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.

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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.

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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)

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