Thursday, 23 October 2014

Penn Fathom 12 Stardrag

Penn Fathom 12 Star Drag


What the manufacture says.

Designed with a full diecast metal reel frame and side-plates to minimise any chance of gear torsion under pressure, machine cut, marine grade, bronze main gear meshing with a super tough stainless steel pinion gear, 5 + 1 shielded stainless steel ball-bearings for smoothness of operation, and a Versa-Drag system utilizing HT-100 drag washers for a totally smooth drag. The reels also feature a live spindle giving a fully free floating spool, plus an internally adjustable centrifugal brake for exceptional casting performance.

Vital Stats are:
Weight 439g
Ratio 6.0:1
Cap 260yd/12lb or 237m/0.36mm
Recovery 28”/710mm PT
Price RRP £154.99, I have seen them for as little as £109.99 online

I have been using this reel since February for almost every trip from the kayak. I resisted the usual urge to tune the reel before use as I know most people use reels out of the box.  So the first 2 trips where just that, straight from the box.

The reel has a narrow seat so it would not fit on my Abu Suveran 12lb class without some noticeable rock as the rod has an Ally reel seat, a quick turn of electrical tape on each end of the reel seat sorted this problem out.  This is an issue with the rod choice not the reel.
I loaded the reel with 15lb mono backing and 20lb Spiderwire Fusion white braid.  Matched to the Abu Suveran 12lb class rod it is a well balanced and capable combo.

On first inspection I noticed the drag had a high minimum pull (start up), after a quick go on the scales it came out at 2lb.  Max drag came in at 9lb.  Not much range but I guessed it would probably settle out further after some use.
The ratchet is easy to use and plenty loud enough to be heard whilst general fishing.
The handle has 2 positions and I can comfortably adjust the drag using the same hand from either position with minimum disturbance to winding in.  A very comfortable large rubberized grip is a must especially when winter fishing with cold wet hands.  It casts well even without the brakes engaged, it coped using baited feathers from a seated position on a windy day with ease.

First couple sessions seen the reel take dogs, general small fish and a couple of decent Spurdogs to test the drag.  Throughout the season, I have used the reel for almost all my fishing.  I have landed Tope to 60lb in a 2 knt tide and fished in 200ft of water with 14oz leads for Cod & Pollack and the reel has coped admirably.

Happy that the reel would perform out of the box it was time to strip it and tune it.

The reel is very well greased throughout, I prefer minimum grease as I hose my reels down quite vigorously after each trip and often dunk them if it has been a rough day. 

There are drainage holes on the body to cope with such cleaning.

After degreasing, I set about the drag.  It is a 6 piece set up with 3 fixed HT100 washers and 3 moving steel washers giving it 5 points of contact. They were factory greased so I gave them a good clean and regreased with Cals drag grease. The start up is now below 1lb and max is in excess of 11lb.

The drag adjustment has an internal ratchet giving positive settings throughout thus eliminating drag creep.  The end float adjustment cap also has a similar internal ratchet.  I like these features very much, it gives the reel a feel of precision when adjusting the reel in the field. 

The brake system is a 6 point centrifugal system and all blocks are able to be turned on or of independently.  I like zero brakes in Spring/Summer and 50% for Winter fishing when hands are cold and big baits are to be cast uptide.

The reel is very easy to service and would be a good starter for novice to try at home.  Schematics and video tutorials are freely available online.

Verdict.  I do like this reel a lot, it is my go to reel for general fishing from scratching to Tope and light wrecking/reefing.
I have always liked Penn reels but admittedly I was a little apprehensive when I seen the words Made in China written on the seat.  However, after using, abusing and servicing/tuning the reel I am confident that Penn have kept a tight rein on quality control with this series of reels.  I do hope the quality remains the same over the coming years.

Gareth Bowen Team OK UK

Friday, 17 October 2014

ABU Ambassadeur 6500i TSR Review

ABU Ambassadeur 6500i TSR

Made in Sweden!

