Gear Review: Academy Frog Rod & Reel Combo

Academy Frog Rod & Reel Combo

Recognizing that novice anglers often struggle with matching the right rod, reel and line to their desired technique, Academy set out to provide a total package option that’s ready to fish right off the rack. First in what is planned to be a series of technique-specific combos is the H2O XPRESS Frog Rod and Reel Combo. Matching a 7-foot medium-heavy rod with a graphite reel pre-spooled with braided line this package also includes a couple of starter baits.

The one-piece rod features a blank-through handle reel seat and split EVA grips to keep hands secure. The four-ball-bearing reel with aluminum spool delivers smooth retrieval, while the magnetic braking system keeps you in control. Packaged with the combo are two frog: A 5 1/2-inch, 1/2-ounce hollow-body frog with a silicon skirt and 6/0 Mustad double hook and a 4-inch, 3/8-ounce hollow-body popping frog with a silicon skirt and 2/0 Mustad double hook.



I actually held this rod and reel combo during the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo in Knoxville, and while I can’t say I’ve fished it, I will say that Academy had packed a lot of product into a surprisingly low price point. Entry level? Yeah, maybe it is, but this outfit will put the right type of tool in the hands of anglers who can build their skill sets and advance their fishing game. When budgets allow the next level of tackle, having the right reference, thanks to a well-conceived combo, will guide those purchases.

Evoke’s Sequoia 120 Standup Fishing Kayak Review

Daylight savings time sucks. Every fall, just as speckled trout fishing gets good, for some ancient reason, I’m ordered to cut an hour off my after-work fishing time. This fall, I had a plan to add an hour back to my day.

Instead of rushing home after work and loading my gear, I decided to pack the night before and hit a spot closer to work.

The only problem is this spot is not close to the parking lot, requiring me to cart my kayak a couple hundred yards to the water.

Evoke’s Sequoia 120 Standup Hybrid
The plan required cutting down on gear and rigging to save weight and time. To pull it off, I would stuff the kayak with rods, tackle, paddle and PFD. Water bottles, a ham sandwich and a handful of granola bars were packed in a rucksack.

For this excellent adventure, I would need a time machine to travel one hour back into the past. I found the perfect platform at last summer’s Paddlesports Retailer trade show in Oklahoma City.

Evoke’s Sequoia 120 Hybrid Specs
LENGTH: 12’6″
WIDTH: 35.6″
WEIGHT: 94 lbs
CAPACITY: 500 lbs

In 2017, two giants in the plastic molding world, KL Outdoor and GSC Technologies, combined to make Hemisphere Design Works. Hemisphere says the merger creates the world’s largest kayak manufacturer; the company estimates it controls one third of the market.

Wes Mooney, vice president of sales explained to me, “The combined entity is the only kayak company who can make twin-sheet thermoformed, blow molded and rotomolded kayaks.”

Putting out a half-million kayaks a year also allows Hemisphere to cover the gambit from recreational sit-insides to pimped-out fishing kayaks.

Secure the rod horizontally with fold-down c-clamps. The Sequoia 120’s seat is light and easy to move between four positions.

Evoke is their premium line and the Sequoia 120 represents their first stand-up hybrid. “Our pro staff loves the stability and abundant storage,” Mooney added. I was all about the storage.

I took my first ride on the Sequoia at PSR demo day on a windy and choppy section of the Oklahoma River. A quick spin in snotty conditions planted a seed in my mind—I knew a perfect place to use this new kayak.


A few months later, Evoke delivered a camo green Sequoia 120 to the Kayak Angler man cave. When the days started getting shorter and the speckled trout and striped bass moved into my favorite fishing hole, I put the stand-up stand out into rotation.

Evoke’s line-up consists of nine boats. A 10- and 12-foot sit-inside, a recreational sit-on-top and fishing sit-on-top in two sizes, and the Sequoia, a hybrid paddleboard and kayak. With the do-it-all design covered in Evoke’s other eight boats, the Sequoia is a niche boat aimed at stand-up, skinny water anglers.

Horizontal rod holders keep my sticks out of the trees. A mesh cover and bungees secure gear in the bow. Photos: Roberto Westbrook
The boat features an open deck from stern to bow for maximum fishing room. I can move fore or aft to fight a fish or reach gear without a wobble. Ridges and grooves make the deck sturdy for stand-up fishing. They even included a handy stand-up assist strap with fish ruler.

