Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Calling All Anglers!!!

I am relatively new to the community of kayak fishing.  This amazing community is gaining popularity and welcomed me with open arms with unbelievable support.  This community has shown their "stripes" at a new level.  This time, it isn't about likes, comments, followers, views, hits, shares, posts, ads, or mentions.  It is about people, kayakers and non-kayakers, anglers and non-anglers, and their lives.

On June 23rd, West Virginia was hit was hit with massive flooding.  The amazing folks at Mountain State Kayak Anglers immediately took action to help those impacted by this devastating event. They promptly collected donations and supplies to help those impacted by this terrible event.  They also started a raffle with an unbelievable list of prizes (which continues to grow).  They also collaborated with the amazing folks at Kayak Bass Fishing and TourneyX to start a benefit tournament from which all proceeds go to the victims.

The prompt support of the kayak fishing community across the country in such a short amount of time makes me honored to call myself a kayak fisherman.  Thus, I'm calling all anglers.

Whether you fish from the shore, a video game, kayak, canoe, raft, pontoon, bass boat, dock, swimming noodle, arm floaties, tube, waders, your dreams, a cruise ship, or a yacht.  Whether you fish for bass, marlin, panfish, pike, tuna, salmon, trout, or whatever-the-hell-bites-my-damn-hook, help the greater angling community rise up and show our love of fishing extends to fellow humankind.

You can show your support by:
Entering the MSKA raffle with an unbelievable, growing, list of prizes here:!product-page/w3ab2/3e2c2f8a-02dd-cdaf-0086-e247f702cc54
Entering the MSKA Flood Relief Tournament backed by Kayak Bass Fishing and TourneyX here (some people are entering even if not fishing, simply to donate money to the amazing cause):

Let us rise up and show the world the strength and support of this amazing community of all anglers!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Beautiful Exhaustion

I took this week off my day job for the annual week-long fishing marathon with my brother-in-law.  It was a long, but fun, week with a tough bite and beautiful views.


Prior to my brother-in-law's arrival, some preparatory work was required.  Historically we had fished tandom in a jon boat.  Since getting my FeelFree Lure, I haven't used it.  With personal back issues, the Lure is exponentially more comfortable.  He wanted to try kayak fishing, so I rented a kayak from a local university.  They have a great program called Stout Adventures that rents to students and community members.  This secured his ride for the week.

After a successful pre-fish frogging at the end of last week, I was in need of a re-stock of key lures.  I made the short drive to meet Dakota at Bite-Me Bait and Sport Shop in Mondovi, Wisconsin.  He has the biggest selection of plastics I have ever seen, great prices on the mainstream lures, and an impressive selection of handmade lures.  A couple racks full of hand-made lures immediately caught my attention.  He told me the story of a local 7-year-old boy fishing tournaments.  His boat is even signed by Mike Iaconelli and other fishing greats.  He designs these beautiful lures which are handcrafted with high quality parts.  Ike even gave him a shout-out on his lures in a recent video!  Be sure to check out his lures available at Bite-Me Bait and Sport Shop, his Facebook page, or his eBay page!  I bought a few to start using when the spinner bite is back on.

Day 1

Monday arrives.  My kayak is loaded, tackle organized, and my choice lures tied on.  My brother-in-law arrives and we head to the university to pick up his rental kayak.  It is a 10' Wilderness Systems recreational kayak, but it will work.

The shenanigans of the week immediately begin when I notice a fender is missing from my old boat trailer turned kayak hauler.  Luckily, I find it in the parking lot and head for home.

That evening, we try our hand in my home water.  It is close and we both know it well. The perfect location for my brother-in-law's
inaugural kayak fishing trip.  The trailer troubles continue as we lose a strap on the kayaks.  I'm spoiled with my Lure's built-in handles.  Tie-downs are never an issue.  This round recreational kayak is a bit more of a challenge.  Luckily, the other straps held enough to keep it on the trailer long enough to pull over and fix it.

Upon arrival at the launch, we perform our first unload-and-rig ritual to be performed many times during the week.  To mitigate tackle loss, I give him my rod floats (I don't use them on my ultra-stable FeelFree Lure unless I'm fishing fast rivers) and tie his tackle box behind my crate.  His first entry is a bit wobbly but quickly stabilizes while we head off to our fishing spot.

