KAYAK SPRING 2016 VOLUME 2 ISSUE 1
BASS FISHING MAGAZINE
ANGLERS GIVE BACK INTO THE
SWAMP JIGGING LINESIDERS
KAYAK FISHING TOURNAMENTS:
BUILDING COMMUNITY OR NOT?
2016 Viking Kayak Profish Reload Length: 14.8’ Width: 29” Weight: 67 lbs Available In: Lava (Shown) Wasp (Yellow & Black) Sandstorm (Sand & Black) Custom colors available
WHEN THE FISH ARE
FARTHER FASTER AND YOU NEED TO GET THERE
MAGAZINE SPRING 2016 VOLUME 2 ISSUE 1
CONTENTS KAYAK ANGLERS FOR A CAUSE Corey Stansifer
INTO THE SWAMP Chris Funk
FORCE OF NATURE Drew Ross
URBAN PARADISE Mark Cisneros
KAYAK FISHING FOR BEDDING BASS Richard Penny
OVERNIGHT John Henry Boatright
JIGGING LINESIDERS Dan Smullen
H.O.W. TO GET STARTED Greg Sterley
MAKING MEMORIES Richard Penny
WHY SHOULD I KAYAK FISH Stewart Venable
A LITTLE LIKE MIKE Friends of Mike
FAMILY FOCUS Reader Submitted Photos
BASS BRAG BOARD Reader Submitted Photos
KAYAK FISHING TOURNAMENTS Jeff Little
BLAME IT ON MEXICO Stewart Venable
THE FORGOTTEN Drew Haerer
SPRING FLY TACTICS Drew Haerer
PLUNGING INTO SALT FLY FISHING Scott Jontes
RECIPE ON THE FLY Brandon Bailes
STAFF EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: CHRIS PAYNE ASSIGNMENTS EDITOR: RYAN “PADILLAC” JONES FLY FISHING EDITOR: TODD WEST ART DIRECTOR: CHRIS PAYNE PHOTO LEAD: MARK CISNEROS COVER PHOTO: CHRIS FUNK COVER ANGLER: BROOKS BEATTY STAFF PAGE PHOTO: MARK CISNEROS STAFF PAGE ANGLER: JOHN HERRERA CONTRIBUTORS: CHRIS FUNK JEFF LITTLE DREW HAERER COREY STANSIFER DREW ROSS RICHARD PENNY JOHN HENRY BOATRIGHT DAN SMULLEN GREG STERLEY STEWART VENABLE SCOTT JONTES BRANDON BAILES
Thank you for checking out the Spring Issue of Kayak Bass Fishing Magazine. The team has hammered out some amazing content for you to enjoy, process and pass on. We have some new stuff including a section tagged as “A Little Something Different”. If you like fly fishing, saltwater fishing or other water related activities, you should definitely check it out. We still have room for improvement but the progress we’ve made is pretty cool to see. I’m like a proud dad watching my kiddo take his first steps. The team learns, gets better, finds content that needs to be shared with the world and shapes it into what you see here. A major portion of that is because of Ryan “Padillac” Jones. As the Assignments Editor he is really heading up the charge for new content that isn’t just another lure article. The biggest change is the amount of fly fishing content you’ll see inside. And that’s totally my fault. I have recently rediscovered my love for catching fish on the fly in small streams, rivers and ponds. The return, after an almost ten year absence, has me feverishly searching for more fly content. I even convinced Todd West to join me as the Fly Fishing Editor knowing full well we will only continue to expand this category. We have held to our standards of content first, and it’s proving to be a huge catalyst. When’s the last time you saw a magazine that had over 90 pages of actual content? This is it. KBFMAG is fueled on passion for the community of kayak fishing. We hope it’s something you want to share with others because you think it’s pretty awesome too! - Chris Payne EIC
GEAR I DIDN’T
THINK I NEEDED UNTIL I USED IT.
I’ve owned a YakAttack ParkNPole for about as long as they’ve been out but when I bought one, I skimped and bought the six foot version. What I soon discovered was a six foot pole really only works well in four foot of water or less. I thought about upgrading to the eight foot version but held off. It just seemed too long to transport. In late 2015 YakAttack started offering a modular ParkNPole that could be eight or 12 feet long and it broke down into four foot sections for transport. The itchy “Buy Now” button finally got the better of me after about a week and a couple of days later I had one at my door. The real surprise with the 12 foot version is how little I use my anchor now. Most of my fishing is in 10 foot of water or less and instead of worrying about anchor hangups, I just Park it!
Photo courtesy of Ethan Moreno
FOR A CAUSE Words and Photos by Corey Stansifer Kayak Anglers for a Cause, or KAFAC, The phone was uncomfortably silent for what
is a non-profit organization comprised of kayak anglers who raise funds to help other kayak anglers and their families in times of need. This grassroots group was not meant to exist beyond a one-time benefit tournament. However, the response and demand from participants lead to something special. This is the origin of KAFAC.
seemed like 30 seconds. Todd continued, “I’ve got some bad news…Hopper’s daughter was just diagnosed with leukemia”. I froze. It was almost like I was stuck to the floor.
Several emotions and thoughts started racing through me all at once. I had only known Jason for a few months. I had never met his daughter, Erin, or any of his family. None of that mattered. I had children and immediately THE CALL empathized with the situation. We had to do Sunday, March 30th, 2014. This was a Sunday like many of the others before it. I was something, anything, to help out. But what? up early drinking coffee and catching up on Todd and I began brainstorming over the fish stories from my laptop. The family was still asleep and I was enjoying the peace as the phone on how we could raise money for the family. We discussed shirts, decals, and other sun slowly lit up the room. I heard my cell items to sell. The common hurdle for our ideas phone start ringing from the bedroom and I was the cost of the items. The profit margin got up to answer it, expecting a fishing invifor each idea would not raise enough money tation. I looked down at the screen and saw “Todd West”. Todd was a mutual friend I had for the family. met a couple months prior through Jason HopThen it hit me. What about a kayak fishing per. We had fished a couple of tournaments together. I initially thought it was strange that tournament? Todd and I were both directors of local kayak fishing trails, so it was a no-brainer. he was calling, but maybe he was in the area We both had local sponsors that would donate and wanted to do some fishing. I picked up prizes so all entry fees could be donated to the the phone and answered it. family. It was all working out except for one “Hello?” thing; location. Todd’s group was an hour and “Hey man, it’s Todd.” a half south of mine. It only took us a “Hey, what’s goin’ on?” couple minutes to come to a solution; an KBFMAG SPRING 2016
prizes, decals, and other items for the tournament. Even other kayak anglers who were sponsored by other companies were sending in prizes and handmade products. It was an amazing, fast-growing response, but not surprising. This is what sets the kayak angling community apart from many other communities.
online, month-long tournament in May that would incorporate both groups.
Online kayak magazines began running the tournament announcement and the angler count continued to grow throughout the month of April. In the end, what was expected to be 20 local guys competing for fun and raise a little money, turned into 125+ anglers across 22 states donating and competing for a multitude of prizes including a new kayak. Each angler received a t-shirt and decal. My kitchen table turned into a makeshift sortTHE TOURNAMENT ing and shipping operation. Overwhelmed We posted the tournament on social media and was an understatement and the tournament almost immediately anglers started registering had yet to begin. As the tournament started and making payment. We watched as the however, we realized that we had nothing to angler count moved from single digits to dou- worry about. Each angler was overly patient ble digits. Then it happened. I received a with judging of the fish and publishing of the message asking if anglers outside the local area tournament leaderboard as we spent countless could also participate. Of course, we were not hours trying to stay updated. going to turn down additional money for the family. What harm would it be to allow a few In the end, after confirming all of the prizes, anglers from outside the area to fish the onverifying shirt sizes, multiple trips to the post line tournament? This was the match that lit office, and posting the last leaderboard update, the wildfire. As word spread and other anglers we were able to raise $2500 for the Hopper took notice, our angler count was growing family. We celebrated the achievement by rapidly. From double digits to 100 anglers in floating the river with Jason and some of his just a few hours, anglers were registering across closest friends. We gladly presented the check multiple states. to him at the end of the float. We were both pleased and relieved that we had pulled off the Sponsors started calling to see how they could online tournament. participate. Boxes of shirts were showing up on my porch to be mailed out to each particTHE BIRTH OF KAFAC ipating angler. Each day, the mailman would Not long after the tournament ended, we make multiple trips to the porch, dropping off started receiving inquiries on when the next 13
tournament was scheduled. Anglers were leaving us messages about how much fun the online tournament was and the feeling they received knowing that the money was going to a great cause. We didn’t have to put much thought into it. We had inadvertently built something and the kayak community wanted more. We discovered a need within the community we loved so much and decided to pursue it.
was overtaken by fire. We helped pay medical bills for a fellow kayak angler undergoing heart surgery. We collaborated with a kayak company to provide a kayak to a physically disabled angler.
Personal matters slowed KAFAC slightly in 2015 due to job changes and moves, but the hunger remained for the members. We were thrilled to learn that KAFAC was nominated for “Forum of the Year” by readers of YakAngler magazine. Being nominated was fulfilling, A brainstorming session lead to the moniker but KAFAC members and others within the “Kayak Anglers for a Cause.” By not classifying ourselves to any one illness or cause, we are kayak angling community pushed it further. able to help the kayak angling community in a variety of ways. A social media group was set- When the voting period ended, KAFAC was up with the official name and members started named 2015 Forum of the Year. This is a testament to the entire KAFAC family and those pouring in. In 2014, we hosted a variety of online challenges and tournaments to help raise that come together for the benefit of others. initial funds. We secured sponsors to help with Last year brought another first for KAFAC; our prizes and payouts. The first year of KAFAC first “live” tournament. We had only hosted was a success. online tournaments to date, but a call to action was needed after a local angler was murdered As the organization built up funds, we were able to start contributing to various causes. We while retrieving his truck and trailer and a helped send donations to a family whose home ramp in Murfreesboro, TN.
KBFMAG SPRING 2016
In less than three weeks, we put together a tournament encompassing kayak anglers and bass boat anglers alike. And once again, we quickly became overwhelmed as the response grew like wildfire. Several news crews where in the parking lot on tournament day before we had even arrived! Between the fishing tournament, BBQ lunch, raffle, silent auction, and simple donations, we were able to raise $18,000+ for the family of the murdered angler.
a goalkeeper at Alderson Broaddus University in West Virginia.
A SUCCESS STORY
We welcome anyone that wants to participate and benefit fellow kayak anglers and their families in times of need. 2
What happened to Erin, the girl who was diagnosed with leukemia and essentially created the snowball effect? She is doing just fine now. Erin was hospitalized not long after the initial tournament was set up. She underwent several rounds of chemotherapy in Atlanta and missed several months of high school. However, she courageously fought her battle and entered remission.
In a nutshell, a simple phone call on a Sunday morning ignited an entire community that continues to grow to this day. With over 800 members, KAFAC is putting together plans for 2016 that will include more online and live tournaments. There are also other news and agenda items that cannot be released at this time.
She was named Homecoming Queen, graduated high school, and was recruited to play soccer at the collegiate level. Erin is currently
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY C
Swamps call to me for some reason. When I drive past that black water, cypress trees and Spanish moss I have the strong urge to paddle and fish it. One of my favorites is the Okefenokee Swamp that splits southeast Georgia and northern Florida.
The fish, animals and scenery keep me in sensory overload when I am paddling there. It doesn’t matter if I am on a day trip or camping on one of the overnight trails it is always an adventure. The overnight campsites are either raised platforms called a “chickee” or an island in the middle of the swamp and require a park permit for use. An overnight trip in the swamp is an incredible experience with the sights and sounds that only swamps can provide. Dazzling starlit skies, serenading owls and the popping of gator teeth on midnight snacks all make for a once in a lifetime camping trip. I think it does a person a bit of good to spend a bit of time in a place where they share the top of the food chain and listening to gators KBFMAG SPRING 2016
Left: A bowfin, one of many toothy swamp creatures, is handled with care Photo by Chris Funk Above: Camping in the Okefenokee is fun but preparation is key Photo by Chris Funk move under your chickee at night will certainly make you question your position as an apex predator.
learned to just give them their distance and to be careful with my catch. A flopping fish is like ringing a dinner bell to them and will bring them from great distances to your kayak. During the spring mating season bellowing bull gators will resonate for miles through the swamp and it is an incredible thing to hear. These bulls and a momma with babies demand the most respect and I give them plenty of room.
