Back-Tracking, Double-Guessing & Sloth: Notes from a CKA Event on the Cape Fear River

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Saturday, July 25th, 2020.

The forecast says baste your hide and prepare to be cooked.

When I arrived at the launch site there was a truck parked there, but it wasn’t Drew Blair’s truck. A man emerged from the woods dragging a kayak from the direction of the river, his headlight beam a cloud of insects.

“This isn’t the start I was expecting.”

My second thought was “Where the hell is Drew?” A short conversation later, and I said goodbye to Mitch, the woodsman, who gave up on the launch site. “That’s a rough launch” he said. I offered to help Mitch because I knew, deep in my heart, that Drew was asleep and I wasn’t going to make it alone. He always sleeps in on tournament day. Sure enough, a phone call confirmed it. Thankfully, he lives nearby. Mitch declined.

I waited in the dark for a bit. There wasn’t any morning breeze. I wondered if there was any air. I hoped to hide from the bugs in the darkness, but they found me. I was standing still but I was sweating. The sun would rise in 30 minutes. Drew, half asleep, rolled up and tried to use his Jedi mind powers to make the Hobie slide off his truck.

I’ve launched from difficult locations. This one ranked near the top of the list. The weeds were waist high, ruts in the abandoned road were knee deep and the drop from the bank to the water was actually two separate drops that added up to a Cubist painting. After launching, I realized that one of my rods left one of my lures somewhere in a tree branch behind us.

This isn’t an essay about how good I am at my favorite sport. It’s about a hot river and a cold bite. It’s about the risks I take, the decisions I make and the company I keep. It’s about admitting nature doesn’t care about your fishing plan – or any plan for that matter.

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Product Review: The Redline TailSpin

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My review of this clever reinvention of a classic lure design is now up on the KBF Blog.

Disclaimer: I am not on the RedLine Pro Staff. This is an article I wrote because of my interest in new interpretations of older lure designs.

Click here for more: https://www.kayakbassfishing.com/blog-reinventing-the-tailspin/

Thanks for reading!

H

 

One Path among many, but only One Boat: On Joining the Jackson Fishing Team

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Beginnings contain more than an intention. When we start on something new, we bring to it our history, or memory, and culture. We add to it our desire and we imagine what might be. We peer at the horizon and dream to see what might be there, but we can never truly know. Beginnings are that too – they are possibilities, only some of which become real.  In his wonderful book Invisible Cities, the writer Italo Calvino imagines Marco Polo entertaining Kublai Khan with stories while the two men play chess. One story begins; “The man who is traveling and does not yet know the city awaiting him along his route wonders what the palace will be like, the barracks, the mill, the theater, the bazaar.” When he arrives, he finds a different city.

Like me, Marco Polo was an Italian of Venetian descent, a wandered on water and land, a person who, when he saw the griffin carrying the tablet the Lord delivered to Saint Mark, paused. I am partial to his Travels not only for their beauty and imagination but because they were written as if each word were a stage of the journey. At times, you never quite know where they will lead. Sometimes we move in straight lines or at angles. At others we move on tracks adjacent to the ones we had planned, a step removed from some other possible reality. Sometimes the paths intersect, at others they diverge. We might even come full circle. Continue reading

A Note of Thanks to the Ketch Pro Team

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The history of modern sports is a history of athletic feats and great stories, but it is also a history of product innovation. From Thomas Alva Edison and Samuel Colt to Stephanie Kwolek and Steve Jobs, American engineers and scientists have mustered tremendous creativity to lead American business in the modern world. Their products are artful and useful. Tournament anglers use them and depend on them in order to succeed; for example, Stephanie Kwolek’s innovations in polymers for the DuPont Corporation were fundamental to the plastics we use in fishing lines and kayak design. Over time, we trust the materials and designs. And I trust my Ketch measuring board like no other product I own.

I’ve been tournament fishing from a kayak for 8 years. During that time, I have watched many friends obtain some lucrative sponsor deals, pro staff arrangements and other agreements. In exchange, they often give their time by promoting products on-line, working trade shows and spreading the gospel of kayak fishing at paddling demos, seminars, etc. It’s easy to make fun of kayak anglers and their sponsor deals. What isn’t easy is to put in the work: build a resume’ in competition, write articles, produce videos, work the industry shows, etc. Fishing is an art and also a business; it can kill your love of the sport but it can also help you achieve your dreams. In the best-case scenario it can grow your love for kayak fishing and expand the positive economic impact of our sport. Joining the Ketch Pro Team is a best-case scenario.

