Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bending Branches Sun Shadow Crank Paddle Review

Last spring, I was seriously contemplating adding the Bending Branches Navigator paddle to my collection. It is strong, light, and beautiful. Then I bounced the idea off of Confluence rep and outdoor Renaissance man Andrew Miller and he said something that really stuck with me. What makes a wood paddle so great is the feel. There is nothing like the feel of a wood paddle in your hand - the grain, the texture, the character. So I went back to the Bending Branches site to re-evaluate. There were two full wood kayak paddle options - the Sun Shadow Crank and the Impression. After making a pros-cons list, I decided on the Sun Shadow Crank, and I could not be happier.


The Sun Shadow Crank (SSC) is a strong, ergonomic wood paddle for folks who want to combine beauty and performance. I opted for the "Day Blade", which is best for high angle, aggressive paddlers. It also comes with two other blade options for low angle paddling and fast paced, touring cadences. The Day Blade moves a ton of water and has performed well in both lakes and rivers.


The shaft is composed of laminate basswood and the blades are mix of red alder, butternut, and basswood with a rock guard around the edge. It is a gorgeous paddle and I constantly get compliments on the water and at the launch. It comes in either zero or sixty degree offsets (I use the zero) and with a two piece, push button ferrule design. I use the 230 cm model in both my ATAK and Ride 115X. The "crank" shaft is designed to provide a more ergonomic fit for paddlers. It did take me a few trips to adjust to, but now I love it, and mix it up between wider and narrower grips.

Before I get into the cons, keep in mind that this is a wood paddle, and they are in a different class than other material types. The first con is weight. The Day Blade option weighs in at 41.5 oz, while the Twilite blade is the lightest at 38 oz. For refernce, my Angler Pro weighs in at 30 oz. The Impression, another full wood paddle, weighs 37 oz and the Navigator, a hybrid, is 28 oz. The difference is noticable, but I wouldn't say it significantly affects performance. And again, you just cannot beat the look.


Because the shaft is made of wood, it is not offered in a Plus ferrule option. Neither are any all wood kayak paddles on the market. I really like the Bending Branches Plus ferrule, but again, it is one of the trade offs linked to paddling with wood. The paddle shaft is also quite large in diameter. Personally, I have fairly large hands and like the way it feels, but it is something to consider before purchasing.

The final con is cost. The SSC costs around $260, while the Impression is $169 and Navigator is $299-$325. However, I just went over to the Bending Branches site to confirm those numbers and noticed that the SSC is now being retired due to lack of wood availability. What a bummer! So, I advise folks to snatch them up while you can. You may likely find some discounted or end of stock prices floating around as well.

I don't necessarily think the SSC is an ideal long distance touring paddle for most folks, but it is a great paddle for high level recreational users, anglers, and shorter touring trips. It has performed extremely well for me on short (1-6 mile) paddling trips and fish excursions in various types of water. So if you too are looking for that perfect look and feel that only wood provides, check out the Sun Shadow Crank! Tight lines!

Monday, August 17, 2015

6 Bass Baits that Excel in Different Late Summer Scenarios

We are squarely into the dog days of summer. Those of us in New England are soaking them up while we can. Although hot temperatures and clear skies can often mean tough days on the water, that doesn't have to be the case. In fact, a little planning can produce epic days this time of the year. Below, I will talk about 3 different scenarios that are prime for summer fishing, as well as 6 baits that really produce during the late summer - both here in New England and around the country.

Tip #1 - Go early and late
This is a bit of a no brainer. Low light conditions and cooler temperatures equate to more active fish. And for me, there is no better way to fish early and late than with topwater. I often rig three topwater baits and a throwback bait (a finesse worm for fish that miss topwaters) in these situations, with prime fishing windows typically occurring from approximately an hour before first light to 8 AM in the morning and an hour before dusk to well after dark in the evening. Granted, this may vary from location to location. Although I rig topwaters that excel in different situations, such as in open water, through thick weeds, or around wood, my favorite morning and evening bait is a walking bait thrown in fairly open water. By fairly open, I mean that there are no major obstructions, so this may be over a submerged weed bed, along a rip-rap wall, through an eddy, or various other places. My go-to open water bait is a Lucky Craft Gunfish in a natural shad color. It can walk, spit, or both, which makes it very versatile and hard to resist, especially when worked at various speeds.


My 2 choices and runner-up for early and late fishing. The dog hair on the worm adds some extra action too.