The one critter I truthfully fear in the swamp The Okefenokee is 438,000 acres of peat bogs, is the yellow fly or â€œyellaflyâ€? as they are called locally. Normal thoughts should have the wetlands and meandering cypress canals and mosquito in that position being a swamp but is home to 200 species of birds, 40 species of mammals, 50 species of reptiles and 60 species skeeters can be controlled with bug spray for of amphibians. There are even multiple species the most part. I have yet to find anything that will stop a yellow fly other than a size 12 of carnivorous plants to be found throughout the swamp. Of all the creatures of the swamp, fishing shoe. They wade through 100% Deet the most talked about is the alligator. Paddling like it is a cool refreshing spring and can bite through a shirt like it isnâ€™t even there. Out with a multitude of big lizards will certainly challenge your thoughts about them but I have of all the biting and stinging critters I have 19
messed with, these biting terrors take the award for most hated. The good news is they are not around in cooler weather so the months of October through April are my prime months for swamp adventures. If I ever go back in summer it is because I am running from the law!
sure to add a short piece of 20lb test bite leader in case the pickerel or bowfin decide to hit it.
One of my favorite fish to chase in the swamp is the chain pickerel; they strike fast and violent and they put up a pretty good fight for their size. If I am specifically targeting the pickerel (called “jacks” in the swamp) I use a spinnerBesides photographing the sheer beauty of the bait and fish it fast. A jerk bait is a local favorOkefenokee, I love to chase the fish that call it ite but I am not fond of flopping toothy fish home. The tannic acid in the water keeps the with a face full trebles in my kayak; especially PH at a level only a few species can stand but when I had to land them green to keep them those species are plentiful. away from a gator! Their numbers declined a bit after the drought and fires a few years ago You won’t find many bass in the swamp (I have but they seem to be making a comeback. only caught one in 7 years of trips) but the Remember to have a Fish Grip or something bowfin will play all day. There are also pickerel, similar if you chase them or bowfin; these fish warmouth, bullheads, spotted gar and a have a mouth full of needle sharp teeth and beautiful panfish called a flier. they will put a hurting on you if you aren’t careful. A bucket of redworms, light line and a bobber are a sure way for a fun trip and a fish The heaviest hitter of the Okefenokee is the fry. There is something about that black water bowfin (called blackfish or mudfish in the that makes the little bullheads and fliers some swamp) and they are the reason I love to fish of the best eating fish you can fry. The fliers are there. They are a powerful hitter but have bony also fun to chase with inline spinners but be jaws that make them difficult to hook. Strong,
KBFMAG SPRING 2016
super sharp hooks are necessary to penetrate through the teeth and bone and I often have to nurse sore shoulders after a good day of hook sets. One really solid pattern for the bowfin is flipping a black or red worm into open pockets in the lily pads or along their edges. A hit is usually a powerful thump or they will pick it up and just swim off with it. Give them a little pause before setting the hook home, it will increase your hook up ratio.
On a frog just kill it and let it sink but watch your line. When the line jumps give it a pause then strike hard and hang on. These fish have a twisting flipping fight that will have you wondering which end you are hooked to and it creates quite a ruckus. Like I said before if they splash too much, keep your eyes open for hungry lizards trying to help themselves to your catch.
The Okefenokee is a wild and beautiful place If there is any surface activity I will throw a that I love to explore. It is one of those “total frog or buzzbait of some sort. Make sure the package” adventures with the scenery, animals frog is a durable one or bring plenty because and solitude very few places offer. I would, they will eat the legs off in a New York minute. without question, recommend every kayak anFor buzzbaits I bring the cheap, mass produced gler add it to their fishing “bucket list” of padones as long as they have a decent hook. They dle trips. I say the swamp calls to me and my will not survive many fish but I would family would probably agree. Every once in a rather wreck a cheap bait than ruin an while, the need to paddle that black water gets expensive one. This is not normal topwater the best of me and I feel the urge to go. fishing in that you will need to watch your bait closely on the way in. Bowfin will follow a bait Call it an addiction or an obsession; either one for a good bit pushing a head wake behind it. would probably fit. The only way to scratch When you see that, slow the bait down as slow that itch is to point the truck southeast toward as you possibly can and that will usually trigger the swamp and head to my happy place. 2 the strike.
A bait stealer just waiting on a pause a tad too long or a hookup you take too long to get inPhoto by Chris Funk
UFC star Clay Guida finds some solace in Florida while kayak fishing. Photo courtesy of Heliconia Press.
NATURE WORDS AND PHOTOS BY DREW ROSS
The last thing she said was, “have fun.” The conversation with my wife still fresh on my mind when I arrived at the boat ramp. Not knowing if I had been successful in my pleas to sneak away or just made my wife mad. The conversation started normally enough. I said, asked if you will, did she mind if I went to the refuge for a few hours. Her: “are you taking the girls?” I hadn’t planned to and when I relayed that to her, the look she returned me, made me reconsider that strategy. New strategy, “lets all go.” Again the look wasn’t favorable. I’m always up for a family outing. However, my wife is allergy challenged. She could walk in to an IBM factory and have a sneezing fit.
The kayak stays on the truck rack for the, “I’m bored and need to get away trips.” The first thing I noticed was the water. It was nasty and I started to suspect how the rest of the day would go. I briefly reconsidered the trip. I turned around and started to leave. The truck was heading north along the gravel road but somehow it ended up in front of the boat ramp again. It was obvious a force, not in my control, wanted me to go fishing. After paddling through the sludge, I found open water and lots of it. The refuge was up about 5 feet from normal pool and also falling which explained all the debris in the water. On a good day locating bass in a cypress swamp can be a challenge because everything looks fishy. Today did not look like a good day. As I was deciding how to approach the high muddy water the kayak drifted under a tree and my GoPro camera snagged. While freeing the camera, I kicked my baitcaster into the water. After reacquiring the Daiwa the thought of packing it in entered my mind again. That was my next sign to turn around. The beginning of the day was a struggle to say the least. The only fish seen was being eaten by a heron. Channeling my inner Payton Manning, “epic come back starts right here” and if you remember the Nationwide commercial you know what happened next. A few casts later I felt a soft bump, and broke off on an epic hook set. On a normal day, I would have wondered what happened. Did I forget to re-tie, was it even a fish, maybe something with teeth? Today was anything but normal. Today, my first thought was, “why are you still here?” I reached for my tackle box and discovered I had actually brought my streamer box. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my fly rod. The only conventional tackle I had was what
had been hibernating in my Cuda insert. A bag of various soft plastics, five tungsten sinkers and six 4/0 wide gap hooks. “Go home” was now screaming in one ear and echoing in my brain cave. Possibly the high pitch squeal ringing in my ear had me disoriented because I continued on my path of failure. In front of the kayak stood a maze of trees with no end in sight. It wasn’t clear if navigating the maze would be a good idea. But that
outside force led me on. It was a tight fit sliding and pushing through the trees. Eventually, the maze opened up into a small pond that looked promising. The edge of the pond was lined with trees sitting in two feet of water that fell into five feet of water. With the refuge at a normal pool, this pond would not hold water but today it seemed like a great place for bass to ambush prey or a spot to flip a kayak and practice my water re-entry technique. That would only complete the day. I scouted the pond and located a large tree that I hoped would break me off five times and end the misery. The first cast was met with a “thump.” I half expecting it to be a cypress knee but was thrilled with the 14 inch bass on the end of my line. Did I say, “thrilled?” Honestly, I felt like I had just summited Mount Everest. It had been that kind of day. Wanting to relive the feeling, I put the soft plastic on the other side of the cypress tree. After a second, I saw my line swimming away from the tree and pulled into another small bass. Now I was getting excited. No way it was going to happen again, right? The 3rd cast was “crushed” on the way down. No chance that was a cypress knee. I quickly reeled in the slack and pulled back hard. In an instant, a four pound bass was
tailwalking right at me. My heart was thumping and I was smoking those eight ball bearings trying to catch up. It was swimming right at the kayak, obviously going to dive under the kayak and break me off. Near the kayak the bass made an audible and started to jump. I, instinctively or stupidly, still not sure, grabbed the line and flopped it into the kayak with me. The action happened so quickly neither of us had time to process the situation. I’m trying to corral the fish. It’s still way green and looks like it belongs in the middle of a mosh pit rather than my kayak. It was banging against me, the kayak, and anything else in range. “The epic come back had begun.” Before I knew it an hour of non-stop catching had passed. I began to think about the day. How did I end up here? Looking around, it became obvious I was probably the only person to ever fish here. It wasn’t accessible from a boat and isn’t visible from the main lake. A satellite image would show it as dry land. It’s off the grid in so many ways. Yet, completely accessible from a kayak. On a day when making it back to the boat ramp with all my gear would have been a good outcome. A force, not in my control, led me to great fishing. 2
MTI Kayak Fishing Range: Four foam models, Two Highbacks, One Manual Inflatable More choice for more fish. #kayakfishing For 2016 Catalog www.mtiadventurewear.com
We didnâ€™t INVENT life jackets for kayak FISHING, it just seems like it.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Weekley
N A B R UARADISE A PHOTO ESSAY BY MARK CISNEROS
Bass fishing isnâ€™t just for wilderness dwellers. Some great bass fisheries are right smack in the middle of sprawling cities. Angler John Herrera spends lots of days and nights exploring his local Urban Paradise.
No drama. Just adventure. VIBE ELEMENT COOLER SERIES
Spend less. Adventure more.
13f t Kayak Hero S eat Paddle Rudder A dventure
SEA GHOST 130
Gene Jenson aka Flukemaster with a nice Florida bass and a jealous onlooker. Photo courtesy of Heliconia Press.
OUTERWEAR THAT CAN GO FROM
M STREAM TO STREET
The Sausalito Faux Sherpa Vest
don’t know how many times I’ve squeezed in a few extra minutes on the water and then looked not as great as maybe I should when meeting folks for dinner or coffee. Somedays leaving earlier to go home and change just isn’t in the cards, especially when the fish are biting. One of the best solutions I’ve found is buying outerwear that can handle the elements and look good for dinner too. The three selections for this addition of our new feature called “Fly Threads” come from Territory Ahead and Survivalon. I’ve been field testing them for a couple of months and can tell you they are impressive. The quality is top notch and the durability is rugged level. What I mean by that is that even after a day of bank stomping or stream running I threw them in the wash and they came out looking as good as they did when new.
The Nail Pounder Vest
The Sherpa Vest is definitely the date night style vest of these three. It is a lot more style than I normally wear on the water but if I am meeting my wife and have a short window it might get some time. The Nail Pounder is my favorite of the three. I’ve worn it everywhere. It looks good, has tons of pockets and takes a beating then asks for more. The Knox Jacket is kind of a super rain jacket. It looks cool but repels water with some sort of cotton super fiber blend. It’s not stiff like GoreTex and heavier and warmer than a shell. As I get older I begin to realize I’d rather pay once for something that will last me years than a constant outpouring of money year after year to replace poorly made outerwear. If you’re in the market, take a look at these and all the other offerings at Territory Ahead. 2
The Knox Jacket
KAYAK FISHING FOR
BEDDING WORDS AND PHOTOS BY RICHARD PENNY
any techniques in bass fishing are simple; cast a lure as far as possible and try to retrieve it past a stump or brush pile (with contact) and in the event that does not work, do it again. Some anglers even drag a jig or creature bait across the lake until they get a strike. Fishing for bedding bass requires more skill; it is an advanced art of angling and adds other elements to the mix, planning, vision, stealth, understanding fish movements and most of all patience. Add a kayak into the mix and things change somewhat when you start talking and stalking bedding bass. While much of this information is generalized to bedding bass, applying it to kayak fishing does not need to be difficult.
PRE PLANNING Take the time to evaluate the noise you make while on the water. I cannot stress enough the benefits of using a GoPro or similar camera to aid in determining noise. There is nothing like listening to your underwater video and noticing the noise that you are transmitting through the water column when you “think” you are being quiet. While this noise is not a deal breaker with the male guarding the bed, it does change the behavior of the female that is lurking in the shadows. If you are chasing a big bass, then the female is your primary target.
and do research prior to a fishing trip could very well result in a waste of time and money. Bass begin to move into the shallows when the water temperature reaches roughly fifty-five degrees and will continue to spawn up to seventy degrees. Not all bass spawn at the same time, typically the larger fish will spawn first, and when seeking a trophy fish, knowing when those fish are moving up to the spawning grounds is critical. Weather patterns and moon phase are another critical piece in the planning phase. Bass typically move up to the shallows when the cloudy days have subsided and the sun has been out for a first expanded period of time around a new or a full moon. Researching via the internet routinely provides you with weekly or in some cases daily updates as to water temperature and water levels on routinely fished bodies of water. Once these factors are determined, equipping yourself for sight fishing is paramount.
