Monday, September 30, 2013

Bringing Home the Bacon

     Every year in September, the Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association hosts the 3rd largest kayak fishing tournament in the country. This event draws hundreds of anglers from as far north as Maine, and as far south as Florida, to the tidewater area of Virginia to see who can bring home bragging right, a new kayak, and more importantly, raise money for a good cause. In 2012, TKAA donated $15,000 to Heroes On The Water, an organization committed to helping veterans by using a unique kayak fishing program, which allows the participants a chance to decompress from the stresses associated with combat and the physical rigors of rehabilitation. 

     As so often is the case, the weather for this years Kayak Fish for Charity Tournament looked dismal, but that wasn't going to stop us. We take this one pretty serious since its in our own backyards, not to mention the fact that Kam, Billy, and I had all placed in different divisions last years and wanted to better our finishes this time around. Having had her 1st place finish taken from her at last years weigh-in due to a loophole in the rules, Kam was especially driven this year.
     Billy and I had picked a spot that he was familiar with, and we thought would be productive, and fished it hard the weekend before the tournament with great results. Seven days later Billy, Kam, myself, and Alex paddled away from the launch confident that we would catch fish, and hoping they would be competitive. Redfish were plentiful this year, with huge numbers of fish in the 18-22" range, and we knew we would find them with ease. Good numbers of larger Speckled Trout were being caught in the area we were fishing, and though the Flounder bite wasn't as good as in years past, I figured we could bounce a jig in the channels til we found one. 

First fish of the day was a healthy 20"er, and my biggest Redfish of the day.

 My attitude toward the Flounder may have been to lackadaisical.
It wasn't much but it would have to do.
The Specks didn't want to come out and play. Although I had missed a couple much larger fish on topwater at first light, this was the only that I landed.... embarrassing.


     Kam had a bit of a different strategy than the rest of us. That was because, the Female Angler Division would be given to the largest Speckled Trout, Flounder, or Red Drum caught by a female. She figured that the winning fish would be a Drum, so she fished hard for them all day and was rewarded with fish after fish, the biggest of which went 21.75"

These two swallowed the hook and were destined to be blackened and seared.

     We packed up and headed for the weigh-in hoping that Kam's 21.75" Redfish was enough. She was trying not to get her hopes up, but I was confident she should place again this year. We had dinner and a few beers while the judges checked and double check all the paperwork. The tournament committee does a great job of soliciting donations, which makes for the biggest kayak fishing raffle I've ever seen- it takes hours to get it all raffled off. After a few more beers and a long wait, it was time for the results to be announced. We knew Kam had placed, because she had been called back to turn the pictures of her fish for final judging, and when the third place fish was announced at 19.25", I knew she had it. Kamaron had finally taken 1st Place!!!

I am so proud of her. She has the same passions for fishing as I do, and she's damn good at what she does. She's an awesome fishing partner and an even better life partner. Love you babe.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Gettin' Pops on some Pups

     As with most of us, my dad was the one that taught me how to fish when I was a kid. We spent countless days out on my grandfathers boat catching Spot, Croaker, White Perch, and the occasional Flounder, in the tributaries of the Rappahannock River. 

Now that I've grown up, and fishing has become a passion of mine, I'm in the unique position to be able to teach him now. As long as I've been kayak fishing, I've often thought about how awesome it would be to get Dad out on the water, but Cerebral Palsy limits the use of his right hand, making paddling out of the question. For the first few years, Papa Dukes didn't show much interest in kayak fishing, but lately, he had started getting more and more into the idea. Dad had taken the Pro Angler 12 out for a spin at the Appomattox River Company Demo Day back in June, and was itching to get out and chase some Redfish. Billy and I put together a game plan, and with some help (a borrowed Hobie Pro Angler 12) from Joe Underwood  , we were off to Lynnhaven Inlet early Saturday morning to see if we could bend a rod. 

