It’s spring in the northeast and with it comes some of the best fishing opportunities of the year. While hefty striped bass and slammer bluefish grab the spotlight, it’s the trophy tiderunner weakfish that get my attention. There’s something about those back bay beauties and those drag-burning head shakes that’s got me hooked!
In New Jersey, our window for trophy weakfish is relatively small: from mid April to early June. The run can begin or end a little earlier or later each season, but if you’re serious about catching big weakies, make sure to circle the month of May on your calendar.
Growing up, I can remember catching weakfish all day everyday from late April until October each year. As the years passed, it became more difficult to find any real numbers of weakfish as access to certain areas was lost which resulted in the few areas left to become overcrowded. To top it off, those great runs of weakfish we experienced were over and the fishery was in a sharp decline.
With less fish around and fewer areas to fish, as a land-based angler there was only one answer: I needed a kayak to expand my options and find weakfish in areas others were not fishing. I demoed a bunch of different kayaks and fell in love with a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120. Little did I know how much kayak fishing would open a whole new world of fishing opportunities and experiences. I now have a small fleet of Wilderness Systems kayaks including a Radar 135, ATAK 120 and ATAK 140.
During the next offseason, I studied nautical charts with plans to explore new areas in hopes of finding trophy tiderunners. Weakfish are much like other species and tend to be found wherever there are large amounts of food sources. Creeks mouths, shell beds, rock piles, docks and bridges are some of the best places to find feeding zones. Large shallow bays that bottleneck into a deep channel are prime areas, especially during an outgoing tide.
Going into the spring season, I found my new kayak to be the perfect solution to finding more weakfish. The little stretches I could work from land were expanded a thousand times. The stealth of a kayak also had some real advantages over a boat with an outboard motor. Weakfish are known to be fickle and often shutdown due to motor boats. Another big advantage was being able to launch my kayak from just about anywhere. While others are waiting in line and paying ramp fees, I’m out on the water with a bent rod.
You only need one bait to catch weakfish: a bubblegum-colored Zoom Super Fluke. There’s something about the darting/gliding action that they just can’t resist. I rig my soft plastic Zoom baits upside down on 1/4 to 3/4 ounce lead head jigs, preferably with a big eye on the jig. By rigging the Super Fluke upside down, I’ve found having less of the Zoom attached to the hook allows the soft plastic bait to move more freely on the jig head hook which gives the bait a better action. I also sweeten the offering with a little fish attractant juice. I prefer shedder crab oil made by FIN-Essence. I marinate the Zoom Super Flukes with a few drops of “the juice” and it’s game over.
Presentation is key in most types of fishing. I’ve notice this even more so while targeting weakfish. Presenting a bait in such a matter that it will trigger a strike is the name of the game. After years of fishing for weakfish, I’ve found that “the swing” often triggers the most hits. Here comes the technical stuff. “The swing” as I refer to it is the moment the current starts lifting and pulling the jig away from you. I learned about this technique years ago while wading for weakfish. The best way for me to describe it is as a window in which weakfish will strike. Throwing your bait into the window wasn’t always good enough, the weakies needed a little more to trigger a strike. The swing was the key to trigger the strike. I could make adjustments when wading, but those adjustments were limited by water depth, other anglers and structure. Those limitations were removed by my kayak. I can position my kayak in the best possible location allowing my offering to spend longer periods in the strike window. After a few successful trips in my kayak, in which I outfished my wading buddies, many of my wading friends soon became my kayak friends.
Big Sur is a remote stretch of pristine coastline between Monterey and Cambria California. Mountains rise up from the shoreline with the tops nestled in the thick pillowy clouds.
Big Sur Adventure- California’s Wild Coast
By Andy O'Brien
April first marks the opening of Rockfish season on the Central California Coast. Two days into the season I was lucky enough to get on the water off the coast of Big Sur for what turned out to be an epic day of fishing and early spring conditions.
Big Sur is a remote stretch of pristine coastline between Monterey and Cambria California. Mountains rise up from the shoreline with the tops nestled in the thick pillowy clouds. The coast line is rocky and for the most part difficult to access except for a handful of places. My partner and I had been watching the extended weather forecast for several weeks waiting for the best day to materialize. We were fortunate to pick the day when the forecast held and provided us to make it out to the land of giants. Giant Rockfish and Lingcod that is.