THE SETUP Where is your net? I once landed a double digit fish and had failed to pull the net from inside the hull before I launched. Advantage – Fish!
For rod selection, I use my jig rod and will typically go with braid as it has no stretch and PLANNING allows me to quickly get the hook set into the Sight fishing for bedding bass is limited in that fish when I see the bait disappear or move. the premier time to utilize this technique is during the spawning season, which occurs from Bait choices vary, buy mine are simple white jig, white tube or a drop shot worm color…. late February to late May or even later in the wait for it…white. White works well for me year depending on where in the country one resides, thus limiting the ability to perfect the because that is what I am focused on and it is technique. Knowing the water temperature and just easier to see. Be ready to go to a bigger bait typical spawning ground in any given body of to attract the female, have a second rod setup water is where planning starts. Failure to plan just for her. 47
Approach angle can be important as well. It has been frequently said to keep the bed 90 degrees from you while you are looking directly at the sun as to prevent casting a shadow over the bed. While I agree with this and have frequently used it, I can honestly say that on occasion I have had to throw caution into the wind and get the best angle on the bed that gets the most attention from the bass. Believe me, there is a sweet spot.
available and recommended if needed. Polarized glasses give the fisherman an advantage in that it allows for bed locations to be noticed and fish movements to be identified. Even in stained water, where you can barely make out the fish and the bed, polarized glasses give you the advantage.
Being quiet is the first thing people think Wind and current is not your friend. Recognize about when discussing fishing, but being a this going in and be prepared with a stake out stealthy fisherman is more than just being quipole, River Stick or Power-Pole micro. I have et. Sight fishing from a kayak offers several adused an anchor before, but at the risk of mak- vantages over that of a boat. First and foremost ing too much noise with it, I typically refrain is stealth. Having all equipment organized and when possible. In low wind and current condi- stowed properly at all times prevents things tions a drag chain that can be lowered quietly from falling and alarming a fish to a predator and hold your kayak in place. in the area. Fisherman must not only commit themselves to being aware their surroundings, PROPER EQUIPMENT but also of the position of the sun, as to not present a shadow across the waterâ€™s surface, as It has been said by more professional anglers well as dressing in lighter earth tone colors as over the past several years than ever, yet it still to blend in with those surroundings. requires mentioning, as I still see people trying to sight fish without polarized sunglasses. The downside is that it reduces the angle at Consider this a â€œrequiredâ€? piece of equipment. which peak vision to the bedding fish exists, Sight fishing requires the fisherman to actually takes practice and a keen ability to understand see not only the fish, but the bed and the sur- fish movements. Aggressive males guarding the rounding area if possible. In order to do that, bed will not really care that you are there as polarized sunglasses are a must have. Polarized much as the female. sunglasses are without a doubt one of the best investments a fisherman can make for sight BODY LANGUAGE fishing. Why? They remove the glare off the top of the water, allowing the angler to actually see Knowing what the fish is actually indicating below the surface. Lens color plays an import- can be and is a huge advantage. In many cases, ant part as well depending on the time of day the ability to read these very movements is the and sunlight conditions. difference in sitting on one spot for hours or just minutes. While tempting, the male on the A good place to start is with a vermillion or bed is not the target. The female, which is the copper colored lens that works best in all sun larger of the two fish is the prized catch when conditions, allowing an angler to only need to sight fishing. Enticing the female and even unpurchase one pair. Prescription lenses are also derstanding when she is willing to take the bait KBFMAG SPRING 2016
is where understanding movements and behav- other location and let that particular area cool ior come into play. When the lure lands in the off before coming back to it. bedding area, the male and female both have key indicators as to how they are feeling. FINAL TIPS If they continue to swim around and do not act bothered by the lure or the male leaves, then it is time to move towards another location. If they stare downward at it, angling their bodies down towards the lure, pay close attention. If their pectoral fins start rotating and they seem to turn a lighter shade of green, prepare yourself for a strike.
PATIENCE As if everything else already listed is not enough, patience is the deal breaker with bedding bass. After sneaking up on an unsuspecting bedding bass, and seemingly managed to place a lure right up in the fishâ€™s wheelhouse, success now rests firmly on not getting frustrated. Nothing can be more frustrating than repeating the same thing over and over only to have the fish win this game of cat and mouse. Making matters worse, the longer it goes on, the more likely the female is to leave the area. Stick with it, pay attention to what the fish indicating and when required move on to an-
Understand that unless you get to the bed on the perfect day, the female most likely will not be initially visible. More often than not, I have found them to be lurking in cover or in deeper water keeping an eye on the bed. Pay attention to the surroundings and what is going on around the bed. I have literally sat at home watching underwater video with me pulling a male off the bed thinking that the female was nowhere in sight only to have the video prove otherwise. Frequently we tend to get to hyper focused on the fish we can see and not the complete picture. Be patient and take the time to study what is happening, both on the bed and around it. An extra 5-10 minutes spent watching a bed could mean the difference in a 2-3 lb male and a 6+ female. Be prepared to take a picture and measure your fish. Being ready for the moment will allow you to return the fish to the spawning ground and continue to thrive and grow for years to come. 2
ost of us relate well to the outdoors and find solace and comfort in spending time outside, especially on our kayaks. Not only do we enjoy the serenity of the calming waters, but often we strive to push ourselves to go beyond our comfort levels to seek a new adventure. For some it’s a way to test mettle, build character and prove self worth. For others it’s an escape, an attempt to disconnect from reality or rather to connect to the real reality. We can all catch fish, but we may not all have the skill set necessary to travel miles down unknown rivers with the intent to catch fish day after day, and survive at night, far from the comforts of a warm hotel or gas station burritos. What follows is a primer to help you get a game plan, a gear plan and get you on the water for overnight kayak camping trips, or simply overnighters.
Game Plan Always develop a game plan and make someone aware of that plan. Solo kayak camping should be avoided by those inexperienced on that waterway or without plenty of other kayak camping trips under their belt. Be sure to file a trip report with someone on the outside; be sure to leave your put-in/take-out location, where you intend to camp, any special concerns you may have and what times you expect to be at certain locations. If you’re camping on or launching from a park, be sure to check the rules and accessibility prior to arrival. If you’re intending to do this all on public land or public access be sure to check the laws. Most states have special legal provisions to allow access to travelers along waterways, allowing camping on certain types of banks or within a certain distance of the
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WORDS AND PHOTOS BY JOHN HENRY BOATRIGHT water. In some highly restrictive cases access may be limited by permit and camping location may be dictated by regulations or the geography of the area. Don’t forget transportation planning also. Leaving a vehicle at the put-in or take-out isn’t always an option, so prearranging rides may mean sticking to someone else’s schedule and making it to the take-out by a certain time. Ensure your times and distances are realistic. Turning a 30 mile river trip into a 2 day/1 night trip leaves very little time to fish but is easily done with straight paddling, so be realistic based on your expected activities. A good rule of thumb for most river trips, where the concentration is fishing, is about 1 mile travelled per hour.
Weather & Environmental Considerations Weather plays a big role in what you pack so as the trip nears be sure to check the forecast and flow gauges. By checking aerial maps, calling outfitters or checking camping and fishing forums you can greatly reduce the unknowns associated with these types of trips. Strong headwinds mean longer paddle times or shorter distances travelled. Cold weather means waders, more clothing layers and a dry bag of spare dry clothes. A towel, emergency mylar blanket or heat pads might make welcome additions to your gear also. Hot weather usually means less clothing needs but more water, fluids and sunscreen. Rainy weather usually means more dry bags and a rain jacket or poncho. 51
Faster river flows, higher lake levels and tides also affect our trip. Strong crosswinds make a lake trip or crossing a bay very difficult. If you intend to fish across that bay or lake that should make you consider a drift sock, anchor or stakeout pole. If you don’t look ahead or plan for these factors that flat water crossing could be miserable or it means you won’t catch fish. Canceling a trip due to weather or water conditions isn’t fun, but could be the difference in a safe trip the following weekend or a dangerous (or at the very least unenjoyable) trip this weekend.
is everyone going to fire up their own? That’s where a pre-trip gear-up and briefing is beneficial. Some gear considerations should be: • Do I bring a chair? Often times a kayak seat can double as a chair, or logs/rocks are sufficient and present. Sometimes, like camping along bays and beaches, makeshift seats are scarce. Some folks don’t care about sitting on the ground and others do. Check out folding, aluminum tripod stools for a lightweight and compact option.
• Am I going to fish for more than one species? Most times I focus on bass during the day and Throwing all your camping gear on your kayak catfish or gar at night, so this also means bringing extra tackle or rods. is one way too start but you’ll find you don’t • Am I top of the food chain out here? Do I need nearly as much on these trips as you need to bring anything to warn off predators? would when you packed the ol’ ’92 station wagon to go to Yellowstone. What I may con- From bears to gators, better safe than sorry. sider an indispensable tool you may regard as a • An extra paddle? Extra PFD? Maybe not necessary for an overnighter but nice insurance on frivolous luxury, so your gear list may be para 4 day trip for 10 people. ticular to your tastes for minimalism or comfort. Gear lists will vary for each trip but some • Should I bring a cooler? Is it worth the weight? Will my ice last or will it become dead items are essential for every trip. Some things space? Do I really need cold drinks or do I have are obviously standard like: to bring eggs or mayo? • Do I need bug spray? Sunscreen? • kayak, paddle and fishing gear • sleeping arrangements (tents, sleeping What about tents and hammocks? Most of us bags, pad, pillow, etc.) are in one camp or the other and while both • dry bags to store clothes, camping gear have their advantages and disadvantages I’ll and food items suggest some food for thought. Some locations • headlamp/flashlight are going to require one or the other. Sleep• food, water and electrolytes ing on a windy beach without a tent is brutal • camera (because you need proof right?) and you’ll wake up looking like a sugar cookie. When traveling in groups, especially on longer Hammocks require support, which is typically harder to find at the beach (unless you use trips where space and weight are at a premium, we may not all need a hatchet but having driftwood, bring dimensional lumber,etc.). one might be nice. We certainly don’t all need In cases of wetlands, swamps or bays where mosquitoes and others insects are prevalent, to bring a coffee press, but we all may expect coffee. The same for camp stoves and propane- sleeping without a tent or covered hammock KBFMAG SPRING 2016
would be torturous. Tents aren’t great on rocky ground without heavy padding beneath you. Hammocks typically require trees or similarly strong structures to hang which might not be available. Sometimes you can get away with just sleeping on the ground, or rolled in your rain fly or mosquito net, but without knowing exactly where you’re going to camp each night (most typical of river trips) your best bet is to bring a tent.
weather clothing and it is usually imperative that cold weather clothing stay dry, whereas warm weather clothing can usually be dried if needed. I recommend having one extra set of dry clothes on cold trips.
Ensure that you’ve tested out your yak in your layers of cold weather clothing (PFD, rain jacket, waders, hoodie and undershirt make for a different paddling experience). You’d hate to get to the launch and hop on the kayak to realize your wader buckles are digging in to your back and need to be adjusted.
Clothing is obviously weather and time dependent. An overnighter can usually be done in the same stinky clothes as you started in, but your buddies usually expect you to change your britches on a multi-night trip. Cold weather clothing takes up much more space than warm
Ensure you weather test your gear. I was recently caught out in a cold front with leaky wading boots and a poor rain jacket. I was only out for a few hours but it drove home the point that if I’d have been in the middle of nowhere, I’d have other things on my mind besides
fishing. Simply checking my gear over beforehand could have prevented my cold discomfort. On the other end of the thermometer we can be at risk also. On multiple hot days dehydration (or worse) is a serious concern. Consume plenty of fluids and electrolytes but also ensure that your clothing suits your needs. A 3 day trip in board shorts, flip-flops and a tank top is a bad choice. Long, loose fitting clothing of lightweight material, a hat and polarized sunglasses can really increase angler comfort for the long term.
used for larger objects like a cooler or large dry bag.
Meals & Fluids I’m sure we all have our favorite meals and typically we aren’t going to skimp on the food part. I’ve done it all from catching my meals to prepared food, freeze-dried meals to PBJs and all I can say is- bring food that is going to satisfy you. My friends and I always (always) bring too much food but we make sure we eat well and don’t go to bed hungry.
