Thursday, April 9, 2015

10 Questions with Texas Wildy Staffer Cody Carpenter

 I was recently introduced to Cody Carpenter via social media. Cody is a Texas kayak angler who runs a great blog/website called  Through his blog, forum posts, and social media, it is clear that Cody oozes passion for kayak fishing.  But his passion clearly reaches another level, and you can tell how happy he is to share with others and teach beginners about the sport.

Cody is a 2nd year Wilderness Systems Pro, as well as a pro-staff member for Adventure Technology Paddles and Impulse Fishing Rods.  Here is what he had to say when I grilled him this week.

1)  How and when did you get started kayak fishing?

I started kayak fishing in 2011. My dad actually asked me if I wanted an old sit-in kayak that he was given several years ago. He didn’t have any room for it anymore so I took it off his hands. Ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made. It introduced me to this sport and through it I’ve made lifelong friends and have had so many doors open to me as a result.

2)  What are your top-3 species you like to target from a kayak?  And being a TX guy, have you ever caught a Guadalupe bass?

Largemouth, crappie, reds (when I make it down to the coast). I have actually caught a Guad while I was kayak fishing the Guadalupe River. It was one of those bucket list fish along with Peacock and Smallmouth Bass for me. 

3)  If someone is new to the Texas kayak fishing community, what are some sites/forums they could check out to get the ball rolling?

I have not seen a forum or group in TX that didn’t welcome new guys/girls to the sport. In DFW, most kayak anglers can be found on the kayak fishing section of TFF (Texas Fishing Forum) and a lot of the Austin, Houston, and further south guys tend to gravitate to TKF (Texas Kayak Fisherman). I am on both forums and both have outstanding content for all kayak fishing levels, in addition to great people.

4)  In your opinion, what is the best bass fishing lure that people either don't know about or don't use enough?

I think a lot of people get started on Rat-L-Taps by their grandfathers or fathers and tend to get away from them because they are “old school” lures. I always find great success when I get back on them and I always wonder why I stopped using them in the first place.

5)  You are one of very few has gotten to paddle the Wilderness Systems ATAK already?  What are your initial thoughts and why will we love or hate this boat?

Actually, I do remember my first thought when I first sat in the ATAK. “Damn, that’s a lot of room.” I have never felt like my Ride 115X was small, until I paddled the ATAK. The stability is unmatched by any other kayak that I’ve paddled and handles wind better than my Ride. The rigging applications for the ATAK are going to be insane. There is not another kayak on the market like the ATAK. Wilderness did everything right with this boat and tested, and tested, and tested with Wildy Pro Staff until it was perfect. It’s an exciting time to be a Wilderness Systems Pro-Staffer.

6)  You get to choose any sports celebrity to fish with for a day.  Who do you pick and why?

That’s a tough one. Being an athletic trainer, I have a lot of sports heroes. Dirk Nowitzki, for the simple fact of seeing him in a kayak. That would be great.

7)  What is the biggest fish you've ever landed from a kayak?  Biggest bass?

The biggest fish I’ve landed was a hybrid on Lake Lewisville. That was one of my first few trips out in a kayak and I didn’t carry any measuring boards with me then, but I have yet to catch a fish that big since. My biggest bass was on Lake Mineral Wells and it measured in at around 23 inches and weighed a little over 8 and a half pounds.

8)  What is your most embarrassing kayak fishing moment?

Before I ever bought my first Wilderness Systems kayak I had the hand me down sit-in and became way too confident standing in that thing. I tried turning around to fish backwards and made it about a half a turn before going into the drink. I lost two rods, lots of tackle, and ruined my cell phone. I learned quickly after that to know your limits and capabilities and not to exceed them before you’re ready.

9)  You're approached by a young angler wanting to grow his name and get sponsored.  What are three pieces of advice that you give them?
  1. Be patient. learn the sport and gain knowledge and experience before trying to land sponsorships
  2. Never chase sponsorships or pro deals with companies that you don’t use their products. That’s a bad practice to start and you will lose credibility.
  3. Build a social media presence. Being active on social media can be crucial in gaining attention from potential sponsors.

10)  What are your favorite fishing apps?  

My Navionics app is crucial to my scouting. I’m also really liking the Fishidy app right now, and I always use my WeatherBug app for up-to-date forecasts.