Another bait that can really produce in low light conditions is a New England staple - a large profile black spinnerbait with a single Colorado blade. The black silhouette can mimic numerous types of forage in low light conditions and the blade puts off a vibration that virtually calls the fish to it. I prefer to fish it around submerged weeds or wood cover, and again vary the speed of the retrieve.

Honorable mention:
The black ribbon tail worm gets my honorable mention nod early and late. Fish seem to key in on the worm color and tail action, especially when fished around targets - such as docks, wood, etc. I prefer at least a 7.5" worm, sometimes going up to 12". I Texas rig the worm on a 4/0 or 5/0 Gamakatsu EWG worm hook below a 1/4 or 3/8 oz tungsten weight and fish it fairly slow. You will want to use a sensitive rod and line, because some bites can be tough to detect in the dark.

Tip #2 - Take advantage of wind and shade
Mother nature isn't out to get us entirely when the weather gets hot and sunny, she just slows us down a bit. Checking the forecast is key before you hit the lake. The three big things I look for are clouds/sun conditions, wind, and extreme weather. I actually don't mind fishing on sunny days, or even bluebird days, as long as I have some wind. On those days, I focus on the windiest parts of the lake, where bait tends to be the most active. I may use a variety of baits, but one of my best late summer producers here in western Massachusetts is a swim jig. The swim jig is very versatile and can be effectively fished nearly anywhere. The majority of the time, I am throwing a 1/4 oz to 3/8 oz swim jig in a natural color - green, brown, black, or some mix. I prefer it to look like a perch or sunfish. I then use a 3.5"-4.5" paddle tail trailer to add action. However, I will change up my colors, jig size/profile, and trailer based on conditions and forage. My favorite way to fish them is through grass, however I will also crawl them along rocky banks or around wood at times.

My 3 choices for late summer wind and shade - note the blade on this particular swim jig

There will undoubtedly be days when the wind dies down and it gets hot. In those instances, key in on shade. Docks, weed beds, boulders, and logs all form prime shady habitat. In those situations, I often like to flip and pitch a beaver or creature bait that mimics a sunfish. Sunfish are drawn to those areas as well, and bass are always lurking close behind looking for any easy meal. My bait of choice is the Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog, which I Texas rig with a 4/0 Gamakatsu EWG worm hook fished below a 1/4 oz tungsten weight. The key is soft, accurate casts that gently fall or skip into the water, because bass will be spooky when conditions are calm.

Honorable mention:
My honorable mention here is the hollow body frog. Frog fishing takes practice and confidence, but you can often get frog bites all day when fishing heavy cover. Not only are these strikes extremely fun, but frogs often produce better quality fish than other techniques. I keep my frogs simple and almost only fish black or white colors. In sunny conditions, I throw the frogs to the heaviest cover I can find. I start by working them slowly, with multiple pauses, while focusing on walking them and making them look natural/edible. I may speed them up depending on the temperment of the bass that particular day. When frog fishing, the key is to wait a few seconds before setting the hook. One common tip is to slowly spell out the word "frog" before you set the hook. This time lapse allows the fish to completely engulf the bait, increasing the chances of the hook landing in the mouth upon hook set. However, you will eventually miss some fish, so I also always have 1 or 2 throwback baits ready (1 weightless finesse and 1 that can punch heavy vegetation). I throw my frogs on a frog specific rod and use 60 lb braided line. The rod action of a frog rod, combined with heavy, small diameter line, will lead to more hook ups and landed fish. Although I have 3-4 brands of frogs in my box, my favorites are the Deps Basirisky and the Teckel line-up.

Tip #3 - Hit the river
I have always been a river rat, but these days, I have to drive more than twice as far to get to prime river fishing than I do to prime lake fishing. However, every chance I get or if conditions just aren't right to lake fish, I am headed for flowing water. Most northeastern rivers have plenty of current and shoals, which provide oxygenated water, shade, and great habitat for predation. Although numerous baits can work depending on the river you are fishing, one of my favorite techniques is to find the biggest rapid-eddy combos possible and start working a swimbait. I typically use paddle tail swimbaits to fish current seams, eddys, and even directly in fast water. I rig the baits either on wide gap, screw lock, belly weighted swimbait hooks, swing head jigs, or jighead style hooks and fish them through all levels of the water column and at various speeds. There are numerous swimbaits that can work, but my favorites are the Luck-E-Strike Bass Magic swimmers and Big Bite Baits Cane Thumpers. At times, I may switch to a hard body, jointed swimbait, such as a Spro BBZ-1 or Bull Shad. The key is figuring out the correct speed that the fish are looking for, which may include some pauses and erratic action. Another key can be bottom contact contact - deciding if they want the bait to have none, some, or grind along the bottom.