The open design also allows anglers to pile the boat with gear, coolers and crates. A 500-pound capacity provides plenty of flotation to take everything and the kitchen sink. A mesh gear cover in the stern and crisscrossed bungees in the bow make it easy to add gear and keep it in reach. By stuffing a drybag with warm clothes under the bow bungees and sliding my tackle box and rucksack in the stern, I avoided taking a crate, saving one more step in rigging the boat.


Even though the Sequoia can carry it all, I appreciate the boat for minimalist, quick trips off the beaten path. Design features like rod tip protectors in the bow are perfect for paddling deep into the brush. I was able to lay my rods on the deck, with the reels under the seat, for low-profile performance.

The Sequoia’s mesh-covered frame seat can be moved from high to low position, folded out of the way or removed to turn the kayak into a SUP. With the seat removed, the space fits a cooler for dry storage and an elevated casting platform.

Flush mount rod holders behind the seat are convenient for storing rods and set at an angle for trolling. Gear tracks on the gunwales at mid-ship and in the stern allow anglers to customize the design with rod holders and other accessories.

Photos: Roberto Westbrook
Bungees in the stern secure gear above deck while a square hatch offers access to below-deck storage. Photos: Roberto Westbrook
The hull is designed for standup fishing, too. A virtually flat keel with a ridge running down the outer edge is rock solid when standing. The unique design improves tracking without hindering maneuverability. The boat is fast on the straightaways and quick in the turns, whether I was paddling from the seat or standing up.

The smart design, with easy-access hatches in the bow and stern, makes it possible to pack my gear in the boat so I’m ready to hit the water at a moment’s notice. I could leave my paddle, PFD, rods and tackle boxes in the boat and out of the elements.

The Sequoia shined in the backwaters where I do more fishing than paddling. Keeping gear below deck allowed me to drag the kayak through the sticks and lower it down steep embankments.


With any new design, there will be growing pains. The flat deck never seemed to drain completely, so puddles form in the bow and stern. The seat is comfortable and light, but a little sparse for all-day sitting. Fold-down clips on either side of the seat are convenient for holding paddles or fishing rods lying on the deck, but the plastic clips require two hands to use.

I found myself grabbing the Sequoia when I was heading to out-of-the-way destinations or carting through my neighborhood to the local bass pond. The user-friendly layout and easy stability and handling make the Sequoia a great choice for new paddlers, it’s the first boat I grab when inviting a guest on one of my backwater adventures. I’ve also found the standup hybrid a perfect addition to the fleet for a grab-and-go boat with minimalist rigging and an open design adding hours to my fishing schedule.

Mustad KVD Grip-Pin Soft Plastic Hook Review

By Walker Smith

I’ll readily admit that bass fishing hooks aren’t the most exciting thing to read about, but I couldn’t help but spread the word about this specific hook. I’ve had an opportunity to test this hook for several months and I’ve put it through just about everything you could imagine. After countless fish catches and lots of casts, pitches and flips, I can confidently say that this is one of the best soft-plastic hooks I’ve tested in many years.

I’ll quickly take you through its most noteworthy characteristics.


Perhaps the most frustrating issue when I’m choosing a Texas rig hook has been hook diameter. The thin hooks have great hook penetration on longer hooksets but the heavy gauge hooks require more force to penetrate the fish’s mouth. It has always kind of left me in a weird conundrum. Do I want to sacrifice distance on my hookset or risk flexing or bending a hook during a close-quarters hookset?

The Mustad KVD Grip-Pin Soft Plastic Hook gives me the best of both worlds, in my opinion. It’s diameter is exactly what I look for and it allows me to use it in any situation, really. I’ve used this hook casting to deep brush, pitching to shallow cover, skipping docks and fishing big worms offshore. No matter the distance from my rod tip to the hook, I have enjoyed an outstanding hookup ratio.


I’ve messed around with similar-type designs in the past, but had a real problem with the keeper tearing the heads of my baits while rigging them. If you notice in this photo, however, the Mustad KVD Grip-Pin Soft Plastic Hook is angled appropriately so it keeps your bait completely intact throughout the rigging process. The hole is no bigger than what a traditional hook would make.


Although this is a heavier-wire hook than many hooks, it has a slimmer, chemically sharpened hook point that aides in quick and efficient penetration on the hookset. And before the question pops into your mind, no; I have never had a single point roll over on me while testing these hooks.

