Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Itch

For those of us in the north it is inevitable.  Winter hits, water turns to ice, and our kayaks are put away to hibernate for the winter along with our souls.  This winter, I would open up the shed to sneak a peek and say hello to my Feelfree Lure and Bending Branches Angler Pro whilst they slumbered.  A tear would drip from my eye and instantly freeze.  Head hanging low, I shut and locked the shed before retreating to the warmth of the house.

A couple ice fishing trips slightly abated the urge to hit the water.  It at least gave me an opportunity to wet a line and land some fish.  But the odd weather this winter ranged from dangerously cold to dangerously warm.  This made for tough and/or unsafe ice conditions.  I was unable to get as much time on the "hard water" as I would have liked.  Still, I had to scratch the itch to fish.

I was able to accomplish this by stocking up for the upcoming season and the first season for Small Craft Outfitters, my new kayak sales/guide business.  Things were looking promising when we hit 60 degrees in February, unheard of in Wisconsin.  But, alas, the temperatures again fell, ice conditions were unsafe, and the urge to hit the water continued to grow.

My good buddy Chang Lor of (and a Small Craft Outfitters Fishing Guide), conspired to do something crazy.  We were willing to scoot our kayaks across thin ice to get to open water at a local lake.  My wife wasn't thrilled about the adventure, but understood my need to float.

We reached out to our local kayak fishing buddies (and a new one from "Vikingland" aka Minnesota).  They were also willing to do the scoot, but our buddy John from the Wisconsin Kayak Fishing Club found an open body of water part of the Chippewa River system.  A much safer option, we chose the longer drive over the sketchy ice scoot.

Our new friend from Minnesota meets at my house, closest to the unholy "Vikingland".  We then drive east, meeting Chang to officially start our official Feelfree Convoy.  We meet at John's place while he loaded up his yacht (Hobie PA 14) and then caravan to the launch.  We are all smiles.  I have to admit, I giggled with joy when pulling into the lot.  The snow in the lot was deep enough to hit my rocker panels on my car.  But I was going kayak fishing for the first time in months!  First time yakin' this year, first time on the water in months, and all but one of us are embarking on the maiden voyage of our kayaks (three of which are Feelfrees).

Some of us feel a bit lost.  Its been months since we performed our rig-and-launch routines.  And we all have new tackle, riggings, and boats.  It took a while for us to get our boats to the launch, but eventually were successful, took the first group launch photo of the year.  During our rigging and this key photo-op, several people drove through the area staring.  A local old-timer stopped, rolled down his window, and hollers, "Whatcha fishin' for!?".  I reply, "Whatever is biting.".  He chucked and said, "I like that.  I have lived here all of my life and have never seen a lineup like that!" referring to us standing like knights in front of our new molded steeds.  He wished us well, gave us a friendly wave, and drove off.  We unceremoniously mounted our steeds and pushed off.  Grinning from ear-to-ear.

The air temperature was warm, but the skies were cloudy and the wind strong.  Strong enough to blow us upstream in this pool of the river.  But we were all happy to be floating again. My first real cast of the season was directly into a tree.  I underestimated the amazing casting distance my new Ardent Apex Elite reel, McCain LineCutterz Kayak Series rod, and Seaguar Invizix line was capable of.  I launched a jerkbait directly into a tree.  I grunted in frustration while laughing.  I was hoping to get the misfortune out of my system quickly while I was impressed with the performance of my new equipment.

Our group continued to paddle against the wind upstream.  We had whitecaps from the wind at our bows.  I laughed at them while alternating between my PowerTeam Lures Sick Stick, Northland Tackle Reed Runner Magnum Spinner (hoping for Musky/Pike), and my jerkbait.

I got a few hits on my jerkbait, and a buddy got a few hits on some finesse plastics.  Unfortunately, our minds and bodies were more excited than the fish in the 32.5 degree water.  Our buddy John, in his new Hobie
PA14 was flippering all over the place with a gigantic smile on his face.  We all had smiles.  New boats what we were more than pleased with, floating for the first time in months, and in good company.

In the end we got skunked.  It happens, but we didn't care.  As we said at the takeout, we would rather get skunked now when we were learning our new gear.  We don't want to learn our new gear when we gotta worry about catching fish.

It was an amazing day, with amazing friends (including one new friend), what more can you ask for given the conditions.  Good friends, new friends, floating, and fishing!  An amazing day on the water!  Stay tuned as this was the last day of bass/pike/a few other species season in Wisconsin for most inland waters.  Thus, we hit the Mighty Mississippi soon for some Whatever Bites!

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Best Kayak Fish Finder Battery!

