My review of the Jackson Cruise 10 focuses on the kayak’s simple, multi-purpose design. I also note other features such as comfort, tracking and portability that make the Cruise a great option for both recreational paddling and fishing.
Full Disclosure: I am a member of the Jackson Kayak Fishing team, and this review appears on their website. I wrote this article after several months of paddling the Cruise 10. I have fished from many kayak brands and models, and I always do my best to write unbiased, honest reviews.
When I heard the news that the Rebel Lure Company was going to release a new version of its Pop-R model in 2021, my hair stopped greying and I felt ten years younger; when I heard the lure was a throwback to Rebel’s legendary P-70 design of the early 1980’s, I felt like a kid again.
It’s a funny thing, because if I ever fished an original P-70, I don’t remember it, even though its appearance in the late 70’s coincides with the time I started fishing. I didn’t discover the Rebel Pop-R until the late 1980’s when I was entering adulthood. As legend has it, it was around that time that the pros who had kept the lure a secret for over a decade let the horse out of the barn. Specifically, it was anglers like Zell Rowland and Rick Clunn who made the lure famous. As this article notes, however, by the time I was buying the lure, Rowland was modifying its original design. All I knew was that if I fished the Pop-R in the right places, I caught fish.
Jump ahead twenty years to the 2016 KBF National Championship on Kentucky Lake. I had been researching local websites and following local anglers on social media when I noticed that a bass fisherman on Kentucky Lake had been catching bass on topwater – in February. At first glance, I thought it was a joke. But the day before I left town I packed a Rebel P-60 Pop-R in the chartreuse shad finish. One morning I heard a noise while paddling out to Sugar Bay (my son picked the spot for me because he liked the name), and before I knew it I had found an area where the bass were herding bait. I cashed my first big tournament check that week and it was because I had packed that Pop-R and fished it in cold, clear Kentucky Lake.
In sum, I have a long relationship with the Pop-R, and that love has not been unrequited.
The Rebel P-71 returns to the classic P-70 design of my youth and adds some new wrinkles while retaining the features the made the lure excel. When I saw the color line up of the new P-71 Pop-R’s, the “Blue Candy” model reminded me of Sugar Bay. And because I am superstitious about fishing, I decided then it was the model I would tie on first. It hasn’t left my rod since.
So consider this a love letter as much as a review of the new P-71. I’ll discuss how it casts and retrieves, how it is made and how it behaves while it is sitting still on the water and when fish are on it. I’ll also compare it to previous Pop-R models. Most of all, I will speak sincerely. Be warned: I may sound like a teenager who got bit by the love bug. Like I said, the P-71 makes me feel young again, and if you like topwater fishing, it will likely do the same for you.
I recently assembled an instructional guide for beginners who are learning to film their catch using the Tactacam Fish-i camera on their kayaks. Thanks to Basstrail.com for publishing the guide, and to Tactacam and Kayak Bass Fishing for the video resources embedded in the text.
The forecast says baste your hide and prepare to be cooked.
When I arrived at the launch site there was a truck parked there, but it wasn’t Drew Blair’s truck. A man emerged from the woods dragging a kayak from the direction of the river, his headlight beam a cloud of insects.
“This isn’t the start I was expecting.”
My second thought was “Where the hell is Drew?” A short conversation later, and I said goodbye to Mitch, the woodsman, who gave up on the launch site. “That’s a rough launch” he said. I offered to help Mitch because I knew, deep in my heart, that Drew was asleep and I wasn’t going to make it alone. He always sleeps in on tournament day. Sure enough, a phone call confirmed it. Thankfully, he lives nearby. Mitch declined.
I waited in the dark for a bit. There wasn’t any morning breeze. I wondered if there was any air. I hoped to hide from the bugs in the darkness, but they found me. I was standing still but I was sweating. The sun would rise in 30 minutes. Drew, half asleep, rolled up and tried to use his Jedi mind powers to make the Hobie slide off his truck.
I’ve launched from difficult locations. This one ranked near the top of the list. The weeds were waist high, ruts in the abandoned road were knee deep and the drop from the bank to the water was actually two separate drops that added up to a Cubist painting. After launching, I realized that one of my rods left one of my lures somewhere in a tree branch behind us.