This will most likely be the last regular interview on MPF.  You know what that means - we are finally creeping out of our deep freeze!  Open water, here I come.  Tight lines!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

10 Questions with Kayak Fishing Do-it-All Aaron Stiger

I'm not sure if Aaron Stiger can be any busier. I first linked up with Aaron via social networking a year or two ago. Since, I've seen his name pop-up with a multitude of projects and organizations. As advisor to the Duke University Fishing Club, I am very excited about one Aaron's biggest projects, College Kayak Fishing, where he serves as Tournament Director. I am also proud to call him a teammate with Bending Branches. In addition, he is a Jackson Kayak Fishing Team Manager and Team Member, River Bassin Tournament Trail Assistant Tournament Director, Kayak Fishing Ohio Assistant Tournament Director, Manley Rods Pro Staffer, Astral Pro Staffer, 412 Bait Co.Team Member, HOOK1 Crew Member, Kayak Kaddy Pro Staffer, KJ’s Custom Lures Pro Staffer, Yak Addicts Pro Staffer, S.W.O.R.D. Performance Drink Pro Staffer, and contributor to multiple kayak fishing publications.

Thankfully, Aaron took some time out of his crazy schedule to answer some questions. And as usual, he did not disappoint!

1)  Dave Attel is a comedian who formerly had a show on Comedy Central called "Insomniac" where he toured the U.S. and visited various cities and states late at night.  When he left Ohio his comment was, "the best thing about Ohio is packing up and getting out."  However, I know you are a proud representative of OH and the fishing community there.  Can you tell us why Dave is wrong and why you kayak scene there is so strong?

There’s nothing to argue from my end about the weather in the “Buckeye State.”  However, as much as I enjoyed Dave, he was obviously not a kayak fisherman.  Ohio, like many states, has its own unique set of gems that are largely untouched by the kayak community.  Looking North, Lake Erie is appropriately named “Walleye Capitol of the World.”  I have enjoyed catching 30+” walleye out of the big pond during the spring.  Pulling in 10lb walleye from a kayak is something you can only do in a small handful of states, Ohio being one of them.  

Now- speaking of Lake Erie, it is quickly becoming a smallmouth Mecca.  I know a lot of southern boys in the Heart of Dixie and the surrounding areas love their pigskin, but my kind of football is hammering the Lake Erie bronzebacks.  The smallmouth population up there is thriving on the ever growing goby population.  Laughably disproportionate and aggressive, these chunky fish are a blast and right in Ohio’s backyard.  Some of my favorite moments are fishing the gin clear waters of Erie, sight casting Carolina and drop-shot rigs at 20+ inch smallmouth, as they rest in 10 feet of water on their rocky homes below.

But Lake Erie is only one part of the state.  Ohio stocks multiple species of fish in our reservoirs and rivers.  From bass to crappie and over to saugeye, catfish and white bass, an angler can find multiple species of fish in a single outing on a local impoundment.  The pressure on Ohio waters is tremendous, however and it takes lots of skill, and a little bit of luck to have a truly successful outing.  I frequent my little river right behind my sleepy rural Ohio town to get away from it all, especially in the summer.  Ripping the lips of hundreds of smallies out of skinny water is one of my favorite past times.

On the southern boundary of the state, the mile-wide Ohio River flows steadily and powerfully.  It holds some of the meanest, strongest fish in the state.  Chasing trophy hybrid striped bass and dinosaur-like gar is one of my favorite addictions during the spring and summer.  There’s nothing like the freight-train of a 15 pound gar on the other end of your line or the aggression of the paddle-blade-sized shimmer of a hybrid as you reel it in.

The other factor that gives Ohio the nod is the community of anglers who reside here.  In my opinion, this kayak fishing community is growing and thriving as fast as any other throughout the nation.  I help run Kayak Fishing Ohio with anglers across the state.  We are continually growing as people continue to get hooked on the sport.  It makes me very proud to be a part of it all as this industry I have so much passion for expands out of its shoes.
All in all, people who dismiss Ohio are missing out on a great opportunity.  It is truly lacking few resources and provides an ideal habitat for fish to flourish, and anglers to be entertained.
Is that enough about why I like Ohio? ;)

2)  This year you've become the headman for College Kayak Fishing, which has great potential.  As an advisor to the Duke Fishing Club, I know how hard it can be for a lot of students to not only find out about fishing opportunities, but also afford gear.  What are some things that CKF is doing to branch out and get as many schools as possible involved? Is there anything experienced kayak anglers can do to help?