We start the week with frogs and spinners.  We both got several weak hits, but don't hook up.  Just as the sun begins to drop, we move to the rock bank.  He is able to hook his first kayak bass with a buzz bait against the rocks.  Followed by several other fish.  For this body of water they are dinks, but still thick and a fun start to the week.  Enjoying the last of the day's sunlight, we paddle to shore, load up, and head home.

Day 2

To mitigate severe exhaustion, we allow ourselves to sleep in the following day.  The morning bite has been poor and we were on the water until 9:30 the night prior.  We decide give our arms a break from the paddling and ride our fatbikes on a local mountain bike trail we both wanted to explore for the first time.  The weather was beautiful, and the ride was fun.  I was even able to get in a successful ride on the teeter-totter.  After lunch, we compliment the morning's lower body workout with another kayak fishing trip at another body of water.

We drive to a nearby electric-only lake known for bass and walleye.  Bass typically aren't huge, but last year we caught dozens of them in a few hours.  We try our typical arsenal of lures.  This lake, like the others in the area, echo the bite.  Nearly non-existent.  We catch a few dinks, but that bite dies.  I decide it is time to slow it down.  I draw my spinning rod and reel with Gliss line from my rod holder.  Time to put away the heavy braid/baitcaster and go finesse.

I tie on a Kalin's Sizmic Wac-O-Worm, pumpkin green with red flake.  Give the vegetation, I first try
to rig it weightless, weedless wacky.  Second cast, I pull have a heavy hit.  My pole bends, my face lights up, and I set the hook.  While pulling it in, the fish lets go.  After inspection, my hookset was unsuccessful because the gap on my hook isn't big enough to allow the hook's point to exit the worm when rigged wacky weedless.  I rig the worm weightless texas, which proves just as effective.  Skipping the worm under brush and around rocks proves incredibly successful.  I catch several fish within minutes.  They are all dinks, but they are welcome catches in this bite "drought" we've been in.

I paddle over to my brother-in-law and share the news.  His bite slow, he decides to try a senko.  Having never fished senkos before, I give him a brief tutorial (he has fished other similar plastics).
 We're both able to grab a few more fish off the brush and rocks until the senko bite slows.  Taking a moment to enjoy the unset in progress, we make our way back to the vehicle.  We end the day with an epic kayak race in the canal leading to the boat ramp.  Wide, stable, fishing kayak vs. a recreational kayak is not a fair race.  However, I hold my own and almost take the win.  Arms burning, we load up and turn in for the night.

Day 3

Day three begins with dreams of hauling in huge bass on a nearby, underutilized, lake covered in weed mats and lily pads.  A promising prospect.  We rise and leave early, having loaded the kayaks and gear the night prior.  My brother-in-law catches sight of the lake for the first time and his jaw drops.  Frog heaven.

Trailer troubles continue as we pull into the landing area.  We hear an odd buzzing coming from behind.  Brushing it off as nothing, I begin backing to the ramp.  There seems to be something stopping the trailer from backing.  I exit, assess, and find the problem fender hanging by one bolt, jammed into the tire.  I have to pull forward to release it.  Luckily it was only minor wear to the sidewall.  A proper repair is in order, but we have fishing to do.

Upon launching, we immediately start tossing topwater.  I was tossing a frog.  I navigate deep into the pads.  After no success, I migrate to the edge of the pads and mats, suspecting they may be hanging at the edge where my Garmin Striker shows a ledge.  I immediately get a topwater blowup.  A dink, but promising.  I continue working the pads with no success.  A benefit of kayak fishing with a partner is the ability to divide-and-conquer.  I rendevous with my brother-in-law to check in on the fishing.  He was working the lily pads on the other side of a small island.  He had a nice Northern Pike on, but it got away next to his boat.  We decide to try our hand on the other side of the lake with less vegetation and more structure.

Having had success with the senkos the night before during a slow bite, I use the same around the brush.  I'm able to land several bass, though they too are dinks.  My brother-in-law echo's the lure choice and is able to pull some small ones in from the brush and bridge pillars.  An ominous dark cloud moves in and cuts our trip short.  Not ready to let him first-time paddle in a rain storm using a sit-in kayak, we head home after verifying the skies were clear there.

A drive this week would not be complete with further trailer troubles.  We again lose a strap, but are safely able to pull over, adjust, and complete the journey event-free.  After an expedited lunch stop, we head back out to my home water.  We are hoping the recently sub-par, but promising, evening bites will continue.