We headed out of Owl Creek and let Dad get his seat and pedals straight before making our way to the fishing grounds. Once we arrived, we staked out and explained the jist of what we were gonna be doing. Dad had his lines out as quick as possible and was ready to rip some lips! I had just gotten moved over into my spot about 25' away, when I look over and see Dad popping cork disappear. He gave him a good hook set and a minute later, Dad had landed his first Red Drum @ 19".

Watching Dad fight the fish, and light up when the drag started screaming was awesome. I imagine it was kinda the same way he felt watching me fish as a kid. We got a few pictures, and put the fish on a stringer since it had swallowed the jighead. 

Dad was itching to get another so I got out of his way and let him get his lines back out. Billy picked up a couple of Reds around the same size as Dad's, but I wasn't catching anything. I wasn't really fishing though... the day wasn't about me getting on fish. I was just enjoying the time fishing with my father. It was about 30 minutes later when I heard Dad say something and looked over to see him bowed up! The light breeze had caused me to drift away a little, but Billy was nearby helped Pops land his second Redfish @ 18.5".

We continued to fish the area for another 45 minutes or so, but the tide was dropping out quick, so we decided to head out to a deeper creek channel and see if we could find some Speckled Trout or Flounder. After spooking a couple larger Redfish on a shallow point at the creek mouth, we pulled the kayaks up on a sandbar island and got out to stretch. There were a couple fish breaking in the creek so we began casting plastics. Everyone was getting bites, but the dink trout couldn't get the hooks in their mouths. I finally managed to find the largest in the school and landed a 12.5" Speck. 

The tide was almost all the way out now, so we decided to pack it in and ride the last of the outgoing current back to Owl Creek. It had been an awesome day on the water, my most memorable day for sure, and I was honored to have been able to share something I love so much, with someone I love so much. Dad is hooked, and is setting aside money to purchase his very own Pro Angler. I can't wait to get out there with him again and see if we can catch him some big Speckled Trout and Striper. Even if we get skunked, it will be time well spent. 

I want to thank Joe Underwood for letting us borrow his kayak, and Billy Ragulsky for helping with the logistics and the company.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Kam's 1st to the 1st

My wife has been wanting to fish the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel with me for a year now, but it had proven difficult to get her schedule to align itself with the weather and currents. With the water warming and the first reports of Sheepshead being caught, we took advantage of Kam having a free Saturday and headed to Chicks Beach.

 After digging some mole crabs, we paddled out to a dead calm Chesapeake Bay. We worked our way out towards the 1st Island, dropping on random pilings along the way. The sheepshead were proving difficult to locate, so we switched gears and started looking for Spadefish. I couldn't seem to get a bite, but Alex and Billy were catching a couple here and there. Kam finally had one take her hook and after a brief fight with a jackhammer, she landed her first Spade.

We made our way out to the 1st Island to catch up with Rob Choi and Joe Underwood. Joe had hooked and landed a 43" Black Drum while Sheepshead fishing along the rocks.

Photo Credit: Rob Choi

He had switched gears and now was having some luck jigging Flounder, and Rob was chasing Big Ugly(black drum) along the rocks of the island, but they were being picky about what they wanted to eat. I spotted a couple myself, but the outcome was no different than Rob's was. Alex managed a small Sheepshead and Rob stuck a tag in it for him before releasing it.

My luck was not changing and I couldn't seem to find a bite from anything other than Black Sea Bass and Croaker. We worked our way back towards shore, fishing pilings here and there, but the fish weren't biting. We ended the day with few catches, but good times were had by all, and Kam had one more notch in her belt. One thing is for sure, when the fishing gets slow and there's a bunch of us just floating around, the trash talking and heckling will be plentiful. Good company is what makes any day on the water a good day.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hawaiian Honeymoon Hook-Ups

I really should have written a detailed account of our incredible trip to Hawaii immediately after returning, but since I'm such a slacker, this will be more of a photo recap of our time spent fishing.