I am fortunate and blessed to have been afforded the opportunity to be the Tournament Director of College Kayak Fishing (CKF). As a high school educator, I have a big passion for the growth and development of youth in various arenas of their lives. One of the most prominent functions of College Kayak Fishing is to provide anglers with the information and tools necessary to organically build self-sustaining kayak fishing clubs at their universities. CKF facilitates positive working relationships with collegiate anglers to seek sponsorship through their universities and outside businesses that actively contribute to the industry. By doing this CKF helps the up-and-coming anglers participate more readily in events across the nation.
In these ways, we facilitate affordability and accessibility to anglers.  Another major task we do with CKF is to work with local shops and liveries to provide kayaks for free or drastically reduced rates to collegiate anglers.  This is never an easy process, and it creates several moving parts.  However, the dealers are the lifeblood of this organization and why it is able to thrive.  Without their generosity, CKF wouldn’t exist, as anglers could not fish from a kayak. It would just be called CF!
Some local clubs really step up and help out where they can.  Whether it is through kayaks, gear, or mentorship on the water the day of the event, the kayak fishing community is often seen in full force helping these youngsters out, and growing the sport the right way.  We have some very progressive ideas about how to continue to grow CKF in the future, and I can’t wait to see what unfolds!

3)  You recently received an Ohio Master Angler Award.  How does the award work and what catches earned you that recognition (including species, length/weight, and what you caught them on)?
Ohio has a recognition program called “Fish Ohio!”  Under this program, there are several species that qualify for the award.   You can get individual “Fish Ohio!” recognition.  However, I you catch four species, you are awarded “Master Angler” status.  I kind of chuckle, because I don’t consider myself a “Master Angler”- I just enjoy the challenge of fishing!
All of the species I mentioned above qualify except for gar. However, the program runs for one calendar year, and each species you catch over the required length is considered a “Fish Ohio!” Getting one or two of these fish per year for an angler is a very solid accomplishment, as true “Fish Ohio!” sized fish are difficult to come by.  However, last year, I made it a point to really go on the hunt for true trophies, and fished waters that held these trophies multiple times in pursuit.  When it was all said and done, I had several “Fish Ohio!” sized fish in 5 various species.  Walleye qualifying length is 28”.  I did not participate in “Kayak Wars” but I would have the record by over 2 inches if I did in the walleye category. I had a couple of ‘eyes over 30” and pushing 10lbs last year trolling Husky Jerk Deep Divers over the reefs.  Lake Erie is just that good of a fishery!  

The largemouth bass qualifying length is 21”. I had several over 20” but one did measure over 22” and was one heck of a pre-spawn toad.  She crushed a topwater buzzbait of all things.  When I got her in she had a nice keeper crappie in her gullet flapping its tail.  She went around 6.5 lbs.  The hybrid striped bass qualifying length is 21”.  That qualifying length is not difficult if taking a trip to the Ohio River in prime conditions.  I was using a 412 Bait Co Yoda in Salt and Pepper, and hybrids approaching 28” and 10 lbs were hammering my baits.  The funny thing about hybrids is they sit in the strongest current you could imagine.  I actually flipped my kayak the current was so strong and lost all of my gear on one trip.  Very scary moment there.  Freshwater Drum is another category for “Fish Ohio!” Making a few trips up to Lake Erie and you can have a handful of these, and my biggest last year was again, right at 10lbs.  The sow-bellied drum was only about 24” long beating the required length by 2”, but looked like it had a bowling ball in there.  The fifth species of “Fish Ohio!” Length I was fortunate to catch was saugeye, which I will talk about a bit later, but are a challenging, but rewarding fish to catch when you can!  At 23” it was a treat, and 2” over the “Fish Ohio!” length.  I also had three species, which were each within ¼” of the award, and they were smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and crappie.

4)  You can pick one kayak fishing destination/trip anywhere in the world...what is it?

