Monday, June 17, 2019

Father's Day Red Snapper

"Blowing the dust off...back from the dead...knocking the rust off...getting back on the horse...whatever you want to call it, the long periods of absence from boarding the cockpit of my Old Town Predators are over, Thank God!"

The last 26 months have been a whirlwind of craziness, insanity, and madness mixed with a little bit of uncertainty. Out of those 26 months, I have been home for 5 of them...5! Between numerous temporary duty trips and a year long deployment, kayak fishing and writing about it was an afterthought. 

Fast forward until now, my family and I weathered the storm and we finally have started to feel a little bit of normalcy again. Along with that, the drive and desire to get back to the "old kayak fishing me" has been non-stop, and I love it!

My wife, Amanda Kaye, and I recently scouted out a couple of new bottom spots with the month long Florida red snapper season on the horizon. A couple of the spots were duds but the last one was loaded with fish! Triggers and red snapper were swimming everywhere. It didn't take long to get some good pullage!

Once red snapper opened and the both of us had a shot to get out when the weather cooperated, we didn't hesitate to get after it. Fathers Day was our first time out during the season and I couldn't have thought of a better way to spend the day. We hit a new spot out of the gate and caught a couple small snapper and triggers. It didn't take long to make the call to head back to the spot that produced on the last trip. 

Photo Credit: Amanda Bekolay

Photo Credit: Amanda Bekolay

I got on the reef and marked our little friends all up and down the water column. I had some cut up bonito and old cigar minnows so I made it rain! Just as the dinner bell rang, we had fish everywhere. Triggers were everywhere but a few big snapper pushed them out of the way. Amanda Kaye hooked up to a STUD...and she got owned! This fish wanted to get away more than OJ driving a white Bronco!

We decided to keep the first 4 legal snapper since it was our first trip out of the year and our time is limited. Amanda had the hot hand of the day as she was hooking into fish left and right! Numerous triggers and red snapper graced us with their presence.

With a 2 man limit of red snapper and day full of laughs and smiles, we headed back to the beach. On the way back in, I couldn't help to think that I have been gone away for 20 months since May 2017. A person doesn't realize how much "life" occurs until you're gone. Sharing your passion with your partner in crime in indescribable. We could only think of one way to reminisce of our first day of red snapper season...Fish Whistle IPAs at the Pier Bar!

Until next time...See ya on the water!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Back At It...FINALLY!

You know it's been TOO LONG when you can't remember the last time you came to grips with your swimming slimy friends. Not being able to remember the last fish you caught or even the last trip you took is something that I'm not used to. I guess that is what a 12 month deployment and multiple other short trips will do to ya. 

I'm fortunate enough to live in an amazing area and to be surrounded by good people. Once I finished a couple of projects around the house after returning home from Afghanistan, I joined Benton Parrott for an early morning session in our neck of the woods.

Benton Parrott

Tropical Storm Gordon decided to dump a metric $#IT ton of rain on our stomping grounds a couple of days prior. Along with that, the trusty weather man was a little off by the winds that were forecasted. Between the wind and the water conditions, we figured the bite might be a little tough to come by. At this point, I didn't just felt good to be on the water again.

We tried to get on a trout bite first thing in the morning but nobody appeared to be home. If they were, they were not hungry. After we logged the goose-egg for trout, we went after bull reds to hopefully jump-start the morning.

It didn't take long before a pissed off bull blew up my Skitterwalk without coming tight. That blowup gave us a little pep in our step as Benton knew it was just a matter of time. A short while later...BOOM...this time it came tight.

The jackhammer headshakes and line-ripping runs that a low 30" class redfish provides is fun as hell on medium tackle! It has been 15 plus months since the last time I felt that rush...and I loved every second of it. 

Photo Credit: Benton Parrott

Photo Credit: Benton Parrott

Once the feisty little bull swam off in the chocolate milk-ish water, we got back after it for a short time before the tide slacked. We managed to get a couple more blow ups but to no avail. The winds started to pick up so we called it a day.

The feeling that I had all morning is indescribable. It's always fun to get out on the water. To break the "almost a year and a half absence" was long overdue and much needed.

"Back at it...FINALLY!"

~See ya on the water!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Light at the End of the Tunnel...

"292 days, 7,008 hours, 420,480 minutes, and 25,228,800 seconds...but hey, who's counting?"

How do you put a price on time? Can you? Everything is worth something, everything has value. You can put a price tag on most things, but you truly can't put a price on time. It's one of those things that once it's past, you can never get back.

