Category Archives: Fishing Recap

Lake Wilson Fishing

Was doing some Lake Wilson fishing at the local Thursday night yakpot and caught this 5.5 lb largemouth bass on a Rebel Pop-R to win Big Bass for the evening. I was fishing back in the flat where the creeks run in and was throwing a Heddon Zara Spook when this giant blew up on it but missed. Grabbed the Pop-R and threw it in there letting it sit with a couple of small twitches and then it was pulled under.

Lake Wilson Fishing - 5.5 lb largemouth while kayak fishing.
Lake Wilson Fishing – 5.5 lb largemouth while kayak fishing.

My full gear setup on the Zara Spook rod included 12 lb P-Line Floroclear, Owner Stinger Trebles, Dobyns crankbait rod and Fish Allure scented tab. For the Pop-R I had 10 lb P-Line Floroclear, Owner Stinger Trebles, Dobyns crankbait rod and my awesome Shimano Citica baitcast reel. Like always, I had my MTI life jacket on board and on my body – wear a life jacket!

Was tough that night with Lake Wilson Fishing, but this big bite made it worth the trip.

Fishing with FLW Pro and Kayaking Superstar Eric Jackson

For the past couple of years I have been fortunate enough to fish with an FLW Pro in the Will Fish for Kids charity tournament on Beaver Lake and this year was pleased to draw Eric Jackson as my pro partner. Teaming up with Eric was no accident, I had requested to be paired with the world champion kayaker, pro fisherman, business man and marketer – knowing we’d have a great time talking as well as fishing.

Eric Jackson and I at the FLW Will Fish for Kids Tournament on Beaver Lake.
Eric Jackson and I at the FLW Will Fish for Kids Tournament on Beaver Lake.

Beaver Lake had just come off of a roller coaster couple of weeks of record rains and quickly rising water, creating issues for most of the pro anglers during the tournament. The night before our event threw another curve, with temps dropping to 38 degrees overnight (in May!) and 20-30 mph wind gusts during the day. Add to that a hazelnut stain in the normally crystal clear water and it was not the lake I had been used to.

Eric and I met up that morning and started out heading up an arm of Prairie Creek to check out some underwater wood structure he had

This color is not my Beaver Lake.

identified. Shortly thereafter, we were about to escape the very muddy water of Prairie Creek and head up to chase some smallmouth when his motor took a dive on us and we were stuck around the take-off point for the rest of the day.  In what was a recurring theme, Eric took this in stride and put a positive face on the situation. The rest of our day we worked around the launch area fishing some different techniques as best as we could, but just didn’t make magic happen. We boated only one keeper before we agreed to pack it in for the day and let Eric and family hit the road back to Tennessee. As expected however, fishing wasn’t the key highlight for me. I enjoyed my interaction with Eric as I picked his brain on what it is like to try and become a pro, the kayak industry, sponsorship theory and his marketing approach in general.

First and foremost that stands out to me is how positive Eric was all day long under diverse conditions. Every time we would creep our way to a new area with his trolling motor, he would be positive and declare, “This is a good spot, looks really good.” Or, if I suggested we hit a certain stretch, “That’s a good call, let’s do it.”  As we struggled to get enough bites we cycled through baits trying various things. “That’s a good idea, really might be the right thing to use,” he would say as I would move to a new bait.  No matter what was going on, he had a great attitude and made it better for his co-angler.  Last year I had met Eric at the morning take-off of the event and wrote this blog post about it: FLW Tour Pro Eric Jackson Good for Kayak Fishing – which also discussed the positive vibe this guy puts out all the time.

Eric and I moving down the creek arm before losing motor power.

This positive attitude has to have had a lot to do with the successes in his life.  Too many accolades to list here (but check them out here), he truly has had a world-class career.  He’s also been very successful in the business world, with Jackson Kayak, Orion Coolers and other brands being among the most well known and respected outdoor names. As a marketer, I was very interested to hear about his ideas about brand building, marketing and how to leverage the grassroots connections. We talked about the importance of ‘layering’ when working on content and brand messaging. Maybe the most telling aspect to me about his concepts of business is when he told me how at Jackson, he sees his warranty department as an extension of marketing. He recognizes how a company stands behind their product and cares for loyal customers means long-term prosperity.

We also discussed at length the soon to be released Jackson Flex Drive System, which is a pedal based system for Jackson Kayaks. I currently use a Hobie Pro Angler as my tournament boat but definitely plan to check out this offering from Jackson once available. It sounds like there will be a couple of really interesting features, including an easy beaching ability without drive issues. Jackson yaks are well known for quality, and I’d expect their pedal version to live up to the legacy there.

