Since my first year kayak fishing, some gear has come and gone. I’ve owned/sold four kayaks over the past few years, changed personal floatation devices twice, upgraded my rod/reel collection, broken at least three pairs of sunglasses, bought a dozen different hats, grown my collection of fat boy sized performance shirts and purchased or lost more lures than I care to count. However, through it all, one piece of gear has stayed with me throughout that time. Until recently that is.
With my desire to purchase a new Jackson Kayak Coosa HD, I needed/wanted to sell my current kayak. I found a buyer when my daughter Katelyn bought it for her boyfriend Dakota. I gave them a good deal, but wanted to do more since I love my kids and Dakota is one of those rare boyfriends that a father actually approves of. Knowing he needed a paddle for his new ride and knowing that I would be purchasing a Bending Branches Angler Pro paddle this spring, I reluctantly included my beloved Aqua Bound Manta Ray carbon paddle with the purchase. I know this sounds silly, but saying goodbye to the kayak was no sweat. Saying goodbye to that Manta Ray, however, just about broke my heart. You see, that paddle and I have been through a lot together the past three or four years, and I felt like I was saying goodbye to a dear friend. Weird, huh.
Together, my AquaBound Manta Ray and I have fished all over northeastern Indiana, fished a tournament in southern Michigan, explored some inland lakes in the upper peninsula and chased saltwater species in Florida. The Manta Ray laid loyally in the floor of my kayak as I caught bass, trout, crappie, redfish, bluegill, catfish, rock bass, northern pike and maybe a couple more species I can’t recall.
This paddle, with it’s sleek all black finish, has seen much abuse. The paddle blades have dulled just a little bit, received the occasional facelift by the addition of decals, and they have a few battle scars from our adventures. I’ve used the Manta Ray to push off of rocks, stumps, oyster bars, barnacle covered bridge pilings, piers, sandbars, boat launches and other kayaks. I’ve used it as a push pole, a lure retriever, an axe (that was a rough day) and a stake out pole. It’s lifted more fish into the boat than I can remember and untangled my line from lily pad stems on just about every trip into my favorite fishing hole. It’s startled dolphins swimming beside my kayak and frightened carp in the shallows. Ah yes, good times for sure.
I’ve asked a lot of my paddle over the past few years and it’s delivered without question on every occasion. Never once did it fail me, no matter how much abuse I put it through and I have no doubt it will serve Dakota for many, many years to come. I’m sure Dakota and I will share many fishing adventures together in the near future. I’ll be using my new Bending Branches Angler Pro, which will no doubt take the same abuse as the old Manta Ray. However, I’m sure I’ll look over and smile the first time that Dakota uses the Manta Ray to retrieve his crankbait from a maple tree overhanging the river. Especially if it’s my crankbait he’s using.
Indeed, that AquaBound Manta Ray paddle served me well. I am truly going to miss it.
This past Monday I found myself with the day off of work and with the temps forecasted to reach sixty degrees, I figured it would be a great chance for a solo trip on my favorite stretch of river. As I’ve written in previous posts, this particular stretch holds quite a few northern pike and smallmouth bass during the summer months, so I was pretty excited to try it during the fall. I thought for sure the larger pike would be cruising and not held up in the many downfalls and log jams that dotted the river. Boy was I wrong.
I hooked my first fish, a little smallmouth bass, within the first half hour or so of fishing. My excitement level jumped up a notch as I thought for sure it was a sign of fish to come. However, not a single other fish hit until I was paddling my way back upriver to the launch. Another small fish, this time a hammer handle sized northern pike, struck the lure with ferocity but was still far from the fight I was hoping for.
A couple of things to take away from this trip that are of note; first, the Jackson Kilroy is an absolute great river kayak, of which I had no doubt. This was my first trip with it on a river and it didn’t disappoint. I know I keep repeating it but, brand loyalty aside, this is one very versatile and underestimated kayak. If you are in Indiana, do yourself a favor and stop by Wildcat Creek Outfitters (www.wildcatcreekoutfitters.com) in Zionsville, Indiana for a test paddle. I think you’ll be impressed with the Kilroy. Second, while the fishing wasn’t what I was hoping for, the solitude of floating a river this time of year is fantastic and very refreshing. The only company I had during my float was whitetail deer, wood ducks, turtles and a few squirrels who stopped foraging for acorns long enough to watch me slip past.
I did manage to get some video footage, trying some new angles just to mix it up a bit, but of course the fishing action is a bit lacking. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy the video I’ve put together and soon find yourself enjoying an autumn day on the river. Tight lines!
A week ago last Saturday four of us from the Wildcat Creek Outfitters (http://www.wildcatcreekoutfitters.com/) Kayak Fishing Team met up to float a river here in northeastern Indiana that I had never been on. WCO team member Kyle H. had been on it a few times and was having good luck with smallmouth bass and northern pike. Having never caught a northern pike from a kayak and with the thought of fishing new territory on my mind, I was pretty pumped up for this day to begin.
We arrived at the launch site at about 8 a.m. I had already met Kyle H. and Kyle P. previously, but was able to finally meet Tom S. in person and was looking forward to fishing with these guys. We had looked on the Indiana DNR’s website to find that our intended float was supposedly a 4 hour trip, but we figured it would take 5 or 6 hours seeing that we were going to fish and not just paddle straight through. As we would find out later, both our estimate and the DNR’s website were way off.
