Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog - Review

Let me start this blog by saying I have absolutely zero connection to Big Big Baits.  They do not sponsor me or give me any sort of discount.  This particular bait simply catches fish.


It all started on a trip to a river out near Greensboro back in mid-summer.  Bill and I had never been to this particular river and we really had no idea what to expect.  The bite was running hot and cold, but we got to a stretch where Bill started whacking them on a small flipping bug.  I tried flipping nearly all of the plastics I had, but they just seemed to be too bulky or simply not match the forage.  7" and 10" worms failed, lizards failed, brush hogs failed, and I was starting to question if I could get anything to work.  That is when Bill tossed me a pack of baits and said, "Try these.  I hate them, but Will always crushes me flipping them."  Will is Will Petty - a super talented angler and Big Bite pro-staffer from the Charlotte area.  He is also an extrememly talented flipper.  I kinda of shrugged it off, thinking it was more about his skill than the bait, but I threaded one onto the hook anyway.  The bait was a pack of 4" Big Bite Baits Fighting Frogs in a bluegill looking color.

On my very first pitch, I got bit.  Then it happened again and again and again.  Not only was I catching quantity, but also quality bass.  Bill was starting to wonder why he ever gave them to me.  I was starting to fall in love.  By the end of the day, we had combined to catch around 150 bass.  But although I had gained a ton of confidence in the bait, I wasn't completely sold.

This 6+ lber engulfed the Fighting Frog - then got the thumbs up on Facebook from Captain Dave Marciano of the TV show Wicked Tuna

But through the rest of late summer and fall, I took trips on multiple rivers all over central NC and the Fighting Frog crushed them everywhere.  I was fishing behind talented anglers and catching fish.  I was fishing during cold snaps and catching fish.  It simply seemed like the bait could do no wrong.  I ordered a bunch of packs and am eager to start flipping them again this year.

I have no idea why they call it the Fighting Frog.  It looks nothing like a frog and it isn't meant to be fished on top of the water like most frogs.  But I believe it works so well because of the profile.  It mimics a bream perfectly.  The huge flapping arms catch fish both on the fall, hop, and swimming the bait.  And the profile is perfect, since the body is large enough to attract big fish, but not so big that it spooks fish or looks unnatural.

I prefer the 4" version, although I did pick up a few packs of the 3.5" baits to try on smallies this year.  I like to Texas rig them on a Gamakatsu 4/0 EWG worm hook with an unpegged, 1/4 oz weight.  If need be, I may go as low as 1/8 oz or as high as 1/2 oz depending on the reactions the different weights get.  Of course, if you are using it in heavy grass cover, you may need to go with a 1 oz or heavier weight.  For colors, I prefer anything that looks like a sunfish because I think the bites you get are related to sunfish much more than crawfish.  I fish it on 15 lb P-Line fluorocarbon spooled on an Abu Garcia MGX SHS (7.9:1) and with a Carolina Custom Rods Jig and Worm rod.

The Fighting Frog in a Junebug color

Most of the rivers in the Piedmont region of NC are a mix of small rapid sections flanked by long, flat water sections inbetween.  These flat water stretches are typically slow, deeper and have a mix of boulders and wood cover that are perfect for this bait.  Of course, it works on lakes too, fished around wood cover and grass.

Learning to flip from my kayak (both sitting and standing) has been huge for me.  It is such an awesome technique and one that many kayak anglers ignore.  I encourage you to try flipping and pick up a pack of these bad boys to use on the hook.  The results will speak for themself.  Until next time, tight lines!

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Best Kayak Angler Around?

In early January, Tony Hart of Yak Outlaws posed the following question on Facebook -
"Question of the day... what entitles someone being called one of the best kayak anglers around? Is it proving yourself in tournaments? Being sought after by those in the industry? Being involved in the media industry?  Truly promoting the sport thru seminars, video, etc? Just curious what you folks think."

It got me to thinking about my opinions and I realized that no short Facebook response would ever sum up my feelings.  I don't have any clue who the best kayak angler is...not even close.  There are guys I look up to in the sport and for entirely different reasons.  Some guys are great fishermen, some think outside the box, others are incredible promoters, some are extremely personable & kind people, and others are the epitomy of professionalism.  I try to emmulate those traits in myself.  So exactly what traits do I value and why?  You are about to find out.

Nothing like exploring new water with friends - and catching fish!

I was fortunate enough to have a phenomenal mentor in the sport when I was first starting to blog, pursue sponsors, and write articles.  Coincidentally, he is now one of the biggest names in kayak angling, so clearly his advice was pretty sound.  He encouraged me to work extremely hard.  He told me to always go the extra mile - whether it be answering an email, talking after a seminar, or helping other anglers.  He reminded me to never say anything in a public forum (social media, websites, etc.) that I would later regret.  And he assured me that folks would take notice if I stayed true to myself and conveyed my passion for the sport to others.  He also conveyed the importance of spending time with and relying on close friends and family for support and rejuvination both on and off the water.  Does any of that relate directly to being the best kayak angler?  No, probably not.  But it does relate to being a good person, living a balanced life, and conveying your passion - all of which I find have made me a better person.

