Tuesday, February 28, 2017

From Bass fishing to Bowfishing

Two weekends ago was beyond busy...busy with fishing!  With the recent warm weather than we have been having I knew it was time to break the cabin fever.  It also meant I finally get to take my brand spankin new Hobie Pro Angler 14 out.  I was like a kid in a candy store as I spent all week getting it rigged up for its first voyage.
Ain't she beautiful!
Now that the pre-excitement stage has been set...to the good stuff!  Sunday is when all the adventuring began.  I was meeting quite a few KBL members and other area kayak fisherman at Coffeen Lake, a local power plant lake in Southern-Central IL, for a preseason shootout (aka a friendly competition).  The day began for me around 3:30 a.m.  Even though it's only an hour and a half drive and we were meeting at 6 a.m., I could not sleep any longer! I was so excited to try out my new yak!  I paced as the coffee machine slowly but surely poured my caffeinated jolt that would get me to the boat ramp.  As I made my drive down their the fog was so bad that I drove the hour and a half with my eyes glued to the 10ft of visibility that I had.  As I arrived, I went milled around mingling with all the fellow anglers, but my heart was yearning to put the yak on the water!  Once everyone got their we finally pushed off from shore.  I adjusted my pedals and finally began taking in my new kayaking experience...HANDS FREE!..believe me, it makes a world of a distance!  As the day continued, I began to get to work and put fish in the boat.  I managed to catch somewhere between 20-30 fish throughout the day.  With my best 5 going 72.5".  Most came on a neko rigged Zoom Trick Worm, fished on a Medium Fast Kistler KLX spinning rod, teamed up with 15lb P-line  TCB 8 Hi-Vis Braid, with an 8lb Tactical Fluorocarbon leader.  A few others came off a shad patterned squarebill and a swing jighead with a Missile Baits Crawfather.  While it was a dink fest most of the day, I did managed one nice kicker fish!  Plus it gave me a good photo-op to show off the new 2017 jersey.

As the day came to an end, I expected to go home and relax while grilling out...  This soon become a daydream as I got that classic text I always love "bowfishing?".  Now there is only one correct way to answer this and that is YES!!!  Now I know some don't care for the act of killing carp in the act of pure fun, but in the lakes we go are infested with them, so please don't think any less of me.  While I do kill them for fun, my collegiate education in conservation biology knows it's beneficial for the environment.  Plus don't knock it until you try it because it's a ton of fun!  It was a fun, warm night out there, can't complain when its upper 50's at night in February!  We ended up shooting 27 fish between the three of us that went, not a bad night at all!  
Don't worry we properly disposed of the carp!
As I finally got home around 3am, it ended my 23 hour fishing excursion.  While it was one very very long day, it was a great day of fishing.  Many bass were caught and many carp were shot, testing both outdoor aspects that I love very much.  I can't wait for more days just like this in this coming spring and summer!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Making Your Own Path in the Fishing Industry

The sport of fishing as we know it continues to grow exponentially.  Fly fishing, bank fishing, float tubes, jon boats, kayaks, canoes, bass boats, paddle boats, arm floaties, pontoons, mom and dad's speed boat, decked-out bass boats, etc.  As the vessels and technologies of each advance, we see the sport continually evolving.  Beyond the type of vessel/method you use, our sport has evolved even further.  We have tournament fishing, leisure fishing, fishing-when-the-wife/husband-lets-me, guiding, social media fishing.  Tournament fishing is spreading like wildfire (in a good way) thanks to technology, such as TourneyX.

The social media fishing scene also evolves constantly.  Prostaff applications now ask for your YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, blog, website, and related information.  Some choose to use all of these platforms, some focus on one and supplement with another.  I focus on the blog/writing and Facebook, using YouTube and Instagram as an additional tool.  No matter your path, some find it difficult to find their own path in the sport.  I hope my experience helps you find your path.

In my experience, it is a delicate balance.  Diving into too many types can lead to excessive stress and burnout.  I am a bass boat/leisure-craft/jon boat fisherman turned kayak fisherman.  The kayak is affordable, low maintenance, has endless possibilities, allows me to rooftop on my car.  It has also got me on the biggest fish of my life.  Last year I wanted it all: a blog, a YouTube channel, Instagram, Facebook, tournaments, guiding, etc., etc., etc.

When I landed two epic bass over 6 lbs. last fall (epic by Wisconsin standards), I drove hard into the tournament fishing.  I was spending every hour after work and on the weekends fishing.  It quickly became a job.  I personally think there is a fine line between a career, a passion, and a job.  I never want to cross any of those lines, especially with my passion.  When I pushed one of my types of fishing too hard, my passion started showing signs of a job (exhaustion, lack of interest, etc.).  My wife noticed it too.

This is when I stopped to think what I wanted out of the sport.  I love writing, sharing my adventures and knowledge.  I love teaching people how to fish.  I love the leisure part of fishing.  I love tournament fishing, but get stressed if I push it too hard.  I thought about my priorities and passion.  In what order do I love these things about the sport?  I have a stressful day-job (IT Consultant), so the leisure aspect is most important.  A close second is writing and teaching others.  Third was the competition and tournaments.

