Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Close but no ci-GAR

Quick fishing report.

Had a blast this past weekend with fellow Hobie Outback owner and friend Joe Underwood and his son as we chased gar.  I had never targeted this species before, although I have caught a couple as by-catch when I was targeting smallmouth on the James River last summer.  I went to the local tackle shop to grab the tackle needed and ran into fellow Hobie Fishing Team member Grant Alvis.  He and his fishing buddy Josh having been laying waste to the gar recently, so I knew he would help me get the right stuff.

We launched late in the day and made our way out looking for bait.  The rigs were simple - I carried two spinning rods - a Bull Bay Spectrum Inshore Professional and a Tactical Series Black Ops Inshore.  A simple float and baited hook rig was the setup of choice.  As we pedaled out with both of our sons chatting at each other, we noticed a nice bait ball ahead.  Joe readied his cast net and literally dropped it right over the side and hauled in a few shad we could use.  He landed so many on the first cast that we actually threw most of them back.

We made it to the spot and dropped lines in.  Shortly after we setup, Joe's son hooks up with a nice 41" citation gar.  A little after that, one of our rods get bit and the bait starts tearing away.  When my son went to set the hook, the line came free.  The leader had been cut, most likely by a passing gar getting the line caught on its scales and not a true hook set, because the bobber floated up a short while later and we were able to retrieve it.

After a bit longer, I re-baited my line and made a cast to the drop off.  Before I even closed the bail, the line took off running.  This time I raised the rod high to make sure the line wasn't snagged on its body.  After about a minute run, the fish stopped, so I handed the rod to my son and let him set the hook - FISH ON!  The gar started running in earnest and ended up turning us around in a complete 360.  After close to three minutes, the gar was finally surfacing and ready to land.  As I went to grab him behind the head, I could see how big this one was.  Just as I grabbed it and started to lift, he thrashed and spit the hook somehow.  It was a surefire citation, but I somehow didn't have a good enough hold on it to get it into the yak and it swam away.

On the day, we had three runs - one break off, one escape and one that I didn't let take the bait long enough.  Joe and his son managed five I believe - two landed and three that got away before landing them.  It was fun indeed having never targeted this species before, but I can assure you I will be back to chase these living dinosaurs again!  Next up for me though is the 11th annual Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association tournament benefiting Heroes On the Water and Project Healing Waters.

Tight lines and remember to take a kid fishing!

Monday, August 24, 2015


After a long week sitting at a desk and staring at work-related files and notes, time with my family is always special, but nothing gives me greater relief and peace of mind than some time on the water.  This summer was a little different than in the past, since I had to alter my work schedule to accommodate my son's summer camps resulting in losing my Fridays off.  Combine that with family obligations and other scheduled events on the weekends, and you can easily see how limited time on the water can be.

So this past Friday when my work schedule returned to its normal bi-weekly Friday off routine, you can imagine the sense of relief and anticipation I was feeling as I pulled up to one of my favorite local fishing holes.  While most people are tied to their work schedules and hectic pace of life, I was able to escape for about six hours.   As I unloaded my Hobie Quest 13 and loaded up the few items I brought along, I noticed a VDOT worker watching me with curiosity.  Once I pulled out my three rod arsenal from Bull Bay Rods, you could see a noticeable smile come across his face as he realized what I was getting ready to do.

As I began to drag my setup to the water's edge, I overheard him say, "Man that looks like fun.....".  I paused, turned around and smiled from ear to ear as I replied, "There's nothing better!"  He stood and watched in what I can only assume was a pang of jealousy as I paddled to my own little corner of the pond in search of my much needed Zen for the next six hours.

Today's target area was a choke point where the main channel meets up with a lily pad field.  It always holds fish, but it can be a slow day if they are not in a feeding mood.  The challenge with this spot is that you can visibly see the fish moving as pads are shifted to and fro from their movements, but you can't always cast to them because the pads are thick and above the water line. You're frequently startled as the silence and solitude is interrupted with an audible explosion of water as a predator chases its prey.  Casting into this menagerie and chasing these "sounds" is often followed by frustration as your line becomes wedged into that crease each lily pad leaf possesses.  Patience and "open" casting lanes are the key if you're efforts are to be rewarded.