My brother-in-law keeps with the senkos since they were the most successful in the other waters.  He is able to catch a better bass.  About 16", but it had good weight to it.  I decide to try a V&M J-bug.  The only lure I was able to get a large, cautious, female to take a few weeks back.  It too was successful, enticing a few bites and lading a few fish.  Nothing large, but fun.

Both exhausted and with a slowing bite, we decide to explore up the river that feeds the reservoir.  It turns into a creek upstream with crystal-clear ponds.  We had explored it before, but my brother-in-law was using my jon boat which required me to tow him in the shallows with my kayak.  Now with a kayak, he wants to have a go at it.

We welcome the higher waters provided by the recent rains because we are able to reduce the time dragging and spend more time paddling upstream.  Halfway up, we have to exit and walk in the shallow waters.  Eventually we hit a point where we cannot continue without significant dragging around a bridge.

Wanting to ride down the rolling waters of the creek, we aim our kayaks downstream and prepare for a short ride.  As I sarcastically tell my brother-in-law to just imagine he is like Meryl Streep in the
movie "The River Wild", he asks, "Do you have my paddle?"  Of course, I do not but can spot it a short ways downstream floating against the bank.  He draws the fishing net from the bungees of the kayak and prepares to use it as an ad-hoc navigational device.  I ask him to wait was I verify my Garmin VIRB is recording the events to come.  This may be entertaining (video coming soon when I get through the days of footage - subscribe to my YouTube channel on the right of my blog page to get notified when the video is available).

After the brief, hilarious, but mostly uneventful float to his paddle, the fish in the holding pond in the middle of the creek catch our eye.  The water is cold, crystal-clear, and we see large bass emerging from the rocks!  Excited, we grab our senko and J-bug.  We quickly pull a couple of the smaller bass out of the pool with giant smiles on our faces.  I stand up in my kayak so I can do some better sightfishing.  The larger bass are watching our lures, but not biting.  With my better vantage point, I spot a patch of grass at the bottom of the pool.  A large bass appears protective of the area as I work my J-bug past it.

At this moment, I am reminded of the good and bad of fishing in crystal clear water where I can see the fish.  I'm able to read the fish's body language and immediately adjust my placement/presentation to make her more aggressive.  She inhales the J-bug.  Excited, I set the hook.  My shoulders drop in frustration as the plastic shoots out of her mouth faster than it went in.  I know better, but in the moment I didn't let her actually take it and swim away.  I'm disappointed, but it was fun nonetheless.  After pulling in a few fish (and losing another as I went to grab it), the fish are onto us.  We finish our short float downstream and head back to the main lake.

I try my hand at my favorite mat with my favorite rod/reel (Ardent Tournament/Ardent Denny Brauer Pro Topwater) with my favorite frog (Lunkerhunt).  I give it a few tosses, but my brother-in-law is already turning into shore.  Realizing my own level exhaustion from fishing all day, I decide to follow and call it a day.

Day 4

Our day 4 plans were to explore a new mountain bike trail nearby and possibly fish in the afternoon.  However, plans changed when my daughter asked me an honest question after returning home the evening of day 3.  She comes to me, 6 years old, with her best sad face and asks, "Daddy, why do you keep stealing my uncle from me so I can't play with him?"  Family time is important to me.  When I've had long days on the water or the bike trails, I always make time for my family.  Mother Nature will make more fish, but Father Time won't give me any time back.

Given the change in focus, we enjoy the morning on amazing nearby bike trails and the afternoon with family.  We close the day with a fun, entertaining dinner at a nearby hibachi grill.  A new experience for my brother-in-law and the kids.  I even talked him into trying sushi (and he loved it).  Though no fishing tales were to be told for this day, it was a fun day spent with family.

That night, we eagerly planned our 5th, and final, day of fishing.

Day 5

The previous night's tactical discussions lead us again to my local water.  Given the hard bite everywhere, we decided to stay close to home.  We launch at sunrise to a stunning sun rising through the fog.  A breathtaking sight.  Several other people are putting their boats in.  The launching process haults as everyone pulls out their phones to capture the
moment.  We carry on into the mystic.

As the fog begins to burn off and reveal familiar sun and blue skies, we start working the rock bank.  The senko and J-bug still a productive combo.  The fish are still sub-par for this water, but fun to catch.  My brother-in-law yells as he lands a fish.  I paddle over, expecting to see a tank.  Instead it is an interesting sight.  He is able to catch near-keeper sized largemouth with a crawfish halfway down its gullet.  As my brother-in-law works to remove the hook and Kalins senko, the crawfish wiggles, clamping his pinchers in an attempt to escape entering the digestive system of the growing largemouth.  Wanting a healthy bass, we respectfully decline the crawfish's request for help and release the bass as-is to finish his breakfast.

