Monday, December 3, 2012

Cold Weather Kayaking Fishing Safety Tips

Today is December 2nd, and here in central North Carolina it is over 70 degrees.  However, soon it will get cold, water temps will drop and kayak anglers will be faced with the dreaded winter season.  But, while it should be a very cautious time of year, it doesn't have to be spent inside.  In fact, some of my favorite fishing trips have been winter trips.  However, I put safety first each and every time I hit the water.  Here are a few tips for staying safe during cold weather, and cold water, kayaking.

And actually, before I get into these, most of them are good ideas for kayak anglers year round!

Mary May and I with a couple big, January catfish

1.  Wear your PFD!
On every single trip, you should be wearing your life jacket.  Do it!

2.  Use the buddy system
I have been in multiple situations on the water where the buddy system helped save some major headaches, and on a couple occasions, helped avoid a potentially life threatening situation.  Although finding a fishing buddy can sometimes be difficult when the thermometer drops, it should be part of your pre-launch checklist.  It might also be a good way to meet a new fishing buddy via your favorite fishing forum.

3.  Alert others to where and when you are going
This is simple, especially with cell phones, texts, and emails.  At times, my trips are spur of the moment.  But before every trip, I tell Mary May where I am going, who I am going with, how long I will be gone (that isn't always as accurate as I foresee) and my general travel plans.

4.  Pick your fishing location intelligently
I LOVE a good kayak fishing adventure.  I live for those moments I can escape the power boat world and float down a river into the middle of nowhere without a human for miles.  The winter is not a time to do this.  In fact, I actually don't mind fishing around power boats in the winter because if something goes wrong, I have potential rescuers nearby.  But the bottom line is to stick to familiar and/or popular waters during the colder months.

5.  Bring an extra set (or two) of clothes
Granted, my car looks like a hobo lives in the back, but I do this pretty much year round.  But during the winter, I keep one spare set of clothes in the car and another in a dry bag in the hull of my kayak.  Although most folks immediately think of changing clothes if you flip your kayak, having dry clothing options can be good for many reasons.  You might spill a bait bucket on yourself, have an arm accidentally get soaked while releasing a fish or take a wave over the side.

6.  Dress appropriately
This means dress in layers, wear appropriate clothing (non-cottons) and bring accessories like a knit hat and gloves.  Clothing that is either waterproof, quick dry or that retains heat well when wet is a must.  I also like to wear an insulated base layer and big, thick socks.  My typical winter attire also includes a good set of waders.  Clothing these days can go a long way to avoiding hypothermia, especially when combined with other tips mentioned here.

You are rarely alone while crappie fishing the bridges at Jordan Lake, NC

7.  Check and re-check the weather
I have been caught in a few storms that really ruined a fishing trip.  These were all mid-summer storms that blew in out of nowhere.  Thankfully, winter weather tends to be more stable.  But extreme conditions (wind, rain, excessive cold) can turn a winter trip ugly in a hurry.  This not only includes time on the water, but also the drive home.  Be sure to thoroughly check the weather before you leave home or via smartphone before you launch.

8.  Carry a light, whistle and other signaling gear
In North Carolina, a light and whistle are mandatory, although I know many folks who don't carry them all the time.  In winter months, they are extra important.  I actually pack extra batteries as well for my lights.  You might also want to consider bringing a signal mirror, air horn, GPS with locator or other safety/signaling gear.

9.  Emergency kit
Again, this is an item I bring on every trip I make since I have plenty of storage in my Stealth 12.  I highly recommend including a first aid kit, Gorilla tape, fire starters, matches and/or a lighter and an energy bar or two.  Put everything in a waterproof container and put it somewhere safe.  If you do flip, but can't make it back to the launch, those items can keep you alive until the cavalry shows up.

10.  Bring your electronics and keep them dry
These days, almost everyone has a cell phone and the coverage networks are getting bigger and better. Bring your phone, GPS and heck, even my camera has a locator feature on it.  But then, keep them dry.  Put them in a waterproof container, not just a Ziploc bag.  Too many things can go wrong with a Ziploc.  Also, your fishfinder battery should be noted here too.  It should be in a waterproof container for many reasons, but it could save your life if necessary.

11.  Wear bright colors
This is important on multiple levels.  First, you can be seen by other boaters who might think they have the lake to themselves and not be paying full attention to what is in front of them.  Second, if a search is necessary you would be easier to spot.  And third, winter months mean hunting season for most states.  Although it might sound silly, bring colors help discern you from a deer, duck or other game animal.

A couple gorgeous cold weather crappie

12.  Stay hydrated
Always bring enough water, Gatorade, etc. to keep your body hydrated.  Bring more if you plan on paddling a longer distance.  And again, have an extra bottle or two in your car when you get back to the launch.

13.  Practice Turtling
I am throwing this one in here knowing full well that cold weather practice isn't realistic.  But if you know you love to kayak fish, then you know in advance you will be out there during the winter months.  So take those nice, sunny summer days, empty your yak, and practice flipping it.  Then practice doing a deep water re-entry, walking it to shore or swimming it to shore.  Being prepared is the best way to avoid a major disaster.

14.  Remember those at home
All too often, I read about someone who flipped and the first thing they say is - oh no, I just lost hundreds of dollars of gear to the depths of the lake.  There is no doubt that it sucks.  But, there is no way to put a dollar amount on a life.  Your life is the most important thing and you should always keep in mind just how much those folks at home love you and want you to make it back safely.

One of the coldest days I have ever kayak fished.  Ice formed on the deck of the yak that day...but we still caught fish!

 I hope these tips can help and please feel free to pass them around to all of your kayak fishing friends.  There is no such thing as being too safe!  Tight lines!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Interview with Redneck Ninja Tim Perkins - Part Two

So yesterday I introduced you all to the insightful, fun loving brain of Tim Perkins - top notch father, husband, fisherman, and story teller.  Now it is time to finish off the interview...redneck ninja style!