Typically our breakfast consists of coffee (who needs a filter?) and something pre-prepared. Packing Your Yak Foil wrapped breakfast tacos warmed on emWhether you’re packing it inside your kayak or bers, powdered donuts, muffins or bagels make for a quick meal- and let’s face it, we aren’t all on the deck (or a mix) we should consider here to camp, we’re here to fish. Again, lunch a few things before we just throw it on. Some stuff you’ll only need once a day and other is typically a cold meal or a quick warm mealsandwiches and lunchables are great, or use things you need often throughout the day. those breakfast bagels as bread and slap together a PBJ. Boiling water to reconstitute a freezeYou’ll also need some stuff immediately and dried meal or to cook some sausage is typically won’t mind digging for other things. So pack quick also, but I’ve never seen someone take in accordance to how you’ll need to access your gear. First Aid kit, toilet paper, headlamp, the time to cook a full meal. Dinners usually consist of a warm meal of meat and canned drinks and a PFD shouldn’t be buried at the bottom of your kayak under your tent, pork-n- foods cooked over fires or small propane backbeans stash and banjo. The last thing you want packing stoves. A Central Texas favorite is venison sausage wrapped in a tortilla with a side of to do alongside the bank in a rush is dig for beans. In the morning time the leftover venison your tp, so pack these items together near the and beans get used in a tortilla for breakfast. top. Pack a balanced load. You don’t want to be that guy whose bow is trimmed up and out of the water because all of your gear is behind your seat. A cooler behind you usually means more gear goes on the bow. Remember your starboard and port side balance also because this one usually causes the turtles. Usually gear is packed inside a bow hatch to keep your bow clear for fishing/hunting gear and the stern is
Carrying enough water isn’t typically a concern for shorter trips, but the presence of safe drinking water should never be assumed. I’ll always carry stabilized chlorine dioxide droplets (similar to iodine tablets but quicker and less funny taste) and a water filter straw. These both can be purchased for minimal expense online and are small so they take very little real estate from my boat. I always bring a small camping cup
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Finding a balance when packing your kayak is important to make sure you don’t have to unload just to fish.
(more typical of overnighters on lakes). I look for a flat but elevated shelf, hopefully with little vegetation (less bugs and bushwhacking), I like a bank of a few feet incline to pull my boat up on, decent firewood, hopefully some big sitting rocks or logs, ideally not near any other humans and hopefully next to a good fishing spot. Keeping food and drinks cold for long isn’t too I know this place sounds like utopia, but they difficult these days with modern ice chests, but aren’t that hard to find in my experience. If these items can be heavy and bulky so consider you ever plan on making this trip again you’ll this before you commit to cold adult beverag- remember the good banks as you pass them or es for everyone. If it is a must consider salting camp on them and there’s always a chance that you’ll wake up in the morning, break camp and your ice or splurging for dry ice. find a better spot around the next bend. also for mixed beverages and morning coffee. 1 gallon of water per person per day is a good estimate of what you’ll need. In winter months I don’t drink nearly that much but in summer months I can easily consume a gallon (and you should too).
Finally On The Water
Once I find my spot I’ll fish around that loThe time to start thinking about your evening cation until the last second, which usually depends on the condition of the campsite. I campsite isn’t at dark when you can’t see any quickly bust out my head lamp (which I convefurther than your rod tip. I suggest finding niently packed near my toilet paper for the easyour campsite 1 hour to 30 minutes before iest of access) and get to town clearing a spot sundown (or earlier in the mountains/canyons) if you don’t have a designated one already for my fire and tent. I get a fire started first to 55
help fend off animals and insects, then I focus on my tent and a soft place to sleep. Drag your boat up higher than necessary and tie it off (remember some tailraces have pulse releases from dams upstream or the tides really like to take kayaks out). Once you’ve finished all the necessaries then I throw out some baited lines and start cooking my dinner. As I cook, I clean up my trash and try to keep my kayak somewhat organized so my departure in the morning isn’t a scramble.
ably (assuming no bugs, no moisture and no sand). • Baby wipes double as toilet paper, paper towels or an expedient shower. They’re also good for wiping down pots and pans after you’ve used them (thanks Tyler). • Drink mix packets pack well and break up the monotony of water. • Pack a communication device- a cell phone, marine radio, satellite phone- whatever you need to ensure you can summon help (or your scheduled pick-up) when you need it. • Pack a compass and learn to use it! The same Campsite Etiquette goes for a signaling mirror. • Trash bags serve multiple duties such as: expeWe should all practice the ‘Leave No Trace’ mentality while kayak camping. First, it puts a dient dry bag (double up!), poncho, rain cover, moisture barrier and of course, a trash bag. bad taste in people’s mouths when they come across a trashy campsite, especially if it happens • A length of rope and a tent rain fly can to be along the shoreline of their property. One make a great a-frame tent that allows a breeze through. sure way to draw attention is to be loud and boisterous, leave trash and fish bones and tear • Look for an ‘all-in-one’ mess kit that has a up all the vegetation while making a large fire. pan/plate combo for meals. Usually fire starters, utensils, drink packets and other small Instead, set an example. I think the only imitems can be packed in these also. pact we should have on a campsite is to leave • If you can’t stand to chew your coffee cold ashes but in general we should be as low grounds, pre-wrap a cups worth of grounds in impact as possible. a filter and twist it up like a tea bag to dunk in your warm cup of water. Next, if you’re ‘that guy’ at night that sounds like the rotary engine of a WWI biplane while • Fold up and pack a square of foil to cook your daily catch on, maybe even squeeze some you sleep, please do us a favor and try to fall asleep last or place your tent further away from lemon juice and pre-spice it also. • Spices fit well in Tic-Tac® containers. the camp. Lastly, if you’re ‘that other guy’, and you know who you all are, sleep downwind of the campsite (looking at you Brian).
Whether you’ve pre-placed a vehicle at your take-out or have arranged a shuttle you’ll want More Pro-tips: to ensure you get to the take-out before dark. Loading all your gear up while you’re worn • Clothes bundled up in a small dry bag/tent down and tired from a few days on the water bag can double as a pillow. takes more time than the enthusiastic loading • In summertime a ‘dry bag pillow’ and sleep- pace on Day 1. Don’t try it in the dark where ing pad might be all you need to sleep comfort- you may leave gear or cut corners in a rush, KBFMAG SPRING 2016
and remember some take-outs close at sundown (which might make for a long drag).
Photo courtesy of Margaret Outenreath
Lastly, ensure you break your gear down in a timely manner, within 24 hours of getting home. Air out and dry all your wet gear, and rinse and wipe down anything covered in mud, sand or salt. Take the time to refine your gear list if you needed something or found something unnecessary. Write a trip report and be sure to mention the unexpected or tips for the future. This is also a good time to repair or replace your gear if anything broke. Don’t let a few days pass to do these tasks- you’ll forget the important mental notes you’ve been indexing and your gear will stink to high heaven or just plain rust and mildew and then you’re worse off on your next outing. The next time you wonder what that next stretch of river looks like or think, “Man, I’d love to stay out and fish all night and tomorrow morning!” remember that you can. 2
Four different kayaks, four different loads. Rear cargo areas carry the majority of the gear with front hatches holding as much as will fit.
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY
ong before I ever sat in a yak, stripers were a part of growing up around the tributaries flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. Fittingly, a striper was the first fish I caught from a kayak. Perhaps, I like catching them because they are relatively easy to catch; well maybe not all the time, but they are predictable. Stripers like to eat around the conveyors of bait that current provides, as it moves over and around submerged structure. Add light and shadows to the mix, and it becomes a frenzy. It seems logical that the fish would hang in the eddies behind structure, out of the current, positioned to ambush bait as it is pushed by. This proves to hold true during the day, but at night, I’ve found the best fish in front of, or adjacent to structure. Until last year, I always tried to present a swimming presentation. A lead head jig with a fast acting tail. Swimming Mullet, grubs and Storm Lures have always been consistent producers. When these baits are retrieved through the strike zone, they are irresistible to hungry stripers.
times, I’ve been able to find fish more concentrated around submerged structure. At times of slack current, I’ve found the fish to be more prone to wandering. Not typically oriented to particular structure, but more prone to move away from cover and structure to pursue bait. This year, there has been an abundance of micro-schoolies cruising the light line, busting bait, but the larger fish have consistently come from deeper in the water column. While fishing deeper water, nearing 30’, it can be difficult for me to swim a bait down to the bottom of the pilings where I’ve found bigger fish. Recently, I started doing more vertical jigging in these areas, with consistent results. I’ll drop the bait far enough up- stream of structure so as to time the descent of the bait to get to the bottom ahead of the strike zone. I’ll start to work it with sharp jerks up from the bottom, then let it sink, all the while keeping tension on the line. Depending on the speed of the current, I can usually get a good 5-6 jigs
Last year I was introduced to a sharp, fast jigging technique, using lead heads and fluke style plastics, which has been much more productive during more typical periods of less voracious feeding. Because current plays such a critical role in the feeding habits of schoolie size linesiders, it’s imperative that the timing of the ebb and flow play an important part of planning a trip. My most productive trips this season have been scheduled around the max current, both ebb and flood. Depending on the location, these max and min’s, as they are called, occur 1-3 hours behind high and low tide. At these 59
Kokatat. The bibs have latex cuffs at the ankle, and require the use of knee high waterproof proof socks, and booties. The semi dry top has a neoprene collar which is more comfortable than the latex collar found on dry tops. Latex cuffs keep out drips, which were the largest While in pursuit of late season striper and other cold weather fish, the right gear is a must. annoyance while using a standard rain shell as a splash top. The bibs and the top can be used Iâ€™m familiar with three options, all of them independently of each other, but also integratviable, but quality, kayak specific dry gear is far and away the superior option. I started out ed by a system in which the apron on the bibs roll up with the apron inside the top to form a with a pair of White River breathable waders seal. Itâ€™s pretty slick. and a waterproof shell for a jacket, and fished fairly comfortably for a few seasons. After a season or two using this outfit, I was Should you wind up in the water with this out- fortunate to win a Kokatat Super Nova Padfit, a wading belt will keep most water out for a dling suit. Again, semi-dry, neoprene collar, few minutes, but the clock will be ticking rap- latex cuffs, and integrated socks. I wear flats idly. I then stepped it up Whirlpool bibs from boots over the socks. This is by far the most Kokatat and a Tempest semi-dry top, also from resilient option, but if it warms up during the before retrieving, paddling back up current, and dropping it again. The hook up usually comes right after the lure begins to fall after getting yanked vertically.
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day, I miss the ability to take off the Tempest top. Regardless of what your outer layer consists, your base layer is a key component. I prefer both Kokatat and Patagonia, who make exceptional base layers in a variety of weights. These garments offer moisture wicking technology which you will appreciate as kayak fishing often results in periods of exertion, as well as rest.
a blast. Planning, trying, succeeding and bragging, are all a part of what makes kayak fishing so much fun. Furthermore, I have to say that these are not techniques that I have developed on my own. I’ve read about what others have learned, and quizzed a number of anglers about what they do and how they do it. Then, on the water, I’ve done my best to apply what I gleaned from their experience.
While paddling and generating heat, I’ll stuff both my gloves and my hat in my PFD, which keeps the gloves dry, and allows some excess heat to dissipate out of my head. When I take the gloves off to re tie or change lure, again I’ll stuff them in my PFD. Be warned however, woe to the angler however that tries to handle a Miro-Lure while wearing wool gloves. In closing, employing these techniques has been
These techniques are not the only way to get good fish. Many local anglers catch fish of exceptional quality on large swim baits, top water plugs and bouncing buck tails from the shore. So this year, when the short fish are kissing your bait near the surface, upsize your bait’s profile, and get it down deep! 2
The when and where make all the difference when targeting cold water rockfish.
GET LIT GET BIT
H.O.W. TO GET STARTED WITH F
WORDS BY GREG STERLEY
or those of you that donâ€™t know, Heroes on the Water is a non-profit organization that provides therapeutic kayak fishing rehabilitation and reintegration programs to disabled active duty/national guard and reserve personnel dedicated to their physical and emotional rehabilitation.
Where to Start
First things first, head over to Heroes on the Waterâ€™s webpage (heroesonthewater.org) and
explore. You will find tons of great videos and information that will help you understand what a great cause this organization serves. Next, find the volunteer link and sign up (http://heroesonthewater.org/how-to-help/ volunteer/). The form is pretty straightforward and if you do have a chapter located near you I bet that you will hear from someone quickly greeting you and getting you all setup to lend a hand.
