Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hitting for average.......

Spring is a time of year that represents change - old man winter has faded away for most of the country and the signs of new growth have emerged.  Lawn mowers are out in force, flowers are in bloom, and the annual spawning period has begun.  Depending upon your area of the country, the spawn hits at different times for different species.  April also signifies the start of the major league baseball season and for many folks like myself, a time to watch some of your favorite teams and players compete against one another in what is often considered the national past time.

One of the fundamental statistics in baseball for hitters is their batting average.  The batting average is a preliminary indicator of how often a player is likely to get a hit per game.  So, if a hitter has a career average of .333, they are projected to get on average one hit for every three at bats; however, this does not take into account any current hitting streaks or periods where the player is intentionally walked.  For the angler, hitting for average is a concept that is often over looked.  Take a fishing tournament for example, the first goal of each tournament angler is to get a limit, in most cases that means five fish.  If you spend all your time searching for the "big one", you may find yourself in last place with only one fish or worse no fish and possibly out of the tournament or have any chance of placing.

How often as an angler have we spent so much time searching for big fish only to go home empty handed or the memory of "the one that got away"?  My last post spoke about the importance of having a backup plan, and I have seen anglers forget this one simple concept.  I have spent many a day on the water and am fortunate enough to say that I have only had a handful of "no fish" days, and when they did occur, I can reflect back and kick myself for not having a secondary approach or backup plan.  Stubbornness is also a likely factor to be quite honest, because as an angler, you don't like to admit that you were wrong.

Yesterday, I had taken the day off for a scheduled Heroes On the Water event, but it was cancelled at the last minute due to water temperatures being a little colder than expected and not conducive to a comfortable day on the water for our veterans.  So, a few of the Central VA HOW volunteers got together and went fishing anyway at the planned location.  It was a breezy day with air and water temperatures in the low 60's, but the air temperatures crept into the low 70's by mid-afternoon at Bear Creek Lake.  I had planned my outing around one specific type of presentation - soft plastics which at first might seem limited; however, I had my backup plan in place with three different soft plastic bait profiles and associated presentation techniques.

I had read recent reports of fish being caught on a variety of shapes and sizes of lures with the most common being soft plastics.  Bear Creek Lake has plenty of submerged trees and brush, so I opted to leave all of my moving presentations at home.  I rigged up three different rods the night before: first, a finesse presentation on my spinning rod and reel with a Confidence Baits Draggin' Head and Floating Bird rig; second, a heavier casting rig with a dark stick bait and weight; and third, a mid-weight casting rig with a small profile skirted jig and trailer.  I started the day working the heavy cover near the shoreline with no bites initially, but I kept at it switching rods and presentation speeds.

Around 11am, I go my first fish.  It was a spunky little male 13" Largemouth Bass that was snuggled up against the shoreline on the back side of a downed tree laying in the water next to a point.  I had placed the Floating Bird at first on the up current side of the wind blown point to avoid any unnecessary slack in the line.  After 15 minutes of working that tree over pretty good, I made a cast on the backside of the tree into the bank and just hopped the Floating Bird into the static water.  Immediately, the bass hit it and stayed hooked.
At the time, I was using the Mummichog color which is kind of a mocha color with some gold fleck in it.  The water was fairly clear in the shallows, so I opted for the most natural color I had.  I kept working that pattern - shallow calm water on the backside of structure.  I was getting several subtle hits, but very few hooksets.  I had a couple more on the line, but they came unhooked before I could get them to the kayak.  Based upon the time of year, I think the primary spawn window is close, and the bigger females were not shallow yet no hungry today.  All the bass I caught were the smaller males preparing to guard the beds.  I kept working the same pattern the rest of the morning and landed another little male on the same color Floating Bird.
As the day wore on, the bites were becoming fewer and farther between.  I also noticed that the wind had started to stir up some of the sediment along the banks from the wave action slapping the shore.  This action had created some areas where the water had a defined line of clarity next to pockets of cloudy and murky water.  I decided to switch colors to a darker profile and opted for the Blueberry Floating Bird.  Keep in mind that I was also casting the other two presentations throughout the day.  I had even switched to a 3" stick bait in green pumpkin just as a change of pace, but every fish I landed was on the Floating Bird using a subtle hopping motion.