After making our way to the beach, we sat and watched the sets roll in looking for the window. After several minutes I jumped on my Radar and took off, making my way out through a tight path between jagged wash rocks, with my partner not far behind me. We both made it through the suf zone and were on our way to the fishing grounds.
There was a bit of heavy mist and light rain falling on our way out, but the swell was small and the wind was light. Heading out straight offshore for approximately an hour and a half pedal,I was filled with anticipation of what we would find. Big Sur is a special place, with its reefs and rocky bottom safe from heavy fishing pressure due to its distance from traditional harbors and boat launches.
We made it to the spot and began fishing. Almost immediately after hitting bottom my iron was thumped hard, and as I started to reel up bang! Another thump. My rod was doubled over, and I figured I had a second fish hit my teaser hook above the iron. After a couple minutes of hard cranking I was rewarded with a giant Bocaccio rockfish and a monster Vermillion or “Red” rockfish. I had my Big Sur double! The Bocaccio and red were 25” and 23” respectively. That is huge for those rockfish. The rest of the day was filled with giant rockfish and a giant Lingcod for me. At one point my partner had a Big Sur double of his own with two big 30” Lingcod on each one of his hooks. I ended the day with a full limit of beautiful, large rockfish and two personal bests - A Lingcod taping out at 34.5” and a Bocaccio rockfish measuring 29”! I truly feel the fishing that day was worthy of being described as epic, and i think the pictures prove that. As the day went on the clouds cleared, and we were treated to an awesome rainbow, which turned out to be a pretty cool backdrop for a picture. Gray whales were also abundant on their migration north, with several coming by throughout the day with in a few hundred feet of us.
Even 5 days after the trip I am still so stoked just thinking about the epic scenery and fishing that I was lucky enough to experience that day. While Big Sur is a truly special place, it is also one to pay the utmost respect to when preparing to venture out from it’s remote shores. Good weather is a must. It is not the place to go out in questionable conditions. The remoteness and distance from help magnify the need to be dressed properly, have all necessary safety gear, and have ocean experience, including deep water self-rescue skills. Big sur is not the place for beginners or inexperienced kayak fisherman, but it is a bucket list destination and with the right weather and preparation, it is one place that the words on this page only scratch the surface in describing in allure and beauty.
Three Spring Bass Spots in Central and Western Massachesetts
Spring Bass bite in the Northeast
Three Spring Bass Spots in Central and Western Massachusetts
By Drew Haerer
The ice has thawed, and it is time to chase green fish. In New England, it doesn't take long for sluggish bass to shift from winter patterns to into full-blown gorging mode. Anglers down east may have a head start on those of us further west, but the central and western parts of the state have some fantastic bass fishing. Here are three consistent producers when it comes to big spring bass.
Located near Belchetown, Quabbin Reservoir is the largest inland water body in Massachusetts, and with its limited access, it has become a smallmouth haven. Quabbin offers something for everyone in the spring - chunk rock, bluffs, shallow, deep points, and offshore structure. However, don't expect to find much (if any) vegetation. Regardless of where you focus your efforts, be prepared for ultra-clear water. Stick with natural colors and as light of line as you can get away with for a given technique. Until you get fish honed in, try throwing a jerkbait or crankbait over rocky points. If the fish seem inactive, you may need to move deeper and slow down with a drop shot setup, Ned rig, or shaky head. Also, although better known as a smallmouth fishery, Quabbin holds plenty of big largemouths too. Before you go, be sure to read all the rules and regulations for the lake. As of 2019, private canoes and kayaks cannot be launched in the reservoir, but paddle craft and other boats can be rented and used. It is unclear whether this regulation will remain in the future, but even in a rental, Quabbin is well worth the trip.
The Connecticut River is a major hydropower source in the western part of Massachusetts, and the bass that lurk there have plenty of their own power. Because water is drawn for power generation, it is important to know the release schedule and avoid unsafe conditions. The river is unique and features ledges as deep as twenty feet or more, shallow rip rap, vegetation, wood, outflows, and a variety of traditional river features, such as pools, eddies, and current seams. The river often has a little stain to it, and even when running clear, it is tough to beat a moving bait with a splash of chartreuse. Spinnerbaits thrown in current seams can be deadly, medium running crankbaits will draw strikes, and jigs or crawfish imitations are great producers if you want to slow down a bit. Additionally, in the Bartons Cover section of the river, there are plenty of largemouth and smallmouth and extensive areas with lots of weeds and little current. This can be a great choice if the river level is high down river or you are unsure of the release schedule. In addition to being a safety consideration, releases will completely change the bite. In some sections, bites can be extremely tough to find when the power companies are pulling water, so look for large eddies and creek mouths where fish can get out of the main flow. The entire stretch of the Connecticut in MA can be productive, but the stretch from Sunderland to Holyoke is probably the most popular. The river is big and not overly technical, so pretty much any kayak can be effectively paddled on the river, so boats like the ATAK, Radar, and Tarpon are great options.