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But There Isn’t a Chapter Near Me
Not a problem if you are willing to do some work and provide some leadership. After doing some research on the Heroes on the Water website, I noticed that there wasn’t a chapter in my local area. In the heart of Central Texas lies Fort Hood, the most populated Army base in the U.S without a chapter to support it. I was shocked.
Our Chapter’s approach has been two fold; support from the local community and from corporate entities. Both have different avenues that will have to be explored. On the corporate side, be prepared to fill out some paperwork as most large businesses have some sort of process to apply for donations.
After filling out the online form I was immediately in contact with the HOW Team and the dialogue began between us about forming a new chapter. Of course I was nervous about such an endeavor, but I knew this was a cause that my local community needed.
On the local side, our preferred avenue has been face-to-face interaction with local tackle shops and other businesses to build quality relationships and garner support close to home.
Forming the Team
Having decided that establishing a chapter was worthwhile I began to recruit a leadership team. The power of local fishing forums should not be underestimated, within days of posting on my favorite sites I had several responses from eager individuals up to the challenge. HOW recommends a minimum of 3-5 people to begin forming a chapter and within days that quota was filled.
Event Planning and Management Media Relations Operations Management Budgeting and finance reports
You are Not Alone
For anyone else looking to build a new HOW Chapter, know that there is help around every corner. The HOW National Team has been at our side every step of the way and several other Texas Chapters have offered their assistance time and time again. If there is one thing I have realized during the last four months building this chapter, it is that this cause is built on teamwork and a shared vision.
Once we got the team established it was now time to figure out what everyone was going to devote they’re energy to. People come from all different types of backgrounds with different skills and experiences. A challenge is fitting those skills to relevant priorities for the chapter. The HOW Team is there to help and has defined roles that most chapters operate with.
Building anything from scratch is not easy, but starting a Heroes on the Water Chapter in your area is worth the hard work and time. You will be supported by an amazing national organization that wants nothing more than for you to succeed and you will undoubtedly have a positive impact on someone who has sacrificed so much for all of us. 2
- Warrior recruitment and management - Volunteer recruitment and management - Local partnership development & fund raising - Equipment Acquisition and Management
LEARN MORE ABOUT
HEROES ON THE WATER 67
MEMORIES A PERSONAL STORY
LIVED BY MANY PHOTOS AND MEMORIES BY
old brisk morning air and the smell of a running 2-stroke outboard while looking across the lake as the morning fog gives way to the rising sun. Those sensations of feeling, smell and sight take me back to my youth. Whenever those things come together I am in my happy place. My happy place was created by my Grandfather on our frequent morning excursions across Lake Sam Rayburn, and as I sit down to right this short article on the eve of his entering hospice at age 92, the only place I want to be is on that lake, in his boat, in that cold brisk morningâ€Ś.you get the idea.
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Whether my Grandfather knew it or not, we were making memories. For the most part, those memories were not captured on film, more importantly they are embedded in my senses. The combined attributes that surrounded those early morning treks across the lake to our “secret spot” would forever be implanted into my brain, allowing me to always feel at home when they all combined again. Frequently I think chasing those memories is what drives us. We all just want to be in our happy place. My Grandfather’s happy place was there on the lake. Fortunately for me, he shared that experience. In turn, I share them with my kids. As a result, all of my kids enjoy fishing. Best of all, they all love just being on the water. Good luck getting them out of bed for school, but mention fishing, the lake or the river and magically they jump right up and get ready to go. To the point, my youngest son at age 12 will already have the boat or kayak trailer connected and the truck started if I am not moving fast enough.
while supporting Heroes on the Water. When I saw my Grandfather for the last time, I showed him pictures of my cousin and me at the lake, in his boat and fishing to which he nodded his head. I followed them with pictures of his great grandkids on the water, kayaking, boating and of course, catching fish. He did not say a word; he looked at me and smiled with a tear rolling down his face and I knew at that very moment what memories were important to him, and certainly the ones that were important to me.
As a tear rolls down my face in happiness, I recognize the impact my Grandfather had on my life. He spent the time with me that his father was not able to spend with him, and that he failed to spend with his two daughters. Admittedly, he recognized many things as we all do with age. He made an effort to change them for generations to come. So much so that no conversation was ever complete without him asking me if I had taken the kids fishing lately. It puts in perspective of what we are called to do, or should be doing. Every generMy time on the water with my kids surpasses ation should be an improvement; we should the time my Grandfather spent with me inten- continue to get better, do better and be better. tionally. The reasons are simple. When I am We should be learning from our elders and on the water, it seems that all of my cares go those lessons should make us better people in away… It’s where I learned a lot about who all facets of life. For me, it starts at the lake. At my grandfather was as a person…and certainly the lake we are making memories, at the end of who he was not. It may very well be the lothe day it really is that simple. cation of some of my best conversations with family, close friends and certainly my kids. It Trust me; it is not a waste of your time…more has also been the location of profound impact like time well wasted! 2 on soldiers and sailors suffering from PTSD
WHY SHOULD I KAYAK
FISH? WORDS BY STEWART VENABLE
ots of people have now heard of this kayak fishing “fad”….even though it’s been around for thousands of years. And if you ask ten people why you should fish from a kayak you’ll likely get 10 different answers. Someone’s love for kayak fishing is no different than any other passion, or sport. It’s going to mean something specific to each person, that’s why they do it.
There’s also a lack of area that you’ll have available. Since running and gunning around a 10,000 acre lake is no longer an option, it’s time to find out what area of water you’ll want to cover, and cover it thoroughly. “Therefore a victorious army first wins and then seeks battle.”
Another advantage of fishing from a kayak is being able to dissect an area of water with a Aside from the differing personal opinions of unique approach. The angles that you can cast why it’s so great, there are a few technical from on a kayak are much lower to the waaspects to kayak fishing that prove it to be ter. When seated you can hit targets in much advantageous.Sun Tzu said “In battle, confron- tighter quarters. Standing in your kayak allows tation is done, directly, victory is gained by sur- for fishing in/around cover that is both near prise.” The confrontation is done with the gear and very far to the boat. Being able to also fish that we choose to fish with. In many cases this secluded weed lines, banks and current seams doesn’t change based on the type of craft, or allows you to present bait in a very life-like and boat, you’re in. Bass tackle remains the same, as natural manner. does striper, red drum or various other targeted species. But HOW you surprise the fish chang- While many of the perceived bonuses of kayak es exponentially with the vessel you choose. fishing are based on personal preferences, these few things are based much more on the facts If you’re attempting to chase bass that are of tactical advantage. And if you’re a fisherman stacked in a narrow creek or reds in the salt than you know…we’ll take ANY advantages we marsh the motorized craft will only get you can get! 2 so far. Even with the aid of push poles you’re range is limited by the draft of a larger boat. Left: Photo by Chris Funk Many of these hindrances are negated when in a kayak. In many cases the kayak angler will Below: Photo Courtesy of Stewart Venable claim victory over these wary fish. Kayak fishing creates a certain ‘lack’ that can in turn be advantageous. The limitations of kayak fishing can, in fact, become your strengths as a fisherman. When fishing from a kayak, there is a lack of space. No matter how big your kayak is there’s no way to get as much gear on or in it as you would a larger motorized boat. Take this as a chance to do some homework and really hone in on the gear you’ll need. If you want your chances of success to remain high, minus every lure you own, you’ll have to find out what you believe the fish will want the most. 71
Just like that - called to heaven was one of the most beloved members of the Carolinas and Virginia kayak fishing community. He was considered a friend, mentor, and even a father or grandfather figure. We knew him as “Catawba Mike”.
Mike Byrne could be described as looking like “Santa Claus on vacation”. He was a big man with a big beard and a BIG laugh. His BIGGER heart, however, made the biggest impression. From behind the sweet smell of pipe tobacco, his greeting was often a simple, “hello young man” or “hello sir”. Mike was a friend to everyone. Always polite and personable, never snide or unencouraging; Catawba was friendly without fail - humble and selfless. Mike was a staple at fiddler’s conventions, meet and greets, and river rodeos. He loved the camaraderie that music and fishing offered. While camping at events, he could be found tending the fire with a bottle of wine in hand many times into the late evening hours. Sitting around the campfire he spoke of fishing and life. Mike also listened intently. He was a sponge eagerly soaking up new knowledge surely to pass along. Mike was always helpful. Whether loading and unloading gear, shuttling others when he could not fish himself, passing up on a prime spot so that someone else could fish, or simply keeping a watchful eye on a newbie, Catawba Mike’s heart always shined.
Catawba was not only a great man, but he was a great angler. He was not interested in self promotion. In a time when others decorated kayaks with the brands they represented, Mike simply stuck a Continental Tires (his employer) decal on the port bow of his Guide 119. Mike was simple in his lifestyle and his fishing style. Most times he could be seen with a jig and spinnerbait tied on. Remembered most, however, is his nose hooked fluke which has become something of legend. Mike would say, “there is always one that will eat the fluke”; he proved himself right continually. Mike was slow and methodical in his approach and was often rewarded with trophy fish. However, Mike was just as happy not catching fish as he was catching. Simply being on the river was enough. A hole has been left in our kayak fishing community. We no longer hear Mike’s laugh. We no longer smell the sweet smell of pipe tobacco from around the bend. We no longer have our friend and mentor. What remains of Catawba Mike are our memories and a legacy that can live beyond any of our own years. Mike Byrne’s legacy is one of sincere kindness, humility, and service. Catawba’s memory lives with our local kayak fishing community but his legacy can live beyond this community and our own lives. His values of kindness, humility, and service set him apart. But, those same values are what binds a community together. Let us live out Catawba Mike’s legacy within the greater kayak fishing community. Let our hearts shine as his did.
Mike’s heart especially shined when serving with the Catawba Riverkeeper. Devoted to the river he loved, he could always be found at Let us all strive to be a little like Mike. 2 Riverkeeper gatherings, serving however he could.
READERS’ PHOTO SHOWCASE
BASS BRAG BOARD ERIC PORTER
JOSH SHERILL PHOTO BY JEFF MALLOT BILL GEORGOPOULOS
KAYAK FISHING TOURNAMENTS:
BUILDING? WORDS AND PHOTOS BY JEFF LITTLE
s of a year ago, I had never competed in a kayak fishing tournament. My role in the sport had always been one of educator, not competitor. Through Blue Ridge Kayak Fishing LLC, I have taught the sport to hundreds of kayak anglers on the water, and tens of thousands through video. But with my role as Regional Pro Staff Director for Wilderness Systems Kayaks, I felt the need to immerse myself in tournaments. I needed the ground level understanding of what it is to win, what it is to lose by a quarter of an inch, what skills are specific to this competitive format and what all of this means to others in the sport. I needed this understanding because I manage, recruit and help develop pro staffers involved in tournaments. (Continued next page)
The education I received through a year of tournaments of varying formats was much more than I could have imagined. I competed in regional series events, larger charity based events, a one month long online tournament and a larger river based series tournament where team scoring was in play. Competing fundamentally changed my nature as an angler. I’ve always been a finesse angler. My traditional finesse approach likely comes from my love of catching river smallmouth from water that is starting to ice over. Letting a hair jig waver in place at the bottom of a ledge trench protected from current, knowing that a 20 inch smallmouth will eventually find it has an appeal that few will have the patience to fully enjoy. I enjoy it. For whatever reason, feeling that signature tap on your line when you really shouldn’t be able to catch them delivers a higher high.
just don’t look! I couldn’t settle down and finesse fish. I recognized it, and switched to power fishing. It felt better to me, broke up my nervous energy, and ultimately I fell three places to anglers who employed finesse tactics.
A top five finish in the first event I competed in should have felt like a win, but it didn’t. It felt like a loss. That might seem egotistical, and even a little harsh, especially to those But in the setting of a tournament, the type of who placed below “it’s about to happen” confidence required of me. But it’s how I finesse presentations erodes. That’s thanks to honestly felt. I wanted to win. What was espethe unstoppable ticking clock inside my brain. cially odd about that first experience was that The first tournament where I recognized the even while I was in the lead, I was fishing hard, erosion of finesse confidence was in October of pushing and wondering, “Is this ruining fishlast year. ing?” With the technology of a real time leader board and uploading photos of your fish with a smart phone, I found out that I was in the lead of the first tournament I entered. That really felt great, but it didn’t last. I could always identify a good eddy, drop a soft plastic in and wait for the bite. But not that day, not as soon as I saw that someone had just bumped me out of the lead.
But somehow I was hooked on the experience, so I entered another. It was the following spring, and I power fished. The tactic I used consisted of skipping a small swimbait into a maze of spatterdock stems in Mattawoman Creek, a tidal tributary of the Potomac River in Maryland. The tactic was working, but not for bigger largemouth.
