Monday, December 9, 2013

From Woods to Water

Throughout the country the fall fishing scene is in full swing with some red hot action occurring in both freshwater and saltwater. The fishing isn't the only thing thats hot, the woods are now a crazy playground for it's residing furry critters! For many outdoorsman this time of year presents a challenge...Head to the woods or head to the water? I say...  

"What the hell, why not do both!"

Almost every year in mid November, I head back to my home state of Wisconsin for the annual 9 day gun deer season. For those that are not familiar with the long tradition in Wisconsin, the state takes the gun deer season as serious as New Orleans takes Mardi Gras! This year was special for my hunting group because it marked 20th year that we have had Indian Grave Deer Camp (IGDC) in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. IGDC is made up of around a dozen hunters that are all family and friends living in multiple connected tents, all on a self made campsite in the middle of the woods. For 9 days, we call this place home.

This was the coldest season that I could ever remember. It's not too often that the thermometer reads negative degree temperatures! One morning it was - 4 with a wind chill around - 20.

My father (IGDC Founder)  sharing "The Blind" with me in brutal temperatures

One plus side to frigid temperatures is that the deer have to get up and move. On the morning of opening day, moving is what they did. It didn't take more than 2 hours of the season before my 7mm Rem Mag rifle barked at a big bodied 8 point Wisconsin buck.

My sister Ashley and I. We make a great team in "The Blind"
As the season flew by as fast as it arrived, it was time to pack up and put the 2013 gun deer season in the books. All in all, I had a great year! I shot 2 bucks and passed on plenty of does and small bucks. The rest of IGDC did really good as well with most hunters bringing home some tasty venison for the freezer. Speaking of venison in the freezer, the Bekolay freezer is now loaded like a small meat department from a grocer. My two Wisconsin whitetails blessed our family with hot italians, 3 kinds of brats, country sausage, backstraps, cubed steak, regular steak, ground, and bacon burger. Life is good!

Once I got back to Virginia, I wasted no time boarding my Ocean Kayak battleship to hunt down the migrating mega striped bass (aka. striper, rockfish). Fellow HOOK1 Crew Member, Joe Underwood and I made the drive from the Peninsula to the striper grounds with high hopes of landing a pig. We really didn't hear of anything for solid reports, but we knew the water temperature was where it needed to be.
We joked around with the idea of getting on fish quick like we did during the year previous.  Conditions were foggy and misty with low winds, the perfect night to get on the big uns'! Honestly, I could not have drawn this up in my head any better. I dropped my weighted eel to a couple feet off the bottom and casted out my weightless free lined eel out in front of me to let him swim around to do his thing. Well, the free lined eel did his thing in about 4 cranks of the reel. Within the first 5 minutes of fishing during the big striper season, my Trident 13 was getting towed around by a slob of a striper. After multiple runs and body soaking thrashes on the surface, I was rewarded with a Virginia release citation striper at 45.5".
Photo Credit: Joe Underwood
The only bad part about getting one on the first cast is that it normally spells the end for the rest of the trip. Joe had one take down a couple hours later but unfortunately the hook never found the inside of the mouth. The rest of the night was fruitless but I obviously still rocked a smile from earlier.

Now that I have plenty of venison in the freezer, I have to change out weapons and hunt the migratory waterfowl that's traveling the coast. Hmm, I may have to make a day of hunting migrating birds followed by migrating stripers out of my battleship. This will work out perfect!

~See ya on the water!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tip of the Week: Bad Weather=Good Fishing

5lb bass caught right before a wicked snow storm

You can look at bad weather as either the glass is half empty or half full, it's up to you! When the weather looks like it's the perfect day to stay inside, you should do the opposite and get on the water. Some of the best feeding windows will occur when it's nasty out. As kayak anglers, strong winds will normally ruin a trip, but a cold snap or a low pressure system with precipitation can be easily overcome. Bust out some thermals and/or rain gear and take on what mother nature is giving you. More often than not, it's worth it!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tip of the Week: Paddle Selection

In kayak angling, selecting the right paddle for YOU is a key element that should not be overlooked. Too many anglers buy a paddle because it's cheap and on sale, they're buddy says they like it, or because it looks cool. Paddling the wrong paddle is like putting the wrong engine in a car, it's not going to be as efficient and the experience won't nearly be as enjoyable as it should be. Werner Paddles has a "Paddle Fit Guide" that lets you enter all of your information about your paddling characteristics. The guide will analyze your data and narrow down the type of paddle that is right for YOU. To find out if you paddle the correct paddle, or to narrow down your selection, check out the link below to for more information.