This isn’t an essay about how good I am at my favorite sport. It’s about a hot river and a cold bite. It’s about the risks I take, the decisions I make and the company I keep. It’s about admitting nature doesn’t care about your fishing plan – or any plan for that matter.
The continual innovation in kayak fishing gear is amazing. Here is another in a recent line of product reviews. This is the FlipIt ID tag holder, designed by Jim Strunk, and soon to be sold by Ketch Outdoors.
Beginnings contain more than an intention. When we start on something new, we bring to it our history, or memory, and culture. We add to it our desire and we imagine what might be. We peer at the horizon and dream to see what might be there, but we can never truly know. Beginnings are that too – they are possibilities, only some of which become real. In his wonderful book Invisible Cities, the writer Italo Calvino imagines Marco Polo entertaining Kublai Khan with stories while the two men play chess. One story begins; “The man who is traveling and does not yet know the city awaiting him along his route wonders what the palace will be like, the barracks, the mill, the theater, the bazaar.” When he arrives, he finds a different city.
Like me, Marco Polo was an Italian of Venetian descent, a wandered on water and land, a person who, when he saw the griffin carrying the tablet the Lord delivered to Saint Mark, paused. I am partial to his Travels not only for their beauty and imagination but because they were written as if each word were a stage of the journey. At times, you never quite know where they will lead. Sometimes we move in straight lines or at angles. At others we move on tracks adjacent to the ones we had planned, a step removed from some other possible reality. Sometimes the paths intersect, at others they diverge. We might even come full circle. Continue reading →
I will speak more directly for a change. No quotes from great poets or philosophers. The Professor will step aside, and the angler will be alone. I’m going to discuss teamwork, I’m going to discuss the current state of the sport of kayak bass fishing and I am going to talk, most importantly, how I changed my approach tournament fishing this season. I’m going to discuss it because I have placed in the money in 10 of the last 14 events I fished. In one of the other 4 I won 1st place in a charity tournament, and in the other 3 I was in 4th, 3rd and 13th place respectively.* It is the best winning streak of my 8 year career in kayak tournament fishing, so I obviously did something right, and I want to share it because some of it runs against logic of what we are “supposed” to do.
But first, Rick Clunn. When Rick Clunn talks, I listen. I don’t listen to imitate but to interpret what he says. Why? Because experience contains wisdom and that guy has experience spilling out of his pockets. But his experience does not apply to me directly. He fishes boats, I fish from kayaks. I will never win what he has won, or fish how or when or where he has fished. So when I listen, I ask, “How does this translate to me, if at all?”
A big storm is rolling in as I write this. There is thunder in the distance, so the yard work I neglected for fishing is out of the question. The sky is darker than a crow feather, the air is yellow with pollen and only a fool would venture outside. It’s the sort of dramatic weather that makes us paddle hard and fast to reach safe harbor.
Experienced anglers know that weather plays a large role in influencing how fish feed. To some, it is equal to or even more important than moon phase, or the animal’s biological clock, or even bait selection. But where can we draw the line? How subtle can it be? Does the sky have to look like a Hollywood special effect to make us think how weather impacts a bite? No – Sometimes the smallest margins make the biggest difference. Continue reading →
One day last summer, at the height of the best topwater and deepwater bites of the year, I received the call asking me to attend a photo shoot and to be a representative kayak angler for an article in Wildlife in North Carolina magazine. My first thought was “I’m gonna stick a state record at the shoot.” It was a selfish impulse, but an honest one. Who wouldn’t have it? I could lie and tell you I smashed ’em, or that I lost a big one, or that as soon as it was over I went to another spot and landed a biggun. All anglers are liars, anyway, but there are witnesses in this case. Here’s what really happened at the big photo shoot: I caught a skunk. Zero bites. Not even a wayward Bluegill.
Maybe I’ve been fishing for too long and the sun’s worn through my skull, but I just don’t care if I don’t catch fish. I’m just grateful to be alive and that’s usually enough to make my day. But the article attached to the cover shot in this post represents our sport so well that it made me grateful for something far more important, something much bigger than the little thrill of seeing my grizzled mug on a magazine cover or the disappointment one might assume when looking at a cover that is, in some way, a reminder of a bad day of fishing. I’ll come back to that point…