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.


  1. Love this line..."When I'm fishing, my other problems and worries disappear." Not a kayak-er yet, but you're blog is making me think about it!


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