Sunday, April 10, 2016

Training Day

Ever since my Feel Free Lure 11.5 was delivered, I have been itching to take it out on my local reservoir. Ever since the end of last open water season, I have been itching to get back out. Though I enjoy ice fishing, there is nothing like the gentle rock of a small boat on summer days. And gliding over smooth-as-glass water as the sun comes over the horizon on summer mornings to burn off the night fog. Today was not one of those beautiful days. Though it was in the high 50s in Western Wisconsin, the water was 41 degrees and choppy with 20 MPH winds. I couldn't stand it anymore, I must get the kayak out for the maiden voyage......because I can't find where I put the Jon boat plug last fall... Bass season is closed in Wisconsin, so I leave the jigs, frogs, spinbaits, and buzz baits in the tackle box. I load my crate with my hook tray and my ice/pan fishing boxes. I'm looking forward to using my favorite ice and panfish plastic, the Panfish Plastics Chigger Fry.


I arrive at my local reservoir and slip the kayak off the car. I carefully begin loading my crate, rods, paddle, and sonar pod while people hiking around the lake look at me like I'm crazy kayak fishing in these conditions. I don't care, I want to get my new rig out. I have ridden fatbike in the snow in 30 below zero. As long as I don't go for a swim in 41 degree water, I got this. I roll the kayak down the beach and launch. I immediately notice this kayak is more stable than my Jon boat. I'm in love. But now it is time to learn quickly on my first paddle of a kayak. I have an audience and cannot look too ridiculous, since I have a fully rigged kayak with various logos on it. The wind is a bit of a challenge and I'm getting a bit more paddle drip than expected. However, a few slight adjustments and I was headed upwind/stream to the river. The river is 9 feet deep, feeding the reservoir. Usually a stained water, it is crystal clear from the recently melted snow. Geese are tending to their nests on the rock walls and banks. Lost in the paddling, I forget I was there to fish. Of course, in these conditions, my primary goal is to test my gear for bass season. I put a Chigger Fry on my ultralight and a nightcrawler on my baitcaster. As I take in the scenery, and the downview imaging on my new Garmin, I let the kayak drift downriver back into the reservoir.


This is where my Training Day begins. I am Ethan Hawke, my kayak the Monte Carlo, and Mother Nature Denzel. The river, sheltered by the rock walls and valley gently spits me out into the open reservoir. Here the wind whips through the valley, to the dam, and back again. I can feel every bit of the 20 MPH gusts as the whitecaps lapse against the side of the kayak. I'm marking fish at 25-30 feet of water and have 25 feet of anchor rope. I decide to batton down the hatches and hone my paddling skills. I preemptively lower the seat on my kayak and open the scupper plugs. I'm preparing for some serious paddling. My tri-hull FeelFree Lure tracks well, but my five fishing rods, Hawg Trough, crate, and net act as a sail. The big gusts spinning through the valley push my tail end as I counter-paddle carefully approaching the rip-rap on the dam. I decide to push my luck and paddle to the morning glory dam outlet. As I near it, Denzel unleashes hell. The wind whips down the valley and the whitecaps start curling over my bow.


For some reason, I got a smile on my face and turned into the wind. I paddled steadily as on-lookers watched me from the shore. My kayak split the whitecaps as they lapsed over the sides of my bow. I watch my GPS and am pleased with my steady 2 MPH speed given I'm on my first paddle in a wide, loaded, fishing kayak facing a 20+ MPH headwind. I got this. After paddling across the reservoir, I near the beach where I launched. I considered heading back up the calm river to watch the geese and bald eagle, but decided not to push my luck. I just made a tough paddle in rough conditions. As I drift into the sand, I turn off my sonar and take a moment to appreciate my equipment.


Never once in my FeelFree Lure did I feel unsafe. I was able to stand, take the whitecaps broadside, and move around for gear without fear of tipping. My Bending Branches Angler Pro sliced through the water without fatiguing my arms. The rest of my gear performed flawlessly. Just like in the movie, Denzel was defeated and Ethan drove the Monte Carlo off into the evening. On this Training Day I was thrown horrible conditions. I learned how to handle my equipment and learned it can get me through safely. I made it. Bring on bass season.

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