Zach Souilliere grew up around Port Huron where he went to Saginaw Valley College and played ice hockey. After college he started working for a healthcare company, recruiting nurses for in-home pediatric care. But since he no longer played hockey, Souilliere “didn’t really have a lot to do and found a lot of free time”.
Zack is an angler who loves chasing smallmouth. He prefers to fish the smaller rivers near his home in Bay City, Michigan; but is no stranger to places like Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City or Lake St. Clair outside of Detroit (arguably, the best smallmouth lake in the states). His passion for fishing really came through as he explained how he uses a “tube” to catch smallmouth and big largemouth.
“When I first started, I fished spinnerbaits, frogs, and senkos. After I got into it a little more, I wanted to try other baits and found that a tube could replace a lot of other baits. I catch fish on senkos, but I catch more fish with tubes; I think I get better reactions – at least up here in Michigan. I learn toward tubes because of the way they move through the water, the different ways you can fish them and there are a lot of color variations you can use.”
Zach walked through some techniques he uses when fishing a tube.
Tube Fishing for Fall Bass | As a Pseudo Ned Rig
There are times of the year where they will eat anything… but early in the year, they will not. That is the tough thing about St. Clair, I know a lot of guys don’t like ned rigs or finesse fishing, but Lake St. Clair is just one of those lakes. If the presentation isn’t exactly what they want, you are not going to catch fish.
Every year I have been there I have caught fish on tubes, running them different ways. I like to take a ned head and jam it up inside the tube to hide that hook then just bouncing it across the weed lines.
If it is a rocky bottom, I am going to work it like a crawfish. Bumping it across the bottom, jumping it every so often.
This rig can be virtually weedless, allows you to keep a small profile, and can be used for bedding fish – or for fish that are feeding.
Tube Fishing for Fall Bass | As a Swimbait
I fished the Border Classic a couple of years ago and on day one, threw a white tube with a red underskirt. I had rigged it with a weighted swimbait hook and bounced it over the weeds and put up 93-inches. Day two came and I couldn’t catch a single fish with that lure. Everyone around me was catching fish, but I couldn’t. I caught three largemouth. I asked the guy fifty yards from me, who was catching fish all day what he was using. He said “A tube, but it was sand-colored today.” That’s how finicky those fish can be.
One of the things I have really worked on over the last couple of years is bait presentation and matching baitfish.
I’d recommended the Trokar Weighted Swimbait hooks for this type of fishing. You can throw them on a weighted hook and keep them right down on the bottom; since you can make them weedless.
Tube Fishing for Fall Bass | As a Weightless Rig
With tubes, I fish a lot of rivers. Up by me, there is Saginaw bay… the closest inland lake to me is about thirty-five minutes away from me. But there are about eight rivers that are within fifteen to twenty minutes. In July, I will go out on the Rifle River that dumps into Saginaw Bay and take a 3/0 hook with no weight on it at all and just throw it under trees and let it sink.
The smallmouth just go crazy on the tubes up there. Especially on those rivers when you can find those deep drop areas with little current, they love ‘em. If there is a current, I will throw a weighted hook on, but if it is one of those pools where it is standing still, I will throw that tube under overhanging banks and trees and let it sink as slow as possible. I have watched fish come from five feet away and watch it falling for a minute, then take it.
Last year my biggest river smallmouth came on the technique the first week of July; 21 and ¾ inches.
Tube Fishing for Fall Bass |As a Topwater Bait
Frogs just don’t work for me, I struggle with frogs. With that in mind, I found a way to make a tube work for me in areas most anglers would normally throw a frog.
I throw it weightless into lily pads and can work it on top, or let it fall between the pads. I like the four-inch tubes with extra appendages; I take one of those appendages and use it to make the hook weedless.
This allows you to let that tube drop just below the lily pad. These are heavier, and it will run just below those lily pads, so you don’t get hung up on top, but it causes enough commotion that you are going to pull fish from areas.