While I’ve primarily used this hook for shallow-water pitching, flipping and casting, I’ve also tested it with several other techniques. It works extremely well for soft jerkbaits and floating worms and has a big enough bite to handle big, bulky plastics quite easily.


Your bait will stay in place with this hook and you will save money. Even better, you’ll never sacrifice your hookup ratio because it cracks ’em on every hookset. It took me a while to try these, but I wish I would have been using them long ago. If you haven’t tried ’em out, I strongly suggest doing so.

Top 5 Tackle Storage And Gear Crates For Kayak Fishing

By Ric Burnley

As ubiquitous as paddles and PFDs, the kayak crate is an essential tool for storing gear and holding rods. Snatching a milk crate from behind the local convenience store used to be a rite of passage for newbies. Today, purpose-built storage systems add accessories and dry storage to the concept. From classic to crazy, the latest generation of crates offer options for every angler.

The Best Tackle Storage And Gear Crates For Kayak Fishing
1) Plano V-Crate
$99.99 |

Completely out of this world, Plano’s V-Crate offers a courageous solution for tackle and gear storage. The lower compartment of the V-Crate is waterproof to hold keys, smartphone and other dry gear. The large top section is open for rain jacket, leader, water bottles and other big stuff. Each side of the Plano V-Crate holds two utility boxes angled so they are easy to reach without turning completely around.

The V-Crate is heavy and bulky, but a handle on top makes it easy to carry. Gear tracks on the sides of the V-Crate will hold rod holders and other accessories, but we’d love to see the V-Crate rigged with vertical rod tubes. Plano’s first entry into storage solutions for kayaks anglers looks out of this world, but its design is down to earth.

2) Hobie H-Crate
$142 |

Completely out of the box, the H-Crate puts Hobie’s unique spin on the kayak crate. A rod holder is integrated into each corner of the crate. The crate walls are pre-drilled for accessories. Hobie’s 12-sided H-Rails serve as carry handles and provide a solid base for rod holders and other matching accessories. Best of all, the crate is easy to collapse and store.

[ Also read: Hobie H-Crate Jr. First Look ]

Grommets on the corners are designed to latch to Hobie’s tie downs, but they also hold a bungee to fit in any kayak. We choose the smaller Hobie H-Crate Jr. for standup paddleboards and compact kayaks.

3) Wilderness Systems Kayak Krate
$149 |

The Louis Vuitton of fishing crates, Wilderness Systems’ Kayak Krate features a larger, lower compartment for big items and a smaller, upper compartment for stuff you need to quickly access. The smaller top compartment is covered with a clear, water-resistant lid. The large, lower compartment is blow molded, like a Tupperwear container, and seals to keep tackle and gear out of the elements.

The Kayak Krate comes with four rod holders, but they can only be installed on the sides of the crate. Wilderness Systems includes a bracket allowing the Krate to fit smaller tankwells. If you need to keep your gear cool and dry, the Kayak Krate offers the most protection.

4) YakAttack BlackPak
$130 |

I scream, you scream, we all scream for the best gear out there. | Photo: Ric Burnley
One of the first purpose-built storage systems, YakAttack’s BlackPak was designed to solve the short comings of the classic milk crate. Built of indestructible solid plastic panels, the walls are predrilled to accept rod holders and other accessories.

The BlackPak includes three rod holders, but more rod holders can be added in dozens of positions. The top rail is predrilled to accept YakAttack gear tracks; it’s easy to add mounts and holders from other companies. Tie-downs on the crate coincide with factory rigged bungees on most kayaks. We’ve been using the BlackPak in the above photo for years with little signs of wear and tear.

5) YakGear Kayak Angler Kit In Crate
$69.99 |

This is the classic kit to get an angler started. A 13-by-13-inch milk crate fits in any tankwell and easily fits in the back of the truck and the garage. YakGear throws in a grapple anchor, rope and cleat. They add two rod leashes, an accessory pouch and two vertical rod holders. They threw in a lip gripper to land your first fish.

The YakGear crate is one of the lightest options for storage, but the open design exposes gear to the elements. YakGear offers the Cratewell, a bag fitting in the crate for dry storage or an aerated live well. Customize the crate by cutting the sides or attaching accessories.