We fish the rest of the morning with a few missed bites, small fish, even a 16".  Given the rising heat and tough fishing, we decide to head back home.  We need to get the rental kayak ready for return.

In Conclusion

This was a long, tough week of fishing.  Based on the on-the-water banter from other boats, it is a tough bite for everyone in our local honey-holes.  Though exhausting and frustrating, it was fun.  When I'm fishing, my other problems and worries disappear.  My only concern is on the hunt.  Kayak fishing has taken this to a whole new level.  Kayak fishing allows me to slow it down.  I have no added worries about mechanical issues a boat brings.  I'm physically closer to the water, and able to stealthily approach fish without scaring them off.

Slowing things down fishing from a kayak brings me a deeper understanding of fishing as I'm able to take more time learning the water.  Kayak fishing also brings me moments of zen.  Slowing life down and enjoying the sights mother nature has to offer.  Sights I may otherwise miss hurrying to the next fishing spot or back to the dock.  Kayak fishing brings me this amazing feeling I call beautiful exhaustion.  The sights, challenges, and exercise combine for an unparalleled fishing experience.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Home Field Advantage

Those who have been reading my posts have read about my challenges this year on my home water.  Typically a great fishery, this year has been challenging.  It started out great but a Wisconsin cold snap during the spawn completely changed the fish patterns and preferences.  The slow Wisconsin thaw also left the water unusually clear (cow manure and the like did not runoff into creeks and streams that feed the lake).  That all changed this last week with a significant amount of rain.  The water has returned to its murky self and the weed mats have  returned to their usual positions.  I decided to hit the water this evening after work to kick off my whole-week-off-my-day-job fishing extravaganza hoping the normalized fishery would move me up in the KBF/TourneyX tournament I'm participating in.

As I launch my FeelFree Lure, I smile at the murky water I'm used to.  After spending some time trying a buzz bait, crank baits, and a ned rig on the ledges, they prove unsuccessful.  Since my "home field" has returned to its normal self, I return home with my go-to setup.  My Ardent Tournament baitcaster, Ardent topwater rod, and Lunkerhunt hollow body frog.  I head towards a large weed mat near a steep ledge.  A couple casts in, I have a topwater blowup.  The fish is large, but in my excitement, I did not get a good hookset and lose the lunker.

Within the next several minutes, I get several hits and land a fish.  Excited to add to my overall length in the tournament, I snap a photo of the small, but helpful, fish.  I continue to work the weed bed along the ledge.  I land another fish.  While fumbling for my phone to snap a picture for the tournament, I loosen my grip on the fish while it sits on my hawg trough.  It takes the opportunity to self-release.  I think it smiled as it hit the water and swam away...  Its OK, more to come.

I'm joined on the weed mat by a boat with a father and his two young boys.  I'm not keen on sharing my fishing hotspot, but gladly move down the mat.  As a father, I love seeing youth exposed the to the outdoors.  Shortly after their arrival, I hear the boys yelling in excitement.  The father hooked and landed a nice bass. I heard them announce it was 18.5" inches and pose for father-son photo ops.  As they release the fish, I hear the youngest boy yell, "That was awesome - we should do this all night long!"  This brings a smile to my face and decide to let them have this mat, having worked it thoroughly catching (and missing) several fish.

Moving to a shallow flat with submerged weeds, I toss my frog.  I am not prepared for a first-cast hit. Distracted, I hear a splashing noise.  Looking up, my frog is gone.  My line is slack.  I give it a few reels and a tug.  Fish on!  I set the hook and pull it in.  Smaller than I would have liked, but it gets me my third and final fish for the tournament.

I work the flat, getting a few hits.  Near the end of the mat, a bass blows up on my frog.  I set the hook and my line goes slack.....after several missed hook sets and landed fish, I failed to check my knot.  My frog is gone.  As I begin to mourn the loss of my frog, the bass jumps into the air, spitting out the frog.  I approach to retrieve it and the bass jumps again.  Upon arrival at my frog I realize why.  My frog is hook-free.  The holes for the hooks are exposed and the frog body sinks down the deep ledge.  The second jump was the fish throwing the hooks.