It isn’t like a frog, so you get a better hook-up ratio… a lot of guys say “why not use a buzzbait or a frog” and I tell them I can make that tube move very differently in the water. I can let it sink, then jerk it like a jerk bait for a second… once it gets to the top of the water… let it sink again… through the weeds and repeat all the way back to the kayak.
Tube Fishing for Fall Bass | Zach’s Expertise
This Michigan angler spent a lot of time learning and observing. Working on presentation.
“I’ve done well on everything from Yum Tubes to a guy doing custom colors and baits for me last year. It seems that presentation is really more critical. I like fishing them on rock pile areas or weed lines. As I said, I fish mostly rivers, but there are times during the year when they shut down the rivers for the walleye spawn to keep people from snagging them. During that time, and during the spawn, I fish lakes. Then I go back to rivers because the fish spawn later in the year.”
So, if you have never fished with tubes or are just interested, give these techniques a try. I am not going to kid anyone, since the conversation, I have tried a couple of the techniques he told me about down here in Tennessee. My fishing buddies would look into my kayak; “is that a tube you have tied on!”…well, yes it was. And they work. Even here in the south too. I haven’t tried them on a drop shot rig (yet), but Zach tells me this can be productive also!
A Little More About Zach Soulliere
“I had never fished growing up”, so he took some worms out to ponds and decided to teach himself. As he progressed, he could see fish jumping in the rivers, and soon found kayaking as a way to reach those fish. Then he got involved in tournaments. He and his wife Jenna, who works in Autism care, found that they enjoyed the sport as a couple.
The kayak space has a different feel to it. There isn’t as much of the pushing and the shoving as there is in the big boat world. Anglers are still super competitive, but not at the cost of sportsmanship and camaraderie. It’s just a whole other vibe if you will allow the egregious pun.
But Vibe Kayaks has its own subset of that. A community feel, where even executives of the company hop on Facebook message boards at all hours of the night to answer any question one of their customers might have, that is if another member of the community doesn’t beat them to it.
Pair that sense of community with a lineup of well-crafted vessels and you start to see why so many anglers are now choosing Vibe Kayaks. We sat down with a few of those anglers to get their input on what sets Vibe apart.
Why I Vibe | Ben Adrian
“I have been around the kayak industry for over ten years and have owned dozens of different kayaks. As I developed my own preferences, I began to find the paddleboard style kayaks more fitting. After using both traditional kayaks and fiberglass SUPs, I was in the market for a roto-molded SUP and that is when I came across the Maverick 120.”
“Instantly, I knew this boat would fill all my needs and my particular style of fishing. Combining this kayak with the Vibe community and customer service made this an easy decision. The kayak community began as a close group of anglers and strayed as the sport grew. However, the community of Vibe anglers has brought the sport back to its roots.”
Why I Vibe | Jake Suvak
“For me, my first kayak was a Vibe. Ever since I first started using it, the customer service has been amazing. Having the Vibe Kayak community on Facebook really helped me learn all kinds of different ways to rig up my kayak. That’s been the biggest thing for me, how great the community is.”
“The people that are high up in the company even come on and help out. Like Josh (Thomas) is always active in the groups and it’s not very often that you see the founder of a company come on and reach out to try to have a conversation with you.”
“I also went to one Vibe only tournament and that was a lot of fun. It was actually the first time I had been saltwater fishing and a bunch of the guys there helped me learn some presentations and what to use. So that was pretty cool.”
Why I Vibe | William Strasburg
“I grew up as a canoe guy with my dad. My brother and I used to fish the boundary waters up in Canada and Minnesota. My dad would take us in the summer up to one of the access points to the boundary waters and he’d tell my brother and I, ‘Alright, I’ll see you boys back here in one week.’ And we’d go out and a week later we’d be back.”
“I’ve been in a kayak now for 20 years. After I retired from the Army I was looking for something better to fish from and found Vibe in 2015. The people were great, I bought one and I haven’t turned back since then. Vibe is something besides just a kayak. It’s the community and sharing, trying new things. It brings back that sense of adventure from when I was a kid. That’s why I Vibe.”
