Monday, January 9, 2012

A holiday to remember and then some serious Thumpin'.......

The Christmas and New Years holidays are a time to share stories of the past year and time with one another amongst your family and friends.  While the holidays are are a welcome time of the year, they are often times unfortunately too short.  However, those times when the holidays are short can also be a time to remember.  Such was the case this past year for us.  My wife and son had spent the week prior to Christmas in Florida on a mini family vacation with me.  We were invited to the Eukanuba Invitational Dog Show in Orlando, FL with three of our dogs - Colin, Remy and Brady; however, Brady was unable to make it, since he now lives in Germany with his family.

We went to the show with no expectations other than the experience of having been there and participating, since the previous two times we were invited, the show was in California.  While Colin was not awarded any placements, we were pleasantly surprised when Remy was awarded Best of Breed.  There was a personal sense of satisfaction for me, since I had shown Remy to his AKC confirmation championship earning 9 of his 15 points via 3 majors, and on this day was first in line when he was selected for Best of Breed.  It made the trip well worth it.  Once the dog show was done for us, we headed a little further south for a surprise Christmas present for my son - a trip to Legoland!!! My son was truly surprised and had the time of his life.  From riding all 5 roller coasters, to driving his own car in their driving school and seeing scaled replicas of various US cities and landmarks.  It was truly a day to remember and one I hope he cherishes for years to come.  Next time, we hope to surprise him with a trip to Animal Kingdom and Sea World.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, so we found ourselves back on the road to make that long drive north back to ole Virginny (that's Virginia for you non-southern  We arrived back home two days before Christmas and realized we still had shopping to complete - madness I tell you!!!  The next two weeks were a blur - finish shopping and wrapping; an evening at Christmas Town at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg; travel to family members homes for the traditional gift exchange and food; battling a nasty flu/cold that hit all of us; end of year festivities at her parents home; pet sitting for friends...............basically a crash course in logistics and maintaining one's sanity!!!

Well, all this time, I had been craving an outing to chase after the big striper that make their way into the Chesapeake Bay region, but as you can tell from the madness above, there was just no time.  Now that the new year has passed and life has returned to some form of stability, I figured I would head out and enjoy an evening on the water and get the new year started off right.  Since the season is closed for harvesting of any stripers in the bay region, and the primary night time launch for chasing speckled trout recently closed, I opted to go after the schoolie stripers at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel even though I could not keep any.

I checked the forecast for Saturday night, and I was pleased to see a calm evening lay before me.  I wrapped up the day's activities with the family and with the wife's blessing headed out.  I launched shortly after 8pm into the start of the falling tide.  Winds were mild at a shade under 10 knots out of the north, so moving about amongst the bridge pilings was not an issue, especially since boat traffic was non-existent with the closure of the striper season in the bay area.  While I was on the water, I only saw one skiff and 7 other kayakers.

I started the night off with a MirroLure in search of some fish suspending below the surface still interested in feeding.  At the bridges in the area, the key is to time the current for when it is moving.  A dead tide and a slack current usually equates to tight-lipped stripers and bottom bouncing for the angler until you find a rogue fish that you can tempt into feeding.  This approach can be hit or miss but usually results in a decent size fish.  I was working the ocean side of the bridge for the first hour or so with nary a bite to be found.  I was peddling amongst other fellow kayakers and only saw a couple of fish landed.  Not being one to sit and wait, I peddled around looking for some fish and my own area away from any curious boaters.  The power boat folks in this area are not shy about coming over and seeing if they can get in on the action.  But hey, there's plenty of space out there, and I am more than willing to share what I am using to catch them.

I noticed no one was fishing one particular area, and it was out of sight of anyone nearby, so I headed over and positioned myself for the first cast.  I tossed the MR17 out into the darkness and gave it a couple of short twitches back into the light.  I was promptly greeted with a solid thump.  A few seconds later, and the first striper of 2012 was in the kayak measuring in at a shade over 20 1/2".
I made another cast into the same general area, and another one latched onto the MR17.  The current was starting to pick up a bit, but I was able to hold my kayak position easily with my Hobie Revolution 13 peddle drive and rudder control.  I spent the next 20 minutes using the MR17 and landed 3 more.  I started to see the signs of some top water feeding activity, so I switched over to a Badonkadonk SS Topwater in a shad/mullet color but didn't get a single hit.  I then switched over to what would become the lure of choice for the night - the Marsh Works Bayou Thumper in the 3" variety.

I started off with the Pearl version paired with a red jig head and started to hook into them with consistency - literally almost ever cast using a slow retrieve with a subtle twitch every 3-4 seconds.  The thumper was working so good, that I even switched out to a different color just to see if that made any difference.  I switched over to their new color - White Lightning.  Basically, it is a translucent color with some small bits of flashfoil mixed in for good measure and a chartreuse tail.  Apparently, the fish didn't care.  The Thumper was so appealing that I even caught a 10" bunker and two Hickory Shads - including this 19" slab!!
I started to get consistent hits on every cast and quickly realized that the falling tide was starting to peak and the current was picking up a bit.  I was spending so much time trying to get photos of every fish that once a fish was landed, I was out of position and spent more time getting photos that actually fishing.  The current at this point had picked up in earnest such that to stop peddling resulted in being pushed completely out of the prime fishing zone.  After capturing photos of the first 10 or so fish of the night, I took one last glory shot and put the camera away for the rest of the evening.
I spent the next two hours in an area no greater than 50 yards wide and landed 30 more stripers.  I switched back to the Pearl color when the White Lightning one got hung up on some structure and broke off.  No worries, I just switched over to the other rod with the Pearl Thumper still tied one and got back in there.  In total, I landed 37 stripers, 2 Hickory Shad and 1 Bunker.  An epic night on the water for me, a great way to start off the new year in my new Hobie, and a great testimonial for two quality products - the Marsh Works Bayou Thumper and the Hobie Revolution 13!!
Do yourselves a favor, get out on the water if you can - but remember to be safe, dress accordingly and make a resolution to take a kid fishing!!  Tight lines everyone.


  1. That is the biggest shad I have ever seen! I had no idea they got that big. I love seeing trip reports where the angler succeeds despite unlikely conditions. It takes fortitude to launch in a stiff wind, knowing you will be fighting it all day.

    1. Thanks Evan - that is the one of the main reasons I opted for the Hobie Revolution. It was the exact same length as my previous kayak but quicker and easier to keep pointed in the right direction while keeping my hands free to fish more.