When you are out in nature, you never know what surprises lay before you on the water.  As I was pedaling along the back of Bear Creek near the marsh, I saw some movement in the back of one of the shallow creeks.  The fish was waking the surface pretty good, and I could tell from the size and color that it was a carp.  I made a cast towards the carp just to see what would happen.  I figured a 30" carp on a lightweight finesse spinning comb would be fun.  The wind caught the line a bit creating a bow in the line as it to landed directly across the carp's spine.  The water erupted in a violent explosion as the carp took off like a shot out of a cannon.  Too funny.  I turned around and made my way back into the primary area of the lake and saw another movement that caught my eye only this one was moving with a different purpose........
Now, this little snake was not a threat.  He was 20" in length at best, and he seemed rather intrigued with my Hobie Revolution 13.  I steered clear of him and watched him turn and make his way to shore.  A few more weeks into the spring, and I am quite certain that the little snake may not have made that crossing so easily.  Big Largemouth love snakes.

I kept fishing the areas mentioned earlier and was consistently getting hits with a few landed here and there but never any real size to them.  I had several of the cookie cutter bass to my credit for the day......
....., but the most surprising one of the day was right before I had to call it a day.  I was fishing a small pocket on the shoreline and felt a solid hit.  I set the hook but didn't feel anything.  I was watching my line and noticed that is had moved again.  So I set the hook yet once more but still felt no resistance.  Strange.  Just then the line started moving again.  What was going on here?  Were the fish barely grabbing the tail of the Floating Bird and removing it from the bed maybe?  I know the males do that sometimes just as a means of "housekeeping" and keeping the bed clear.  I made one last hook set attempt and immediately felt resistance, but this fish was fighting harder and more erratic darting from side to side under my Hobie.  I finally get the fish to the surface and into the kayak only to see that it was not a bass.  Rather it was a ...............

....bluegill!!  A bluegill had been the guilty culprit all along.  Too funny!!  Anyway, that fish signified the end of a relatively productive day.

Remember the concept of hitting for average?  Well, today, I had focused on one lure type, but I had varied my lure profile size and presentation all throughout the day.  If you look at my average for the day, I had a total of 7 fish landed (6 bass, 1 bluegill) and 10 misses.  That's an average of 7 for 17 or .412 for you baseball fans.  That's pretty good in my book considering the windy conditions, the time of the year relative to the spawn and how finicky the fish were behaving.  No to mention the fact that I was on the water for a total of 6 hours which translated to a catch rate of greater than one fish per hour.

In the end, the lesson learned here is that we all have float plans and goals when we head out on the water.  The question you need to ask yourself is: Have I given myself the best chance at hitting for average?  Just something to consider the next time you are planning a fishing trip.

Until next time, be safe, tight lines and take a kid and/or a service member fishing!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Importance of a Backup Plan......

Last week, the winds and weather were favorable on my scheduled day off.  I was planning on just heading out for a quick trip for some potential dinner when the opportunity to head over to the Eastern Shore became too tempting to resist.  So, I loaded up the Hobie Revolution 13 the night before and my two primary rods for heavier presentations (ie: that means targeting larger fish), but I also carried my lighter rods in the event that the initial outing didn't pan out as planned.   You see, ever since my outing late in 2011 where I brought home a couple Striped Bass to clean and eat, my son has been on me to bring home dinner every time I head out.  My backup plan was to target Speckled Trout and Flounder later that day at Rudee Inlet in case the big reds weren't around the target area on the Eastern Shore.

