Monday, January 27, 2014

Cabela's Guide Gear WindStopper Jacket Review

Toward the end of 2013 I was fortunate enough to have received a jacket from the Cabelas' Guide Gear Series.  The jacket is known as the WindStopper.

Since I first put this jacket on it has really transformed how I look at the Cabela's clothing line and their partnership with Gore (tex).  That being said, I thought I might put together a short review for those that may be in the market for the perfect fishing jacket, and being South Louisiana is having a winter warning and a snow advisory tomorrow I thought it might be fitting.

My first impression of the garment was good, it looked good, it felt like a soft neoprene shell, but flexible like a cotton blanket, the interior was lined with a very soft fleece type material that only enhances both the interior look and feel of the jacket. 

 In my world of outdoor equipment and clothes, this jacket immediately ranked in the classy edition.  But like most of you, I work hard for my money and if I'm going to spend it on clothing and not equipment, outdoor toys as my wife says, classy is the last thing I'm looking for, I want practicality and I want the product to do what it claims, and if it happens to be classy, well then maybe I can wear it in public with my wife and not just in the woods or on the water. 

After more than a month of putting the WindStopper through the gambit if woods, water, rain, lots of fish slime, temperatures in the teens, and winds in the 15-25mph range while on the water, I was impressed to say the least.  This is my new favorite, go anywhere and everywhere jacket.  This past Saturday I wore it to the movies with my daughter and 12 hours later I was wearing it in a kayak as I chased specs in reds throughout the day.

Following is my review, the good, the bad, and the .....well there wasn't any ugly to speak of..

The feel, the warmth, the
look, and the style is excellent. 

The elastic cuffs are great, although I am not the biggest
fan of the rubberized Velcro tab on the bottom of the wrist. When sitting at a table,  tying flys/lures,its tends to dig into your wrist a little bit. Personally, I would like to see a
more flexible, thinner, softer rubber.

The jacket does as it says, it blocks wind.  I
actually wore it in teen degree weather on the water with 15-20 knt winds and it did its job, it also repelled a lot of white cap splash and I was able to stay dry throughout the trip.   

The reflective logos on the chest and sleeve are
great, they are classy and non-obtrusive, but practical in every way, especially within the kayaking community.  Kayakers are always looking for something that can help them be more visual on the water.

The material even holds up well after it's torn(I almost cried when this happened).  I landed a double treble in the left sleeve after an aggressive hook set and was forced to quickly displace
the hooks from the jacket, leaving a few small holes, but those holes have
failed to fray or spread in any way and as someone who sees a lot of flying
hooks on a weekly basis, this is a huge Plus, and I guess it's only right for me to thank my new WindStopper for stopping those trebles from penetrating my arm.  Thank you.

 The lower pockets are great sized, with hands in, there is no skin left open to the elements. 
The breast pocket fits a wallet and a cell phone perfect, as a kayaker, this is
where I hold my phone all day long. 

The interior of the jacket is warmer than expected for being so light weight and the exterior of the jacket appears to be made of a neoprene  type material, but then when you touch it you will immediately notice its not neoprene at all, its way to soft and flexible.  If you ask me, the guys and gals of  Gore (Tex) must be sneaking a few bills to NASA to bring back some special alien fabric from worlds unknown, because what they have been producing over the years just keeps getting better and better, its lighter, its quieter, more water resilient, and most of all it's warm.

A common jacket issue that drives me insane is when the interior of  jacket pockets are made of something different than the rest of the jacket.  For instance you buy a rugged jacket, not naming names, its exterior is of coarse jean like material, ripstop in every form,  its liner is exposed cotton/wool, feels great on the skin, keeps you warm......until you put your hands in the pockets to find out that the inside of the pockets match the harsh unwarming exterior and not the soft warm interior that keeps you warm.  I don't put my hands in my pockets to feel a hardy ripstop material, dang it, I put my hands in the pockets to either get my keys or to warm my hands.   The WindStopper jacket does have the same fleece like material inside the pockets that is inside jacket. To me, it's a nice touch, and it shows the development was 100% and no corners were cut to save a few pennies.  

The hood is a great addition, at first glance I wasn’t a fan, but after wearing it time and
time again, I don’t even realize there is a hood back there.  It lays down
perfect but somehow gives a feel like it’s a collared jacket(it's got to be the alien material). 

Keeping the drawstrings tight to the material is also another nice feature, there is no
string flying around or threatening to hang up in something(a fly rod or a radiator fan), but
works well when synching the hood down in a downpour of which I did experience more than once during the testing period.

To sum it all up, I would buy this jacket 10 times over, it is hands down my favorite all around jacket.

