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Okay, so you’ve been fishing the local lakes and slow moving rivers for a couple of years in your new Jackson kayak (you *did* buy a Jackson…right?) and you’ve caught some nice fish. You’ve learned where some decent fish hang out and you’re pretty confident you can catch fish with a half dozen different baits in the 3600 boxes behind you in the milk crate on any given trip out with the kayak. But you know there’s got to be more to it than just this. You keep seeing these pictures and videos of hawg Largemouth and bruiser Red Fish on the Jackson website and on other fishing forums and in all the kayak fishing magazines and think…”what do these people know that I don’t?” “Who do they know that I don’t know?” “What waters are they fishing that you don’t know about?” “What baits and techniques do they keep secret from everyone else?” And probably most of all…”Boy I sure would like to fish with some of these people sometime and pick their brains.” Well ya know what?…you can.

I was at that same place about 15 years ago. I was fishing out a hand-built Pirough and then a sit-in kayak every chance I got. I got fairly competent at it, but I *knew* there had to be something more to it than just catching 12 inch Smallmouth and the occasional 2 lb largemouth. I knew there were fishing clubs around, but they were mostly about the powerboats and I certainly didn’t fit in with THAT bunch. So I started doing a little research online. First I found a couple of fishing forums, lurked for a few months just to see what the sites was all about and, holy mackerel, there *were* other kayak anglers out there! One forum in particular kept my interest because the folks there seemed friendly, answered my stupid newbie questions without being snarky about it, and there seemed to be a lot of folks that lived within the mid-Atlantic and were willing to travel around to different areas to fish. A lot of them seemed to be fishing the Shenandoah and the upper Potomac (my home waters) not to mention the Susquehanna, Juniata, the James, The New….I was pretty sure I had actually seen a couple of these guys before here and there, I just didn’t know them as posters on the website.

But eventually I bumped into a couple of guys at a landing after a long day and turned out I *did* know them from the website…and they just happened to be members of a local club that wasn’t all about Powerboats and tournaments: The Potomac River Smallmouth Club. Between these 2 guys and becoming a member of this club, I’ve learned enough stuff to fill 2 fishermen’s brains. I’ve met guides, writers, pro fishermen and not-so-pro fishermen, marine biologists that work for my state’s game commission and I try to learn something from all of them. Of course my puny brain won’t hold that much information all at once so I try to pass some of it on every chance I get.

As the years have moved on, Some of these guys have become some the best friends I have ever had. We fish often, laugh lots, paddle miles and miles, go “rodeoing” (a 3 day+ fishing and camping trip by a river somewhere) and even drink one now and again. But mostly what we do is share knowledge. When one of us finds new, effective baits, you can bet the rest know in short order. Somebody finds a new way to fish that bait, we pass it on. And as I’ve gotten deeper into this thing, other related activities and opportunities have come along, I’m now Conservation Chairman for both my club and my Izaak Walton Chapter, I work closely with my RiverKeeper(s) organizations as a volunteer and fund raiser, I’ve written for national publications and of course… was asked to become part of Jackson Kayak’s Fishing Team.

But I’m not done yet. I pick brains everywhere I fish and everywhere I go. I have never thought of myself as a great fisherman. I know some, and I fish with a few, but I have the dreaded “Hands of Stone” some days. Other days I couldn’t buy a fish… or even find one with dynamite. But I figure as I learn more, I’ll get better. Probably the best advice I have is just get out there, find people who are as passionate about fishing and preserving that activity and our waters as you are, and you *will* get better. You’ll meet good, knowledgeable people, and maybe even make a few good friends.

For me…the next thing on MY bucket list is get up with Jim Sammons and see what he can teach me about “the salt”. I know how to surf fish and fish off the long piers in North Carolina where I’m originally from. But I’ve never done it from a Kayak in open water before. I figure Jim can teach me a thing or three.

Then I’ll get him over on the Shenandoah or the Upper Potomac and teach him a little about Smallmouth and Musky-chasing. I have a hunch Mr Sammons is like me and tries to learn a little something everywhere he goes too.