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It may seem odd to post a blog piece about “Stop, Look and Listen” but this one doesn’t deal with railroad crossings. This is a bit of advice that I have to give myself when I find that I have gotten way too serious. We are anglers and we want to catch fish; I am not denying or discounting that fact. My problem is sometimes I get so involved in the chase and catch that I miss all the good stuff going on around me.

Some of the greatest moments of my kayak fishing career have been when I wasn’t even fishing. A predawn launch where the banks were covered in glow worms had me paddling through a creek that looked like I was in space surrounded by stars. On a quiet float in a backwater I was privileged to spend a few minutes with a pair of otters and 3 young kits. They couldn’t figure out the chubby guy on the floating “log” and the encounter was hilarious. Momma would scold the babies for getting too close but they just wanted to see what I was up to. Another early morning float had me chasing some moving water that I suspected was redfish. The “redfish” turned out to be a pod of manatees and the short distraction made my whole day.

There are many things we are surrounded with that we will miss if all we see is where the next cast is going. Critters and scenery are just a part of the “bigger picture.” Time with friends and family, the excitement of watching a kid catch a fish or just the solitude of a solo float are all great things that can be easily missed when we are fishing too hard. Take the time to look around you next time you are on the water. Look at the leaves, rocks, birds and furry critters and watch them for a spell. If folks knew how powerful that “mental medicine” was, Jackson Kayak would not be able to keep kayaks in stock!

Don’t for a minute think that I am saying not to fish. That ain’t gonna happen with me! There is a second part of my “Stop, Look and Listen” tip. By being observant to your surroundings you can pick up hints that may lead to a killer pattern. This happened to me once on the Alabama River. A friend had been there earlier in the week and just absolutely mashed the fish on any timber he could find. I fished for a couple hours hitting every piece of wood with nothing to show for it and was flat out frustrated. I floated a minute and just watched around me trying to see some sign of life. A minnow escaping a predator in a grass bed caught my eye. A quick change to a swim jig and I paddled over to that grass patch and the first cast got mashed. I targeted every grass patch I could find till I ran out of light and had one heck of an evening with a 22” kicker at the last clump of grass.

There are lots of hints around us if we just slow down and pay attention to them. Are frogs croaking around the bank? I would be trying a frog of some sort till conditions showed me otherwise. Can you hear panfish popping bugs in the weeds? If there are panfish in the weeds, the bass are in there too! Watch in the water as well; if you see crawfish in the rocks you may want to rig a soft plastic or jig as fast as you possibly can. Pay attention to the color and size of the prey you see as well, that will give you an idea of what color and size lure you need to rig. There isn’t a thing wrong with being a “serious” fisherman; but don’t forget to savor every detail that we are surrounded with. Not only will it relieve stress and make you more thankful, it may help you to catch more fish!