I tie on another Lunkerhunt frog, slightly darker in color, as the sun drops,  The previously calm wind picks up and gently ripples the water.  I toss the frog and get a hit.  As I crank in my catch, it turns in the water and reveals its size.  This isn't a dink.  This is a typical hog I'm used to finding in these waters!  I pull it in, draw my net, and land the nice fish.

I pull out the hawg trough and am slightly disappointed by the length, just under 18".  Given the girth of the fish, I expected longer.  However, the longer fish helps my tournament score and it was a fun catch.  It weighs in at 3.5 pounds.  I snap some pictures, appreciating my TourneyTag holding my tournament identifier, and release her to make more pigs.

I continue to work the weed mats and get a few more bites.  I don't land anything huge, but big enough to replace some smaller fish in my tournament "bag".  The topwater activity comes to an abrupt halt as the sun sets, casting a beautiful purple and pink color across the sky.

I take a moment to enjoy the beauty of the evening.  The fish, though not the usual tanks, were biting.  My home waters are nearly back to normal, and mother nature gave me a nightcap in the form of a breathtaking sunset.  This is what I love about fishing.  The pursuit, the adrenaline rush of catching the fish, the anticipation while reeling it in, and the beauty of the outdoors.  Kayak fishing has taken this love to a whole new level.  The kayak brings me closer to nature and the water.  It allows me to experience new areas of the outdoors in ways I couldn't in a boat.  Thank you for letting me share my passion with you.

I captured this adventure on video as well, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to get notified when the video is ready!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Days of Confused

My local reservoir has historically been my go-to fishery.  Anytime I get skunked elsewhere, a couple hours on the water here would produce several fat 16"+ bass.  However, this year, I have left the water a few times confused.  I am marking fish on my Garmin Striker 4DV and physically see them when sightfishing from my FeelFree Lure.  The usual arsenal of lures aren't enticing the big ones anymore.

Yesterday was no exception.  My trip yesterday was a triple-threat mission.  I was on a recon. mission for my cousin, and fellow angler, fishing a local tournament.  I was also on a personal mission to figure out the fish on a low pressure non-weekend day.  The third triad of the mission was to move my name northward on the KBF North Central Great Lakes regional challenge.

A quick survey the day prior was promising.  The lake is historically stained from creek runoff into the river feeding the lake.  However, several boats fishing the lake on a Thursday were a bit concerning.  This is a fairly small body of water and it has received more traffic/pressure than usual.

Feeling optimistic that evening, I go through my ritual of loading the kayak and equipment to mitigate leaving something critical behind in my pre-coffee zombie state the following morning.  I am eager to try my new Ardent rod and reel, initially impressed with the light weight and smooth spooling.  I'm also looking forward to trying the new Gliss line on my spinning reel.

I roll out of bed and enter my fishing morning auto-pilot routine.  Upon arrival at the lake, I'm joined by a few boats.  More traffic than usual for a weekday, but I proceed with my my unloading/rigging ritual and launch.

The already warm air temperature and light breeze ripples on the water confirm the weatherman's prediction of a sweltering 90+ degree day is likely accurate.  As a Wisconsinite, I am used to -30 degree weather, not 90.  My goal is to complete my mission before noon so I don't melt.

I target the mats with the Lunkerhunt frog first.  The bluegill are active eating bugs, now easily visible now illuminated by the rising sun.  The bottom of the shallows look like huge golf ball dimples, a sure sign the bluegill spawn is on.  My new Ardent rod and reel are performing beautifully.  My casting distance has increased exponentially with this light, smooth setup.  However, the bass are not interested in the frog.

I move to deeper water, keeping an eye on my Garmin Striker 4DV.  Marking fish deeper, I start working my spinning setup with various plastics, primarily a wacky rig.  I'm immediately impressed by the new Gliss line.  It is hands-down the smoothest casting line I have ever used.  It is extremely thin and sensitive.  I feel every bump while working it on the bottom.  I've historically struggled with line twist and curl on my smaller spinning reels.  Gliss has now solved that for me.

Though pleased with my new equipment, I'm not pleased with the bite.  I relocate to the rock bank, hoping they are suspended near rocks with the sharp temperature changes.  I slowly dissect the bank with a spinner bait, frog, and plastics.  All prove fruitless until I near the edge of the rocks.  I receive a hit on my Lunkerhunt frog.  The hit is weak, almost like a hesitant test bite on the fish's part.  No hookup.