All in all it was an interesting day of ideas, marketing, and conversation – with a little fishing thrown in. Eric is clearly very passionate about his fishing career and has a clear plan on how he’s going to be a long-term successful competitor on the professional level. At the end of the day, because of his positive attitude, drive and mind for creative thinking…I tend to believe him.

YUM Thumpn’ Dinger Scores at Night

First round of night fishing for the year and hit a jackpot with this FAT 21.25″ largemouth. Caught in transition from deep water to spawning areas by hopping the YUM Thumpn’ Dinger along the bottom.  Gear setup: 3/0 Owner Worm Hook, 1/4 oz Reins tungsten weight, 15 lb P-Line CSX, Dobyns worm rod, Shimano Citica reel.

Bass are moving up for spawn, caught this tank just after dark on a YUM Thumpn' Dinger rigged Texas style.
Bass are moving up for spawn, caught this tank just after dark on a YUM Thumpn’ Dinger rigged Texas style.

Observations from the KBF National Championship

Kentucky Lake Largemouth Bass
Kentucky Lake Largemouth

Last week I competed in the Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship on Kentucky Lake for the first time, which was also my first time on Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. During my days pre-fishing and during the tournament itself, I came to a few conclusions. (admittedly, some more obvious than others)

  1. These lakes are huge, particularly for a kayak angler. We knew going in this was the case and would need to do a lot of scouting. During pre-fishing I probably spent almost as much time in the Tacoma as I did on the water. This is a lesson learned for next year, narrow the scope of water and spend more time scouting fewer areas.
  2. There are a lot of parts of Kentucky and Tennessee that look like the good parts of Arkansas. And…a lot of parts of Kentucky and Tennessee that look like the bad parts. We appear to all be in this together.
  3. 362 kayak anglers is a big field, even on Kentucky Lake. Every angler there is a good fisherman, which meant they can also read a topo map. The result was that anglers weren’t as spread out as I had hoped, the good water in many cases was very crowded with kayaks pounding the fish for a week. Those that found good water away from the crowd were rewarded.
  4. Top baits for me on Kentucky Lake during the week were a Bomber Deep Flat A crankbait, Booyah Buzz 1/2 oz buzzbait, Rebel Teeny Foxy Shad Pop-R, ned rig, Goldens Paddletail on drop shot and YUM Thumpn’ Dinger texas rigged.
  5. Ledges. I’d heard a lot about ledges and ledge fishing.  I think this worked for a lot of folks, but I just really couldn’t get it to happen for me. Might be the wrong time of year, so may try it again my next trip over there. Still was fun to say I’d fished the famous ledges on Kentucky Lake.
  6. Mom and Pop’s Pizza in Big Sandy is AWESOME. Definitely what is needed after a long day on the water. Check them out next time you are near the south end of the lake. Protip – pay the extra $1 for cheese on the breadsticks.
  7. The captains meeting the first night was a good event and was important to hear the rules and such. The captain’s meeting the second night seemed completely unnecessary, particularly when they moved it back from 4:00 to 6:30 and people had to wait around for an extra couple of hours instead of getting rest and preparing gear for the next day.
  8. I’ve never encountered a bigger bunch of rude, obnoxious and aggressive boaters than I did on Kentucky Lake. I’m hearing this as well from many other KBF anglers. Stories of invading fishing space, attempts to swamp kayaks and dangerously close fly-bys were common. Come on man.
  9. I made a huge mistake this week and really did a lot of exploring to get to know the lake’ instead of my usual strategy of looking for a particular type of water. Although I do know the lake better by fishing in about 10 different areas, it kept me from learning the area I needed to as well as I should have. Lesson learned for next time.
  10. Day one, I roll up an hour early to my selected spot, 449 miles from home and after a week of looking around for the prime location to begin. What do I see? Fellow Natural State Kayak Anglers member Jeff Mallot sitting there in the exact place I’m headed. Small world. If only I’d gotten there two hours early…ha!
  11. Lake Barkley looks really really good. People had told me to go fish there and I tried it. Loved how it looked. I just couldn’t catch fish there. Maybe next time.
  12. If you lose your assault paddle out of your yak on the crest of the big bridge crossing the lake, it will be gone by the time you go back to get it.
  13. Crazy Chicken night (every Tuesday) is definitely worth the $9.43 at Paris Landing State Park Lodge.
  14. There is a lot of talk about how long it took to judge fish and get final results out. I agree that this was a bit frustrating, but really, if you aren’t in the top contenders, it doesn’t matter that much to get your rank after a day or two. I’m more concerned about talk I’m seeing from some about wanting to implement a cut day after day one, or raising the fish limit to 15″ to limit the number of fish to be scored. In my opinion, this is supposed to be a fun, rewarding event, and both of those changes could really reduce the fun of the overall event for most anglers. People like to catch and card fish, and people like to know they will be fishing two full days before they travel. These changes would depress attendance, I know I may not pay the entry fee and travel over there for only one day. For the ‘hardcore’ anglers asking for these changes, guess what? Fewer participants means less entry fees which means less prize money for you to win. Hopefully everyone will see the big picture that a huge event where everyone has fun is the best thing for the sport.
  15. Can’t wait for next year!