I had a limit, but was in seventh place. So I A word of advice on these types of tournacalled my buddy Jed, who was in either first or ments: If you are prone to “spin outs” if you see second at the time. He had decided to fish a yourself loosing ground on the leader board, different section, one he had done well in the KBFMAG SPRING 2016
day prior while prefishing. He encouraged me to join him and use a finesse pattern I know all too well: casting a weightless soft plastic to wood and letting it sit. I climbed back up to fifth place in the final minutes of the tournament. Somehow a fifth place finish felt better than a fourth the prior fall, mostly because of the trend at the end. So did that bring me back to my roots as a finesse fisherman? Not really. The next tournament was a month long online event. I fished for largemouth at night, smallmouth during the day, watched the leader board like a hawk, fished more than I have since I was in my early 20’s, and slept even less. I took days off of work to regain the lead and spent more on replacing crankbaits than I care to admit. I landed 5 smallmouth over 20 inches that
month, and three of those were on the last day. Three in one day had not happened in many years. It happened because I was power fishing. I wasn’t stopping to shoot video. I wasn’t stopping to teach a fellow angler a concept about fish tucking into shade lines of a grass bed. I wasn’t messing with a tripod to capture a photo of my catch that would be “magazine cover worthy”. I was fishing hard for the next cull. I realized two things: tournament fishing was stressing me out, and tournament fishing was making me a better angler. The part that was stressing me out was two fold. The physical rigors of a month long tournament just grinds you down. The other part was that I didn’t want to not be good with, or to dislike a fellow angler who was beating me, or about to take the lead. I got beat by Alberto Tabian. He’s a friend who I’ve fished with 83
several times before. He earned a second place finish. I also got beat by Matt Yuschak, who took first, beating both of us. I had never met him before, but following the event, I reached out to him and arranged for us to fish together on the fishery that placed me in third with all of those big river smallmouth.
well, but that tournament winning fish came from a spot that I prefished successfully for several days and spent half the morning pounding and couldn’t get to bite. Matt Eikenberg pulled in, and with a more effective presentation, got that fish to bite within 10 minutes, securing lunker and first place. Mixed emotions again: happy for my buddy, but a little upset with Matt was very appreciative of what I was able myself for not having worked the spot with the to teach him about river smallmouth, and I got right presentation. to pick his brain a bit on the reservoir largemouth that helped The next tourhim win the online nament was the event. I felt back Tidewater Kayak in my element, Angler’s Associateaching withtion (TKAA) tourout worry about nament in Virginia someone catching Beach. This event a bigger fish than was primarily held I would. I wantto raise funds for ed him to catch a Heroes on the bigger fish than I Water and Project did. He caught his Healing Waters. personal best smallBut that’s not to mouth that day, say that it’s not and has eclipsed competitive. There that personal best was to be a saltwaseveral times over ter division and a with the knowledge largemouth diviI’ve imparted to sion. I played to him. He actually my strong suit, enwon a smallmouth specific tournament on the tering the largemouth division. The day before I Labor Day Weekend tournament a month after boated a 20.25 inch bass that many who saw its our trip. photo said that it would win the division. That felt good to hear, but a win would feel much In an August tournament on Lake Marburg better. in Pennsylvania, I took fourth place on a day where very few anglers caught a limit. I was Due to an unusually strong storm, coupled one of them, but again found myself watching with a “super moon”, where the moon is closmy first place position tumble throughout the er to the earth than normal, the tides and surf day. Three good friends finished ahead of me, were far too dangerous to allow the tournament one of which caught lunker off a spot that I to be held. It was the first tournament in the called him over to. I like seeing my friends do TKAA’s history to be cancelled, and the orga-
“I didn’t want to not be good with, or to dislike a fellow angler who was beating me.”
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nizers felt bad to do so, but it was the right call. A few weeks prior, a kayak angler had died on one of the Great Lakes during a tournament due to very strong wind driven waves and the hypothermia that ensued for the unfortunate angler. The notion of “protected water” makes sense when you are just fishing, but when there’s money on the line, anglers will push themselves to places that they shouldn’t be in. Like I said, the organizers of the TKAA tournament made the right call. The funny thing about that event was that it was the most enjoyable of all the tournaments I’ve been part of. Well almost. The one the following weekend was a little better for different reasons, but I’m getting ahead of myself. At the TKAA tournament, I got to meet people like Rob Choi, Forrest Short, Mark and Kris Lozier and many others who I’ve corresponded with over several years but never actually met in person. I won some stuff in a raffle with tons of prizes, had a great meal, and participated in a really fun question and answer session. Kevin Whitley filmed it, so be sure to check it out when you are done reading this. Somehow the fact that we didn’t compete didn’t matter. TKAA Q & A 2015 Video Link
The following weekend, my buddy Jed and I teamed up on a RiverBassin’ Tournament on the Susquehanna River. We entered the team division, planned out a strategy, and I prefished the day before. I’ve learned that prefishing, or fishing the area the day before is a really smart move if you expect to win. I’ve heard of anglers “prefishing” the weekend before, having a rock solid pattern, only to let a week go by, the water temperature drop, or the river come up, or 85
the lake go down, or the lunar phase mean that they are only hitting watermelon candy colored trick worms instead of bubble gum colored flukes. I fished the day before. I went to a spot similar to where I planned on fishing, but didn’t dare sore lip fish that I needed to bite on tournament day. I shared the pattern findings with Jed and my other buddy Juan who was fishing the individual division. The river was rising quickly from recent rains, one side was muddy, and the best big fish bite I found was in whitewater behind ledge rocks with a lipless rattling crankbait. I had very few of them in my tackle box, so I drove to the nearest Bass Pro Shops and bought more. I then drove the route I would take from the place I would fish to the tournament weigh in location. I used my stop watch, got tripped up with a detour along the way, and arrived in a time that I knew I would need to add 20 minutes to the next day to pack my gear up at the launch. I didn’t sleep well the night before. It’s almost a requirement to having a good day of fishing in a tournament: pretend that it’s Christmas and you’re 6 years old and don’t sleep. The alarm clock went off, I drove to the launch, waited for the official 6:33 a.m. launch time, paddled to the place I wanted to fish at the base of some serious whitewater and watched the minutes click down to the official “civil daylight” start time of 7:03 a.m. to make my first cast.
of my life stopped the blades and skirt in it’s tracks, not to move for a full ten seconds. I really thought that the fish, probably another 19.5 incher had wedged behind a rock or something. It was 20 feet from my anchored kayak, and before too long, I could make out the freaky shape of a smallmouth that turned out to be 21.5 inches. It was just holding in current, and my attempts to winch it toward me were failing. It pulled drag away from me, then moved toward me, diving under the kayak, and with time and much worry, I eventually scooped up the fish. Knowing that I had lunker in the bag, I took a moment to look down on it in my net, then shook my fists in joy toward the cloudy misting sky. Then I put it on my Boca Grip and weighed it. Once or twice a year, I catch a smallmouth that tops 5 lbs. Many people throw around the words, “I caught a five pounder from there last week.” People who say that are just straight up ignorant. They believe that their quick glance at a 19 inch 3 lb 15 ounce smallmouth (a nice fish) is commensurate with weighing a fish on a quality scale such as a Boca Grip. It’s not. True five pound smallmouth in any river are rare.
I’ll speed through the set of early fish that I caught, photographed and uploaded and get to the set of fish that planted me firmly in the lead. The sweet spot wasn’t the first, second, third or fourth spot that I had planned out in my milk run. But when I found them, it was on. As in a 19 or 20 inch fish was ON my line every cast I made to an area of whitewater the size of a pitcher’s mound. The first was 20.5 inches, and weighed 5 lb 2 oz.
When the fish stopped shaking it’s head, making the graduation lines on the scale bounce, it settled on 6 pounds 10 ounces. It blew away my previous personal best smallmouth. I have caught longer smallmouth, including one at 22.5 inches, but they were all in the low five pound range. This thing was a freak! I held it under water to give it a chance to recover, then pulled it up to look at again. Its tail had suffered some sort of injury earlier in its life, causing a deformity. That injury didn’t seem to hurt it’s ability to eat. Its belly was so full and tight that I’m not sure where it thought that it would hold a fish that my 7 inch spinnerbait and swimbait combo represented. I took my photos, uploaded to the leader board, certain that I was in the lead.
Several others in the upper 19’s smashed my spinnerbait before the biggest smallmouth
The tournament application showed that I was in the lead, being the first to cross the 60 inch
KBFMAG SPRING 2016
mark, but it didn’t last long. Jed found another similar pattern where he was fishing many miles upstream, also catching a 21.5 incher and two others clearing 20 inches. At that point, I didn’t care, as I had just caught a personal best, and any tournament results were just icing on the cake. As it turned out, I caught another 20 plus incher, resulting in a three fish total of 62.25 inches, a quarter inch behind Jed’s 62.5 inches. I called Jed on the drive down to the weigh in to make sure that he had left time to make the drive and not be disqualified by being late. By then, we had both looked at the leader board and knew that we won the team division, he was in first, and I got second. When we pulled into the parking lot, he smiled, shook his head, laughed and asked, “Do you think this is how the New England Patriots feel all the time?”
to be the best river smallmouth anglers that day. It’s a thrill. It’s fun to win. It’s disheartening to be in the lead, and watch that lead crumble. It’s good to be in the presence of many other kayak anglers, for so many reasons. We are brothers and sisters in the sport. And as with blood siblings, there will be brawls and there will be happy times when we learn from one another. My internal debate on tournament fishing continues with the following question arising: “Is it better to try and prove that I am the better angler, or do I prefer to teach someone else so that they may become a better angler?” I’m learning that in many instances, those two are mutually exclusive. 2
I’ll admit that it felt pretty good. It felt better when we found out that we broke an all time River Bassin’ tournament trail record for a team total at 124.75 inches for six fish. We left the event with $500 each, well over that amount in prizes, and a sense that we had proven ourselves
See Jeff release his personal best smallmouth in this video that explains the pattern that caught that fish.
AND NOW FOR A LITTLE
Some of you may have noticed over the years that the majority of my articles are centered around kayak fishing. While that is indeed my favorite way to fish, the FISHING is the key. Iâ€™ll chase any species I can, any way I can. I recently went on vacation with my wife to Cancun, Mexico and was able to take advantage of a small window of opportunity to fish. KBFMAG SPRING 2016
When my wife decided we needed a vacation, I was on board with any destination that would allow her to take full advantage of a rare chance to relax while secretly hoping there would be pristine fishing water in close proximity. Her heart settled on Cancun…and my mind settled on billfish. While the chance to fish was far from guaranteed, I did a little homework. Just in case. After a wonderful Christmas with family we boarded a short two and a half hour flight from Charlotte to Cancun. Once we landed a black Cadillac Escalade picked us up and delivered us swiftly to an all inclusive resort. My wife dropped her things off in our room and in short order was laid out on the beach. After I got my bearings, and a beverage, it was time to do a little recon. As is the case with many fishing destinations, the best place for fish stories turned out to be the main bar in the resort lobby.
wife wanted to go with me, assuming she was ok with me taking off for a day. I talked with her about it over a mojito and sea bass steak that evening. She was very adimant about me going and enjoying myself. Now if only the weather would cooperate. With 20-30 mph winds all week, there was only one day that might be favorable for a trip offshore. As luck would have it, I was able to negotiate a trip with the company that would allow both my wife and I to go during that half day window.
After a short taxi ride we met the captain and crew around 7 am at the dock . Our captian, Adam, and his crew Manuel and Roger were very cordial and excited to get on the water after several days of rough seas. As we idled out past a series of small islands, Adam asked me if I fished a lot. I told him I did and was excited to fish in a new part of the globe. His look changed from jovial to more business like as he inquired “Are you here for fun, or are you here to catch fish?” This was very VERY good to hear from the I intentionaly overheard a gentleman talking captian. I relayed my desire to chase billfish, as about his experience on a local boat that he this may be my only chance to do so for quite booked through the resort. I politely led the some time. Adam then told me “since we’re the conversation to his pros and cons about how fisherman on the boat, we’re going after the big the company and crew handled his trip. With ones.” I couldn’t help but crack a smile as he no time to do local face to face meetings with stated “We gonna catch big sailfish or go home guides this company was going to have “to do.” with our wives and drink.” I was now feeling The only thing left to do was find out if my good about our chances.
“The gentleman took hold of the rod as the mate yelled ‘sail sail sail!’”