Werner Paddles "Paddle Fit Guide"

Monday, November 18, 2013

Last Minute Fix

Well dont'cha know, it's gettin' to be dat time of year again! Gotta put down da rod and pick up da rifle, it's deer season up nort' in my home state of Wisconsin! See, I'm polishing up on my accent so I don't sound like an outsider, ya know! Before I hit the road for my 1,000 mile journey, I needed to get back on the water one more time, one more last minute fix! 

I met my good buddy and fellow pro staffer, Rob Choi for a night time speckled trout session. Winds were next to nothing, water was a mirrored image of the surrounding shoreline, and expectations were high for the night ahead.
Ok, no time for the detailed description of each fish that was caught on what and how. We threw an array of lures from topwater, soft plastics, crankbaits, and mirrolures. I had my best luck trolling crankbaits and making bomb casts with my sinking Mirrolure. The night was not gangbusters by any means, but I caught around 10 trout up to 22.5".

William Ragulsky and YakAttack's Dan Smullen joined Rob and I not long after we launched, and they wasted no time getting into fish. I don't know the exact number that they got, William just told me that they caught "an @$$ load between 18" - 20", with Dan catching a solid 23.5"." Sounds good to me!

Dan's fat 23.5" trout. Photo credit: William Ragulsky

Rob also got into some good trout before he had to call it quits. This trip for Rob was just a "time killer" since his main goal is to finish off his quest for Virginia's "Expert Angler". He needs to catch one more species citation to complete it. Check out angling-addict to follow his tough journey.

All in all, I can't complain about the impromptu trip. Everybody got into good fish, the night was peaceful, and a few guys shared some laughs and told some stories. I'll be absent from my kayak for a couple weeks due to my upcoming Wisconsin deer hunting trip. It will be weird not to be fishing, but it will awesome to peg some deers and drink some beers with my buddies from da nort'! Oh yeah, my accent hasn't gone anywhere, YA KNOW!

~See ya on da water!

Tip of the Week: Slow Your Roll

Just because the water has cooled off doesn't mean that you have to give up on spinnerbaits. In cooler water, bass can still be aggressive and hit a fast burning spinnerbait. What you may find though is
that most bass are sluggish and prefer a slower presentation. Try letting your spinnerbait hit the bottom before you bring it back to the kayak. As you retrieve it, reel it just fast enough to keep the blades spinning but also maintaining bottom contact. This works exceptionally well around wood and rocks. Slow rolling a spinnerbait in cold water is a great way to put big fish in the boat!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Veterans Day Doubleheader

Bass fishing or deer hunting, bass fishing or deer hunting?...
Hell with it, it's Veterans Day and I'm going to do both because I can!