<<<<<<< WindStopper in Red and Charcoal



<<<<<<WindStopper in Red and Charcoal

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cold Temps, Clear Water, and Redfish on the Fly

The morning started out as colorful as a child's imagination with a 400 count box of crayons. 
The temperature was in the high 30s, the wind was calm and the sun was making itself known for all to admire. 
With the waters still in the 47 degree range I chose to hit the deep holes early in hopes to come across a trout large enough to take the lead in the Massey's Outfitters CPR Tournament. 
After landing almost a dozen trout, that fought like a bag of concrete due to the waters being so cold,  I only had a couple that were large enough for the grill, according to the LDWF. 

Being the trout weren't acting as predicted, I decided to make the move to where I have been hammering the redfish following the recent arctic cold fronts that pass through South Louisiana.  As I loaded the yak, moved a couple miles, unloaded the yak, put on my waterproof Kokatat pants(thanks AFWC), and started moving down the canal,  I noticed two things, first, the water was LOW, LOW, LOW, and second it was CLEARER than I have ever seen, you would have thought you were in South Florida fishing Bone fish on the flats.

The water was so low that I had to push pole my Hobie in spots where I would have normally been peddling. 
I worked my way through the maze of marsh grass and roso cane pushing redfish out of the way until I finally came to the deep point where I knew my school of redfish would be waiting for me, "my point".

During the journey to "my point", I saw fish tails everywhere, it was as if I was passing Big Daddy's on Bourbon Street, every direction I looked there was another tail.  BUT, I never stopped once, I kept on pushing through, I knew what I was seeing was no way comparable to what I was going to find at "my point".

Finally, I can see it, the Gold Club of the marsh, its "my point", the point that made this mile long, push poling, standing in a Hobie Outback nonstop all worth it.  First cast...nothing....second cast nothing.....and yep, this continued on and on and on.  I was devastated, how could a hole that produced hundreds of redfish just two weeks prior not have anything in it. The conditions were similar, I threw all my fish back last time, it was impossible for a boat to get back there, where did my fish go?  Did the school of reds stay home and take a snow day today? I just couldn't understand.

Then it hit me, I passed 15-30 reds on the way in, I will just turn around and ease my way back out and grab a limit for the bag and a couple limits to release, call it a day, and go home happy. 

Well as I made the first bend, not a tail in site, second bend no tails to be seen.  Is it possible that Big Daddy's  really does shut down at some point?  You've got to be kidding me, 30 minutes ago I was covered up in fish that I didn't even want to throw at and now I can't even scare up a mullet.  I fought the marsh standing and poling for another hour, before it was time to head back to the truck.  As I exited the marsh into a crystal clear bay, I saw a swirl of great proportions, kind of like a whirlpool you see in the Mississippi River, except there wasn't any mud, this fish wasn't spooked, he was feeding.  I eased up and there they were, two beautiful, bright blue tailed redfish just sitting there in slow motion.  I put the push pole down and grabbed the fly rod, I laid the fly right in front of the biggest red, I watched him approach it, and then inhale it.  I set the hook, but nothing.  Wow, really, did that just happen, I whipped the fly past him this time and began stripping it in slowly and as it approached he opened his mouth and bam, he inhaled it like my dog does when she steals a chicken off the counter.

Again, I set the hook and nothing, you gotta be kidding me, what is wrong with this day, do I even have a hook on my fly, did I tie this lure and forget to put a hook on it?  Of course not, I don't even know how to tie a fly, I can barely tie my shoes sometimes, that's why I am always wearing Crocks in 20 degree weather.  As all this is running through my mind, I look up and there is another fluorescent blue tail swimming across my bow.  I wait until the red makes it a safe distance from me so I can move without alarming it, and then I load up, I whip the line front then back and then I lay it down, as peaceful as a feather falling to earth, about 2 feet in front of the beast.  He eases up to the bug eyed, brown and beige haired fly that is slowly descending to eye level of the elusive thick scaled red monster, and again he inhales it, I wait until he turns slowly away and as the line began to move I set the hook.  FINALLY, a solid hook set, and he is a runner, I turned him several times and got him to the yak several times, but as the net would gravitate toward him, he would make another run for freedom.  After a fun fought battle of tug o war, I was awarded with a  beautiful 29.25" golden bodied, fluorescent blue tail, redfish.

This was an exciting, yet frustrating adventure for me, a lot like a late night tour down Bourbon Street, except this one had a happy ending and I was able to release what I had just caught. 

The way back to the truck yielded several more reds that were as finicky as the first two I stole my fly from earlier in the day.  I could spot the blazing blue tails 3 feet below the surface and far enough in front of me I could barely reach them with the fly rod.  It was a phenomenal trip.  Any trip that ends with fish in the boat and the larger ones landed on a fly, makes for a great day, better stories, and bigger lies.

Todays weather was partly cloudy, temps started at 38 and rose to 58, water temps started at 47 and rose to 55 in the shallows, the water was crystal clear, and tide was incoming, but I think it was a wind tide, winds shifted from NW to SW early morning and the water levels moved between 2-4 inches once the winds changed, the barometer was rising from 29.83 to 30.00, I was accompanied on this trip with a close friend T.J., of whom I won't officially name until I see the finalized video footage. 