Why I Vibe | Jeff Jones
“Originally in 2016, I was searching for a kayak and I had a list of requirements. I wanted it to be 12 to 14 feet, the ability to be able to stand in it, I wanted it to have a framed seat and of course to be a sit on top. But the problem was every kayak I was finding was a little out of my price range. But I finally found Vibe on a Facebook ad.”
“So I got to looking at it and the Sea Ghost 130 was my first boat. Initially, I got into a Vibe for the affordability and what they offer at that price point. It came with a rudder and a paddle, which was pretty important at the time because I wanted something with a rudder and that was an add-on with other companies.”
“Then after that, I just really liked the community. The boats are great and still really well built and affordable. I’m running the Shearwater 125 now. But I love the motto, No Drama, Just Adventure. And that’s why I’m still with them. It’s just a great community.”
Why I Vibe | Erica DeLana
“For me, the reason for “Why I Vibe” extends beyond my feeling that they offer a great line of kayaks with great features at an affordable price point. I first learned about Vibe Kayaks roughly 5 years ago when my kayaking experience consisted mostly of river floats and paddling for shorter periods of time fishing our my local lake. My husband and I were big into fishing, but mostly from a boat and had dabbled at best with fishing from a kayak. I’d met a few Vibe field team members through a charity fishing tournament I was hosting, and they invited us to paddle with them and their families a few weeks after on a local river. We showed up with our very basic sit on top kayaks, and despite sticking out like a sore thumb, we were immediately welcomed into the group of about 20 people that were there that day… most were in Vibes. We were intrigued as we really didn’t know much about Vibe at all, except they were way fancier than what we were paddling and “fishing kayaks.” It wasn’t until the end of that trip that I learned we’d also been hanging out with two of the owners, Josh and Miriam, and one of their daughters. We had no idea because that’s how chill of an outing it was… and because those behind Vibe truly live the brand they’re promoting.”
“The Vibe Kayaks community is one that truly emulates their motto, “No Drama. Just Adventure.” It doesn’t matter what kind of kayak you paddle (or pedal), whether you’ve got the latest and greatest gear, if you’re a seasoned pro that lives and breathes kayaking, or if you’re a newbie like we were. I can honestly say that a single trip changed how I viewed kayaking and kayak fishing. The guys and girls there were just out spending a day doing what they loved – happy to help answer any questions we had, freely offering tips and tricks fishing rivers, and never once made us feel like we didn’t belong. The kayaking community, by and large, is a more-the-merrier group where friends of friends quickly become your friends.”
Why Should YOU Vibe?
Simply put, community. That’s what you hear time and time again from anglers who run a Vibe Kayak. They’ll eventually get around to talking about their Shearwater, Sea Ghost, or particular model they have and all the ins and outs of the boat. But by and large, there’s just that different feel to Vibe. Less company, more companionship.
In a world wrapped up in divisiveness and disdain for one another, it’s easy to see why anyone would Vibe once you find that community feel. And with a lineup of quality watercraft to choose from, Vibe makes it easy to slide into their community in style. So I guess the real question is, why don’t you Vibe yet?
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It is fall and there are more and more kayaks on the water, but all are not created equal. It seems that many companies are recognizing the demand and offering all shapes and sizes in an effort to give consumers the most affordable options. This is great for people looking to get their feet wet, but it can also lead to your entire body immersed!
Before I get assaulted, I am not saying that one kayak over the other is more likely to get you wet; I know guys who have flipped a Hobie PA14 (one of the more stable kayaks on the market) by getting too comfortable with its stability. It is just a fact that with this many kayaks on the water, there are going to be folks ending up in the water this fall. The key – be prepared.
Wear Your PFD
First (and the most important), wear your lifejacket. Let me say that again… wear your lifejacket.
The only time I have gone over, or under water, I was on the ramp. The first was getting in a kayak, then recently I slipped on a ramp and slid under some kayaks – but had on my life jacket so made it back to shore with no issues.