Onota Lake, which is located in Pittsfield, is a great choice for anglers in the Berkshires. This was a tough choice, as the Berkshire region is dotted with small lakes that offer phenomenal fishing, but Onota is extremely consistent. The lake may be best known for areas of deep boulder fields and points, as well as some huge weedy flats, but it has something for everyone. It can be a tough lake, and it often takes a few trips to start to develop a consistent pattern, but even if the bass aren't biting, the lake is home to many species that may end up on the hook. In the spring, I like to throw Texas-rigged crayfish imitators in rocky areas and around docks, lipless crankbaits on flats, and chatterbaits in other areas with baitfish around. These same patterns hold in many Berkshire lakes.
Top 3 reasons why I always end up diving from my kayak.
By Thomas Watanapun
Ah, choices and decisions. With so many options to choose from when looking at the weather and swell reports for my next diving/spearfishing adventure, it can be a battle of ultimate indecisiveness choosing how I want to spend my day on the water. It comes down to a few factors but I almost always find myself loading up my Tarpon 160 along with my kart with wheels as my tool of choice. Sometimes I ask myself why I even ask the question because I always end up in the same place - on my kayak, paddling and floating in the ocean. Here are my top 3 reasons why I almost always end up diving from my kayak.
You can hit more spots on the kayak vs diving from shore: this should be pretty obvious but the comfort of knowing you can move around when your favorite honey-hole is super slow is a nice comfort to have. With a kayak, you can explore more range along the coast and maybe even find new spots you weren’t able to access directly from shore.
The tankwell and bow hatches can be a savior for equipment and fish: the storage on the kayak is so key when you’re out on the water. It helps keep your expensive equipment safe from being deposited into Davy Jones’ Locker. The tankwell is also the best place to put your full stringers. Having the luxury of the stringer hanging back in your tankwell vs strapped on a dive board or on your waist swimming to shore is super convenient. So load up the stringers and throw them in your tank well for the paddle back to shore!
Paddling on the ocean in current is a phenomenal workout: If you’ve never done it, it’s a must. On some days, it feels like you’re on an endless treadmill not going anywhere. And when you mix in swell, it can feel like you’ve been paddling for hours. Another benefit to paddling before diving is the warm up effect you get. Diving in the cold waters of Northern California are hard enough, but doing it without a proper warm up for your lungs is even harder! Taking your kayak give you an excuse when you don’t want to go to the gym Monday morning =)
Taking your kayak give you such a unique perspective of the ocean and spearfishing in general. You not only get to explore places you wouldn’t get to otherwise, you have the potential to bring back even more fish and you get a workout too. So prep your gear and get to paddling!
Targeting Landlocked Salmon and Trout in the Northeast this Spring
ADVANTAGES OF THE RADAR 135 FOR TARGETING LANDLOCKED SALMON AND LAKE TROUT IN THE NORTHEAST
By Pat Gallagher
Each spring, an intense fishing bite occurs after ice-out in the north east for cold water salmonoids. Kayak anglers experience some of the fastest action of the year for landlocked salmon at this time. In addition, lake trout congregate in good numbers in relatively shallow water over fingers, humps, and sharp edges. Most of this fishing is done in large lakes with substantial open water exposure to wind and the elements. At this time of year, the weather can be extremely variable as temperatures transition from cold to warm. Wind is almost a given on any particular fishing outing. For this reason, kayak stability and control are essential to both beating the elements and fishing success.
A sturdy kayak with the ability to hedge the wind is a necessity and the Wilderness Radar 135 is the best choice for this type of fishing, which generally involves both trolling and jigging. The Radar is adept in beating the severest elements of early spring. It is sturdy enough to be extremely stable during windy weather while still maximizing your fishing opportunities. Additionally, the Helix Pedal Drive also allows you to effortlessly peddle into wind while trolling. The drive also very effectively hedges the wind while jigging lake trout in open water, allowing you to slow your drift by either peddling backwards or forward.