My top 2 and honorable mention for late summer river fishing

My other go-to for late summer river fish is finesse plastics. I know, I know - that is more than one bait. On any given day, this may include weightless stick worms, 3.5" tubes, 3" grubs, shakey heads, or drop shot rigs. For the sake of choosing one, I will go with the drop shot, because late summer river fishing is when I really built my confidence in the rig. I prefer to fish a nose hooked 4.5"-6" Roboworm about 12"-18" above a 1/8 oz tungsten drop shot weight. You may need to go with a heavier weight if fishing deeper or faster water. They can  be fished anywhere, but I love throwing them along current seams and letting the current do the work for you. Essentially, you are just feeling the weight tick along the bottom until you detect a strike, which will likely take some practice. However, you can fish drop shots in any type of water and around any type of cover. If new to the technique, I definitely recommend a YouTube session before heading out. I rig my drop shots on a 6'10" Carolina Custom Rods spinning rod, which is extra light and sensitive. I use an Abu Garcia Orra SX 30 spinning reel spooled with 6 lb or 8 lb P-Line fluorocarbon. With that set-up, you can feel every little pebble on the bottom and detect even the slightest of bites.

Honorable mention:
My honorable mention river bait is the crawfish imitator crankbait. Unfortunately, many of the rivers in my area get very weedy by late summer, and fishing any type of crankbait becomes more of a chore than it is often worth. However, even in small patches of non-weedy rocks it can be lights out productive. Bass, especially smallmouths, will have feeding windows where they gorge on crayfish. I have found that choosing the right crankbait color can be important - such as a natural brown vs red vs orange vs blue tint. However, I believe that action is just as if not more important, and that is why I carry three different types of crawfish cranks in my box. The first are Live Target crawfish cranks that dive around 5-6 feet deep (8-12 feet for the deeper series) and have a fairly wide, squarebill type action. With these, the key is deflections off of the bottom, which create reaction strikes. If they aren't producing, I may go to craw crank #2, an old school Bagley Balsa Craw. Balsa cranks deflect like nothing else on the market, and those deflections can often lead to more bites. I have had days where balsa out fished traditional hard cranks 10:1. These cranks also have a fairly wide action, which can be ideal in certain conditions and really hunt when fished fast. Type #3 is the Megabass X-Dad. I like this bait because it suspends, has a tight action, and is a bit of a crankbait-jerkbait hybrid (much like the Megabass Flap Slap, another favorite). At times, keeping your lure suspended close to the bottom is the key to triggering more strikes and the X-Dad does just that.

Late summer can be a tough puzzle to figure out. But, I strongly believe that these three scenarios can consistently produce fish if approached with patience and practice. You may have your own favorite baits for these situations, and if so, please share them in the comments below. Also, some of these baits may work well in more than one situation above. So, get out of the air conditioning and go suffer through the heat of summer, whether in a bass boat, kayak, wading, or any other form of fishing. After a few bites, you won't be thinking about the temperature anyway. Oh, and don't forget the sunscreen.

Until next time, tight lines!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Reason for my Blogging Drought...and Lots of Photos

It is has been way too long since I last blogged. It hasn't been because I haven't wanted to, but because I simply haven't been fishing. Early last month, I developed a pain in my shoulder and neck area. I am not sure how it happened exactly, but I managed to strain the rhomboid muscle in my right shoulder. The rhomboid connects the shoulder blade to the spine. So not only was I experiencing shoulder pain, but it was affecting the nerves around my spine - at times leading to jolting shocks of agony. The recovery period is 4-8 weeks, of which I am about 5 weeks in, although I probably haven't always taken it as easily as my doctor (or in this case, nurse practitioner wife) would recommend. Thankfully, it is feeling pretty good now, with only a dull soreness at times, so I am optimistic that it will be fully healed by the end of August. That being said, the fishing bug has hit me full bore!

