My Favorite Native Watercraft Accessories Part 1

     Since I started fishing from a Native Watercraft kayak this season I have fallen in love with a few well thought out accessories from their product line.  I intend for this series of posts to grow over time as I test out and rig up different Native Watercraft components.  This post (part 1) will focus on 2 items that I almost didn't purchase.  At the time I didn't think they were really needed, however I have come to really depend on them when I'm on the water.  Which items am I talking about?  The First Class Seat Pack and the High/Low First Class Seat Organizer.
First Class Seat Pack
     The First Class Seat Pack is a great addition to my Slayer Propel.  It's already formed to fit the seat, and attaches quickly and simply with some velcro straps.  The top of the seat pack has a zipper for easily accessing small items or a jacket while seated.  It also includes two adjustable pockets that can hold just about anything.  I use it to hold my Backwater Assault Hand Paddle on my left and my Hawg Trough on my right.  I know other anglers use these pockets to hold water bladders, bagged soft plastics, even small tackle trays.  As an added bonus the First Class Seat Pack has reflective piping for a little more visibility when you're out on the water.
High/Low First Class Seat Organizer
     The second accessory I can't live without is the High/Low First Class Seat Organizer. This handy accessory stores your must have items right at your fingertips.  It is specifically designed to attach to the bottom of the First Class Seat (again with velcro straps) and gives you a convenient place to store tools, tackle trays, or any other small item.  I use mine to keep my musky release tools at the ready.  With 4 pockets just below my seat I am able to keep pliers, hook cutters, and that mouth holder open thingy accessible and ready should the situation call for it.  The D rings make tethering my Lucid Fishing Grips simple and the two tackle tray pockets hold the cover to my Garmin Fish Finder and a pair of release gloves safe and secure.  The High/Low First Class Seat Organizer is made out of the same material as the First Class Seat so it washes easily and dries quickly.  It's one of those once you have it, how did you function without it kind of things.
     Give these 2 items from Native Watercraft a try if you own any of their kayak models that come with the First Class Seat.  Installation is a breeze and they look great on the boat.  They're made in the USA (that's reason enough) and are built to last.  To get them for your boat swing by Rutabaga Paddlesports or check them out online.  I'm sure they will be more than happy to help you out.
     Tight Lines.


Orvis Encounter 8 wt Combo Review

      I am constantly on the look out for affordable gear that performs well.  That is exactly what I was up to when I found the Orvis Encounter combo at Orvis of Madison.  Guiding clients for carp and bass on the fly I needed a backup combo for those that didn't have an 8 weight of their own to fish with.  Also having a spare rod in the truck sounded nice since I seem to break a lot of fly rods.
     The first thing you notice out of the box is the rod tube.  It's pretty sweet for a budget combo.  Inside it has four dividers to keep the rod sections separated and scratch free.  The outside of the tube has the Encounter logo embroidered on canvas (fancy) and features a carrying handle and zip closed top.  It is really well thought out and has a solid feel and build.  The rod is a 9 foot 4 piece, and has a cork handle with fighting butt.  The guides were nice and straight and the up locking reel seat doesn't have that cheap feel you normally associate with budget combos.  The reel appears to be made of some sort of composite (plastic?) and is strung up with floating line and backing.  All in all it has a nice balanced feel, but how does it cast?
     To test this I fished it for a few weeks on some of my favorite Madison ponds.  The rod loads predictably which is a good thing because my casting is anything but predictable.  However even with my limited casting skills I got reasonable distance with the Encounter rod.  Also my roll casts improved greatly since this is more of a moderate action rod.  This was my first time casting a rod like this since all of the other rods I own are fast action.  It helped me learn to wait for my back cast, instead of just using the rod to muscle the line around.  The deep bend and even loading of this rod made my roll casts reach greater distances than I was used too.  Sometimes this distance improved by as much 8-12 feet.  It handled streamers well and easily casted a full assortment of common bass patterns.  This is a great rod for the beginning warm water angler.  The Encounter combo performs pretty well, but I do have a few things I don't like about it.
     For starters the reel on this combo drives me absolutely crazy!!!  The drag is all over the place and is anything but consistent.  No matter how I adjusted it, or readjusted it, it never gave me the same pull.  Some people will tell you that all a fly reel does is hold the line, but I have come to expect more.  Living in Wisconsin I know that the big Great Lakes brown trout, bully smallmouth bass, and the mighty muskellunge, will make quick work of this drag and break me off.  Don't believe me, see for yourself.  Also the line is fine for a beginner, but it feels cheap.  After just a few outings the last 8 feet or so stopped floating and needed to be treated.  Not a deal breaker necessarily, just something that will irritate the hell out of the bass guys throwing top water flies.  The negatives don't outweigh the positives though, this is an all around well balanced setup.
      As you can see this a great combo for the beginner.  It will even serve as a good back up to your favorite rod and reel.  It has its issues, but most budget combos are going to be a compromise.  This combo has a nice rod with a basic reel and line.  In fact, the rod is so nice that as you progress as a fly angler it would be worth upgrading the reel and line to something of a better quality.  I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the Orvis Encounter 8 wt combo to somebody looking for a descent starter package to get them on the water.  Just keep an eye on that drag setting.
      Tight Lines.


