Okuma announced in late 2012 they had “broken the $100 barrier” with the new high performance “RTX” spinning reel. Indeed, it seems the long strand carbon fiber frame and rotor system boasts features that are usually reserved for high-end reels. According to Okuma’s website, the RTX spinning reel’s strength is enhanced by 50% and is 25% lighter overall. The main gear, oscillation gear and slider are anodized aluminum instead of softer brass for a longer lasting, corrosion resistant design. A machined aluminum spool, forged aluminum handle and Japanese oiled felt drag washers round out the features. RTX reels are backed by Okuma’s one year limited warranty, and have an MSRP of $99.
Is it a kayak? Is it a boat? One look and it doesn’t matter anymore. The Hobie “Mirage® Pro Angler 12” was officially released at ICAST 2012 and won “Best of Show”. It was also voted the first place choice as Kayak of the Year in the Kayak Angler Choice Awards 2012. Lopping two feet from the overall length of its big brother (the Pro Angler 14) wasn’t the only new feature in the redesigned craft. The Pro Angler 12 is topped by an all new Vantage Seating system. The removable seat is fully adjustable, including lumbar support, and is unparalleled in comfort. Of course you won’t sit much; the Pro Angler is 36” wide, making it one of the easiest kayaks to stand on. Integrated tackle and rod storage allows you to carry extra gear for those longer trips, and the “Lowrance ready” design makes installing a fishfinder simple. Hobie offers a two-year limited warranty on the hull and all components. The Mirage® Pro Angler 12 retails for $2849.
New for 2013 is Paul’s “Rip-n-Slash” by Unfair Lures of Florida. “The erratic swimming action of the Rip-n-Slash lure combined with the look-alike gills are guaranteed to produce fish,” says owner Paul Van Reenen. Other features that you don’t find on more expensive lures include an integrated swivel attachment point that eliminates line twist, an all holographic color design, and Eagle Claw “Lazer Sharp®” trebles. The lures come in ten colors and two sizes, with suspending or sinking options.
The bodies of the lures are made in China, but the other components are all U.S. made. The lures are then hand assembled in Florida. Unfair Lures are not found in box stores, but are available at small tackle stores everywhere, or on their website at unfairlures.com. The MSRP is under $9.95.
The folks at Berkley have been producing Gulp! products for many years, including such saltwater bait staples as shrimp and paddletails. These have traditionally been rigged with a variety of jigheads, weedless hooks or whatever one had handy. Berkley has simplified the equation with Heads!. Designed specifically for Gulp! baits, Heads! are made with the new lead free Tundra composite and feature the unique Gulp! Grip bait keeper. The three models- “Darter JiggHead”, “Minnow JiggHead”, and “BDS” (Bait Delivery System) - provide anglers options for presenting their favorite baits to their favorite species. Heads! were the ICAST 2012 winner of Best New Terminal Tackle. They come in a variety of colors and sizes, and a package of two retails for about $4.99.
The Penn “Spinfisher” spinning reel has been around for 50 years. For ICAST 2012, Penn introduced significant changes to the Spinfisher that make it one of the most advanced reels on the market. One of the most important features is the new watertight design. A total of six seals keep saltwater out of the gearbox and drag system, which is a very important attribute for kayak fishing use. The Slammer drag system is also sealed and waterproof. The Superline spool has a rubber gasket that eliminates the need for backing braided line. The spool also has line capacity rings on the flange, making it easy to see how much line has been taken out by that big fish you’re battling. With all of these features, it’s easy to see why the Penn Spinfisher V was named the Best Saltwater Reel at ICAST 2012. Penn offers a one-year limited warranty on all of their reels. The Spinfisher V has an MSRP starting at $139.
Columbia has long been at the forefront in developing performance clothing for anglers. The “Airgill Chill™ ZERO” is the latest in their line featuring proprietary “Omni” technology. Like most of their shirts, the Airgill Chill™ Zero is made with Omni-Shade for a rated 50 UPF sun protection. The second feature is Omni-Freeze ZERO sweat-activated cooling. The Omni-Freeze Zero blue rings embedded in the fabric capitalize on your sweat to lower the overall temperature of the material, accelerate the wicking process and provide an instant and prolonged cooling, so you say extra comfortable in hot conditions. The shirt also has venting between the shoulders as well as both sides below the arm. The Airgill Chill™ Zero was named Best Apparel at ICAST 2012, and retails for $130.
Strangely, one of the most innovative products for 2013 comes from a kayak manufacturer and it’s not a kayak – it’s a color. The “Illuminati” glow-in-the-dark series is a color choice that is available on several of their kayak models. After charging with any light source, the Illuminati kayaks will glow for hours after the sun sets. Drew Gregory of the Jackson Kayak Fishing Team said, “One of the main things I like about the boat has nothing to do with the benefits of the glow, but simply the unique experience it gives you on the water. I never once come away from a trip in the Illuminati feeling disappointed, because it is so cool to be on a glowing boat!” The cool factor is definitely there, but there could be other benefits. Visibility to other boaters after dark is greatly enhanced, and the glow could actually attract fish. Whatever reason you choose to order a Jackson Kayak of this color, it will add $200 to the base price.
New for 2013 from Bending Branches is the “Angler Pro”, a paddle that makes any kayak angler a professional. Kayak fishing pros aren’t always particular about their rigging or tackle, but they always have to rely on their paddle. They want it lightweight, so they don’t become tired getting to the fishing, and they expect a strong paddle that’s hard to break. The Angler Pro is that kind of paddle. The T-700 carbon shaft and multi-laminate fiberglass blades produce the perfect combination of light weight and strength. It weighs a scant 30 oz and come in three sizes. Bending Branches backs up their paddles with a one-year warranty. The Angler Pro paddle retails for $199.
GoPro® cameras seem to be the official hood ornaments for most fishing kayaks. These expensive little cameras are responsible for the vast majority of fish fighting videos on YouTube. They shoot fantastic quality HD video, but can they be improved? GoPro seems to think so. The GoPro® “Hero 3 Black” edition boasts many new features over its older siblings. The most obvious upgrade is built in Wi-Fi with an included remote. In previous editions this feature was a costly add-on. The camera is also 30% smaller and much lighter than the original, while still packing in the features. Video performance has doubled in both speed and quality, and the once muffled audio has been totally redesigned. The Hero 3 Black edition remains compatible with all GoPro® accessories and comes with a no questions asked 30 day return policy. In addition, GoPro® offers online support to help you get the most out of your camera. The Hero 3 Black retails for $399.
Every kayak angler has either lost a rod overboard, or knows someone who has. Until now, the answer has been rod leashes that get in the way, or taping bulky “noodle” material around the rod. Overboard Rods answered the call with a full line of floating fishing rods for 2013. They even have floating fly rods! These rods float even with reels attached, making them easy to retrieve. The rods come in a wide variety of colors, sizes and actions, so there is a compatible rod for everyone. They are affordable, as well, with models starting at $90.