     I am one of the few lucky men who's wife loves to fish almost as much I do. This being the case, we were both pumped to have a couple weeks in Kona to explore the Big Island, and more importantly, the crystal clear Pacific waters teeming with pelagic fishes. After 2 separate mechanical issues with our plane, and a 12 hour delay, we finally arrived in paradise.

                                                                                                                   The Kailua-Kona waterfront.

We had scheduled a fishing charter 2 days into the trip aboard the Pacific Blue, with Capt. Bill Casey. That afforded Kam and I just enough time to get settled in, get some rest, and be ready to wrestle with some fishes.

Luck wasn't on our side that day, and although we did have a big Blue come in and blow up behind the boat, the line never came tight. We headed in with an empty box and a slight feeling of defeat. Still, all hope was not lost... this wouldn't be our only chance to bend a rod while on this rock.

     We had also booked a kayak mothership charter with Capt. John Tarson of Screaming Reel Adventures for just a couple days later. This was something we had been fantasizing about for quite some time, so we were eager to do some paddling.

                                                                 Notice the slide to the left of the outboard- makes launching and recovery very easy.

 We met John, along with his mates Patrick and Greg at Kawaihae Harbor, to find the water dirty brown instead of crystal clear like they are used to. There had been alot of rain on Maui and all the run off had stained the water and made a layer of floating mulch and organic matter... fishing was going to be tough. We made our way out to clean, open water, launched the kayaks and began trolling rigged ballyhoo.

Kam had a peanut Mahi take her bait near the surface, but it jumped almost immediately and threw the hook. We stuck around there for a while, but struggled to find a bite. Eventually we left the area and tried a couple other ledges, before moving back inshore where we began drifting the deep shipping channel leading into the harbor. This channel held big Ulua and if there was one fish I could have chosen to catch in the kayak, that was it. It was hours before we got another bite, but this time it was my down line... and it hit hard. I put the reel in gear, slammed the hook home, and I was cruisin'.

                                                                                            Hawaiian sleigh ride!

Unfortunately, it was strong enough to get me down into the coral heads 60' down. Knowing I only had 2 options, I put the reel into freespool and paddled back up drift from where he had wrapped himself. It worked and the line came loose, but the fish had also spit the hook... my disappointment was immeasurable. We made another couple drifts, but that was the last of the action for the day.

    A few days later, Kam and I had plans to meet a friend of Capt. John, named Jesse, who is a fourth generation Ulua(GT) shore fisherman. Jesse had offered to let me and Kam camp on the cliffs with him and teach me about old school Hawaiian shore fishing techniques. As luck would have it, a rancher had locked a gate that prevented us from accessing the shoreline. This is actually against the law, since in Hawaii, access must be given to the shoreline, whether the land is public or private. 

Jesse was livid- is family had been fishing from these cliffs for years, but without a pair of bolt cutters, there was nothing we could do.(I'm sure Jesse went back later and took care of it) We decided to switch gears and head down into Waipio Valley to fish from the beach. Jesse's whole family was to join us for a campout in the sacred valley.

                           Jesse prepares the bait, a large piece of Moray Eel. See the size of that hook...

We used a 10lb rock as a weight, tied with a special knot that would shake loose after a few minuted of fighting the fish- they actually want the Ulua to swim with the rock to help tire it out. Obviously a rock that size can't be cast, so Jesse's brother, Tawn, swam the rock out to deep water and dropped it. 

It was only about an hour before we heard the clicker scream on Jesse's Penn Senator 8/0. He let the fish take the rod tip down before heaving his whole body backwards to make sure the hook had found its home. This was a very strong fish, strong enough that it parted the 80# main line about 15 minutes into the fight. I was starting to think Kam and I were carrying some kind of bad juju. Tawn was convinced to carry out one more bait, even though the sun was down now and the sharks would be feeding. We cooked dinner and caught prawn in a stream running out of the valley, while waiting for another bite, but it never came.

Waking up that morning was surreal- the sound of the waves breaking, the birds shrieking as they search for breakfast, the incredible sunrise in the valley, and the hospitality that had been extended to us left Kam and I with few words. After thank yous and goodbyes, we packed up our stuff, and made the treacherous trip up 1200' from the bottom of the valley, via a one lane road with a 25% grade. This was truly a night we would never forget.

