We are a week removed from ICAST and thought it time to wrap up our trip to Orlando, Florida for the big fishing show. Kayak fishing was once again well represented in the large world of sportfishing.
I've seen some folks online complain about the lack of innovation in kayak fishing at this year's show....well, companies had their hands full trying to keep up with demand over the last 2 years, so it was all hands on deck in production. That means a lack of hands and time for R & D. So, I wasn't shocked to see a muted display of new models, etc.
But it was good to be back at the show. This year I took Spencer, our Warehouse Manager, down to the show. ICAST presents a great opportunity to see the massive size of the fishing industry, and our place in it.
The NRS booth had some fun stuff including the NRS Pike Pro Package collab with YakAttack. The Pro Package includes: $1795
- NRS Ripple Kayak 2pc Paddle
- YakAttack RotoGrip Paddle Holder
- YakAttack MultiMount Cupholder
- YakAttack MightyMount Switch
- YakAttack BlackPak Kayak Fishing Crate
- YakAttack Omega Pro Rod Holder with Track Mounted LockNLoad Mounting System
That's a lot of goodies!
Also found a some new river attire for my wife with this river dress:
Lastly, the Slipstream two seater raft rig looked really cool! So small you could load it into a truck bed.
The BIG Adventures booth, aka Bonafide / Native Watercraft / Hurricane, had some interesting items and a leaked prototype blueprint for their soon to come river fishing kayak, the RVR119. Hans Nutz designed this kayak. He's got a good track record with the ATAK and Recon for Wilderness Systems, and the SS127 with Bonafide. So I'm giving this thing a thumbs up, because Hans track record is solid.
The interesting development? Bass Series fishing rods built in the US with US blanks. Manufactured in NC? Maybe. Interesting direction from Bonafide. Will it work? Depends on how the rods perform. Either way, I'm a fan of throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.
Lastly, but not least, Hurricane is poised to release a new model soon, the Osprey. It's an updated version of the Skimmer style sit on top, lightweight and stable. I loved the look of this kayak! I'm increasingly interested in good lightweight rec/ fishing models. The Osprey looks to fit the bill.
YakAttack will be releasing some special colorways in OD Green and Tan styling and they look really good. We will have some of these items headed our way soon. Here are the colors represented in BlackPaks.
Jackson Kayak was showcasing their new release the Knarr fishing kayak. This is the best iteration of the Flex Drive to date. It carries good speed and the kayak reacts well in maneuvering. We sold out of our first shipment of Knarrs quickly, but should have more in stock in the coming weeks.
Hobie announced a new model, the rotomolded Passport series. The thermoformed Passport series has had a tough road with production issues, so this didn't come as a great surprise. It's a solid offering that will most likely cannibalize the Compass in the line up. The Passport Rs come with GT Kick Up fins and retail for under $2k. That's a good deal.
Hobie ran us through all the improvements to the 360 drive. It sounds as if they've been continuing to innovate and improve upon this tech.
And Hobie also took us out fishing at Osceola Outback Adventures where Spencer and I each got to catch a barramundi. This is the only licensed place in America where you can catch this famed Australian game fish. Spencer dragged his through the mud. :)
One kayak they offer that is lost in all this shuffle, is the Outback. It remains a really good fishing platform. I took one out for a spin after the show and found some specks. :)
NuCanoe debuted a lot of QuickConnect systems for their line of fishing kayaks, from pedal to motorized, etc. We will be bringing in some of this gadgetry as it has been sought after from our loyal NuCanoe customers.
Old Town was at ICAST with their Sportsman series of kayaks. None of these are new, but they continue to rule the market right now. Each is a very solid offering, and the Sportsman launch remains one of the most successful brand pushes by anyone in our industry. I fish from the Bigwater quite a bit and it remains a fantastic vessel in the pedal drive market.
All in all it was a good show. Spending time with everyone in the fishing industry and paddlesports industry is a fun time and informative. Next up is Big Gear Show in Utah to see a few other vendors. As preseason programs continue to get launched earlier and earlier, it increasingly looks like ICAST might be the best show. August is staring to feel too late and increasingly our industry is driven by fishing or kayak fishing related activity. Big Gear Show appeals to me because it is outside, and so I'm giving it another chance, but it doesn't feel like enough folks in paddlesports are doing that. ICAST on the other hand, shines every time with bright lights and participation.
Spencer certainly enjoyed his first experience, despite having to be convinced that this in fact was not a car for him:
The first day of ICAST dawned with the typical sunshine day at the 'On The Water' event. Companies like Jackson Kayak, Hobie, Old Town, Torqueedo, YakAttack and more had products out for folks to test.
First look was the new Hobie Passport R aka a rotomolded Passport with GT Kick up fins. This is going to be a great price option for those interested in a pedal drive kayak. MSRP of $1,649 and $1,869 for the 10.5 and the 12 models
We also got another look at the Jackson Knarr Kayak. It got a thumbs up from Jim Sammons after his ride in Jameson Redding's sporty red Knarr. It is the best iteration of the Jackson Flex Drive and has some good speed.
I'm not even sure what this is? I was scared to ask.