12v 10,000mah Lithium Battery vs. 12v 4amp SLA Battery

One of the most essential kayak accessories is a fish finder.  A fish finder allows you to a lot of knowledge on the water such as depth, water temp, structure, and even fish.  Some fish finders also have GPS features that can help keep you safe on the water.  These units range from 3-10 inches, I'm sure somebody has gone bigger but not that I have seen...yet.  The one trick with these units is on a kayak you need a power source that isn't as big as the yak!  Bass boats have the luxury of being able to hold multiple 12v 30-50 amp batteries.  In a kayak you need a battery that has a lot of power in a small size.  Currently there are two major options for batteries, Sealed lead Acid (SLA) batteries and Lithium batteries.

Now before we get into talking about the differences between SLA and lithium batteries, a very common question is what battery do I need?  What I say is to look at what that the amps per hour that particular unit draws.  This is usually estimated at the highest power draw.  This number can help give you an estimate of how many amps your battery needs to be.  The most common size is usually a 12v 8-10amp battery.  This seems to work well with both the smaller and bigger units.  Now to the differences in battery type.

The most common battery in the kayak industry is the SLA battery.  The one benefit of a SLA battery is that they are cheap!  Great deals for these batteries can be found and your kayak can be wired up for under $50.  With that does come some downfalls of SLA batteries.  The first downfall is they are big and heavy.  One 12v 10amp SLA battery can weigh up to 10lbs per battery.  Throwing 3 of three of these into your kayak, depending on the kayak can hurt the carrying capacity of the yak and throw off how the boat is trimmed in the water.  The second downfall is that SLA drastically lose power in cold weather.  If you fish in cold weather plan on bringing several batteries or not using the electronics.
12V 4amp SLA is large, bulky, and heavy
The final drawback of SLA batteries is their life cycle.  Many of these batteries are not deep cycle and aren't meant to be drained till dead.  Additionally as a SLA battery loses amps the voltage will drop.  For most fish finders when this voltage drops below 12V it is no longer usable until it is recharged.  Also don't expect many SLA batteries to last more than a few seasons.
      Positive: Lots of power for the money
      Negatives: Heavy, not good in cold, short shelf life, and the voltage can drop below 12V

The new upcoming batteries in the marine industry is Lithium batteries.  There are many different kinds that are up and coming such as Lithium Ion, Lithium Iron, and Lithium Phosphorous.  Basically they are very similar just different formulas to generate power.  The benefits to lithium batteries in kayaks are plenty.  The first is that they are very small and lightweight.  This crucial when weight is an issue on a kayak.  Plus with their small size they can be stashed anywhere.
12V 10,000mah is small, light, and powerful
Only around 5 in x 3 in x 1 inch and less than a pound.
The second is that they provide 12v until the battery is completely depleted meaning you will get 100% performance until the battery dies.  The third major benefit is that there is a lot less drain in cold weather compared to SLA.  The fourth benefit is that these batteries are good for hundreds to thousands of charges meaning less batteries to be bought.  Now for the downsides!  The first downside is the price, these batteries are SUPER expensive, meaning a large upfront cost.  The second downside is that some lithium batteries have a risk of fire but in recent years companies have taken many safety precautions to prevent this.
     Positives: Light, small, all 12V, no cold weather battery loss, and longer shelf life.
     Negatives: EXPENSIVE and must take precautions for battery safety

Now that was a lot!  So I am gonna give you my recommendation on what I have been using! I personally use an external laptop battery charging pack that has a 12v output.  I have had great success with these.  I own two and one will power my Garmin Echomap Chirp 73sv for about 5-6 hours.  I found it on amazon and it provides 12v with 10,000ma. here.  As long as you can crimp marine connectors you can wire it up!  Its super simple, but if you have any questions feel free to ask!
 It cost me in total around $120 and has held up through all the abuse I have put it through.  Additionally it has usb ports already wired into it for charging my phone and it has a built in draw cut off that keeps the battery from being overdrawn and shorting out.  You can find it

The upfront cost of lithium batteries can be very daunting but if you can swing the fee, there are major rewards with it. Bioenno and Nocqua that are directly marketed at kayak fisherman.  Also don't be afraid to rock a SLA battery if it fits your.  They are dirt cheap they get you out on the water.  I hope this helps answer any kayak electronic battery questions you might have.  If you have any questions shoot a comment below or message me on facebook and I can help in anyway possible!
Battery box, both batteries give me a combined 10-12 hours of power.
12v output port for powering and 12v input for charging.
 Plus there are many manufacturers such as

Thanks for reading along and Tight Lines,

Patrick "Pooti" Tharp