     At this point we only had a few days left in Hawaii, and the idea of going back to the mainland not having caught anything in arguably the best sport fishing destination in the world, was killing me. Kam and I made the decision to forgo a helicopter ride around the island, to instead take one more fishing charter. 

I know, I know, I'm a lucky guy.

     Kam had been in touch with a Captain in Maui via Instagram prior to us landing in Hawaii, and I convinced her to call him and see if he could put us in touch with the right guys to get us hooked up. He made a call to a buddy of his, and before I knew it, we had a trip booked with Capt. Kevin Nakamaru aboard his 37' Merritt, the Northern Lights. Only hitch was, the trip was booked the day we had to fly home, but our flight didn't leave until 10:00 pm. The captain asked that we get there early and he would keep us out extra late, with a promise to have us worn out and sleeping the whole flight home. 

We had plenty of live baits and were trolling out to deep water by the time the sun broke over Mauna Loa, the largest of the 5 volcanoes that make up the Island of Hawaii. Kam and I were totally caught off gaurd when a reel started screaming only 20 minutes after setting the lines. We both looked up to see a Blue Marlin jumping and tail walking behind the boat. Being the gentleman that I am, I had told Kam that the first bite was hers.... is there any way I can take that back?

                                                                                              Kam doin' work!

Kam did a great job working the fish and was rewarded with a 100lbs Pacific Blue Marlin, tagged and released! The mate set the lines back out and we got settled in. It was only 7:30 and we still had a long day ahead of us. Less than 30 minutes goes by before the mate comes swinging down off the bridge, and a reel starts screaming. "Fish On! Think its a Stripey", yells Capt. Kevin. This time it's my turn, and there's a pissed off Striped Marlin at the end of my line. After a 15 minute fight my first billfish, a 120lbs Pacific Striped Marlin, was boatside! 

I actually got to reach down, right the fish, and turn him away from the boat as we released him. Another experience I will never forget. 

We continued to troll for another couple hours on our way out to the Tuna grounds. Capt. Kevin is known as the Tuna Ninja, and now it was time for some big Ahi. The plugs came in the boat, and the Green Stick was deployed, along with a couple live baits. The tuna are competing with Porpoise for their meal, and are aggressively chasing baits and leaping from the water. It's not long before we are hooked up with a double, as 2 giant Ahi leap out of the water simultaneously, grabbing a separate squid lure, and then diving deep again. Kam's got her work cut out for her, but one of the fish shakes the hook and after a few minutes, her first Ahi, roughly 100 lbs, is in the box.

               The action stayed steady with a hook up every 30-45 minutes, and we took turns bringing them in.

                               This one was the only to take a live bait, but it was also the biggest @ just over 120lbs. 

The action started to slow, and with 6 big Ahi in the box, it was time to head for shore. Capt. Kevin had kept good on his promise to keep us out late, and send us to the airport worn out and ready for a nap.

We had a quick rinse down on the back of his other boat when we got back to the harbor, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and headed to the Kona Airport. Our Hawaiian honeymoon had finally come to an end, and I couldn't think of a better way to finish it out. The hospitality and friendliness of the Hawaiian people was awe inspiring, the scenery was breath taking, and the memories are forever.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Speck-tacular Night with the boys

     I didn't expect to do much fishing after the shad run, since the countdown to wedding day was getting short, but when a TKAA Board of Directors meeting was scheduled for last Thursday night, and I got the "OK" to stay down and fish afterwards, I was pumped! With reports of a fantastic Speckled Trout bite, Alex, Billy, and myself hit the water with high expectations. It was forecasted to be cold and windy, so we figured we would get out for a couple hours and head home. Then plan was to troll a variety of hard baits and soft plastics until we located the fish- that didn't take long. I dropped my lines out and hooked up in the first 5 minutes. The wind wanted to spin me around and the fish tangled in my other line I had out, but I was able to land the fish in a mess of lures and lines.

