Cold and wet are the norms in kayak fishing, especially for the tournament angler. NRS tapped into their fishing team and ambassadors for input on their newest offering, the Champion Bibs and Champion Jacket, named after Ron Champion, a fishing team member and industry veteran. I got the chance to meet up with David Feucht of NRS and fellow Texas NRS Ambassador Matthew Scotch for some real-world testing on the Champion pairing.
We couldn’t have had a better day for it. With air temps hovering from 38-44, scattered rain throughout the day, and plenty of dragging upriver, the test hit a lot of the need to know points for me as a reviewer. For my footwear, I chose the NRS Boundary Shoe (which is really a boot). More on that later but before we get going, here is the NRS information about both the Champion Jacket and Bibs.
- Time-tested HyproTex™ 2.5 material delivers waterproof, breathable protection.
- Easy-entry and adjustable chest zipper has a protective flap and is designed for comfort under a PFD.
- Reinforced lower legs with side-zippers for easy donning over shoes.
- Wishbone suspender system keeps the bibs in place whether you’re sitting, standing or fighting a trophy fish.
- Features two large cargo pockets, reinforced seat and belt loops.
- Named for tournament slayer and Team NRS angler Ron Champion
The lightweight Champion Jacket protects anglers from wind, splash and rain with an articulated design for comfort and mobility in and out of the boat. When the weather is biting as hard as the fish, pair the Champion Jacket with our Champion Bibs to shield yourself from the elements in the kayak or on the bank.
- Lightweight HyproTex™ 2.5 material is waterproof, breathable and easy to stow.
- Full-zip, front entry for easy donning and quick ventilation.
- Punch-through, volcano-style neoprene wrist closures keep paddle drip out.
- Adjustable hood offers adaptable protection and features high-vis green accents for low-light visibility.
- Grip dots along the hem of the drawcord waist keep the jacket in place.
- Two self-draining, zippered pockets are designed to be accessed while wearing a PFD.
NRS Champion Bibs and Jacket: The Good Stuff
Let’s start with the jacket. I love the neoprene internal cuff on the Champion Jacket. It keeps water, especially from a paddle drip, off your internal layers and makes colder days a little easier. The multipoint cinches also work great for eliminating gaps when you want to keep the wet or wind off of your skin, especially around the hood and neck area. The Champion Jacket is really light compared to most of the waterproof stuff made for anglers and makes it easy to wear with a PFD over the top.
The two hand warmer pockets up top pair with PFD wear so you can warm your hands under your PFD. The pockets are also lined with a fleece-like fabric to warm them up faster. Casting, paddling, and landing fish are all a breeze in this lightweight but ample jacket. As a person who appreciates visibility on the water, the bright spot colors on the back are a nice nod to hi-vis wear.
Moving on to the Champion Bibs, I like the zipper pull having an overflap it can hide under to prevent additional snag points. The overflap also has velcro connection points along the length of the zipper which keeps everything where it needs to be. The zipper goes plenty low for male anglers to be able to take a bathroom break without having to completely disrobe and is a great, less expensive option compared to the Sidewinder Bibs.
The reinforced seat pan is really good for eliminating seam wear over time and understands the kayak angler’s need to sit and stand often. The addition of cargo pockets on the sides is great for stowing tournament identifiers or for me, a few PayDay bars for a quick and easy snack on the water. The side cinch points are also angled in a manner for a reach across and tighten motion that moves upward instead of downward which means they are easy to adjust and stay put throughout the day. It should also be said that these are true bibs and do not have stocking feet.
As I mentioned previously, I wore the Boundary Boots and as long as I stayed in water shallower than the top of the boots I stayed dry. Step in a deep hole while dragging and your feet will get wet so in the colder months, wool socks are your friend.
NRS Champion Bibs and Jacket: Thoughts for Improvement
On the Champion Jacket, I’d like to see an additional pair of standard pockets along the waist line. While an additional pair won’t make sense if you are wearing a PFD, when it’s off, there isn’t anywhere to rest your hands unless you put them up high. I noticed this when loading and unloading and talking about plans for the day. We were on the shore, already wearing jackets but I was struggling with where to put my hands.
I mentioned the hi-vis green on the back of the jacket. I’d like to see it in some additional places. Maybe a strip down the back of the jacket or go full green on the back of the shoulders. Gimme more!
On the bibs, I’d like to see this front vertical zip offered in a stocking foot option as well. This design is great and a stocking option would really cover your bases depending on what you need. for my skinnier legged friends, I’d also like to see a mid-calf cinch point added in to reduce the breeze and potential water entry over the top of a boot.
Another addition would be to add zippered enclosures on all pockets and I’d love to see an internal cell phone pocket (or make the hand warmer pockets of the jacket a little bigger to fit a phone like the iPhone X.
NRS Champion Bibs and Jacket: Final Thoughts
I appreciate the price point on the Champion Bibs and Jacket. Lots of features are packed into this pair without a premium price tag. For wet, cold, or wind, the Champion Bibs and Champion Jacket are a great choice. Please make sure you look at the sizing chart before ordering. The bibs fit a little snug so if you are wearing them in cold weather and you are on the higher side of the size spread for that size, level up one.