I awoke the next morning and helped the family get their day started with some breakfast for my son and some coffee for the wife.  A quick hug and kiss to my son and wife, and I was on my way to the Eastern Shore.  I arrived at the Wise Creek launch a little later than planned, but I knew I was only going to be there for 4-5 hours at most before heading to Rudee Inlet for the second phase of my trip.  I arrived and unloaded all of my gear for the first part of the day and launched into a moderate wind that was blowing at approximately 10 mph out of the north.
The primary target area was the area just inside of the Smith Island shoals.  On days where the wind is really blowing hard and the tide is right, the shoals can be a risky proposition even for the most veteran of kayak anglers.  I erred on the side of caution and remained on the backside of the shoals to reduce the likelihood of any dangerous situations.  The area I launched from at Wise Creek is just north of Fisherman's Island, and it is a protected wildlife preserve that is home to a variety of creatures.  One can see any number of natural inhabitants when you come here.  Whenever I pedal out from here, I always take notice of the scenery that abounds.

I made my way around the northern flats that surround Fisherman's Island and dropped my heavier trolling rig in the water.  I was using a 6'6" custom Star Rod paired to a Shimano Tekota 500.  This rig is geared towards the potential for larger fish like bull reds and big striper but is still sensitive enough to use on smaller species like flounder, sheepshead and tautog.  I have it spooled with 65lb. braid and tipped with a leader of 80lb. monofilament.  I tied on a 3oz. chartreuse bucktail and tipped it with a pearl Marsh Works 4.5" Bayou Thumper.  I figured go big or go home.

While things were a little slow, I figured  I would give a shout out to my fellow kayak angler Rob Choi.  I had noticed his car in the parking lot when I launched, so I figured I had picked a good day to at least be out on the water.  You see Rob is well known in this area as a skilled kayak angler that doesn't have too many days on the water without some form of success.  So I took out my phone and gave him a quick shout.  I left him a voice mail letting him know I was out in the same general vicinity.  I barely had put the phone away, when he called me right back.  He told me that they had been chasing a small group of fish and had landed a few 40"+ striper already but the bite was not a good one yet.  Right at that time my clicker starts screaming at me, so I engaged the lever drag and began to stow my phone back in its protective case.  By the time I had a chance to get a hold of the reel, the fish had gotten off.  Oh well, back to drifting and trolling.

Rob was right - the bite was just off for some reason.  I caught up to Rob and saw that he was with some familiar faces: Kayak Kevin Whitley, Shante, Damien, Lee and fellow TKAA anglers Wayne and Mo.  It was our own little kayak armada and no other boats were anywhere to be seen!!  We all were hunting for the big reds that frequent the shoals - some of them were standing trying to sight the fish, while others were trolling and casting.  The water clarity on the southern side of the island was a little cloudy due to the action of waves and current on the shoals.  Water clarity was at most a foot, so sighting fish would be a challenge to say the least.  When none of us were getting any hits at all, we decided to beach the kayaks on one of the small sandbars created by the shoals and have lunch.
The day wore on and no bites were to be had by anyone, but the time spent on that little sandbar was one I will cherish nonetheless.  My schedule doesn't always allow me to get on the water with Kevin, Rob, Damien, Lee or Shante, so the social aspect of the day was a huge bonus for me being able to hang out with kayak anglers of this caliber.  While we were hanging out, we were milling about on the sandbar and noticed some movement in one of the shallow pools on the front of the bar.  There was a small ray that had become disoriented when it had ventured into the small pool during the ebb tide and became trapped.  We worked our way into the shallow pool and helped guide the small ray out into the main current and swim away unharmed and less stressed.
As the tide began to shift, the consensus was to call it a day and head on back during the incoming tide on the chance that there were incoming fish in the flats and cuts that surround the island.  The wind was dead into our face on the way back, but the Mirage Drive made quick and easy work of it.  Once I made it back to the launch, I loaded up quickly and bid farewell to my friends.  I quickly made my way back across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel towards Rudee Inlet to target dinner.

