Saturday, December 27, 2014

3 Mile Predators

Late December is considered by many to be the greatest time of year. Heck, even the popular Christmas songs say it is! Some consider is great for getting together with family, others love it for giving or receiving gifts. Well, I have to believe that if you live around the Pensacola Florida area that you may think it's the greatest time of year for another reason...
 
Bull Reds at the Bridge! 
 
 
My good friend and fellow active duty Air Force member, Jay Moore, joined me a late night bull red hunt at 3 Mile Bridge in Pensacola. It's no secret that big reds patrol the lights of the bridge during this time of year. Jay paddled the Old Town Predator MX and I took out the Predator 13, perfect platforms for spotting the big ole' pumpkins!
 
This was Jay's first time out at the bridge going for big reds. His personal best red was slot sized so my goal was to get him one that would top that mark, pretty attainable at 3 Mile. The night started out pretty slow but it didn't stay slow for too long.
 
We fished light after light without seeing or hooking any fish. We moved to a certain light that had fish waiting for us. I wasn't tossing at them until Jay hooked up. Well, it didn't take long before Jay's drag was screaming! The 3 Mile reds don't come easy, and this guy fish was no different. After 10 seconds, he shook the hook. No worries, Jay hooked up again within 5 minutes of losing the first one. This time the damn fish actually broke the clip that attached the lure to the leader. Of the hundreds of fish that I have caught on these clips, I have never had one break. I guess Jay had to be the first!
 
As we separated and fished different lights, I saw a slight glimpse of a long orange blob moving in front of my bow. The plump 36.5" pounded my Swinging Hammer as I swam it in front of him.
  
 
 
 
We paddled back into the light and Jay spots a single and makes a text book cast...
 
FISH ON!
 
 
This fish gave him a great fight; run after run, in between pilings, going underneath the kayak, you name it. Jay fought this fish perfectly! Once the red was tired, he wrapped his hand around the leader and leveraged him into the MX. Game over!
 
35" bull red in boat!

 

CONGRATS BUDDY ON YOUR PERSONAL BEST REDFISH!
 
By this time, it was getting late so we decided to make our way back down the bridge towards the launch.
 
Only issue was we left the lights with fish! The more we paddled, the more the fish disappeared. I did happen to spot a big single cruising pretty fast. This guy was on a mission. My mission was to drive a hook in his mouth...And I did just that!
 
 


This 39.5" put up a hell of a fight! When they are pushing 40", they seem to hit another gear!

The big tail swimming down to the depths signified the end of our night. All in all, it was slow but productive! We had multiple hook ups and saw fish cruising the surface. Most of all, Jay got his personal best red and the taste of bull reds at the bridge. I'm sure we will be loading up the Predators again very soon!
 
~See ya on the water!
 


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Twas the Morning Before Christmas

Twas the morning before Christmas, when Santa was in bed
Thinking of fighting a big ole' sheepshead
The Predator and rods were loaded with care
In hopes that Mr. Convict soon would be there
 
 
The shrimp were nestled all snug in the bucket
With the visions of the bait guy saying, "looks like 3 dozen, F#@K it!"
And the wife in her work chair, and I in my yak,
Had just said to myself, "kayak fishing is like crack!"
 
When on the first drop arose such a clatter
I raised the rod tip to see what was a matter
Away to the handle, ready to take the chance
I set the hook so hard, I thought I crapped my pants
 
 
 
The hook found its mark between the teeth of the beast
I made sure the drag was tight, smoked down at the least
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear
A stout sheepshead, one of the biggest of the year
 
With drag pulling power, so lively and quick
I knew in a moment this was a strong convict
More runs to the bottom not ready to give in
It was him vs. me, not a chance that he'd win
 
Finally to the surface while waving the white flag
I knew I had won, it was "money in the bag"
Now line! Now leader, Now swing in the fish
"You're not going anywhere, not a chance, you wish!"
 
 
With the sheepy in hand, I said to myself
"I wish somebody would take my picture, another angler, or an elf"
I forgot my GoPro was on, I never leave home without it
It captures every moment, mounted on my Panfish Portrait
 
To the stringer he goes,  just waiting to be filleted
Blackened, baked, or grilled, I don't care how it's made
The day just started, I'm sure there will be more
We've got plenty of bait, hopefully it's sheepy galore
 
 
With a stringer full of fish and a face sporting a smile
The glow of catching a dozen could be seen for a mile
The addiction is strong, impossible to kick
Kayak fishing is in the blood, of ole' jolly St. Nick
 
The Predator and rods were loaded into the sleigh
The trip was up, time to call it a day
While leaving the launch, Santa was heard yelling with laughter...
 
"MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, we'll see ya on the water!"


 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Drum n' Sheep

 
61 days...
1,464 hours...
87,840 minutes...
 
That's how long it has been since the last time I hit the water. Not cool, not cool at all!
 
With the next outing beyond overdue, it only made sense to go all out! I worked second shift this week so I planned to go after sheepshead in the morning, go to work in the afternoon, and then target big reds at night, all while fighting off a miserable cold.
 
Lets do this!
 
 
 
As any angler knows, the feeling you get when you finally get back on the water after a lengthy hiatus is pretty much indescribable. It's beyond awesome! I headed right for the bridge structure armed with a couple dozen live shrimp and a mind full of confidence.
 
It didn't take long to feel the ever so subtle "sheepy bite". After a couple of swings and misses, I finally drove the hook into the toothy critter!
 

 
 
 
 
The carolina rigged live shrimp were not only irresistible for sheepshead, but black drum couldn't swim by them without having a snack as well.
 
 
 
The bite really picked up as the wind and clouds rolled in. Couple with moving current, the conditions were perfect! At one point, I didn't go a minute without a bite! I stayed on the same set of pilings with a rubble mix below. Catching a good sized sheepshead is fun, but catching multiples is a blast! I ended the day with double digit numbers of sheepshead up to 21" and 2 black drum up to 25".
 
 
 
 
I went to work feeling pretty good about the day time bridge bite from earlier. Even though I was working, it was impossible not to think about an evening bridge bite just as good, if not better than the earlier one. Yeah, I wasn't going after sheepys and black drum this go around. Big ole' orange pumpkins were next on the list...Florida's big red drum!
 
Once my shift was over, it was a quick turn with clothing and gear and off to the bridge again. The outgoing tide was already moving as I got there so I knew the fish should be hungry! I paddled to the first light that I normally target during outgoing tide. While standing in my Old Town Predator 13, I quickly spotted a pair of reds. I hooked up on the first cast but quickly came unbuttoned. I wasn't too phased since I knew that I probably wouldn't have to wait long for my next chance. I hung out in the shadows of the bridge like a hunter waiting for his prey. As 3 more reds cruised in formation waiting to annihilate anything that swam in front of them, I lead them a with a perfect cast about 10 feet past and 10 feet in front of them. When the first one saw my PowerTeam Lures Swinging Hammer, he rocked towards the bait to steal if from his buddys...FISH ON!  
 
 
Over the next 3 hours, I hooked up with fish at every light I fished. I lost more than normal, but 10 fish still graced the cockpit of the Predator, ranging from 31" to 38.5". All were caught on a 1/8 oz jig and Swinging Hammers. I didn't break the 40" mark this night, but I saw a handful that were every bit of 40" or better. 


Wiping the tears from my eyes and the snot from my nose, I drove home half asleep with a scratchy cough. Even though I was tired and sick, the sweet smell of fish slime put a little smile on my face. The long break really made me appreciate the time I spend on the water. I don't think I will be waiting 61 days again any time soon...

~See ya on the water!


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hammering the Bulls

One of the seasons that I have been anxiously awaiting is the arrival of the bull reds at the local bridge complexes. Having experienced this a couple of years ago when I was down here to visit, (see Battle of the Bulls), I was left with the burning desire to get back to it.
 
Last week, I headed out with Marty Mood, Brandon Barton, Matthew Vann, and Butch Newell for the first trip of the year. The conditions were nice, almost too nice! You want current moving and a little chop when you're doing this type of fishing. Anyways, we all got into fish but not the numbers we were hoping for.
 
 
I had an open window the other night after work. The wind and tide matched up perfectly for a late night rendezvous. I planned on catching a couple of white trout to put on a circle hook so I could Carolina rig a live bait on the bottom while I casted soft plastics under the lights. Well, that plan didn't go as planned...
 
My 3.6 PowerTeam Lures JP Hammer Shad was meant to bounce the bottom for white trout. On my fourth cast, the Hammer Shad got pounded about 5 feet down in the water column. With crazy headshakes, I knew it was no white trout. Since I was using my medium action rod with Shimano Stradic FJ 2500, I knew I was in for a treat...
 
 
I had the 37 1/2" red in my lap, go to turn on my Olympus camera only to find the display reading "Battery F%$&ing Dead"...or something like that. Go figure, a nice fish in the lap and the only camera I have is the one on my IPhone. Well, something is better than nothing.
 