After the heat of the Demo we had an invite to the Hobie field trip to Osceola Outback Adventures about an hour outside of Orlando. It is the only licensed barramundi fishing spot in America. Spencer and I (Vince) got a chance at our first catch of this exotic species famous in Australia. No luck from the kayak but we found a few from the bank. It was a super fun excursion and a fun fighting fish!
Fishing by Polaris is sweet.
Big thanks to Hobie for the adventure!
Then after a shuttle back to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, we raced to the New Product Showcase at ICAST.
Here are just a few things we saw. Today we will post much more and cover more ground regarding product. But in the meantime, enjoy this new Saltwater Soft Lure. "I don't need a ride, I need ammo."
We have lots of Appointments with vendors today and we will be posting from the floor as well as posting a recap. Stay tuned.
Brrr it’s cold outside! If snow and ice are keeping you indoors, but you’re daydreaming about long, sunny days on the river, take some time to maintain and repair your boats for the upcoming season. Here’s a quick boat maintenance checklist you can start in the garage on a snow day.
Check for new dents caused by storage and kick out any critters that may have taken up residence in your boats. If you didn’t clean your boat before the winter, wipe it down with a damp cloth or brave the cold long enough to hose it off. A mild dish soap mix works great for stubborn dirt.
Remember that sit-inside kayaks can make very attractive homes for your shed’s local fauna, so consider a cockpit cover to seal your boat against unwanted guests.
If you see any gouges or cracks that worry you, or you had a leak last time you used the boat, you can go ahead and perform a fill test to confirm. Set the boat up on sawhorses or cinder blocks and fill it with a couple inches of water. Wait and watch to see if water drips out anywhere. If you see a drip, don’t panic! Leaks are usually pretty easy to repair.
The most common cause of leaks is loosening hardware. Just like the rest of us, boats aren’t immune to aging. Hardware loosens up, hatch covers don’t fit as tightly, and small leaks may develop. If you suspect you have a leak, first try gently tightening all the through-hull bolts. Make sure washers are snug down to the plastic. Then, check any hatch covers or gaskets for cracking rubber or loose seals. If you have a common size rubber hatch seal, measure the hatch and look for a replacement at Top Kayaker.
A common replacement rubber hatch cover
If your leak is caused by an actual crack, give us a call and we can look over the damage. We offer plastic welding, fiberglass patches, and other repair services in our Farmville shop. And if your canoe is worn down at the ends, consider installing skid plates to significantly extend its lifespan.
Another common type of damage is denting, or oil canning. This is most commonly caused by improper storage or transport, when the bottom of the boat comes in contact with a hard surface for a long period of time and the hull deforms. Don’t panic if your boat has some oil canning. Simply heat the area and consider placing weight on the inside of the boat, and the dent should pop out over time. A sunny, hot day is the ideal way to do this, but a heat gun used carefully works as well.
Besides the hull of the boat, kayaks and canoes have any number of component parts that can wear out and show their age. Many of these parts can be replaced very easily, although some are tricky to find.
If you need common parts, such as carry handles, foot pegs, or various nuts and bolts, we might have some on hand for you. If the part you need is more specific, try searching Top Kayaker or reaching out to the manufacturer.
If your kayak has a pedal or motor drive, take some time to perform recommended maintenance. Here are a few great resources for common pedal drive systems:
https://nativewatercraft.com/pages/propel-maintenance For Native Watercraft, LiquidLogic, Bonafide, and Hurricane drives
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CA2tVDsNBG0 For Hobie MirageDrive GT and 180
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axvk4Fk539M For Jackson FlexDrive
https://www.oldtowncanoe.com/blog/article/maintenance-tips-pedal-kayaks For Old Town PDL drives
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OROYxcJfDtE For Wilderness Systems and Perception drives
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsECXXADX10KO9MC6XwBUKNsPhUodJxQJ For Pelican HyDryve
You can order parts like grease kits, props, shear pins, and fins directly from the manufacturer, from online sources like Amazon or TopKayaker, or through your dealer.
We know you’re handy and love fixing things, but many of the repairs we get in our shop are caused by owners trying to service parts that weren't meant to be user-serviceable. If you’re working with pedal drives, steering systems, skegs, or motors, please look up maintenance instructions from the manufacturer before you start working. Reading the directions is NOT cheating. Remember that if you service these parts or use non-recommended materials, you may void any applicable warranties.
Rudders are one of the most common places for these mistakes. As a general rule, we recommend not messing with your rudder system at all except for maintenance explicitly advised by the manufacturer. Rudder repairs are complicated because each one works a different way and the systems are often difficult to access. The good news is that our expert technicians can take care of these systems for you.
Many problems with kayaks and canoes can be easily prevented with regular maintenance. If your boat is showing signs of its age, don’t fret—it’s probably got a long life still ahead of it with a little TLC. You can do most of this yourself, but if a repair is beyond your comfort level give us a call and we’ll see if we can't fix it right up for you.
We may not get many white Christmases, but at least we have plenty of whitewater here in Virginia. If you’re looking for ideas for the whitewater boater in your family, we’re here to help. Here are 10 picks we love and we think your loved ones would be stoked to receive. Or hey, gift them to yourself—we won’t judge.