The value of time comes into perspective when you're removed from your normal life and living a life of unpredictability and uncertainty. Life as a deployed active duty service member is just that, you walk away from everything you love and cherish and answer a calling that is bigger than yourself. It can be exciting yet unnerving all at the same time. There comes a moment while you're away that you think back on the days, hours, minutes, and even seconds that you missed from your "normal" life; holidays, birthdays, kid's chorus concerts at school, even walking the dogs.

As I write this, I have been away for 292 days, 7,008 hours, 420,480 minutes, and 25,228,800 seconds...but hey, who's counting? Numerous holidays, birthdays, bbqs, and retirements have come and gone. This is the life of a deployed service member. On paper it sounds insane, in reality both the deployed member and family know and accept the sacrifice because our country has asked us to do so.

Photo Credit: Polish Pumper

The infamous "light at the end of the tunnel" is a real thing! With every page-flip of the calendar, the light becomes a little brighter. You start to think about seeing your family again for the first time in ages, the first place you want to go to eat, the first beer you're going to drink, and for people like us...the first time your kayak glides through the water again.

It's like a little kid in October thinking about opening presents on Christmas morning. You would never imagine that a grown adult could get so excited for something like "the firsts"  even though it's still so far away. That's the beauty of having loves and passions. It may be in the distant future, but it never leaves you...ever. Reading online articles from Kayak Angler Magazine and keeping up with killer blogs like Rob Choi's, Angling Addict, have kept the fire burning throughout the duration of the long hiatus.

One minute you're lacing up the boots, donning your body armor, loading your weapons, and the other minute you get lost in your mental wonderland watching the sunrise behind your topwater lure "walking the dog" in anticipation of a blowup from a hungry speckled trout .

Photo Credit: Marty Mood

One of the toughest parts of being deployed is staying focused on the task at hand while balancing out the mental field trips. Staying grounded in your beliefs and values is what provides the inner strength to cross the finish line while holding your head high. Meanwhile, I will continue to dream about the moment I get to hug and kiss my wife and daughter again, take the dogs for a walk, and slide my kayak into water as the sun peeks above the horizon. Until then...

~See ya on the Water!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Pensacola Bay Bull Reds

There are many times where I wished I could pick just one hobby and stick with it! Not saying there is anything wrong with that, but seriously...what fun would that be? I'm wired to be in-sync with all of the seasons; I fish all year round, hunt turkeys in spring, bowhunt whitetails throughout fall, and whack some waterfowl throughout fall and winter.

With the duck decoys stacked in the back of the shed and the deer hunting gear organized and tucked away until next fall, it was finally time again to dust off the lonely fishing rods and give them the well deserved  "bend" that they have been waiting for.

A last minute decision to head out to the infamous Pensacola Bay bull red stomping grounds got me all sorts of excited. I quickly finished my plate at the dinner table like a good boy should, and then bolted out the door. In no time, I was bouncing from light to light, looking for a hungry bull. It didn't take long...

It was a race against the clock. A major wind shift from the north was due to hit the area in any time, packing sustained winds over 25mph with gusts well over 30mph. Stiff winds and relentless salty spray coming off my bow made it tough to sight fish. The fish were not abundant like I was hoping for, but the ones that I found were hungry! 

In less than 2 hours of fishing, I hooked 6 fish between 35" and 39 1/4". I got off the water just in the nick of time. The wind quickly shifted to the north and started throwing white capped waves all over the rocky shore. I was a wet and a little chilled, but still smiling from the recent adventure.

It was a great start to 2017! Cheers to a fun yet safe fishing season, or should I say "seasons".

Until next time...stay fishy my friends.

See ya on the water!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Sight Casting Monster Tarpon

Landing a huge tarpon last year left me wanting more...

Those that have ever chased tarpon out of a kayak know how insane of a challenge it is. If you do come tight with a "poon", everything has to go right, and I mean everything! These fish will expose the slightest flaw and will make you pay for it.

For 2016, I started chasing these fish earlier this summer. I wish I could have made it out more times than I have, but the times I have been out have been productive, kinda anyways. I have hooked up and jumped numerous tarpon, 6 to be exact. Every time has yielded the same result; a hooked up fish jumps like hell and spits the hook following up with profanities exiting the angler's mouth.

This trip started out no different. I wasn't on the water for more than 15 minutes when I spotted the first fish of the night. A quick cast and I was hooked up...only for him the snap my 80 braid on the second jump. The fish must have landed on the braid and cut it like a tight rubber band, whipping the line back in my direction.

Feeling pretty optimistic, I reloaded the artillery and went back on the hunt. A few more fish were spotted but quickly disappeared. I spotted another fish that gave me a great shot, and I made it count. A couple solid hooksets drove the hook into the concrete mouth and it was time for a ride.

