Recent Product Reviews


I struggle writing in  this genre, but I enjoy it, too. Here is a sample of recent product reviews I wrote. Let me know what you think!

  1. The Wilderness Systems Kayak Krate

2. The Yak Attack Leverage Net




Memory, Fishing and Stalled Fronts: The May 2018 KBF Armed Forces Challenge

I’m writing this while sitting on a bench in downtown Raleigh waiting to meet up with a friend after a concert. It’s 11 pm and I am barely awake, having fished from sunrise nearly to sunset today, as well as the previous 2 days. This is a post about fishing and exhaustion and memory. There’s a little video evidence of what I discuss in the last paragraphs:

I should write this down before I forget. And when I say forget, I mean I am “wipe the memory slate clean, MIB gadget” tired. I fished for something like 30 hours this weekend and I feel like a tray of lasagna that’s been heated up one too many times. But there is something about exhaustion that can sharpen your focus, narrow down the world. That’s how I managed to jump back into 1st place late on Sunday. It didn’t hold, but that isn’t the important part.

First, congratulations to “Florida” Jerry Burdine and Matt Kasparek for besting me in the KBF Armed Forces Challenge this weekend. I also want to thank Jonathan Lessman and Richard McMichael, as we exchanged leads in a great dog fight over all 3 event days. I saw Jerry’s name high on the leader board every day, too, so he had to grind it out like I did. It was a battle, and he made the “leap” as I call it, with a great final day that put him ahead of the leaders.

This three-day event was not on my schedule because I had other plans. So I buckled down to improvise, adapt to a constantly shifting bite and fish through some bad weather. In the end, I landed fish on three different patterns, using a variety of lures. Day 1 was dominated by swimbaits and crankbaits, a chatterbait produced my best fish on Day 2, and day 3, well, you’ll see…

Day 1: There was a stalled front on Friday. I noticed it while at Home Depot in the morning, so I decided to wing it and hit the water. Fronts like those have a way of doing weakening barometric pressure, so fish become more active. So I headed to Jordan Lake and quickly found a pattern with crankbaits and swimbaits. I was in first place by evening with a respectable 94″ bag. That limit would not hold, so I headed out at sunrise on Saturday with my friend and rival Joey Sullivan.


Day 2: Joey and I have fished a lot together, and we worked parallel shores for the first two hours. The previous day’s stalled front had moved on, sort of, as a new band of storms moved in. Our paths diverged around 9 am, I got into a herd of fish, and then the sky opened up. A soaking wasn’t going to send me off in that bite so I worked through it. I was wearing one of my dad’s old rain jackets. Or I thought it was waterproof, until the sky came down. Saturated to the marrow, I finally managed an upgrade after landing about 40 fish. Leaving the lake around 1 pm, I saw Joey. I landed a 19″ on a chatterbait along a grass line, and was back in contention with that second upgrade. I was sitting on 100’ even, and in 3rd place, only 1.5” behind 1st place.

Day 3: I made a strategic error Sunday morning – or thought I did. I went to another lake, hoping the front remained stalled. It hadn’t, and as it cleared the bite went slack. I did land 7 or 8 fish fish with a topwater pattern, the best being only 17” in length. Lunch break, and I knew I had to adjust. So I headed back to Jordan as the sun came out for the first time in days.

I fished all afternoon with just two bites. But…..

Both of those bass were holding in calm water behind flooded brush. Watch the video in the link below and you’ll hear the pop of a rising fish at the end. Note the bushes behind it, too. I was taking the video because the front’s passing brought in wind. Falling seeds made it look like it was snowing, and then that noise turned me. It woke me up.

May Snow, Jordan Lake

I had seen this pattern before, a minor event that depends on the right combination of wind, high water and submerged vegetation. That was the key – it had to be a thin shore line with choke points for food to come through on the wind seams. There weren’t many locations matching that fit, but paddling back, I saw one. So I stopped and took a chance. It was a little cut along a bank, with 4-5 bushes and a small backwater with flooded trees. If it was deep enough, I just might find that last big one I needed.

Twitch twitch pause

Twitch twitch….bang.

This bass was a tank. She ran right at me but I felt she was hooked well. She tried to run under my kayak but I gave her slack. She came up on the other side of the kayak, so with my left hand on the right pinned to the gunwales, the line under the boat and the net in my right hand, I made a difficult landing. I was back in 1st place.