As crazy as it sounds, an Ohio boy has never made it salt fishing.  I’ve been to the ocean plenty of times, just never in my kayak.  I want to experience salt water fishing from the kayak.  Whether it is red fish, flounder, specks, snook, or even sharks, I just want the experience!  Heck, I think right now, I just want some warmer weather.

5)  Most kayak anglers are up before the sun and on the road to chase fish.  What is playing in your truck to wake you up and get you pumped?

“Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line. Great song!

6)  Walleye and sauger tend to be less popular species for kayak anglers.  So, if readers wanted to chase them, what are 2-3 techniques or baits that work well throughout the year?

One of the big reasons these fish are not targeted more is because they do not live in the ponds, lakes and rivers abundantly like bass do.  Walleye are not common around Ohio, only living in Lake Erie and a couple of impoundments.  So targeting them from a kayak takes knowledge and commitment.  But to target them on Erie, find about 22 feet of water along a mud line.  Fish the warmer water, which is right on that mudline in the spring when it gets about 40 degrees. Pull Husky Jerk Deep divers and Reef Runners, use your electronics to locate pods of fish and hold on!  

For saugeye (sterile hybrid) and sauger, you can catch them in rivers throughout the year, especially in the spring and late fall.  The big girls will often come out to play at night, and you can catch 10 or zero depending on the evening and locations.  Along with a suspending jerk bait, small twister tails on a jig head work great for these “gators.”

7)  On an average week, how many hours do you think go into something kayak fishing related?  How do you offset that time with work, family, friends, etc.?

Oh boy, I’m almost embarrassed to answer this question.  I’ll start off by saying I have the most loving and empathetic wife a man could ask for.  She puts up with my hobby turned obsession, turned career.  Between being the Director of CKF, Fishing Team Manager for Jackson Kayak, and Assistant Director of River Bassin, I put in about 35-40 hours a week for these roles on top of my job as a high school teacher.  It is a lot of very hard work behind the scenes.  However, I am so lucky, fortunate and blessed to be in the position I am currently in, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

8)  What is your favorite kayak fishing memory?
My favorite memory is up on my family’s lake house in Ontario, Canada.  We have a cottage that sits on a medium-sized lake and this place is full of smallmouth, largemouth, pike, walleye, perch- you name it.  Last year I took my younger cousin, who was in 8th grade, out fishing on one of the spring-fed streams that feeds the lake.  Many times you can catch all kinds of fish out of these rivers.  I was bass fishing- I had a Texas-rigged plastic on, and he had a brand new KVD 1.5 crank bait I had given him.  These rivers are not deep, maybe 2 or 3 feet, and I told him that crank was likely going to just drag the bottom, and may not be the right choice.  Soon enough, he showed me otherwise, as he pulled a 32” northern pike out of a section of the river no wider than the office room I’m typing this story in.  He didn’t bring a net, and landed the fish with his bare hand, by putting his hand up in the gill of this fighting fish.  I was so proud of him!  His awkward 13-year old, crooked smile and laughter told the story best. That is what gives me the most joy in this sport- spreading my passion and knowledge of kayak fishing to others!  A trip like that got him hooked and he fished other local tournaments in Ohio with me after that in 2014.  He will be a kayak angler for life!

9)  You're being forced to fish out of a tandem kayak - who do you want in the front for a fun day on the water?  How about on tourney day?

Hmm, well if they are in front, I definitely want someone who is conscientious about their back cast so I don’t end up with a treble hook in my arm! Ha!  But, joking aside, I think it would be a blast to fish with one of my buddies, Larry Schuster.  He has an awesome sense of humor, and has been known to crack a joke or two to my demise. However, Larry is someone I consider a great friend and a guy I have a ton of respect for.
If it was a tourney day, I would sit and watch my friend Donald Corbett.  In my opinion, Don makes the some of the best soft plastics out there in 412 Baits, and he flat out knows how to fish them.  I believe he had 6 top-3 tournament finishes last season alone.  He has given me a few lectures about colors, presentation, cadence, weather patterns, and more.  The preparation and foresight he puts into his typical tournament day is impressive.  I fish against Don a few times every year, and it would be awesome to just sit and watch for a day.

10)  Give us one piece of advice for beginner kayak anglers?  How about for mid-level and top-tier folks?