I launched from the Owl Creek ramp right at 4pm and made my way to the front of Rudee Inlet in hopes of finding some flounder.  I was trolling a Marsh Works 3.5" Bayou Thumper in Morning Glory on a 1/4oz Marsh Works Bull Red jig head and a Killa Squilla in Pearl with a chartreuse tail on the same jig head.  I had no bites on the way out towards the front portion on the inlet to Lake Wesley.  This portion of the inlet is loaded with docks and moorings providing cover for the variety of species that inhabit the inlet.  No less that 10 species can be caught in the inlet as the year progresses.  This time of year is typically a bluefish and speckled trout window; however, the mild winter we experienced have accelerated the normal fishing calendar with croaker, puppy drum (redfish) and flounder already being caught in the inlet.

I pedaled my way up front to target the eddies created by the outgoing current around dock pilings and moorings.  I began by skip casting my lures under the docks and working my lures alongside the dock pilings.  On the second dock I targeted, I had a hard strike that took the Squilla for a quick ride but failed to get a hook set.  It felt like a puppy drum strike, but I think I tried to set the hook too soon before the fish had a chance to inhale the lure completely.   I kept trying the same dock but couldn't get any more hits, so I moved on to the next one.

That was the pattern I believed to have the best chance at success for the time being, so I kept at it but couldn't get any more hits.  Was my pattern wrong?  I pedaled back to the previous dock and noticed a subtle the difference I may have overlooked.  The first dock had a longer main dock that led out to a larger perpendicular dock landing creating a larger area of cover with more pilings.  The second dock I had targeted was not only shorter in length from the shore but also had a small floating dock at the end creating only surface cover but no pilings to provide cover under the water.

I pedaled around looking for docks similar to the first one and found another one farther back.  While making my way over to the dock, a family was fishing out of a boat in the center of the channel.  They were amazed at the ease in which I moved about in my Hobie, so I stowed my rods and made my way over to their boat.  I spent a couple minutes showing them the concept of the Mirage Drive and how easy it is to maneuver when used with the Twist and Stow rudder.  After the quick info session and chat, I made my way back over to the dock and promptly landed a nice 16" bluefish.  It was fun listening to the little kids on the boat squeal with joy.
I knew from our discussion during the impromptu Hobie demo and tutorial that they were fishing for dinner, so I offered up my catch to them.  They declined, so I pedaled over to let the kids watch the bluefish swim away unharmed.  I said my goodbyes and pedaled further back into the cove and saw someone fishing off their docked boat.  I noticed that they were using a lightweight swimbait that didn't have any action to it at all, so I offered up a few of my Marsh Works items as a sign of goodwill.  During our chat, I learned that they had just moved there from up north and had just picked up the "fishing fever".  I pedaled up to their boat and came alongside.  I gave them 4 of my Bayou Thumpers one each in Tequila Sunrise, Smoke, Voodoo Brew and Shrimp.  I also gave them a couple bull red jig heads, one in copper and one in white.

By this time, the sun was going down and no candidate for dinner had been landed, so I headed back towards the main launch to target some speckled trout or flounder.  I was working some submerged structure and getting some strikes, but I knew they were bluefish and was not too interested in that species for dinner, so I didn't set the hook.  I decided to change tactics at this point and tied on a Mirrolure in Hot Pink.  I had only been working it for a minute with a twitch twitch pause technique when I felt a strong pull on the rod and could quickly tell that it was not a bluefish.  This fish fought strongly on my lighter tackle and was very stubborn in not wanting to surface.  A quick 30-40 second fight resulted in something finally to take home for dinner - a nice 18.25" Speckled Trout!
It was now dark, and I knew my day was at an end.  I made my way back over to the launch and packed things up to head back home.  I sent my wife a quick photo from my phone and let her know that the trip was a success.  My son made sure to tell me the next morning how happy he was that I caught some dinner for us.  While I was glad to bring home some dinner, I typically only bring home a fish or two every couple of months.  I am a huge believer in catch and release and the preservation of the Chesapeake Bay fishery.