Another beautiful, yet intrepid, day here in New England

I've managed to offset my fishing fanatics with gardening, canning, house building, cooking, and a bit of fly fishing - on top of the typical work load. Just before the injury, Mary May and Johanna (my mother-in-law) got me a Big Green Egg. MM and I had been eyeing one up for some time, but always seemed to put it off for one reason or another. But after using it for a month, I am regretting not spluring on one sooner. The flavor it produces is unreal, especially combined with some soaked cherry or oak from the back 40. It is also pretty easy to control the temperature once you get the hang of it, and it maintains both high and low temps very well. Our first cook was a 4.5 hour, low temp, smoked brisket. The picture says it all!

The Big Green Alien Spacecraft Egg has landed...and it is smoking!

A brisket worthy of the Texas Hill Country

We've also done a whole chicken, chicken sausage, pork sausage, pork chops, pork loin, cheese, venison loin, and probably others that I am forgetting. I honestly can't get enough! Here are a few more pics from the BGE.

A brined/injected pork loin that came out perfect

In addition to stuffing our faces, we've been doing a ton of food preservation from the garden. We even had our first batch of salsa early this year...and it was darn good!

Our first batch of salsa for 2015 - entirely from the garden

We've done some traveling too - including a weekend in Vermont, which was highlighted by a Lake Champlain boat ride and swim, as well as an Avett Brothers concert, and 5 days at the Rhode Island coast, where we ate heaps of seafood and soaked up the sun. On that note, I'll just leave you with some fun/yummy/interesting photos from the past month or so.

The Avett Brothers rocking Vermont - they never disappoint
The deep blue sea - coastal RI

And when at the coast, you feast on seafood

We have been so busy that we haven't been involved in as much haying as last year, but there is nothing like that first run in the skid-steer

Many a summer eve has been spent sitting around the campfire with friends, while watching the river flow by

And what is summer without a few fireworks!

The good news is that if you are jonesing for some fishing on MPF, I should be back at full speed by September. However, between now and then, I should have a couple fishing related blogs that share some of my experiences and knowledge with y'all. Until next time, tight lines!

Monday, July 20, 2015

My Top 5 Favorites from ICAST 2015

It is a great time to be a kayak angler. With ICAST occurring last week in Orlando, FL and Outdoor Retailer slated for the first week of August in Salt Lake City, many companies are pumping out great new products. As usual, ICAST introduced us to some really innovative new products...and some probable duds.  But, for better or worse, the kayak fishing industry is quickly pushing toward the forefront of the outdoor industry.  Here are my 5 favorites (and a couple honorable mentions) from ICAST 2015.

1.  All things Wildy Fishing

Wilderness Systems dropped their teaser video about a week early, but man do they have the kayak fishing world buzzing. Their new X-pod motor drive was released at ICAST, as was a new and improved Tarpon 130X and ultralite versions of multiple boats in RealTree camo. They have hinted at an X-pod pedal system coming at Outdoor Retailer (OR), as well as the possibility of new/modified models in the near future. Confluence also launched a new Perception Pescador Pro, which is a sharp looking boat in its own right. I suspect they will take the interchangeable X-pod concept and absolutely run with it, as it fits/will fit the ATAK, Thresher, Tarpon X, and more models down the road. Below is their teaser video and a photo of the new Tarpon 130X, which has yet to be formally released.

The time has come for the power of Wilderness Systems to be revealed.
Posted by Wilderness Systems Fishing Kayaks on Thursday, July 2, 2015

2.  Bending Branches Angler Optimus

This thing is the Swiss army knife of paddles, because it can do it all. It will combine with your current Bending Branches angler series paddle (excluding Plus ferrule options) to create a canoe paddle, stand up (paddleboard) paddle, 8 ft pushpole and 12 ft pushpole. The best thing is that it is as easy as the push of a button. All parts are made from super strong, lightweight fiberglass. Check it out over at Bending Branches for full info

3.  Abu Garcia Revo Spinning Reels

My affinity for Abu Garcia has been mentioned many times on this blog.  For years, I have been using their Orra S and SX spinning reels and love them.  They have been tanks, and for the money, they are hard to beat.  But the new Revo spinning line looks amazing and when my Orras die, I may upgrade a bit.  For some reason, I have always been a little reluctant to spring for a Revo S, because I think the upgrades you get when you splurge on an SX, STX, or better are just too hard to ignore.  However, I fully expect to have an SX or two in my arsenal within a few years.  Check out their intros here:

4.  Jackall Pompadour Junior

The Jackall Pompadour has been around for a year or so now and has been the cause of numerous topwater blow-ups since it launched.  It is a mutation of the old school Arbogast Jitterbug.  I just picked up a couple and love them.  They don't get a ton of bites, but the bites you get are big and ferocious.  Now, they come in a smaller version, which should be just as productive.  Check them out!

