Top 5 Kayak Fishing Gifts for Tournament Anglers

My wife loves Christmas with all the decorations; the tree with gifts, stockings filled with candy and more gifts, lights and snowmen all around the house. Each year we say that we are not going to buy each other anything, she even promises to not buy me anything for Christmas – then I get Festivus gifts, something for Winter Solstice or National Mutt Day. I have tried to resist, but whatever your belief system, this is the time of year where we get together for parties with friends and families; and gifts are often exchanged. Not everyone is sending a list to Santa (me, ‘cause I ain’t been that good), but there are some things we would like to have if we were to choose our gifts.

Now, the perfect list of gifts; a Hobie ProAngler 14 with the 360 mirage drive, a 9” Hummingbird Helix Mega with sidescan powered by a Bioenno 40ah Lithium battery, with a Torqeedo 1103AC all sitting on a Tennessee Trailer is not everyone’s perfect kayak fishing gifts list… nor would it be practical to fit it under the tree… or on a credit card.  

I have learned something about kayak anglers, they are a fairly independent group of folks who have developed a certain way of rigging their kayak and like to choose their own equipment. So to keep you from picking up something that will sit in the closet – unless they specifically ask for something (like the new Torqueedo, hey Santa!); I put together a short list of practical kayak fishing gifts that would help almost any tournament angler during the next year without forcing a second mortgage.

Kayak Fishing Gifts #5: Gift Cards 

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There are a lot of different gift cards you can give your favorite kayaker that would be more than welcomed. You can find displays of them in almost any big box store – for almost anywhere.  Pick any for a local tackle shop, Bass Pro, Academy, etc. – or Amazon which opens up unlimited opportunities and usually anything ordered can be at your door before you put down your computer.

Then there are cards that can feed kayakers as they travel across the U.S.; Subway is everywhere, Burger King, Chick-Fil-a, or Cracker Barrel just to name a few. Pick the larger chains and they can be used in virtually any state.

You can even just put some cash on a Wal-Mart card; a lot of us spend time sleeping in their parking lots to save money on the trips. This card can buy food or gas… or tackle… or donuts.

Kayak Fishing Gifts #4: Base Layer Gear

Mobility is important in a kayak, so is staying warm and dry on cold days. While the base layer gear doesn’t replace dry or wet suits, it can keep you extremely comfortable on cold days. It holds in body heat and wicks away moisture without hindering movements. These are available in different weights with 4 being the warmest. This gear is also helpful if your rain jacket proves to be less than adequate; it can keep you warm until you make it back to the launch.

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The Under Armour brand can cost a few dollars more, but it is worth it.

There may be some challenges with correct sizing based on body types (maybe it was just me), so be aware there may be an exchange in your future; but I am certain this would be a gift you’ll get many thanks for giving. The Under Armour Cold Gear Base clothing is incredible and comes in both men’s and women’s sizes.

Kayak Fishing Gifts #3: Lanyards/Flexible Tie Downs

One of the most precious things a kayaker has in his possession is gear. If you are fishing a tournament and only have a single tackle box and one rod, imagine losing that along the way.  

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RoboHawk and Rogue Fishing make some great lanyards to keep Ketch Boards, phones, paddles, or anything you can hook to them safe. They even have models that allow you to pull the kayak, making the trek to the water easy too.  

Lanyards differ from flexible tie downs in that they allow the angler to use the item while it is tethered to an immovable (or movable) station; keeping the items safe from sinking to the bottom should it fall or be dropped over board.

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Night Ize Gear ties allow you to attach items to your seat, kayak, or just each other in a way that is quick to remove.

They are flexible and come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, so their application is virtually limitless. These can even be used to bundle items stored in hatches, dry bags, and tackle storage; to hold the sinker on your dropshot rigs, or they can hold gear in the kayak during transportation.

Kayak Fishing Gifts #2: Headlamps

Walk by almost any register at a home improvement store, and they are on the impulse racks just under the candy. These are relatively inexpensive, and something that most every kayaker uses at some point during the day. I didn’t understand why anyone would need to get them in multi-packs, but having left no less than five at the bottom of a lake, I get it now.  

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Cyclops makes a versatile and inexpensive light that not only offers 350 lumens of light; it has red, green, and a blinking light setting.

The red and green settings make it easy to see your gear without blinding fellow anglers, while the blinking light can help to get the attention of other watercraft on the water.    

Kayak Fishing Gifts #1: The ANGLR Bullseye

This item, when paired with the ANGLR app, allows for easy tracking of your time on the water.  The ANGLR app allows anglers to collect real time data of each and every trip on the water.  Data which belongs to the individual, and can be shared with friends, or kept private. The pairing of the Bullseye with the app has the potential to enhance an anglers experience on the water. 

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This can be a pretty cool item to drop in a stocking or give to any angler.

Again, most of those who are kayaking have already picked up what they want, or are already telling you very specifically what they would love to receive as a gift. Cash is also a great substitute, if you give any to someone this year and they don’t want it, call me. In the meantime, Merry Christmas… Happy Holidays… Festivus… Mutt Day… Bacon Day… birthday; Tuesday… whatever occasion you choose to give gifts!

