Sunday, June 23, 2019

Hello Darkness My Old Friend......


......I've come to chase you once again!


That's right, another Friday off from work and off I went looking to up my personal best snakehead!

Today's tools for the trip were simple:

Kayak: 2019 Hobie Outback
Stakeout: Power-Pole Micro Shallow Water Anchor
Electronics: Lowrance Elite 7 TI2
Accessories: YakAttack Omega Rod Holders and Lowrance FF Mount
Rods: Bull Bay Rods Tactical Assault and Custom Flipping rods, and an Orvis 8wt Clearwater

Non-sponsored equipment I was using:

Reels: Abu Garcia Revo Inshore GEN2 & GEN3 baitcasters, Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor IV
Lures: Stanley Ribbit, SPRO Popping Frog, Rebel Pop-R and a Cohen's Manbearpig
Lines: Sunline FX2 Frog Braid, and PLINE 20lb Flouroclear
Other Items: ANGLR BullseyeEGO Slider Landing Net and Fish Grips

I went back to the same spot as last time but explored other areas.  I found my first taker oddly enough on a Rebel Pop-R.  I was working an area and drifting with the wind when I heard a huge flush behind me.  I tried the frog but no luck as the wind had picked up and made the surface a little choppy.  So I switched over to the Pop-R which I had tied on to try and entice bass that were in the area.  I worked the Pop-R back with vigor making a ruckus that would surely irritate a snakehead I hoped.  As the bait approached, I saw the ominous shadow approaching, so I paused my retrieve then gave it one more twitch and that was the ticket.  She inhaled it and immediately started fighting to unhook both sets of trebles buried in her jaw, but to no avail.  First one on the board and it was a nice 25" fatty.

Not a personal best but a decent start after fishing for over two hours and only one half-hearted swipe at my Ribbit and a lazy follow from a short one on the fly.  I kept working the area until the winds picked up in earnest to the tune of 10mph which is normally not bad but in a narrow creek, it creates a wind tunnel effect.

I drifted along and found another shortie that fell prey to a SPRO Popping Frog and measuring in at 18" but the coloring on this one was amazing.
I kept the wind at my back and kept drifting and casting.  I finally found myself in water that was too shallow to proceed, so I made my way slowly back working every little pocket and was rewarded with two more quality snakeheads - another 24-25" chunk

 and my new personal best measuring in at a whopping 31"+.  I say plus because my measuring board tops out at 30" and this was over an inch past that mark.


The rest of the day was a bust, because the winds started blowing stronger making casting windows less than optimal, so I packed it in and headed back to the launch.

All in all a good day - landed 4 and had two other opportunities that fell short.  If you haven't tried chasing snakeheads, you should.  I know I'll be back at it again and soon.


Until next time, tight lines and stay safe out there!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Frogs, Flukes and Snakes....


Another Friday off from work and another morning on the water.  Today we were back at it slinging frogs and chasing snakeheads.  These creatures are not for the faint of heart or those that prefer light tackle.  They have a mouth full of teeth that will shred light lines and destroy your lures.  It can be a frustrating yet very fulfilling adventure when you chase these beasts.  My last outing, I was fortunate enough to catch, photo and release my very first snakehead measuring in at 23.5".  My goal today was simple - beat my previous personal best.

I was in my trusty 2019 Hobie Outback again decked out with YakAttack Omega Rod Holders, my Power-Pole Micro shallow water anchor, my Lowrance Elite 7-TI2 and three of my trusty Bull Bay Rods.
The first cove I ventured into had some activity and I quickly found a willing follower, but the snakehead was a bit small and not fully interested in my Ribbit.  I kept probing that creek arm and heard some more thrashing activity, but I was cut off from the area and had no casting angle.  I had a tip on an area to try, so I double-checked my source and with a quick text was pointed in the right direction.

Once I made it to the area, I kept looking for ambush spots and making targeted casts to those areas.  I was rewarded with a vicious fight that found this beast wrapping herself all in the thick of some pads then under a submerged fallen tree - I basically held pressure but loosened the drag slightly to allow a little leeway to the fish in the hopes it would free itself.  She finally came free and relaxed long enough to slide the net under her - that's when she got her second wind and proceeded to thrash and splash giving me an impromptu morning shower.

After a few minutes of this, she finally relaxed long enough for me to pry her mouth open with my pliers in order to get my lip grippers on her.  I was finally able to get her on the board and measured for what looked to be at least 27.5" - later confirmed to be 28.25" and a new personal best snakehead.