2015 Scout Fishing Derby

     This year marked my 5th year of hosting the scout fishing derby here in Madison, WI.  It has grown every year since it's inception and I have had an absolute blast with all the participants.  I always plan this event over the free fishing weekend to make it easy for families to try angling without the investment in a state fishing license.  The event was attended by boy scouts, cub scouts, and girl scouts,  and just about everybody landed a fish.  This years outing had a new scout winning a division (he was thrilled) as well as a rod and reel combo for smallest fish.  Instead of giving you a play by play of the event as I have in years past I am just gonna share some of the photos.
A nice bluegill pulled from the pond.
Team work, you catch it, I'll hold it.
First time angler wins the cub scout category.
Bluegills were the prize fighters of the event.
My daughter and personal cheerleader, always representing the brand.
Congratulations to all the winners!!!
     A big thank you to all the scouts that attended this years event.  I am extremely lucky to have the opportunity to regularly introduce children to fishing.  If you get the chance, invite a neighborhood kid and their parents out fishing sometime.  Your interest in the outdoors could be the spark that lights the fire.
     Tight Lines.

Madison Musky Addict Guide Service

     It's finally happened, John started his guide service!!!  For those that haven't been in the loop, John (JJ) is one of the best musky anglers in the Madison area.  He is the one that got me started on my musky fishing journey.  With his early instruction, knowledge of the area, and dedication to the sport, he put me on the fish.  All I had to do was get them to eat the lure.
He put me on my personal best and helped insure a healthy release.
     The reason I say finally is that JJ has taken his time starting his guide service.  He wanted to make sure that he was doing everything right.  He is insured, has all the necessary gear, and has fair prices for your time out on the water.  I love the fact that he allows you to drink coffee on his boat!!!  The biggest thing that has stopped me from booking trips with other local guides is that they don't allow you to have coffee on the boat.  Seriously?  How hard is it to run a steam cleaner over the carpet on an off day (sorry for the rant).
Spring, Summer, or Fall, he can put you on the fish.
     Long story short, JJ will provide you with a great day on the water.  His rates are pay by the hour so if you're on the fish you can add time as you go.  No fixed hours or having to leave good fishing because your time is up.  To book a trip with John check out his site at, you won't be disappointed!
JJ will make sure you learn the basics correctly.  Casting, Figure 8's, Netting, and CPR.
     Tight Lines.

Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series Part 2

     My alarm went off at 2:15am, "This is way to early" I thought to myself.  I poured some coffee and wandered out the door to my loaded truck.  A quick check of the straps on my Native Slayer and I was on the road.  On this stop of the Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series we would be chasing bass.  Largemouth, smallmouth, white, yellow, it didn't really matter as long as I had four fish by the 1pm cutoff time.  Arriving in Ottawa, IL I swung by the registration table to check in.  Waiting for the captains meeting to begin I couldn't help but notice the amount of Hobies that were pulling into the parking lot.  It soon became apparent that I was gonna be the lone Native owner on the water today.
The only Native Watercraft in a river of Hobies.
     After the meeting I unloaded my kayak and headed for the launch.  This would be my first time fishing the Slayer in a river environment.  Looking at the Garmin display as I pedaled along showed that the marina was pretty featureless.  It averaged about 8 feet deep, and the only structure was the occasional rock pile.  The bass would be up against the wall and pitching jigs was gonna be my game plan, or at least that's what I thought I was gonna do.
     It turns out that I wouldn't be jig fishing this tournament.  I left my jig tackle tray at home on the table.  All I had was some random crank baits, my Echotails, and a bunch of plastic worms.  "Rookie mistake" I said, "Can you tell this is my first year competing in tournaments" I joked with another angler fishing nearby.  I paddled down and around every dock in that marina skipping Texas rigged worms to all the likely bass holding spots.  Nothing, I didn't see a single fish for the first 3 hours of the morning.  Needing to try my luck somewhere else, I started scrolling around the map of the river on my IPhone.  I noticed a little bay down river and started making way out of the marina and into the river channel.
       Passing some other competitors, it quickly became clear that the fishing was tough.  Everybody was struggling to get a limit of bass, I really needed to land something soon.  I casted a pink Echotail as I made my way down the shoreline to the backwater bay.  Rounding the corner I finally had a tug on the other end of my line.  I set the hook and brought a scrappy little largemouth to the side of my boat.  While I was struggling to get the Hawg Trough into position so I could get a measurement, the little booger got off the hook.  I was crushed, in all the years I have been fishing I have rarely needed a net to land a fish.  Now I see why all the other anglers in attendance had one.  I am pretty sure I wouldn't have lost that little guy if I had had one in my kayak.  The rest of the day was a wash, I didn't encounter another fish for the remainder of the tournament.  It was a day full of hard lessons about what it takes to be a competitive tournament angler.
     I may have struggled that day, but hometown angler Ron Koch sure didn't.  He brought in a 4 fish limit of smallmouths and took home the win and the prize for biggest fish (over $600 in cash and prizes).  It was a great event and I had a lot of fun, even if my poor planning left me at a slight disadvantage.  A big thank you goes out to Quest Watersports for hosting the event and to all the organizers and the series sponsors.  The next event is July 18th and the target species is catfish.  I am already working up a strategy and plan to get out locally for some channel cats in preparation.  If you own a kayak and live in the Midwest you should check out this tournament series and plan to make the last couple of events.  You can check out the tournament series and get yourself signed up here.
     Tight Lines.