Fishing Log | The Importance of Keeping a Fishing Log

Let’s face it: We all know it’s important to keep track of our fish catches through a fishing log, or logbook for short. I’m talking about the type you might find tucked away in your granddad’s attic, filled with handwritten details from fishing expeditions of years past.

It’s something we should do, but those of us who aren’t OCD and meticulous note-takers could get caught up in the old adage of chasing ghosts by fishing memories.

My personal opinion aligns with those who say you shouldn’t get caught up in chasing memories. But I still prefer to keep a fishing log because quite frankly, my memory is garbage. I can’t remember the big picture stuff like the date and location of a fish catch, much less the details like barometric pressure and water temperature.

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A Fishing Log That Records Data for Me

That is why I love the ANGLR app — this isn’t your granddad’s logbook. For one, it collects data that is far more powerful. And you can say “bye-bye” to your handwritten efforts that would have you “fishing memories.” 

The ANGLR app lets me go back in time to see when the best feeding windows were relative to similar weather conditions that I’ll face on my next outing to help me develop a game plan. I’m not chasing memories, I’m predicting patterns.  

I’m not trying to go back and catch the same 4-pound bass that I lost on one particular stump 2 years ago. No, I’m using all the data collected from 10 trips I made under certain conditions to tell me what I need to do when the wind shifts directions or the barometric pressure increases. 

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This is next-level stuff.

Even if you have a great memory, you don’t have a running clock in your head to be able to look back one day and remember you caught a fish at exactly 10:03 AM. Nor do you carry around a barometer to memorize the barometric pressure at the point of each fish catch… but the ANGLR app does

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This Fishing Log Changed How I Look at My Data

The great thing about this massive data accumulation is that it happens with very little input on my end and it’s completely private. I am not OCD. I am not disciplined when it comes to taking notes. Luckily, the app does most of the work for me, keeping up with a wide array of conditions automatically and locking them all down to the second when I drop a pattern point relative to a fish catch. 

And if I’m feeling extra motivated, ANGLR lets me add my own notes in conjunction with a particularly meaningful catch. Say I caught a fish beside a dock instead of under it on a bait I don’t typically throw due to abnormal water clarity. I can add all those details on the spot or later when I’m off the water. Then, in similar conditions, I can refer back to them right there on the app. I can even add a picture to my notes of the bait, dock or fish if I want. 

So stop chasing ghosts by fishing memories. Do yourself a favor and use the app. It’s a powerful tool that helps you avoid making the same mistakes over and over. It’s a tool that will make you a better angler every time you use it.

Late Season Buzzbait Fishing | When Does The Water Get Too Cold?

In the south, we all too often bail on the topwater bite after waking up to frost on our vehicles for the first time. As anglers, we have a tendency to fish the air temperatures and not the water temperatures. In the spring, a warm sunny day will have us burning baits back to the boat when the water temps are in the ‘40s and the fish are still in a slow roll mood. In the early winter, our need for coveralls and toboggans will have us crawling baits through water that’s still in the mid-’50s, not considering buzzbait fishing.

The truth is, it takes several consecutive days of cold or warm air temps to really get the mercury moving in either direction relative to water temps. So you need to really focus on what the fish are feeling and not what you’re feeling. Bass will still bite a topwater bait when the water temperatures are in the mid-’50s. 

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I even caught a 6-pounder in a club tournament once on a Stanley Ribbit in 49-degree water.

Though I would not recommend pursuing a topwater bite when the water is that cold. I shouldn’t have been that day. But I had caught a 3- and 4-pounder the weekend prior during practice on the Ribbit. We had a massive cold front leading up to the tournament and the water temps plummeted from the mid-’50s to upper ‘40s. Still, nothing else was working for me the day of the tournament so, against my better judgment, I picked up the Ribbit and was pleasantly surprised.

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Late Season Buzzbait Fishing: Slow Roll or Bust

The point is, fish will still bite a topwater even when we don’t think they will. A buzzbait is one of the best topwater baits for this timeframe. To get bit buzzbait fishing in colder water, you’re going to want to really crawl the bait along. Hold your rod tip up a bit and fish the bait as slow as you can while still keeping it up on the surface. 

I’ve caught fish on both 1/4-ounce and 1/2-ounce buzzbaits this time of year. The 1/4-ounce buzzbait is a little easier to fish slow and better mimics shad if you’re around an abundance of bait. But if I’m not around a lot of bait, I prefer the slow, deep chug of a 1/2-ounce buzzbait in cold water.

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Late Season Buzzbait Fishing: Conditions to Look For

There seems to be some correlation to sunny days and catching fish on a buzzbait for me personally, but I honestly think that’s probably a false positive due to the tendency I mentioned earlier. I’m guilty as well of not even considering buzzbait fishing on a brutally cold winter day. 