 I was ecstatic - she was hefty, too!! She was wider than the measuring board and so thick that I had trouble getting my hand around her at her thickest point.  I let her relax on the lip gripper in the water for a couple minutes, then when she had fully recovered, I released the grip and she swam slowly away no worse for wear.

I moved back over to the same area and make a couple more casts to see if there were any more takers and was rewarded with a more vicious strike only this time is was a bowfin or grindel as some refer to it.  As I got the bowfin closer, I could see she was barely hooked.  I knew if I tried to put the gripper on her, she would thrash and throw the hook.  I couldn't reach for my net either because I was trying to bring the fish through some pads and sticks which would impede the net.  My only choice was to try and hoist the fish in quickly.   This bowfin would have been another personal best - she was every bit of 24-26", but alas she thrashed as I lifted her and she escaped.

It was then that I realized I hadn't turned on my video camera, so I couldn't even prove I had the fish on the line and was lifting her into the kayak when she escaped.  Oh well, lesson learned.  I missed a couple more over the course of the next two hours until I found a nice secluded and protected area that looked prime.  I made a cast and immediately a thrashing strike as another bowfin reared it's ugly mug, but she didn't come tight.  Another cast closer and I hooked into a strong snakehead that was a little smaller than my one from earlier but still chunky and strong.  I got her to the kayak as well, but found myself in another predicament, I was too shallow and couldn't get any closer to the deeper pool where the snakehead was anchoring down in.  She managed to come off right at the kayak even though I managed to slowly drag her across the mud.  When she came off, I didn't see where she went.  A couple casts later and she apparently had taken up residence right where she came off.  She freaked out when I made another cast and startled me as I watched her scurry across the mud in the open air and right back into her protected pool.

The rest of the trip was filled with swings and misses of bowfins and snakeheads with at least 10-12 never coming tight.  I even switched up things by throwing a fluke for something completely different, then followed that up with a hollow-bodied frog before switching back to the Ribbit. which turned out to be the only lure that produced.  Oh well, the topwater strike on a moving frog is a pure adrenaline rush and a technique I highly recommend anglers learn.  Once you get your first topwater frog fish, you will literally be hooked.

With the storm front moving in and rain very close, I headed in and loaded up.  As I was making my way back home, the skies opened up.  Missed it by that much!

Trip Summary:

Kayak: 2019 Hobie Outback
Stakeout: Power-Pole Micro Shallow Water Anchor
Electronics: Lowrance Elite 7 TI2
Accessories: YakAttack Omega Rod Holders and Lowrance FF Mount
Rods: Bull Bay Rods Tactical Assault,  Prototype Spinning and Custom Flipping

Non-sponsored equipment I was using:

Reels: Abu Garcia Revo Inshore GEN3 baitcasters and Shimano Stradic FJ3000 spinning reel
Lures: Stanley Ribbit, Evolve Hollow-bodied Frog and Zoom Fluke
Lines: Sunline FX2 Frog Braid, PowerPro Hi-Vis Yellow Braid and PLINE 20lb Flouroclear leader
Other Items: EGO Slider Landing Net and Fish Grips

Until next time, tight lines and stay safe out there!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

A Game of Thirds.....



You know how there is a common saying that things happen in "3's"? Well today was that in full effect.  What do I mean?  Let's review......

There was the Three Stooges segment:

  1. Driving away from my house with a full mug of ice and water for the day, only it was still atop my vehicle when I left the house and promptly fell and popped open losing all of its contents as I left the neighborhood.
  2. Launching and getting halfway to my spot before I realized I had left the water I had purchased in the car to replace the lost water and ice spilled earlier.
  3. A lack of concentration later in the morning that resulted in a massive tangle of line, treble hooks and crawling all the way to the back of the kayak to unravel the mess.
Later, there was the Get Smart (Missed it By That Much) trifecta:
  1. The first fish of the day was a largemouth bass and sure to be a miss simply because I had paired the wrong bait with the wrong rod - the action was too fast for a hookset that required more power (topwater frog should not be placed on a traditional topwater rod (Moderate) = wrong action = bad hookset = lost fish)
  2. The second fish of the day was another largemouth bass and sadly a partial hookset, but at least it was with the right rod this time.  The fish just spit the bait as fast as it had swallowed it.
  3. The third fish of the day was an over 30" snakehead that waked like a torpedo chasing the Ribbit only to barely swipe at it and spit it again before I could set the hook.
Then there was the Murphy's Law episode:
  1. The winds picked up and started blowing 15+
  2. I launched at the peak of outgoing current (my primary spots were not fishable)
  3. The carp and gar were in a full frenzy clouding up the water with their shallow water antics 
But, it wasn't all bad.  There was the trilogy of positive things that happened on the day:

  1. When I saw the fish were not hitting the Ribbit with full vigor, I changed up my frog presentation to the Evolve Hollow Body frog (has a rattle inside) and paid instant dividends
  2. I caught a 18" fat largemouth bass on the Evolve frog
  3. I caught and landed my first ever VA snakehead at 23.5" on the same Evolve Frog  


All in all a successful day even if Mother Nature decided to kick it up a notch on the wind scale by the time I was headed in - winds were gusting to 20+.