Swepco Lake NSKA Recap

Winter had one more blast of icy air to launch the Natural State Kayak Anglers into the 2017 season on Swepco Lake. With air temperatures at 29 degrees at take-off and water temps ranging from 68-75 degrees across the hot water lake, it was an interesting setup for the day.

As discussed in this previous article, historically Swepco Lake has not been friendly to recent kayak tournaments. This year was a different story as many fish were caught, including several big ones. Of the 61 anglers who entered, 85% turned in a score-able fish and 44% turned in a limit. Overall a great day of fishing on Swepco Lake, evidenced by 260 fish caught which included eight big fish at 20+ inches.

First place went to Rob Barnica with 89″ and second to Baron Meek with 88.5″ who both fished most of the day up around the discharge area near the power plant. I came in third place with 87.25″ while David Preston took fourth with 83.75″ and Ethan Dhuyvetter with 82.5″ was fifth.

Top 10 finishers:
  1. Rob Barnica
  2. Baron Meek
  3. Jason Kincy
  4. David Preston
  5. Ethan Dhuyvetter
  6. Roy Roberts
  7. Robert Murphy
  8. Justin Wright
  9. Rance Richardson
  10. Wayne Johnson

Rance Richardson won big bass with 21.25″. View complete NSKA – Swepco Lake Results here.

Rob, Baron and David did not provide a tournament recap, but here are mine and Ethan’s look back at the day.

Jason – A week or so out from the tournament I was feeling pretty solid on a game plan, but that was thrown out when the weather took a nasty turn that weekend. Knowing they had the generators running most of the night before it was clear that bass would be feeding early up toward the discharge but I decided to avoid the crowd and to try and find more unmolested water down on the dam end of the lake.

I wasted some time throwing a bit of topwater and tried a few other different things but did not really get settled in until mid-morning and figured out that a combination of some different YUM plastic baits (Thumpn’ Dinger and Kill Shot) on Owner hooks was the way to go. Most fish were in 12-8 feet of water and bit on a slow-moving presentation.  The bite was good until about 11:30 when the clouds began to break up and then once the sun fully emerged the bite shut off for me. As a last gasp effort to pick up a couple of inches I went up to the discharge area for the last hour but couldn’t cull a fish.

Ethan – I decided to fish this event because I thought it would be a great way to meet people and get out on a lake I’ve never been to. I was very hesitant because of the cruddy weather we had the day prior but opted to fish last minute. Having never fished a kayak tournament, I was a bit nervous that I would screw something up, but Jeff explained everything well so I had no issues.

When I got out, I figured an A Rig would work but after hearing the water temp, I quickly put that down and started tossing a jig. A football jig and a drop shot Roboworm accounted for all my fish. The fishing seemed to be best when there was cloud cover. I was catching my fish on transition banks in 5-10 ft of water, they all seemed to be pre-spawn to me which I found odd with the water temps as high as they were.

 

RTT Kickoff Classic Tournament Recap

This past weekend I competed in my first tournament of the season. The 2017 Razoryak Tournament Trail Kickoff Classic brought together the top kayak anglers from around the state of Arkansas for a three day online event open to fishing any public waters. This a brief recap of my 8th place finish out of 56 anglers.

First of all, congratulations to the top finishers:

  1. Dwain Batey – NSKA
  2. Rob Barnica – NSKA
  3. Terry Brown – KBA
  4. Scott Acord – KBA
  5. Justin Brewer – NSKA

The tournament was a bit disappointing to me because I felt like I had really dialed in Lake Swepco in Gentry, Arkansas, in recent weeks, catching a lot of quality fish. After a week of record high temperatures, a windy cold front moved in and turned everything upside down and I just couldn’t adjust well enough to be a top competitor. I also made some mistakes that cost me early on a couple of big fish.