On this Veterans Day, I decided to spend my time on the water and in the woods instead of on the couch or at the desk. Feeling care-free, this is how I decided to go about my day:
  • Sleep in
  • Bass fish in the morning
  • Bowhunt in the afternoon 
  • Cocktail hour to top it all off
Normally I would wake up well before sunrise to catch the early morning bite, but not this time. I didn't want to hear any alarm clock, rooster, dog, nothing! This day was supposed to be stress free with zero deadlines. So I went about it just like that, careless as careless could be. Ya know what...I loved every minute of it!
I was greeted with bright blue skies and a reflection on the water that instantly made you think you were in a different world. I took my time loading and launching my PredatorMX with the hopes of catching a couple of bass while not worrying about anything. I worked spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and jerkbaits the first couple of hours to no avail. The bass must have been in the same "chill mode" that I was in, because they didn't want to do anything that entailed work! It was a good time to play off my relaxed and care-free attitude and slow it down a bit. I texas rigged one of my favorite worms and started chucking it to the base of cyprus trees. Jackpot!
These fish couldn't deny a slow moving meal. During the last hour on the water, I landed 3 bass up to 19". Even a couple small pickerel couldn't resist the texas rigged snack.
I'm a sucker for fall colors and observing nature in it's purest form. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try and capture my thought process while using the lens of my camera.
After a quick turn at the house and a swap of gear, it was on to the deer woods. Check this out...I was sitting in my deer stand for what felt like an eternity (actually 4 hours total), and the craziest thing happened to me. I heard some leaves moving off to my left, but didn't see anything. I looked around to my right and didn't see anything. Then when I finally looked behind me, I finally saw it. There stood a big...fat....tall...NOTHING at all! I didn't see anything besides hundreds of leaves falling to the ground and a parade of grey squirrels acting like they were all hoped up on Mountain Dew. Bummer!
That was it, my happy-go-lucky Veterans Day was in the books. I would be messing up if I didn't give credit where credit is due. Saying this not only as an American, but also as a veteran, thank you to those that have served, are actively serving, and to those that one day will take the oath to support and defend our great nation. Please, don't forget about these men and women the other 364 days of the year. Currently on active duty, I can tell you that there is nothing better than having somebody randomly tell you, "Sir, thank you for your service." Sometimes it's those little things that keeps us going with a smile.
Cheers to our Veterans! 
~See ya on the water!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Tip of the Week: Smartphone Apps

It's almost impossible NOT to see somebody on a smartphone in this day and age. Well, if you're one of those smartphone users that have not caught on to some useful tools that can be used on the water, you're behind the power curve! Many apps out there (Fishweather, Scoutlook, Navionics) are available at your finger tips to help you plan your next angling adventure. From tide charts, wind forecasts, solunar data, navigation, etc, these apps have it all. Some apps may a cost a few dollars, but they're well worth it. Before you take your next trip, do yourself a favor and browse around the app store on your phone and check out some of these apps. You will be glad that you did!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Legend of the Flats

As you travel from the early years to the modern day, you can recall certain individuals that helped you down the path of your angling journey. I guess you could say "mentor" or "teacher" but however you want to label it, we all know somebody that fits that title. In the beginning of my kayak fishing adventure, I was fortunate enough to meet one those individuals.

While running a string of crab traps with a lone junky fishing rod sticking up out of my milk crate, along came a paddler sporting a t-shirt with cut off sleeves in a 14 yellow kayak with a matching yellow crate holding only a couple of rods...that was it. I thought to myself, "Here comes another new kayak fisherman like myself." After a short conversation with the speckled trout guru, I immediately realized that Forrest Short was no rookie!
Since that day, hundreds of hours were spent on the flats chasing the beautiful sea trout. Throughout that time, I reached out to Forrest for advice on many different occasions. After every text message and email I would walk away with a little more "mojo" than I did before hand, knowing that the advice that I received was like sacred treasure. 
Recently, with the weather and kitchen passes working in unison, Joe Underwood and I were able to meet up with Forrest for a pre-cold front flats attack. To be honest, I don't know what I was more excited for...hooking up with some nice trout or sharing the water with a guy that I highly respected.

Would you know it, Forrest was the first one to strike with a nice 25" citation speckled trout before the sun even came up. Not soon after, Forrest nails another one, and another! Before the sun could even wipe the sleep from it's eye, the "trout whisperer" himself had 3 citations before I landed a fish.

Forrest with a nice 26" release citation, his 31st of the year!
3rd citation of the day. 24.25"

While Joe was landing his biggest speckled trout of the year, I hooked into a nice schoolie striper. After that, the fishing slowed to a snails pace and that was all she wrote. All in all, we all caught nice stripers and speckled trout before we threw in the towel.
Myself with a 25" striper and Joe with a beautiful 26" release citation speckled trout

This wasn't about the number of fish we caught or about the one that got away, it was all about absorbing the many subtleties and tidbits of information from a guy who has probably forgotten more than I'll ever know about flats fishing. If once thing is for certain, I'll always appreciate the paddler with the cut off sleeves who took the time to help a new guy out.
~See ya on the water!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Tip of the Week: Crazy Alberto Knot