After an hour on the boat, one of our Ballyhoo fell victim to a nice 20lb Mahi Mahi which my wife brought to the boat after a great fight. The entire boat celebrated her victory and her first Mahi. Upon reflecting on the excitement of the moment, the day was already a success in my book. After two hours of trolling and chasing large balls of bait, it was looking like the ‘hero or zero’ game of pursuing sailfish might end with the latter. With very little warning Adam handed a rod down from the upper deck and matter of factly stated “fish on”. The other couple on board was up in our pre determined roatation. The gentleman took hold of the rod as the mate yelled “sail sail sail.” I’d be lying if my heart didn’t drop a little when I heard the words.
billfish. As I quickly dropped into the fighting chair and took hold of the Penn rod and reel combo I found myself leafing through images of my bucket list fish species. Just as I suspected the final image at the top of that list was still, as it had always been, the Sailfish. With power unlike anything I had experienced before, the sailfish leapt towards the sky. Before I was aware of where the fish was, it had nearly passed our boat as if we were racing against each other. In a manner of speaking I guess we were. As I reeled with everything I had, I felt the boat lurch into gear and begin to pursue the big fish. Throughout most of the ten minutes we fought, it was unclear to me if we were moving towards the fish or if he was simply bringing us with him.
After a five minute fight that seemed like an hour, the beautiful vibrant blue beast was on board. The captian had informed us that in Mexico the boats keep the fish to feed their families, but measurements were taken so we could have replicas made. Having never seen a billfish up close, I was in awe of how amazing the 85” fish really was. Again I thought about how incredible the experience had already been and found myself at peace with the fact that one sailfish on a trip is a great trip. The odds of catching another in the remaining hour we had were slim at best.
Finally I was able to see the deep blue and vibrant silver alongside the boat. With an incredibly presice and undoublty experienced maneuver, Manuel had the bill in his hands and the fish on board. The moment came and I had been able to capitalize on it. For twenty years I had dreamed about it. For the preceeding few hours I had rationalized why it might not come to be, and how I was going to be ok with that outcome. But it was not going to be a story of if at first you don’t succeed. My dream had been realized and to better the experience my wife was with me, cheering me on with every turn of the handle.
With two baits about 10 yards off the stern and a pair on the outriggers, we would be ready should the opportunity present itself. Within fifteen minutes it did. Another large sailfish was after one of the baits just behind the boat. He swiped at our last ballyhoo and cut it in half. One of our mates, Manuel, quickly grabbed a cigar minnow and stealthily let the bait out to the exact spot the ballyhoo has just occupied. The entire boat watched as the sailfish then returned from the depths just out of sight and engulfed the second bait. It was time. I had spent the last twenty years dreaming about the chance to go toe to toe with a
The rest of the day was a blur. The mix of adrenaline and cold Corona allowed me to rest easy that evening, despite my arms and shoulders being stiff. When it comes to fishing I am very blessed to have experienced what I have. The bucket list fish seem to dwindle each year since my travels take to very fishy places around the map. The unicorn for the better part of my life has been the Sailfish. And for the next little while when someone asks why I’m not quite as excited to go bass fishing, I’ll simply have to quote the old George Strait tune and “Blame it on Mexico”. 2
KBFMAG SPRING 2016
FORGOTTEN WORDS BY DREW HAERER
reshwater kayak fishing is filled with “poster” species. Let’s face it, most people reading this would love to catch a double digit bass on their next outing. But others prefer chasing less popular species – big, ugly, slimy, “junk” species. Many long lived stereotypes have given these species a bad rap. You might be surprised just how much fun a sleigh-ride from one of these freshwater monsters can be. Three fanatical junk species anglers break down the ins and outs of catching these oftforgotten fish, including bowfin, carp, and gar. Left: Photo by Chris LeMessurier Right: Photo Courtesy of Henry Martin
aggressively. He uses a medium-heavy spinning Henry Veggian is bowfin enthusiast and histo- rod with 20-30 lb braid. Spring water clarity is rarely an issue in North Carolina, so line visrian from central North Carolina. Among his ibility is not a concern for Veggian. A strong many angling achievements, Veggian is currod and braided line are essential for getting rently writing a book entitled, “Welcome to Bowfin Country.” Bowfin have been tank-test- a strong hook set into a bowfin’s hard, bony mouth. A favorite lure of he and fellow bowfin ed as one of the most hydro-dynamic fish on chaser Joe Angelcyk is the Mepps Aglia #5 in earth, behind only tuna and mackerel. Coma fire tiger color, which they have found to be bining that speed with an amazing tail thrust one of the most consistent producers. and crushing bite, a battle with a bowfin is rarely matched in sport fishing. “They run, jump and fight as well as any sport fish”, reGAR marked Veggian, who believes that bowfin are Henry “sharkbait” Martin is a gar enthusiast the most underrated freshwater game fish in and advocate from Austin, Texas. He owns North America. Catching Dinosaurs Alligator Gar Guide Service and can often be found floating the “Catching bowfin from a kayak is unique Trinity River in search of the ancient beasts. because a kayak provides quiet access to waGar are unique in that they possess a primitive ter a boat cannot reach”, said Veggian. These air lung and no tearing teeth, only crushing/ pre-historic fish often lurk in fast water during holding teeth. Alligator gar can also live to be the spring, systematically ambushing prey. Veg- over 100 years old, reaching lengths of over 10 gian targets current lines below water falls, rap- feet. To him, catching gar from a kayak is the ids and dams, where bowfin feed ultimate challenge. “It took me 8 months of
pretty much sleeping on the river to get really good at catching them consistently”, says Martin. A number of factors make them difficult to catch, including their extremely hard, bony mouths, incredible strength, and knack for finding obstructions on the river bottom. In addition, many of the rivers where gar live are subject to flooding, which can make them difficult to locate seasonally. Getting a solid hookset from a kayak can be nearly impossible, so he uses 100 lb braid on large, offshore baitrunner spining reels, tipped with 28” of 105 lb wire leader. He typically rigs chunks of carp or smallmouth buffalo on 3/0 stainless steel treble hooks beneath a split float. When the float goes under, the battle is on!
a lake by a fish, I go chase carp”, LeMessurier said. Although chasing carp with a fly and a buggy whip can be fun, it also requires a lot of work and patience. If LeMessurier is feeling lazy, he anchors up and soaks bait. His favorite carp offering is a can of sweet corn kernels mixed with a packet of Kool-Aid flavoring. He puts a couple kernels on a light-wire octopus hook and then throws a handful more into the water as chum.
Although Martin doesn’t typically target them, longnose gar, the smaller cousins of the alligator gar, are common throughout much of the southern and eastern United States. Longnose gar can be caught using similar cut bait rigs, but like alligator gar, these techniques require significant practice and fine tuning. Therefore, rope lures are a popular alternative. Rope lures are simply pieces of braided rope with no hook and are designed to mimic baitfish. The rope threads then get stuck in the gar’s teeth when it slashes at and attempts to eat the lure. However, the rope threads must be completely removed before the fish is released. If not, the fish may not be able to open its mouth and will die.
Chris LeMessurier is a Wilderness Systems regional pro-staff manager and founder/president of Kayak Fish the Great Lakes. Among the many amazing species that call the Great Lakes home, carp are one of his favorites. “Bass, pike, and walleye are plentiful in the Great Lakes Region, but when I’m ready to get pulled around KBFMAG SPRING 2016
“Carp are finicky, even when they are munching on sweet corn”, he stated. Therefore, his approach is as finesse as possible. LeMessurier uses a medium-heavy spinning rod with 30 lb braid and a 10 lb braided leader. A braided leader may sound crazy, but it’s about feel, not sight, and the superfine 10 pound test braid is barely noticeable.
Drew is a kayak fishing guide, blogger at Man Powered Fishing, and pro-staffer for Wilderness Systems Kayaks, Bending Branches, and others. He resides in western Massachusetts.
Below: Henry Veggian with a nice bowfin Photo courtesy of Henry Veggian
SPRING FLY TACTICS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY A COMPILATION FROM DREW HAERER
Eric Boyd Affiliations: Bending Branches and Mountain Khakis Location: Kings Mountain, NC Target species: Smallmouth bass Kayak of choice: Jackson Kayak Cruise 10 Favorite fly setup: Temple Fork Outfitters Clouser 6 wt. Favorite spring fly: Black leech and crayfish variations Tips for catching spring giants: Eric Boyd is consumed by river smallmouths that hide in the riffles, runs, and pools of cool mountain rivers. The mountains of Western North Carolina are a smallmouth paradise. It is hard to find a river that does not contain a solid population of willing brown bass. With spring comes the itch to dredge pools with weighted flies that are critical for reaching the depths where bass are holding. However,
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smallmouth can be anywhere from deep pools to shallow sand bars. “I prefer to start deep and work shallow in search of a bite”, said Boyd. Spring rains and snow melt often result in higher flows and stained water. Therefore, he prefers to fish black leech and crawfish variations, which smallies can’t resist. As he moves shallow, Boyd may try a Murdich Minnow or popper. The name of the game in the spring is patience. There may not be many bites early in the day, but the afternoon sun can warm up the river and the lethargic smallmouth. This pre-spawn feeding period is one of the best times to land a true trophy bronzeback on the fly. More of Eric’s fly fishing antics can be found at www.foothillsangler.com.
on a mixed diet of crabs, shrimp, and baitfish. Although he uses some traditional flies, such as clouser minnows, Lefty’s deceivers, and spoon flies, Ben also uses a variety of outside-the-box flies tied by his fishing buddy Blake Leblanc. “The wool head fly was responsible for my biggest redfish on the fly”, said Roussel. The patterns for it and some of his other favorites, including a mud minnow imitation and crab imitation, can be found on www.mountainstomarsh.com.
Ben Roussel Affiliations: Jackson Kayak and Aquabound Location: Baton Rouge, LA Target species: Redfish Kayak of choice: Jackson Kayak Kraken 13.5 Favorite fly setup: Temple Fork Outfitters TiCR 7 wt. Favorite spring fly: Various Tips for catching spring giants: Ben Roussel loves nothing more than partrolling the Louisiana coastal marshlands, stalking the flats and often sight casting to brute redfish. The region is a year-round redfish haven, which can be fished using similar methods regardless of the season. Rather than focus on any single fly, he focuses on matching fly color and water clarity, with stained water often requiring darker flies. “Presentation is the key, as you have to get that fly in front of his mouth to make him eat – that’s what the focus should be”, stated Roussel. For Ben, that typically starts with a weight forward floating line and 7.5-9 ft tapered leader. Redfish are normally very aggressive and feed 101
prefers to make long casts with deer hair or cork poppers and then begins a slow, enticing Affiliation: Manager of Austin Canoe and Kayak retrieve. If the bass are feeling more lazy, he Location: Austin, TX may go to a weighted fly, such as a Jeezus Target species: Guadalupe and largemouth bass lizard, cone head olive woolly bugger, or Kayak of choice: Diablo Paddlesports Adios muddy buddy. Favorite fly setup: Anything from Temple Fork Outfitters His number one rule of thumb is to Favorite spring fly: Deer hair popper immediately leverage big bass away from the Tips for catching spring giants: bank, where they can get tied up in brush and More often than not, Ryan Schaper can be found floating the beautiful waters of the Texas debris. He accomplishes this by making a hard hill country. No flow is too small for Ryan, as strip with his fly line while using his paddle to he regularly fishes rivers of all sizes using an as- swiftly spin the boat toward open water. This sortment of gear. He may break out a 3 wt. rod typically turns the head of the bass and gets on the Guadalupe River or an 8 wt. rod on the them headed in the desired direction. Ryan San Marcos. For him, spring is all about target- regularly shares other info via his ing aggressive river bass, including giant Texas kayakflyfishingtexas Instagram account. largemouths and the rare Guadalupe bass. He
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Eric Henson Affiliation: Owner and kayak fishing guide at Casting Kayaks LLC Location: Sarasota, FL Target species: Snook Kayak of choice: Ocean Kayak Predator 13 Favorite fly setup: St. Croix Legend Elite Saltwater Series 8 wt. Favorite spring fly: River Bum’s whitechartreuse deceiver Tips for catching spring giants: Having targeted the species nearly his entire life, Eric Henson is a snook fanatic with an immense amount of respect for the crafty fish. Eric’s spring game plan begins with scouting to establish movement patterns as snook move throughout creeks, rivers, flats, and the open ocean during the pre-spawn and spawning
periods. “Snook move with the seasons, looking for the perfect food source, optimal water temperatures, and prime breeding grounds”, said Henson. When he finds the fish, he utilizes the large deck on the Predator to stand, pole, cast, and strip fly line. Snook often gorge on anything they can find in the spring, so if a fly looks natural, they typically crush it. “The most versatile fly I use is a River Bum’s white-chartreuse deceiver, which is simple yet effective”, Henson stated. He may also switch it up to a tan epoxy shrimp or white gurgler, which allow him to cover the entire water column. Henson typically throws these flies on weight-forward floating fly line and a 7-9 ft leader with 20-30 lb fluorocarbon tippet. Eric regularly shares additional tips on www.castingkayaks.com.