My first Speckled Trout of 2013 @ 23"
With lines, lures, and the fish all wrapped up together, I quickly paddled froward to catch up with Alex and Billy because I needed pliers. Much to my suprise, I catch up with them to find out their first pass was as good as mine. Billy had picked up a 22" Speck and Alex had found his first redfish of the year.

 Qtip with a healthy 28" Spottail!

     The action stay hot for the next couple hours picking up fish on almost every pass with Specks, and a random Bluefish here and there, but most measuring in over 20". We had the fish buttoned down and could almost predict the strikes. I had a rod bend over as I passed the strike zone, just as I expected it to. I could feel it was another good sized Trout and decided to try to bring my other line in so I wouldn't tangle in it again. As I'm fighting the fish with my left hand, I begin cranking in my other line, still sitting in the rod holder, when BAM- it doubles over and I'm doubled up!! I repositioned that rod, loosened the drag just a touch, and went back to the first fish. After a brief fight, I swing the first Trout into the built in baitwell of my Malibu Stealth 14, and turn my attention to the other rod that is still bent over and giving line. I couldn't believe the fish was still hooked up and this one felt better than the first. My heart dropped into my stomach and my heart rate skyrocketted when the Speck finally surfaced... I got him in the boat and let out a shout as I knew I had my first Citation of the year.

 26" Release Citation Speckled Trout   

The first one wasn't bad either...
     The bite died off a little later, and we ended the night cold and wet but we had another awesome night of fishing under our belts. In total we caught roughly 20 Speckled Trout from 18-26", a few Redfish up to 28", and a few Bluefish around 20". If there was a downside to the nights expedition, it was only that we didn't get home until 3:30am and work was a bitch the next day. 

This would be my last fishing trip as a bachelor and it was one for the books. Next time you hear from me, I will have Tied the Knot and landed the best catch of my life. Kamaron has been so supportive of my fishing addiction, and my involvement with the kayak fishing community. I couldn't ask for anything more in a life partner and best friend. Thank you for the last 11 years. I cant wait to see what the future holds for us. I love you.

Stay tuned for a report from an offshore trip and Mothership Trip from our honeymoon in Hawaii!!! Tight Lines...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The wait was worth it...

     With my wedding less than a week out, saying I've been busy is sort of an understatement. As one might think, I haven't been able to find much time to get the kayak out and wet a line in the past few months, and when I have found a few hours, it was just that, a few hours, so driving to the salt was out of the question. The shad run here in Richmond was late, and a little shorter than normal, but I had been waiting all winter to hook up to a shad on the fly. With a little help from Rob Choi I was rigged up with the right flies and line and catching Hickory Shad in no time.

 Man was it worth the wait! There were times when I was hooking up every cast- my 5wt would barely turn the fish and my forearm was sore from spending the afternoon bowed up. Their tenacity and aerobatics never cease to bring a smile to my face, but all good things come to an end, and as the shad finish their spawn and make their way back to coastal waters, we know it'll be another year before we see them in our backyard again.

 Photo Credit: Rob Choi  

If you've never fished for American and Hickory Shad, you don't know what your missing- medium spinning tackle is chosen by most, but if your really looking for some fun, break out the ultralight tackle and give 'em a try. Check out Rob Choi's website for some great info on targeting and identifying the Poor Man's Tarpon. Also the out the MS Shad Shootout - It's a shad tournament open to everyone(kayaks, boats, shore fisherman, etc) that benefits the Nation MS Society.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pig Wrestling

     After last weekends Smallmouth trip so successful, Alex and I were itching to get back out after 'em. The water level and flow continued to drop, while the clarity got better and better all week, so when we both got off early Thursday there was no question how the afternoon would be spent. We loaded the Stealths and hit the James in search of a citation Smallie. 