For novice kayak anglers, my piece of advice is to get plugged into your local kayak-fishing scene.  Sometimes it is a tournament trail, other times it is informal meet-ups with guys and girls you meet on a forum.  Either way, this community is more of a brother and sisterhood.  So much knowledge that I have now was passed down to me by some of my closest friends within this network of local Ohio anglers.  For that, I am grateful and excited because I know that it continues to happen on a daily basis for others as well.

For mid and top-level anglers, I would give the advice to really evaluate what you want out of the industry.  Is it tournament wins? Is it publicity? Is it building a platform through writing?  Is it to run a tournament trail? Is it to pro staff for companies and represent their brands?  Is it to start a guide service? Or, is it to just go out and have fun to de-stress? The funny thing about kayak fishing is that it is such a niche market, where seemingly everyone knows everyone to an extent.  However, it is expansive enough to really market yourself and grow in whatever way, as much or as little, as you wish.  I think it is very important to determine your ultimate motives, goals, and values as your involvement grows in the industry.  Then, once you figure those things out, know that only by putting in hard work and applying your skill set, will you reach your fullest potential.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Power of the PFD - Get Informed

Stemming from a recent article by Bill Howard (which you can find here) and a recent event on the FLW tour, I feel like it is time to write a short blog about personal flotation devices (PFDs).  I've never made it a secret how I feel about wearing a PFD when kayak fishing.  You'll notice that I wear mine 100% of the time.  You simply never know.  I advise everyone to wear their PFD at all times and require it as a guide.  But I understand that everyone has their own opinion on this issue, and I respect that.  All I ask is that you inform yourself.

This short video is from my Wilderness Systems teammate Troy Meyerhoeffer.  It was taken at Kentucky Lake, which is one of the busiest bodies of water in the country.  In my opinion, it pretty much says it all.

Dress warm and wear your PFD!
Posted by Troy Meyerhoeffer on Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I'll also urge you to read about the accident that FLW angler John Cox had this past weekend.  While driving at a high rate of speed, his bass boat suddenly pulled a 360, ejecting both he and his cameraman.  Their auto-inflating life jackets did not deploy and they sunk in 10 feet of water.  Thankfully, help quickly arrived and got them to safety.  Both were later reported to have suffered concussions, and the cameraman also broke his collarbone.  Although Cox claims the fact that his life jacket did not properly deploy was a good thing (because the boat flipped virtually on the top of them), I find that comment to be entirely circumstantial.  First, I'm glad that neither was hurt worse.  I am also glad that as kayak anglers, we don't travel at terribly high rates of speed.  But we do deal with rapids, waves, currents, tides, strainers, and other hazards.  Plus, in many bodies of water, we still have bass and pleasure boats zooming all around us.  The point of this is to think about your PFD.

I have personally turned down multiple "auto-inflating" PFDs.  I just don't trust them.  If I flip in a class-II+ rapid, I want to be 100% sure my life jacket is going to work.  If you Google auto- or self-inflating PFDs, you will find many articles about how often they don't work.  Among the results are instances where entire shipments of hundreds to thousands of auto-inflators did not work.  Other studies have found that, even if properly stored and replaced as recommended, they only work about 50%-70% of the time.  Yikes.  They may be lighter and, arguably, more comfortable, but are they really worth it?

Whether you prefer NRS, Kokatat, or another brand, I strongly urge you to do your homework and always err on the side of caution.  I know the phrase is overused, but you can't put a price on life.  Tight lines!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

10 Questions with new Wildy Pro Wes Widrig

A year or two ago, I linked up with Wes Widrig via social networking on Facebook.  He was regularly posting pictures of big Virginia smallies and other species.  Eventually, I started to notice some sweet video footage as well.  It did not take long before folks started recognizing his hard work and enthusiasm.  Wes is quickly building an impressive fishing resume, and recently added the title of Wilderness Systems Pro Staffer.  Now, he is even more eager to share his passion for kayak fishing with anyone interested.

Take a look at what Wes had to say about a variety of fishing topics, and if you are interested, give him a shout, and I bet he would be willing to chase trophy smallmouth or muskies with you on his home river - the New River in central VA.

1. I think you would be the first to admit that you are a multi-species angler and love the challenge that various species present, but what is your favorite fish to target and why? 