Friday – Day 1

I hit Swepco on a day of very high winds and temps in the 40s steadily dropping into the 30s later in the day. Even with this, I stuck with my plan to start out with some topwater (Heddon Zara Spook) on this power plant lake and although it generated some bites, I lost the first six fish that I hooked, including a couple of large ones. It wasn’t the hooks, clearly something was off with my hookset and technique which was resulting in the bass pulling off. After this setback I was pretty dejected but remembering my pre-tournament plan I transitioned to a Norman Mad N crankbait and picked up a good sized and a mid-range keeper fairly quickly.  Later on l I hooked into an absolute monster (using a YUM Dinger) which I fought for what seemed like forever…until I pulled up a 4-5 lb catfish and I literally went on a verbal anti-catfish rant. Not wanting to give up, I stuck with this YUM Dinger approach and picked up a couple of keepers to add to my total but still only had one good sized bass. Now was the time of day where I was ready to go to my bread and butter approach with a Norman Deep N crankbait, which yielded me a 17″+ and 18″+ to round out my limit for the day, finishing with 77.25″ for day one where I was feeling pretty good in the standings until my buddy Dwain Batey submitted 90″+ that evening! For a great recap of his eventual tournament win, go give this a read. This pushed me down to 3rd for day one, which was good but I was frustrated about missed opportunities that day.

Saturday – Day Two

The cold front had really set in and temps were below or at freezing until late morning so I didn’t hit the water until around noon. As expected, nothing that worked for me on Friday was working today and I really scrambled to try and increase my limit total, trying all sorts of techniques. A pretty neat (but bittersweet) experience was sitting on the water within just a few feet of Rob Barnica as he was pulling in big fish after big fish. He was on fire with those bass and kept pulling in one after another…I believe I saw him catch four between 17″ and 21.5″ in about an hour. Although I was in the same place and throwing a very similar bait, they didn’t like my technique and didn’t bite for me. A big mistake I made on this day was spotting a big bass on a deep bed that was hard to get to, but I didn’t stay there and try to get it to bite. After putting in a bit of time on it I moved on not wanting to waste my day, in retrospect I should have stayed as long as it took since that one fish would have made my Saturday successful in upping my total. As it is, I only added a few inches and finished with 84″ on the day, culling with a couple of mid-size keepers that I caught on topwater again. (People say I’m addicted to topwater baits…)  At the end of day two I’d dropped to 5th place.

Sunday was the third day of the event, but after seeing the leaderboard after day two I could see that a win was no longer possible I decided to sit it out and spend some time at home. When the tournament ended I had fallen to 8th and finished in the top 10 which is a minimum goal for every event I enter.

A couple of equipment/setup keys I’d mention that I believe really helped in this event:

  • Was able to really give my new Shimano Citica 7:2:1 reel a workout as my main topwater and crankbait reel. It was smooth as silk and was really impressed with it.
  • As usual I used Fish Allure scented tabs on my hard baits which helped give me a good confidence boost, particularly on topwater baits.
  • Two of my keepers in my best five came on a crankbait I had never used before, but had ordered a Norman Mad N for this event to match some baitfish I’d been seeing shallow while prefishing – this definitely paid off.

All in all it was a good warm-up for the year which got me back into tournament mode and also let try out some new equipment and some new rod/reel setups under pressure.

Carolina Rigging for Trout in Arkansas

Rainbow Trout Caught on Carolina Rig at Lake Atalanta, Rogers Arkansas
Arkansas lake Rainbow Trout.

Fishing in Arkansas during January can be a hit or miss situation with the weather. One day it could be mild and in the 50s and the next day you may encounter sleet and ice and below freezing temperatures. One thing that you can count on is lake water temps dropping well into the low 40s and even the high 30s in some small lakes.

This is a great time of year to do some trout fishing in Northwest Arkansas, either in the White River tailwaters of Beaver or Table Rock lake or in some select clear water lakes in the area like Lake Atalanta in Rogers.

As primarily a bass fisherman I don’t own a fly rod, but you can use some bass techniques for some easy trout fishing. One of these techniques is to fish Carolina-style, but with a different and more finesse setup.

Owner Fishing Hooks - Mosquito size 8 Model 5177-031
Use size 8 or 6 hook.

One of the keys to making this work is to have a good quality sharp hook in the appropriate size. When using an egg-style floating bait, I’d select an Owner Mosquito Hook in size 8, or size 6 if you prefer. These Owner hooks are reliable and needle-sharp which is critical in a situation like this. They also have very small barbs that are easily pinched down depending on the waters you fish. If your local tackle store doesn’t carry these, you can find Owner Hooks on Tackle Warehouse.