Jackson Antix 2.0 - $1190 to $1549
If someone on your list is looking for their first whitewater kayak but doesn’t know what they want yet, we bet they’ll find it in the Antix 2.0. We think of the new Antix as the crossover SUV of whitewater kayaks – just reassuring enough to have your back on unfamiliar water, but enough edge and slice to make a tired local run look like a new playground. It surfs like a dream and locks onto waves with just a slight switch of the edge. It still has enough volume and bow rocker to carry you up and over waves and boat-stopping holes, so it’s truly an all-around boat that’s perfect for new paddlers or experienced boaters who need a one-kayak quiver.
Jackson Zen 3 - $1190 to $1549
If the Antix still looks a little too spicy, consider its higher-volume, more stable cousin, the Zen 3. The Zen lends an impressive amount of confidence to beginners thanks to its ultra-wide beam, high bow and stern volume, and less aggressive rocker profile. Remember that whitewater kayaks are not one-size-fits-all, so if you need any sizing help, don’t hesitate to call us for assistance.
Astral GreenJacket - $300
Raft guides and river professionals of all kinds consistently pick Astral’s GreenJacket as the most popular rescue vest on the market. Theres’s a good reason for that—actually, a bunch of good reasons. Its signature two-panel construction allows for a comfortable fit for almost any body shape. The oversized clamshell pocket can fit a full pin kit plus snacks for the day, and the quick-release belt allows trained rescuers to safely perform tows and live-bait rescues with the ability to quickly detach if necessary. Please note that the GreenJacket isn’t suited for those who aren’t trained to use a quick-release harness. For those folks, take a look at our next pick, the NRS Ninja.
NRS Ninja - $129.95
Arguably the lowest-profile whitewater PFD on the market, the NRS Ninja is a perennial favorite among playboaters and river runners. Its concentrated design keeps all of the foam centered in front and behind, giving plenty of arm space and a full range of motion. The large zippered pocket is super convenient for snacks, sunglasses, or lip balm. Choose from classic black, high-visibility red, or a fresh-looking teal to suit almost anyone’s style.
Astral Throw Rope - $59.95
There’s an old adage among paddlers: “we’re all between swims.” As much as we hope that next swim is far off, we never know when we’ll need to rescue or be rescued. Help your loved one prepare for that situation with a simple throw rope. They’re easy to use with some simple training, and they can easily save a life (or, more often, a pinned boat). This particular rope is sized to fit perfectly in the GreenJacket’s rope-ready pocket, but it will also pack conveniently into a kayak for anyone not using a GreenJacket. 50 feet of Dyneema-core rope are used to craft this durable and reliable rescue tool.
NRS Co-Pilot Knife - $49.95
If you’re going to have a throw rope, you also need a way to cut that rope if it becomes a hazard. A solid river knife is always a good idea, so consider the tried-and-true Co-Pilot. The Co-Pilot’s sheath attaches directly to most PFD’s knife tabs so it’s always easy to access when you need it. A blunt tip minimizes the risk of accidental raft or skin punctures, and serrated blades help quickly cut through rope, fabric, and fishing line.
Winter paddling is COLD. We bundle in dry suits, union suits, and wool. We pile on two or three pairs of socks under insulating booties. We throw fleece or neoprene liners under our helmets. But by far the hardest thing to keep warm when paddling is our hands. That’s why pogies are the first choice for toasty digits all winter long. Pogies are neoprene oven-mitt shaped things that attach to your paddle shaft. You simply slide your hands in and you have unobstructed grip on the paddle. These ones from Immersion Research are warm, cozy, and easy to use.
Okay, okay, we know we just spent the last paragraph convincing you pogies are the best, but there are some situations where they don’t work so well. They only work on double-bladed kayak paddles, so rafters, canoeists, and paddleboarders won’t find them very helpful. And pogies attach to your paddle shaft, so if you’re out of your boat and not holding your paddle, your hands just aren’t protected. Swimming = very, very cold hands. You can trust me on that because I’m basically a professional swimmer. If you know someone who swims a lot, or a paddleboarder or open canoeist, the new IR Shittens might just be the answer. They feature the same toasty neoprene as IR’s pogies, but in a palmless mitten shape that allows both warmth and grip.
If you know someone who’s stuck inside for the winter, but can’t wait to get after it when the spring rains come, gift them the Immersion Research Rival Jacket. Ideal for shoulder season boating, the Rival provides most of the dryness of a dedicated dry top without the heavy fabric or painful neck gasket. It uses tight-fitting neoprene at the neck and wrists to keep most water out, and features a double tunnel to mate with a spray skirt and keep water out of the kayak.
For those who just can’t wait out winter, the 7 Figure dry suit is there to make them feel like a million bucks. The sleek back entry zipper keeps bulk off your chest and away from your PFD, and the front entry zipper allows a quick answer to nature’s call. Reinforced DWR fabric and super-dry gaskets round out one of the best suits on the market. It’s tough. It’s rugged. It’s steezy. It also has a women’s counterpart, the Aphrodite, which provides an innovative clamshell zipper for both entry and relief.