When and why did you first get into a kayak?
I got into a kayak about 5 years ago, even though I have river fished since I was 10 years old.   We fished out of homemade boats (Batows), LOL.  Even in my bass boat days I still stayed true to my passion.  About 5 years ago I saw a guy in a nearby river fishing from a kayak.  It happened to be a dry year and I saw how effortless the kayak was on the water, how stable and how it was so controllable by one man.  I had to have one.  Now I’ve had to go through a lot of kayaks to get the kayaks that were best for my use.  I can say I’m hooked.  I tell people that I just added years to my river fishing!

I know you did some bass boat guiding and tournament fishing in the past.  Tell me a bit about   the differences in your approach to a day on the lake from a power boat versus a bass boat.
My personal approach, no matter what kind of boat, is to out work my opponent.  Thats physically and mentally being better prepared.  I use my past experiences as strengths.  From the Bass boat I found myself always overanalyzing my pattern and strategy.  I found myself always fishing too fast or quick.  I second guessed a lot more from my bass boat.  I always did well on river type impoundments (wonder why?).  I caught myself spot fishing because of access to being more mobile.

From a kayak it has forced me, so to speak, to slow down and be more thorough.  Kayak fishing definitely has sharpened my awareness and senses.  The awareness to my environment around me, because of my lack of mobility, has been a compliment.  Kayak fishing is the purest form of fishing.  I catch myself just going fishing again and letting the fish talk.  I’ve learned to trust my instincts once again!

There may be some overlap here, but what do you think are some of the benefits of kayak fishing?
It makes my limitations become strengths!  I mean I really have to be more aware of my surroundings.  I think I can reach fish that others can't.  I can get closer to fish due to stealth of my craft.  The list goes on.  The proof is that I CPRed 1200 plus fish this year.  How many people do you know who have accomplished this?  Point made... LOL!

You and I are river rats.  We love fishing flowing water.  What draws  you to river fishing?
I think it's that Tom Sawyer sense of adventure in me (LOL)!  I’ve yet to grow out of it and pray I never do.  It is that ultimate sense of what's around the next bend...that sense of wanting to conquer the river and seeing nature so real and close.  Passion!!!!! 

What are some of the biggest threats to rivers in your area (Alabama)?
Withdrawal is the most pressing threat to the rivers in my area.  Some of our bordering states have reputations for not being good stewards of their own water.  They have a demand for clean water to!  So they are wanting to tap the Tallapoosa River Basin - one of the last clean basins in the southeast.   It can’t sustain the volume needed for their support.  Water wars!

Of course we have PCB problems in the north of the state and mercury problems in the south of our state. I think most people would be surprised by the amount of contamination in their state.  It's actually pretty sad.  Alabama is not the only state.  Actually that was part of my RB strategy.  I know that sounds stupid, but if water is contaminated then no one eats the fish so there are more fish to choose from.  All I needed was to take pictures and throw the fish back.  It worked great in the 9 states I fished.  Each state has a DNR website.  Check it out - it will shock you!  I have been following our states reports on DNR since water wars started 20 years ago.  It is important for river people, so you can help DNR educate people.

It’s rumored that you go by “the redneck ninja”.  Tell us a good redneck ninja story.
The ways of the redneck ninja (RNN) are always being perfected!  Life is a training  ground for the RNN (LOL).  Oh my God, there are so many ninja stories - a lot are in my upcoming book!  Walking logs, timbering young trees, finding drinking water on the river, cutting the toes out of your tennis shoes to make those cool water shoes, gathering bait with a the list goes on.  

The ninja story of all stories actually won my wife’s heart.  I caught 32 fish with a pair of shoes!  True story-  LOL!   They were green and white Stan Smith Adidas, to be honest.  We were dating and we left hand in hand.  We came home with a homemade stringer (a tree limb) full of panfish!  Get the grease hot!  My future inlaws were like - man who is this man?!  LOL!  Seriously, I took a shoe lace and would attract my prey and I would take the shoes (which, by the way, were my wifes shoes, LOL) and scoop the bream up with my badger like reflexes!  I sat there and caught 32 bream with those shoes, LOL!  The rest is history!  Everyday is a journey of opportunity MY SON!

I know family is very important to you.  How do they motivate you when you are out there competing?  Also, maybe a more interesting question for some of my audience, how do you convince your wife to let you fish so much?
My family is very important to me, Drew.  Without them, truthfully, we have nothing.  My wife and I have an amazing relationship!  My wife is a great motivator for me.  She believes in ME and what we do and the direction we’re going.  I remember the Nashville tournament.  I fished for a day and a half and had a 14” fish to show for it.  I called Michelle and told her I was coming home.  She told me in no uncertain terms – "don’t come home unless I win", LOL!   I got off the phone, got my maps and went to work.  It worked - I actually Won Nashville.  I won individual,  I won team and also won big fish!  She knows how to get my attention and help me focus on the job and not the circumstances!  She kept me on stage all year!

How do I convince her....LOL well you asked!!!  This is my new soap box topic - LOL!  Seriously I do have a secret and I’m proud of that.  I had to learn the hard way…that is all in my upcoming book!  How many times have you went fishing knowing your respected other wasn’t happy about the fact (LOL)!!!  I used to swear Michelle had a voodoo doll with a case of pins and matches - LOL!  My trip almost always was not enjoyable or successful to say the least.  If you still really want to know - READ ON.

First let me say I have an amazing wife - just like a lot of other men do.  The big difference is my wife knows she’s amazing.  Let me say my wife knows without a doubt that she is the most important thing in my life, second to God of course.  That seems so simple, but probably the most neglected factor in a relationship.  I promise you when your wife knows (and she has a good barometer) she’s the most important thing in her husbands life she will bless you because she loves you.  Happy wife, happy life!  I know I got heavy, but I’m very passionate about this subject.  There was a time when fishing consumed me!  I got a second chance, so to speak.  Don’t get me wrong, my wife knows how important fishing is in my life.  But more importantly, I make her feel she is more important than fishing!  Not with just my words, but with my actions. Most of us guys fail.  No, I’m not some kinda guru.  Like I said I had to learn the hard way.  I hope I can reach a lot of men with my upcoming book.   I was put in a situation where my fishing meant nothing without my wife!  My experience offered me great insights to put men in a win /win with their relationships as well as their fishing.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it - LOL.

