Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hot Rods and Reels

Recently, I had the good fortune to be invited by the Darrell Gwynn Foundation to cover their fundraising fishing tournament, Hot Rods and Reels, at the Homestead-Miami Speedway during the NASCAR Championship weekend. Accompanying me as a Photographer was my son Eric, who is a race fan but had yet to attend a live race. We arrived at the track early Saturday morning and received our credentials and inside we went.
It was a beautiful Florida morning and a perfect day for fishing. At lakeside, the boats were already lined up while anglers and guides registered and began talking strategy. The event pairs NASCAR Drivers with anglers to fish for the largest total weight of largemouth and peacock bass. Soon, the drivers began arriving. Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Richard Childress, Clint Bowyer, Kenny Schrader, and Kerry Earnhardt, among others, showed up to fish.
Tony Stewart getting ready to fish
Richard Childress telling fishing stories
Eric and I were able to interview several of the drivers and guides before the event started, and they were all there to win as a matter of pride. We followed the boats and there were many fish caught, including a catfish caught by Kenny Schrader that Clint Bowyer jokingly insisted was an illegal fish. Everyone had a great time, but in the end there could only be one winner.

Clint Bowyer fishing with his team
The winners from left to right, Jason Young, Kerry Earnhardt, Terri Knight and guest
Kerry Earnhardt was teamed up with Terri Knight who won the fishing/race weekend trip as a promotion for Earnhardt Outdoors. She and a guest fished with Kerry and guide Jason Young. I actually fished a tournament last year with Jason at a FOWA conference (Polk County Surprise) and it was a lot of fun to catch up. Kerry explained the concept behind Earnhardt Outdoors and their new partnership with Tackle Grab. We exchanged email addresses and promised to fish together sometime soon.
Talking fishing with Kerry
All too soon, it was time to go. Eric and I stayed in Homestead and returned the next day for the race. The whole weekend was an incredible couple of days for a father and son team. For the complete story on the fishing tournament and more information on the Darrell Gwynn Foundation, check out the official Florida Sportsman article here.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gear Review: Wild River Tackle Tek Nomad XP

Finding the right piece of equipment for your next adventure can sometimes be a challenge since it seems every company offers many variations of gear. For trekking in the Everglades, I have gone through several different backpacks that all fell short in different ways. Some were great tackle carriers while some were good at protecting equipment like cameras. But none were great at everything.
I saw the Wild River Tackle Tek Nomad XP by Custom Leather Craft backpack at ICAST and at first it looked a little too gadgety for me. It had lights and chargers and too much stuff for something just to carry gear. It has a rechargeable battery pack and a USB port for charging electronics like cell phones. It also has an optional solar panel for charging the battery pack. There is also a small LED light for illuminating the inside of the pack that flips out for task lighting. A couple of weeks later I had one delivered to my door and placed it in my closet where it sat for a while, forgotten.
The first chance I was able to use it was an overnight hunting and fishing trip to Babcock Ranch. This was a short trip and I didn’t want to carry several gear bags, so I pulled out the Nomad and gave it a good looking over. The first thing I noticed was a top opening section just large enough for my camera and accessories. The sides and bottom are padded and I added the divider from my camera bag and everything fit like a glove. The bottom section of the main pack had plenty of room for the next day’s clothing, and then some.

Several side pockets of varying sizes held cell phones, glasses, sunscreen, etc. We were out in the middle of nowhere and by the next morning, my iPhone battery was at 14%. I plugged in the charger with the supplied tip and was surprised to see the phone charging fairly rapidly. After 20 minutes the phone showed 85%. That was just enough to last the rest of the day in a very remote area, and there was still 75% charging capability left in the charger. The pack was comfortable to wear and easy enough to take off for access to gear.


I used the Nomad again shortly thereafter on a day trip to Corkscrew Sanctuary. I used the top portion for my camera again and this time I used the bottom portion as a cooler. My wife, Bonny, placed several cold drinks and snacks in with plenty of room to spare. During our three hour walk through the sanctuary, I took the pack off several times to change lenses and batteries, or to get a cold drink. Each time I noticed it was very comfortable to wear it and it caused no fatigue whatsoever.
Soon, the real test was to begin. I originally wanted the Nomad for hiking in the Everglades. Sometimes I walk for miles to a fishing spot and it’s very important to forget nothing. Some of the day packs I have used before are basically bags and everything is thrown together. For this trip I used the Nomad’s top access for my camera again, and the bottom area fit my tackle and drinks. Side pockets held Deet, first aid kit, spare tools, etc. The Everglades can be very inhospitable and bulky backpacks will physically wear you down. The Nomad performed flawlessly and remained comfortable to wear the entire day. Easy access to tackle and gear ensured that I caught more fish than Jim VanPelt. Although it was dry that day, in the summer it frequently rains in the ‘Glades, and the Nomad is ready with an attached rain cover in a top compartment.
Now for the techy part;
Product Specifications (All measurements approximate)
Light Source: LED Light
Output/Levels: 13 lumens max.
 3 levels Power: 2 AAA 1.5V batteries, included
Exterior Dimensions: 17"W x 18.5"H x 8.5"D
Tray Compartment Dimensions: 11.75"W x 7.75"H x 8"D
Weight: 4.75 lbs
Weight w/4 #3600 Trays (WT3604): 7.5 lbs
Tray Dimension (#3600): 10.75"W x 1.75"H x 7"D
All in all I like the Nomad. This will be my go-to day hike pack because I can use it as a camera bag, and because it has a lot of room. It also keeps gear separated and easy to access. All seams and zippers are heavy duty and well-crafted for durability. At around $200, depending on options, it’s also fairly easy on the wallet. For more information on the Tackle Tek Nomad Xp Lighted Backpack, check out www.gowildriver.com.