I continue moving around the water, my only bass action is a few more half-hearted bites too weak for a hookup.  On the bright side, I have fell in love with my new Ardent and Gliss gear.  I typically found myself with several backlashes (professional overruns).  With my Ardent reel, I honestly had zero backlashes.

While stealthily paddling in my FeelFree Lure with my Bending Branches Angler Pro, I was able to bump into a large snapping turtle.  Even after bumping it, the turtle casually floated away.  Apparently it was not intimidated by a kayak.  I also nearly grabbed a large carp with my hand.  It only darted away after putting my hand in the water above its head.  Though fun, and proof of the stealthy capabilities of kayak fishing, these did not satisfy my mission.  I have officially spent days of confused on my home water this season.

The season here started great.  During the spawn, a cold snap hit and exponentially dropped the water temperature.  Since then, the large bass have been turned off completely. Additionally, the reservoir has received an unusual amount of pressure this year.  Typically a weekend would consist of 4-6 boats and 1-2 kayaks fishing.  This year I have seen as many as 10 boats and 14 kayaks in a given day.  Word has gotten out on this fishery.

Though disappointing, I am going to use this as an opportunity to fish other waters.  Wisconsin is lucky to have thousands of lakes **cough - cough** more than Minnesota (but love their waters too)....  I am lucky to live in Western Wisconsin where I have hundreds of Wisconsin and Minnesota lakes within an hour's drive.  I also have the St. Croix and Mississippi nearby.  It is time to expand out of my comfort zone and learn other waters.

Stay tuned as I share my new adventures.  My biggest adventure is coming the week of June 20th when I have a week off my day job for a week of family and fishing!  I even rented a kayak from Stout Adventures so my brother-in-law can join me in kayak fishing.  Expect pictures, posts, and videos!  Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to catch it all!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Fan Appreciation Giveaway

Recently I shared my appreciation for my readers, followers, and companies that support me and/or make the products key to my success.  I am truly grateful for the support and kind words.

Thus, I would like to take a pause from my usual shenanigans to thank everyone who supports me with a series of giveaways.  My first thank you giveaway series will feature Ardent gifts.  The folks at Ardent Outdoors have been kind enough to welcome me to their team.  I am proud to represent a company who stands behind their reels with a 3 year warranty.  The giveaway series will be as follows:

Milestone 1: I will select 3 random fans who like and comment on my giveaway Facebook post to receive an Ardent decal on July 1st, 2016.

Milestone 2:  At 1,500 Facebook page likes and YouTube channel 50 subscribers, I will give away an Ardent hat to a random fan who likes and comments on the giveaway Facebook post.

Milestone 3: At 2,000 Facebook page likes and 100 YouTube subscribers, I will be giving away an Ardent T-shirt (your choice of size) to a random fan who likes and comments on the giveaway Facebook post.

Milestone 4:  At 2,500 Facebook page likes and 150 YouTube subscribers, I will be giving away a random winner's choice of an Ardent Hoodie or Performance Shirt to a random fan who likes and comments on the giveaway Facebook post.

Bonus giveaway!!!  Once we reach 4,000 Facebook page likes and 300 YouTube subscribers, I will submit a post first delivered to my Amazon Kindle and e-mail feed subscribers.  Those subscribed to one of those services will be contacted for instructions to enter for a bonus giveaway. **Cough** **Cough*** Ardent Rod or Reel **Cough** **Cough**

Thank you again for all of your support.  Share using #smallcraftfish and #rulethewater, like, tag, subscribe, or whatever we need to do to hit these milestones!  Thank you so much for your support!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Just Fishin'

This morning, after a long day of beachin' yesterday, I was able to hit the water with my dad.  He took his kayak and I mine.  My dad is the one who taught me how to fish at a young age, so I enjoy fishing with him when we get the chance.

We tactically decide to launch in the Yellow River, before it pours into Castle Rock Lake in Wisconsin.  This area of the river is wide and shallow with a lot of various vegetation.  Perfect for froggin'.

Arriving at the launch, the wind is blowing hard.  This river and Castle Rock Lake are typically a rust color from the sandstone and pine trees, but this is much darker than usual.  The water looks like chocolate milk, with about 2 inches of visibility thanks to the recent heavy rains.  Optimistic, I drop the seat on my FeelFree Lure to keep a low profile as we head across the river to a bay blocked from the wind.

Getting some harbor from the wind, we begin working the lily pads, grass, and underwater weed beds.  The area is promising, my dad noting swirls and other activity nearby.  With no success, we divide and conquer, another benefit of kayak fishing. We work separate bays and separate sides of the bay hoping to find the fish sooner.

