Monday, January 9, 2017

Product Review for Ardent Outdoors Apex Elite and Apex Grand

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One of the benefits having a good fishing club and an even better president is the fringe benefits. In this case, our president goes out and gets us great prices on fishing equipment. Last year, he was able to secure us a fantastic (truly unbeatable) discount on Ardent Outdoor's products.  Of particular note were their reels. Now, I have always been a Shimano guy and have occasionally gone to other brands. I have used Lew's as well as house brands from Bass Pro Shops and Academy. For the most part, the house brands are garbage and Lew's is exactly what you get for $100. 

As such, I was hesitant to go all in on Ardent's products. But, I did need a 5:1 reel for cranking as well as a nice 7.3:1 ratio with a lot of strength for frogging/flipping/etc that might compare to Shimano's Curado. Therefore, I selected an Apex Elite in 5.3:1. It also comes in 6.5:1 and 7.3:1, as well as left and right hand configuration for 6.5:1. 

Here are the stats for the Apex Elite:



High Strength Aluminum frame
Deep V 6061 T6 machined aluminum spool
Carbon Fiber swept back handle
EVA grip knobs on handle
270 Degree Mag Brake system
12+1 Ball Bearing
Swept back forge aluminum star drag
Line capacity
Weight: 5.9 oz
Line Capacity 150 Yards - 12 lb

Here are the stats for the Apex Grand



High Strength Aluminum frame
Deep V 6061 T6 machined aluminum spool
Carbon Fiber swept back handle
EVA grip knobs on handle
270 Degree Mag Brake system
Internal Centrifugal Brakes
12+1 Ball Bearing
Swept back forge aluminum star drag
Weight: 5.9 oz
Line Capacity 150 Yards - 12 lb

I have fished with each of these for right at a year now. In that time, I have purchased another five Ardent reels. It isn't the quality or performance, per se, as much as the price point. With the discount we receive (which most people can get if they look around), the price point cannot be beat. The price is less than a Lew's Speed Spool (between $100-$120) and the performance greatly exceeds the entry level of the Lew's and, in some ways, exceeds the Shimano Citica. 

Casting: When you read the bio on each reel, you will see that casting distance is a major focus for Ardent. Indeed, these reels, when setup properly, will outcast virtually any reel on the market. These reels will actually cast a lot further than you want to, at times. The Elite, which I use for cranks, can handle small squarebills up to Strike King 8XD's with just slight tuning on the tension knob. 

Tunability: Casting and tunabilty go hand in hand. With that said, these reels will cast as far as you want IF the reels are setup precisely. I find that the two part cast control used on Ardent's products has something to be desired. Now, I am not a hard caster. I prefer to let the rod to the work. I have found that all of my Ardent braking systems have to be set almost to maximum and the tension knob has to be almost as tight as it can go without truly affecting the spool. To that end, Ardent has a lot to be desired on Shimano but are much further ahead on Lew's, which remains one of the most baffling reels to setup and remain dialed in for the same bait. 

Drag: The drag on these is excellent. The Grand could be a little heavier for me, as I throw Alabama Rigs and Bullshads on this rell, frequently through heavy grass. 

Weight and Size: I have zero complaints about the size of the se reels and the weight and I have fairly small hands. 

Quality and Durability: No issues yet. However, I detected a difference in smoothness of one Ardent Elite to another Elite. 

Price Point: Again, with a discount, the Elite will sit in between a Shimano Citica and a Lew's Speed Spool. In many respects, it is a better over all reel than the Citica (with more options, to boot) and be just pennies more than a Lew's while completely out performing. 

The Grand is comparable to a Shimano Curado for the price, but is still lacking in the completeness of the reel. The Curado is just more steady and consistent. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Fishing Report for Pickwick 1/3/17

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First fishing trip of the year! What better way to ease back into the grove  of work than a hard day of fishing? Well, that's kind of what we expected. Truly, the 2nd was the perfect day. It was prefrontal and rainy. We had always heard that the nastier, the better. Judging by Facebook, the smallies were biting on Pickwick.  Our last trip on Pickwick hadn't gone quite like we wanted, though we did catch some fish. The battle was, did we trust the intel we had or should we start fishing Smith Lake, which is the first stop on our club trail. 

So, we went with our gut, though we said that this would be the last time we fished a lake other than the lake we would be fishing for the next tournament. Truth is, we didn't have much faith that we would catch much. 

Now, for a funny story. Shortly after eating breakfast at Chick-fil-A, the coffee was getting to me as we passed through Rogersville. I had assumed that Brad would stop for gas and snacks, but he didn't. I asked him if he was going to stop and he seemed to read my mind.

"You need to go? I was going to the Mapco in Florence."

"I can wait. No big deal?"

About that time, we passed the sign that said "Florence: 22 Miles"

"Just kidding. I need to stop."