What is your dream job in the kayak fishing industry (or is it in another industry)?
I would like to publish a couple of books and DVDs and be a national seminar speaker.  I love sharing my experiences.

Where do you see the sport in another 10 years and where would you like to fit in it?
Wide open.  I really believe the sport is on the edge of an explosion.  I think that kayaks or man powered (crafts) will be the norm.

Which pulls harder, an Alabama Spot or a river smallmouth?
I’ve had this conversation many times.  Both fish, the Alabama Spot and the Smallmouth, you have to tip your hat to and respect!  They are worthy prey for any angler and on a given day you’ll meet your match and then some.  I’m on the water 180 days plus each year.  I’m in the hotbed of monster spots.   I’ll say this for both of them - they know their habitat .

I’ve caught 28 largemouths over 9 lbs, 6 Alabama Spots over 5 lbs and 5 Smallmouth over 4 lbs….. * nothing pulls harder than a 4 lb plus river spotted bass.*

If you had to give a piece of advice to someone just starting off in the sport, what would it be?
Go back - it’s a trap!  LOL, Just kidding.  I would probably say to get with someone for advice about your equipment.  Starting with great gear is a first and foremost step.

Then an important piece of advice would be - don’t get caught in the glimmer of the industry.  I see this mistake a million times!  Know that there is no easy way and no-one is going to give you anything!   There are a lot of guys that throw the word or title professional around, when the truth is there are less than a handful of true professionals that I know in the sport!  Stick to getting grounded in the sport on your own merit.  Then the glimmer will come when you've paid your dues, so to speak.  I’ve seen so many get caught in the HYPE and it almost always doesn’t turn out.  They end up frustrated and dropping out of this great sport.  Slow your roll!  It’s all GOOD. 

What is your scariest on the water moment in a kayak?
For two years running, on the road in 2010 & 2011, I came a cross a drowning!  They were both on the week of July 4th and a year apart.  Both cases were young adults on the river playing.  And in both cases alcohol was involved.  I’m telling you it pits your stomach to see wasted life!  I know as a parent that, that young person has parents that love them.  I empathize with their loss!

2012 is almost over.  What are  some of your goals for 2013?
To publish my book, of course, but I’m working on a project I can’t disclose a lot about at this time.  But it is going to be BIG this year - LOL!   I’m putting together an instructional type video I’m very proud of as well.   You’ll have to follow us on RiversEdge!

What is on your Christmas wish list this year?
A GoPro 3 and possibly negotiating my retirement from education.

What do you like to do outside of kayak fishing?
Hanging out with family - we love to entertain and help people.  I enjoy riding my bike.  I love to camp and travel.  I also enjoy wood working.  My favorite special thing is cruising on a ship with my beautiful wife. :-]

A huge thanks to Tim for doing this interview.  I know he is a busy man.  If you are interested in getting in contact with Tim, follow the links in the interview to the RiversEdge website or shoot me an email.

I hope everyone has a safe, wonderful, food filled holiday with friends and family.  Happy Thanksgiving & tight lines!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Interview with Kayak River Basser Tim Perkins - Part One

I had met Tim Perkins, in passing, once or twice before at various RiverBassin' Tournaments.  But it was at the 2011 RiverBassin Tournament Trail finale in Roanoke, VA that we had our first significant conversation.  It was there that two competitors became good friends.  Now Tim and I regularly discuss  all things kayak fishing, and also just talk about life.  This past spring I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days with him in Alabama - chasing river bass and enjoying the graciousness of he and his family.  

Tim was the 2011 RiverBassin Tournament Trail Angler of the Year and finished toward the top of the standings in the 2012 SKA Tournament Trail as well.  He has also been a long time guide and steward to the outdoors with his company RiversEdge.  He held the Alabama state Redeye bass record for nearly two decades and has caught a pile of big fish over the years.  He is hoping to publish his first book within the next year.  I got a chance to pick his brain a little bit over the past week or so.  Here is part I of the interview.  Enjoy!

Let’s start with the speed round (short answers)…


1.   Favorite fishing kayak?
There are a lot of great kayaks out there on the market! Each kayak seems to have its own ideal application. I look at my kayaks as tools for specific jobs.  I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to have a diverse personal fleet.  My personal passion is to fish small rivers and creeks here in the south. The tool of choice for this application is the Commander 120 by Wilderness Systems.  It is just a great fit for my personal use.

2.   Favorite lure?
        I would have to say a Premier League Lure spinnerbait.  A chartreuse and white “ River Special”.

3.   Biggest catch  from a kayak (any species)?

        9.06 lb largemouth , 4.12 lb Alabama Spot , 5.0 lb smallmouth &  43” Muskie all of which came off of a PLL River Special....LOL honest truth!

4.   Favorite fishing partner?
        Man you are putting me on the spot (LOL).  The two greatest fishermen that were my partners have both left this walk in life! My grandfather, John D Blanton, probably the greatest river man I ever knew.  My childhood friend, Joseph Norton, he and I were raised by the river . In their honor I named my twin boys.  John Berkley and Joseph Fisher Perkins.  I’ve had some awesome opportunities to fish with some great fisherman . I would say in the kayak world Lance Coley.  Lance was the 2010 RB champ. We teamed up for the 2011 RB season in the Team Div. and complimented each other perfect!  We threw up some impressive numbers that will be around a while (LOL).  We got Runner up nationally behind a pretty impressive team (you & Bill)!  Lance is a great partner and friend!

***editors note - Lance is also the only other person I know of who has completed the BASS Slam exclusively from a kayak/while wading

5.   Person you would most like to fish with some day?
       Seriously, since I’ve had the grand opportunity to fish with you Drew I’ll have to really think about that.  You know you were the kid on my back last year on the trail that seemed to never go away . You stayed consistent the whole trail.  I had to tip my hat to you, and respect you - you are one great fisherman!  You know if you remember some of our conversations at nationals you and I had actually put together almost identical water plans. It was almost scary. I was going to fish the water you and Bill fished all the way up to night before the tournament (LOL).  I can't really give you rationale behind my change - instinct I guess.  Any way it was a treat to fish with you guys finally and not on a competitive note (this year)!  I guess Dalton Bobo, a BassMaster great and owner of Premier League Lures.  We’ve actually fished together but not from a kayak - I know he would love it.