Drew Haerer Affiliation: Wilderness Systems and Bending Branches Location: Ashfield, MA Target species: Trout Kayak of choice: Wilderness Systems ATAK 140 Favorite fly setup: Fenwick AETOS 4-5 wt. Favorite spring fly: Various Tips for catching spring giants: Drew Haerer relishes the emerging beauty of spring in New England, even more so when he’s hooked up to a trout. In most rivers and lakes in the region, spring trout include natives, hold overs, and newly stocked fish. The natives and hold overs are eager to move shallow and feed after the long winter, and stockies typically eat anything in sight. Drew likes to patrol drops offs, current edges, and emerging weed lines while standing in his ATAK, making long casts that parallel the lake features. “I always keep my eyes on the 103
water, as it isn’t uncommon to see fishing rising throughout the day or cruising in the clear water looking for an easy meal”, said Haerer. Drew prefers to use surface flies that match the hatch, including various caddis and dun imitations. “Watching a trout sip your fly off the surface is tough to beat”, he remarked. However, his most productive days often include subsurface offerings, such as midge, pheasant tail, or hare’s ear nymphs, which can be fished in tandem or as droppers below a dry fly. He may also switch from floating fly line to a sink tip
line to perfect a presentation, particularly with streams. In addition, Drew typically uses 6x tippet and emphasizes subtle presentations and patience when attempting to fool wary trout. His fishing reports and tips are regularly posted at www.manpoweredfishing.com. Drew is a kayak fishing guide, blogger at Man Powered Fishing, and pro-staffer for Wilderness Systems Kayaks, Bending Branches, and others. He resides in western Massachusetts.
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PLUNGING INTO SALTWATER
FLY FISHING WORDS AND PHOTOS BY SCOTT JONTES
o youâ€™ve decided to take the plunge into saltwater fly fishing. Now what? How do you get started? What gear will you need? How should you set up your kayak? While all these questions may seem overwhelming at first, getting started is not nearly as complicated as it appears. This primer is here to take some of the guesswork out of the equation to get you started.
fishing. All over Florida you will find a wide variety of fishing opportunities that can differ from location to location.
Although gear setup can change among different species, you may find there is a lot of crossover. For instance, the same gear setup can be used for redfish, trout, snook, bonefish and Before delving into the type of gear you need, juvenile tarpon. But if you are looking to tarthe first thing you will want to focus on is your get medium-sized tarpon, permit or near-shore species, you should upsize your gear. target species and the location you plan on KBFMAG SPRING 2016
With the diversity of fishing in Florida, you can go from fishing the flats of the Mosquito Lagoon with little to no tides to deal with, to fishing coastal areas that have large tide swings with oyster bars and mangrove shorelines. When fishing in these different locations, your gear can vary between some fish, but you will also have a lot of crossover between species.
overwhelming. Tides play an important role in a fishâ€™s feeding habits (sometimes they feed on an outgoing tide while other times on the incoming), so gathering this type of local knowledge will be very helpful to your success. One way to gain this information is by hiring a kayak fishing guide. Fortunately, Florida has some excellent guides throughout different parts of the state.
If you are looking to self-guide, talk with If you are coming from a freshwater background, trying to figure out the tides may seem local fly shops or check forums for the areas 107
you plan on fishing. Google Earth can also help you find fishable areas and launch points.
Gear selection can be one of the most overwhelming aspects for newcomers in saltwater fly fishing. Luckily, saltwater fly fishing does not require you to break the bank to get your first setup. You can purchase good starter combos that come with everything you need to get on the water for around $200.00. And if youâ€™re not sure what gear to consider, visit a fly shop to point you in the right direction.
I prefer to use an 8wt rod as an all-around inshore fly rod. An 8wt is a great choice for redfish, trout, snook, smaller tarpon and bonefish. It will benefit you in its ability to drive a cast into a wind and help cast the larger flies that are used in saltwater fly fishing. If you are looking to pursue larger saltwater fish such as permit or medium-sized tarpon, I recommend a 10wt. Using a fly rod that is designed for your target species will aid you in bringing the fish to the side of your kayak much quicker.
A large arbor, anodized reel that is made to stand up to a saltwater environment is preferred. Saltwater fish are faster and stronger than most freshwater species and will require a smooth drag system that has good stopping power. Consider using a reel that will hold at least 150 to 200 yards of Dacron backing. You can also use a freshwater reel that is intended for larger freshwater species in saltwater. No matter which type of reel you choose, make sure to properly maintain them after each use. KBFMAG SPRING 2016
For most situations I fish, I like to use a weight forward floating tropical line for fishing in the warmer months. The tropical fly lines are designed with a stiffer core for fishing in warmer climates and also have a harder coating that will not allow the line to become soft and to get tangled. The floating line will make it easier for you to cast since it does not require you to strip in all of the line before you make your next cast. This is useful when working shorelines or making multiple casts to fish on the flats. A floating line is not the only type of line you can use, however I prefer the floating line for the types of fishing that I do the most throughout the year. More specifically, I use RIO Products Bonefish Quickshooter line, which is an excellent line for casting out of a kayak, loading quickly and for making presentations close to the kayak. In the winter months, I switch to a cold water line designed for the drop in temperature.
First and foremost, presentation is key. Without a good presentation, your fly selection will not really matter. Keep a variety of different types of flies on hand depending on the species of fish you are targeting as well as different weighted flies for the various depths that fish can hold. Vary your retrieves when you are working a fly to best mimic the type of pattern you are using. Fly size will vary from area to area so it is best to get some local knowledge on which size and colors to go with. A good all-around fly to start with is a Clouser Minnow. It is a proven and versatile pattern that will catch anything in both fresh and saltwater. I recommend baitfish flies, seducers, 109
gurglers, kwans, sliders and schminnows. If PRACTICE BEFORE YOU GO you tie your own flies, tie baitfish imitations, Once you are all setup with your gear, now shrimp and crab imitations, or even spoon flies. what? I cannot stress this enough: Practice, practice, practice! You need to be able to cast For these flies, add mono weed guards for ver- quickly and accurately while at the same time satility in all locations and use hooks that are minimizing your false casting. Everything in designed for saltwater, as they will be stronger saltwater fly fishing happens fast and someand more resistant to corrosion. I like to use times you only have a few seconds to make a lot of natural colors and match colors of the your presentation. Throw into the mix the bottom to the flies I am using. Other colors wind, your kayak’s movement and the fish that work well are white, chartreuse, root beer, constantly on the run. You won’t have time to black and purple patterns. make an accurate presentation and may only have one chance at it.
For most species, I like my leaders to be 8 to 10 ft of hard monofilament or fluorocarbon with tippet sizes from 12 to 20 pounds. If you are fishing for snook and/or tarpon, bump up your tippet sizes. If you plan on fishing in the Florida Keys, consider increasing your leader to 10 feet and beyond. Within the last few years of fishing in the Keys, I have used between 12 and 15lb fluorocarbon leaders. You can tie your own tapered leaders or buy them pre-made from companies like RIO Products that are ready to fish right out of the package.
Spend as much time as you can practicing your casting, and not just the week before your trip. It will go a long way in helping you when you have that fish of a lifetime in front of you. One of the most important aspects of your casting to work on is your double haul. The double haul will help make those accurate casts into the wind. When you’ve mastered the double haul, you will find that it will help with all of your casting, in both fresh and saltwater. The best tip I can recommend for practicing is
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to not cast all of the line off your reel, but to practice at realistic casting distances. Casts can be up to 40 to 60ft but many shots in the kayak are actually in the 30ft and under range.
ON THE WATER
your rod and begin fighting the fish. Remember to keep the line tight at all times and let your reel’s drag system do the work for you. Keeping constant pressure on the fish is the best way to wear them down and bring them to your kayak quickly.
In your kayak, there are a lot of factors to consider when a fish takes your fly in a short amount of time. Saltwater fish are strong, fast, and can make long runs, which means you will need to keep your cool especially when they are near the kayak. When you do get a fish in close try to be careful not to high stick your rod getting the fish under control. One of the biggest differences between freshwater and saltwater fly fishing is setting the hook when a fish takes your fly. For saltwater fly fishing, you will need to learn how to perform a proper strip strike to set the hook. To make a strip strike, your rod and line should point towards the fish. It’s very important not to have any slack in the line when you do this. When the fish takes your fly, pull your line quickly back in a hauling fashion WITHOUT lifting the rod tip. Once the fish is hooked, lift
SETTING UP YOUR KAYAK
Even though you can set your kayak up in multiple ways for fly fishing, how you ultimately do it comes down to your own personal preference. One of the biggest issues you will run into while kayak fly fishing is line management. If you have something on your deck that fly line can get entangled with, IT WILL. I like to keep my entire kayak very clean and clear of anything that can entangle my line. I choose not to have rod holders or any other mounts other than my RAM camera pole. With all of your stripped out fly line lying on your deck, you’re just asking for something to get snagged on. A few ways to deal with this issue is to use a stripping basket or stripping mat. You can buy ready-made stripping baskets or make a DIY one from a collapsible laundry
on your kayak is to lay a towel on your deck to basket. An advantage of a collapsible laundry basket on your kayak is you can stow it away so cover any hatches, snags or even pedals. it does not take up room when not in use. Just like the stripping basket, you can buy a pre-made stripping mat or you can make one. I made a stripping using a rubber floor mat and large wire nuts, which I am really happy with. Check online for the many DIY ways you can make either a stripping basket or mat. You can also look into stripping baskets that you can wear or can attach to a stand up bar if you have one rigged on your kayak. Another thing you can do to minimize your fly line getting caught
Fly fishing from a kayak can be a challenge and that is how you should look at it. Challenge yourself to leave your normal gear at home and only take a fly combo with you. It will take you out of your comfort zone and will open up a whole new world of fishing for you. One final note about fly fishing is to never stop learning. This is one of the biggest appeals of fly fishing to me: you will never master it but chasing after that goal is what keeps it exciting. 2
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RECIPE ON THE
FLY A STEP-BY-STEP PHOTO GUIDE FROM
The Bailes Out Minnow This streamer is the a great solution for fishing all sorts of predatory species and can be sized and colored accordingly. I typically use a 1/0 wide gap hook for targeting bass species and the finished fly ends up being around 3.5-4â€? in length. This fly is available thru Orvis or from Brandonâ€™s shop ( @panther_branch_bugs on Instagram).
1. Gama B10s 1/0 2. 30# mono 3. Marabou 4. Ice Wing fiber 5. Magnum Zonker strip 6. Crosscut Zonker 7. Laser Dub 8. 10mm Eyes 9. Sharpies or Prismacolor Markers 10. UTC 140 Thread 11. UV resin
Step 1. Tie in a piece of 30# mono to form a foul guard. This will insure the longer zonker strip doesnâ€™t wrap around the hook bend. Also add a piece of .025 lead to underside of shank for proper keel.
Step 2. Tie in a clump of Marabou fibers. The length should be at least the same as the hook shank
Step 3. Add Ice Wing fibers to each side of Marabou.
Step 4. Measure out a Magnum Zonker strip that will extend the length of the Marabou. Secure at the same tie in point as the Marabou.
Step 5. Advance the thread in front of the Magnum Zonker and tie in a strip of Crosscut Zonker and palmer all the way to the hook eye.
Step 6. Comb and part the Crosscut Zonker to each side of the hook shank and pull the Magnum Zonker forward and tie down on top of CC Zonker tie in point.
Step 7. Tie in small clumps of Laser Dub on the top and bottom, brush back the first clumps and advance the thread wrapsâ€Ś.Repeat the process a second time and whip finish.
Step 8. Use Velcro brush to comb the dubbing back to shape the head.
Step 9. Add some super glue gel to 10mm and place the eyes right behind the hook eye. Make sure you squeeze and hold them in place for the correct head shape.
Step 10. Use sharpies to color in gills and any markings. Then add a lil UV resin to the front top and bottom of the head. Side Note- The head shape is critical for the action of the streamer. The flattened sides make it plane for side to side upon retrieval, no matter the speed.
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