So, is this reel only for long distance casting off the beach? It sure is amazing for that, but I think it's a great kayak reel too.
There are several reasons why I chose this reel. First of all it suited both purposes for me. When I go away in my van, I do both beach and kayak fishing. Space and weight are at a premium and I don't want to load up with loads of different bits of kit. The TSR ticked this box nicely.
Shown here on Abu Suveran 12lb Rod Butt with ALPS Reel Seat
The reel has a one piece machined solid aluminium frame and is designed to sit low on the rod. Perfect for me on the kayak as I don't like bulky reels sticking out all over the place. They just get in the way!
With Stainless Steel Gears and Ceramic bearings there will be no rust or corrosion to worry about. Again, perfect for the kayak as reels do endure fairly harsh conditions and even the odd dunking!
One thing I can say is the reel foot is fairly large so won't fit every rod seat so, do check...!

Stunning colour makes this reel really stand out.
I've been using the reel all year and I am extremely happy with it. It's so smooth and ticks so many boxes for me, as I have mentioned. The Reel is made in Sweden and just feels like quality in your hand. I can go beach casting if the weather is inclement but then switch the reel onto my Suveran and paddle off for a session on the kayak. Perfect!

You can see from this picture just how low it sits on the rod.
Abu Suveran 12lb Class rod coupled with the 6500i TSR. Great combination.
It also catches fish!
Thanks for reading.
Ian Pickering 17th October 2014.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Old Town Predator 13 Review

Old Town Predator 13

Length: 13' 2"     Width: 33.5"     Weight: 39kg

I collected the Predator 13 in March of this year and have had many successful and comfortable trips on her. The main question I get asked when people see it is "Is it heavy?" Well, yes, it is heavier than most kayaks at 39kgs, but like the OK Ultra 4.7, the weight is perfectly balanced 50/50 when lifting using the solid handles. It hasn't been a problem for me and I lift it onto my car on my own.
First of all here's some pictures....
Spacious and well laid out with a 'Mod Pod' centre compartment and familiar 'Click seal' front hatch. 

Fishfinder battery bag in the bow hatch.

The seat.... Love it or loath it, it's comfortable and can be put in low or high position.
Rod tip protectors and rod retainer bungees.
Six Removable mounting plates. Shown here with a Railblaza StarPort.
Features a Humminbird transducer scupper but I have fitted a Garmin 301dv with a little adjustment.
My first trip was on Llangorse lake in Wales. It was extremely windy but I was surprised how well the P13 handled it. With it gusting 30kts+ at times and some substantial waves, I thought I would struggle. I was fine and even managed to winkle out five Pike. 
There are six removable and fully interchangeable mounting plates. You can change your mind as often as you like, and even alter for different accessories depending on your trip without drilling any holes in the hull. Great idea.
A dismantled C-Tug fits in the front hatch easily and there is plenty of storage behind the seat. There is also a stand up assist strap should you wish to attempt SUF (Stand Up Fishing). I tried and after a shaky few seconds I was up and away!
Here's a short video of my legs taken with the Garmin Virb Elite.
It is VERY well made, stable and comfortable. It's not a kayak that you would want to travel miles off shore in but it has it's place, like all kayaks. Personally, I like it, especially for long day sessions on the lakes. I can spend 9hrs afloat and still walk afterwards!
This is a kayak that won't suit everyone, but it will tick a lot of boxes for some. I've mainly used it on freshwater but have I launched on the sea and it handled it well. The Swanage competition being one of them. The conditions weren't really rough but I had a great day afloat.
Here's a couple more photo's in action.

 Sorry about the legs once again!!
Thanks for reading....
Ian Pickering 15th October 2014.




Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Garmin Virb Elite Review

Garmin Virb Elite HD

I’ve now been using the Garmin Virb Elite HD camera on my kayak for the last 6 months. First impressions when I removed it from the box were how neat, compact and robust it felt.  It comes with various mounts and brackets so lots of different ways of attaching to your kayak. I use the bracket with a 3M self-adhesive pad to fix to a Railblaza CameraBoom 600 and so far hasn’t moved at all. I do however tether my camera using a leash.
On power up I was away really quickly as it was extremely easy to set up and use with just a menu, up, down and enter buttons. The 1.4” Chroma display is slightly difficult to see in very bright conditions but once it’s set up you don’t really need the screen apart from adjusting the view at the beginning of your trip.  There is however, an App so you can use your smartphone as a viewfinder which is great. From the App you can also remotely control the device.
A couple of weeks ago I purchased a Garmin 78s GPS and I discovered this can also be used as a remote control and works well. I also purchased the optional remote control (approx. £40) and I use it on a wrist strap to start/stop the recording and to take stills with good results.
I fitted a 64gb Micro SD card so there is plenty of recording space (7hrs+) and I find the battery will last up to 3hrs on continual record. I use it though with the remote control, and when not recording the unit goes to sleep, then wakes up on command from the remote. This way I’ve had up to 5hrs battery life.
On the first few outings I had a few issues where the unit would freeze and only removing the battery would rectify. I updated the software on the unit and it sorted the problem straight away.
The quality is very good (1080p) as you can see. Some of the pictures are stills taken with the Virb and some are Screen Snipes taken off the video recordings. I found the Virb Edit program very easy to use but fairly basic… Just perfect for a Luddite like me!
It is IPX7 waterproof down to 1m and you can also get a dive case as an optional extra.
All in all I’m very happy with the Virb and I have managed to shoot some excellent HD video and some stills that I wouldn’t have taken with a conventional camera.
I now don’t go on a trip without it….
Ian Pickering 7th October 2014

Friday, 29 August 2014

Abu Garcia Devil Spinning Rods

Abu Garcia Devil Spinning Rods

2-10g (5ft6") & 5-15g (7ft)

I've been using these rods for a while now, mainly on freshwater. I am that impressed at the performance for the price (about £20) that I'm thinking of buying 10-30g (7ft) for saltwater use.

It has a carbon composite blank and quality TS guides which are great for braided line use.
They are nicely made and it's nice to see my favourite handle material- cork. The butt is a nice length for use on the kayak and they are well balanced.
This is the 2-10g 5ft 6" rod with an 8lb Pike on... lovely bend!

Great fun on light gear.


Thursday, 7 August 2014

Fitting Railblaza StarPort HD to the Prowler Ultra 4.7

Fitting Railblaza StarPort HD to Ultra 4.7

Railblaza have released their new  StarPort HD 
Many vessels are made to suit the mount base pattern of Scotty, RAM,
Cannon, Fish-On, and many others. The StarPort HD now fits straight onto the brass inserts on the Ocean Kayak Prowler range without any fuss or modification. I fitted mine using 16mm M5 Stainless Steel Screws with a washer. On the forward StarPort HD I use a TracPort 350 so I can use multiple accessories.
The design is very sleek, strong and low profile so reducing the danger of catching the car roof when transporting upside down.
I have two mounts on the hatch of my Ultra 4.7
The forward most one I use with a SwivelPort and RodHolder II for trolling, the nearest one for other accessories to mount GPS etc.
Any stiffness in the slide lock seems to have been overcome. It now glides effortlessly without a struggle, especially when you have cold hands.
These are available in the UK now and I think very reasonably priced at approx. £10.
Had to slide a fish picture in...!
Ian Pickering

Sunday, 27 July 2014

8 Year Old Benjamin's First Kayak Fish

The weather was spot on for a launch the day before the 2014 Oxwich Kayak Competition. Light winds and 24 degrees saw perfect conditions for a young one to get started. Port Eynon was the venue.

The Ocean Kayak Frenzy was the chosen vesicle supported by myself in my Ultra 4.7xt
We tied off together and dropped down some Sabiki's in 7m of water. It wasn't long before he was showing me up! Nice little Grey Gurnard.... Benjamin's first ever fish!
I was then into some Mackerel, seconds later, so was Benjamin.
He couldn't believe quite how three fish on at once made such a fight. Great fun!

One very happy chappy...