5.  Savage Gear 3D Shine Glide Bait

Glide baits have become super popular over the past few years.  That is because guys out west and in the swimbait world have been catching giants on them.  Savage Gear just released their new glide baits, which come in a couple different sizes and numerous colors.  I will admit that a lot of the custom and handmade swimbaits look better in the water, but this one looks pretty good, and costs a fraction of the price.  If you are looking for something new that catches big fish, this may be a good option for you.

Honorable Mentions:

A.  Jig Skinz

I saw Jig Skinz first pop up on my Facebook feed and was impressed.  Others clearly were too, as it continued to show up on my feed for a few days.  Although it isn't widely applicable, it is a really cool concept.  See their video, below.

Got some beat up jigs and plugs in your bag? Slap them some skin and make them look brand new again!! - EK
Posted by Hook Shots on Thursday, July 16, 2015

B.  Big Bite Baits Swimming Mama

The Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog has been my go-to flipping bait for the past year or two.  The Swimming Mama looks very similar, but with a little more action and slightly different profile.  I would like to see one in the water, but dang in looks appealing.  This is another bait that I will be fishing on an unpegged Texas rig.  I expect to have a few bags in my tackle box very soon!

Until next time, tight lines!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fireworks and Freak Temps - Early July Kayak Fishing

It has been a busy few weeks, so I was giddy when the clock hit 5 PM on July 2nd.  I was staring at a three day weekend, which included both Independence Day and my 32nd birthday.  Nothing could stop me from hitting the water.  I decided to hit a lake that I hadn't fished in a while.  But I knew the lake can get crowded, and even moreso on a holiday weekend.  So, I decided to get up at 4 AM, which would put me on the water at first light.  Just before bed, Mary May asked, "what does the weather look like"?  "Clear, I think", I responded.  So I opened my AccuWeather app.  Sure enough, it was supposed to be clear, but also a bit chilly - like 45 degrees chilly.  Isn't this July?  Suddenly I was beginning to re-think my plans, but I refused to let some cold weather stop me.

I slept poorly, but was somehow still startled awake by my alarm.  I stumbled out the door and was surprised to see how bright it already was.  The near full moon and clear skies were providing a ton of light.  I was hoping that was a piece of the puzzle I wouldn't need to worry about.  As I cruised west, I contemplated whether or not I should tweak my initial plan.  I was all set for fishing topwaters - with 3 surface baits and a "throwback" bait tied on.  I knew deep down that I should have probably went with Plan B, but I was determined to force feed the fish on top.  So, that is what I, stubbornly, did.

A chilly morning launch

I launched the ATAK around 5 AM and began throwing a mix of a Deps frog and River2Sea Whopper Plopper.  About 3 casts into the day, a 14" bass erupted on the Whopper Plopper.  "I guess the temps aren't going to affect the bite", I thought to myself.  I then went 40 minutes without a nibble.  I was concetrating on rock and dense vegetation, both of which retain heat, but nothing was producing - at least not on top.  As the sun rose over the trees, I paddled over to the sunny side of the lake.  That moved proved to make all the difference.  The exact same types of rocks and heavy weed patches seemed to be full of active fish, and that warm sun was the key.  I never did get a bite on the frog, but I landed a couple more on the Whopper Plopper before the Jerk Shad bite took over. 

My growing fondness for the Berkley Saltwater Jerk Shad has been well documented of late.  This day was no different.  I had to slow it down a bit more, but bass and chain pickerel were crushing it as I killed it on weed edges.  The bite between about 6:45-8:30 AM was red hot.  Then the weatherman flipped his switch and the bite died.  The sun, which had fueled my morning bite, was now the key to shutting it down.  The bluebird skies and lack of wind forced me to slow down - way down.  I began flipping weed mats with a lizard and a tossing a finess worm around the edges.  Still, I only managed a couple pickerel and a short bass.  I found myself wishing for wind - any wind.  After about 45 minutes, my wish was finally granted.  Within 15 minutes, the bite was on again.