There are also some sunny winter days where a buzzbait is pointless since the water temps have already plummeted deep into the ‘40s. However, 3 or 4 consecutive sunny days in a row can bring the water temps back up into the ‘50s as long as there aren’t disastrously low temps at night between those sunny days. 

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So on the tail end of a trend like that, be ready to break a buzzbait back out. 

Warm rains can also raise the water temps here in the south. And shallow water is the quickest to change temperature due to the multiple days of sunshine or rain. So if you find yourself in a situation where your body is telling you no but the temp on your graph is telling you yeah, just try it out. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised too.

A Kayak Anglers View on the New Bassmaster Kayak Series

I was asked a simple question: 

“How do you feel about the new HUK Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series presented by Abu Garcia and powered by TourneyX?”

To answer, I had to take some time to work through the purely nostalgic reasons I am looking forward to attending and competing in a B.A.S.S. event.  

My dad was a member. I used to watch every show that came on covering Bassmaster events before I could even drive myself to fish. Bassmaster introduced me to my fishing heroes, the guys who piqued my interest in tournament fishing as I dreamed of doing it for a living. I still have some Poe crankbaits that Rick Clunn convinced me to pick up, I will forever look for Mann’s Classic spinnerbaits because Hank Parker showed it to me one Saturday morning. I saw Shaw Grigsby give a seminar on jigs, flipping into a small cup; and I just liked saying Guido Hibdon, not sure why.

Bassmaster Kayak Series: A Kayak Anglers Perspective

Then, looking at it as a kayak bass angler who loves the sport and the kayak community; I will be a part of B.A.S.S.’s inaugural season when the first kayaks launch at Logan Martin Lake in Alabama on March 5th because it is another opportunity to advance kayak bass fishing.  

KBF, Hobie, and the local trails will continue to flourish and grow; this will not replace them; but (my opinion since I was asked the question), the B.A.S.S. series is an opportunity to put an established national spotlight on kayaking and help us all.  

There doesn’t seem to be much doubt that Bassmaster plans to leverage its years of experience to grow this series while drawing on the knowledge gained by some of the best kayak tournament directors and TourneyX.

B.A.S.S. likes the idea of single-day tournaments. In a recent interview, Dwayne Walley of TourneyX discussed how this will allow more accessibility to large events for kayak anglers with day jobs and limited vacation. The organizers worked hard to schedule events so they would not interfere with the existing trails and shared that the first event was put on a weekday to allow the top anglers to be on the stage at the 50th Bassmaster Classic.

The Classic will take place March 6-8 on Lake Guntersville with weigh-ins at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. This timing will let those who are able to visit the classic event and expo.

Bassmaster Kayak Series: Getting More Information

To learn more, I called Steve Owens, a fellow Tennessee angler and tournament director who will be working with B.A.S.S.. I wanted to understand how those of us in the state can get in from the beginning and just how it would all work. He was quick to explain that this is a project that is still being fully developed, but shared what he could.  

  1. Kayak anglers can fish the opens with a Bassmaster membership.  
  2. We will be given the opportunity to sign up with B.A.S.S. Nation clubs specific to kayak anglers as they grow in each state. 
  3. The path to the kayak classic will work just as the Bassmaster Classics have with these partner groups.

Bassmaster Kayak Series: Final Thoughts

Next, I tried to give him my thirty dollars to join the Tennessee kayak B.A.S.S. Nation over the phone but was told I will have to hold on until it is established. I went online to find B.A.S.S. stickers, shirts… guess I will have to read the rules to see if I can add the emblem to next seasons’ jersey. I have already studied Logan Martin Lake maps and videos. I pulled out the old Poe crankbaits, the Mann’s Classic spinnerbait that paid for my fishing two years ago, and keep hearing “Guido” in Ray Scott’s voice (still not sure why). 

How do I feel about the new HUK Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series presented by Abu Garcia and powered by TourneyX? 

To simplify my response into a single word; Excited!

A Year in Review: Shaye Baker’s One-Year Recap Using ANGLR

I’ve been providing content for ANGLR and using the ANGLR app with their digital logbook for a little over a year now. I thought it would be prudent to sit down and reflect on that time. 

For anyone reading this who is unfamiliar with ANGLR, their core product is a free digital logbook that simplifies the otherwise tedious process of data collection on the water. No more wasting time with pen and paper. Now, with the push of a button, you can create a private pattern point in the app to associate a fish catch to its location, barometric pressure, wind speed, wind direction, time of day, current in some situations and so much more. 

So, let’s talk a little about what I’ve noticed working closely over the last year with ANGLR.

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Dedication to Getting Better

The first thing I’ll mention is the first thing you see when you open the app, the company’s mission statement, Never Stop Improving. I have to commend ANGLR on that, not just being a slogan, but a mantra they operate by. In the time I’ve worked with the company, they’ve added feature after feature and issued dozens of updates. 

Sure, there have been some bumps in the road. But when you’re blazing a trail, bumps are to be expected. 

Now that most of the groundwork has been done, the updates are smoothing out more and more bumps every day and the app is operating strongly with more functionality than ever.