I sat down with my wife and discussed these priorities.  She told me, "Don't let your hobby be your job."  It was clear my personality, day job, and family life did not cater to hardcore tournament fishing.  But thanks to TourneyX and KBF, I can still participate without pushing it too hard.

If I can find a way to make a career (key word career - not job) out of my hobby, that would be perfect.  But balance is key.  My wife and I discussed and decided my personality and passion would cater well to a guide/retail business in the industry.  I also love writing.  I do enjoy the tournaments, but need my passion to focus on the teaching/guiding/writing with the tournaments a bonus.  Enter my plan.

First, I continued sharing my stories through written word here on Small Craft Fisherman.  I am privileged to have the following I have.  I truly appreciate my readers allowing me to take control of their imagination for a short while, sharing my adventures and knowledge.  Secondly, I wanted to start a business.  Not an easy feat, and not for everyone.  But my day job pays the bills and I am relatively young.  Why not give it a shot?

Enter Small Craft Outfitters LLC.  I filed for the LLC, the EIN, state licenses, DNR licenses, built a website, social media, etc., etc., etc.  I've been blessed to have several top-notch companies in the industry agree to work with me in this adventure.  I personally use and fully support all brands we sell.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  We are starting small out of a home office to keep overhead low, but will be focusing on guided kayak fishing adventures.  We will also offer for sale all the products and brands we use for these adventures.  It is much easier to sell products we personally stand behind.  But I digress.

The goal of this story is to help you decide what time of fisherman/woman you are.  We can't all be Drew Gregory or Chad Hoover with shows/brands/YouTube followings/etc., we can't all be Ike and KVD with a laundry list of tournament wins under our belts, and we can't all be a writer/publisher like Chris Payne from Kayak Bass Fishing Magazine/Kayak Bass Fishing Blog.

Instead of trying to be like these giants in the industry, find your own way.  Just like they did.  Stop and think what drives you, what your strengths are, and what works for your current personal situation.  If your current situation doesn't allow for you to follow the path you prefer/excel at, draft a plan to get there.  As they say, "KBF wasn't build in a day.".....errrr was it Rome.....  Anyways, find your own path, follow your own dreams, your own way that works for you and your family.  If you don't stress over it and understand what you want you will find success while still enjoying the sport you love.  Trying to be like someone else will always lead to stress and burnout.  Your passion for the sport will become a job and your overall stress levels in life will skyrocket.

I am by no means a giant in the industry, nor do I want to be.  I just want to do what I love while helping others along the way.  If you are considering getting into the blogging, social media, or any aspect of the sport and would like some advice, I am more than happy to help where I can.  Drop me a line at tyler@smallcraftfisherman.com.

Tight lines my friends.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The 4 Most Essential Kayak Tools to Never Leave Home Without!

Now you probably read that title and thought...only 4?! There are so many more essential items than just 4 and yes I would agree.  A couple that came to your mind was probably fishing gear, snacks, bump board, and the dreaded tournament identifier.  Now I forget those a lot of the time but they don't make my essential 4 list.  To be honest it's more like an essential 10 list but if I had to boil it down to 4, this would be the 4 top items that I would not leave the boat ramp without...side note, this doesn't include the recommended safety precautions (PFD, light when needed, whistle, etc...) those are essential they are mandatory! Now let's get started!

1.  The first essential item on my list is a Sharpie marker.  If you ever see me at the ramp I usually have access to about 3 (pocket, in yak, and in the truck).  They can be used for many different things out on the water!  It is great for last minute additions to your tournament ID and touching up on your bump board.  They also work great when coloring faded braided line.  I also use a Sharpie to help keep track of fish pictures in tournaments.  I keep track of fish in my camera roll by using tally marks on my hand to help me easily identify them after a long day on the water.  I've even thought about using it as eye black on sunny days...don't worry I haven't ACTUALLY done it...yet.  Mark sure you have a Sharpie with you on the water!

2.  Ziploc baggies take the cake for the number 2 spot.  These are awesome in a pinch as they make a MacGyver waterproof safe haven for your keys, phone, wallet, and tournament ID.  Now it's probably not the best but if a $0.10 baggie can save my $500 phone, I am all for it!  Also I love to use them to pack my lunch and then put all my soft plastic trash in them to ensure I don't pollute the waterways.  Make sure to throw a couple in the yak for next time.  They take up no room at all and they can save you from a really, really bad day.

3.  Now number 3 was difficult I had two go tos for this one so I will put both and let you decide which one suits your needs.  My options were duct tape or zip ties.  Personally I favor duct tape since in the event of a hole in your yak, it can serve as a temporary patch job to get you to shore or to the ramp.  Also I feel like we have all had that moment when everything is going right until something becomes unattached or just falls off its mount and won't go back on.  Thats where the duct tape comes in!

4.  Last but certainly not least is TP or dude wipes (If you haven't check them out you owe it to yourself to do so).  Believe me you don't want to be several miles from the ramp and really have to go...  Also TP is good for many different first aid uses and dreaded spring allergies.

Well those essentials probably weren't what you were expecting but I hope they help you next time you are out.  No one likes to forget things or have things break but having these 4 things will help your day run much smoothly and they take up very little room!  Add these to your gear up list this spring!