All in all a successful day, but it would not have been so had I not had a backup plan.  The other key to a backup plan is to always communicate with others prior to your departure about where your next location is going to be.  I had told my wife beforehand about my plans, but I sent her an updated text message as I was headed that way.  I also mentioned it to Wayne and the others at Fisherman's Island as I was leaving, too.  This way, I knew several folks knew not only where I was going, but also when I was heading in that general direction.  This may seem overcautious to some, but having a current float plan and sharing it with others is the key to keeping tabs on your whereabouts in the event that something happens and delays yours return home.

Until next time, tight lines, be safe out there and give something back to others by taking a kid fishing or saying thanks to a service member for all that they do.

Monday, April 16, 2012

This is HOW I say thanks.......

In the past, I have been blessed with many new opportunities both in business and in my personal life.  I cherish the work that I have done and currently do on a daily basis, but I often find myself getting anxious to get home and spend time with my son.  You see, he is growing up before my eyes, albeit too quickly for my tastes, but nonetheless, it is happening.  I wasn't blessed with a spoiled childhood, but I wasn't deprived either.  My parents did what they could to provide for my sister and I, and I am thankful for it.  I pride myself on trying to teach my son what it means to give thanks and show appreciation towards others.

I truly wish there were more hours in the day, because I constantly find myself wanting to do more......more for my family, more for my friends and most recently more for HOW.  That's Heroes On the Water for those of you that have never heard of it.  HOW is an non-profit organization founded by Jim Dolan in Texas and goes to great lengths to show appreciation and gratitude for the sacrifices and loyal service our military service members have made.  As a former service member myself, I know of the pains and struggles of being separated from your family and friends unexpectedly due to a deployment.  I know of the challenges faced abroad when you are sent into a foreign country in the spirit of protecting the premise of human rights.  I too know what its like to fear for one's safety during a time of conflict.

For many service members, their service to our country is often uneventful.  They never have to see the effects of war or conflict and are considered by many fortunate and lucky.  For those that have served in times of strife and conflict, it does not always end without some form of change in their life.  Some of these changes are physical but often times, the most treacherous and harmful changes are those that affect the mind and spirit of the fighting soldier.  Too the untrained eye, it is often mistakenly assumed that these service members that walk amongst us on a daily basis are living normal lives just like the rest of the public.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  You see, we as the public are spared the psychological trauma and effects the events experienced abroad can have on the mind and spirit.  Many of these service members returning stateside are often in need of an escape or a means to soothe the troubles they experienced while serving in the interest of democracy and protecting the personal freedoms of others.  This is where Heroes On the Water has made its stand......on the battlefield in defense and support of the service member's mind and soul.  It is a tricky landscape thwarted with hidden landmines and obstacles to overcome, yet the individuals that represent HOW stand firm and resolute in their commitment to honoring our service members and giving back to them.

I have been fortunate enough to work with two different HOW Chapters here in Virginia, the Tidewater and the Central Virginia groups.  I am primarily affiliated with the Central VA Chapter; however, when my schedule permits, I make every effort to contribute to the Tidewater Chapter as well.  In the past three years, I have have the pleasure of being involved with fund raisers, hands-on demonstrations, benefit tournaments, outdoor sports expos and daily events on the water.  While the various events are always beneficial and ultimately raise awareness about HOW, it is the time on the water with our service members that I find to be the most fulfilling.

2012 marks an aggressive schedule for both chapters I volunteer with.  The Central VA Chapter has 2 outings a month planned for the service members in the Richmond and surrounding tri-cities area, while the Tidewater Chapter is also planning a similar schedule in the Chesapeake peninsula area here in VA.  The first on the water event of the 2012 year was held this past weekend at Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach, VA.

A good friend and fellow kayak angler Cory Routh of Ruthless Outdoor Adventures was able to capture some great footage of the outing as well.  We were blessed with a mild day albeit with windy conditions, but the day was a success on many levels.  We were able to have a safe and fun outing on the water.  We were able to lead the service members to the right areas and they caught several fish.  We also succeeded in having family members of the service members on the water at the same time and getting them involved in the catching of fish as well.