Trolling for Landlocked Salmon
Despite cold water temperatures, landlocked salmon feed heavily after ice-out. In fact, salmon will bite at the first sign of open water on partially frozen lakes as ice dissipates and causes the water to be super-oxygenated. Salmon almost always suspend. The difficulty in locating them at the beginning of the season is that they can be found almost anywhere in the water column. During warm weather, you can narrow your options by focusing on fishing the thermocline. At the beginning of the year, the salmon disperse in depth. The good news is that they are often schooled up heavily at this time while herding large schools of alewives or smelt. If you catch a salmon in a specific area, focus your efforts in working this area thoroughly, especially if you are marking salmon or bait pods on your sonar.
Since the salmon schools are dispersed, the best way to locate them is by trolling. Also, since the salmon can be found along a broad range of the water column, depth control is essential. The surface water is usually too cold for the salmon at the beginning of the year and you will often find them deeper. For this reason, trolling with lead core line offers you the best depth control and allows precision in presenting your offering to the salmon at proper depths. The Radar 135 comes mounted with tracks to attach ball bearing mounts. These ball bearing mounts can be used to mount rod holders which allows you to easily troll two lead core outfits and work totally hands free. Trolling multiple rods allows you to vary depths, as salmon will often be found at a range of depth in the early spring. Speed control is important. Combining your Helix Pedal Drive with a GPS will allow you to experiment with speed to determine the trolling rate that the salmon prefer on a particular outing. Don't be afraid to go fast, as salmon will readily hit lures trolled at faster rates. However, salmon often prefer slower speeds in the colder water of early spring.
Jigging Lake Trout
Lake trout can be jigged all season, but the first few weeks after ice out provides a nice option in the early spring since the lake trout may often be found in shallower depths than during the summer. This allows you to narrow your depth range. Generally, lake trout can be found anywhere from 35' to 120'. In the spring, focus your efforts on 40' to 80' with a particular emphasis in areas approximately 50' to 70'. Horizontal jigging allows you to cover more water than vertical jigging. As such, lure control is important and feeling your jig bounce off the bottom is essential. For this reason, go heavy with your jigs. Metal jigging spoons sink faster and are easier to control than plastics. A jig that weighs about 1.25 ounces allows you to fish both shallow and deep and still be able to feel the bottom and hits from lake trout.
Lake trout bite better during bright and sunny days with a little chop on the water. Drifting and horizontally jigging is a great pattern all season. The Helix Peddle Drive allows you to slow your drift by gently peddling forward or backwards as you retrieve your jig providing better control and the opportunity to make a more solid hook-set. The size of the Radar will also allow you to drift slower than smaller and lighter kayaks. The ability to drift and work hands free is priceless. Rigging your rudder system on your weak side will permit you to steer your kayak in the direction to best maximize your jigging and add additional wind control. Lake trout associate heavily with structure. For this reason, look to work deep humps, fingers, and steep edges. Areas between sharply dropping shoreline edges and submerged islands are extremely productive. A wide variety of jigs can be used in targeting lake trout. Some popular choices include Hogy Epoxy Jigs and Lazer Minnows.
The Wilderness Radar allows you to get on the water in some tough early season conditions to take advantage of the fast action of early spring salmon and lake trout fishing. The proper use of this kayak will increase your catch rate exponentially.
My hope with this article is to make things easier for anyone out there trying to break into the outdoor writing world based on some of the lessons I've learned along the way.
Tips for Getting Started as an Outdoor Writer
by Drew Haerer
I remember one day in grad school, I picked up an outdoor magazine, read through a few articles and thought "you know, I could do this." I'd been blogging for a while and had written a few short pieces for various websites. In hindsight, I was overconfident and completely naive to what goes into the process of writing an article from start to finish. That is kind of ironic, given that I had published papers in scientific journals, which can seem nearly impossible at times (*shifts eyes to reviewer #2*). Eventually, I caught a break, and despite fumbling along the way, I'll never forget holding a check from my first feature article. It was pretty surreal. My hope with this article is to make things easier for anyone out there trying to break into the outdoor writing world based on some of the lessons I've learned along the way.