The Most Impressive Thing They’ve Done

Back in February of 2019, ANGLR hosted a summit of sorts where they brought together various anglers and fishing industry members with very diverse backgrounds, ages, and views on fishing as a whole. To me, that was the most impressive thing I’ve seen them do. 

Sure, the tech is awesome but that’s way above my head. And companies who do tech, do it every day, so I’d say I take that for granted a bit. But what most companies don’t do is listen. When I arrived in Pittsburgh for the ANGLR summit, I walked into a collaborative set of very well coordinated thought experiments aimed at digging down to the root of what each of us would like to see from a digital logbook. 

Some great ideas were the result of those meetings, which have since been implemented by the leadership and design teams, who did in fact listen. 

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One such idea was the ANGLR Backtrack feature.

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My Favorite Feature Release Over the Last Year

The Backtrack feature, with the user’s permission, is able to go through your photos, recognize fish, take the date and geolocation information that was saved when you took the photo and create past waypoints and trips from that data. 

Which is simply put, amazing.

So now, if you caught a 6-pounder and took a photo 8-months before you even downloaded the app, the app will access that photo and create a waypoint for you where the photo was taken. That to me is just crazy and seamlessly takes advantage of the social media world we live in where we photograph everything. Now all those fish catches that you hurried to snap and post to Instagram can quickly be converted into tangible, usable data: in effect, transposing ANGLR’s mantra onto you, the angler, by helping you to Never Stop Improving

Most Useful New Feature

Perhaps the most useful new feature is the ability to transfer pattern points from your ANGLR app to the electronics on your boat and vice versa. This allows you to do all sorts of things. For instance, I’ll still mark brush and other pieces of cover on my graph, but can track my fish catches just by clicking the ANGLR Bullseye I wear on my hat and then upload all those fish catches to my graph if I want later. Or if I’m catching a lot of small fish and don’t want all that data jumbling up my graph screen, I can choose not to import them. Or import only the best 5 at the end of the day. 

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The options are vast. 

It’s also an awesome feature for tournament prep. I used to fish a lot of bigger tournaments where I couldn’t logistically go to South Carolina for example and practice on Santee Cooper until right before the actual tournament. So to prepare, I’d sit on my phone or computer in Alabama and scour Google Earth for anything that looked interesting. The trouble came when I’d try to take a couple of dozen things I marked and figure out how to identify them on my boat’s graph so I could find them when I actually set out on the water.

Now with the ANGLR app, I can sit on my couch and look at historical satellite images when the water was low on a lake, mark 100 brush piles if I want and then transfer all those waypoints over to my graph with a couple of clicks. That’s an awesome and extremely useful feature. 

Looking Forward

There’s a lot more to ANGLR’s company, app, logbook, and other products. And certainly, even more great things to come from ANGLR in the future. I try to align myself with companies and products I believe in, and with ANGLR, that’s easy. If you haven’t yet tried them out, give the app a try. The free version has loads of features and functionality. If you like what you see and want even more, be sure to check out their Premium

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We can always be better. That to me is one of the most appealing things about fishing. 

The challenge and how even the greatest anglers of all time have not, cannot and will not perfect their game completely. 

There will always be room for improvement. There will always be one fish that outsmarts or outmaneuvers us. One set of conditions that puzzles us and stumps us. One decision we rethink and desperately want to re-do. It would be really nice to have a tool to help us track, learn, and grow from all those mistakes and past fishing trips. And now we do.

How to Flip and Pitch Bushes in Cold, Muddy Water

Let’s dive in to how to flip and pitch bushes. This is something I haven’t done a lot, but when I do it, I’m apt to catch a big one. Flipping bushes is a dangerous game to play if you’re an emotionally unstable person. There’s a good chance throughout the course of a day that you’ll get hung up a couple of dozen times and, when the eventual big bite comes, about a 50/50 shot you’ll see her but never touch her. 

That’s when a person less in control of their emotions might string together a tapestry of obscenities that would make Ralphie’s dad from a Christmas Story blush. But that’s not me… no, I would never. 

The fact of the matter is, this style of fishing is grueling and tedious. You need to be accurate and thorough. Patient. But it is an effective way to get a big bite, especially in shallow, cold and muddy water.

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How to Flip and Pitch Bushes: What Conditions to Look For

Typically, given this set of conditions, I prefer to throw a square bill or spinnerbait. That’s because I like to keep a bait moving, even if it’s moving very slowly, both to help the fish track the bait from the constant vibration and to allow me to cover water a little quicker. However, these two baits are also better suited for horizontal cover: laydowns, seawalls, riprap, etc. 

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For more isolated targets like bushes and sometimes even stumps, I will slow down and pick them apart with either a jig or a soft plastic pitching setup. 

Overhanging bushes are hard to fish, especially in the wintertime, since the fish will often bury up in the middle of them and under them. Those fish are extremity lethargic in cold water and not typically willing to rush out and attack a passing spinnerbait or square bill. So you need to go in and dig them out.

