Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Werner Weekend

This past weekend was an awesome couple of days for Virginia's Werner Paddles angling team. Danny Mongno from Werner Paddles, along with the film crew of John and Hunter, made the trip to tidewater Virginia to film for Werner's upcoming series of paddles...designed for kayak fishing! Needless to say, the entire team was more than excited to be apart it!
The plan was to spend Saturday shooting at a "saltwater location" and Sunday at a "freshwater location". Werner's Team Paddlers that were present for the shoot were: Rob Choi, Mark Lozier, Drew Camp, William Ragulsky, and myself. Without diving into the details and specifics of the weekend; we shot a lot of fishing scenes, product specifics, and how-to's. 
Danny Mongno going over technique specifics. Filming by John Grace

The weather and moon phase provided tough fishing conditions on Saturday. As the sun rose over the horizon, we were greeted with the sight of tailing reds in less than a foot of water. The easy part was seeing them, getting them to open their jaws was a different story. As the day went on, we hooked up with plenty of fish and got plenty of good footage.

With Saturday "in the bag", it was time to spray off the salt and get into the fresh. We were once again greeted with high pressure and tough conditions. The awesome thing about these anglers are that not only are they great paddlers, they're extremely talented fishermen! You knew that even with a tough bite, we were going to come through...And we did!

The highlight of the weekend was not the fishing or the filming, it was the socializing! A good team of any sort not only works together, but plays together as well. It was an awesome time getting to know everybody from Werner on more of a "personal" level. We had a lot of laughs, told stories, and shared ideas about the future. One thing is for certain, Werner Paddles is definitely "Hooked" on fishing"!
Keep an eye out in the next month or so for Werner Paddles new line of kayak fishing paddles by following Werner TV at Also check them out on Facebook and give them a "Like" to receive details on the release of the new line. You don't want to miss it!


And as always...

~See ya on the water!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rainy Day Redfish

Monday, the dreaded start of the tiresome work week. The normally beautiful day that serves as a reminder of the crappy weather that ruined your previous weekend. If you're like me and decide to take off work to fish on Monday, the crappy weather will normally follow suit.

I got an early start with plans to stay out all day. The weather was supposed to be decent with a chance of rain later in the day. Go figure, the forecast was wrong and it rained most of the day. What did I forget to bring with me? You know it, rain gear! the tide dropped out the fishing picked up! The extremely low tide was just what I was waiting for...


Quick Report:

I was able to entice a couple of trout between 18" - 21.5" on topwater before I went after reds. The clouds and rain made it impossible to comb the flats for sight fishing. I chose to stake out in a "pinch point" between two shore lines and intercepted reds as they worked into a shallow cove to reek havoc on schools of baitfish. You could see the wake coming from a distance, along with the tips of their tails breaking the surface. Within a couple of hours, I tagged and released around 2 dozen reds between 19" and 23.5".

Setup of the Day:
Rod: 7'0 St. Croix Mojo Inshore Series, Med Light - Fast Action
Reel: Shimano Stradic Ci4 2500
Line: 20lb PowerPro braid, 20lb Seaguar Fluorocarbon leader
Lure: Z-Man Grass Kickerz, texas rigged on an 1/8oz weighted worm hook

Over time, I started to follow my mother's footsteps and try to carry a camera with me everywhere I go.  Even though I hate putting down the fishing rod, I love picking up the camera to capture those eye catching moments.

The bald eagle brings back memories of my early childhood. I remember being on the water at a very early age, casting musky lures with my dad all day while watching bald eagles roam the skies of our northern Wisconsin waters. If only my current spots had loons to sound off at sunset, I'd be in heaven..

Even though this Monday was full of clouds and rain, it still was a wonderful day on the water. The fishing was fantastic, topped off with a photo session of Mr. Eagle. I'll take a start to the week like this anytime!

~See ya on the water!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Catchin' For Kids - Anglers Club Challenge

There is something to be said when a kayak angling club can hold their own in the power boat world. Let's face it, kayak anglers are basically viewed as "second class" fisherman in some of the eyes and minds of power boat fisherman. Looking at if for face value; a $900 piece of molded plastic vs. a $30,000+ high horsepower machine, one can see why that might be the case.
The annual Catchin' for Kids - Anglers Club Challenge is a charity tournament held at Vinings Landing Marina in Norfolk, Virginia. The tournament is comprised of 8 angling clubs from the Virginia Tidewater region. 7 of the 8 clubs are powerboat clubs, and the other is the sole kayak club; Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association (TKAA).
The format of the tournament is quite simple; 14 different species divisions with points awarded to the top 3 weighing fish in each division. First place gets 3 points, Second gets 2, and third gets 1. The goal for every club is to catch as many species as you can and try to cumulate points for your total club score. "TEAM TKAA" was made up of four teams of 5 anglers. The teams were; Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, Eastern Shore, and Back River. TEAM TKAA's captain was Mark Lozier of 1st Landing Guide Service out of Virginia Beach.