Prior to my first full piece, I contributed to a couple Kayak Angler Magazine articles, thanks in part to Drew Gregory and remaining in contact with Paul Lebowitz, then KAM editor and eventual founder of Kayak Fish Magazine. However, I wasn't a regular with KAM, and many emails to Paul never garnered a response. So, the first article ideas I ever proposed were to NC Sportsman Magazine. I sent 4 or 5 ideas in a bulleted list and attached my resume. In this case, the resume included some of my fishing accomplishments, my job at the time, and my educational background. Trust me, your ideas will carry a little more clout if you have a strong educational background combined with a strong fishing resume (e.g., guiding, tournament wins, etc.). I still take a similar approach when emailing new publishers/editors today, although I generally now annotate my article ideas. Specifically, I give a creative (at least, in my own eyes) title and a brief explanation of the key points of the article.
The editor of NC Sportsman was very honest with me and told me that all of my ideas were too general and had been done. So, I threw one last idea at him - a destination piece for the Cape Fear River not far below Jordan Lake. The Cape Fear is a fairly well known catfish river, but the spotted bass (northern strain) fishery has exploded. The average size isn't great, but the numbers can be crazy. You could literally get tired of reeling them in. Given enough time, you could sort through the runts and find some nice fish, including some "citation size" specimens deemed trophies by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. He said that idea sounded perfect and sent me the writer guidelines. Based on the format of NC Sportsman, the article required a certain number of photos, a couple text boxes with specific info, and minimum and maximum word counts.
It didn't take long to outline the article, and I knew I would easily hit the required word count. However, I remember being given a deadline of "late August". Although I bugged the editor with a number of questions, I never asked for a specific deadline. That was a mistake. In late August, the article was about 70% done, and I was in Wyoming on vacation. After being in the mountains without cell service for a few days, we drove into town where I got the email "Hey, Drew. I really need that article by Friday." It was Friday morning. Thankfully, I had my computer with me and was able to eventually track down an internet connection. I was extremely stressed, but the rest of the group was understanding and we shifted our plans around so that I could finish writing. Trust me, you don't want to email a dozen photos at borderline dial-up speed to meet a last-minute deadline while on vacation. I was pretty embarrassed at the time, although now, I know that editors deal with those situations all the time.
A few months later, the magazine hit news stands. At the time, NCangler.com had very popular forums that I regularly visited and contributed to. I had a lot of folks online congratulating and complimenting me, including people I didn't know. I also had some people who weren't as positive. If you write enough, you'll quickly find that you'll have some haters, mainly for really dumb reasons. Ignore them. Most of the time, even responding isn't worth your time.
After contributing to a few more articles, I was yearning to write another long piece. As I began to plan the BASS Slam, the wheels started turning for an article. We had already planned on documenting everything with photos and videos. Why not pitch the idea to KAM? Paul L. had moved on from KAM, so I emailed Rapid Media founder and publisher Scott MacGregor. Probably two months went by with no response. Then, one day I get an email back from Scott completely out of the blue. "Sorry for the delay. We are actually sitting down Thursday to discuss some feature article ideas. This sounds perfect. I'll be in touch." Talk about a swing of emotions. I went from disappointment to happiness and nervous excitement in four short sentences. That Friday, I got an email from Ric Burnley, the new head editor. The article was a go.
The first page of the BASS Slam article in KAM
This time, I asked about the deadline, and I had the article finished and submitted to Ric about a month early. I'll never forget the call I got from Ric around 10 AM on Thanksgiving morning. "Hey, Drew. I'm trying to squeeze a little work in today because the publishers really want some finished content for the next issue. Since your article looks pretty good, it would be huge if I could send it over to them. Do you think we could chat some time today?" Turkey baster in hand, my first thought was that I had no idea how my now wife would take my answer, so I whispered "Yes. Can I call you back in a couple hours?" I finished preparing different dishes, jammed as much as I could in the oven, and stepped out on the porch to call Ric. We hammered out some final details as I paced the porch and driveway. I was still on cloud nine about everything, and Mary May could see that. She took the whole thing in stride, and I didn't even burn anything.
That was the start of a really good working relationship with Ric, as well as Ben Duchesney, who was the KAM web editor. For the next couple years, I wrote/compiled at least one article in every KAM issue. Eventually, life got crazy for me when I moved, got married, switched jobs, and had kids. As a result, my writing slowed down. I did find that online magazines and publications were easier to write for because many are more lax than print media. I wrote a few articles for The Fisherman's Journal, Kayak Bass Fishing Magazine, KAM online, and others. I also got the chance to contribute to a kayak fly fishing book that Ben wrote. Now, I still enjoy penning an article for print when the opportunity presents itself, but I am also happy to focus on my blog and the Wilderness Systems blog.