As with all of my blog posts moving forward, I will divulge what I was using in the hopes that some may find it helpful.


Technique: Targeting backside of spatterdock pockets that protruded away from the shoreline in current. I also targeted weed lines and any clear water. For the spatterdock part, I also apply the same technique for traditional lily pads, rocks, water shield, lay downs, grass, etc..  Basically, I was looking for likely ambush points where a predator fish could get out of current but still have access to any nearby forage.


Today's shout out to my sponsors:

Electronics: Lowrance Elite 7 TI2
Accessories: YakAttack Omega Rod Holders, Panfish, Panfish Portrait and Lowrance FF Mount



Non-sponsored equipment that I was using:


Lures: Stanley Ribbit, Rebel Pop-R and Evolve Frog
Line: Sunline FX2 Frog & Flipping Braid (60lb) and PLINE Fluouroclear 20lb Fluourocarbon


Tight lines, stay safe and hope to see you on the water soon!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

2019 YakAttack Tournament Wrap Up


Every year since 2012, I have participated in the YakAttack annual kayak charity fishing tournament to benefit Heroes On the Water and Project Healing Waters.  The format for the tournament is a catch, photo and release tournament with five divisions - bass, crappie, sunfish, slam and big bass.  For each of the species divisions, your best two fish combined length is your entry.  For the slam, you need to have at least one fish in each of the three species for a combined total length.  Finally, the big bass is simply that - the biggest single bass is your entry with the one limitation of a person can only win one of the five divisions.  Each year kayak anglers from literally around the US flock towards this event to fish the likes of famous bodies of water like Briery Creek Lake and Sandy River Reservoir.

This year my plan was to fish quieter waters with less water traffic and revisit a lake I hadn't fished in over 5 years - Bear Creek Lake.  I also was interested to check out some new toys - my newly installed Lowrance Elite 7 TI2 paired with my new Nocqua YakAttack power supply, as well as my new Lithium Ion Power-Pole battery, as well as the new ANGLR Bullseye Fishing Tracker.  You could say that it had all the makings of a potential disaster, but I am happy to report that all of them worked amazingly.

With a full moon phase in effect, I had a feeling the bite was going to be tough once the morning pressed along.  I also learned that the bass were also still spawning, which for me personally, is one of my biggest weak points - I am not a bed fisherman.  I don't have the patience to sit there and stare at a fish for potentially hours on end trying to entice one bite.  I'd rather explore an area and see if I can figure out the puzzle.  With my new toys, this approach is much easier now with respect to acquiring information - now I just need to learn how to piece it all together to get better.


As for my setup on the day, it was as follows:

Kayak - 2019 Hobie Outback
Rods - Bull Bay Rods, 5wt Fly Rod and a couple Ugly Stik ultralights.
Lures - Powerteam Lures Sick Stick and Finicky Tickler (Kitchen Sink color), Squarebill, Whopper Plopper, Stump Jumper Road Runners and a black ant
Accessories - Power-Pole Micro, YakAttack Omega Rod Holders and Lowrance FF mount
Sunglasses - Hobie Polarized Mantas

I started the day off with a flurry - 3 bass in the first hour but nothing any larger than 11.5".  I missed several larger fish, too. And then the bass were not being cooperative, so I switched over to the ultralight and started slinging a little white grub in the hunt for crappie and landed one at 8.5" shortly thereafter.  I couldn't find another in the brush piles, so I switched over to the fly rod and literally slayed the bluegills and redears on every cast for the rest of the day the biggest checking in a 8.25".  I was so immersed in how many fish I was catching off of the bluegill beds that I forgot to keep pressing the ANGLR Bullseye for about an hour.  Every bluegill landed was over 6.5" with most  checking the box at or just shy of 8" - not enough to improve my total length to turn in.

At the end of the day, as I was loading up I ended my trip on the ANGLR app on my phone and let the data synchronize.  Of the catches I remembered to actually record totaled 78 catches, but like I said, I was still catching the bluegills and redears off of this one massive bed in the back of a creek and forgot all about the Bullseye. I was still catching so many gills that I literally was slinging my little fly without even hauling or stripping the line and catching a fish every cast, unhooking and casting again immediately with sometimes up to 3-4 fish per minute.

