Wednesday, August 5, 2020

My new ride - Old Town Topwater PDL 120

Since last year, I have been saving up for a new toy. I initially wanted a motorcycle (a used Vespa to be exact). But the Covid19 pandemic made a huge impact on our expenses and I was not able to save enough for it. Aside from that, the wife is absolutely against buying a motorcycle. So, I negotiated for a used boat and outboard instead. She agreed on one condition, I needed to find a storage area for it. Long story short, after plenty of measuring and surveying, I realized that a boat is too big and storing it is virtually impossible since the garage has limited space so I abandoned the idea altogether.

Just recently, I chanced upon a display unit of an Old Town Topwater 120 PDL kayak at an absolute bargain. Brand new, it is sold at around US$2,300 (around Php108,000) but I got this at just a fraction of a cost. Let's just say that it's way cheaper than a used motorcycle or a used boat with an outboard. The catch is that it has some minor scratches and the paddle clip is missing.  Also, it doesn't come with a paddle. (I think new kayaks does not come with paddles anyway). Other than these cons, everything looks and works like new.

I already have a kayak - it's an Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 and it's a nice kayak specially for open water. Unfortunately, paddling can be really tiring. Paddling while fishing is also a challenge. Aside from that, it's hard to stand up and fish on this kayak. When I saw this Topwater 120 PDL, I did not hesitate and got it. Depending on my testing of the new Topwater 120 PDL, I might sell the OK Prowler. We'll see.

Initial impression is that it's heavy (40kg + without the pedal drive and seat) compared to the Ocean Kayak which is just 22kg. Although the Topwater is shorter at 12ft, it's wider (36in. OK Prowler is just 28in wide) and I think the plastic is thicker. There are bigger and heavier hatches and it has a couple of Yakattack rails, seat rails, rubber accessory pockets, and a couple of EVA foam foot pads. It also feels really solid. The build quality is absolutely impressive. 

The pedal drive looks sealed and smooth. It looks brand new and has never touched water. Even the prop looks and feels unused.

The seat is so so. It was expected as reviews of the kayak mentioned this shitty seat. The one I got was scratched all over but the fabric is pristine and the dog loves it. Eventually, I might replace this with the premium seat when it breaks.

The kayak also can be hoisted on the ceiling. Thanks to Youtube, I was able to DIY a kayak storage system using some pulleys, shackles, heavy duty polyester ropes, old lumber, and eye bolts with drop-in concrete anchor sleeves to hoist the kayak under the balcony floor. The total cost for the contraption is just around P900. To be honest, I think my wife was pleased with the result. I just need to replace the cheap cast iron pulleys that I got from the local hardware store with heavy duty stainless pulleys. Those cast-iron pulleys are a pain to use, they are so noisy, and they tend to fray the rope.

The only problem now is that we're on another community lockdown due to Covid19. We cannot go out for un-essential travel -- like fishing. This means that trial run on the water will have to wait.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Personal best Largemouth bass

My personal best. Two chunky large mouth bass caught using one worm on a texas rig (3/0 wide gap hook and 1/2oz tungsten bullet weight).

I have been fishing this spot for so many years and the biggest I got was a 2.2kg. This was my luckiest bass fishing trip to date. I sure wish the community lock down will ease up soon so I can go back to the spot. I will surely bring my kayak next time.

3.3kg (7.2lbs) Largemouth Bass

2.7kg (6.0lbs) Largemouth Bass
I was using my old and ever reliable K'Slabo Lakeforce Stage 604MH rod paired with an I'ze Custom Color Team Daiwa Z reel (Daiwa TDZ tuned by Ize Customs).

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

DIY Buzz Baits for Giant Snakehead

Channa Micropeltes (Toman) is one of the largest species of snakeheads. It can reach up to 1.5 meters in length and can grow up to 20kg. It is native to Southeast Asia particularly near the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia. I don't believe it is a native specie in the Philippines. The first encounter with this fish and my first ever catch was around 10 years ago in Lakeshore's man-made lake in Mexico, Pampanga in Central Luzon. They were basically pets in the lake to attract weekend anglers.

Since then, the fish has spread to many parts in Pampanga and even up to Nueva Ecija, further up north of Luzon - perhaps intentionally released or maybe by accident through flooding. Nonetheless, they are now widespread and have grown in population as well as sizes. The biggest so far (that was caught by recreational anglers) was 10kg plus. (The IGFA world record is around 13.6kg from Malaysia.) They are now living in the wild and spawning aggressively and taking over their new habitats. After 10 years, I am quite certain that there are monsters out there --- 15 to 20kg fish. Quite honest, it is a tragedy for local fishermen but a cause for excitement for recreational anglers.

If you have tried fishing for these monsters, you will know that they are practically lure and tackle killers. They are friends of tackle-shops because after just one sizable fish, you can bet your bottom that your brand spanking new lure will be destroyed and if you are not careful, they will break your precious rods. My biggest catch in past was 4kg plus fishes in the confined pond of Lakeshore. I was using a Medium Heavy baitcast setup with 20lb braid and 30lb leader. Though tomans love loud topwater lures, e fight was ok and felt just like big largemouth bass when hooked. The preferred lure was buzz baits and loud knocking WTD lures.

Just recently, I was able to fish a secret not so secret wild Toman spot. The area was a huge marsh with lots of deep open water and lots of vegetation- perfect Toman habitat. I brought a slightly heavier toman tackle. I upgraded the line to 30lbs and the leader to 40 and used a Heavy 15-30 7ft baitcast rod from Graphiteleader. I brought a few brand new buzz baits and prop baits because I heard that these were the hottest toman lures for that area. Just after 15 minutes of casting my prop bait near the edge of the bank, I got an explosive strike and pulled drag from my Daiwa Fuego BC like it's just a UL spinning reel. The first run startled me and by instinct, I held the spool to stop the fish. It fled underneath the boat and pulled so hard that the rod tip got pulled underneath the boat. The last thing I heard was a loud crack of my precious Graphiteleader. Just after 15 minutes of fishing, the fish took my new lure, broke my Heavy rod, and it shattered my ego.  I had to go home. I did not bring a backup rod at that time.

The following day, I decided to return for round 2. I brought a couple of MH rods - A short MH Shimano Scorpion BC rod and a 6ft Lakeforce Stage MH BC rod. I also brought new prop lures and upgraded the hooks to #1 Owner ST046.  I was able to get a lot of hookups but they often get unbuttoned. A lot of the owner hooks got bent when they spin just near the boat.  These tomans are absolute fighters. Maybe because they are well fed and have a lot of exercise. They fight really hard compared to their Lakeshore cousins. After half a day, I only managed to land a small one.

After that trip, I decided to make my own lures. They have to be loud and their hooks should be huge Definitely either buzzbaits or propbaits. Because we can't source propbait hardware locally, I decided to make my own buzzbaits. I used the heavy wires from old Japanese surf sinkers. I had a few old buzzbait blades and made double bladed buzz baits for that extra noise.  One tip if you decide to build one, make sure the blades are counter-rotating. Don't use blades that rotate on the same direction. For trailer, I used a huge punching jig and attached a soft plastic. For the other one, I attached a 65mm weedless frog so I can cast to heavy vegetation.

The following weekend, I went back to the fishing spot with the new handmade lures. They cast great and they were relatively weedless. The absolute best thing was that they are loud and the tomans love them. After 5 hours of fishing, I managed to hook maybe 8 or 10 fish and landed 4. I wasn't able to catch the 10kg up snakehead but who knows, maybe on my next trip. Until then, I need to make some modifications on my lures. I need stronger hooks, heavier leader, and more practice.