Smoothounds of a kayak

Mid May saw the arrival of the Smoothounds, though not large they provided some good sport on light tackle. It's at this time of year that the Solent begins to come into its own, for the next 2-3 months the fishing, in my opinion, is some of the best the UK has to offer.


Tackle for me is simple, a 6lb class Shimano boat road mate with a ABU 6500 loaded with 30lb braid. I think people tend to fish far too heavy which reduces the enjoyment factor tremendously. It may mean losing the odd fish, though it's worth the occasional loss for the extra enjoyment that it provides.

The mackerel also began to make an appearance, if only I'd known they were to prove much scarcer later in the year I'd have taken the opportunity to stock up early... a costly mistake I wont repeat next year!


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Review - Yakmate 3

Well I've been looking around for something better than my Imax bag for tankwell storage. The metalwork rusted at light speed and I found organising the box a disaster - and I do like to be organised!. I considered a cool box, but knew I'd just be trying to bolt pockets to the sides, etc, in order to improve storage and ultimately organisation.After spending too long surfing and researching I decided to by the yakmate 3 manufactured by Precision Pak.

These come in 3 colours and 2 length options. I went for the 'long' version at 16.5"x11.5"x14", I believe the shorter version is 13" long. The main difference being an extra tackle box for the long version, and a 2 flap lid setup apposed to a single flap lid for the shorter version (velcro fastening).The 4 sides have stiffeners that are inserted within the lining and velcro'd shut. The material is a denier nylon weave, thick and durable.

There are a multitude of pockets (velcro fastening) and D-Rings, 2 rod tubes with an option of fitting a third plus adjustable straps at the rear for attaching a stern light.The main storage area and all pockets have stainless steel drainage holes to aid fast drainage.Internally there are 2 large sectioned tackle boxes with velcro'd removable partitions plus a 'black ice' cool bag. This also has a front pocket in which are fitted several clear rig sleeves.

The two top flaps can be opened individually to allow access as required, they can also be opened as 'one'. The flaps have clear pockets on the top for housing fishing licences, maps, etc. On the inner side of the flaps are mesh nets for line storage, etc which velcro shut.

It is fitted with simple carry straps with a detachable shoulder strap if required. Fitting to the yak is simplicity in itself with 4 small stainless steel carbine hooks and 8mm bungee - attached to the existing yak bungee clips. Removal and attachment takes seconds.

The photo below shows the gear carried in the Yakmate for a 7 day expedition of mixed fishing.

So initial impressions are excellent with the workmanship being top notch. All of this comes at a price though.. shipped from the States with duty & VAT charges will set you back £90 (A fellow yak angler purchased one at the same time, saved a few quid with combined shipping). Though after saying that it should last a heck of a long time, my storage problems are sorted..... Oh, and it's orange, matching my yak.

Follow on comment:
As a follow up to this article, the earlier versions of the yakmate had stainless drain holes, however if you're unlucky as I was, you might get a non-stainless version!. Needless to say it corroded badly, though lots of complaining resulted in a replacement bag. I received an updated version with plastic drain holes, something I'd strongly suggest going for.

Follow on comment:
I've used the Yakmate for over two years now and it's giving me pretty good service. The one thing that I do not like about the bag is that the base gets wet, internally and externally when out fishing. It’ll also let in rain as the front and rear sides tend to bow with use. No great deal, though it means emptying the bag at the end of each trip, washing it, drying it, followed by replacing all your gear ready for the next trip. It can be tedious at times. I really wanted a dry box that would enable me to just rinse it off at the end of a trip and that'd be it. I also wanted a live well, so I decided to combine both requirements in one box. See the link below for more details.

The Yakmate has effectively taken a back seat now, and in all honestly it's unlikely to see service again. This isn’t to say that it’s not a good piece of kit, it is. However, I feel that what I’ve now produced is a far better product, and it more suited to my long term needs. It also represents better value for money.
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Bait - Managing Frozen Squid

If there's one thing I hate it's wasting bait.. all too often I've thrown bait away bait as a result of the purchased box being too much for a trip, despite purchasing the smallest available box. Trouble is with smaller boxes you're also paying way over the top for your bait.