On this day, my approach was simple - work the outer edge of the channel with a moving presentation, then follow up with a reaction presentation.  My rods were rigged with the following:
The three Bull Bay Rods used were:
  • a custom casting rod (MH/XF) paired with a Gen 3 Abu Garcia Revo Inshore reel
  • the new AR-20 series casting rod (MH/MOD) paired with a Gen 2 Revo Inshore reel
  • a Black Ops Inshore spinning rod paired with a Shimano Stradic FJ3000 reel
After a few minutes of watching and listening, I was rewarded with a flurry of activity where the creek channel shallows noticeably.  As I positioned myself and prepared to make the first cast, I told myself that the first fish would likely be a pickerel just based on the style of feeding activity I was seeing and hearing.  Sure enough, ole' toothy showed up almost on cue......

After a few more minutes of chasing these slimy predators, I opted to move back out to the creek mouth and channel swing.  I started working the pad edges in earnest with the vibrating jig and Clone Frog and was rewarded with a nice bass with beautiful dark green hues.

When I wanted to change things up, I worked the weedless Hammershad through the same areas and was rewarded several times over the course of the day.  Some of the bass came in the heart of the pads, some in the open casting lanes in the pads, and some on the edge of the pad line.  While the Clone Frog produces for me regularly, the clear winning pattern on the day was high sticking the Hammershad through the pads.

As the day wore on and the air temperatures reached it's zenith, it was my signal to wrap up this outing.  I paddled my way back to the launch but made a couple stops along the way at past spots that usually hold a fish or two.  Using the same one-two punch of the Clone-Hammer technique, I was rewarded with one last fish at my last stop.  This one was laying in wait in a hole among the pads over my shoulder in the image below.

It was a nice way to finish off the day.  Final tally for the day was fifteen fish - three chain pickerel and twelve bass - the largest being a 20" chain pickerel and a 17.5" largemouth bass.  A wonderful day of peace and tranquility as the hustle and bustle of daily life passed by.  When you find yourself needing to unwind, the magic of the water is truly amazing.  As I loaded up my gear and secured my kayak, I took time to give thanks for a work schedule that allows me time to pursue my passion for kayak fishing while minimizing the impact on my family time.

Even if the fish don't always cooperate, for me this time is always sacred as it serves as my own therapy session.......

Tight lines!

Sunday, August 9, 2015


Each year, Catchin' For Kids holds two tournaments in the Tidewater area here in Virginia.  The most notable being the annual Rockfish Tournament held the first weekend in December, but the other one, the Angler's Club Challenge held in August, is one where the area's best anglers form teams to compete against one another in fifteen different fish divisions with points awarded to the top three fish by weight.  The Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association fields a team each year and competes against the other powerboat-based teams.  Over the years, TKAA has steadily improved its game and in recent years has put the boaters on notice.  The first year I participated was 2012, and we finished in fourth place.  In 2013, we blitzed the field and tallied the largest single points total in the history of the challenge at 32 points, with four category sweeps and pointed fish in several other species categories.  In 2014, we followed up our previous year's win with a second place finish, and we proved a point that we were a team to be reckoned with.

This year would prove to be no different in that we were there to compete.  What most of the competitors hadn't planned on was the weather.  Well, Mother Nature threw everyone a curve ball with winds gusting to 30+ all over the region, and rain thrown in just for good measure.   The majority of the target species on the list were now mostly off limits for the power boaters in the interest of safety.  Species like cobia, spanish mackerel, and king mackerel.  Even the spadefish, sheepshead, triggerfish, bluefish, flounder and sea bass were mostly spared on this day due to the tough conditions around the inshore wrecks and bridges.  Our very own "bridge" crew contemplated braving the conditions, but erred on the side of caution and tackled a local inshore spot instead.  This crew is known for jaw-dropping weights turned in each year for their sheepshead alone, so you know it was a tough pill to swallow for them.

I was a part of a four-man team assigned to the Eastern Shore.  We chose a spot that is known for a variety of species to give us the best chance at contributing points to the team total.  When we launched, we had a planned a two-pronged attack. Ted and Mack, the flounder whisperers, chased the flatties, while Tom and I targeted some of the smaller species on the list, namely spot, croaker, and roundheads.  We fished hard through the cold rain and strong winds, but managed to land several fish that made weight at the weigh in.

Throughout the day, we all caught a variety of fish, some worthy of keeping, others just bycatch providing a tug on the end of the line.  Some of the bycatch included: baby sea bass, several houndfish, small bluefish, a blowfish, oyster toads, a pinfish, some fat grunts, and a couple silver perch.  While those were mostly unwanted, our team managed to catch six points earning fish and seal the win for TKAA for the second time in the last three years.

The end of the day includes raffles and some ceremonial asides with various contributors. The food at the event is always a hit and is a nice way to finish the day.  The ultimate winners are the kids themselves, but it's still nice to compete and represent the kayak angling community.

It just goes to show you that if you fish hard and stay focused, you never know when your contributions will be the difference!