This had to be the most exhausting 20 minutes of my life! The huge tarpon only jumped twice, then went on run after run.

The cool part is that my homie, Marty Mood, was rolling his GoPro. The bad part was the only other camera that I had was a corroded Olympus that is a pain to use.

As we were setting up for the hero shot, the fish shook it's head and slipped my grip as the hook was out of it's mouth. No grip n' grin pictures.

Words can't describe the rush that a huge tarpon gives the kayak angler. Wrapping hands around it's jaws makes you realize how massive these fish are and just how much power they possess. Thank you Marty Mood for rolling the GoPro! Until next time...

See ya on the water!


Rods: Shimano Teramar XX HVY, 8'
Reels: Shimano Spheros SW 6000
Line: 80lb Power Pro, 100 lb Fluorocarbon leader
Lures: Hogy Lures and Berkley 6" Swimbaits
Kayak: Old Town Predator PDL
Paddle: Werner Paddles 240cm "Hooked" Cyprus
Apparel: Kokatat
PFD: Kokatat Bahia Predator
Accessories: YakAttack Geartrac, YakAttack VisiCarbon Pro, YakAttack BlackPak

For more information on the Gear Used, please click on the logos located on the right side of the page.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Emerald Coast Professional Redfish Series...September 24th Event

Striking out during the June event for the Emerald Coast Professional Redfish Series (ECPRS) didn't set too well with me...which is putting it nicely!
The second event for myself, third for the series, was an opportunity to lick the wounds, bounce back, and get redemption. Like the last time, Marty Mood and I teamed up for the event. I always love fishing the Panama City area. There is no shortage of water and wilderness to explore.
Pre-fishing, as usual, was very successful.
 Marty and I scouted maps and traveled uneven roads which yielded what we were looking for.
Both Marty and I landed speckled trout over 23"...

Photo Credit: Marty Mood
Once we had the trout dialed in, it was time to search for bull reds.
Our first spot was a bust. No bait, no bulls, no action, no!
The second spot had birds working bait schools which was visible from the highway.
Marty headed out first as I was trying to cool off and rehydrate since I was fighting a flu.
The headstart that Marty got paid off with a beautiful 42" Florida bull red...
I quickly got in on the action.
After a quick pedal with the Old Town Predator PDL to the birds, you could see bull reds killing anything in their path.
A quick cast and a few twitches of a Super Spook and I was hooked up...
Headshake, power-run, repeat!
After the third run, the hook pulled...
That was how pre-fishing would end. Tournament day rolled around and we stuck to the pattern from the day before; trout spot first and bull red spot second.
When it's tournament time, I normally don't roll with Go-Pros (hence the lack of photos). I opt for the least amount of "stuff" on the kayak when the rubber meets the road.
In the first two hours of the day, I had a 19" trout and a 23.5" redfish. I knew 42.5" wouldn't win, but I was at least on the board with an aggregate length to build upon.
Marty managed to pull a 19.5" trout and a 23.5" redfish to edge me out by a 1/2" at our first spot.
Our second spot had bull reds.  We watched a couple bulls get hooked up, just not on our ends.
That's how the day would close.
Photo Credit: Benton Parrot
The totals were in and would you know it, I took place from the money!
D@#n you Marty! (just kidding.)
Congrats to the winners of the tournament.
The 4th and final event is the 2 day Championship is November 5th and 6th.
Until then...
See ya on the water!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Old Town Predator PDL...KING ME!

"If I had a dollar for every time I have given my "pedaling" friends hell, I would be a rich man!"
Earlier this year at ICast, Old Town Canoe and Kayaks released a new version of the high-end angling Predator series. No it was not another model propelled by paddle or by motor, but the long awaited pedal version. The Old Town Predator "PDL" made a big splash into the kayak fishing scene by winning the 2016 "Best Boat" award at ICast, not a small feat to say the least!