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How to Flip and Pitch Bushes: The Similarities to Punching

That’s where you can draw a lot of parallels between this style of fishing and punching. The gear isn’t quite as heavy. Where I use 1&1/2-ounce tungsten, a 7’ 8” Fitzgerald Big Jig/Heavy Mat Flipping Rod and 65-pound test Sufix 832 braid to punch, I’ll go with a 7’ 6” Heavy Vursa rod, 50-pound Sufix 832 braid, and a 3/4-ounce bait. But the reel is the same with a Lew’s Super Duty and a lot of the basic principles apply to how you target fish. 

Sure, when I’m punching we’re talking about hyacinth, hydrilla, or some other matted vegetation. Obviously, with flipping bushes, there is rarely any of that. But you can still treat the bank like a line of vegetation and the particularly thicker bushes over a little deeper water like the mats. 

Those are the higher percentage areas and should get the majority of the focus. 

Similar to when you’re punching vegetation, you don’t want to dob the bait all around the edges first. That will just distract the fish or likely draw them away from the sweet spot. No, you want to go dead center right out of the gate. That’s the best way to surprise the fish and get a reaction strike. 

The same basic principle holds true when learning how to flip and pitch bushes. Try to put the bait right in the middle of the bush, or as best you can while still leaving a reasonably good exit strategy. Then I’ll yo-yo the bait a few times the same as when I’m punching. Only then will I toss the bait around a bit in some of the less probable places or perhaps even further back into the cover from time to time. 

When you get bit, be sure to keep pressure on the fish. It’s best not to hammer them on the hookset, the same as punching. This will give you a better chance to start the fish out of the cover before he even knows what’s happening. And it will prevent the braid from cutting down into the wood like it did here on this fish catch. 

How to Flip and Pitch Bushes: Using Fluorocarbon Instead of Braid

Another tip to prevent that, use heavy fluorocarbon instead of braid. This tip comes from Brandon Palaniuk and is advice that you should definitely consider. Again, I don’t fish this way often but I do know that a lot of anglers who regularly fish bushes prefer the heavier fluorocarbon to the braid for the fact that it doesn’t cut into the wood as bad. Often times these fisheries are also clearer than what I’m focusing on in this article, so the fluorocarbon is less visible too. 

I’m a braid guy. That doesn’t mean I’m right though. I’m just stubborn and that is what I’m most comfortable with. But as you can see from that video, braid and poor hookset technique nearly botched that fish catch for me. 

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But the proper technique is a lot easier to talk about than employ when a 5-pounder rocks your jig. 

Still, do as I say and not as I do. It’ll likely be better for you in the long run.

Mike Cheatham’s Reasoning For Why Kayak Anglers Should Use the ANGLR Logbook

How many of you have seen guys walking around at tournaments with an ANGLR Bullseye on their hats and wondered why? I mean is it just a cool marketing tool – a way to get your brand out in public? Just another gadget to catch an angler, not to help catch fish?  

Well, I have been asked those questions at events and shared my thoughts on the subject; but I’ve also shared the facts about the ANGLR app and the Bullseye.

ANGLR Logbook: How the Bullseye Caught My Eye

Being very open, the Bullseye is what got my attention when I saw a lot of guys wearing them. It made me curious to see what this thing was for, what was its purpose. So, it is a cool marketing tool that made me look, but it is also a Bluetooth device that links to the ANGLR app.  When you link it up at the beginning of each fishing trip, you simply push it once to mark a catch (allowing you to collect water and weather data), or twice to mark a waypoint (also collecting data) or you can hold it in for 2-3 seconds to mark a gear change (making your data more powerful). 

This data is yours, not the worlds; and can be recalled to see the conditions, location, gear, and more about your day on the water.  If you choose to share the data collected with others, that is also an option, but not a requirement.  

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Since the Bullseye doubles as a marketing tool, it does help catch anglers (me anyway); but it also helps you to catch fish when paired with the app.

The data you acquire in the ANGLR logbook by pushing the button during each trip gives insight into what worked, what didn’t; when the bite was strong and when it was not on. You see peaks and valleys in fish activity that can be checked against barometric pressure, flow and water temperature (based off of local water gages), see what gear and lures were effective; it is a key to the knowledge that most of us have just remembered about the luck we had on a given day.  But unlike my memory, it doesn’t get distorted with time or clouded with other trip memories.

Using the ANGLR Logbook and Bullseye on the Same Body of Water for Repeat Trips

I know you all have a place where you fish, the place that you can always catch ‘em, but even those waters have days that are less productive. I took the ANGLR app to the spot where I learned about fishing to see if the science really works. Well, I thought I understood my home water (my ego said I did) until I collected real data.  

Now I have information that helps me to predict those days when I will catch them, times that are better than others, locations where they bite better under certain conditions… a baseline to develop patterns that can be used on other bodies of water. 

The ANGLR logbook has increased my confidence; I can check the data while on the water to know when it is time to move, or when to buckle down and really cover an area… or when to just wait, because it is about to turn on!