While the day in total was a success with literally over 100 fish caught, it lacked in quality which is what is needed to win any of the divisions.  Here are a few highlights from the day:





Looking back on the day and reflecting on what could have been, I think my biggest mistake was not being flexible in my approach.  I had in my mind a plan for how to target the bass, but once I arrived at the water, I failed to adjust my plan and modify my approach.  Hindsight as they say is 20/20.

Once I was loaded up, I headed back to the weigh-in to turn in my scorecard with fish in each category and enough to turn in a micro slam, bass division and panfish division ultimately not large enough to place but still fun.  Once the awards had been announced and supper was all done, the stage was cleared and the raffles began.

I normally don't worry about the raffles too much, because there is very little that I need at this point, but I did see a few items of interest this year - including a fly rod set from Orvis, a couple Nocqua battery pack kits, a couple PFDs and the new Hobie Livewell v2.  When the ticket numbers began being called out - my prizes of interest quickly started to disappear.  Then one of my numbers was called, and I noticed the fly rod setup was still available, so I quickly made my way forward and gladly selected that setup for my prize.


The setup was comprised of:

  • Rod - Orvis Clearwater rod - 9' 8wt
  • Reel - Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor IV reel
  • Line - Orvis backing and floating line and tippet
  • Other - Orvis Tacky Fly Big Bug Box filled with flies




I also heard my numbers called two other times and selected a set of YakAttack Kayak Straps and a YakAttack shirt giving the straps to a friend who needed them and giving the shirt to my son.

All in all I can't complain because the fishing, the raffle and the food are just added bonuses for me.  I look forward to just sitting down and shooting the breeze with fellow kayak anglers many of whom I am friends with and don't get the chance to share the water with.



I'm already looking forward to next year's event and the chance to share some stories and reminisce once again.  Until the next time I'm on the water, tight lines and stay safe!!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Windy day crankin....

Sometimes Mother Nature is cooperative and other times, she can wield her fury in various ways.  On this day, she opted for the latter and unleashed her windy fury upon the water.  Portions of the target lake were white capping with waves crashing over the bow of my new 2019 Hobie Outback as I moved about, but the winds did not sour my outlook on the day. I knew an approaching front might get the fish chewing, so I targeted drop offs near wind blown banks, the backside of wind blown points and any isolated submerged wood.

Tackle & Accessories:
Kayak: 2019 Hobie Outback 
Rods: Bull Bay Rods Stealth and Tactical series of custom casting rods
Lures: Profound Outdoors Squarebill (shad pattern) crankbait and a Z-Man Minnowz soft plastic
Cold water gear: Kokatat Drysuit, NRS Launch boots, Hodgmann fleece, Duofold base layers
Sunglasses: Hobie Polarized (Mantas - discontinued)
Line: P-Line 12lb fluorocarbon clear
Accessories: YakAttack Omega Pro rod holders, Panfishw/ GoPro mount and X-grip (cell hone holder)

Keys stats from the day:
Total fish (species) and (size): 3 (bass) for 49" total - (16", 17 3/4", 15 1/4")
Time on the water: 5 hours
Winds: 15 mph (gusts over 25 mph)
Water: public lake
Water temps: 52 degrees
Air temps: 37 degrees (at launch), 47 (mid day)

Here are the highlights......enjoy



Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cold Weather Fishin' and more......





Each year in Central VA, the weather patterns make finding time to get on the water a little challenging.  One day the air temps creep into the low 60's followed by several days of freezing temperatures.  Recently, I had the opportunity to get on the water during a favorable weather window, so I took advantage of it.  I loaded up the 2019 Hobie Outback with my trusty YakAttack accessories, three of my favorite Bull Bay Rods, a small bag of Powerteam Lures Texas Rig Jigs and Food Chain Tubes, a SPRO Fat John 60 crankbait or two, a Siebert Outdoors jig selection and my cold weather gear.




Important safety note - and this one that was shared with me my very first year kayak fishing.  A general rule of thumb is the 120 degree mark - if the combination of water temperature and air temperature is less that 120 degrees, you should be wearing appropriate cold weather waterproof protective gear.  Since the air temps would be approaching 60 degrees on this day, I knew the water temps would still be in the 40's, so I dressed accordingly with a base layer, a wicking layer and a waterproof layer.