In terms of fishing, there are a lot of guys and gals out there who are extremely talented kayak anglers.  The people who stand out to me are the ones who are really pushing their limits and doing things that no-one else has (or least very few).  They are the guys who can catch fish no matter where you put them.  They are the ones who try new things, and use failure as a learning tool.  They are guys who find a new piece of water on a map, launch on it, and catch fish.  They are guys who can adapt to all sorts of weather conditions.  They are the guys who consistently perform and have the intuition and attention to detail that seperates them from the pack.  And by "guys", I am referring to the broader, all-inclusive "guys" that includes women, teens, etc.

I will always be impressed most by fish caught on public water and on different bodies of water (except those salty guys who are technically on the same water, but totally different spots/techniques).  But again, it is all about personal preference.  I like to fish rivers more than lakes - many don't.  I like to fish lots of different bodies of water - again many don't.  I am also impressed most by efficiency.  For instance, let's say angler X caught 500 fish last year on his 50 kayak fishing trips.  Angler Y only caught 300 fish, but he did it in 15 trips.  To me, Angler Y is way more impressive - averaging twice as many fish per trip.  The same goes for the size of fish caught. 

Anglers also set very different personal goals.  For me, the BASS Slam was a huge goal and a ton of fun.  It was definitely a challenge and I worked hard for it.  I got a ton of awesome feedback about the Slam, but I know there were others who didn't see it to be as cool as I did - and that is fine with me.  Meeting personal goals is much more important than what others think.  If you constantly build on those goals and keep setting the bar higher for yourself then people will take notice.   

Introducing out of towners to new water is always a blast

As for winning tournaments, I think it takes a lot of things coming together to win a tournament.  And any angler who consistently does well has certainly earned my respect.  Most events these days have pretty stiff competition and you see folks taking them very, very seriously in terms of preperation, pre-fishing, financial investments, etc.  Personally, I don't have the time or money to give everything I have to tournament fishing.  I would rather spend an extra couple days at home with my family then spend it on the road pre-fishing and I have no desire to spend money on expensive electronics that barely get used.  Tournaments are definite resume boosters, but I believe that much of that is because many companies these days don't truly understand what sells a product.  But, the bottom line is that tournaments are helping to grow the sport and that is a good thing.

I think passion is probably the most important aspect of what fuels someone to strive to be the "best kayak angler around".  But passion is also different for different people.  Some are very loud and boastful about it - constantly blowing up social media with banter and photos.  Others tend to lead by example and let their actions do the talking.  Some show it through being serious and others by being goofy.  Some convey passion through seminars and talks, others through guiding or writing or blogging or making videos or introducing people to the sport.  We are all different and unique and that needs to be recognized when considering how passionate someone truly is.  Again, if you are putting in the effort and working hard then your passion will show through. 

So all this rambling has led me to the point that there is no exact answer and you could ask 20 different people and get 20 totally different responses to Tony's original question.  My responses above have been transformed since I started kayak fishing.  About 4-5 years ago I sat down and debated what I wanted out of the sport. Where did I want to fit? How could I become the best kayak angler around? At the time, I wanted to be the KVD of the kayak fishing world - with dreams of fishing big tournaments and signing on with big sponsors. I fished a bunch of tournaments, I did well, I got some sponsors, and I quickly burnt out. A couple years later, I sat a crossroads in my kayak angling journey and re-assessed where I wanted to fit in the industry. It is funny how much differently I felt. I had been through ups and downs, victories and mistakes, and I didn't really care about the glitz and glammer anymore. I saw the ugly side of the industry - the smoke and mirrors side. I saw jealousy and negativity and bashing and I wanted to get away from it. That is when I decided to do the BASS Slam. I wanted to reconnect with fishing and get back to what I love, which is being a river rat, exploring new places, and creating new adventures. And from that point forward, I worked my butt off to showcase myself as a good person and mentor for the sport as much as being a good angler. Today my goals have evolved even further. I love guiding. I love writing. I love fishing with family and friends. I love showing people how easy it is to create an adventure. I try to let that love show through in everything I do. I now see tournaments and social media as somewhat of necessary evils, in that they have both positive and negative aspects. I now work with a few select companies whose products I love and can whole heartedly endorse. And overall, I feel like I am starting to find my place in the industry...and that feels good. I do not consider myself the best kayak angler around. I never will. But I definitely strive to be the best person and kayak angler that I can and my life is better for it.

Until next time, tight lines!