A great example is squid, a 1lb box is £2.50, a 5lb is under £6!. Thawing out a full box is going to result in a huge loss for the average yak angler. The way I get around this is to do the following:(Now for some folk this will be teaching them to suck eggs, for others who don't know it'll save you money and make using squid that much easier)

Take one 5lb box of frozen squid.
Unpackage and drop the block into a sink of cold water, best to do this when the wife is out of the house ;)

After about 10 minutes the block will be thawing at the edges. It takes time, but by using your hands (with the aid of a blunt knife) the squid block can be broken up into single semi-frozen squid.

Bag them up quickly, I use ziplock bags, and get them in the freezer ASAP. If you bag them loosely side by side, they'll stay loose once frozen. I normally fully seal the bags the following day.

Keeping them in a box with freezer blocks whilst fishing lets you take the unused squid back home for another day.
Please feel free to comment.

Review of the C-Tug Trolley

When I purchased my Big Game a year ago I also purchased a C-Tug trolley at the same time. I knew the yak wasn't a light model and I had no intention of putting my back out, plus the majority of my launch sites see me parking the car far enough away to justify a trolley.

There are a few models to choose from out there, either the type that mount through the scupper holes or the 'cradle type' mount. The 'scupper hole' type trolley seems to produce quite some negative feedback with regards to cracking the scupper holes, that along was enough to put me off.

The C-Tug seemed was well spoken off both here in the UK and abroad so I parted with my £70 and duly took delivery of one.


Initial impressions were good, sturdy and simple with 2 straps allowing the yak to be secured to the trolley. Where to position the trolley?, I'm not too convinced on this at all. Positioning in the centre balances the yak nicely on the trolley meaning a light weight at the yak toggle when lifting it up to pull. However, perhaps due to the weight of the Big Game, the trolley pushes the base of the yak upwards by a good couple of inches where is sits against the trolley pads. I don't like this too much at all...

Mounting it further back around the seat scupper hole area, the base of the kayak is much stiffer due to the presence of the scupper holes and it sits far better as a result. However, when picking the front toggle up ready for moving the yak there is quite some weight on the toggle, not so pleasant.

Trolley in action

The strap assembly is flimsy with the locking mechanism manufactured from plastic, it didn't take too long to snap, though I've managed to modify it back to a working condition. A stainless mechanism would far better. The strap also has a tendency to slip causing the trolley to be dragged rearwards and ultimately tip over whilst going over soft terrain.

There is a steady leg to position the trolley prior to lowering the yak onto it, a great idea, though this will fall out at an early opportunity and is highly likely to be lost. Top tip, glue it in when you purchase it and then forget about it.

Leg - glued in

The wheels can be removed in seconds, as can the pad pieces which enables the C-Tug to be quickly dismantled and stored in the forward hatch of the yak. This is a great feature as there's no need to return a trolley to the car before launching, and it enables you to recover to a different location with ease. As said, the wheels remove from the stub axles', though the nature of this design allows sand, etc to penetrate this area which is a great recipe for wear and tear.

You'll hear a lot of squeaky C-Tugs, mostly down to this flaw in the design. The best you can do it to strip and thoroughly freshwater wash the trolley after each trip.

Early axle wear

The tyres are quite small and narrow, this is fine for surfaces such as concrete, hard wet sand, etc, though it causes a lot of problems over soft sand and shingle when the wheels simply dig in resulting in a lack of forward progress. As previously mentioned, in heavier conditions the yak can even 'roll' forward off the trolley causing the trolley to tip forward, very annoying!.

It’s quite unstable with my Big Game kayak on top, to the point where the trolley has tipped over on several occasions whilst navigating slightly uneven terrain, causing frustration and damage to fishing tackle. This is possibly partly down to the extra width of my Big Game compared to other kayaks, a wider track on the C-Tug would ultimately lead to improved stability.

So after a years use how do I rate it?.. to be honest it could be a lot better. I manage with it, though at times I could throw it in the bin. The fittings are poor quality considering the selling price and the design requires improvement. The 'pads' that support the yak need to be non-slip, the strap mechanism needs upgrading and it'd greatly benefit from wider tyres for floatation over soft sand and shingle.