We all buy the latest lures and colors, go with the best tackle storage systems, buy new rods and reels, invest in the coolest fish finder technologies and anything else we think will give us the best chances of winning tournaments or just catching fish. We search for videos, use Google Earth, maps, etc..  We do all of this without hesitation. Some of y’all even keep journals to take that a step further. So why wouldn’t we use a tool that gives us knowledge over time?  I plan to use everything I can to grow as a tournament angler, and the ANGLR app and Bullseye are part of my arsenal.

I do know this for certain, those guys with the Bullseye on their hats and the ANGLR app on their phones or computers, they have taken it to the next level and are building a pile of information that can (and will) be used against you in a tournament. It is not just something designed to catch anglers like that cool snake lure I have hanging in my garage; it will help you to catch more fish and be a better angler.

Ned Rig | The Finesse ‘Not So’ Secret Cleanup Hitter

The water all over the country is getting colder every day. Surprisingly, that has me looking forward to throwing something finesse again that I only fished a little last year late in the winter, the Ned rig.

The sports new cleanup hitter isn’t a secret anymore by any means, but the Ned rig is still deceptively effective. 

I had heard a lot about it, so last winter I put it to the test one day. How could this thing really be any more effective than a shaky head. I pondered as I rigged both baits up for a little head-to-head showdown.

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Ned Rig: Why It’s Effective

I rigged the baits up on identical setups: line, reel, and rod. I wanted to eliminate all the variables that might affect the bite. Then I set out on the lake and caught 12 or so small spotted bass on a shaky head in a couple of hours. But when I swapped over to the Ned rig, that number doubled, if not tripled in the same amount of time. A lot of the fish were small, but where I would pull up on a point and make two or three casts with a shaky head before I got a bite, I’d get three bites on the first three casts with the Ned rig.

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The reason this bait works so well… is still unknown to me. But hey, I’m not one of those guys that have to know how a microwave works, I just want my mac and cheese. And the Ned rig nukes my pasta well. 

Last season, I would do the same thing I saw most anglers do when rigging a Ned rig, cut a Senko in half and run the tail section up onto the jig head, leaving the hook exposed about halfway down the soft plastic. It’s a very nothing looking deal. But maybe that’s what the fish like about it. It’s very subtle and non-threatening. But then again, so is a shaky head. 

I’m interested to see this year if I can target bigger fish with the Ned rig. Fish that, for whatever reason, won’t bite anything else. I had fun last year catching a bunch of little ones on it a time or two, but as a tournament fisherman, I really want to take advantage of the baits uncommon effectiveness and dial in a pattern where the Ned rig unlocks a larger bite.

bass fishing blog cta equation

Ned Rig: New Offerings and Options

Another thing that has me excited about the Ned rig is the new offering of baits that have been specifically designed for the setup and released to the market over the last year or so. One, in particular, the Ned Bomb from MISSILE Baits

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These little guys come in a lot of cool colors, several with tails that differ in color from the body.

Another great thing, the Ned Bombs are 10 for $3.99 and should stay on the hook better, which is a little easier to bear than cutting the head off a Senko that cost twice as much and the fish tossing it on the first fight. Though to be fair, Yamamoto does offer a Ned rig specific 3-inch bait now, but it’s still a bit pricier. 

Then for anyone who is particularly worried about burning through baits, there’s the Finesse TRD from Z-Man. Only $3.99 for eight, and they’re made with Z-Man’s ElaZtech Plastic which is super stretchy and won’t tear off the hook until you want to tear it off the hook— and sometimes not even then. But those are a little shorter than I like at 2.75 inches and the stretchy plastic can be a little difficult to get up over the bait keepers of some jig heads. They do make a Ned head specifically designed with this in mind, however. 

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So yeah, I’m a little excited about venturing deeper into the finesse world this winter. 

Surprising I’m sure for some of you familiar with my style of fishing. But the fact that I’m not a good finesse angler is kind of what has me fired up about it. I feel like the Ned rig is so effective, it can help boost my finesse confidence and help me locate a lot of fish that I can then try to target with some other finesse techniques to hone my skills this winter. That’s the game plan anyway, check back in later to see how it went!

How to Improve After a Trip with ANGLR

One of my favorite things about the ANGLR app and accessories, specifically the Bullseye, is just how versatile the combination can be. ANGLR puts powerful tools and information at the fingertips of anglers. The best part, everyone uses the app and information differently and I find it really fascinating. All of that being said, here’s how I use ANGLR to improve my fishing.

Record Keeping

With social media constantly showing anglers catching new records and other monster fish, it’s easy to deny the reality that some days we go fishing and it just doesn’t go our way. One of the aspects of fishing that intrigues me is that we can plan and prepare until the cows come home but at the end of the day, the fish ultimately decide if we’re going to have a good day of fishing or not. This being said, when those not so good fishing days take place, I put a positive spin on them as there’s always something to be learned from a day on the water, especially the bad days. 