6.   Favorite body of water to fish?
That is really according to what species of bass (I want to chase). There is one small river and two small creeks here in Alabama - I’ll take their mysteries to my grave...LOL.  Each are responsible for my largest river largemouth, Alabama Spot and Redeye.  But abroad its hard to beat the New River, Broad River and the James River. Catching fish on these (local flows) is just a bonus.

7.   That one item you can’t leave home without?
         That’s easy a PLL River Special spinnerbait - the most versatile  bait in my box .  I fished 42 different rivers and creeks last year.  I caught, photographed and released over 1200 bass.  90% came off of a Premier League Lure River Special.

8.   Good luck charm?
         I always had 4 items (during competitions)...LOL.  I wore a cross, and my wife has one identical, to remind me of  my beautiful wife and how blessed I am with her!  I carried two little stress balls shaped like bass to always remind me of my twin boys...LOL.  And the last item I wore in every competition was a grey wife beater made out of a cool dry t-shirt (LOL).  Uniform I guess for redneck ninjas!

9.   What one place you’ve never fished is highest on the wish list?
Probably a fly-in trip between the US and Canada Border.

10.  And going the non-fishing route, favorite song?
        Man you're dating me!  I love all kinds of music.  Probably one of my favorites is John Denver “Annie’s Song “ or “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”.

Ok, now some longer answers….


11.  I am a proponent of getting kids involved in the outdoors as much as possible and I know you are too, particularly through your organization - River’s Edge.  Tell me a little about the goals of RiversEdge and what y’all do.
        RiversEdge (RE) was founded and based on providing an outlet for underprivileged teens as a deterrent from less desired activities.  I actually ran an alternative school for about 10 years.  My background around some of these troubled teens gave my wife an I the idea of RE. I actually took kids fishing as a reward, so to speak. The word got out and of course everyone wanted that deal.  It's sad there is that big a need for something as simple as fishing. We started  offering  paddle camps to rural children.  Now we do work with church groups, rec departments, social events, fundraisers, and families.
  I guess if we have a specific goal it would be to reach as many kids as we can with our resources - to pass it forward so to speak.  Growing up in the south, fishing was a way of life.  Fishing played a big part in my life from a young boy to present.  It was our outdoor enjoyment, our connecting with friends, our challenge, our adventure, and our peaceful escape. And also to make a difference!  I think last year we did 8 camps, a couple church groups and numerous speaking type engagements. We love sharing our passion.  If we break even we’ve done well...LOL. It's hard to put a price on the rewards my wife and I receive!  If we can be a difference to just one (that is what matters).

12.  You traveled all over the US last year fishing the RiverBassin Tournament Series.  What were some of your favorite places to fish along the way and best memories?
I was truly blessed to have had the opportunity to fish some awesome places last year.  I have stories and memories from all of them.  As a matter of fact, I started a little tradition last year.  I collect a few small stones from each body of water I had the privilege to fish.  I bag and label them just as a little reminder I had the opportunity to have fished there.  I've got a ton of know me, never a loss for words in my upcoming book. I'm so excited about that project.

       Virginia was probably my favorite, for personal reasons . I mean I fished some really cool waters last year.  I mean I CPRed 1200 plus bass last year - who wouldn’t enjoy that!  I was able to find water I was comfortable with in every state except Virginia.  Virginia was the most challenging , because I'd never had the opportunity to fish their type of waters. See I basically was able to power fish all the way thru the south.  Water, for most part, was familiar to what I was used to fishing. I get to Virginia and its clear water and rocks and rocks and rocks and current, LOL!  In preparation I had to teach myself how to fish all over again - spinning equipment, small lures, etc. But it was  more about presenting the bait almost like fly fishing.  In tournament fishing if you are forced to play another mans game you are in trouble.  That was me. Then something miraculous happened - a hurricane came thru the week of competition!  Watch it now I’m fixing to teach you something FREE.  My waters on the New River were out of the Bank 5 feet and rolling muddy!  This competition just got moved back in my house!  I could power fish my spinnerbait in that muddy water.  By the tournament the water was at least even with original banks and less muddy. Dude you could take a big PLL RiverSpecial Spinnerbait, if you could hit an eddy out of that current there would be a monster smallmouth.  I will always remember that lesson the river taught me!


13.  You also won Angler of the Year in the RB series in 2011 (I believe a very handsome guy took 2nd).    Where does that rank in terms of your fishing achievements and what are some of the others?
Winning RB title does rank towards the top, of course, for a number of reasons.  The hard work and dedication by the parties involved, like my beautiful wife and family, that ultimately paid off!  It was my first major award out of a kayak!

       I’ve never looked at the RB  title as a ME win.  I look at the fact that I represent a lot of river people that didn’t have the opportunity or resources to fish abroad as I did.  For the great sport of river fishing, one of the most overlooked arts of fishing.  For all the great fisherman that took the time with me!

     Some of my other achievements include:
    -National Fishing Hall of Fame (Redeye Bass); Alabama State Record (Redeye Bass) 1985-2000; Life Member of BASS; Magazine Cover; Outdoor Model (LOL, back in the day); Fishing Journaled 20 plus years; successful guide for 20 years with RiversEdge; Seminar Instructor; 28 LargeMouth over 9lbs (12.02 is largest to date ); 6 Alabama Spotted Bass over 5 lbs; 5 Smallmouth Bass over 4 lbs; 3 RedEye Bass over 2lbs....and landing my awesome wife - CATCH of my lifetime!


14.   What made you start tournament fishing?
I guess it was my sports background.  I was a college baseball player whom went on to coach.  I’ve coached for 28 yrs - I love to compete!  I grew up was a way of life for me.  I’m actually a third generation riverman, so I put the two together.  Competitive fishing has been good to me as well as good for me!  I tell you I've learned some tough, humbling lessons tournament fishing also!  I remember a time Drew, in the mid 90’s, that I let competition take the fun out of fishing. I had to take a serious look at what I was doing.  Competing was consuming me.  It's all in my book I’m working on - LOL.

