Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Emerald Coast Professional Redfish Series June 25th Report

Wiping the crustys out of the eyes following the evil sound of a smart phone alarm at 3am is normally a downright miserable experience...unless the alarm is for fishing of course!

I would say that I'm pretty easy goin' in my day to day endeavors. Though there are a handful of things that I take pretty serious; work, family, health, and fishing tournaments. The first 3 of those go without saying, but when it comes to tournament fishing...I don't mess around!

The Emerald Coast Professional Redfish Series is based out of Panama City, Florida and consists of 4 events; 3 separate one day events leading up to a two day Championship to close out the year. This is the first year that kayaks are fishing this series even though the tournament is not new in itself. Having a few weeks off of work following my deployment allowed me to have the opportunity to prepare for the 2nd event of 2016.

The "rules of the road" are like any traditional kayak fishing tournament. Scoring for this series is the aggregate length of 1 redfish plus 1 speckled trout, pretty straight forward. This is where strategy comes to play. Does an angler target speckled trout first then go for reds, or vise versa? Verifying the tides, weather forecast, time of year, etc. all come into play for an angler formulating their gameplan.

"Practice how you play" is what I go by for tournament fishing. I like to get into a mental routine during pre-fishing as if it was game day. The alarm is set before the a$$ crack of dawn, everything is rigged and ready to go, and my spots have been well thought out. Hitting the welcoming waters for the first day of pre-fishing always gives me a rush!

My good friend and fellow YakAttack Fishing Team member, Marty Mood, and I had discussed numerous spots and strategies leading up to the event. I was pre-fishing a couple of spots near our homes that we talked about checking out for good sized speckled trout. The first couple of days of pre-fishing yielded some good numbers of speckled trout up to 20", not too shabby. The only issue with this place was that the boat traffic would be a higher on a Saturday. "No Bueno" for a good trout bite!

The executive decision to fish near the weigh-in location was made to optimize our time on the water. Starting from scratch in an area that you're unfamiliar with can be difficult. Utilizing technology to the finest, we came up with a handful of spots to pick from.

The first of the spots coughed up dink trout after dink trout. Throwing the kitchen sink at them and catching the same class of fish was not helping out this spot at all. I went a little deeper while throwing a suspending jerkbait only to catch...a dink flattie. Time to pack up and move along.

The sun was pretty high, the temperature was borderline punishing, and my confidence was slightly beginning to fade. But, a new spot always brings the "you never know" feeling. I used the tide and wind to drift over a grass flat point. Less than 5 casts in, my Tactical Anglers Crossover topwater lure was crushed. The immediate relentless headshakin' that ensued had me smiling because I knew what was on the other end.

20.5" speckled trout

Shortly after releasing the speck, my topwater was blown up again by a nice fish but didn't hook up. I parked the Predator 13 and waded the point. The reason behind wading was pretty simple; big trout will not bite when they know you're there. Stealth was now the name of the game and I was figuring out the game at this new spot.

21.5" speckled trout

Knowing this spot held good fish, I moved on to scout out other areas. I caught some more dink trout and lady fish which pretty much sold me on the spot that I just left. With the top end of the incoming tide, I took the opportunity to sight fish a couple of areas looking for redfish.

As fishy as this spot looked, I didn't see a single redfish. I felt my phone vibrate in my Bahia Predator PFD and it was Marty. Opening the message gave another boost of confidence since I saw Marty with a nice Florida bull red from the spot he was pre-fishing. With a sweat-drenched buff and a luke-warm water bottle, it was time to call it a day. Even though the day started early and was far from easy, I felt pretty good going into tournament day.