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Whenever I get home from a slow day of fishing, I always sync my data with the ANGLR app and start breaking down the spots I fished. 

I’ll use the maps to get an idea of what the water was like in terms of depth, drop-offs, and location overall. Even with my Torqeedo, I’m typically not able to cover an entire body of water in one trip so this information provides a crucial starting point for the next. 

Simply reviewing your fishing spots isn’t enough to get the entire picture. Luckily, the ANGLR app tracks your catches and waypoints as well as the weather and water conditions so that you can have a detailed account of what the day was like. Lakes and ponds are not the same from one day to the next and weather patterns can create really good or really bad fishing. 

After repeated trips to the same body of water, the ANGLR app will provide you with a wealth of information including where fish are consistently located and how they behave and react due to weather and water conditions.

Tracking My Gear

One of the more recent additions to the ANGLR app is the ability to track the gear that you’re using at any given time while on the water. Supported by the ANGLR Bullseye, anglers can easily update the rod and reel they’re using while also adding the lure that’s tied on. 

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This allows anglers to remember not only where they caught fish but what the fish were biting on a given day.

As much as I like to think my memory is on point, I’ve come to realize that the moment after I catch a fish, I start losing details around exactly how it happened. The more time that passes, the more those finer details start to fade. Those details and that information overall is so valuable for us as anglers to learn from. Thanks to the ANGLR app, we can now easily record our trips and use the information to elevate our fishing skills and abilities.

Kayak Gear | A List of Items You Need for Your Kayak

Featured Image Credit: Scott Beutjer

The growth in kayak bass fishing, due in part to the relatively inexpensive startup costs, doesn’t appear to be slowing. The boats are small and light; can be stored outside, in corners of garages or even in apartments. There are models to fit almost every personal preference and fit about every budget. It is only a question of choosing the correct kayak for you. Selecting your kayak gear up can be as simple as a quick trip to a big box store, or can be the culmination of hours and hours of research. 

 The first kayak in my adventure was bought at Caney Fork Outdoors in Nashville. After only a couple days of research my wife and I walked in with money to buy a Jackson Big Tuna, two paddles, an Astral life jacket for her (I had an old one), a rudder kit and a shirt. She had been in a kayak, I had not. We loaded it up, took it down the road from our house to Yellow Creek; and my life was changed.

That simple trip was an effort to find something that allowed us to fish while on camping trips or to explore waters across the country. To be honest we had no idea what we needed, but had a very clear vision for what we wanted. The only things we still use from that first purchase are the Astral PFD, and the shirt. It only took a few months to understand the paddles were too heavy and the tandem kayak was not going to work for us. In less than three years since that purchase, things have changed. We now know there are more than “want” factors in the decision process if you are going to truly enjoy the day on the water.

Kayak Gear: PFD’s

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Photo credit: Caney Fork Outdoors

I started my kayak tournament career in a life vest designed for water skiing, it was all I had at the time. I almost smothered to death paddling in the Tennessee heat – and it was early in the Fall. A kayak PFD choice is one you need to really spend a little time considering before purchasing. You are required to wear a PFD during all major kayak bass tournaments, so you will be spending hours on the water with it strapped to you; Winter, Spring, the hottest days of Summer, and Fall. They can be very restrictive, impractical and uncomfortable.

My choice today is the NRS Chinook. It allows movement while casting, is cooler than many models, and has a ton of storage options. I can keep my phone handy for pictures, store small amounts of terminal tackle, attach a knife (clips, hook remover, scissors, etc.); allowing me to use all available space in the kayak. It is adjustable, allowing for different body types while providing safety. I personally am not comfortable with a self-inflatable model, and fear slipping in some water and setting off an auto inflating version.

There are about as many choices for PFD’s as there are choices for kayaks, and the same advice holds true for both; demo them. 

Not all bodies are created equal, not all fishing styles are the same. You may find that an auto inflatable model works for you, or a self-inflating model. No matter what you “want”, make sure it will fit you correctly because it is meant to protect you in an emergency situation.  

Instead of rehashing a lot of details about styles and benefits, I am providing a couple of good sources for more info. NRS has a lot of information available: Choosing a life vest, then there are more information links on the site. REI also has an extremely informative article: REI Expert advice.

Kayak Gear: Paddles

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Photo credit: Bending Branches

Paddle, pedal, or powered are the options for tournaments. Some allow motors, most allow pedals, and all will let you paddle. Unless you are truly confident that you will only fish one trail or that you will never find yourself in shallow water or thick grass with your motor or pedals, it would be advisable to carry a paddle. Whether it be a full, half, or a Backwater Assault style paddle, the time will come when you need it.  

I carry a full Bending Branches Pro Carbon paddle because of my fishing style. Often, my kayak ends up in the skinniest or shallowest of water and the pedals become less practical. I have also seen folks blow out their pedal drives or tear the fins on stumps whizzing across the water, so it is good to have a backup propulsion method. 

Even if I am in deeper creeks, I will use my paddle to push me off banks and from under obstructions.