15.   I talk with a lot of kayak tournament anglers and many tend to burn out if they fish too many competitions. They also think that a lot of these events include too much drama and politics.  Do you have similar feelings?
I know exactly what your saying.  I know plenty of guys that are right there now.  My views are based on the fact I've been in two separate arenas of competitive fishing - the bass boat world and now the kayak world. There are a lot of guys that want to be KVD for instance.  Someone at the top of their game - like Chad Hoover or Drew Gregory in the kayak world.

        One of the major reasons I left the bass boat world is frustration.  Frustration that merit isn’t rewarded.  There so many guys who wanted that top spot and the industry had watered the merit so bad It wasn’t worth the pursuit.  You and I have talked before about the term professional.  Really man, if I’m having to take my money to pay my way, what’s professional about that. Basically the fishermen are swapping out each others money and the industry is benefiting at no cost essentially.  The business is full of people catching handouts without having to pay their dues!

        Now in the kayak world the same thing is happening, just not at the depth of the BB world yet.  In pursuit of glimmer...LOL.  But in my years I’ve seen some very deserving guys passed over.  I know at least a half dozen river guys whom are like the Fathers of the sport and the industry has turned their back on them. No reason, just because they can.  And I promise you all of them at one time had that glimmer promised to them and they found empty promises.  It is definitely a sore spot and there seems to be a big price for glimmer!  Professional really?  Burnout is high!

16.  What are your thoughts about a national kayak fishing tournament trail for freshwater anglers?
 I think it’s waiting on just the right leader and also just the right format.  I think we are sitting on the edge of an explosion!  It will happen - just a matter of some guys getting organized and putting together a great package....some unselfish guys!  LOL!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

When Good Anglers Come Together...and Good Plans Don't

Sometimes you have a perfect plan put together.  The weather is right, the wind is perfect, the baitfish are schooling, and everything, on paper, falls into place.  Then you hit the water and your plan comes to a speeding hault.  The fish are shut down and spread out.  The bites are few and far between and those that you actually get are small.  The wind is gusting in twenty different directions.  Now you have to just salvage your day.  This was my past weekend of fishing.  We were thrown a curveball - and I have always been more of a fastball hitter.  But when things went sour, we adjusted, and found a way to turn our bottomed out plan into a successful trip.

It started on day 1.  Bill and I had about three and a half hours to fish and were hoping to get some footage of northern (Kentucky) spotted bass.  Since we were down near the North Carolina-South Carolina border, I knew a spot on the Catawba River where I had caught a pile of spotted bass in the past.  In fact, during almost every trip there previously, my target had been largemouth bass and all I could seem to catch were spots.  Included in my previous catches at this location is my biggest spot ever - a 4.5 lb fish that was caught the day before a tournament (and it jinxed me bad the next day). 

So we hit the water in the mid-afternoon to find a stiff breeze pushing us up-river.  We worked around some bridge pilings with nothing to show.  Then we hit up a concrete structure - nothing.  Next a large pipe with rocky drop-offs - again nothing.  Then an outflow pipe - still nothing.  Things were not looking good.  Finally I tossed my plastic worm along a downed tree and set the hook on a nice fish.  It rolled in the water and I could see it was a solid bass.  After a spirited tug of war, I netted the 16" largemouth.  It was an ice-breaker, but I was hoping for a spot.

Then Bill and I split up to try some different areas.  He had a couple follows on a jerkbait before having a nice fish (species unknown) break his line.  I managed my first spot of the day - a 7"-8" fish that  barely made it to my yak before flopping back to into the water.  As I worked my way down the bank I noticed a flat with a deep drop on the near side.  I threw my worm to the drop and it immediately got hit.  The fish was going crazy.  It ran under the boat, came completely out of the water three times and managed to pull me through some viney limbs.  Finally, I was able to net the chunky bass - an 18" largemouth.  Two casts later I again felt a bite, set the hook, and tangled with a solid fish.  Again, it was a largemouth, this time measuring just short of 17".  At this point, I had a sneaky suspicion the spots were deeper chasing baitfish.  Since I had no depth finder, desire to troll nor longing to fish a jig/Carolina rig/shakey head super slow, I kept doing what I was doing.

Largemouths were not part of the plan, but they were still fun to catch

I hit another largemouth on a downed tree - a 16.5" fish.  I then proceeded to lose what felt like a good fish in a set of limbs before landing another chunky bass.  And again, it was a largemouth - measuring 15.5".  I had managed to put together my best ever stringer of largemouth in this location - by far.  But could I seriously go the whole afternoon without catching one decent sized spotted bass? 

It was time to turn and paddle back to the dock - roughly 2 miles straight into the wind.  I met back up with Bill and we paddled along the bank, making casts from time to time.  I picked up another half dozen largemouths before we left - all in the 12"-14" range.  So our day of filming spot footage was a bust for me.  I wasn't sure whether to be happy with the largemouth results or frustrated at the lack of spots.  But sometimes you just have to take what the river gives you.

Bill, however, was able to find a spot that wasn't camera shy.  He threw his tube near a creek mouth and hooked into a fish that went nearly 13".  We documented the catch for the BASS Slam and sent him on his way.  What was crazy was that we kept him in the livewell for a few minutes while we prepped the cameras and found good lighting.  While the fish was in the tank, his black spots totally vanished.  But after we got him out and held him in the sun for a minute, they re-appeared right in front of our eyes.  That was really cool to watch and shows just how effectively bass can camouflage themselves.

So day 1 ended with only one decent sized spot and a bunch of largemouth footage.  I guess I couldn't be too disappointed with the results, but it does mean I have to go fish for KY-Spots again in order to get more footage.  That isn't exactly a dream trip during November in the Piedmont.

Day 2 would take us into South Carolina to fish for smallmouth bass.  We spent the night with good friend Eric Boyd who just launched Foothills Angler Guide Service.  The next morning, we met up with a host of talented anglers - some of whom I knew and others I didn't.  The motley looking bunch included Tim Perkins of Riversedge, Matt Frazier of Living Waters Outfitters, Caja Ormand, Eric, Bill and myself.  The resume of this group is impressive to say the least.  Our goal was to put a hurting on some river smallmouth bass.  In particular, Bill and I were hoping to get some footage and pictures for the BASS Slam.  We knew that the stretch also had good quantity and quality of largemouths, but that was not our priority on the float.