(photo courtesy of Kris Lally Lozier)

It truly was and still is an honor to fish with these skilled anglers in a format like this!  I'm proud to have these anglers as fishing companions, but even more so to call them friends!

Saturday, July 11, 2015


After years of fishing both in and out of the kayak, I can now say I have caught a freshwater citation in the state of Virginia.  The last three years have seen several bass each year fall short of citation by the narrowest of margins.  Well, the wait is finally over!  The best part of it all was that I caught it using my favorite frog lure of all time - the Capt. Ken Daubert Clone Frog, this one was the #4 Brown Spotted Bull pattern with some hand drawn black sharpie markings on the legs and underbelly by yours truly.  I also was using my latest "arrow in the quiver" - my new custom medium heavy Bull Bay Rod.  And to complete the trifecta of good vibes, I was sporting my new Astral Porter water shoes.

I am an avid and loyal user of PowerTeam Lures, so needless to say, the frog was touched up with a nice coat of Hog Tonic for good measure.  In hindsight, I realized that I had spent most of the first hour on the water trying to help my son get a top water strike and hadn't really even been casting that much.  While I was coaching him up, I witnessed a bass launch out of the water chasing a small pumpkinseed. 

I quickly cast my Clone Frog well past the spot and slowly worked it.  When the strike happened, it was even more violent than the breach I had just witnessed.  At first I didn't even realize how big she really was until I brought her alongside my Outback.  That's when I knew, it was going to be long enough.  When I finally got her on the measuring board, I let out a guttural scream of "Yes! Finally!"

Enjoy the video..... (just make sure you select 1080HD for best image quality!)

Thanks again to Hobie for designing my favorite fishing platform - the Hobie Outback.  Thanks to Astral Designs for the killer new shoes and fish catching mojo.  Thanks to Bull Bay Rods for building the best custom rods on the market - the new rod definitely had no problem at all handling that beastly bass!  Thanks to AFTCO for the extremely comfortable Fish Ninja technical shirt you provided for members of the Hobie Fishing Team.  And last but not least, thanks to Capt. Ken Daubert for designing the best frog lures on the market!  I'm proud to use your frogs as the only frogs in my arsenal.  Since I started using your Clones three years ago, all of my other frog lures have sat in a tackle tray collecting dust.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Friday Fireworks

I'll let the pictures do the majority of the talking save for these two thoughts.....

First, trying to cast a fly rod in the wind is frustrating!

Second, trying to cast a fly and retrieve it through lily pads is almost as frustrating!

The first pic is for size reference, since I was bank fishing due to pending storms. I think I'm getting the hang of this fly casting to some extent though. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


There is no greater sensation of pride in a father than seeing his own son succeeding using the techniques and teachings passed down over the years.  My son and I participated in a Heroes On the Water mini-event this past weekend where we helped a local veteran out by taking him out for the day and putting him on some fish.  That in and of itself was fulfilling in its own right, but my son's day on the water was the icing on the proverbial cake.

In the past, my son has lost patience when fishing for bass and the bite is slow.  I sent him out in our new Hobie Quest 13 armed with a YakAttack 8' Parknpole and two Bull Bay Rods - one rigged with a 5" PowerTeam Lures Finicky Tickler and the other rigged with a PowerTeam Lures Jacked Whacker jig head and a Sick Stick.  After a few minutes giving him pointers on how to work each lure and showing him what each lure looked like underwater when worked, we ventured into a protected cover where our good friend Chip had told us there were fish.

We made our way into the cove and proceeded to stake out and work the area slowly and methodically.  He spotted a tree limb sticking up in the shallows and knew there was a good chance at a fish being nearby.  He cast the Sick Stick near the shore and slowly twitched it and let it fall, a couple more twitches and the fight was on.   He worked the feisty bass away from the cover and got him into the kayak.  I myself was in the middle of photographing my own fish, but I put the fish on the FishGrip in the water and made my way over to him to help him.

Little did I know that my son had just caught a nice chunky Largemouth Bass that would end up measuring out at 17 3/4" for his new personal best!

The winds were up for most of the day with a storm front moving in later in the afternoon.  We spent the day working every type of contour change, lay down, rock pile and grass line we could find.  The bite was tough and only got tougher as the day wore on.  At one point, the winds were so strong, I had to move us into some shallow flats, so that my son could stake out and wade for a bit.

Even though the bite was slow, he had a few bites that came unhooked as he attempted to put the fish in the boat, including his last fish of the day that was a feisty chain pickerel that was easily over 20" that spit the hook as he was lifting it into his foot well.  All of us saw him fighting the fish and can attest to the size of it.  He was bummed, but we all encouraged him letting him know that chain pickerel are notorious for that!  He only managed to get two bass for pictures, but it was a success in my book.