One of the best fish of the day (the biggest flipped off my measuring board)

I caught fish flipping a lizard to wood and boulders, fishing the Jerk Shad on weed edges, and ripping a Premier League Lures spinnerbait in a perch color through sunken vegetation.  Although I had only planned to fish until about 10 AM, the bite just kept getting better.  By 1 PM, my best three largemouth combined to measure 58" and I had caught multiple chain pickerel at 26".  I had landed about 50 fish - 21 bass and 29 chain pickerels.  Unfortunatley, I knew I had to get home, so I started making my way back to the truck.  I made a few casts here and there, including one thrown along a point near some isolated vegetation.  As I brought my Jerk Shad across the patch of grass, the water erupted.  A giant chain pickerel engulfed the bait.  It was ripping drag and pulling me into the wind.  After a minute or two, I got the fish boatside and realized just how big it was.  I also noticed that the bait was entirely in its mouth.  I began to freak out.  I tried to contort the fish to try and land him without the line getting cut.  But it was all for naught.  The angle of the line, nearly straight down, was too severe, and the beasts teeth cut it like butter.  I was distraught.  I would estimate the fish around 30" and probably 7 lbs, easily besting my best from last year.  According to the Massachusetts Wildlife website, it would have been the biggest chain pickerel caught in the past few years.  Next time, I'm bringing a net!

It was a bittersweet drive home, but I was proud of my day.  It was a good lesson in summer conditions, and how and when to adjust.  If it gets too cold, hot, or sunny - slow down.  If cloudy, breezy, or comfortable - speed up.  Sometimes, you may need to switch techniques multiple times over the course of a day, even within one area.  If you know you are around fish, let them tell you what they want.  I almost always start fishing fast and slow down as needed.  In this particular case, I knew there were fish in isolated vegetation, it was just a matter of finding the right conditions.

Happy 4th of July!

A few days later, I got a chance to take an afternoon birthday fishing trip with Mary May.  We decided to hit a local lake that gets a ton of traffic.  In fact, when we were there, we saw about a dozen swimmers and probably 15-20 other boaters.  But that didn't seem to phase the fish.  What did affect the fishing was the drastic weather we've had this year.  The typical weed growth pattern for this lake is weeks behind, which I assume is related to the brutally cold winter and summer temps that have been cooler than average.  So, instead of large patches of lily pads, we found very sparse, skinny weeds.  The fish were extremely scattered and seemed hesitant to commit to anything fished fast.  Of course, that doesn't mean we didn't catch them.

We launched around 4:30 PM and Mary May got on the board quickly with a pickerel on a Jerk Shad.  But for the next 30 minutes or so, it was more about weeding out what wasn't working, which was nearly everything.  Eventually, I caught a solid 17.75" largemouth on a finesse worm in about 2 feet of water.  The fish was situated near a boulder - one of many in this particular lake.  We decided to focus only on wood, boulders, ledges, and extremely heavy vegetation.

A solid bass to start the afternoon

Shortly after, we decided to go for a dip.  We pulled the kayaks up on a small island, shed some layers, and took the plunge.  The water was chilly, but felt great in the hot, humid conditions.

Swimming selfie with the beautiful wife

After our swim, the bite was fairly steady, although never outstanding.  I caught bass on two baits - a green pumpkin finesse worm and junebug lizard.  I rigged the finesse worm weightless on a 2/0 hook.  The lizard I Texas-rigged on a 4/0 Gamakatsu EWG hook and a 1/4 oz tungsten weight.  I fished each very slow, often popping them off the bottom or out of grass.  I ended the day with about a dozen bass, including another solid fish at 17.5".  I also had a couple of blow-ups on a white frog in heavy grass, but never actually committed to it.

A fine western Mass. bass
By 7 PM, we were ready to call it a day.  I forgot just how little quality water there is in the lake, as I had expected to fish until dusk and take advantage of the evening topwater bite.  However, it worked out pretty well, since we were wet after the swim and starting to catch a chill.  The day was another good lesson in breaking down conditions and listening to the fish.  Rather than fishing fast and struggling, we slowed down and caught 'em.  Slowing down can also be a great option on bodies of water that are heavily pressured.  It isn't always fun, but is almost always effective, especially in clear water.
The Ride 115X Max is quickly becoming Mary May's favorite boat

These trips capped an incredible 31st year and got 32 off on the right foot as well.  A few nights later, I got to break in my birthday gift.  Despite making it clear I wanted nothing, Mary May and Johanna (my mother in-law) showed up with a Big Green Egg in the trunk.  After assembly, I decided to smoke a 4 lb brisket from the farm.  I smoked it for about 5 hours at 235 over a mix of oak and hickory.  I used a dry rub, which I set with yellow mustard.  It turned out delicious!

Nothing like home raised grass fed beef - get your forks ready!

Until next time, tight lines!