     The afternoon started out slow with no love from the fish. We were working the same areas that had been productive a few days before, with the same lures, but were not getting the same results. As the sun began to sink in the sky, I started to become less optimistic and thought we both might leave with the dreaded skunk. As often is the case, just when you think your day is over, you feel that subtle bite, the line comes tight, and your whole attitude changes in an instant.   

Such was the case today and I was rewarded with a fat 18" Smallmouth.
     With a new found sence of confidence, we continued our drift back towards the ramp. It didn't take long for my Jig n' Pig to get crushed again. I could tell right away this was a heavy fish and he began to strip a little drag as he tried his damnedest to get away.

     I thought I had my paper Smallie when he finally surfaced, but he came up a just short @ 19.5". I was still pumped to have caught a new personal best Smallmouth Bass- in fact, every trip out here I had stepped up my PB. Alex wasn't as lucky and ended the day without a bite, but with plans already made to get back out there Saturday, he knew he'd get another chance.


      The plan for Saturday was to meet up with Rob Choi and continue the search for a citation Smallmouth. He had morning plans for a YakAttack rigging party, and Alex had some daddy duties, so we figured we'd be doing good if we launched around 12 or so.... that was the plan anyway. After dealing with a flat tire, (Alex's wife's, not mine) we launched around 3 and headed up river to meet up with Rob. We only had a few hours til the sun went down, so we wasted no time in getting down to business.  
                                                                             Photo Credit: Rob Choi     

 We were all confident we would find the fish, but after hours of fishing, we were within sight of the launch, and my confidence started to wane. It seemed as though the change in conditions mandated that we change our tactics, and at some point Rob made his way out to open water, I moved out to slightly deeper water, and Alex continued to work the shoreline. Just as I'm starting to think the day is over, I just barely hear Rob say Whoa! As I turn to look I see a big ol' Smallie come flying up out of the water and Rob shout WooHooo! By the time I paddle to him, he's landed the fish and its a PIG.
                                                          Rob's new personal best Smallmouth @ 19.5"
As it turns out, this fish had crushed a spinnerbait and skied twice- it seemed as though the fish had finally gotten active. All was not lost yet, so Alex and I quickly tied on similar colored spinnerbaits and went back to work. I made about 5 casts, backlashed, and popped it off.... DAMNIT! All hope I had of catching a lunker was gone.

      After sulking for a few minutes, I grabbed a rattletrap and  started throwing it around just to pass time- I figured I might as well keep casting even though I had already come to terms with the idea of a skunk. I found a good eddy, posted up and figured I would kill the last 30 minutes we had before the day was over. Much to my surprise, it wasn't long before my slow rolling rattletrap stopped dead in its tracks and the fight was on

                                                         18.75" Chunker! Photo Credit: Rob Choi

The day ended shortly there after. Alex was unable to get that skunk off his back for the second trip in a row, but vowed he would be back for revenge. As we packed everything up I couldn't help but be amazed that even though we aren't catching great numbers, we were consistently catching trophy class fish with most between 4-5lbs. Had I know this great fishery was in my back yard, I would have spent alot more time out there, but rest assured that will change.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hometown Hogs

     I haven't had a chance to fish much since the weather got cold, so when Billy called to say he and Tommy Dewitt were coming to Richmond to fish for Smallmouth Bass 15 mintues from my house, there was no question Alex and I would be there. Growing up in Richmond I spent alot of time at the James River, but literally no time fishing it- mostly just hanging out drinking and such.  I have never been much of a freshwater guy, but driving to the salt is time consuming and costly, and hey, any fishing is better than no fishing, Jack!

     The water level had finally come back down after all the rain/snow we've had lately, and the water clarity looked pretty good, but I still didn't have expectations for the day when we launched, accept to have a good time. I had only targeted Smallmouth once before, and it was late summer it totally different conditions, so I figured if I caught anything it would be a successful day.