There often seems to be confusion over setting up the straps on the C-Tug, below is the link to the official guide.

The Official Guide to Lacing the C-Tug

Please feel free to comment.

Crumbled Pouting Fillets


Serves 4


4 fillets of pouting, weighing about 200g each
100g plain flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
150g fairly fine fresh white breadcrumbs
250ml groundnut oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the tartare sauce
2 generous tablespoons mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
1–2 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped
1 tablespoon roughly chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped dill
2–3 gherkins, finely chopped
2 teaspoons capers, finely chopped
Juice of ½ lemon

How to cook crumbed pouting fillets with chunky tartare sauce.

1. Make the tartare sauce first by simply stirring everything together in a bowl.

2. Set aside.

3. Put the plaice fillets on a board and skin them, then give them a quick bone check with your fingertips.

4. Put the flour in a deep plate and season it with salt and pepper. Put the beaten eggs and the breadcrumbs in two separate deep dishes.

5. Lightly coat one fillet of fish in the flour, shaking off any excess. Dip the floured fish in the egg, making sure it’s well coated, then roll it in the breadcrumbs so it’s generously covered. Repeat with the remaining fillets.

6. Set a large, fairly deep, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add the oil – it should be about 1cm deep.

Also works with:

7. When it’s hot, fry the breaded fillets, in batches if necessary, for 2–3 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crisp.

8. Serve with the tartare sauce, along with buttered peas or creamed spinach and sautéed potatoes, chips or mash.

Review - Shimano AX Boat Rod

I purchased 2 of these rods whilst I was rigging my yak last year. I wanted something durable, a bit of quality, though most of all I wanted a light action rod to maximise my sport on the yak.

I went for the 6-8lb test curve model which is 7' 3" long, long enough to reach over the front of the yak when required. Another very attractive feature was the short butt section, an important factor due to the sitting position on a kayak. The removable butt is only 12" long which compared to my other boat roads is very short, though the fore grip is a similar length again making it a comfortable rod to use when playing a larger fish.


The finish of the rod is simply superb with ten high quality guides suitable for braid and mono lines. It's not the lightest rod on the market by any means, though the action is truly superb.


A through action rod that's sensitive to the lightest of bites and bends impressively under the weight of a good fish. It does however have sufficient backbone when required.


It’s ideal for use with weights between 2-4oz, though it’ll handle up to 6oz and a bait with relative ease. Go past this weight and the rod is no longer any fun to fish with. The tip pulls over with a heavy weight in the tide and lighter fish provide no sport whatsoever.

So, a superb rod for the yak fisherman, one that will handle the majority of UK fishing with ease, don't be put off by the £60+ selling price, it's worth every penny. I purchased two from 'Spotty Dog Tackle', after a few minutes of haggling I managed to have both delivered for £100 - bargain!

The rods have seen around 40 trips during this last year and appear as good as new.

Follow up:

I’ve been using these rods for coming up three years now and they are proving to be solid and dependable. I love the action to bits, they really do provide great sport. I’ve caught cod and conger to over 20lb with these rods, fish that they’ve handled easily, though obviously they were bending impressively!. The only noticeable wear is some polishing to the foam covered butt due to regular use, as well as some light rust staining beneath the varnish of a couple of the rod ring legs, all very minor.

As mentioned in my initial review they don't cope with weights above 6oz, the action of the rod is ruined. I regularly fish the Bristol Channel these days and and 8oz weight is often needed. I decided to purchase two more AX rods, though I went for the heavier 10-15lb models. This rod is visually identical to the 6-8lb rod in all respects, bar the identifying sticker. These 10-15lb rods are proving to be excellent and they handle the heavier weights with ease. On the the 10-15lb rods I’m using Shimano Charter Special 1000LD reels. I’ll review this reel in due course.


These reels are cracking and seem very well suited to these 10-15lb rods. The tip action is similar to the 6-8lb models, though there is far more strength in the lower half of the rod. Bite detection is still superb, almost as good as the lighter model. Again, highly recommended.

Please feel free to comment.