Gear Review: Costa Performance Frame

Costa Performance Frame

Costa’s water-inspired creativity has spawned a quartet of new frame styles. Named for the powerful and majestic swordfish, the Broadbill features a sculpted large wrap and nonslip vented nose pads. Channeling Costa Rican fishing heritage, the Tico sports a sculpted large wrap, while the the Spearo honors spear-fisherman with a sleek, stylish design. Both include vented nonslip nose pads Costa’s integral hinge and CAM system for smooth and assisted temple action.

Made of lightweight, sturdy bio-resin, each new frame includes retainer-ready temple tips. All styles are paired with Costa’s patented color-enhancing 580 lens technology in both Lightwave glass and impact-resistant polycarbonate. Reducing glare and eye fatigue, Costa lenses provide 100 percent UV protection and polarization and selectively filters out harsh yellow light for superior contrast and definition while absorbing high-energy blue light to cut haze and enhance sharpness.

$189 to $269


Costa does well to serve all anglers with several styles boasting unisex appeal. However, it’s cool to see the Performance line including the WaterWoman style that my wife would appreciate. This style features angled temples and seamlessly integrated Hydrolite accents with four new frame colors – matte shadow tortoise, shiny palm tortoise, shiny wahoo and shiny blond crystal. Clear vision is essential to success on the water, but Costa also ensures helps you look good and feel comfortable doing so.

Review: Simms Vapor Elite Jacket and Pants

Compact, lightweight rain gear for rains that come fast and hot, linger and steep

by Shane Townsend

We get two rainy seasons in Kenya each year, but we never know when they’ll come – or how long they’ll stay. Sometimes the rain blasts in hard and fast. Other times it crawls in, lingers, and leaves everything living to steep in the brew. So whether I’m fishing or walking to work, I need rain gear. Most won’t do because it’s heavy and it’s hot. Neither is acceptable.

Over the past few months, I’ve run the Simms’ Vapor Elite Jacket and Pants. I carried the kit around in my backpack for several weeks waiting for the rainy season to kickoff. Since the storms have come I’ve relied on it everyday on my 3-mile round trip walking commutes. I’ve also fished it in an equatorial deluge and in a London downpour and hailstorm. And, more than once, I’ve sported the jacket at the office – just because. Here’s what I’ve sorted out.

It keeps the rain out
Job one of a slicker is to keep the rain away. And, the Elite pants and jacket are as waterproof as any rain gear I’ve owned. This is largely thanks to the Toray® fabric, which was developed specifically for fishing waders and does a hell of a job in this kit. The customizable hood and the adjustable cuffs on the pants and jacket pair with the waterproof zippers to make the most of the fabric’s potential.

No doubt: It’s dry.

It helps keep the sweat away
If wet from rain or wet from sweat are the options – I’ll take the clean one every time. I grew up south of Interstate 10 back when outdoor gear came from the Army-Navy surplus store; so one-man-sauna slicker suits didn’t make much sense from April to November. And that was a long time to stay wet.

Simms finally bringing wet wading boots, loads more, to market
Fortunately, Simm’s has provided a better option for hot air anglers. Thanks to the venting system and the microporous waterproof fabric, the Vapor Elite Jacket and Pants breathe better than other raingear I’ve tried. I walk a mile and a half to work every day, and I’m dry when I get there. This was a surprise on the first day. And, it’s been welcome each day since.

It packs up light and tight
A tool is only worth a damn if you can get to it when you need it. This kit is light and it packs up nice and tight. So, I’m able to keep it in my backpack each day and on every trip into the bush or to the water. This is also now my go-to raingear for domestic and international travel.

It’s slick enough for the office
On more than one occasion, I’ve stepped out of the rain and into the office, popped off the slicker pants, and rocked the jacket for the rest of the morning. Why? It’s comfortable, it looks good, and it reminds me and everyone else that we should all go back outside where we all belong.

Some other thoughtful design elements
The jacket’s two big external pockets and an internal pocket come in handy for wallets, phones, and whatever else needs to be tucked away.

As for the pants, a number of small features bring big conveniences. The gusseted crotch is roomy, so the pants are comfortable and allow a more natural range of motion when walking and climbing. The fly unsnaps and zips, which is a relief. The side zips are big enough to give easy access to the pant pockets underneath.

These are not complaints, but nothing is perfect.

A cinch at the waist
The elastic waist does a good job in normal circumstances and light use, but on long walks you really need a belt. The pants also have a belt loop, which it helpful. But, if I had my druthers, the pants would incorporate a cinching mechanism to tighten the waist without a belt.

