There are countless memories, friends, and lessons learned that I can tie directly to this wonderful sport. Kayak angling has allowed me to be part of record setting events in fresh water and salt water and also appear on TV for a few moments. The sport and the people associated with it have given me so much that I feel obligated to give back when I can, no matter how seemingly small my contributions may be.
Adam Harbuck is a native of Louisiana and has been fishing out of a paddle-powered watercraft for longer than a lot of us have been alive. A life long outdoorsman, Adam specializes in shallow water swamps and bayous that are so thick with cover you can almost walk across them. Now me being a Yankee from Pennsylvania, I was not accustomed to fishing in these types of environments. Luckily for me, I ran into Adam one morning on a local lake and after a few minutes of chewin’ the fat he offered to take me fishing. Six seasons later, the weed choked waters that seemed impossible to fish became my comfort zone, thanks to Adam’s tutelage.
About three years ago while I was visiting family back in PA, I met Juan Veruete at big box retailer where he had a Ride 135 rigged up and on display. I had come to know Juan through the forums on Kayak Bass Fishing and you could always count on him to post up some pictures of giant smallmouth bass. I believe there is a fishing rod that was inadvertently named after Juan, it’s called the “Smallmouth Guru” and rightfully so.
For whatever reason, no one told me that just 45 minutes south of where I grew up and lived for 20 years, there was world-class river smallmouth fishing. If only time travel was possible! After meeting me for the first time in person Juan was generous enough to invite me out smallie fishing with him anytime I’m back in PA.
I had only been out for smallies one time before with fellow KBF members Jamie and Mike McCabe who put me on my first and long standing personal best 18 inch smallmouth. Mike and Jamie are another great example of total strangers reaching out to help someone based only on the fact that they share the common thread of kayak fishing.
I was kind of shocked when my fishing mentor, Adam, told me that he had never caught a smallmouth bass. After everything that Adam has taught me and donated to me, I figured the best way to start paying him back was to take him on an all (mostly) expense paid trip up north. This past April we loaded up our Rides and fishing tackle and set off to meet the man himself, Juan Veruete in the Keystone State. The 1,300 mile, 20 hour drive up to PA was the start of a 12 day 3,500 mile epic grind for me.
The five day, whirl-wind trip only included two days of fishing but the river was generous giving up over 100 smallies between four kayak anglers including two over 20 inches, more than a half dozen over 18 inches and a hefty load of 16-17 inchers. All were released back into the beautiful crystal clear water.
The friendships forged with the people listed above all started with the common ground of kayak fishing, that’s the beauty of belonging to a small and close-knit community. We all have our own stories about how this great sport has created memories and relationships and hopefully things stay that way for many years to come. Most of us have benefited greatly from the veterans of this community, and if you have make sure you pay it forward in the best way you can no matter how small you feel your contribution may be. You never know, you may take a seasoned angler on a bucket list fishing adventure.
by Matt Lehman