I started off throwing a Megabass X-Dad crankbait.  This little gem came in a large lot of crankbaits I bought off of eBay a month ago.  I sold the rest and kept this one, knowing that it had smallmouth written all over it.  Ufortunately, it didn't produce.  I had one fish hit it, but not get hooked up...and that was it.  However, I think crankbaits were thrown as much as any other bait over the course of the day and I believe only one smallie was caught on a crank the whole float.  In fact, smallies were very, very hard to come by.  Most of the ones caught were under 12" and there was no consistent pattern. 

Early in the day, it looked like the bite would be good.  Eric landed a short, but fiesty smallie on a Mepps and Matt landed a couple solid largemouths on a crankbait.  It took about an hour, but I finally landed a couple 8"-9" smallies on a finesse worm and drop shot rig.  Bill also managed a few shorts and I know Caja landed a couple healthy smallies around 12".  By the time we were mid-way through the trip, the bite was dead.  None of us were catching fish and we were all a bit puzzled.  We had thrown the tackle box at them and nothing was producing.  Then Tim picked up his spinnerbait and the day changed.

Tim had given me a spinnerbait from Premier League Lures when I was in Alabama in June.  It was called the "River Special" and he had been helping PLL to design it.  A mix of chartreuse, white and orange, it mimics almost any type of baitfish or bream and looks really good in slightly stained water.  It is also equipped with a unique blade called the "fade blade" that changes from gold to nickel (silver) mid-way down the blade.  I had caught a bunch of fish on it this summer and worn the paint almost entirely off the head.  Tim was generous enough to give us each a couple of the baits before we launched, but I am not sure if any of us, including Tim, started the day with them tied on. 

Now back to Tim picking up the spinnerbait.  Within a couple casts, he hooked into a solid largemouth.  Shortly after, he hooked another.  Then Eric landed a nice bass.  The largemouth bite was turning on.  It was everything I could do to not paddle to the banks and target largemouths, but I resisted.  I was there to catch smallies, and had to remain focused.

Bill and I were fishing hard....really hard.  We tried every trick we knew with no luck.  Finally, he got a bite on a jerkbait and landed a smallie that would beat the 12" qualifying mark for the BASS Slam.  He measured right around 14" and was a chunky fish.  I was feeling the pressure.

Wild Bill shows off his best smallie of the day during a brutal day of smallie fishing

Not long after Tim let out a yell.  He had hooked a big fish.  At the time, I had no idea what it was, but I had gone too long without a bite.  I picked up my spinnerbait rod and threw the River Special toward a log near the bank.  Bill took the moment to make fun of me, joking that I had finally decided to pick up the bait.  A few cranks later my spinnerbait was crushed.  The fish pulled some drag and double over my Carolina Custom Rod.  He hit the net and measuring board - a very solid 20" largemouth.  But it wasn't the smallie that would salvage my day.  It turns out that Tim's fish was a smallmouth that hit near a boulder.  It measured 21" and 4.5 lbs and was the highlight of the trip.

Tim and his brute smallie

20" largemouth on my first cast....that's how I roll!

Since the day was coming to an end, I again started targeting smallies exclusively.  I was still trying everything and anything to get a bite.  I was deflated and trying to not mentally give up.  Finally, not 50 yards above the take out, I spotted a log that extended into the water.  Where the log entered the water there were a couple of angled rocks.  It looked like a smallie type of place.  I picked up the spinnerbait again and threw it toward the log.  As soon as it came over the first rock it got hit, but the fish missed.  As it came over the second rock it got inhaled.  I could see the bronze and knew it was a good fish.  I had forgotten just how hard smallmouth pull.  I grabbed the net, a new addition to my yak gear, and reached to scoop him.  Strike #1.  I was nervous I would lose him as he made a hard run.  I stopped him and again pulled him toward the boat.  This time, the net found its mark.  I don't think I have ever been so relieved.  Although I caught a number of BASS Slam qualifying smallies on the New River in Virginia this year, it was my biggest of 2012.  The fish measured 16" and hadn't been missing meals.  Now, I could call it a day. 

The River Special helped salvage my day with this solid smallie

Bill pulled up to help me take photos and said that Matt had just landed a solid 16" smallie as well.  We got the photos we needed and let the fish go.  We fished the remaining 50 yards fairly haphazardly before catching up with Eric and Caja at the take-out.   It wasn't the day we had dreamed of - nailing smallie after smallie - but it was a good day on the water with a great bunch of anglers. 

Some of the ugliest river fishers in the Southeast

We joked and reminisced as we packed up our gear.  And after a group picture, we headed our separate ways.  It is refreshing to be around such good people and just further shows that the kayak/canoe river fishing community is second to none.  In fact, I wouldn't be suprised if a trip like this becomes an annual or biannual occurence for the group.  Until next time, tight lines!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How to Choose a Fishing Kayak - a Beginners Guide

How do I choose a fishing kayak?  That has to be one of the most common questions I hear or see posted online.  After all, it isn't a trivial process and is an investment that can last a long time.  If you get your first yak while still living off of a grad school stipend (like me) then it is a very big investment.  So, I hope this post can help shed some light onto what to look for in a fishing kayak. 

Decisions, Decisions  (photo from
Let's just get this out of the way right off the bat.  Price is a huge factor for most folks.  I bought my first kayak, used, off of Craigslist for $500.  It came with 2 life jackets, 2 paddles, a cart, and some other goodies.  I knew I got a great deal, but the boat was not for me.  At 17' long it was a pain to store and transport and it barely got used.  Of course, it was also during my first year at Duke, which didn't lend itself to much free time.  I sold the boat at profit about a year later.  That is when I bought what I consider to be my first real fishing kayak.  I got it on sale at Dicks Sporting Goods for $175.  It was a 10', sit-inside kayak made by Future Beach.  I threw a couple Scotty rod holders on the back, bought a more comfortable seat, and outfitted it with a cheap depthfinder.  In total I probably had about $300 invested in the entire set-up.  It wasn't the fastest or best handling boat, but it certainly did the trick.  I caught some big fish from that boat, used it in many a tournament and got every penny of worth out of it.  Eventually, I upgraded and it found its way to a new home.