Photo Credit: Brandon Barton
At the Captains Meeting at Four Winds Grill, Marty and I met up with friends; Brandon Barton, Matthew Vann, Benton Parrot, and Ryan McNeil. The beer was cold and the food was phenomenal! I think the price of the entry fee was worth the dinner itself.
Tournament day rolled around and we hit the water with a little pep in our steps. First cast at the trout spot...twitch twitch twitch BOOM...DAMN! The fish was on for a couple of seconds of headshakes before he threw the lure. I could tell right away that it was a decent trout. That set the tone for what would be a Dink trout after dink trout were the theme. I went the entire morning up until our "drop dead" time at this spot with small trout and nothing to put on the board. Needless to say, I was shocked. Marty previously picked up a slot red and managed to catch a 17.5" trout about 30 yards from the launch on our way in. It wasn't a stud, but he was at least on the board going into our spot for bull reds.
Picking up where I left off, it was another tough grind. Time ticked away with only minutes left. I was bouncing the bottom with a Gulp tipped jig when my lure was pounded. My rod buckled over and drag started ripping. This was a BIG fish! Run after run, this fish got the best of me. I couldn't keep him away from the structure and my 50lb fluorocarbon leader popped. I can't say it was a bull red because I never saw it. What I can say is that I have caught enough bulls down here in Florida to know that if it was a bull red, it was a stud! Anyways, that was it, our time was up. The paddle back to the launch left me dumbfounded to say the least.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2nd event of the 2016 Emerald Coast Professional Redfish Series. Marty pulled off a 5th place finish which has him second going into the Angler of the Year running, only behind Brandon Barton. For more information on this new kayak fishing tournament series, check them out on Facebook or look them up on the web here; Emerald Coast Professional Redfish Series.

I'm crossing my fingers that I can make the September event and hopefully redeem myself. Hell, it can't be much worse than that one. In the mean time, there will be plenty of upcoming trips both inshore to offshore, going for trout to tarpon. What will be next is yet to be determined. Until next time...

~See ya on the water!
Rods: All Pro Rods, Shimano
Reels: Lews Inshore Widespool casting, Shimano Stradic FJ spinning
Line: 20-50lb Power Pro, 20-50 lb Fluorocarbon leader
Lures: Tactical Anglers Crossover, Mirrolure, Unfair Lures, Rapala Jerkbaits, and PowerTeam Lures Swinging Hammers and Hammer Shads
Kayak: Old Town Predator 13
Paddle: Werner Paddles 240cm "Hooked" Cyprus
Apparel: Kokatat Paddling Pants, Kokatat Paddling Shirt
PFD: Kokatat Bahia Predator
Accessories: YakAttack 8' Park n' Pole, YakAttack Geartrac, YakAttack Zooka Tube rod holders, RAM mount bases, RAM X-Grip

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

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Knocking Off the Rust

" anybody there?"
Hiatus, Eternity, Neglected, Vanished, Forgotten...
All of those words come to mind when it comes to the "not so" recent activity of Hook, Line, and Sinker and rightfully so. It's been a hot minute since the latest post has hit the press. I mean, September, really! Well, just as a teenager caught red-handed...I can explain!
Rewinding the tape back to last fall, hunting season combined with school and a crashed computer does not equate to fish post success. I was putting hours upon hours in the Florida woods trying to fill the freezer, and with the size of the deer around here, that's no easy task! When your hard drive $#!t$ the bed during Aviation Calculus, you want to go postal! I know, excuses excuses.
Then, Uncle Sam calls and says that I'm tasked to go across the pond to help deliver Air Power to the "Daesh-Bags" of ISIS. Those that know me know that I love my God, my family, and my country. As crazy as it sounds, I was excited for the tasking! After the new year, I headed to the middle east where I spent the next 4.5 months.
I was able to sneak in an impromptu fishing trip the week before I left. Even though I had a laundry list of stuff to do, I needed those few hours to clear the mind and warm the soul.


32" redfish


Releasing the redfish was just what I needed before I laced up the desert-tan boots. Fast forward to the beginning of June. As I was packing my bags to come back to America, I couldn't believe how fast the time flew by. I missed my wife's birthday, sister-in-laws wedding, and numerous other events during that period of time. The biggest factor for somebody coming back mentally healthy after a deployment is support while they're away...and my wife, Amanda Kaye, was my "Rock" the entire time. I have said it many times before...I'm beyond blessed to have her as my partner in crime.

Coming home is always a wonderful thing! Dorthy was spot on..."there is no place like home!" The little things in life that we always take for granted are what I looked forward to the most. Sleeping in my own bed, kissing my wife in the morning to start the day, playing with the dogs, etc. I was thankful for the opportunity to come home to all those little things.
It didn't take long, the addiction flared up again and I needed my fix!

I immediately took the opportunity to get offshore when the weather was perfect. The only problem was the weather was "too" perfect. High skies and little to no wind coupled with high temperature made the fishing tough. The troll bite was non-existent pretty much the whole day minus one run that came un-buttoned. The snapper bite was tough as well. I did manage to get a bend in the rod and a smile across my face. Even though the day was tough, I was in heaven!
Lane Snapper

Red Snapper
Words can't describe how grateful I felt being able to get out on the water. It's like hours and hours of warm fuzzies. I'm not going to lie, it felt like an eternity since I paddled my kayak! Knocking off the rust and getting after it is just what I needed! Until next time...