An article I wrote for KBF magazine about the Ned rig
So, what are the some of the biggest things I've learned along the way?
1) Know the writing guidelines. Sometimes, an editor will send them to you. Other times, they may be posted online. Some magazines might not have any, but in those cases, and really in most cases, go back and look at past issues. Not only can you get an idea for the style and content of the specific publication, but you can also see what has been done and what types of articles they typically run.
2) Be a good and flexible communicator. If an editor emails or calls you, expect that they want a fairly quick answer. If you contact them, know that it may take the better part of a week to hear back. Also, don't overcommunicate. No-one wants to hold your hand through the process. That is a good way to not have article ideas accepted in the future.
3) Give credit where credit is due. This goes for photos taken by others, help you've been given in compiling an article, or maybe a tip on a hot bite. Not giving a quick shoutout to someone who deserves it is a good way to burn a bridge.
4) Don't be late. If you can, please be early. I say that as someone who compiled a number of "multiple expert" pieces when working with KAM. Nothing is worse than the folks who constantly say "I'll have it you soon" and then fail to follow through. I fully suspect delays at times and deadline shuffles, but the chronic procrastinators can make it tough. For me, no matter how good your content is, failure to follow through makes me want to not work with you again. Editors feel the same way. It is almost a one strike and you're out system. I've even had folks tell me for months that they'll have a piece done by the end of the week and then on the day the content is due, have them tell me they can't do it at all. That is an automatic blacklist in my book. It is also a good reason to always have one or two go-to contributors in your back pocket who you know can get you solid content in less than 24 hours.
5) Be prepared to work with a wide variety of people, some of whom are very different than you and may not be easy to work with. If you are a writer, you likely have a distinct style. I certainly do. Well, so do various editors, publishers, other writers, etc. Know that you may have to concede some of your style to get an article to print. In fact, I've seen words and even sentences changed between the "final edit" and "print edition" that introduced errors into the article. I've seen misprints. I've seen things I didn't say attributed to me. These things will happen. Sometimes, it can be awkward, but it is part of the business, so be prepared. You'll eventually end up working with folks that aren't always easy or fun to work with. Taking that in stride is part of being a writer and an outdoor professional.
6) Manage your word count. One of the worst feelings as an editor or author of a multi-contributor article is to give someone a word count or word count range only to receive their article/contribution and have it be way over that count. I think a lot of folks believe that more info is better, but that isn't true. As a writer, you need to be able to concisely tell your audience what you want to say. If additional details are needed, trust me, someone will be in touch. Going over a word count is just creating more work for editors and publishers, and it is generally frowned upon.
7) Don't write with an accent. This is two-fold. First, we all have a tendency to write the way we talk. That can be troublesome for a variety of reasons, and the biggest, in my opinion, is that you may not get taken seriously. My goal is to always sounds like a professional writer and to slant my style toward the publication I am writing for while still maintaining my individual voice. Additionally, trying to really lay on an accent can be a real turn off. A little southern charm can go a long way, as could a couple well placed "eh"s from a Canadian author, but moderation is often key.
8) Take a lot of good photos. You are going to want a lot of high-quality photos for a variety of reasons. First, you generally get paid well for photos. The "stock photo" market is super competitive, but in an article, if you have good photos, they are almost guaranteed to get printed. That is a win on so many levels - less effort, more money, face time with a broad audience, etc. Also know that you'll have a lot of photos that you think are good get rejected for various reasons. If you aren't great at taking photos, make friends with a couple folks who are and who are reliable and easy to work with. All too often, a great conceptual article will go nowhere without the right photos.
9) Get good at taking stock photos. These photos may be pre-launch rigging shots, drone pics, release shots, etc. Not every picture should be a "grip and grin", trophy fish, or sunset. However, don't get too far and start staging everything. Trust me, there are writers out there who stage the large majority of their photos. I will never forget shooting some marketing material with my buddy Bill Kohls one day when he caught a bass that absolutely inhaled one of the crankbaits we were covering. The bait was way down in the fishes throat. He took a quick cell phone picture and and sent it to a company rep who is a regular on the FLW tour. The response he got was "Sweet. Real or fake?" That was a startling realization for us because at the time, we were pretty naive to the ways of marketing and sales in the outdoor industry. So, be real, but don't overlook the little stuff.
