fishing, stay clear of boat channels; watch the water and traffic ahead when trolling; and always wear a life jacket when running nets and trotlines and retrieving tangled lures. You could fall overboard if the boat becomes unbalanced.

When skiing, have at least two people in the boat: one to drive, one to watch the skier. Skiers should always maintain a safe distance from the turning propeller.

When canoeing, stay upstream of your craft should it capsize to avoid being pinned against downstream obstacles. Know your limitations, and avoid canoeing on unsafe waters.
In many states, children must reach a certain age before they can legally operate a personal watercraft. For your children's sake, abide by that law. Don't allow operators to jump wakes, play "chicken" or engage in other unsafe horseplay.

Finally, consider enrolling in a boating safety course. A boater who has successfully completed one of these classes will be a much safer and more courteous boater.
 
The U.S. Coast Guard and many state wildlife agencies offer free boating education classes. In some states, boating education is mandatory, or will become mandatory for certain age classes of boaters in the near future. In these states, people will have to carry proof that they have completed a certified education course in order to legally operate a boat. For information on classes in your area, contact the boating safety section of your state wildlife agency or the nearest office of the U.S. Coast Guard.

It's important that all of us learn and follow the rules of boating safety. In this day and age, with more and more boaters on the water, frightening accidents, including many unnecessary fatalities, happen with increasing frequency. Most of them shouldn't have happened at all. They occur due to carelessness, a lackadaisical attitude, inattention, or just plain poor judgment.
 
Please, this year, when you're on the water fishing or simply enjoying a pleasant afternoon boat ride, wear a life jacket and be attentive to all the rules of boating safety. Your life, and the lives of others, depends on it.

Choose the Right Personal Flotation Device (PFD) Life jackets, or personal flotation devices, are placed into five basic categories-Type I, II, II, IV, and V. PFD manufacturers are required by law to include a label, usually inside the back collar, identifying classification.  Type I PFDs are the most buoyant, designed to turn unconscious wearers in the water to a face-up position. They are effective for all waters and the most highly recommended for children.  Type II PFDs will turn some unconscious wearers face-up but only under limited conditions. They are intended for calm, inland waters or where there's a good chance of quick rescue.  Type III PFDs are flotation aids only and cannot turn an unconscious wearer face-up without assistance. Hunting float coats and fishing vests are examples of this type.  Type IV PFDs are throwable devices not designed to be worn. They should be used only in situations where help is always present. Type IV devices include buoyant cushions and ring buoys.  Type V PFDs, which inflate automatically, are made only for special uses or conditions. Varieties include boardsailing vests, deck suits, work suits and others. They are required to be worn to be counted as a regulation PFD.
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