~See ya on the water!
Rods: Shimano Rods
Reels: Truth SG, Shimano Stradic FJs, Shimano Thunnus Ci4
Line: 50 Power Pro, 50 lb Fluorocarbon leader
Lure: Fishfinder/Carolina rig, 6 oz egg sinker w/ a 3" fluorocarbon leader snelled to 7/0 circle hook tipped w/ a livebait or dead cigar minnow
Kayak: Old Town Predator 13
Paddle: Werner Paddles 240cm "Hooked" Cyprus
Apparel: Kokatat Destination Paddling Trunks, Kokatat Suncore shirt, Kokatat Gore-Tex Full Zip Jacket
PFD: Kokatat Bahia Predator
Accessories: YakAttack Geartrac, YakAttack Zooka Tube rod holders, RAM mount bases, RAM X-Grip

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Offshore Family Time

There are a few things in life that you cherish every second of.
 Those moments are different for everybody, but in the end, everybody experiences the moment when you wish time stood still.
It's no secret that I have a passion for the water an everything that goes with it. Sharing that passion with those that are close to you takes the experience to a whole new indescribable level. It's sort of a warm fuzzy with a slight bit of euphoria mixed in.
Over Labor Day weekend, my best friend and brother-in-law, Duke Herman, made a stop at Casa De-Bekolay in Navarre Florida for a some R&R, cold beer, and a little offshore kayak fishing. Duke has never kayak fished before so it was only right to start him off by going a few miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Along with Duke, my wife Amanda Kaye, has never been kayak fishing offshore. Time to make this a family outing.
We launched with little expectations other than hopefully hooking up with a fish while spending time together. The mahi bite has been on fire so we were hoping that our trolling rigs would entice a strike.
Amanda was the first, and only one, to hook up with a nice mahi on a cigar minnow tipped duster rig. The fish gave her one hell of a fight! It was tough to try and land the fish for her so I made the best attempt at gaffing it when I came close to the surface. I struck a little of the fish but not enough to stick. Before we could get the beautiful mahi on the gaff, it pulled the hook with another crazy run. That was it for that day.
Duke and I had a strategic plan for Saturday. Since this was the second season red snapper opener, we wanted to take advantage of it. The plan was to get a limit of snapper, then troll for pelagics.
We launched at day break and caught a lot of bait in no time. Stuffed bait tubes meant it was time to head to the snapper spot. Less than a 1/2 mile away from the reef a power boat motors in, drops anchor, and sets up to spear fish.
You got to be F&#%!@G kidding me!

It made no sense to try and fish that spot so we let out our trolling lines and paddled back towards the beach. The trolling bite was tough but I was able to get a nice mahi to give us a nice aerial display. It's always fun watching a mahi give you jump after jump!
As we were trolling, we noticed the spear fishing boat headed off the spot leaving the reef vacant. We kept trolling to no avail and decided to make way back to the reef. The draw of the red snapper was just too strong!
Just as scripted, my Humminbird 698 HD SI lit up like a Christmas tree when I got on the spot. Snapper and trigger fish were everywhere! We threw out chunk bait with weightless circle hooks and held on. Duke hooked up and immediately had his rod tipped yanked into the water by a strong red snapper!

We got our 2 man limit of red snapper (2 fish a piece) and headed back to the beach. The sun was blistering and we were wore out! With a mahi and 4 decent sized red snappers in the ole' Death Chamber, it was time for some hot wings and cold beer! 

Sadly, Duke had to leave but not after he got his first limit of kayak red snapper. Well done brother! Monday rolled around and Amanda and I decided to fish the last few hours of daylight when the winds were supposed to lay down.

We launched and headed to the end of the second bar. In no time, I hear, "I got one". I paddle over to see her fighting a nice spanish mackerel. Her first fish landed offshore!

She follows that fish up with a second spanish mackerel as we paddled to the snapper spot. Damn, my wife is out-fishing me. I'm down 0-2 at this point. Amanda had the hot hand which was fine by me! I was loving watching her fight and land these beautiful fish.