 Boy oh Boy, I was licking my chops!!! To hell with the Carolina rigged live bait, I was going to hammer these fish with meanest paddle tail out there...the

 
 
The Swinging Hammer, pictured above, in Electric Chicken (top) and Bubble Gum Flash (bottom), stand out big time under the lights. The over sized tail provides a crazy thump and believe me...it gets the attention of the big reds!
 
While I was adding the paddle tail to my 1/2oz jig, a red started crushing bait on the surface one light down from where I was at. Man, it's getting better and better!
 
As quick as I could get to the light and a bait in the water...it was on once again!
  

I proceeded to absolutely wear out the reds! It was non stop action! 10 minutes never went by without setting the hook into a feeding bull.  
 
 
 
At one point, I actually caught 4 in 4 casts. I made my fifth cast only to have a minor knot in my Curado baitcaster. This meant my bait was dropping to the bottom without me being able to do anything.
 
Oh crap, please don't hit it please don't hit it...
BAM, zip zip...$#!@
 
I smoked the drag down and put the screws to the fish. I made sure that the fish never pulled enough drag to get to the knot. It worked out in the end.
 

In 4 hours, I caught over 25 reds between 33" and 39.5". Nights like this don't happen often. The right conditions have to be present and most of all, the fish have to cooperate! Living less than 30 minutes from the bridge means it won't be the last time I drop the hammer...
 
 Man, did I pick the wrong night to bring a dead camera.
 
~See ya on the water!


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Interview with Werner Paddles

I recently did an interview with Werner Paddles. We talked about everything from fishing in Florida, the upcoming Boondoggle, to adjustable paddles. It was a blast as usual chatting with the crew from
Werner. Check it out...

 

With the fall fishing season upon us and the "Kayak Fishing Boondoggle" in Florida just a few weeks away, we caught up with Werner Paddles pro-staff Richie Bekolay. A recent transfer to the Florida Gulf coast finds him in the perfect position to take the lead at the event with sales and marketing representative Megan Kieninger. Let’s see what he had to say about the Florida heat, chasing sharks, some advice on paddle length for raised seat boats and the "Boondoggle" with the Werner crew.


Werner - "You’ve recently moved to the Florida Gulf Coast. How do you like it?"

Bekolay - "I love it! Being active duty Air Force and on a controlled tour in Virginia, I could have went to plenty of places with no water to paddle in. It’s a huge blessing for my family and I to be stationed in an area that I can do my job yet still purse my passion."

Werner - "How’s a kid from Wisconsin dealing with that heat?"

Bekolay - "I’m not going to lie; it is a little rough at times. I can deal with the heat; it’s the humidity that gets me. I try and acclimate myself to it by driving with my windows down instead of always cranking the AC. I also try and spend a lot of time outside which helps out with conditioning for long days on the water."

Werner - "What species of fish do you see yourself targeting most each season?"

Bekolay - "Good question! I love targeting the flats for speckled trout and redfish, so I will try and do that throughout the year. Early in the year, I will go for big redfish and sheepshead, then turn my attention to cobia during their migration. As spring gets in full swing, I will spend a lot of my time offshore going for snapper and other bottom species. Then it’s on to chase mackerel, mahi, and other pelagics throughout the summer and fall months. Making it full circle, I will lastly go after the big redfish again. There is never a dull moment!"

Werner - "The Gulf has its share of sharks. Any thoughts on trying to land one bigger than Rob Choi’s 75" Black Tip?"

Bekolay - "Whew, that was an awesome catch by an awesome angler. Rob has my respect as one of the best I’ve had the privilege to know and fish with. He made that catch look more attainable than it really is. I may go after sharks in the near future, but I have not really thought it out yet. I will say that I have seen a couple in my short time hear that would come close to the class of shark that Rob landed. Who knows, the competitive spirit in my bones might want to go after his, ha-ha."

Werner - "Do you see some patterns that you picked up from the Tidewater region of Virginia crossing over to the Gulf, or is it pretty much starting from scratch?"

Bekolay - "I look at it this way, for the most part, fishing is fishing. When you break down the basics and fundamentals of each region, it’s somewhat relative. Once the angler finds out the local forage for the fish they’re going after, it becomes much easier. For example; to me a redfish is a redfish. But the redfish you’re targeting in Virginia feed on a lot of crabs and mullet and not shrimp, compared to the redfish in Florida that love shrimp."


Werner - "How long have you been on the Pro-staff for Johnson Outdoors?"

Bekolay - "This October is 2 great years that I will be on their Pro Staff. Hopefully we can continue working together for many more."

Werner - "I ask because we saw that your new Old Town Predator 13 showed up. How is that boat going to handle the open water of the gulf?"