Simply set up your rig by using a lightweight spinning rod and Shimano reel and attach a small swivel to a 4lb (try P-Line) leader with a small bullet weight and glass bead on the main line. Tie your Owner Mosquito hook to your leader, making it anywhere from 1 to 3 feet depending on water depth. Apply your floating bait egg

Close up of Owner hook in Rainbow Trout Caught on Carolina Rig at Lake Atalanta, Rogers Arkansas
The Owner Mosquito Hook in size 8 is the perfect small size for trout, but is needle sharp for a nice hookset.

on the hook, adjusting so just the tip of the hook is showing.

To fish it, simply toss it upstream in a current allowing it to then slowly bounce along back to you, taking up slack as it goes. This is a great system for fishing ponds or lakes with trout because you can either cast it out and leave it until you get a bite, or periodically move it a bit. The floating bait will look like a natural snack for the trout. Once you get a bite, the sharp Owner hook doesn’t require a strong hookset.

Give this technique a try the next time you want to try some trout fishing on a cold day. It’s an easy transition for a bass fisherman to find some success with trout.

Power Plant Lake Winter Fishing

I want to share a technique I used this past December on a power plant lake in Arkansas to catch a large number of big bass, probably my most fun month of fishing this year. Almost all of them were caught using a Norman Lures DD22 or Deep Little N crankbait.

This fatty had been feeding on shad when it bit my Norman Deep Little N in white green fleck.
This fatty had been feeding on shad when it bit my Norman Deep Little N in white green fleck.
Bass about to move up on some shad.
Bass about to move up on some shad.

At Swepco Lake in Gentry, Arkansas, bass boat and kayak anglers fill the parking lots and storm the water when winter arrives. This year is no different, with a chill in the air and ice on the banks, the “hot tub” was a nice 74-76 degrees near the plant discharge. There are a lot of ways to catch good fish at a lake like this, particularly when the bite is on.

For me, the most effective and consistent method for bigger bass this time was to do some deep cranking, going after bass which were herding shad and then feeding. A second key was identifying the depth of the bass and then choosing the correct crankbait to use so that it would run just a few feet above the bass. A Norman DD22 runs as deep as 17 feet and a Deep Little N runs as deep as 12 feet.

When a school was identified and depth determined, I’d simply deploy the crankbait and repeatedly retrieve it in the vecinity of the bass. To keep things moving slowly, my setup was a 5:4:1 Lews reel on a Dobyns FR 705CB crankbait rod.  To get the bait as deep as possible, I used a light 8 lb mono and thumbed the reel instead of setting my drag. Finally, for some extra persuasion, I used a Fish Allure scented tab (shad) on the baits, on the body, just behind the front treble.

Norman DD22 in Firetiger gel coat and Deep Little N in white green fleck.
Norman DD22 in Firetiger gel coat and Deep Little N in white green fleck.

This technique netted dozens of bass and was a fun combination of electronics, crankbaits and gear that all came together at this power plant lake. Hopefully this gives you some insight or ideas on something to try on your next trip.

AKA Members Kayak Fish Shadow Lake

Temperatures were unseasonably high for a weekend in December so a group of kayak fishermen from Arkansas Kayak Anglers hit the water in search of some pre-holiday fish. The destination was where the Elk River turns into Shadow Lake in Noel, Missouri. This is a great little year-round fishery providing good fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass in particular

We had a really enjoyable time on the water due to the weather (overcast and temps at 70 degrees in mid-December!) and pulled in some good fish. Although we couldn’t zero in on a hard pattern, fish were caught numerous ways. I personally hooked good size largemouth bass on a Booyah spinnerbait, Smithwick suspending Rogue, and a Heddon Super Spook, Jr. Some of our other crew had success as well, including a few smallies. Appreciate the great group of kayak fishing friends in the area and thank Charlie, Jason, Mark and Jason for a good day on the Elk.

Hwy 59 bridge where the Elk meets Shadow Lake is a hot spot for bass.
Hwy 59 bridge where the Elk meets Shadow Lake is a hot spot for bass.
Jason and Mark work the river for bass.
Jason and Mark work the river for bass.
Jason shows off a nice largemouth bass caught on a shakey head.
Jason shows off a nice largemouth bass caught on a shaky head.
3.4 lb large mouth bass caught on a crankbait.
17.5″ largemouth bass caught on a crankbait.