We got to the snapper spot with high hopes. The sun was slowly setting and the reef was covered in suspended red snapper and trigger fish. Both armed with chunk baited circle hooks, I carpet bombed the surface with handfuls of fresh chunk bait as we deployed our baits in the mix. Wouldn't you know it, Amanda's rod doubles over. I thought it was a good snapper only to be surprised by the biggest trigger fish that I have ever seen!

At this point, I'm as giddy as I could be! It was so cool watching Amanda fight this huge trigger! The fish gave her numerous runs that pinned the rod on the side of the kayak as the drag was getting ripped out.

With an activated feeding frenzy, we wasted no time in re-baiting and getting back after it! Another round of handfuls of chunks with our baits mixed in...

Drags were screaming and rods were bowed over! These red snapper gave us a blood pumping battle to be remembered!
The sun was setting and it was time to head in. The light was fading leaving a beautiful sunset to cap off an afternoon of fishing that I will never forget. Spending precious time with your loved ones while doing something that you love is beyond words. Seeing the look on Amanda's face said it all. Not only did we spend valuable time together, we had a great an amazing experience with the double on red snapper.
What a fitting way to end an amazing weekend. Duke and Amanda got their first fish out of a kayak offshore and we were able to spend time together filled with jokes and laughter. One thing is for certain...
I can't wait to spend more family time offshore!

 See ya on the water!


Monday, August 31, 2015

Weekend Grocery Shopping

Chores, we all have them.
Young or old, boys or girls, we all have chores to do.
My lone chore this weekend was actually a pretty easy shopping on Sunday, that's it!
Before I headed to my favorite grocery store, I figured I would try my luck at another tarpon.
Marty Mood and I hit the spot, but the Silver Kings didn't want to shows themselves.
We saw dozens of nice reds, so I figured I would break the monotony with a cast to a hungry one.
Sunday roles around and it's time to hit the ole' supermarket.
I saw that Brandon Barton and crew were wearing out the mahi off of Navarre Beach.
It just so happens that I live 10 minutes from Navarre Beach and I wanted fresh fish.
I needed to go grocery I did...for fresh mahi filets.

 The bite was fast and furious!
It didn't take long for feeding mahi to smash my cigar minnow tipped duster while trolling.
Then I had about 15 mahi circling my kayak when I was re-rigging.
Long story short, I lost 3 and brought home 6.

Shopping list complete!

The mahi paired quite nice with the dorado patterned Orion 25qt cooler. Match made in heaven!

 See ya on the water!

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Challenge of Monster Tarpon

As the silver beast slowly made his way into the deep abyss, I sat there in awe by the beauty and utter size of this magnificent creature.

"What just happened? Really, what the hell just happened?!" 

As anglers, we like a challenge. Think about it...even the beginner that buys a $20 setup at Walmart likes the challenge of catching a fish. It's much easier buying fresh fish to eat or spending the money on a "guaranteed" thrill. The challenge of fishing, whether big or small, is what consistently draws us back to the water time and time again.

When some anglers gain knowledge from experiences and the time they put in, they seemingly up the ante to the angling challenge. Speaking for myself, I've always wanted to "up my game" in the kayak fishing world. For example; I transitioned from fresh water to salt water, went from fishing protected bodies of water to the open ocean, and added the pursuit of larger species compared to being content on the species that I had dialed in.

Some call catching a tarpon from a kayak as a "bucket list" item. I originally said that but honestly, the idea of catching a tarpon out of my kayak is fairly new compared to others. I love challenges and always want a new one. That's what catching a monster tarpon out of kayak was for me...a new, yet daunting challenge!

My good friend and fishing partner, Marty Mood, and I had planned on going after these behemoths for some time now. We didn't waste the opportunity when our schedules finally aligned. We were armed with heavy artillery and a willingness to get the job done at all costs. The waters of Pensacola Florida welcomed us with open arms. Meticulously searching the surface finally yielded what we came there for. It didn't take long for Marty to yell, "FISH ON". Shortly after speaking his last word, a 100+ pound silver king explodes out of the water not 10 feet in front of me, almost landing in my kayak! WOW! From that point forward, the image of that monster tarpon was tattooed in the front of my memory bank. The fish ended up spitting the hook a few jumps later, but that moment fueled a newly lit fire.