Hope you enjoyed the read, there was a short comical video made that I will be adding to the report later this week.  Also keep an eye out for a product review on an amazing Gore Tex Jacket that I have fallen in love with. 

VIDEO ====

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Clubs Minimalist Challenge VII, an event for the books

 The Minimalist Challenge the first of a 5 series Angler of the Year Tournament sponsored by Pack & Paddle out of Lafayette, La. Anglers are only allowed to use the lures that are handed to them during the check in process, no gulp spray, no jig heads or favorite plastics, only what is handed to you.  This year the lures were provided by Superior Tackle of Baton Rouge(jig heads) and Texas Tackle Factory supplied the plastics and one top water lure per angler.  Anglers are then sent off with a shotgun start at 5:30am and must be back between 12-1 for weigh in. 

I finished 3rd in this tournament last year and today it still stands as one of my favorite events of the year. Unfortunately this year, my weigh in bag arrived at the scales a little too light.

After 2 of the best prefishing days I have ever had, earlier in the month, I showed up to Cocodrie, La with a mission for Fridays pre-fishing journey before the tourney, find the trout and win the MC VII. Ric (Redfinn) and I hit the water and headed south, water was low, but hopes were high. After 3 hours of battling currents, crossing rock levees

 , dragging through the woods, muddy waters, and mud, and not landing a fish, I made the call to return to our honey hole to confirm the Reds were still there. We entered the area and there they were, spooked a few, and picked up a few, and that's all I needed to see.

 Tournament day was gonna be golden. After a night of fun and festivities and wayyyyyy tooo much food coming off of the Orion Smoker,

I hit the rack at 8:30. I woke up refreshed, got everything set up for registration, had my yak ready to roll, and as Sherman yelled go, I looked like Fred Flinstone peddling that rock mobile, I was going as fast as I could push that Hobie Outback.  When I hit the channel and headed south and I actually topped 7mph, the current was rolling. 

I eased up in to the honey hole to watch the sunrise, I could see a couple tails and one red that was halfway out of the water. Every time I eased towards one, the oysters would ease some plastic off my hull and the fish were gone before getting into casting distance. the water was about 2 inches lower than the previous day and that made it harder than ever to move around. I guess two inches really does matter.. after a couple hours in the area I decided it was time to move. I made it to another area beyond a rock levee, and stumbled upon chicken wing who was sitting about 15 feet short of casting distance from a school of reds piled up on a point, and they scattered as I eased around him. A few minutes later I stumbled upon a black drum that got my heart pumping, until I realized it wasn't the spotted gold I was looking for, but either way it raised my hopes again. I turned around, crossed a different rock levee and hit the channel, and then another rock levee to a hole I knew held some fish in the past.
And the fish were there, BUT unfortunately too big for slot, I landed a 32 and a 29 inch red within minutes, but that was it. At this point I decided it was time to head back and start getting the scales set up.

 Over all, it was an adventurous trip, I learned a lot and picked up some good tips from some tenured anglers that were willing to share their experiences.

I'm already looking forward to the next event on the horizon, and this time I hope to be just a little bit more productive.

Winners are:

1st Place – Denis Soigner (Again!) - $474.00
2nd Place – Charlie Daigle – 319.95
3rd Place – Doug Menefee – $213.30
4th Place – Chris Cox - $118.50
5th Place – Randy Robichaux - $59.25

Big Fish – Clayton Shilling - $220+ a $100 gift certificate to Pack &

Leopard Red – George Hogan Jr. - $250

Total Prizes = $1755.00

Congratulations to all those who competed and especially to the winners, it was a hard fought battle and I applaud each and every one of you.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Redfishing During the Coldest of Cold Fronts

Don't miss the video link at the Bottom!!!

It was early January and Louisiana was hit with an arctic blast that settled for a couple days over the area.  When these fronts come in and drop water levels and temperatures to dramatic lows, the fish really pile up in deep holes throughout the marsh and main channels. 

Weather was in the low 40s, barometric pressure was at 30.31 and dropping, wind was around 15-20, but supposed to be 10-12, water was crystal clear despite the white caps all around me and the water was LOW, like 3-4 ft low and the water was moving everywhere from wind and current. Everything was caught on a jig head with matrix shad in tiger bait and also on a Berkley Power Bait Swimming Mullet in Tiger Bait.

I was able to find a cut that ranged from 3-9 foot, the water was racing through it and I could reach 4 different points from where I was set up. The redfish were in a frenzy, at times I could see more than 30 reds on top, I would estimate there were probably 100-300 reds between the 4 points, the water was boiling nonstop as the bait was being blown through.

 I landed somewhere between 75-100 redfish in around a 2.5 hour time frame. It was every cast, I even started cane poling off the nose of my yak and landing them one after another.

  I didn't catch one rat red, they all ranged from 18 inches to 32 inches, most around 22 inches. Amazing day, and I wish I had my GoPros with me, I did manage a short phone video.

Hope you like it.