If you're one of the many anglers that attaches their fluorocarbon leader to their braid with a big barrel swivel or a bulky knot, there is a better solution for you. The Crazy Alberto Knot eliminates bulk without sacrificing strength. The super skinny diameter coupled with superb knot strength gives the angler a chance to run as long of a leader as they desire because the knot passes through the guides of the rod with ease. Check out this video of "Crazy Alberto Knie" himself demonstrating the knot:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A "Different" Feeling

Sometimes it's impossible to explain...the random thoughts about "the next cast" that wake you up in the middle of the night, the severe anticipation about the early morning's events that distract you from everything else, the different "pep in your step" as you load the kayak and gear like it's your first time ever...whatever it is, sometimes it just feels different.
This time was exactly that, my typical routine had a feeling unlike most others in the past. I always fantasize about the upcoming adventure, think about the bite, and picture my paddle out...but for some reason, this time I just had "that feeling", and it felt good.  
The sun's rays soaked into the fog lingering in the cool air just above the surface of the warmer water, leaving an orange glow that amplified the morning jitters. The buzz was felt by both Joe and I as we headed out in search of Virginia's big speckled trout.
There was a sense of deja vu as I made my first cast. It felt like I played out the scenario multiple times in my head. I knew the bait that I wanted to throw, where I wanted to throw it, and where the magic should happen. It took all of 5 casts before the hooks of my Mirrodine were set into a strong set of jaws. It seemed as if I prematurely felt the electricity of this 25.5" release citation speckled trout.
I tagged and released her to hopefully give another angler the same thrill that I just experienced. The funny thing is that as I watched the beautiful fish slowly swim away on the shallow flat, my excitement started to fade. Kind of like we had some weird, unexplainable connection that was just, well...a little different.
~See ya on the water


Monday, October 28, 2013

Tip of the Week: Layer Up

If you're still out kayak fishing through the fall and winter months, you're probably not doing it in shorts and a t shirt. During this time of year, it's all about staying warm and dry. Wearing a quality moisture-wicking base layer on your skin is the key element in comfort and safety. Moisture robs heat from your body's core leaving you feel "chilled". The base layer wicks moisture away to the next outer layer which helps retain your body heat. After the base layer, it's up to you on the route you wanna take for your remaining layers. Check out Kayak Kevin's video on how he layers up for the cold weather season. Video link below:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

YakAttack BlackPak Review

"Just another crate..."
"Too big..."
Those are the negatives that I've heard about the YakAttack BlackPak before I ever saw one in person. Even after hearing some premature comments about the product, I knew it was just a matter of time before I had to own one. When I handled the BlackPak for the first time, I noticed that it was not just another crate, or overpriced, and it definitely was not too big. I immediately thought one thing...I found my foundation to build upon! 
The purpose of this review is to give honest feedback on how this product directly affects my experiences where it matters...on the water! Here are the main points that I'm going to cover:
  • Quick overview of the YakAttack BlackPak
  • How I use my BlackPak
  • Final thoughts

Due to high demand in the kayak fishing community for an upgraded gear and tackle management system, YakAttack designed and released a product called the BlackPak. The BlackPak takes the place of the traditional milk crate with a system that features a streamlined look, sturdy feel, and endless options for additional rigging. Made from a UV resistant composite material, the BlackPak is designed to withstand the stresses of the hardcore angler along with the harmful rays of the sun. It comes with 3 rod holders that can be installed in any location, with the option to add more if wanted. The hinged lid provides ultimate security for your gear and tackle by having the option to latch the lid if desired. Built-in handles on the sides allow for easy transport to and from your kayak. The top rails accept installation of accesories that fit the Mighty Mount and GearTrac. The rails even have notched ends so that the kayaks tankwell bungee cords can secure the BlackPak to the kayak. The BlackPak will run you around $125, but we will figure out if it's worth it or not. First impression is that YakAttack put a lot of time and thought into this product! Now lets see how I use my BlackPak.
As the wheels in my head turned with idea after idea, it was quite apparent on the direction I wanted to take. First thing I did was install 3 extra rod holders to the front side of my BlackPak. Next, I installed Conseal silencing foam to any area that would make noise. I installed it at the bottom of BlackPak, as well as the sections of the lid that makes contact with the side wall. This dampens the noise drastically which helps not to spook fish! After that, I installed 12" pieces of black YakAttack GearTrac GTSL90 on each rail. The GearTracs will be the mounting point for most of my YakAttack implements. Lastly I installed 2 pieces of bungee cord down the middle to act as dividers for my tackle trays.