I pass a lot of people sitting on their life jackets or with them tied to the kayak. Once you flip, your stuff scatters creating a debris field and making it hard to get everything back… that life jacket goes with it if not attached to you. Please wear it.
Don’t have one? Check out these kayak fishing PFD options and do yourself a favor.
Here Are Some Other Tips For When You Flip Your Kayak
1. Don’t panic. It will be ok (since you have your lifejacket on!). Take a deep breath, assess where you are, then look for your boat. If it is a sit-on-top, it should be floating. If it is a sit-in-side, it may be filled with water, but the plastic will still keep it somewhat buoyant.
2. If you are in shallow water – just stand up. You didn’t panic, so by now you know you can touch the bottom. If not, try to move your boat close to shore.
Both of these may not be an option.
There are times you will need to re-board the kayak to get back to shore. I am going to assume that like most, you haven’t thought about that as a task that may happen, so you didn’t practice it. So, the real tip #2; practice getting back in your kayak. Google videos on methods to gain entry to the kayak from the water; then try them. This is an excellent video by Jeff Little showing how to re-board.
3. Consider what matters most to you. It sucks losing your stuff, it can be costly and painful to replace; but it is just stuff. Make the priority you. Once you have landed back in your kayak, you can track down the items you lost – or maybe not – but either way, you are safe.
A side tip to this one – lanyards. Lanyards allow you to attach all items you brought with you to the kayak. So, when you get that back, your stuff is all connected. Dry bags will also help keep your phone and keys safe – if you use them. But again, you are what matters. Get to safety first, then worry about your stuff.
There is no good time to flip your kayak. But if there was, a day when you left the ramp in shorts and flip flops is much better than when you are bundled up during the winter months when the water temp is low. (please read this article too – cold weather kayaking).
If you are going out for the first time, try to do it when the weather is nice, the water temp is warm and the wind is laying down. Always watch the weather, always let someone know where you are going… and always wear the lifejacket. Getting your kayak and gear will go so much better for you with that PFD attached to your body (correctly) and not floating away with the wind or current.
These 5 tips, or what I call “lessons I learned the hard way”, are geared toward the newer kayak tournament anglers. I think it is important that you take a few minutes to understand not only what you are getting into, but to know about a couple of tiny little errors that we see happen all too often among those new to the sport.
Matt Spencer after a less than great day on the water.
Now, I am going to suggest upfront that you do not do it. Do not get into kayak tournaments and chase them across the trails. Don’t do it! You will eventually find yourself sleeping in parking lots, on ramps, in the driveways of friend’s houses or on the floor of a VRBO that has one too many people in it.
You will eat bad, not eat, run out of gas… have flats or car trouble… not sleep… hit a deer… not catch fish, hate yourself for doing it some days.
But since like me, you will not listen, there are many benefits of becoming a part of the community too. You will make friends who will consider you family. You will find this is one of the most sharing and giving groups of people; even with the competitive spirit of it all, they will give you tips and advice, lures, food and water… maybe not exact GPS coordinates on tournament day – but some will give you their third or fourth spots if you are struggling to find fish at a venue. And while you will still hate yourself for doing it some days, you will also love it more than anything you have ever tried. Well… maybe.
Let’s get to the tips to help you do a bit better.
Kayak Fishing Tips | Tip #1
Find a local club, sign up with them and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
This is invaluable. There is most likely one within reach of your location that will welcome you, and teach you. My adventures started with a casual conversation on a ramp; a local club angler saw me and asked if I had ever fished a kayak tournament. I said no, then he gave me their contact info. Look on Facebook, use Google… ask another person in a kayak… ask me for help.
My local group taught me the ropes; rules, how to measure fish, how to watch for other boats, how to check for weather and conditions before launching. They quickly brought me into the fold and even took me to locations I would have never fished and taught me the true value of kayak fishing.
And they are now my friends. My family… and that grows with each year. Even though some move away, we still meet up at events in their new home town or at larger national events.
Kayak Fishing Tips | Tip #2
Get a net – and use it.