Fatter ankles please
Even though the slicker is breathable, it’s still a slicker and I only wear it when it rains. The legs are plenty fat to get over most footwear quickly, but it takes a little work to slide the pants legs over my duck boots. To be fair, only flared bell-bottoms would be able to slide over those boots without coercion – and the demand probably doesn’t warrant such a change.

This is as good a set of rain gear as I’ve owned. And, it’s the best I’ve seen for warm weather. So, if you fish warm days or hot places, the Simms’ Vapor Elite Jacket and Pants are worth a look. Likewise, if you either travel to fish or try to sneak in a little fishing on your business trips, the Vapor kit is a good, packable option. The jacket comes in at $280 and the pants at $200 – below many comps on the market.

Berkley’s PowerBait Power Lizard

Ned Kehde

A watermelon/chartreuse Power Lizard affixed to a red 1/32-ounce mushroom-style jig.
A four-inch soft-plastic lizard has been a potent springtime tool in the repertoire of some Midwest finesse anglers for many years.

Thus, when Berkley introduced 44 new and modernized PowerBaits to the angling world at the 2018 International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades show on July 10, it caught the eyes of several of these lizard devotees. And one of these anglers, who is a contributor to the Finesse News Network, suggested that we should publish a gear guide about the four-inch Berkley’s PowerBait Power Lizard.

We immediately agreed with his suggestion.

To facilitate this endeavor, Hunter Cole of Columbia, South Carolina, who is Pure Fishing’s media and public relations manager, sent us a package of them to work with and examine.

Here is what our examinations revealed.

It is 4 1/4 inches long when its tail is curled, and it is nearly six inches long when its tail is fully extended.

It is endowed with what taxonomists would describe as an arrowhead-shaped head or elliptical-shaped head. The head is three-quarters of an inch long and a quarter of an inch wide at it is widest spot with a circumference of fifteen-sixteenths of an inch. It is faintly adorned with two eyes, and except for the eyes, the head’s epidermis is smooth. Its ventral area is flat, and the dorsal area is convexed.

From the junction of its head to the junction of its tail, its torso is 2 3/4 inches long. At its widest area, it is five-sixteenths of an inch wide with a circumference of 1 1/8 inches. The dimensions of the anterior and posterior portions of its torso are smaller than its middle portion. The torso’s dorsal area is convexed with a smooth epidermis. Its ventral area is flat, and except for the area that is embossed with the word Berkley, its epidermis is smooth.

Two dainty legs radiate from each side of the torso. The front ones extend from the sides that are immediately adjacent to the junction of the head and torso. Each leg is curled, exhibiting the motif of the tail of curly-tailed grub. When they are fully extended, they are 11/2-inches long. They are flat and three-sixteenths of an inch wide at their widest spot.

The two back legs possess the same characteristics and dimensions of the front ones. They are situated seven-sixteenths of an inch above the junction of the torso and tail.

The epidermis of the four legs is smooth.

At the junction of the head and torso, it is a quarter of an inch wide with a circumference of about eleven-sixteenths of an inch. At the junction of the torso and tail, it is three-sixteenths of an inch wide with a circumference of about seven-sixteenths of an inch, and the dorsal area is slightly convexed, but it becomes flat as it emerges with the tail.

Like its legs, its tail exhibits the characteristics of the tail of a curly-tailed grub. When the tail is fully uncurled and extended, it is 2 3/4 inches long. It is 1 1/4 inches long when it is curled and at rest. It is flat, and it is five-sixteenths of an inch wide at its widest spot. Its epidermis is smooth.

The four-inch Power Lizard is manufactured in the following hues: Black-Blue, Cotton Candy/Chartreuse, Green Pumpkin, Pumpkin Chartreuse, Watermelon, Watermelon Red, and Watermelon/Chartreuse.

It is permeated with Berkley’s exclusive PowerBait formula, which, according to the folks at Berkley, is a scent that will provoke a black bass to “hold on longer – up to 18-times longer than with standard soft plastic baits.”

It is buoyant, which is an attribute that Midwest finesse anglers relish. They will, of course, affix it to a small mushroom-style jig with an exposed hook. What’s more, its flat ventral areas will accentuate the gliding portion of the Midwest finesse swim-glide-and-shake presentation.

A package of 15 costs $4.59