Those that know me in the kayak fishing arena know that I LOVE paddling! I truly love efficiently maneuvering a kayak by the means of a quality paddle. That will never change, I will always paddle a kayak. On the flip side of that equation, I also know that a pedal driven kayak has it's advantages! When I was informed that a Predator PDL was on it's way to the Bekolay house, I was beyond excited! I couldn't wait to get this kayak rigged up to take on the waters in the Florida Panhandle.
I wasted no time rigging this boat up with YakAttack GearTrac on the mounting plates for my YakAttack Dogbone and Panfish camera mounts. It honestly took more time getting my tools together than it did with the installation of these accessories. The morning that followed rigging day was forecasted to be cloudy with a mid morning wind shift...great conditions for an offshore trolling bite!
I was welcome by a beautiful sunrise peaking through the thick blanket of clouds. The salty breeze aroused the harbored excitement for the upcoming adventure. Mornings like these are truly what an angler dreams of. The stage was set for the PDL's "Maiden Voyage" and the opportunity to see how it handled the Gulf of Mexico.
First step of the day watch to catch bait. Finding bait was one thing, find quality was another! Numerous small hardtails and only 5 cigar minnows were the only morsels swimming in my bait tube.
I was trolling two lines; one with an 8' leader of 50lb fluorocarbon snelled to a 7/0 circle hook tipped with a hardtail (sailfish setup), and the other with a wire double hook duster king rig tipped with a cigar minnow (everything else setup). It didn't take long before the reel on hardtail rig started singing. Just as quick at the baitrunner was ripping out, it stopped...cut line equals toothy king.
A short time later the fluorocarbon leader with circle hook was taken again, this time I hooked up and caught a nice sized king. He found his way into the death cooler to be used on the smoker. Speaking of "smoker"...
The first strike on the duster rig was a good one! My baitrunner was singing so loud I thought my ears were going to bleed! Once the reel was engaged, I could feel that this was no small fish.

It didn't take long for this fish to rip most of the line off of my 6000 series spool. The nice part of the PDL was I was able to maintain pressure on the fish but also use the pedals to close the gap to gain some line back. I figured it had to be a big king with the blistering runs it was making. Once I saw length and color, I knew it was indeed a good one! I normally don't gaff kings, but I wanted to make sure that this one got to visit the inside of the PDL.

With the death cooler loaded with kingfish meat, I started to make way back to the beach. The bite was steady all day long. I ended up landing 2 nice Spanish mackerel on the way in to add to the meat haul total. I was running low on smoked mackerel fillets that I use in fish dip so I was pretty stoked to stuff the cooler bag. Smoked fish dip is one of my favorite snacks for football season, just FYI.

Alright, first impression of the Old Town Predator PDL;
  • The seat is higher on this model compared to previous Predators. Don't let that fool ya, this boat is stable! In 1-2' swells and wind, I never felt like my center of gravity too high. In fact, it almost felt like a chair which was very easy on my back and legs. Not to mention there is still a pouch on the back but now there is also a nice pouch under the seat. Perfect for sabiki rigs, gloves, sunblock, etc.
  • Plenty of storage! The forward hatch is a great size. There is a small hatch built into the drive just aft of the pedals. The hatch stayed fairly dry even after a few big waves and surf came over the side walls and bow. There is also access to the mid hull just aft of the seat. Another great area for storage.
  • The PDL drive itself is well designed. The pedals are smooth and the gearing is just right for the prop. The drive is not light, but you wouldn't want it light because of the quality of the build. This is maintenance free and it feels like it. Going in reverse is awesome! I didn't need this feature on this day, but when I do (at the bridge, by docks, etc) it will come in handy.
  • The rudder system is really nice. The steering controls for the rudder are on the left while the lever to deploy and retract the rudder is on the right. Both controls are very smooth without any binding.
  • Speed! Yes, this boat is FAST! I was shocked how quick this boat would drive into the wind and current. With the wind at your back, you can really fly!
  • The steering is not "set it and forget it". You do have to pay attention to the rudder controls because strong current and waves will alter the course and throw off your tracking if you're not paying attention.
Overall, I was really impressed with the Old Town Predator PDL! This boat will be in my lineup without a doubt. Priced at $2,799, you get a lot of boat packed with features that is priced better than most of it's peers. Check out the new PDL, you won't be disappointed! For more information, click on this link, Old Town Predator PDL.

See ya on the water!
Rods: All Pro Rods, Shimano, Ugly Stick
Reels: Shimano Thunnus 6000 Ci4, Shimano Baitrunner 6000, Shimano Sradic FJ
Line: 50lb Power Pro, 50 lb Fluorocarbon leader
Lures: Double hook Duster king rigs w/ wire leader, fluorocarbon leader snelled to 7/0 circle hooks
Kayak: Old Town Predator PDL
Paddle: Werner Paddles 240cm "Hooked" Cyprus
Apparel: Kokatat Trunks, Kokatat Paddling Shirt
PFD: Kokatat Bahia Predator
Accessories: YakAttack Geartrac, YakAttack Dogbone and Panfish camera mounts,  RAM X-Grip

For more information on the Gear Used, please click on the logos located on the right side of the page.