YakAttack GearTrac GTSL90 with multiple implements mounted on 1.5" YakAttack Screwballs
Notice the notched rail end with the black bungee cord securing it in place

With my permanent attachments installed and ready to go, it's on to the gear and tackle that I like to carry on a consistent basis. Lately, 95% of my fishing has been saltwater over freshwater. For my inshore outings, I have my system pretty dialed in. Here is what I carry: 
  • 2ea Plano 3700 Stowaway cases filled with assorted topwater, jerkbaits, crankbaits, twitcbaits, etc
  • 1ea Plano 3600 Stowaway case filled with various jigs and hooks
  • Marine VHF radio
  • Sunblock and bug spray
  • Fish tagging kit
  • Container with extra camera batteries, sd cards, cleaning cloths, etc.
  • Handy dandy bag of soft plastics
  • Leader material secured with parachute cord around a rod holder 
Without the size of the BlackPak the way it is, I wouldn't be able to fit everything inside. For that fact alone, I love the size of the BlackPak. Not only that, it fits perfectly into the tankwell of my Ocean Kayak Trident 13. Now I don't feel like there is wasted space compared to when it was just my milk crate. With the BlackPak all rigged and packed up, it's time to cover my favorite configurations.
On any given basis, I could be running 2 different GoPros, an Olympus digital camera, lights, etc. The reason that I installed the GearTracs is because I want to have an infinite number of options on the location of each implement that I decide to use on a given outting. This is very important when trying to get the right camera angle for any scenario. The following photos illustrate the products I attach to the BlackPak and where I install them.

Forward rail: YakAttack VisiCarbon Pro on the port side and a YakAttack Panfish on the starboard side

Forward rail: YakAttack Zooka Tube Rod holders mounted on a 1.5" YakAttack Screwball on the starboard and port sides, YakAttack Panfish in the middle
Rear rail: YakAttack VisiCarbon Pro

Forward rail: RAM Tube 2008 rod holder mounted on a YakAttack 1.5" Screwball on port and starboard sides,
YakAttack Panfish in the middle
Rear rail: YakAttack VisiCarbon Pro

Forward rail: YakAttack Panfish on port side, YakAttack Dogbone/Panfish Portrait combo mounted on a 1.5" YakAttack Screwball on starboard side.

Forward rail: YakAttack Panfish on port side, YakAttack Dogbone/Panfish Portrait combo mounted on a 1.5" YakAttack Screwball on starboard side.

As you can see, I use my BlackPak for a lot more than just a crate. The BlackPak has allowed me to achieve certain camera angles that I would never get otherwise, store gear in a central location, carry more rods, and most of all...broaden my creative thinking when it comes to personalization for my fishing platform.
Okay, if I had to list a drawback, it would be that the BlackPak will not fit in ALL kayak tankwells. Certain kayaks, mainly the short ones, will not be able to use the BlackPak. My Old Town Predator MX tankwell is just a little too short for the BlackPak. I know that YakAttack is fully aware of that and I'm pretty sure that future designs of the BlackPak to fit smaller tankwells are in work.
Luther Cifers and Team YakAttack knocked it out of the park with the BlackPak. I'm in love with my BlackPak to say the least. Without a doubt, this is the most universal and integral tool that I have in my kayak angling arsenal. BY FAR, it's worth the price! My overall score is:
4.5 out of 5 stars
If you do not own a BlackPak but you love kayak fishing, do yourself a favor and buy one. You get what you pay for and plus it's made in the USA. Honestly, you won't regret purchasing one. They're available at HOOK1 and you can save 10% at checkout with the code HOOKLINESINKER for any HOOK1 purchase. As always...
~See ya on the water