My lead didn’t last more than a few hours, but it’s all good. What’s important is the bite I remembered from a previous year, and earlier that day. Anglers have to store a lot of lessons from good days and bad days. Sometimes we think “oh, I will do this again, it should work” and it backfires (psychologists call that the “hot hand” fallacy). But not always. In my sleep-deprived sunburned state, I remembered some things, the only things I should and could recall. I remembered the morning topwater bite, and instead of pitching plastics at those bushes, I ran a topwater through and behind them. That little adjustment won me a check and punched my ticket to the 2019 National Championship.

Kayak Fishing is a mental game as well as a physical sport. It’s the most difficult fishing there is in that regard, but the rewards more than make up for the challenge, the exertion and the exhaustion.

I had a great, fun weekend. It was the first time I can say I felt relaxed in a long while. Thanks to KBF for running another solid event, and congratulations to all my fellow competitors.


(Editorial Note: I revised this before posting the next day, because it wasn’t very coherent. Now it is maybe more so)

Lead into Gold: A Review of Kenn Oberrecht’s “The Angler’s Guide to Jigs and Jigging”(1982)


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Lead into Gold: A Review of Kenn Oberrecht’s “The Angler’s Guide to Jigs and Jigging”(1982)


People sometimes ask me “Hank, why do you read these old fishing books?” My answer is “Shakespeare.” Awkward silence generally follows, or someone accuses me of being a professor.

Let me explain (that’s what professors do, after all). First, there is no such thing as an “old book.” Every book is new the first time we read it. And just like any other book, we ease into it, fit our mind to its author’s style in the early pages, slip into ideas and characters that it presents, etc. We all remember the first time we read Hamlet in high school. It was like learning a new language. If you stuck it out you were rewarded with a mighty drama about choice and regret.

Second, there is no such thing as a “fishing book.“ That’s just a phrase we use to describe writings composed by people who spend a lot of time holding fishing tackle around water. What we call “fishing books” are really just books that explain how a person thinks through a specific type of problem. The central premise of every fishing book is basically “How can I trick and catch a living animal that cannot directly be seen (most of the time).” As such, fishing books are really books about the art of tricking an aquatic animal. Or, if you prefer, books written by people who think too much about fishing.

Does thinking ever get “old?” I hope not. And what would life be without choices, or regrets? I wouldn’t want to know. For one, the fishing stories would be few and far between.

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A Bucketmouth for the Bucket List


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You may be wondering about the title. “Bucketmouth” refers to a Largemouth Bass, a big Largemouth Bass. A “Bucket List” is of course something we keep, checking off an item or two if we are lucky, or we endure. But there is more to this title. There were many options to consider as I drove through the scrub forest, swamp and farmland, watching the horses on ranches run and the slow rivers roll.  And it came to me then because I started thinking about the great Western films in history. I was thinking specifically of a little known Spaghetti Western by an Italian director named Damiano Damiani, a film called A Bullet for the General (1968). Set during a revolution, it is a film loaded with counter-revolutionary plots and surprises of all kinds. Damiani’s film is one of the best Westerns of its time, and it ranks high on my list of favorites. It’s a complicated film about complex people in crazy times, and as I came to the trail head of a complicated trip, it seemed to point in the direction I wanted to go as I tried to answer the question “How do I explain what happened on that lake?”

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Fly Fishing for Bowfin


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Here is a well illustrated and informative post from Isaac’s Fishing Corner, a fishing page I follow. In it Isaac describes fly fishing for Bowfin (note his use of larger flies and a strong leader, but also a lighter 5 weight fly rod). There is not much available about fly fishing for Bowfin in the fishing literature so this was a welcome sight from Bowfin Country.

I can clearly remember the first time I ever saw a Bowfin: I was fishing a little irrigation ditch that ran through some corn fields when this strange looking fish slowly surfaced and gulped some air before disappearing back into the muddy water. As soon as I saw that fish I knew a new obsession […]

via Fly Fishing For Bowfin — Isaac’s Fishing Corner


Bowfin Country Field Journal: Kayak Topwater Largemouth


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Topwater fishing, late May. The clock said noon but it was still early morning in the cove. Contrary to popular belief, bass will strike all day on topwater in low light, depending on circumstance and presentation. Stealth is essential; I was in 4 feet of water and the cove was only 30 feet wide. A single paddle bump on the kayak would have spooked every fish.

They never heard me coming.