It was a successful day by all accounts and one that I will not soon forget.  While I wasn't able to spend that time on the water with my family due to my son's baseball schedule, I did share the experience with them through the photos I was able to capture and the details of the day later that evening.  I try to help my son understand why this is so important not only to me, but to the service members that I shared the water with today.

You see, the youth of today often latch on to names like Kobe, D-Wade, Lebron, Dale Jr., and the like due to media and various forms of social exposure.  These kids grow up thinking that these names are someone they should look to as a hero and having an impact on their lives.  Not to take away anything from that high school teacher that impacted your life, or the next door neighbor that cared for you during times of strife and struggle.  Rather, I hope that one day my son will look back at all the things I have done and might possibly view me as one in some form.  In the end, I hope he can look past all of that and see that the true heroes of our time are the men and women that serve in the defense of their country on a daily basis around the world, so that we can have the luxury of having a day to share with one another.

To them, I say thank you.  You are my hero!

Friday, April 6, 2012

My First Outing as a Hobie Fishing Team Member

You read that right.  I have been given the opportunity to represent the Hobie Fishing Team as the Local Pro for Central Virginia.  The folks at Appomattox River Company were very supportive in this endeavor and were it not for them, I am not sure that this could have ever been possible.  My heartfelt thanks go out to Vic Sorenson and the whole ARC crew for backing me on this one.  As a way to celebrate this recent opportunity, I met up with another fellow Hobie owner, Joe Underwood, and decided to go fishing at Rudee Inlet.

The original plan was to head to the Eastern Shore and scout out some new fishing spots and chase after that ever elusive bull red I have been longing for.  When we crossed the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel complex, the waves were cresting at 7-8' with severe chop and whitecaps with winds were gusting out of the north at nearly 30 mph - not the conditions you want to see when planning an outing on the Eastern Shore.  So I erred on the side of caution and opted to launch at Rudee Inlet which is somewhat more protected.
We launched at 10:30am with air temps around 52 degrees and made our way around the grass islands towards the front of Rudee Inlet to look for some flounder.  Along the way, we stuck close to the western side of the inlet to cut down on the wind across the bows of our Hobies.  We made it to the inlet and dropped our lines in the water and started hunting for the flatties.  I was using a Marsh Works Killa Squilla in Pearl with a Chartreuse Tail on a 1/4oz Copper Bull Red Jig head and Joe was using a shad shaped soft plastic, which I believe was a Bass Assassin, in white as well.

Joe missed a couple hits in the heart of the inlet, but I decided to move down further into the front main cove.  The winds weren't as bad in the front cove, so we were able to vertical jig our presentations while drifting along broadside to the wind very slowly.  I struck first with a smallish flounder that measured in at 16 1/4".
We didn't find another fish in the front cove, so we made our way back towards the main inlet and the grass islands.  We fished all types of structure along the way - docks, mooring poles, bridge pylons, rock jetties, and drop offs......nary a bite was to be found.  So we decided to head back towards the launch and try for some Bluefish and Speckled Trout.  Along the way, an Osprey took interest in me while I was peddling and casting and just sat there perched in the tree squawking and watching me.