Story of TEAM "Back River"

I was fortunate enough to be Captain of the "Back River" team. The species that we were responsible for targeting were speckled trout and redfish. The team's anglers were; Chip Camp, Werner Team Paddler partner Drew Camp, and myself. Our other 2 anglers could not make it to the tournament due to last minute situations. We were not too worried about it because the three of us felt confident in our ability to get the job done!
The day started out dark and early at 5am. Chip was the first on the board with a 19" speckled trout on his first cast. Normally it's not a good sign with a fish on the first cast, not today though. Drew gets on some tailing reds as usual, and in no time adds a couple of solid slot sized redfish to the stringer. Knowing the area and the size of the reds, I figured it would be tough for me to upgrade on reds so I geared my efforts towards speckled trout.

I knew with the tide cycle that it would be a little bit before the bite would pick up.  Even though my target was speckled trout, I didn't mind have a demonic redfish plaster my top water. Since Drew already put a hurting on the reds, I tagged it and let him swim away.

Skies were blue, sun was high, water was flat, and the bite was tough. It took a lot of work but I was finally able to get a solid speckled trout for the team. Mullet pattern was the only the only pattern that seemed to trigger my toothy friends.

Time passed by without the specked trout bite ever really picking up. I felt that top water was not the ticket so I went back to my fresh water days of fishing and decided to rip a minnow style crankbait through the grass. Not 5 minutes into the tactic, BANG, another 20" in the boat. No time for pictures, time is a wastin'!

With a nasty thunderstorm accompanying the buzzer for the end of the day, it was time to head to the weigh-in to contribute our efforts. TEAM "Back River", even though undermanned, finished strong with our limit of 3 speckled trout and 3 redfish for the weigh-in station.

TEAM TKAA came through in mighty fashion as we received plenty compliments and "at a boys" at the weigh station. All 4 of our teams brought in highly respectable fish, even with a handful of citation class fish to show! Now...the waiting game to see how we fared.

Once the bottom end of the field was announced up to the top 3, WITHOUT hearing our name, we knew we had a great shot to win this thing. The raffle drawing could not get over fast enough so we could hear how we placed. After we heard the announcement of 2nd place going to the Norfolk Anglers Club, it was pure joy! You would have swore that we just won the Super Bowl or Powerball with our cheering and high fives! A kayak club just won an event that is normally dominated by power boats, simply amazing! Click here to view the results.

Top Row, from left to right: Joe Underwood, Rob Choi, William Ragulsky, Andy Backowski, Alex Britland, Jay Brooks, Richie Bekolay, Jim Short, Wayne Bradby, Chuck Wrenn, Jeff Lockhart, Kris Lozier, and Tom Powers
Bottom Row, from left to right: Chip Camp, Drew Camp, Mark Lozier, and Joe Maccini

Not only did we win the Club Challenge, we dominated the event! TEAM TKAA scored an amazing 32 points with the second place finisher scoring 19 points. TEAM "Back River" swept all 3 places for both speckled trout and redfish! Great job Chip and Drew, you guys were awesome out there! A big "Thank You" to Mark Lozier for putting together our team and dealing with last minute efforts to make it happen. My hat's off to all of TEAM TKAA for giving it our best shot and coming through. I could not be more proud and honored to be apart of such an amazing group of individuals. FIRST PLACE BABY!!

~See ya on the water!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sight Fishing Tips...Salt Style


"Picture this"... 
You're standing in the cockpit of your super stealthy kayak while slowly cruising the salty flats, you spot a small school of redfish a mere 20 feet away. You stop and attempt to make a cast at the school only to blow them out like you threw in a stick of dynamite.
Few things can get an anglers heart pumping as hard as actually seeing the fish you intend to catch. I mean think about, you're eyes are locked on to the prize that you're after. All of the time and money spent for this occasion and you're in the moment of truth. The reality is you're still far from landing your target.
What the kayak angler needs to consider is the many variables that go into sight fishing. Sure it's fun to watch skiff anglers on TV poling around the flats while the guy on elevated platform directs the caster who's standing on a cooler, where to throw his presentation. That couldn't be farther from the truth for the solo kayak fisherman.
Before you head out with the mindset that you're going to sight cast to school after school of feeding redfish, you have make sure you're prepared to do so. The angler that possesses the tools to get the job done is setting themselves up for success. There are few essentials that you should have in order to sight fish effectively:
  •  First thing that you MUST have is a quality pair of sunglasses! This cannot be stressed enough! If you cannot see the fish, you will have a difficult time to say the least. What a good quality pair of shades will do is help "brighten" your stalking grounds and eliminate surface glare that can otherwise blind the sight fisherman. The outline of a fish or the flicker of the tail is all you may see. Those that can pick out the minute details generally have a "higher than most" success rate. I use the Maui Jim Stingray with bronze lenses. These glasses enable me to be able to pick apart the flats and spot fish with ease.