The plan was to head upstream a good ways and float back down while we fished. The current was more swift than it looked, and the paddle would prove to be a serious workout. Tommy made his way to a large log jam and began fishing the eddy behind it, while the rest of worked various rocks are sections of the shoreline. It didn't take long before I heard Tommy yelling, and knew he had a good fish on. If this was any indicator of how the day would go, it was going to be well worth the work.

                                                                       Tommy breaks the ice with a 19" Pig!

     Alex and I continued to fish that log jam for almost another hour, but couldn't find another fish. Tommy and Billy had already headed further upstream, so we decided to follow suit and move on. The group of us spent the next few hours making our way up river and stopping to fish everything that looked like it might hold a fish..... nothing. After making it as far up as we had planned to paddle, we took a quick break to relieve ourselves and stretch, then decided to fish our way back down to the launch. We were worn out and the leisurely float was going to be a nice change. 

    Alex and I took one shoreline, while Billy and Tommy covered the other. After about 25 minutes I heard Tommy yell out again and Alex and I made the paddle across to see what he had. Half way there I could make out some of what he was saying... something about this ones a HOG!!! He was right and we were blown away as he lifted this Smallie out of his kayak....

                                                                                                               Tommy's 21" Citation Smallmouth Bass

                                                                                                                Look at the war paint on this HOG!

     We were fired up now and everyone was confident the fish were there, we just had to get the lure infront of them. Both of Tommy's fish hit a dark colored jig, so werolled with it and everyone started pitching jigs. We continued to work our way down working anything that looked fishy, while Billy made his way back to the log jam where Tommy had picked up his first fish. As I floated past a couple large boulders at the rivers edge, I knew there had to be a fish there, and decided to focus on it for a few minutes. The current made it difficult allowing only one cast before floating away and having to paddle back up- it reminded me of fishing the CBBT. Even once you paddled back up, the cast and bait placement had to be perfect to get the correct presentation. I finally got it right and felt a solid thump before the line started moving away from the rock. I reel the slack in, set the hook and felt the weight of a solid Smallmouth Bass.
                                                                                                                        An 18.25" Pig of a Smallmouth

     Meanwhile, Billy's trip back to that big log jam had paid off with a 17.25" fatty. I made my way down and tucked in beside him in a large eddy to take a break and relish in the fun of these bulldog Smallmouth Bass- we had figured we might catch a couple fish 10-14", but never expected this caliber of fish. It seemed as though there were no small fish around, only Hog Johnson and his cousins! Just as Billy was saying how he was surprised he hadn't picked up anything on a crankbait he was casting, it got crushed!

                                                                                                                       Billy with a  healthy 17.5" Smallie

     At this point we all had a fish, accept for Alex. He rarely looses his cool, but he was on tilt and just couldn't seem to get his head back in the game. I kept telling him to stick with it, but breaking off jig after jig wasn't helping the situation at all. We kept floating our way down working everything that looked good. I got my jig snagged up and after trying my damnedest, I broke off the only one I had. Somewhere in the process I got that line badly tangled with another rod I had laying in my boat, so I verbally expressed my discontent. It seemed as though Alex's bad joojoo had made it way to me and as he laughed at my struggles, he felt that thump he had been waiting on...

                                                                            Alex's hard work had paid off with a 19.5" Pig with some war paint of his own

     Alex was elated and it was laughs and high fives all around. We had come here in search of the elusive Smallmouth Bass and boy had we found 'em! We weren't far from the launch now and though we were still fishing, no one was taking it too seriously. Billy made one last pitch of his jig before calling it a day, and BOOM- there he was! 

                                                                                 Billy finished the day strong with a 19" Hog!

     As we pulled the kayaks out of the water and reflected on the day, we couldn't believe how successful we had been. Although we hadn't caught buckets full of fish, the quality of fish was way above and beyond what we had expected. Billy was reminded of a Beastie Boys lyric- something about "if I had known the party was gonna be this good, he would have put something in the mashed potatoes....." Had I known trophy Smallmouth fishing was so close to home, I would have been targeting them a long time ago.

The weather is finally starting to warm up, and spring fishing is right around the corner. Until next time, Tight Lines!