Joe had a couple more strikes but no hook ups and decided to call it a day earlier than planned in hopes of getting out on Saturday.  I bid him adieu and wished him safe travels. It was close to 3pm, but I decided to hang around for a tad longer.  I watched the various signs of life that abounds in Rudee Inlet.  All forms of aviary species inhabit the area, including White Egrets, Blue Herons, Canadian Geese, Ospreys, Cormorants, Seagulls and of course Mallards.
Like I said before, I decided to hang out a bit longer.  I'm glad I did, because the bite suddenly turned on for me.  First, I hooked into a bluefish that measured in at 14".
A few minutes later, I hook into something that fights a little stronger - a 19 1/4" Speckled Trout that apparently had escaped with its life from the clutches of an Osprey previously.  I saw distinct sets of talon marks in two separate locations on the right side of his body.
A few casts later and another bluefish at 14 1/4", followed by another at 14 1/2" and another at 13 1/4".  I decided to head in a for a brief moment to take a bathroom break and to eat half of the sandwich I had packed.  I weighed my options at that point - it was 3:30pm and I could either stay out a little longer or I could pack it in and head home.  I decided to tough it out a little longer in the stiff wind, but I was only able to manage one more bluefish.  It measured in at 14 1/2".
The lure of the day was Marsh Works in spades and the jig of choice was the 1/4oz Bull Red Jig Head.  I tried a couple other presenations with a MirroMullet but had not luck.  As mentioned earlier, the flounder was landed on the Killa Squilla in Pearl with a Chartreuse Tail, while all of the Bluefish and the lone Speckled Trout were landed on the Bayou Thumper in Morning Glory and White.
Speckled Trout and Flounder both have teeth, but normally do not tear through too many of my Marsh Works lures, but Bluefish on the other hand are known as "Chompers" for good reason.
For the five Bluefish I caught, I went through four thumpers - 3 of the Morning Glory and 1 Pearl.  You can see the remainder of the carnage above that those little toothy critters inflicted.  By this point it was 5:30pm, and I was getting a little tired from battling the wind all day.  I decided to call it a day and head on in.

While the day itself was not a huge success in numbers for the 7 hours spent on the water, I did manage to catch some fish and had fun with a friend.  All fish were released unharmed and swam away healthy.  All in all, I think it was a great way to christen my first day on the water as a member of the Hobie Fishing Team.  I look forward to sharing my experiences on the water and my involvement with Heroes On the Water with you all as time rolls on.

Thanks again to the folks from Hobie for making this dream a reality, and to Vic and the crew at Appomattox River Company for supporting me in this endeavor.

As always, be safe out there, leave the water cleaner than when you launched, and take a kid fishing.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Part 1: I gotta have more power...... I rewired it!!  Sorry - had to channel my inner Tim Allen and Christopher Walken's SNL skit there for a moment.  But I digress........

Several of my friends have been anxiously awaiting my next modification to the Hobie Revolution 13.  When people heard that I was taking a different approach to powering my fish finder, they were intrigued to say the least.  Before I get into the details of the modification I performed this past weekend, there are a few key factors that must be understood for why I opted for the method I did.

First, I do not have the Hobie First Aid kit gear bucket accessory that many stow in the rear hatch.  Second, I do not use the rear hatch for any storage other than potentially a small dry bag while on the water.  Third, I was determined to use as many Hobie products as possible yet still educate others on how this install could still apply using the same concepts with other materials and kayaks if they so choose.  Fourth, I was determined to keep the installation as waterproof as possible, having had to replace too many corroded connectors in my last kayak due to saltwater corrosion.  Fifth, the battery box would need to be secured and not move around while either on the water or during transport yet still afford removal of the battery for charging when necessary or during transport.  Try lifting a kayak solo with the extra weight of a 12v battery and you'll quickly understand my reasoning.

Understanding these factors will help you understand the method to my madness, and with that said, the first part of my fish finder installation began..........

Phase 1: Power

The parts I used were:

1 - Hobie Full Size Fish Finder kit (not all the pieces will be used in this part of the install)
1 - Hobie Deep Gear Bucket
1 - small piece of STS or other gasket-like material (2-3" piece will suffice)
1 - Liquid Tight wire fitting (wire size .08-.24)
1 - Dremel tool with a cutting bit
For those new to the Hobie accessory line, the Hobie Full Size Fish Finder kit (Part # 72020039) includes a sealed 12v battery with an integrated waterproof power connector already silicone sealed to the battery.  The accompanying charger has a receptacle that plugs right into the battery making charging very easy.  For this installation, I only used the foam battery block, the wiring harness and the battery.  The rest of the pieces will be utilized when I install the fish finder.  One important note about the foam battery block - the block is designed to be snug fit for the battery to sit in.  For my installation to work; however, the foam block will be have the outer edges trimmed and inner opening enlarged and not adhered to the hull of the kayak.