While working a bay, I toss my Lunkerhunt frog into a brush pile near a patch of grass.  The Lunkerhunt allows me to fish at various speeds, cover more water, and use more techniques with the floppy legs.  To cover more water, I'm slow-rolling the frog.  The technique and placement proves successful as I see a topwater blowup as my frog disappears.  I set the hook hard but it doesn't set.  The frog comes launching back towards me as if the fish spat it at me with superfish force (check it out on video here).  After unsuccessfully coaxing this, or other fish, I move to the next bay with my dad.

We continue dissecting the waters when I encounter a shallow bay with a tiny island, about 5 feet in diameter.  Though the water is shallow, I see activity as a fish darts away from the island deeper into the bay.  Sightfishing, I try to spot something to target.  The water is slightly clearer in this bay so my hopes are high.  A fish was hiding in the thick vegetation.  I was moving so stealthily, it did not swim away until I hit it with my kayak.

About to give up for the day, something happens.  Perhaps it was the fishing gods, perhaps a large fish turning my kayak in hopes to rid an area of a bass, or the wind blowing into my poles and net on the back of my kayak.  The nose of my kayak turns towards the shallow bay ever so slightly.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see the water boiling under a tree casting shade into the water.  Keeping my excitement contained, I set a course for the tree.

I toss my Lunkerhunt frog near the brush, but missed the mark.  Nothing.  Next toss is dead-on.  I use the wobbling action of my one-legged frog (yes they still work with one leg) and slow-roll it through the shade.  I keep my tip up to mitigate a premature hookset.  The water boils and flows up like a firecracker just went off under my frog.  Fish on!

I pull it in.  It isn't terribly fat, but was fun.  I quickly pull out my hawg trough and adjust my Tourney Tag so I can snap a picture to get on the board for the Kayak Bass Fishing North Central Great Lakes June tournament.  I quickly submit my catch via the TourneyX site (I love their quick, easy-to-use real-time tournament platform).

Check out the video here showing my previously mentioned miss, this catch, and easy use of TourneyTag.

Shortly after, my dad returns reporting no success.  Since the home-bosses are back at the house taking care of the kids, we decided to call it a day.  The conditions are not ideal for fishing, but we had fun and didn't get skunked.

My dad recently told me about the Trace Adkins song "Just Fishin'" because it reminded him of my daughter and I.  If you haven't heard the song, it is about a father fishing with his daughter.  She is telling him stories, etc. and thinks they are "Just Fishin'" when in actuality they are doing so much more.  They are spending quality time together, disconnected from the rest of the world.  It was like that fishing with my dad today.  Conditions were poor, all we got is one dink, but I was "Just Fishin'" with the guy who taught me how to fish.


This weekend my family and I made a journey a few hours south to celebrate my daughter's upcoming birthday with family at their place by Castle Rock Lake.  To mitigate the possibility of forgetting key kayak or fishing equipment, I prepared the kayak the night before.  My rods, net, stakeout pole, hawg trough, TourneyTag, KBF identifiers, anchors, and PFDs were nestled in the front hatch of my FeelFree Lure ready for a long ride.

The next morning I connected the trailer to the Jeep and verified the straps were ready for the journey.  Next, I was tasked with putting the puzzle of bags, totes, toys, blankets, and other necessities to support myself, my wife, and two kids for the weekend.

After successfully completing the puzzle, we were off.  Upon arrival, we stopped at Shipwreck Bay in Mauston, Wisconsin for a delicious late lunch.  We spent the evening with family and nervously checking the weather, calling for rain and storms the next day.  We were planning a day at the beach where we could relax and play.

We woke to rain, but slowly made our way outside as we waited for the storms to pass.  The sky turned blue and we quickly at lunch, packed up, and headed to the beach.  My FeelFree Lure, of course, in tow.  Upon arrival, I piled my Lure full of the beach bags, chairs, etc.  I wheeled it towards the boat ramp while receiving the usual stares.  I launched by the "big boats" and paddled across the bay to the beach while my family hoofed it.

We landed at the beach as my parents pulled up in their boat.  My daughter put on her PFD and immediately jumped in the water, splashing about.  She declined a kayak ride because she would stay dry.  I suggested she use it as a diving platform and she quickly jumped on the front hatch.  She stood on the front hatch with ease (she loves the stability of the kayak as well).  She giggled and prematurely jumped into 18" of water.  I was able to capture the "jump" on my Garmin VIRB, the video is available on my YouTube channel by clicking here. The fit of her PFD and sudden encounter with the bottom caused some pain, so she went back to her usual swimming shenanigans.