I hit the water and started off the day looking for a reaction bite given the warming trend over the previous few days.  I knew my window of opportunity would be small given that an approaching front was closing in on me and high winds were forecast later that morning.  Wish I would've checked the weather a little more closely, because the front had moved faster than expected, and I ended up launching dead smack in the midst of the front's arrival and higher than expected winds.  No turning back now!

My first cast was made with the chartreuse and black back crankbait, and I was fishing today regardless! I was rewarded immediately with a hard swipe at the Fat John and a miss, but the persistence of the predator was triggered and he came back for more.  This time I nailed him and had my first fish of the day.  A spunky 15" bass, but I know there are bigger ones in this pond.


I kept working the Fat John parallel to the bank first, then followed up with targeted casts towards the bank.  After a bit with no more bites, I switched over to the Food Chain Tube and started working the banks.  This small neighborhood pond use to have significant brush overhangs and fallen trees, but recently the HOA made the decision to remove all of the shoreline cover.  As a result, the fish population has no natural refuge or safe havens anymore resulting in a steep banked pond with no cover anymore.  The other side effect that may occur is what a friend told me about in that all of the chemicals used in the upkeep of the surrounding landscape will now flow freely into the pond and will likely kill off what little life is left in this pond.


A sad day indeed, but still I plugged along.  I came upon one of my favorite areas of the pond where there still was the remnants of an old brush pile and carefully cast my tube into the point of the brush pile.  The moment the tube hit the sandy bottom, I felt the tell-tale thump.  As I engaged the reel and prepared for a hookset, the bass swam full speed directly towards me forcing me to reel up the slack as quickly as possible.  By the time I had removed the slack, the bass had gained the leverage advantage and was immediately under the kayak.  I waited until she passed, then I set the hook, but sadly the bass just spit the bait.  She rolled on the surface and had the makings of what was easily a 20" bass with some thickness to her.  Oh well, sometimes the fish wins, and you just have to tip your hat or nod in acceptance and move on.  I fished hard and focused for the next couple of hours, but the wind and my experience on this pond told me the bite was over for the day.

While I likely will not return to this pond this year, it still holds a special place in my relative short history in the kayak fishing world.  Some of my largest bass have come from this pond.  It saddens me to know that the HOA was concerned more about aesthetics than the long term health and vitality of their pond.  Now the challenge is trying to find a new location "X".

While doing some research and prepping for my next outing, I received my 2019 Hobie Fishing Team package!  It's like Christmas for me, and I look forward to seeing what the good folks at Hobie have in store for us team members this year.  As usual, Hobie went above and beyond with their partnership with AFTCO and Hobie Polarized! Much appreciated Kevin, Morgan, Keeton and crew!  You guys are the best!



Until next time, remember to know the 120 degrees temperature rule (I prefer using 110 degree myself just to be safe), and be certain to inform friends and family of your float plan! Safety first!



Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Sharing.....



The Richmond Fishing Expo starts off each year with an infusion of knowledge, product offerings and general camaraderie among those in attendance.  For the last seven years, I have participated in this annual event as a member of the Hobie Fishing Team and representing Appomattox River Company.  Each year, ARC has a variety of kayak hulls and kayak related items such as PFDs, paddles, PADDLEVA Swag and YakAttack accessories on display for the Expo attendees and exhibitors alike to peruse and ask questions about.



While we as members of the various Pro Staffs are on hand to answer questions and discuss the potential of our respective kayak brands, we each have a role that is beyond one of brand reputation.  We have a responsibility to share in the knowledge and expertise as it relates to the sport of kayaking and kayak fishing.



It is our responsibility to provide unbiased facts and personal experience to the public in order for them to make a more informed decision regarding which kayak hull is right for them.  It is our responsibility to also have functional knowledge of the other kayak offerings as well.  During this annual Expo, it affords each of us an opportunity to learn more about each brand's features and benefits.




While I consider individuals like Tom Quicke, Sr., Rob Reker, Grant Alvis, Micah Marbrah and myself as knowledgeable individuals regarding the Hobie product line, I don't hesitate to direct people to individuals like Rob Choi, Roland Butler and Kevin Whitley (Johnson Outdoors - Ocean Kayaks and Old Town), Eric Schrock (Feel Free), Aaron Dryden, Chuck Morris and Mark Lozier (Wilderness Systems), Sean Amiss, Jr. (Bonafide), Josh Dolin (Jackson) and Woody Callaway and Jonathan Stanberry (Native Watercraft) for questions and details regarding their offerings.


The gift of knowledge is what we as representatives of our respective brands can ultimately pass on to the next generation of kayak anglers and help the sport grow!  Take a moment and think about how you can share whatever expertise you possess in the days that lay before you.


Sharing..........


Stay safe and take a friend fishing!!