When the Yak Gear Fish Stik hit the scene at ICAST 2017 in Orlando, two camps immediately formed. Some folks loved the product. Some folks did not. Most of the dissension revolved around the “flex” in the board at the hinged points. Many theories bubbled up about being able to gain inches with the flex and being able to manipulate the board to cheat.
I had never seen the board in person so on a recent visit to Mariner Sails in Dallas I checked it out. I felt like the board had potential so I bought it to take home and do some testing of my own. The board I utilized for this test was the same board that was at ICAST. A new, improved version is in the works as we speak to address some of the initial concerns.
One caveat: This board can be used for bank fishing, boat fishing, and everything in between. This review will focus mainly on the kayak angler with an emphasis on tournament fishing using the Fish Stik as a measuring device.
The Good in the Yak Gear Fish Stik
One of the first things that catches your eye when you buy a Fish Stik is the folded size. It’s small. Just a touch over 12 inches long which is a lot easier to pack and handle than its market competitor Hawg Trough which comes in at 31 inches. The Fish Stik in its folded state fits in a lot of throw bags, soft sided tackle bags, and in storage compartments on kayaks.
When you take it out of the package, you feel rigidity. For those of us who have fished with a Hawg Trough in the past, this is a welcome change. It uses a very dense material blend that won’t get brittle over time. The days of worrying about cracking a board in half on a big fish are now past with the Fish Stik. Another big plus is that it floats. And when I say floats, I tested it, and it really does. And not just the edge. If it dumps over the side, it will not be hard to find.
The Fish Stik is easy to unfold one handed (while fighting a fish) and the locking tabs that secure the hinge points slide and lock well with a bit of a click.
If you wanted to mount the Fish Stik to track or a solid surface you can utilize the pre-drilled holes near the center of the board.
I talked about rigidity briefly before but I want to circle back. During testing I put 43 fish in two days on this board. Several of those fish were over 18 inches with one being about 19.5 inches. There was a lot of thrashing about and once the board was knocked out of the kayak from an unhappy bass. This board took the beating like a champ. I measured most fish for the study on the Hawg Trough and on the Fish Stik. The angry, bigger fish, the 19.5 incher, actually cracked my Hawg Trough during testing (which means I have to buy a new one before competing in any tournaments). The Fish Stik had no issues at all. This board is stout.
The Comparison: Hawg Trough vs Fish Stik
I took a lot of pictures to show the differences in the boards in both measurements and flex. Almost any board will flex some with large fish but I wanted to test the Fish Stik how I’d used my Hawg Trough for years with the one side on the floor of the kayak and the other side slightly elevated, resting on the gunwale.
As you can see below, the hinged sections of the board didn’t do well in that measurement style. Interestingly though, the flex didn’t add inches at all. There are some slight variations in tail alignment and angle of the fish on the board but you can see without a doubt that the same fish measures the same or bigger on the Hawg Trough, not longer, even with the flex.
I know the folks checking this out will say, “Ok, that’s a small fish. What does it do with a little bigger fish that crosses over the hinge line?” I’ve got you covered.
The Hawg Trough fish measures just over 14.25″. The middle picture on the Fish Stik measures barely 14″ with the hinge gap and on the right, even with a tail slant the Fish Stik fish hits 14.25″. No advantage given.
And that leads us to looking at a larger fish. Let’s take a look at a fish over 18 inches.
This fish is either 19.75 inches or 19.5 inches depending on the board. The Hawg Trough measurement is larger. By this point I figured out the “theories” about gaining inches from a gap weren’t panning out so I supported the board with my foot. Later in the day I moved my tackle bag from the front to the back of the Pursuit and laid the Fish Stik down the length of the deck so both hinges would be supported. This made measuring easier but unfortunately most kayaks won’t have the luxury of 36 inches of open deck.
Fish Stik Points of Improvement
My kingdom for a pre-lined measuring board! You can by Hawg Troughs pre-lined and floating from one particular company (Fishing Online) but that takes a little bit to ship, isn’t local to me, and it’s still thin plastic which can break. The Fish Stik comes with a marker and instructions but of all the genius innovations on the market, a pre-lined board remains a unicorn. In addition to having to mark the lines, you’ll also need to mark the numbers.
This board seems to catch reflection quite a bit. Many of my pictures have a glare coming off the board. If you are using this for documentation of length, make sure you double and triple check your photos. I’d love to see an even more matte surface in the next version.
The hinges, which are metal inserts, seem like a potential failure spot. Over time, flipping and folding the hinges could cause some stress and you might lose the small (likely aluminum) hinge inserts. I’d like to see these bulked up.
The locking pins in the middle of the board are where the flex is really evident. And addition of underside tabs or even additional tabs would help mind some of that gap. Tabs can be pretty complex or pretty simple. The trick will be keeping the weight down and functionality up with making it cumbersome.
I’d like to see a little more width on the Fish Stik. While it’s not a make or break element, as a tournament judge, the more numbers I can see, the better. Again, the balance of bulk versus functionality will be a factor.
While we are talking judge elements, some sort of bump that makes seeing if a fish is all the way against it would be nice. Maybe it’s a sticker, maybe a color variation, I’m not sure but something to offer some contrast would be helpful.
Final Thoughts on the Yak Gear Fish Stik
The Fish Stik is a really well thought out board. It has functionality past just kayaks and is pushing the envelope. Do I think it is ready for tournament approval as it sits? No. Not yet. I don’t think this board is any more susceptible to cheating than any other measuring board out there, I just don’t think we need to introduce variables like hinge gaps to the already eye straining judging processes.
That said, this is actually the board I carry on every non-tournament trip I take in the kayak or power boat. It folds up much smaller, can take a beating, and is in general, just a better board in every way except for the tournament angler.
I can’t wait to see version 2.0 of the Fish Stik.