 Anytime I get a chance to fish I'll target any species, but for me the smallmouth bass is my favorite. Their predictable, yet "unpredictable" behavior presents the challenge that I can never get enough of. Plus they are acrobatic all the way to the boat.

2. I recently learned that you are a bit of a road warrior when it comes to tournaments. Walk us through what your tournament season looks like – events, dates, locations, how far they are from home, etc.

This years tournament season is a busy one. I am fishing with 3 different organizations covering 3 different states. Carolina Kayak Anglers, Mountain State Kayak Anglers, and the newest trail here in Southwest Virginia and Southern West Virginia, The Gillbilly Tournament Trail Series. Each series will feature lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. The season started March 7th and runs late into October. Most of the tournaments are within 3 1/2 hours, including some that are less than a half hour away - The New River in my hometown of Pembroke, VA and Claytor Lake in Dublin, VA to be exact.

3. I know that, like me, you are a river rat at heart.  How did you first choose a river fishing kayak and what do you currently paddle?

 For me getting into kayaking was as simple as shopping at the local sporting goods store for a reasonably priced fishing kayak. I fished from a sit inside kayak for about 6 months before upgrading to a much more suitable fishing machine, the sit on top. It just so happened to be a Wilderness Systems Ride 115, and I have been paddling it to this day since February of 2012.

4. You are allowed to pick ONE go-to bait for each season (spring,summer, fall, winter). What are they and why? 

 It's got to be a jig! I like a swim jig with a beaver style trailer in the spring, summer, and fall. One that resembles a blue gill preferably. As far as winter goes a compact football jig is hard to beat when those cold water temps really set in.

5. What places are on your fishing wish list and why? Give me a top 3 in the US and 1 international. 

Lake Erie for giant smallmouth on a drop shot with light line is top of the list. Mainly because those smallies are huge and catching them on light line is such a difficult challenge.

 Catching big Amberjack in the Gulf has always been a favorite past time for me. My grandfather used to charter out of Panama City Beach Florida and we would catch Amberjack 100 feet down on artificial reefs. I would love to charter a kayak offshore and attempt this style of fishing.

Third would be another Northern fishery. The great Susquehanna River. Any hardcore smallie guy knows they grow big in PA.

 I've always wanted to catch a Tarpon. Florida would be the suitable destination, but if I had my choice either Trinidad or Puerto Rico.

6. What is your favorite fishing technique and why? 

 I've always been a soft plastics guy. Floating worms, senkos, tubes, and grubs. Whenever fishing currents, these baits can produce year round. Especially in clear water, where a finesse presentation is necessary. My favorite has to be a 3/16 oz finesse jig twin tail hula grub in green pumpkin.

7. I’ve seen a number of your videos pop-up in various places online over the past year or two. What do you think are the most important parts of a good kayak fishing video? Any do’s or don’ts? 

 Have fun with the videos. Everyone's technique is different and videoing skills are not easy. Find what works for you. I like over the shoulder action and underwater shots. For me it best tells my story on the water.

 Do's: Film as much as possible. Short increments can help in quicker editing. For better slow motion captures, record in 720.

 Don'ts: Most videos are shorter in length packed full of action and thrills. Keep the video's length reasonable. 20 minutes of sitting while fishing isn't that entertaining.

8. I recently found out that your girlfriend is also a kayak angler. Be honest, how often does she out-fish you? 

 That's funny, because it really only took her a couple times on the water to out fish me. It seems like every time we make a wager, especially the whole loser cooks dinner bet, I lose. She always wins those!

9. Out of all the gear you carry on your kayak, what is the one thing you wouldn’t leave home without (excluding kayak, paddle, rods, reels, and baits)? 

 I'm a trophy smallmouth hunter, so I always have my hawg trough for length measurements and a boga grip for measuring weight. I'm constantly looking for that next personal best fish.

10. Have you ever had or been around for a scary kayaking moment? If so, what happened, and if not, what types safety precautions do you take/use? 