My son fought through the doldrums of the slow bite, kept his focus and caught fish by staying persistent and determined through it all.

At the end of the day, I was further elated to hear my son utter a simple phrase before he nodded off for the long ride home....

"Thank you......"

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Playing Hooky....

Sometimes you have to trust your instincts and just do it - so I did!  I took a vacation day mid-week and went fishing.  The weather window was favorable for a change, and I didn't have a single meeting or task due at work the following day.  No brainer!

The arsenal for the day was the same rod selection from last week but the lures of choice were different due to stained water conditions.  I tried a couple lures in lighter colors (a vibrating jig in chartreuse/white tipped with a PTL Grub and a PTL Sick Stick in Pearl) but the water clarity was less than 6".  So, I switched out to a PTL Sick Stick in Okeechobee Craw and a PTL Gator in Junebug.

This pond is mostly flat with an average depth of 4' and a multitude of overhanging brush and trees with several laydowns and brush piles from trees and brush that have fallen into the water over the years from strong storms.  With the water clarity as it was, you are forced to slow down and work literally every square inch of an area.  I come here a few times a year to simply hone my skipping and pitching/flipping skills.  The added bonus is that there are some fat bass lurking about and always manage to give me a nice fight.

It took a couple hours to find some takers but I finally managed to get into a few managing only three on the day and missing a few as well including one pesky bass that managed to break me off not once, twice but three separate times!   The first bass of the day was the best and measured in just shy at 20.75" and was very fat and rather perturbed that she was caught.

I had skipped my cast to a cut in between two big bushes and was met with a violent strike as the lure hit the water.  This big girl hit the Sick Stick so hard and fast that I barely managed to get the GoPro turned on in time to catch the last few seconds of the fight.

When the Sick Stick found no more interest, tried using a heavy tungsten pitching weight to punch through pockets of thick brush with a PTL Gator but to no avail.  Flashback a few hours earlier to the point of loading my gear for the day.  I stood there in my house looking at my gear and made the conscious decision to leave my terminal tackle tray thinking I would not need it - big mistake.  I'm sitting there in my Hobie Outback cruising about and chastising myself for not having different rigging options.

As luck would have it, one of my casts became entangled with a previous anglers broken line.  I cleared the tangle and found a busted bobber and hook at the end along with a small split shot on the line.  "DING" lightbulb moment.  I cleared the tangle, removed the split shot and rigged up a simple split shot rig and a texas-rigged PTL Gator.

Apparently, it was the right decision.  Not five minutes later, I noticed my line swimming towards me but felt no hint of a fish.  I reeled in the slack and swung for the fences - hook sets are free right?  I was rewarded with another angry female bass that was none too pleased with her predicament.  After a brief fight, I brought her in and measured a healthy 19.75".

She must have really liked that PTL Gator because she choked it!

The last bass of the day was nothing to brag about but confirmed to me that the bite was over for the day.  A slow but productive day away from work.

Catching fat bass like this makes me want to play hooky again and very soon.......

I think I can find a window and know a "spot" I could target.....

Until then, enjoy a video summary of my day on the water........

Tight lines and stay safe!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Rainy days aren't so bad....

Lately, Mother Nature has had a vendetta against me on my Fridays off.  I vowed to go regardless last week and was rewarded with a fairly productive day.  I decided on a three rod (Bull Bay Rods of course) - three lure challenge.  The rods selected were:
The lures chosen to cover the water column, including one I had almost forgotten about.....
The first two are confidence baits for me, but I have to confess that I have never even tried a Carolina Rig in freshwater for bass prior to this day.  I launched fairly early in the morning in a light drizzle and stared with the Hammershad first to see if I could get a reaction bite.  Within 30 minutes, I had my first fish - a slimy 18" Chain Pickerel, followed by a shortish 14" chain pickerel a few minutes later.


I switched over to the Clone Frog as I neared the lily pad fields and spent the next two hours working the pads cuts and edges.  I missed the first two fish when they spit the frog before I could even set the hook.  I doused the frog with some PowerTeam Lures Hog Tonic and went back to work.  A few minutes later, I approached one of my go-to spots on this pond.   I cast the frog over the laydown with the line laying across a limb atop the water.  I dragged the frog over slowly and plopped it down.  A couple twitches was all it took before a fat 17" Largemouth Bass sucked it in and held on long enough for a hookset.  I managed to capture a topwater strike finally as well using my trusty YakAttack Panfish Portrait.....