However, we were in a really, really bad stretch and the only gas station was the Chevron next to Lucy's Branch. I jumped out, ran inside, and looked around. No bathroom.

"It's outside, around the corner" one of the 12 men eating breakfast stated. I duck walked around the the building and opened the door. I immediately regretted the decision. It was one of the nastiest bathrooms I have ever see, and I don't have high standards. But, I was limited on options. 

On the way to the truck, Brad headed towards the bathroom. I stopped him, told him to think better of it, and we drove away. Avoid it at all costs. 

We hit our community hold early, trying to knock the stink off the boat for the new year. Nothing. Not even a white bass. We went down the first stretch of bluffs, just as we had been told to do. Nothing. We were even trying some of the things the local pros we know told us to do: downsizing drastically and fishing the current with tubes and grubs. Now, I admit that until I actually get bit, I won't know what I am doing...I feel like I was doing right.

So, Brad and I got to talking. What we decided is that when people say they drift the bluffs, they aren't talking about a hundred yard stretch but HUNDREDS.  Perhaps the fish move up and down the miles of bluffs from McFlarland to the end of Seven Mile Island. Therefore, we decided to just let the 75,000 CFS of 54 degree water take it where it would. 

In the meantime, we would alternate baits. I gave up on my Spro crank and went to the A-rig, despite Brad having had much more luck on the rig than I. Another 100 yards went by without incident before BAM!

The fish nearly took the rod out of my hand! Brad grabbed the net and we boated a BEAUTY!

What was interesting was the the fish at the PowerTeam Lures Swinging Hammer, which was the largest of the swimbaits and also a different color. Initially, we didn't think much of it. 

That is until the second and third fish slammed my rod again, all of them on the same swimbait. 

Another 100 yards and a fish hit so hard that a bow of slack shot up the line. I reeled in the A-rig but it was missing an arm! Not wanting to take a chance, I tied on my spare. 

In the meantime, Brad couldn't get one to hook up. His A-rig was getting slammed, but he couldn't get them stuck. Meanwhile, I added another set of pigs! Finally, Brad boated a couple of really nice strippers before landing a nice smallie. 

Right about lunch time, the bite died and we headed back to the ramp, but not before snapping this pic! 

Here's another funny. As we appraoched the dock, we had to select one without fisherman on it. As we approached it, we were going a little faster than we should have. So, I tried to brake the boat with my foot before stepping onto the dock. Only half of that worked as I slipped and faceplanted! 

Anyways, first fish of 2017 are in the books and it was a SOLID start. Our best five were all smallies and they went about 18 pounds. 

Fishing Report for Pickwick 12/23/16

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Been another month since I checked in last. I know, I know. I promised I would do better. But, when you are relying on others to fish and the holidays roll in, fishing trips can get far and few in between. Sprinkle in some deer hunting....you get what I am saying. 

Anyways, we did get out several times the past month and I am trying to get those reports out, not that some of them will help you much. 

Right before Christmas, Brad and I took a trip to Pickwick. This would be about the 23rd or so. It was very cold, but the current was decent and the water was low. We had some intel that we wanted to check out. We began the day by fishing the barge canal just above McFarland. We have learned how to fish the set of five or so barge tie ups based upon how the current is flowing. 

Brad was going to stick with the A-rig. I was determined to get better with some of baits I don't frequently used, especially the jerkbait as I had just watched a video with local pro Jimmy Mason. Mason is an expert with the jerkbait, especially on Pickwick and especially with smallies. So, I was excite to catch some after watching his video.

Fishing the eddy line and the rocky bank, I caught a couple of small largemouth on the jerkbait while losing several others. Keep in mind that I have only caught a handful of fish on a hard jerkbait. After experimenting, I found some of the errors with my retrieve. 

First, I was taking in slack line so I could feel bites. However, a tight line causes the jerkbait to straighten up and start moving, which is counter productive to its natural presentation. Instead, I needed to watch my line. When it jumped, I had a hit. 

Lastly, when I was getting hits, I treated it like a crankbait. I would just reel in the slack. The fish would pull off. Because the bait is on slack line, there is no tension when the fish hits and therefore the hooks are unlikely to penetrate the fish's mouth. So, I learned to really get that slack in and set the hook hard. 

After the bite quickly died, we moved to the bluffs across the river but didn't catch any fish. We moved to the end of Seven Mile Island where there is still grass. We were unable to catch any fish or even have any hits, despite what our intel had told us. But, there was a critical bit that we had overlooked. We had been told to concentrate on small cuts in the island. That is, little pockets. We found the nearest one and found a pile of largemouth stacked in it. For about five minutes, Brad and I caught a fish on every cast. Nothing huge, best five going around ten pounds. 

Then they quit and we called it a day. In all, we caught about ten fish though none of them were smallies.