Bekolay - "I just took it out recently into "less than desirable" conditions. I had to punch through a few good sized waves to get out of the surf. The Predator handled it remarkably well. I took on a ton of water into the cockpit from the surf but I was amazed on how fast the water drained out of the scupper valves. The kayak tracks very well without a rudder and handles very nice. The boat is very stable which means it’s a little wider than the popular open water kayaks. You will sacrifice a little speed for stability which there is no way around. Also, the sidewalls are a little taller than some of the other popular open water kayaks which mean the wind is going to be more of a factor. What you’re gaining in return is storage, stability, and comfort. It’s a great kayak!"

Werner - "Have you found any changes in your paddle length with the high seat option?"

Bekolay - "There has been so much buzz around this lately, adjustable length and what not. I just don’t see it. I’m way too busy out there fishing and paddling to be messing with changing paddle length, and for what, a few centimeters? I’d rather just stick to what works, a simple, solid ferrule system. My Werner has a nice smooth shaft and nothing gets hung up on it. I size my paddle to work in the high-seat and it works just fine in the low seat position. For my height, in that boat, 240cm is perfect. I use the size charts from your site to find the exact paddle length for my paddling style. I will say the charts are spot on!

Werner - "I know you love catching some large mouth, especially in tournaments. What’s the scene like in Florida?"

Bekolay - "The largemouth bass scene is pretty awesome down here. There are a lot of farm ponds as well as lakes that are known throughout the country. The only problem for me is the saltwater scene for kayak fisherman is world class and it’s hard to chase bucketmouths when there is an array of saltwater species to target. I just need to find some balance between the two."

Werner - "So we are stoked to be having you on board for Boondoggle, what are you expecting?"

Bekolay - "I expect a great time with a great atmosphere. The whole purpose behind this event is to get kayak anglers together from around the country to fish with no strings attached and no tournament pressure. Everybody just fishes together for pure enjoyment. Along with the fishing is the social atmosphere. My favorite part about big events is getting to catch up with old friends as well as making new ones. Since I will be there with Werner Paddles, I expect to get other anglers excited about paddling a Werner just like I am. I know there will be fishermen that are ready to make the next step in upgrading their paddle. My goal is to show as many people as possible that a great paddling paddle makes a great kayak fishing paddle."

Werner -"Any advice for anglers travelling to Florida for their first kayak fishing experience?"

Bekolay - "My advice is take what you know and apply it to your new adventure. If you’re a saltwater fisherman from the Northeast or a musky and walleye fisherman from the Midwest, it’s all related. Do your homework ahead of time, well ahead of time. The internet is loaded with "how to’s", local reports, weather conditions, and any other reference to help the angler be successful. I believe this… those who put it most work ahead of time reap the biggest rewards when it counts."


Werner - "As we wrap this up, I am sure readers will want to know how to keep up with you now that know a bit more about you. Tell us about your Blog, "Hook Line and Sinker."

Bekolay - "HookLine-Sinker.net (HLS) is a site where a reader can get entertaining information and fishing reports. I try and write about a little bit of everything. There are posts about gear choices, tactics and techniques, "how to’s", and product reviews. I try and write about every outing, either good or bad. Now, I don’t give exact spots or gps coordinates because I also believe in anglers finding their own honey holes and putting time on the water. On the flip side, I will always try and point somebody in the right direction if they want advice or a helpful tip. Also, I like to try and post sharp, creative pictures on HLS. You can have the best day on the water, but it makes it that much better when you can capture your catch through photo and video. My goal for HLS is to attract anglers that want to get a good laugh while learning something new, along with making somebody say, D@#n, that’s a cool photo!


Thanks for the time today Richie, we certainly had fun it and we know our kayak anglers are going to enjoy reading it.

Richie has been an inspiration to us at Werner Paddles and a key reason for the success we are having with the Hooked line and reaching out to the kayak fishing community. He is never short of energy, laughs or the willingness to help others. It’s an honor to call him a friend and have him on our pro-staff.

If you’re at the Boondoggle stop by the Werner booth and say hello, or give "Hook Line and Sinker" a follow. Above all, thanks for your service to our Country.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Answering the Call

 
No matter how much you fight it, you can't seem to escape it...
 
There are constant reminders everywhere you look...
 
When you try and concentrate on something else, subliminal triggers derail your train of thought...
 
The call of the gulf is strong...it's only a matter of time before you answer it!
 
 
 
The daily grind of my new job at Hurlburt Field, Florida is beyond demanding; early mornings, long hours, and inevitable "taskers" are just a few of the newly acquired components of my day to day routine. One part of my day that I'm in absolute love with is the every day sight of the Santa Rosa Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.
 