Soon after launching, we were all fishing as the gentle current moved us downstream one by one. I don’t recall who caught the first fish, but I would bet it was Kyle H. as the kid seems able to sweet talk fish into biting his hook. He was casting a large chartreuse and white spinnerbait, which would prove a wise decision as you’ll see here in a bit.
As the morning progressed we all caught small pike and smallmouth bass, with a few rock bass and even one largemouth bass thrown in for good measure. Kyle P. caught his first ever northern pike and I caught my first northern pike from a kayak.
Tom caught a lot of fish as well from his Native Watercraft Ultimate 12, but I never seemed to be close enough to snap any pictures when he did. The other three guys not only caught fish on their spinning & baitcasting rods, but they all also caught fish on their fly rods. I was the only numbskull that didn’t bring a fly rod, but I’ll correct that the next time we float this river.
Kyle H., as I said, was having great luck throwing the large spinnerbait. He was looking to catch some big pike and it worked as he caught not just one, but two really nice fish.
One of my goals from a kayak has always been to catch a nice, dark colored smallmouth. I admire the looks of a bronze river smallie, but when I usually fish for smallmouth we only catch fish that are really pale in color. While a truly big smallmouth eluded all of us this day, I was able to catch one that put up a nice fight and had the coloring I was hoping for.
As the day wore on we began to encounter a lot of deadfalls and structure blocking our way down the river. We literally had to go over, under, around and through all kinds of large trees that were down and it proved tiresome after a bit. I was worried how my fourteen and a half foot Native Watercraft Slayer (http://www.nativewatercraft.com/) would handle the tight turns and small quarters, but it handled the challenges with ease. When portaging through the woods on the riverbank due to impassable structure across the river, the wheel on the stern of the Slayer really came in handy. At one point we decided to check our location and see how far we were from the take out point. Kyle H. pulled it up on his phone and we discovered that after about four or five hours of fishing, we were not quite half way. Ugh!
After this discovery, we kept fishing for a while but eventually decided that if we wanted to finish before dark, we had best stop fishing and start paddling straight through. We did so for the next three or four hours and in the process Kyle H. and I agreed we had to paddle through some very nice looking stretches of the river that were sure to hold fish. Nonetheless, we kept paddling hard and continued to encounter a lot of deadfalls blocking our way. The river was beautiful and I would have liked to slowed down to enjoy the scenery more, but we were all getting worn out and ready to get back to the trucks.
Finally at around 7 p.m., a full eleven hours after launching, the take out point was in sight and all four of us were relieved to be off the river. We soon had our kayaks loaded up, said our goodbyes and were back on the road headed home. I slept like a rock that night and my shoulders were terribly sore the next morning, but yet I can’t wait until we do it again.
With my younger brother Josh and I both having a day off during the week this past Monday, we made plans to float my favorite section of a local river together. I had been on this float trip last year with my wife and friend of mine, and I knew my brother would enjoy the trip. He was up for it and I was excited to spend the day with him on the water.
After dropping off my truck at the take out spot, we headed back to the put in and launched our kayaks. I was running the river in my 14.5 foot Native Watercraft Slayer. While many people prefer smaller kayaks for river floats, my 14.5 foot ride handled the trip just fine and maneuvered easily around the downed trees, boulders and sandbars that dotted the river throughout the day. Marc at Wildcat Creek Outfitters (www.wildcatcreekoutfitters.com) had told me that floating rivers in Indiana wouldn’t be a problem with the longer kayaks and he was right.
It wasn’t too long into the trip before I had my first fish of the day, a little smallmouth bass that was of average length for this section of the river. We were using our ultralight rods so even the small fish provided a decent fight and lots of fun. Tossing a 1/8 ounce white buzzbait and fishing it just under the water’s surface near structure proved to work for me the first half of the trip. Later in the day I switched over to a beetle spin lure with a black body with red and yellow striping, and caught just as many fish as I did on the buzzbait. I found that letting the lures drop just for a second along the edge of logs or downed trees really enticed fish to strike.
Josh was also catching some fish during the trip including his first smallmouth bass, rock bass and a tiny carp. If I remember correctly, he caught some of those fish on the same type of buzzbait I was throwing, but he also had luck on small white and purple spinnerbaits.
The highlight of our day, besides just spending time together on such a beautiful river, was seeing a pair of bald eagles. It wasn’t that long ago that bald eagles were no where to be seen here in the Hoosier state, but now it’s not uncommon to find them along our many rivers and lakes. No matter how many times I see one of these majestic birds, I am always in awe of them and the conservation efforts that have brought them back to this part of the country.
As the day went on, we stopped a few times to stretch our legs and make a few casts from shore, including one stop on a sandbar for lunch. Cold chicken sandwiches and Mountain Dew hit the spot after a morning of paddling.
Last year, when floating the final stretch of this trip, my friend Kevin got a good look at some river otters where a creek spills into the river. Unfortunately, they were no where to be found as Josh and I approached the area, but there was plenty of sign such as the muddy slides along the river banks. Along with the eagles, we did see plenty of turtles, blue herons, ducks, geese and many really big carp. As huge carp after huge carp swam past my kayak, I longed for my bowfishing gear.
We ended the day with less fish than I had caught last year, but that didn’t bother either of us at all. Josh agreed that it was a fantastic day and the time together was very much appreciated. As we loaded up the kayaks and headed our separate ways, we agreed it wouldn’t be long before we returned to float the river again together.
I was able to get plenty of video footage, including some underwater footage for my first time, on this trip with my Go Pro camera and made this video of our day. Enjoy!