It was on like Donkey Kong...I'm going to catch a tarpon!!!
I found myself going solo back to the same spot only a couple of days later. I couldn't stop thinking about these gigantic fish and the possibility of landing one from my kayak. Sight casting these fish at night, ALONE, and out of a kayak was by far the most challenging task I've yet to take on.
It didn't take long to make a cast on a monster, only to have the fish pay no attention. I saw another fish, only to have the same result. Instead of getting frustrated, I changed up the retrieve, that didn't work. I changed up the speed, that didn't work. I changed the depth of the lure, that didn't work. When I changed out to a different pattern...
Watching a monster tarpon follow his line, I waited to lead him with a perfect cast. The big soft plastic met his line of sight at the right time...BOOM, FISH ON! The sheer power of these fish is indescribable! My Old Town Predator 13 took off like a bat out of hell! When the huge tarpon jumped for the first time, my jawed dropped! 


The fish made run after run, jump after jump! 15 minutes or so go by and I finally see my leader with the emerging silver color in the beam of my head lamp. Finally, the fish is parallel with my kayak and I grab the leader. Knowing that if the fish makes a run that I won't be able to stop it, I grab the leader instead of wrapping my hand, good thing. As I grab the leader to gather the last two feet of line, he makes another run while soaking me in the process. Just as the line went tight, POP! My 80lb leader was cut like butter. My guess was it was wrapped in his gill plate when I went for the leader grab.

I tied on a new Tactical Anglers Clip to a fresh stretch of leader and went back at it. I already felt victory in my mind. Even though my hands were not locked on his jaws, I felt that I had won. At this point, I was as confident as anyone could be. Still respecting the power and size of these fish, I went right back it.

A few more fish showed themselves and showed no interest to my presentation. A perfect cast was the ticket on a fish that I previously threw at. FISH ON once again! This time the big tarpon made zig-zag runs in between the bridge and finally got the best of me. I opened the bail once I felt the line rub but it was too late. POP!

There is a reason that a big tarpon out of a kayak is considered tough. Even when you think you're in control, you're not! I regrouped and went back at it. This time I was towards the end of trip since it was so late. I continued standing up while scanning the surface. I finally saw another small group of huge fish. It only took one cast that ended up being The Cast.

My bait was slammed and in seconds a giant tarpon was shooting out of water! This time the fish headed away from the bridge only to double back and head right for it. I locked the drag of my Shimano Stradic 5000FJ to stay with the fish as best as I could. Once it cleared the other side of the bridge, it made a hard left and ripped a ton of line off as it doubled back once again. I could feel the line rub the pilings once again. Thinking to myself, Damn it not again, I opened my bail and pulled a ton of line out. I then paddled my butt off down two sets of pilings and slowly gathered my line back hoping to feel weight. I then saw my slack line traveling in between a piling set headed to the other side. Instead of putting the screws to the fish again, I gathered the line to stay on top of the fish, but not too piss him off. I one arm paddled with my Werner "Hooked" Cyprus about 100 feet with the fish away from the bridge. I engaged the reel and gave him hell once again. ROUND TWO...FIGHT!

Run after run, jump after jump, this fish was not giving up. After 18 minutes, I finally feel the fish swimming slowly as I pumped him up to the surface. He had one more jump with about 10 feet of line out. He was literally a couple of feet from hitting the Predator. After that jump, it was all she wrote. I grabbed the leader, and got my hand on the massive jaw.

Now the fun part...holding the jaw with one hand and setting up the picture with another. THANK GOD for the YakAttack Panfish Portrait! Without it, I wouldn't have been able to get the shot!

The pictures are not the greatest, but there was not much I could do. After the second picture, the hook came out and the fish shook out of my hands as I setup the third picture. I didn't care!
At the end of day I was left paddling back to the ramp yelling aimlessly with the feeling of accomplishment driven by pure adrenaline. I was still shaking for a couple of hours and could not go to sleep until the sun started to light the horizon.
"The newly found respect for that creature is something that I have for no other. I'm grateful for the opportunity to tangle with the silver king."
~See ya on the Water!
GEAR USED:Rods: Shimano Terez, 7' Med Hvy
Reels: Shimano Stradic 5000FJ
Line: 65lb Power Pro, 80lb leader
Lures: Big Soft Plastics
Kayak: Old Town Predator 13
Paddle: Werner Paddles 240cm "Hooked" Cyprus
Apparel: Kokatat Destination Paddling Trunks and Kokatat Lightweight Gloves
PFD: Kokatat Bahia Tour
Accessories: YakAttack Panfish Portrait, YakAttack GearTrac, YakAttack VisiCarbon Pro