The emerald beauty winks at me daily
 
and make no mistake...I always wink back ;)
 
Fishweather forecasted mid 70s with winds under 5mph. Even though I had no intentions on playing around in the gulf, it only made sense. I frantically gathered the mandatory gear and made way. It was go time!
 
The last minute plan was no different that the previous ones; troll both live and dead cigar minnows on the way to a couple of bottom spots. It took a while, but around 200 yards before arriving to the first spot, my pink duster rod goes down with the reel singing my favorite tune.
 


 


Violent king mackerel are always a welcome break in the continuous monotony of the slow troll of a kayak. Catching kings is fun, but I was really hoping for a sailfish or a mahi. I know I'm the new guy on the totem pole when it comes to paying dues to the gulf, but it doesn't hurt to think big. With the latest cold front dropping off cold northern air, it's only a matter of time before the local pelagic species give us the ole' deuces sign for the rest of the year.

I got to the bottom spot with high hopes! I marked suspended fish which was a very welcomed sight. I brought plenty of frozen dead bait that was to be used chunks of chum. It didn't take long to see schools of triggerfish tear apart the sinking cut bait. After a couple of minutes, something different caught my eye...it had color...red color!

The triggerfish were ringing the dinner bell and the red snapper were on their way. Once I saw the snapper pushing out the trigger fish, I dropped a chunk tipped circle hook to get on the action. The anticipation was high because you knew the hookup was just a matter of time.

 
As I watch the multiple chunks slowly fall while disappearing one by one, I begin to focus on the...OH $%@&, FISH ON!!!



The relentless jackhammer fight is something that you really can't explain. You just have to experience the chaos! You know when you come tight with these tough bastids that you're gonna have your hands full!


These fish were fired up! I caught one after another. The biggest one was in the low 20" range so I didn't expect anything bigger. Towards the end of the day and the last couple of handfuls of chunk bait, I had another take down. My drag did a couple of small zips, but nothing impressive. I then put some @$$ into it and started to bring him up...that's when all hell broke loose!

Instantly my rod doubled over and my Shimano Thunnus Ci4 6000 was screaming for dear life! I then second guessed what I hooked into. I immediately tightened my drag as tight as it could go because I feared the fish was going to get to the bottom without me being able to turn it.

Back and forth, up and down, I even caught myself grunting out,
 
"Come here you SOB!"

Once I saw color, my heart started racing. Seeing what looked like a trash can lid of straight red was more than enough to make me re-focus. I backed off the drag just enough to give myself a buffer zone in case this fish went ballistic on the surface. As his eye peeked out from the surface of the water, it was game over.






The sun was getting lower in the horizon as I watched the big snapper swim off. Now it was time to call it a day. My biggest red snapper to date coupled with the best up and down fight of my life left a perm-a-grin on my cheesy face that lasted for the rest of the day.

Boy, am I glad I answered!

~See ya on the water!


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Breaking in the New Toy

 
Fisherman are no different than little kids...

Kids like to play with their new toys when they get them, and

fisherman like to play with new toys after, well...when they get them!!

IMMEDIATELY AFTER THEY GET THEM!!!



The new lime camo Old Town Predator 13 is one awesome looking kayak! Everybody knows it handles great in the ponds, rivers, and lakes...but how does she do offshore? Well, there is only one way to find out! 

I decided to break her in for a few hours before the Sunday football games. The gulf had 2-3' swells, steady easterly wind, and surf that was a wee little sporty. It wasn't ideal conditions, but I wanted to see how the Predator handled it. 

Just as I imagined, I punched through a few small sets of surf and it was off to the troll. I got to the 40' range and started my course. It didn't take long before the duster rigged cigar minnow was in the mouth of a hungry king.


This guy measure 29" at the fork. I thought about keeping him but I didn't

 feel like cleaning fish on football sunday.

I kept up the troll and picked up a couple more smaller kings.

The water was fairly choppy and it was getting late in the day, so I headed back to the beach. On

 the way back in, BANG!!
 

 This king was not small! He may not be a true "smoker", but this guy put my 

reel to the test with metal burning runs.




Right after I released this fish, both of my batteries died on my cameras. My replacement batteries are hanging out in Davey Jones locker from a few weeks ago. Oh well! I ended the day with 3 king mackerel and 2 spanish mackerel. I caught the spanish back to back after the nice king. 

So, the Old Town Predator 13 in the surf and wide open ocean...no problem! It is a big boat, but it handled the swells and waves with ease. Any water that entered the cockpit was quickly drained out in the multiple scuppers. I was impressed! This kayak is going to see the gulf a lot more in the future! Stay tuned...

~See ya on the water!