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Where will 2018 take you? After living in Missouri for 30 years, the brave new world of Tennessee called me. The next three and a half decades (don’t bother doing the math) were spent searching for the waters loaded with trophy fish. Work restrictions of a real job and family responsibilities limits you if you’re not creative. Business (fishing business) and pleasure trips sent me to places close by and destinations I could only imagine previously. Trips to Florida to fish with angling icons Homer Circle and “Bass Professor” Doug Hannon, to Arizona’s Lake Havasu spending a day on the boat with tournament genius Rick Clunn, to Hawaii to fish and cover as a press angler a tournament on fresh water lakes, to a remote lake in Mexico to do a video for a giant retailer, to Canada to test my canoe /camping /fishing skills in a gigantic, primitive wilderness area known as the “Quetico”, and eventually to many other wild places and urban locations. Predating GPS and cell phones, you had to be tuned into your surroundings and be confident in your navigation and survival skills, all this in the name of fishing and adventure.

Fishing familiar waters makes for a great degree of comfort. You establish a “milk run” to places that consistently yield fish. Being lucky enough to do TV for over twenty years, you become so confident you pull up to a spot, look at the videographer and say, “roll the camera” followed immediately by catching a fish on command. What happens when you get out of your kayak comfort zone? The challenges are new waters, some of the same and a few different species, casting in familiar spots, time tested techniques and using favorite baits just in different locations. A recent bold relocation and move lead me several miles to the East in my beloved Volunteer state of Tennessee. There are lots of flowing waters, a wide variety of fish navigating those waters, a diverse topography and multiple challenges between launching and loading. Gee Whiz, how will I do it?
What’s the goal? For me it’s to challenge myself, sharpen my skills, land a big fish and sometimes just not get skunked! Depend on the most commonly used factors, the right rod, the best lure for the situation, a good knot, a solid hook set, my trust in the kayak, preference the Big Rig, as well as my Bending Branches Angler Pro Carbon paddle to do more than just get me there and back, lastly lean on my intuitive and observation senses. This is almost sure to bring a few fish to the kayak and help to make you feel comfortable when you expand your playground.

What are the fish eating normally? You can observe the shoreline and shallows to get a preview of the local forage. You can bet on minnows, various baitfish and crawfish. Now you have a jump on what should be firmly affixed to the end of your line. Minnow plugs, small safety pin style spinners, jigs, soft plastics and crankbaits for bass and when seasonally appropriate topwater offerings should all be along for the ride. In my new area surprises lurk under the surface. Walleye and the might musky are likely to appear on the business end of bass baits, making it important to be prepared to safely (for you and the fish) handle creatures equipped with razor sharp gill plates and ample dentures. Standard for me are one seven foot rod with a baitcasting reel, probably a gear ratio retrieve of 6.1:1 and spooled with 12 pound test monofilament for spinnerbait, topwater and certain cranking chores. Not far away is a rod that supports my jig and soft plastic habit, more likely a medium heavy action, 30 pound braided line and a stout baitcaster to handle bigger fish. Because you might encounter thin, gin clear water a spinning outfit is a constant companion. Tossing lightweight lures a long distance is an effective tactic for spooky fish of any type. Simplicity still sells. I have a dedicated box for leadheads ranging from 1/16th ounce to ¼ ounce models. Weather and water conditions are the determining factors as to which goes swimming rigged with my bogus bait, a soft plastic creation. Cold or clear water, go light, wind, current and stained water (they go hand in hand) try the bait with weight.
Every really good angler I ever knew, kayak, bass boat, bank caster or participating by any means, does a few things well. They learn every time out, something new or something that reinforces a theory they already believed. Another factor, they glean information from others regardless of age or experience level. Finally they tap into their previous experience, knowledge and that sixth sense that separates them from other who blindly cast and aren’t students of the sport, in short they always leave with a lesson.

Know the fish. Most all gamefish share four lifestyle facets or minimally similar likes. They need oxygen, second they need food, most relate to also like cover and finally prefer a deep water escape route close by. A common sense approach by the kayak caster would include using the quietest bait first as to not alert the spooky fish, launch the bait past the spot the fish is holding in so as not to similarly frighten the fish. Mimic the motion, natural movement and speed of the food source you’re trying to match. When in doubt, slower is generally better. Establish a pattern and be prepared to be flexible as the day goes on and the wind picks up, the sun rises in the sky, clouds appear or a front approaches. Consider every condition that will cause the fish to adjust. Become a full contact fisherman. Be aware of what your lure is doing at all times, once you feel anything be in position to set the hook.
I’m sure challenges in many forms await in “18”, but I’ll be out there pluggin’