Itching to land my first bass of the Kayak Bass Fishing North Central Great Lakes June tournament, I took off to scout the nearby bays.  This area is heavy with boat traffic, not the ideal fishing area.  But it was a beautiful afternoon and worth a try.

I exit the bay and start working the rock walls.  This is the first time in a large body of water with heavy boat traffic in my FeelFree Lure.  I am able to stand and fish in boat wakes with ease.  Two recreational kayakers pass in awe and say, "How do you stand in that thing without falling out?!?!?".  I smirk and reply, "This thing is made for it.".

I was about to head back to the beach with an unsuccessful scouting mission when my brother-in-law rounds the point with my dad's fishing kayak.  I hand him a spare pole and we end up working about a mile of shoreline.  We are trying squarebill cranks and spinner baits.  This lake has seen a lot of rain lately and the water is like chocolate milk.  We are hoping noise and flash draws them.

Some time later, my dad calls.  They sent a search party via boat for us.  The kids wanted to see their dads out on kayaks.  They say hi, toss us a couple of waters, and we paddle back to the beach.

At the beach the kids continue to swim and play.  My 2 year old nephew has been very interested in the kayak all day, so he gets in to check it out.  I had him my Bending Branches Angler Pro and he is able to hold and "paddle" easily.  As my brother-in-law said, "You know the paddle is light when a two year old can handle it."

Though the morning was raining and the fish weren't biting, it was a great day.  We had fun with family celebrating my daughter's upcoming birthday.  The beauty of such a versatile kayak is the flexibility of the platform.  It can haul equipment, the kids can play on it, and the adults can play on it.  I spend many hours alone on my kayak hunting bass.  It was great to spend some time on it with family.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Your Humbling Kindness

I typically write about my fishing shenanigans, good and bad.  I wanted to take a break from the topic to pause and thank my audience.  Your support, kindness, and acceptance are humbling.

I started this adventure in blogging and social media 2 months ago.  Never did I think it would turn into a great following with such support.  I am not one to gloat, but wanted to share the milestones reached in the last two months as a "shout out" and thank you to the people and organizations that have supported the sharing of the shenanigans that escape my head, through my fingers, via the keyboard onto the Internet.

The "mothership" of my shenanigans is my blog,  In the first two months, I have received over 12,700 hits.  My last post received 1,300 hits in under 12 hours and is about to surpass 1,500 overall.  My Facebook page had over 1,000 likes in 2 weeks.  To-date it is over 1,100 likes.  My Twitter account was over 1,200 follows in 2 weeks.  To-date I am over 1,600 followers.   My Instagram has been my primary focus, which also reached 1,200 followers in 2 weeks.  To-date it has over 2,000 followers.

To add to my social media offerings, my family gave me an early gift of a Garmin VIRB XE last week.  I have since been able to add an initial video to my YouTube channel (the first two videos were shot using my daughters borrowed children action cam).  The videos will get better as I have a degree in video production.  The first video was a trial run of the new equipment.

In addition to the amazing social media following and acceptance, I have been honored to be supported by two great companies.  Ardent has welcomed me onto their pro-staff team.  I'm proud to represent a company who stands behind their product with a 3-year warranty.  Garmin has also graciously re-published a previous article I wrote.  Midwest Bass Magazine was also kind enough to publish some of my writing.  TourneyTag has saved me from losing my fish and/or identifier while taking a photo for my tournament.  KBF puts an extraordinary effort into promoting and supporting the sport I love.  TourneyX puts in an amazing level of effort to provide a platform to support tournaments for the sport.  I also thank FeelFree kayaks and Bending Branches for making amazing products with top-notch customer service that have got me through difficult situations.  And, of course, Austin Canoe and Kayak for the amazing prices, customer service, and shipping.

Several people have looked to me for honest feedback on my equipment.  I am happy to help and answer any questions.  I'm also honored that people would trust me to provide honest feedback.  I will continue to do so, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions.

To thank my followers/readers, I am planning a giveaway of Ardent gear when future milestones are hit.  To ensure you get the "memo", please like and follow my accounts for announcements coming soon!

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Thank you again for the unbelievable support.  If you have any questions or would like to see any other content, do not hesitate to reach out via my social media channels.

Be safe, tight lines my friends.