Wood, metal, plastic, composite… combinations of them all are available. Shape, length, weight paddle size and angle are all variables to consider. They are plain, multi-color, with and without images. 

What type of fishing do you choose; shallow creeks, reservoirs, ponds or rivers?  

Choosing the paddle can be a simple as walking in and saying “that one!” or it can be like taking a physics exam depending on how you approach the purchase.

Ryan Martin at Caney Fork did an excellent job of explaining the differences in length and weight… white water vs fishing… during our first purchase, but it really took several trips to understand what we really expected from a paddle; those original paddles are now on a shelf in my garage. So, when you start looking, pick up several; and if you can demo them.  

Bending Branches, arguably the favorite paddle for tournament anglers, has a good kayak sizing guide – Sizing Guide. Again, REI also has an article on choosing a paddle – Choosing a paddle

Kayak Gear: Tackle and Gear Storage

Having come from a bass boat with lots of storage space, I underestimated the amount of downsizing that would be required to fish from a kayak. Everything I owned related to fishing was stored under the deck, so I always had what I needed. When I laid that gear out on the deck of my kayak it didn’t take but a couple of seconds to realize I had a problem.

I picked up a milk crate, strapped it down and headed out on Kentucky Lake one early Saturday morning. I guess to be more accurate; I loaded up a small amount of my gear, my rods, my lunch and drinks… then flipped my kayak about twelve inches off of the ramp. My wallet and keys were submerged, my tackle was floating in Plano boxes, I could feel my rods under my feet (under the water), my lunch was gone (Diet Pepsi was floating) and I had no dry clothes.  

Fortunately, it was late spring so I didn’t get cold… more fortunately, I learned that I wasn’t prepared before I was too far from shore.

I immediately (well, after drying out and getting home) upgraded to a tackle storage option that had a lid, picked up a cooler that would float and bought a dry bag to hold dry clothes… or keys, cameras, phones, etc..

Kayak Gear: Crate Options

There are a lot of “crate” options for kayak fishing with the YakAttack Black Pak being one of the favorites among anglers. You need to find the one that fits the amount of tackle you carry, the number of rods, and the size of your kayak. Several options are listed in this ANGLR article about the favorites among many kayak tournament anglers – top 5 Kayak Crates.

Kayak Gear: Rod Holders

Outside of selecting a crate, you will want to consider rod holders also – or be prepared to lose them if you flip farther than 12-inches off a ramp. There are several ways to store rods… most crate options have integrated storage… and several ways to use them while fishing different techniques. A few are addressed in this ANGLR article – Rod Holders, but watch other kayakers and you will find several good options, many homemade.

Kayak Gear: Dry Bag

A good dry bag for gear can be essential while kayak fishing. We hope that we never need it, that we never roll and watch our gear create a debris field in its wake; but it does happen. If you end up at some remote launch alone and lose your wallet, camera, phone… and keys, it might make for a very long trek to find help.  

In cooler water, this can be extremely important. Hypothermia can overcome you, so first is dressing correctly and being prepared (cold water fishing in a kayak), second is having a change of clothes and some essential items readily available and dry.  

I personally carry a Magellan Outdoors dry bag for clothes or emergency gear and a Watershed Ocoee bag for my camera when I plan to take pictures from the kayak.  I would never opt for the more expensive bag just to keep some extra clothes, but for your more valuable possessions go with something like the Watershed products; excellent bags that seal up very well.

Kayak Gear: Measuring Boards

Ok, to this point, everything listed is required to just be on the water. Technically you could probably make it without crates, rod holders, or a dry bag; but at some point you will even add those for day trips with friends. They just make keeping things together on the kayak a lot more efficient.

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But, if you are going to be a tournament kayak angler, you will need a board to measure your catch.

Rulers, tape measures, golden rules, marks on the side of your kayak or even the tattoo down your leg are not acceptable. Most kayak tournaments require one of three measuring boards; the Ketch Products board, the Hawg Trough or the Yak Gear Fish Stick. Make sure to check the rules of the tournament trail you are fishing, most do not allow the Yak Gear version; and none allow anything else to be used at this time.  

The Ketch Board is quickly becoming the favored measuring device among serious anglers due to its durability, but that comes with increased weight. If you purchase this option, make sure you pick up a lanyard of some type. Once this board goes over the side without it being attached to the kayak with some device, it will go straight to the bottom.

The Hawg Trough is much lighter, but many anglers have broken them measuring bass of any size. They also do not float, but placing a bit of weather stripping in the grooves along the back of the board will resolve that issue. You may still want to consider a lanyard, if this goes overboard, it can be blown away or the current can take it quickly.  

Well, add a few rods, and some tackle, the items above will have you (at least from a basic needs standpoint) ready to tournament fish from a kayak. I will repeat it again, make sure you read the rules for whatever tournament you fish to make sure this meets their requirements… KAST rules for example also requires that you have a flag like the Yak Attack Visipole; and if fishing between sunset and sunrise, a 360-degree light is required.  

Hope to see you all out on the water!