On the good days, you are going to catch a lot of fish. On the bad days, none. On a lot of days, you will get only three or five bites; you do not want to lose them. I have watched the game changing fish drop off as I tried to boat flip it. No more… I do not care if the fish looks like he may only be 12 inches, he is getting netted. Man, I hate to keep whining along on this one, but I lost a match during the winter before last because it was cold and I didn’t want to net a 13-inch fish; I knew it was safe. I lost it as I raised the line out of the water… and lost the match (by a fish) to a guy who I knew everyone would give me a hard time for losing to when it was over!
And after you catch that fish, use the net to help keep him in the kayak when taking pictures. More on that in a minute.
Kayak nets are a topic filled with opinions. But I will tell you what I told someone recently; don’t overthink it, and don’t over spend. My only real suggestion is that you get a rubberized net, it will save you cutting hooks out of the net (trust me)… and last you a much longer time. The Frabill nets at Walmart are my choice for these reasons – cheap, functional, available everywhere (I did lose one and was in Alabama) and built with rubber.
Kayak Fishing Tips | Tip #3
Get a Ketch Board.
Invest in your last board upfront. I was not a fan of them, not going to lie. After using a Hawg Trough, they felt like a motor block. But if you plan to do this whole tournament thing, they are durable. They are not flexible, will not crack if you set it in the wrong place and seem to be the new standard as we move forward.
It also removes doubt about any possible board manipulation during tournament measurement.
The expense of a couple of broken Hawg Trough boards (I had three) will quickly make the Ketch board cost effective. It really is a better piece of equipment in the long run. I would strongly suggest you pick up a tether like those offered by Rogue Fishing just in case it goes overboard; it will not float.
Kayak Fishing Tips | Tip #4
Practice taking pics.
Alright, so you are the best angler the world has seen. You can flat catch ‘em on any day, in any conditions. But unless you can get a solid picture of those catches on tournament day, you might as well be on the couch.
There are very finite rules about the fish placement; orientation, hand location, mouth position, identifiers, etc. that must be followed on all trails. Read them (KBF rules here see #9) and learn them… then practice it, over and over. Learn “your” technique. Some guys use fish grips to calm the fish, some guys wet the board ahead of trying to place the fish on the board and some (myself) just take the picture and get it done.
I have a routine I want to share, but again, you will develop your own.
I catch the fish, netting him. I hold the fish in the net while removing the hook. Then I set the net on the left side of the kayak as a wall to keep the fish in should it try to escape; they will with a motion you will soon learn (why I use the net). Then still holding the fish, I tilt the board and put the bump end of the board against that net… get out my phone, lay the fish on the board and get a quick picture. Then I see if I can reposition the fish and eek out another quarter of an inch.
Practice, and then practice; and realize that you are still going to lose one or ten along the way.
And before you let go of that fish, verify the mouth is closed and the identifier is visible.
Kayak Fishing Tips | Tip #5
Harsh realities are a part of the human experience. Be prepared for that when you start kayak fishing.
You are not going to win every time you sign up. You are going to lose some really good fish at the worst possible time… and not everyone gets a trophy here. There is a winner and most tournaments do not pay deep into the field; so, there are many others who fund the winner’s trips. Sometimes, you’re on the right end of that equation; more often, it is just a long ride home with the memory of time with friends.
The sport is not to a point that I can make a living that accommodates the lifestyle that my day job as an engineer affords me, and most likely is not going to in the next couple of years. If you are looking to make a solid living doing just tournaments, well you better catch every fish and get perfect pictures… and then beat all of the others who in spite of the reality (like me) still hold out for the dream of greatness and recognition.
I could talk to you for hours on all that I have learned in the past years fishing kayak tournaments against the best there is on the water. I would welcome the opportunity to share the experiences and help you to be better, but there are hundreds more who can also help you to enjoy our sport.
If you are considering it, sign up for a local tournament. If you have no idea where to start, Facebook and Google will help you to find local anglers. I can promise you that there is someone who can walk you through your first event, someone who will show you how to measure fish, someone who will be (if nothing more) a new friend for life.