 There's been a couple times where I had to perform a rescue while kayaking. Drew, you know in this sport it can go from good to bad in a matter of seconds. And while paddling flows like creeks and rivers, current can play a big factor in misguiding the boat or simply getting swept sideways into a rock. Learning to read water does help in avoiding these occurrences. I've seen boats pinned to rocks and overflowing with water on the river bottom. Another time a friend of mine didn't make a hard left thru a channel swing on Walkers Creek and wound up in some brush that had been pushed up against the bank from the faster water. Luckily both times turned out OK and no one was hurt. Staying calm in these situations, for both the victims and the rescuers, is mandatory. Sometimes its as easy as leaving the boat and gear and floating out. It is another reason why your PFD is a must.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

My Kayak Fishing Seminar at LL Bean & Learning from your own Speaking Engagements

I love sharing my passion for kayak fishing with anyone who wants to listen.  I guess that is a big part of blogging - sharing what you love.  I've talked to a number of different groups and organizations before, but when I got the opportunity to speak at the LL Bean Spring Fishing Expo, I was beyond excited...and a little nervous.  L.L. Bean is an outdoor powerhouse and their flagship store/campus, in Freeport, Maine, is very impressive.  The opportunity came via Wilderness Systems, one of the major kayak brands that L.L. Bean carries.  To top it off, I was also following in the footsteps of longtime Wildy pro Jeff Little, an uber talented angler who was the speaker last year, and talking before some of the best fly fishers in the country.  No pressure, right?

The flyer for the weekend

After much debate, I decided to go old school - no PowerPoint, no video, and no frills.  It was just me, some notes, and a fully rigged kayak.  This decision may have been influenced by my dislike of PowerPoint, which began in grad school, where the amazing software is abused to create hour long snoozefests, deemed "lectures".  My attendance record at those classes and talks may have been less than stellar.  The last thing I wanted was a bored audience.  In hindsight, this was a fantastic choice.

Some are probably asking, "really"?  Really.  I do think a video would have been cool, in fact I will probably make one this year, and maybe I should have included a picture or two. But in my opinion, seminars are not about self promotion, which I believe happens much too often. They are about promoting kayak fishing and should motivate folks to want to get involved in the sport.  Some guys, like Jeff, make you want to buy a kayak right then and there.  That was my goal.

I won't lie, when someone spends money putting your name on signs and in brochures, it adds a little pressure.

The talk was titled Kayak Fishing 101, with a focus on fly fishing, since the majority of L.L. Bean's customers are fly anglers.  Each morning, I talked at length about kayaking safety, getting started, different accessories, fly fishing techniques specific to kayakers, and a variety of other things - mixing in stories and humor to keep the mood light and show how much fun kayak fishing can be.  The first talk was standing room only.  The second wasn't as full, but was still a pretty big crowd.  Based on the reactions after each talk and throughout the weekend, I think it was a hit.  Wildy sales rep Courtney Moore, who was an amazing partner in crime, and I talked to a continuous flow of people throughout the weekend.  A lot of people were interested in leaving with a kayak, while others wanted to wait and a try a boat before they bought it, which we both recommended.  On that note, I believe that L.L. Bean is hosting a paddling demo and promo weekend in late April, so if you are in the market for a boat, keep an eye out.  In addition to boats, I was able to show off a variety of accessories from YakAttack and Harmony and my Bending Branches paddle.

My confidence was a lot higher on day 2 than it was on day 1.  I guess that is only natural.  It also helped to receive kind words from so many members of the audience, Courtney, and Mary May.  The biggest compliment of all came toward the end of the show, when the seminar coordinator/introducer thanked me, told me how much he enjoyed the talk, and said that he would be recommending that L.L. Bean invite me back to speak again later this year.  The goofy smile on my face said it all.  I also have to say how amazing the L.L. Bean staff was.  Every single person I met blew me away with their friendliness and helpfulness throughout the weekend.  It is easy to see why they are renowned for their customer service.

After wrapping up the weekend, we headed to a local restaurant to chow on some seafood, because what is a trip to the Maine cost without a lobster roll! 


I talk a lot on this blog about learning from your mistakes and using them to grow as a person.  Although I count the weekend as a major success, there were parts of my talk which I have already changed, and I learned a lot about effective approaches for selling boats and accessories.  In fact, it even gave me some ideas about how I could become a better blogger and representative of the sport. Hopefully, I can use what I learned and make my next seminar, sales weekend, or blog even better.

Now if this ice would melt so I could hit the water!  Until then, it is back to clearing our house lot and getting that project moving at full speed.  Is that you, spring?

Our new Husky 460

Until next time, tight lines!