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Bending Branches

What's New for 2009

By Tom Watson

Since so many of us incorporate other outdoor activities with our paddling, its always seems appropriate to look at gear beyond the normal kayak and canoeing stock. With fishing, photography and wildlife viewing being major shared pursuits with paddling, I tend to look in those areas for new products fellow paddlers may want to look at to add to or replace items in their current arsenal of accessories. Here are some that caught my eye recently:

DHxL WaveSpin Reel – I've always had great luck with a spinning reel, paddling or otherwise. It has to spin true, spin smoothly and deliver line without any restrictions. The DHxL Wave Spin features an indented leading edge on the line spool that virtually eliminates line catches or any other kind of "bird nesting" of line. This design also enables you to load the spool fuller that traditional reels. Another benefit – longer casts (WaveSpin claims 30% longer!).

No line tangle and longer casts (because the line leaves the reel more smoothly) means optimum fishing efficiency. In a kayak, everything is crucial to minimum effort and safe handling. This WaveSpin reel worked well and would be a good choice. Classy design, fully featured: 7+1 Stainless ball bearings, Graphite body and Rotor, no tool "Quick-Strip"/split spool.

Northland Fishing Tackle - I’ve got to plug these guys from my home state of Minnesota. Most tackle today is designed to catch fishermen at the counter of the sporting good store. Northland Tackle clearly has a rainbow of selections from which to choose. What I liked about them was the full range of baits for pan fish as well as the larger lake monsters out there.

The names alone make you want to go fishing: Scud Bug Freshwater Shrimp, Mimic Minnow Small Fry Jig and the Rockin' Jungle Jig Shake E Ball! These are among others that make up the full arsenal of lead-headed jigs, worm harnesses and a full line of Slurpie baits. You would not have to carry too many different types of lures from Northland to have a well-rounded supply of lures in your cockpit when kayaking.

Mack's Lures Humm Bait – To be fair and to offer an alternative to carrying several lures, I suggest bringing along a Humm Bait from Mack's. They call their Humm Bait a "hybrid spinner" because it can be used for several different applications from buzz bait to casting to trolling. These multiple presentations, coupled with the vibrations generated by each revolution of the lure means more to attract the keepers. The design of the tail is such that it reduces hook snags.

Frabill Trout/Kayak Net – I'm not used to using a net while kayak fishing. If I were, however, I’d seriously consider the Frabill Trout/Kayak Net. It's rubber mesh seems less damaging to the fish and mostly eliminates that bothersome hooking of the lure into the mesh fibers of the net. The larger 12" x 16" tear drop net comes in either a 6" handle or a 24" handle.

While the long handle acts like a counterweight for balance in the kayak, the 9" x 15" rectangular opening on the trout/kayak net is ideal for scooping your catch right alongside the cockpit. Not compact, but small enough to be stowed on most decks.

SOG Twitch XL Knife – SOG's knives feature a pass-through lockbar that enables the user to open the blade by pushing on a lever-like protrusion that extends from the backside of the handle (called the "kick"). Two opposing, high-tension springs snap the blade securely open – or shut with just the flick of a thumb. An almost too small glide locks the blade in place – cold fingers could have some trouble, but it is a good, solid locking mechanism.

The knife consists of a 3.25" blade on a 4.25" handle weighing in at only 4.2 oz. The blade is very sharp, high quality stainless steel (good for shaving burrs and surface scratch ridges out of rotomolded boats); the handle is graphite. Also features a reversible clip for currency or clipping to your gear.

Zilla-Tool/CRKT I.D. Works - If the Imperial Star Troopers were issued a multi-tool, it would probably look like the Zilla-Tool! One of the latest in the multiple tool field that marries a knife blade and pliers to the same unit, plus a few other items, are the Zilla-Tool and its smaller brother, The Zilla-Tool, Jr. The Junior model duplicates big brother, item for item, only in a slightly smaller version. The big guy has a partially serrated three inch blade, needle-nose/wire cutter, and two screwdriver hex inserts (regular and Phillips) that fit a recess at the end of the knife unit. The unit features the LAWKS system of securing a folding blade into virtually a fixed blade.

I like a multi-tool along whenever using a folding kayak, there’s enough clips and cables and fasteners to break to warrant a carry-along tool that will do the job without taking up a lot of space. The Zilla-Tool is heavy (7+ ounces) but the design assured me that if I had to really ream on a screw or nut, it could handle it. It's blade locking system seems strong and secure. A handy clip is attached to the handle and it comes with a sturdy Cordura belt case. Only two concerns I have are: 1) the tiny glide locks were hard to push with cold fingers, and 2) the screw heads are individual pieces embedded in slot on the side of the handle by pressure – lose 'em and no more screwdriver! Overall, all a serious, stout multi-tool.

Deluxe Bino'Caddy – Someone at Butler Creek knows what its like to have a heavy pair of binoculars hanging from your neck, bouncing against your chest or swinging down into that tide pool as you bend over. Even with an elastic strap, a heavier pair of binoc's or even a camera, can wear one out.

The Bino Caddy is basically an "X" harness that has two clips in front that keep the Binos close to the torso while taking up some of the weight of the unit. Once the binoc's are pulled up for use, the downward pressure makes for a more steady hold while looking through them. I found the harness so comfortable that I wore it into the grocery store after birding one day. It is very flexible and quite handy. I keep it in my outdoor/camera bag and adjust it for either camera or binos.

ThermaCELL Mosquito Repellent - I actually mentioned this product last year (Nov. 2008) when I introduced it as a thermo-activated insect repellent. It dispenses a repellent via wavers impregnated with allethrin (found in Chrysanthemums) and heated using a small butane cartridge.

Besides the standard odorless mosquito repellent, ThermaCELL also offers the repellent with an added "Earth Scent" aroma to help mask the human scent. Ideal for those who want to keep bugs away while in a blind (hunting or photography), the earthy, musky dirt and decaying leaves odor is quite noticeable once the unit is "fired up". I found it to be very realistic, kind of like an old woodpile after a rain.

SURVIVO/Camp Disc – Right up front, this is my personal baby! Remember back to the article (Dec. 2004) where I talked about the multiple uses of a Frisbee' flying disc around camp: cutting board, spaghetti/stew bowl, platform for a small camp stove, etc., etc... I think over a dozen uses were listed. Take that concept and add the following: made from a glow-in-the-dark plastic and imprinted with valuable survival sense tips! How many of you remember the basic ground-to-air signals (i.e. "F" = need food and water, or "X" = unable to proceed). The most common signals are included. Also printed on the survivor disc are the seven basic steps to survival, common first aid treatments and illustrations on how to make a basic shelter.

The whole purpose of the Survivo/CampDisc is to provide you with a multiple camping utility tool that also serves as a "fun-to-carry-along" survival cheat sheet of tips – each very concise, but enough info to tweak your memory. Final designs and information for the disc are being developed for production in early summer. Of course it will make for a great game of catch, too – and should float!
For details on pricing and availability, e-mail:

Always keep in mind a product’s intended use and try out new gear before you actually go out into the wilds to rely on them. Make sure you know how they work – and do work as promised – beforehand. Enjoy and be safe out there!

Tom Watson is an avid sea kayaker and freelance writer.
His latest book, "Kids Gone Paddlin" is available on
He is also the author of "How to Think Like A Survivor"

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