  • Yes you don't need a skiff sized push pole, but having a kayak version push pole is a huge plus. This is where the 8' YakAttack ParkNPole comes to play. Not only is this the best kayak stake out pole on the market, it doubles up to be an incredibly effective push pole. Flip the pole around and use the handle as the push pole foot to push off from. When you're using it as a push pole and locate a fish, you can then flip it back around and slide the ParkNPole through your anchor trolley or scupper hole to keep stationary in even windy conditions.

  • Silence is Golden! This saying holds true for the sight fishermen. If you're in striking distance of an unsuspecting fish and drop your paddle or stake out pole to the deck, you can kiss that fish good bye. What many people fail to realize is that sound resonates through the water. The quieter you can move about your fishing platform, the better! Conseal is made up of sheets of stick-on foam that can be applied to almost any area of the kayak. Cut out pieces to stick on areas that may make contact with your paddle, stake out pole, and fishing rods. Not only does this dampen the sound of you laying down your gear; it is also great for traction.

Do you need the best pair of sunglasses or another stake out pole to add to the corner of the garage, no..? But do you want to catch more fish and enjoy your time while doing it? Now that we have discussed a few items that will help do the job, let's figure out how to use them for success.

Weather is the biggest factor when it comes to sight fishing. Your flat could be loaded with hungry fish but clouds blocking the sun could put the brakes on any hopes of seeing the fish. Bright sunny, bluebird skies are what you need. It's amazing how much you can see on the flats when the sun peeks out from behind the clouds. One important detail that you must consider is the position of the sun! You always want to keep the sun to your back. The reasons are quite simple; first it's very difficult for the fish to see you if they're staring at the sun. Picture lying on the ground while looking at the sun; everything between you and the sun is shadowed and you're blinded. Secondly, it is a lot easier to dissect the flat with your eyes when the sun is at your back. This will help you spot the fish much easier. Keep in mind the angle of the sun as well. The lower the sun is, the more of a shadow you give off. A fish may have no idea that you're there but once the shadow passes over them, they're gone!

Another factor to keep in mind is the wind direction. A light wind can be a sight fishermen's friend. A slight ripple on the surface allows the angler to get away with more movement (which we will cover in a bit). If possible, paddle or pole your kayak into the wind. "Into the wind" meaning the wind is hitting you in the face. The last thing you want is to gain speed and blow out an area because the wind pushed you into the fish. Going into the wind also helps when you stake out when you spot a fish. The wind will keep your kayak facing the direction you were going which helps to keep your eyes on the fish.

Along with the weather and wind is your tide cycle. In the areas that I regularly sight fish, I prefer the last 2 hours of the outgoing tide through the first 2 hours of the incoming tide. This is because it's a lot easier seeing the transition areas and depressions that hold fish. The water is skinnier and makes it much easier to see the actual fish. Redfish for example will push bait into the back of bays and coves during low tide. What better sight is there than the glimpse of the blue tipped tails coming out of the water moving schools of baitfish into the shallows?

Keep it simple! You don't need much tackle when you're combing the flats. I like to use a 7' medium light rod paired with a 2500 series reel. A fluorocarbon leader attached to your mainline is a must! These fish can be very skittish in skinny water. For most sight fishing outings, I use texas rigged plastics on a bass style worm hook. I have been having great luck using 1/16oz - 1/8oz Owner TwistLock hooks tipped with a 5" Z-Manz Jerk Shadz. This setup is completely weedless and the slow fall rate of the Jerk Shadz keep the bait in the strike zone longer which make it very difficult for a hungry redfish to turn down.

Now that we have nailed down the pieces of the puzzle and figured out how to successfully stalk your target fish, it's time to make it happen! This is the "make it or break it" moment. If you see the fish without spooking them, the ball is in your court. DO NOT make any crazy or sudden movements because most of the time you see these fish out of a kayak, they're not more than 20 feet away. A smart redfish or any other predator fish will spot those movements more often than not. Slowly creep and lay down your paddle, push pole, or stake out very gently. Grab your setup and slowly stand just high enough to keep eyes on the fish. Remember, the higher you are, the more of a profile you give off. Make a slow, soft cast past the fish or out in front of it, keeping in mind to try and "lay" the bait in the water and not "splash" it in. This may take a little practice to get used to. Flipping and pitching bass fishermen know exactly what I mean by "lay" the bait in. If you can get the fish to spot your presentation without spooking, it's almost money in the bank. Now it's up to you to read the fish to see what makes them tick. Some will pounce on it, some may want to see some action.

Having all the tools in the world doesn't mean something will get fixed. It's how the tools are used that will produce different outcomes. It's up to the dedicated kayak angler to take what they learned and apply it on the water. By putting these tips to use, you will be more successful in your sight fishing endeavors. Remember, you don't want to throw a stick of dynamite during the moment of truth.

~See ya on the water!