First and foremost, I was extremely blessed to represent the Hobie brand for my 2019 kayak fishing season.
It was my first year as a member of their fishing team. Joining the team was more than a goal I set for myself last year — it was an aching desire to stand in a crowd of fellow anglers with the Hobie name on a jersey. Ryan Martin and his family gave me that opportunity after a year on the Caney Fork Outdoors Fishing Team, the other brand I am proud to carry on my kayak, truck and jersey.
I am not the kind of guy to chase sponsors or pro staff positions; I will promote brands I use and believe in, and I believe in Hobie and Caney Fork.
It has been a great experience to share my passion for kayaking with others, to participate in demo days and to help get folks in what I consider to be the best brand on the market. When I see people on the water and know that I played a role in their choice to land in a Hobie, I feel a sense of pride that even a less-than-stellar year cannot erase. Next year, I am in a brand new PA14 with the 360 drive and I will do all I can to be a good representative for Hobie and Caney Fork Outdoors. Thank you for trusting me.
A Recap of My 2019 Kayak Fishing Season
It was not my best year by KBF AOY standings. I was in the top twenty my first two years (19th in 2017, 20th in 2018) but fell to 40th this year. Landing among the top fifty anglers who participated in KBF is nothing to be ashamed of, but I set the expectations high for myself and to say I am disappointed in that statistic would be a gross understatement. I know it doesn’t reflect the effort. But it does represent the results of a year where I just couldn’t put it together on tournament day.
Carried this skunk around for a bit… I couldn’t seem to get it off my back.
While I am not happy with the standing for AOY, not doing well in the Hobie events and basically bombing after making it to the Tennessee State Championship — I am extremely happy with my season. I mean it would really be a waste to not learn from disappointment, wouldn’t it?
For the past few years I have fished KBF, Hobie, CAKFG and about any other tournaments I could find, year-round.
It never mattered how cold, hot, rainy, windy … how tired, how sore or even how far I had to drive. I guess you might say it has become a lifestyle for us.
It’s one my wife, Joy, supports, encourages and participates in with me. I also took pride in catching limits, no matter how small.
But this year I made a small mistake when I decided to break away from the baits I trusted: a Mann’s Classic Spinnerbait, a cheap Wal-Mart Buzzbait (both in white with a chartreuse grub – tail always up!), Yamamoto Senkos and the best lure in the universe… a Rapala Skitterpop. I used them at times because I know they work. But I spent more time using lures I have never fished, forcing them into the wrong situations. There is no doubt it affected my standings because I didn’t catch limits too often. I even skunked a few tourneys while swinging for the fences, but felt I had to try new things in order to grow, and in the end, I did.
Myself and Anthony Shingler (on the right).
At a KBF event on Kentucky Lake, my best finish of the year (10th in the trail event and 3rd in the pro division), I started the day in the back of a creek throwing a Skitterpop around, bait swarming, and surfacing at intervals with limited success. A good friend, Marshall Yarborough, had told me that a swimbait with chartreuse markings had worked earlier with these conditions. This was not a bait I used often, but I tied one on and gave it a shot.
A Learned Lesson for My 2019 Kayak Fishing Season
I will say this… the next time you are in the back of a creek and see bait surfacing, tie one on and give it a try. I had upgraded enough to get a check within thirty minutes.
While pre-fishing for the KBF Southeast Regional, Kris Hummel told me the fish had been biting a frog on Wheeler Lake, fishing it slowly. I rarely throw frogs and spent all morning tying on different frogs without success. On a whim, I switched to a white Ribbit Frog and tossed it over timber and grass, slowly. Out of frustration, I reeled it in quick and noticed the action of the legs. I started throwing it out and reeling it in with the speed of a buzzbait because – well, why not, I was sucking.
I finally caught a good limit. I didn’t finish well overall because I had not pulled a limit on day one, but I did learn a new technique that I have since taken to Guntersville and wore them out on creeks at home. This is now in my ANGLR app as a bait to be chosen again and again as I track catches and build my data.
Finally (not telling everything, so we end here!) in La Crosse, I spent half the day throwing a bait that I had first used at Guntersville. It is what we locally call the “Jay Minor Special” because Jay won the CAKFG AOY by beating us up with it over and over, a black and blue Yum Dinger.
I rigged it on a shaky head and threw it against the current and pulled it back ‘till they smacked it after Jimmy Mcclurken had turned me on to the location. Then I went even farther out of my comfort zone and flipped a beaver style bait, the Missile D-Bomb.
Those of you who have not fished with me will be unaware how out of character it is for me to throw any plastic that isn’t a Senko, but friends would look at me as if aliens had landed and taken over my body and forced me to do it.
I caught fish. Me, with plastics, who woulda’ thunk it? These baits are also set up in my ANGLR app now.
The harsh reality is that my season ended sooner than I meant for it to this year.
I Should Have Quit Fishing Before I Went to La Crosse
But I fished it, then one more local tourney when I came back to Tennessee. Then pedaled out in my new Hobie 360 for a few hours ‘cause it is awesome and I needed to get it wet after picking it up; but those times on the water were a struggle. The MRI told me I would be having back surgery before Christmas… and all I could think about was getting it done quickly. I need to be ready by the first events in January! (The surgery went well and I’m itching to get out there!)
And some of you are going to ask me “Why, what is the attraction?” Some of you will just smile because you know the answer without the question.
… It is because of days like Bienville where I fished with a great group of guys and had the best day of my entire life on the water. It was magical — the kind of day that makes kayaking my life. All of us who shared that day still smile when we see each other – and always will, it was just that special.
… I met Scott Beutjer, who hooked me up with the folks at ANGLR, who in turn have allowed me the opportunity to share kayaking and stories with you. I have learned to use the ANGLR app to make me better, to use the keyboard to (hopefully) help those new to the sport and I have been blessed to interview the best anglers in kayaking and share their triumphs with everyone. All while learning new techniques and making new friends.
…I was part of the first FLW/KBF events on Nickajack and Oauchita. Since I was young, I had wanted to just go to an event and watch weigh-ins; but to be there (meet Jimmy Houston and Hank Parker!!) and be part of it all was incredible.
…I saw the Hobie BOS come to life. The inaugural event on Chickamauga started with rain, then rain and rain; I saw a creek blow out while I was in it….had to leave early on day two because my camper was about to be flooded…but I was there. I fished as many of those BOS events as possible during the year.
…I met a kayak fishing country singer from Massachusetts sitting behind me at an event – that doesn’t happen every day…y’all need to check this dude out, Rob Pagnano, he is pretty dang good.
…I learned that I get seasick while on St. Clair. After fish number four, I was blowing chunks all over my hawg trough but there was no way I was leaving. Now I carry Dramamine everywhere I go; just in case. After the St. Clair event, still sick from the day, we drove to Niagara Falls; a little out of the way, but worth it.
…I fished more plastics than I have ever before, caught fish on Guntersville (finally!!), destroyed a mirage drive pedaling with the wind dead into a rock, only kicked two rods over the side, met Randy Howell…caught fish on a double fluke and my personal best small mouth on Wilson Lake.
…my greatest supporter traveled with me to almost every event. Joy and I drove eight hours to Ohio, slept three hours in a WalMart parking lot before I fished the tourney at East/West Harbors; then we drove home stopping to see Big Butter Jesus.
…we ate at unique spots, shopped at out of the way places, slept in a few smelly rooms and just shared the journey with each other.
In summary, I learned a lot from my 2019 kayak fishing season, but I’m ready to get 2020 kicked off!
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
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