Of course, there are a lot of folks out there at the other end of the spectrum.  I remember the first time I saw a Hobie hit the water.  It was loaded on a trailer and rigged with more electronics than the average bass boat.  He launched, got his pedals set, and off he went.  I didn't even see him get his paddle wet.  Although I am biased toward paddle power, I bet his luxuries make for awfully comfy days on the lake.

The bottom line with price is buy what you can afford.  Know that kayaks do retain their value pretty well - some better than others.  So if you are ever going to sell your boat and upgrade, you can expect some of your investment back, much like buying a car.  Also, there are good and bad times of the year to buy a boat.  Most of the new models hit the market in winter to early spring.  Early spring is also the beginning of the paddling season in many areas.  Avoid buying a new yak at this time, although keep an eye out for older models that might be marked down.  I think the prime time to buy a new kayak is the fall.  A lot of retailers are looking to downsize their inventory before winter and offer big reductions on prices (Get:Outdoors and Dicks Sporting Goods are two such stores).  The fall is also the time when many impulsive buyers are looking to sell their slightly used yaks that they bought new in the spring and didn't like enough to keep.

A fishing canoe rather than a kayak, might be best for you

If there is a boat out there for under $150, I really don't know about it, but most companies offer boats from $400 to $1200 these days.  Some probably go a bit higher than that.  I would say the average for a new fishing kayak is currently around $1000 based on the top sellers of the past couple of years.  However, these same yaks can be bought used for significantly cheaper.

Buying New vs Used
That brings me to my next subtopic - buying new vs used.  New boats have perks.  You know exactly what you are getting, there isn't a scratch on it, it will have a warranty and it has that new yak smell.  But, new yaks also have higher price tags and sometimes, if the boat is brand new to the market, there may not be much info available about a certain boat. 

You can often find great deals on lightly used boats

In my opinion, buying used can have some huge perks.  If buying a used boat be sure to check it thoroughly for any signs of damage.  Always ask why the seller is getting rid of it and ask follow up questions to be sure their story is legit.  If you can, take it for a test paddle (more on this later).  Be sure to ask about any original paperwork, warranty info, where the boat was bought, if it has been registered and if it has any known issues.  Also be sure to check the serial number (usually located on the keel at the rear of the boat) and make sure it has not been removed or altered.  Most folks selling used boats simply want to downsize their fleet or upgrade to a new boat.  Their loss is your gain.

Searching for a Kayak
First and foremost, do a little homework.  Google is your friend.  I strongly encourage you to read reviews and talk to other anglers before anything else.  There are a lot of great brands out there right now and they are all pushing to be as innovative as ever.  Be sure to check out Jackson Kayak, Diablo Paddlesports, Native, Hobie, Wilderness Systems, Ocean Kayak and my personal favorite - Malibu Kayaks.  Some other companies include Crescent, Old Town, Future Beach, Folbot and Ascend.  There is a very wide variety in price among these brands as well as some differences in quality.  Some, including JK, Diablo, and Malibu, are entirely made in the USA.  Others may be more easily found in your area.  Shop around.

There is no perfect kayak, but a good all purpose boat (like the MK Stealth 12) can do it all

There are a few things you should keep in mind when initially looking around.  What are the most important features to you?  These may include stability, ability to stand, maneuverability, speed, storage, price, etc.  Do I want a sit-inside or sit-on-top?  Most fishing yaks these days are sit-on-tops (SOTs).  However, a lot of folks like sit-inside kayaks (SIKs) as well as hybrid yaks.  It really is a matter of personal preference.  However, if you are looking for a good all-around boat, I would lean toward an SOT.  How much does the boat weigh?  This is particularly important if you are going to be loading it, solo, onto an SUV or into a truck bed.  What length boat is best for you?  Generally, a 12' boat is a great all-purpose length.  14' and up is best for lakes, inshore, and other big water applications.  Less than 12' is best for technical rivers, small flows, and ponds.  Personally, I think a 12' boat is the best of both worlds.  I have taken my Malibu Kayaks Stealth 12 on all types of water this year and it has consistently kicked butt.  What is the weight capacity?  Naturally, you want a boat that fits your build.  Small paddlers may not like big boats.  Bigger paddlers will need a bigger boat.  The great thing is that there are boats available for every size and shape of paddler.  What kind of material do I want?  Most boats are made of a plastic polymer, but some are now being forged out of ultra-light materials, fiberglass, and even kevlar.  The key is to again remember what you will be using it for.  A fiberglass boat may not hold up well in shallow, rocky rivers, but will do great on lakes.  One other material related thing to rememember is to make sure the boat has been roto-molded.  Roto-molding is a process that basically pours plastic into a mold, melts it, and spins it so that it is one solid piece.  Some yaks use two pieces of plastic and join them with heat or glue.  These yaks are much more susceptible to issues.  How comfortable do I want my yak to be?  Let's face it, spending hours on end in a small, plastic boat can be hard on the back, legs, and butt.  Comfort is important espcially in regard to the seat.  Make sure the boat your are looking at has a comfy seat with good back support or can have a good seat added to it after purchase.  Other factors to consider include shape, keel design, scupper arrangement, width, and bow height.  But keep in mind that there is no perfect kayak.

MK Pro-Staffer Seth Goodrich uses a larger boat for his saltwater needs

Take it for a Test Drive
Now you have an idea of what you are looking for.  This is extra-important, because when you hit that showroom floor, the sales folks are going to have at least a bit of bias toward the boat they want you in.  Some stores only sell reputable boats.  Others sell a mix of qualities.  But even if you are buying used, hit a few stores first.  Use these trips to verify everything you read online.  Check out any issues you might have read about and ask the sales folks any questions you might have.  Sit in the boat and hold a paddle in the boat.  I strongly suggest that when you sit in the boat, wear a life jacket in order to replicate on the water conditions.  A lot of seats are much less comfortable with a PFD strapped on (and you should always wear your PFD).