Once the rain stopped, the skies started to clear and the frog bite disappeared.  I switched back to the Hammershad for a bit and quickly landed a few more pickerel and a couple more largemouth.  By the time I had made the full circuit of the pond, I switched over to the Carolina rigged Gator.  I worked the deeper cuts in the pond to no avail for an hour.  I switched back to the Hammershad and landed some small pickerel and a couple small bass.  By that time, the winds were starting to pick up as another storm was approaching, so I decided to call it a day.  Final tally on the day - 12 fish (7 pickerel and 5 bass).   All in all, a great day on the water.  Here are a few pics from the day of the better quality fish....

Monday, January 12, 2015

More rigging (2015 Outback)

Next up for the rigging on my new Hobie Outback is to outfit the hull with some necessities.  I tend to keep my rigging simple, so this will be picture intensive but simple in total mods completed.  In short, a couple GearTracs, tsome new electronics, a power kit and some decals.

First up, the easy stuff - decals and as always, a couple YakAttack GearTracs.  The only rigging solution for me and the best in the business hands down.  I opted for the GT-175-04 series and installed them in the forward recessed tray areas.  I filled each hole with some marine grade silicone sealant before installing each mounting screw.
The port side will be for the fish finder, while the starboard side will be used for my YakAttack Panfish Portrait mount and camera.  It can also be used for a YakAttack Zooka Tube or even a YakAtttack Dogbone Camera Mount for a different camera angle.  I'll install a couple more in the coming weeks once I decide where I want them.  I also plan on installing the YakAttack NITEStripe as well sometime within the next week.

Next up, the new Lowrance Elite-5 CHIRP fish finder.  I removed the transducer plate and installed the transducer using the provided hardware and mounted it with some free space to permit true water temp and depth/soundings.
Next, I routed the transducer wire up through the wire channel into the cockpit area.  Using the front twist and stow hatch, remove the two center foam supports so can you reach the backside of the wire nut and unscrew the retaining ring.
You need to use the large two-hole wire nut grommet insert from the Hobie fish finder tree.  Route the transducer cable through the grommet and reinstall in the hull.  Route the transducer cable removing as much slack as possible back into the hull pulling the line forward and out of the hatch.  Re-insert the two foam supports and route the cable between the foam inserts.  I routed mine between the center and the port side support zip tying the excess wire and stowing it between the supports.
Reach inside the hatch again and remove the retaining ring on whichever side wire nut your prefer, I chose the left.  Remove the wire nut and route both the transducer cable and the power cable through both the retaining ring.  It is a snug fit and will require a little encouraging but it will go through.  Routing the second one through requires a little more effort, but angling the connector through the ring will fit.

The hardest part of this install is the next part - deciding whether to use one wire nut or two.  The reason is that the two cables for the newer Lowrance units have a total of three wires.  None of the Hobie provided grommets on the tree can accommodate this configuration.  If you opt for the second wire nut approach, then you will need to drill out another large hole. I personally didn't want two wire nuts, so I modified the Hobie well nut by using a drill bit to create a notch for the third wire.  After a few tweaks and use of a small screwdriver to manipulate the grommet, I made it work.
Next, I installed the head unit to the RAM Mounting Systems connector and YakAttack 1.5" Screwball.  I positioned it where I like it and connected both the transducer and battery connectors in order to determine the proper length of cable to leave exposed above the wire nut.  These wires are tucked away in the map pocket when the kayak is stored.

Last step is to wire the power and ground wires to the included inline fuse and Hobie battery connector.  As with all of my electronics installs, I solder the connections, and protect the connection with heat shrink and a wrap of electric tape.
One extra modification I do is to secure the excess cabling in a manner that reduces any noise from the wires slapping the inside of the hull while on the water or moving the hull to and fro.  Not all kayak hulls have extra attach points on the inside of the hull.  On the Outback, this is made easier by the location of the forward rudder pulley located just behind the hatch opening.  I simply placed a cable mount clip around the power wire and secured it to the front of the pulley housing with a zip tie and took up the slack wire.
The result is a clean wire path that doesn't interfere with the operation of the twist and stow rudder.
Lastly, installing the Hobie Battery bracket to the mast pole and securing any excess wire.  I make one slight modification here to decrease the likelihood of my battery and connections sitting in water that may enter the front hatch.  Although the battery bracket secures with a clamp around the sailing mast, I add a section of pool noodle to provide a little extra support for the battery bracket like so......
After all is said and done, plug in the battery and turn on your new fish finder.  Success!!!
Hope you found some of the tips and tricks I used helpful.