Saturday, February 28, 2015

Product Review: Ardent Apex Grand

Ardent Apex Grand 

Over the last couple of weeks I have been using an awesome reel from Ardent.  This is the real deal when it comes to casting and smooth action.  Here are my initial thoughts on the reel, how I rigged it up, and what I think of it after use. 

Product Specs:
Ardent Apex Grand
  •   7.3:1 Gear Ratio
  •    Helical Aircraft Aluminum Gear
  •    Dual Breaking System
  •    12+1 High-Precision Ball Bearings
  •     5.9 Ounces
  •     Strike SystemÔ Drag System
  •     Power Carbon Fiber Handle

Easy Adjust Dual Breaking System

Initial Thoughts:
When I opened the box and held the Ardent Apex Grand my first thought was that it was LIGHT.  Weighing in at 5.9oz. it is the lightest low profile bait caster that I have used.  The next thing that stood out was the large carbon fiber handle.  This handle has huge cranking abilities. 

Large Spool holds plenty of floro

Rigging the Ardent:
Since it is the winter time, I knew I would need a good crankbait/jerkbait reel.  I spooled the reel with 12lbs fluorocarbon and put it on my St. Croix 7' Medium/ Heavy crankbait rod.  The fast 7.3:1 gear ratio is perfect for jerkbait fishing and as long as I cranked slowly it was good for my crankbaits. I was pumped to get this reel out on the water. 

Photo By: Rob Choi 

Using the Ardent:
My first trip with this reel was to a small local reservoir for bass and pickerel.  I had my Ardent rigged with a Spro Little John crankbait in a Spring Craw color.  I took a few practice cast at the ramp to adjust the breaking system.  The brake system is super easy to adjust, and after only a few casts it was ready to go.  The fishing was slow that day, and I fired off a ton of cast with this reel.  I never heard a single noise, and never got tired from holding it.  I caught a few fish with it, including a chunky bass.  The drag was super smooth when I was fighting the fish.  On my next few trips I was primarily fishing jerk baits.  The quick gear ratio was perfect for picking up the slack line after each jerk.  I caught a few pickerel and small bass on the jerkbaits, and once again never had an issue.

What I Like: 
After using this reel several times and catching some good fish I can tell you that this reel really impressed me.  The thing that stood out the most was how smooth it is.  It is definately the smoothest reel in my arsenal.  I can cast crankbaits and jerkbaits a mile with this and even under sub-freezing conditions, there were no issues.  The smooth drag also impressed me.  Many crankbaits have very light-wire hooks that pull easily, so having a smooth drag is very important.  Unfortunately, due to our winter weather I was unable to test the Ardent Apex Grand in the salt.  All indications are that it will make a great redfish and speckled trout reel for topwater and jig fishing.  I do not know how well it will hold up in the salt but I plan on putting it to the test.   

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Product Review: Kokatat Bahia Tour PFD

 A lot of folks will pick up a new piece of gear, use it once or twice and then write a review.  These are helpful, but I wonder how some of these products hold up over time.  About a year ago, a Kokatat Bahia Tour PFD arrived in the mail and I immediately put it to good use, so now let me tell you about this quality product, including how it has survived a year on the water.
Brand new
          The first thing I noticed with the Bahia Tour is that it had a lot of storage with three pockets.  Each pocket has a D-ring for tethering your stuff and there is a nice anchor point on the front left.  Reflecting material on the front and on the back shoulders is a nice safety feature.  I chose the Mango color; in general I like bright colors for all of my safety gear.  If I get in trouble I want to be easy to see and easy to find.
            When I first tried the jacket on it took a few minutes to get it adjusted to the right fit, with 8 adjustment points, it is easy to get just the right fit.  The front zipper is heavy duty and easy to use and the jacket is very comfortable.  The high back fits perfect with the seat in my Jackson kayaks.
Tricking the Bahia Tour Out
            The Bahia Tour is ready to go right off the rack, but I always add a few pieces of safety gear to my jackets.
Additional safety gear

            I always have a radio and smart phone with me on the water.   My Cobra HH350 VHF fits in the long pocket on the right side and I use a small Velcro strap to attach it to the D-ring.
My iphone lives in a life proof case in the left pocket.

            I do a lot of night fishing for striped bass and speckled trout, so I like to add an emergency light to my PFD’s.  In this case I used an ACR light I picked up at a local boating store.  The light runs on two AA batteries and was easy to attach with two Velcro straps. (If you add a light to your PFD, make sure you can reach it when you are wearing the jacket.)

An emergency cutter in the left pocket and a whistle on the zipper with an s-clip and I am ready to hit the water.

A Year Later
            Well after a year of hard use in fresh and salt water, I can report that the Bahia Tour has held up great.  Every zipper is still as smooth as the day it arrived and all the straps and buckles are still as good as new.  It is a little dirtier and it smells like fish, which is a good thing for a kayak fisherman.  I have made a few changes over the last few months.  First, I changed phones and an iphone 5 in a life proof case doesn’t fit well in the front pocket.  I’ve moved my phone to an X mount from RAM mounts on my kayak.  I have also added a Gerber River Shorty Knife to the front anchor.

One Year Old

            I am super pleased with my Bahia Tour PFD, if you are looking for a quality kayak fishing PFD that will give you years of good service, give the Kokatat Bahia Tour a try.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Down Sizing for COLD Bass

February has rolled in and it brought the cold temperatures with it.  Last Sunday I had a few hours to kill before the Super Bowl so I loaded up the SUPerFISHal for its first trip of the year and went down to one of my local lakes.  Once I got to the lake, however, most of the lake was frozen, with about a 1/4in of ice covering the surface.  I could see a patch of open water towards the sunny side of the lake so I went for it.  I was dressed head to toe in dry gear, with my Kokatat drytop and lifejacket and I was dressed in layers for warmth.  I also had a partner for safety, I never fish alone in cold conditions.  Once I launched I quickly found out that the SUPerFISHal makes for a good icebreaker, smoothly breaking through to the thawed out part of the lake.  Once I was there I quickly got to work looking for some coldwater bass and pickerel. 

The water temp was COLD, never reaching over 38 degrees.  I knew that the bass would not be very active, so I stopped throwing my crankbait, and tied on a small 1/16oz. crappie jig with a small curly tail grub.  On my first cast near an off-shore brush pile I hooked up on a good-sized pickerel.  Even with the cold weather the fish fought fairly good pulling some drag and running under the ice several times.  I landed the fish and measured it out to 21.5in. 

I kept throwing the small jig on my ultra light set up and rigged a small beetlespin on my other light spinning rig.  Both lures caught fish including a few bass up to 16in.  Since the water was so cold I had to fish both of these lures as SLOW as possible. Many times I would let the jig sit on the bottom for over 30 seconds before moving it again.  I would work the beetlespin the same way, lifting the lure 1-2 feet off the bottom, letting it sink back down, and pausing for a while before started again.

With the cold weather here for awhile, give the small stuff a try.  Remember if you do head out on the water, play it safe, dress for the conditions, and fish with a buddy. 

Here are the two baits I threw.....