First, I removed the lid from the Hobie Deep Gear Bucket (Part# 74704021) and placed the foam block gently on the top of the gear bucket so as to not disfigure the bucket sides and cause an inaccurate sight line for the trimming I was about to perform.  I used a regular ball point pen and started with the closest corner to mark where I needed to trim.  My plan was to install the foam block in such a manner to not only allow the battery to sit upright to further reduce the chances of water corrosion from any potential standing water in the bucket, but also to make connecting and disconnecting the battery easier for when it was time to recharge it. The key here is to use some form of power cutting tool or rough sand paper to remove the excess foam but only a little at a time.  Once the foam is removed there is no re-adhering it back.
Your goal is to have the foam block slide into the gear bucket but not push the sides out.  In order to do this properly, you have to taper the lower portion of the outside walls of the foam block as well, since the gear bucket tapers.  If you don't, the foam block will not fit, prevents a watertight seal of the lid ultimately causing the bucket to widen and disfigure and preventing proper closure and sealing of the Hobie hatch.  The last part of modifying the foam block is to enlarge the inner cutout slightly.

If you insert the battery into the foam block prior to enlarging the cutout, you will again cause the bucket to deform and not fit inside the hatch opening cleanly.  I only removed approximately an 1/8" of the inner cutout along the lower and side edges.  Once the additional trimming is done, the battery should slide freely in and out of the foam block, and the block itself will most likely move freely inside the gear bucket.
The next step is to make a small hole in the scalloped cutout on the gear bucket.  Using the same Dremel cutting bit, you can push it right through the plastic wall of the gear bucket and begin to enlarge the hole with small circular motions.  Remember, your goal here is to make the hole large enough to accept the liquid tight fitting but not large enough for it to slide freely in and out.  When the cutout is just barely large enough to fit the end of the fitting but not pass through, stop your cutting and thread the liquid tight fitting into the gear bucket from the outside in.  The threads on the fitting increase the waterproof functionality I was adamant about retaining.  Once it is installed, I cutout a small hole in my piece of STS to act as a washer/waterproof barrier to fit around the fitting on the inside of the gear bucket, yet still remain snug.  The reason I opted for the STS is that is has a tacky backing and adheres  to almost any surface.  Once I had the sizing correct, I removed the backing on the STS and placed it over the fitting and adhered it to the inner wall of the gear bucket.  I then installed the inner locking nut of the fitting and tightened it down to create a secondary water tight barrier.
With the inner portion completed, I then installed the outer water tight top nut to test it.  When I install the wiring for the fish finder, I will add a small dollop of Lexel inside the fitting for the final waterproof step but for now, the opening was left unsealed for demonstration purposes.
I then re-inserted the battery, slid the foam block in place, inserted the wiring harness through the fitting to test out all of the pieces.....(NOTE: do not connect the harness to the battery - it is LIVE and can be an electrical shock hazard.  The image below does not have the harness fully connected).
The wire harness shown above is the two wire connector provided in the Hobie Full Size Fish Finder kit that marries to the battery harness clip as shown above.  This is the power wire that I will be connecting to the fish finder power cable provided with any fish finder package you purchase.  The final product of all this work took a mere 30 minutes total time and now provides me with the ability to have power on the water for my fish finder, remain virtually waterproof and have the battery be fully removable to recharge yet secure while on the water or during transport.  One final note on the power - an inline fuse will be installed inside the gear bucket when I make the final connections, but it was not installed at this time.

While some may not prefer the permanent fixture of the gear bucket, the weight is minimal at best, since the battery will be removed and installed when needed and not transported in the hatch.  Doing so might result in loosening the gear bucket lid and allowing water in which is the next to last piece of the waterproofing puzzle, the last piece being the hatch itself on the Hobie.
I hope you find this installation helpful and possibly inspire you to think outside the box the next time you are looking to add power to your respective kayak.  The next phase of this project is the installation of the fish finder.

Until next time - tight lines, be safe, take a kid fishing and thank any service member you come in contact with for the protection of your freedoms they provide.