The awesome thing is that most places these days will let you test paddle boats for little to no charge.  I would pick a top 3 and paddle them all.  Rate them in different categories and see which one does the best.  Keep an eye out for speed, maneuverability, stability, comfort, design, and tracking.  Tracking is how straight a kayak goes.  The better it tracks, the less side to side movement it has when paddling.  A boat that tracks better is easier to paddle and much more efficient.  However, they can also be less maneuverable on flowing water.   And again, I can't stress comfort enough.  Remember, you are going to be sitting in this boat for 4-12 hours at a time.  You don't want to make appointments with your chiropractor after each fishing trip.  Another biggie is stability.  If you don't feel stable you aren't going to have a good time on the water and won't be able to fish effectively.  Rule out any boats that don't feel stable enough (this varies a lot based on personal preference).  Other things to think about are how easy it is to enter and exit the yak, how wet do you get from paddling the boat (either from waves, spray, or paddle drip), how does it do in the wind, and how low or high does it sit in the water (low might mean you need more weight capacity and high might mean it will perform poorly in the wind).

A test paddle is a must before any kayak purchase!

Sealing the Deal
Hopefully by now you know exactly which boat you want.  It is time to shop around with only two things in mind - price and color.  Some places will include a PFD, paddle, and other goodies with your kayak purchase.  That can be a nice perk, so be sure to factor it into the total price.  Other places may offer discounts on less popular colors.  If you can deal with paddling any color boat, this can be a good way to save money.  If not, search around until you find that color you really want.  Again, I urge everyone to keep an eye out for used boats, whether on internet forums, Craigslist, from retailers, or from other sources.  Be sure to get all paperwork and warranty info as well.  If buying used, I like to get as much info as possible without crossing any awkward privacy boundaries. 

And hopefully that does it.  You now have a kayak and can begin outfitting it and yourself for your first trip. 

Get that new yak...then go get it slimed!
I hope this helps anyone out there looking into getting their first fishing kayak.  If you follow these pseudo-steps you will end up like many kayak anglers before you (including me) - addicted to the sport and craving another trip.  If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to comment below or shoot me an email (  Tight lines!

Carolina Custom Rods Introduces the High Performance Floating Rod

If any of you have kept an eye out over on the Carolina Custom Rods site, you may have noticed that Brett and I have been coming up with ideas for fishing rods made specifically for kayakers for over a year now.  We tried a few different things and kicked around a ton of ideas, but eventually I just told him to keep making the awesome rods he makes now.  After all, I much prefer a light, sensitive, powerful rod made to my exact specifications.  Plus they look sharp too.

We considered extra foam, different materials, blank inserts and much more.  Well I found out about a week ago that Brett's rods should be very appealing to kayak and power boat anglers alike.  I accidentally dropped my new 7'6", M-MH casting rod in the water.  The spinnerbait tied on to the end of my line sank.  The rod floated!

The rod isn't loaded with extra foam or floatant.  Instead, it is just made to be super-light including the use of carbon fiber grips.  In fact, all of Brett's rods are now incredibly light weight, but don't sacrifice power either.  This particular rod checks in right around 4 oz. and is also the best spinnerbait-buzzbait rod I have ever used.  A couple of my other rods are closer to 3 oz.  If interested in checking out one of Brett's new rods, head on over to the Carolina Custom Rods website and give him a shout.  He can customize your rod however you like it.  Until next time, Tight lines!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Interview with Pat Kellner over at Fish Tattoo & A Dash of Salty

This has turned into a double blog post day.  Last week after I got back from Texas, Pat Kellner contacted me about doing an interview for his blog, Fish Tattoo.  Fish Tattoo is a blog similar to my own and I regularly tune in to see what Pat is writing about.  He is a great guy, talented fisherman, custom rodsmith, lure maker and is on a number of different pro-staffs.  We knocked out the interview this week and I saw Part #1 hit his site today.  Check it out here:  Keep an eye out for Part #2 in the next day or two!  Thanks again Pat.  I hope to reverse roles in the near future and get your input on a number of topics.

Coincidentally, I was also contacted by Jeffrey Weeks last week.  He is an award winning writer who just published a book titled Surf and Saltwater Fishing in the Carolinas.  He also asked if I would do an interview for his blog - A Dash of Salty and the kayak fishing portion of his Surf & Salt site.  He wanted to focus on the rapidly growing trend of kayak fishing in North Carolina.  The article was posted today on a number of sites, including the Examiner website.  Check it out here:

The interview process was really fun and it was great to share some info and tell some stories.  Until tomorrow, tight lines!

YakAttack Park N Pole Review

I was a skeptic.  You see, I hate having extra, un-needed pieces of equipment on my kayak.  I will never understand the guy with a million gadgets on his yak.  They simply clutter up the boat and get in the way.  However, over the past couple of years I have seen product after product come out from YakAttack and more than a few have really impressed me.  When I saw the Park N Pole come out last year, I knew it was a must for the type of fishing I like to do. 

        The Park N Pole - simple yet effective!

Along with extra clutter on deck, I don't really like using anchors either and in the river they are an accident waiting to happen.  Drag chains are a nice improvement on flowing waters, but they can also be a pain in the butt.  For me, the answer was the Park N Pole.  There are now two versions, the 6- and 8-footer.  They float, are made of extremelly durable poly-plastic, and have a handle on one end for folks who like to pole.  The other end is a point that you can jam into the ground.  I use the pole a few different ways.

On lakes, I like to start shallow and move deeper as needed.  Given that lakes can often be windy, I like to use the Park N Pole to quickly anchor on prime, shallow spots.  I jam the pole down through a scupper in the bottom of my Malibu Stealth.  I can also set-up to fish deeper water and points in the same manner. 

On rivers, I use the Park N Pole to effectively set-up and fish push-water, key areas, and eddy lines.  One of my favorite uses is to float down through a rapid, swing my boat around, and stick the Park N Pole into the river bottom right on the edge of the eddy line. 

The Park N Pole was perfect for catching Suwannee bass in windy conditions this spring

This year on the BASS Slam trips I beat the tar out of my Park N Pole.  It has some scratches, but has held up impressively well.  If you are looking for a good anchor pole for your yak or other small watercraft, then I highly recommend you check it out.  Tight lines!