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The 2010’s: A Kayak Fishing Decade in Review

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When you are young, the world is your private pond. It’s stocked with fat fish and they bite every lure you throw.  You can sit on the bank and eat chips, sleep and dream of adventures you had and will never have. You can wake up and dive in the pond or chase your friends around the banks until the wind gets winded. Youth is a fork and the world is your mussel.

Before you know it, you are tired, stressed and it’s all gone. If you are lucky, you have a job and your health. If you are really fortunate you still sneak out to fish sometimes and forget your troubles. The mussels aren’t quite as abundant and they cost more, but they still taste really good.

We are closing a historic decade in the artful sport of fishing. It will forever be known as the decade during which kayak tournament fishing went from a local hobby to national and international stature. The sport’s business side has blossomed, the media have portrayed us in a good light and there are more tournament options than one can count. There are kayaks on every lake, many with rods sticking out of them and looking like antennae farms floating on some extra-terrestrial settlement. In only a few short years, it appears a viable model for the sport has emerged: the technology has improved, state wildlife agencies have noticed us, competition formats have settled into some degree of normalcy and people are out there fishing and having fun, whether in tournaments or otherwise. Hell, even the venerated B.A.S.S. organization has adopted us. Who saw that coming?

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Following the Arrowhead: Fishing the 2019 FLW-KBF Cup on Lake Ouachita

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I will speak more directly for a change. No quotes from great poets or philosophers. The Professor will step aside, and the angler will be alone. I’m going to discuss teamwork, I’m going to discuss the current state of the sport of kayak bass fishing and I am going to talk, most importantly, how I changed my approach tournament fishing this season. I’m going to discuss it because I have placed in the money in 10 of the last 14 events I fished. In one of the other 4 I won 1st place in a charity tournament, and in the other 3 I was in 4th, 3rd and 13th place respectively.* It is the best winning streak of my 8 year career in kayak tournament fishing, so I obviously did something right, and I want to share it because some of it runs against logic of what we are “supposed” to do.

But first, Rick Clunn. When Rick Clunn talks, I listen. I don’t listen to imitate but to interpret what he says. Why? Because experience contains wisdom and that guy has experience spilling out of his pockets. But his experience does not apply to me directly. He fishes boats, I fish from kayaks. I will never win what he has won, or fish how or when or where he has fished. So when I listen, I ask, “How does this translate to me, if at all?”

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Human Patterns: The Kitchen Mystery of Lake Chickamauga

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If you can find the pantry, you will find the hungry bass. Think about the first hour of your day. At some point, you went into the kitchen and ate some food. And you followed the same hallway to reach the kitchen, and ate at your favorite chair, drinking coffee from your favorite mug, etc. Now, if you were a bass on a big lake like Lake Chickamauga, you would know that, at this time of year, that bay has frogs and bugs in it, and that point has a ball of shad on it, or that lay down is a good ambush point to wait for a meal to swim by it. Wind, thermocline, pressure and light are other factors, not to mention moon phase, water temperature,  and water levels. They are the basic ingredients of fishing.

Most anglers know this as “pattern fishing.” Roland Martin famously defined a “pattern” as follows:

“[a pattern is] the exact set of water conditions such as depth, cover, structure, temperature, clarity, currents, etc. which attracts fish to that specific spot and other similar spots all over the same body of water.”

A pattern in this sense is a web of changing phenomena. Understand the pattern, and you will find hungry fish. Why? Because fish are creatures of habit. But we are too. And one thing Mr. Martin left out of his puzzle is the human element of the pattern, and the things we learn from other anglers. Here is the story of the puzzle I figured out on Lake Chickamauga prior to the KBF Trail and Pro Series tournaments held there last week. Continue reading

“Seasonal Heat”: Temperature, Strategy and Tactics at the 2019 KBF National Championship

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A big storm is rolling in as I write this. There is thunder in the distance, so the yard work I neglected for fishing is out of the question. The sky is darker than a crow feather, the air is yellow with pollen and only a fool would venture outside. It’s the sort of dramatic weather that makes us paddle hard and fast to reach safe harbor.

Experienced anglers know that weather plays a large role in influencing how fish feed. To some, it is equal to or even more important than moon phase, or the animal’s biological clock, or even bait selection. But where can we draw the line? How subtle can it be? Does the sky have to look like a Hollywood special effect to make us think how weather impacts a bite? No – Sometimes the smallest margins make the biggest difference. Continue reading