10) Find something that makes you unique/stand out. Honestly, one of the biggest things that helped me get noticed was my Duke degree. As soon as they see that, most editors know I will send them something in good shape, and that goes a long way, as every editor has opened the first draft of an article and immediately felt a few hairs go grey. Find ways to be creative, think outside the box, and be different while defining your own style. No matter how good you are at fishing style "x" or catching species "y", in all likelihood, so are thousands of other anglers. How can you frame these topics to make them more interesting than what the average guy has to say? It may be that you need to be more specific. For instance, instead of "chucking big swimbaits for giant bass", you may write "chucking big swimbaits along intermediate grass lines to catch bass moving up to spawn as water levels rise in the spring due to cold snowmelt runoff." In other cases, you may need to be more general. For example, instead of "chucking big swimbaits for giant bass", you may write "chucking big swimbaits for giant bass - favorite techniques from the top pros in Texas, California, and Florida". I once wrote kayak fishing fitness article with a paragraph about the benefits of microwaving vegetables - true story.
Articles don't always have to be super technical. Have a killer recipe (such as smoked rainbow trout) stashed away? Don't be afraid to throw it out there as an article idea.
11) Be prepared to sacrifice a fishing spot. The easiest way to get published is to write a destination piece, which is why most of the destination pieces you see written are about big, diverse bodies of water. At times, certain editors will be OK with something like "small lakes in central North Carolina." Other times, they want names, and if the article gets published, those spots will get a bit more crowded.
12) Know your weaknesses and embrace feedback. On multiple occasions, I've given Ric Burnley's email to an aspiring writer after talking with them and knew that they weren't going to get their ideas published. However, don't let that deter you. Being told no can help you pinpoint what you can change to be a better writer, and a lot of times, just contacting folks can help you get a foot in the door. Editors get dozens of emails every issue, many with the same topics, especially if a certain lure, technique, boat, etc. is hot at the time. Getting rejected is part of the process. Additionally, if you do get published, be open to any feedback you may receive from other writers, editors, publishers, etc. - but generally avoid feedback from the peanut gallery of social media.
13) Collaborate with link-minded folks who will co-sacrifice. It isn't always easy to find fishing buddies who can take good photos and are willing to sacrifice large chunks of fishing time to chase the perfect shot, especially without pay. In an ideal situation, you can find a fishing buddy who is willing to trade off between photographing and being photographed. Then, if a photo gets printed or an article you wrote together gets published, split the pay.
14) Good anglers don't necessarily make good writers. Some of my favorite writers aren't superb anglers. Don't get me wrong, they can more than hold their own, but they aren't usually the guys holding up the big checks or wrapping their trucks and kayaks. The best writers are experts that are relatable, informative, detailed and humble. In some cases, outdoor writing doesn't even have to be overly technical. Plenty of well-known writers pen funny outdoor stories and anecdotes for a living.
15) Consider online media. As I noted above, getting published online is generally easier than it is for a print magazine. In fact, I've turned in a few rushed articles that I am not overly proud of to online publishers. However, in today's social media craze, an online article might actually get your more publicity than a print article, although I think there is still more esteem associated with print.
16) Don't be afraid to submit. Again, the worst you will hear is "no". Additionally, a lot of magazines are constantly struggling to fill certain spots. Identify those needs and take advantage. For example, the "Grip 'n Grin" section of KAM is almost always in need of photos, and anyone can submit.
I remembering submitting this photo and brief caption to Bassmaster thinking I'd be incredibly lucky to be selected for their "Best of Fall" album. Not only was the photo (taken by Jerry Li) selected, it was the album cover and got my shoutouts on the Bassmaster social media accounts.
17) Be prepared for your idea to show up without your name on it. On multiple occasions, I've submitted a list of article ideas to a magazine and had one (or more) accepted. Then, when the magazine was released, I stumbled upon another article that I conceived but didn't write. I'm not talking something general or even mildly specific. These were extremely specific topics. Unfortunately, this is one of the ugly sides of the industry. Every article covered in house means lower expenses for the publisher, especially on long feature articles with lots of photos. As a writer, it is probably the toughest thing to have happen because you are torn between understanding it as part of the business and feeling betrayed that your idea was essentially stolen.
18) Network yourself. Talk to other folks in the industry and let them know that you are interested in writing and/or contributing. Most people are more than willing to help however they can, without some of the competitiveness and jealousy that exists in other parts of the industry.
19) Develop a resume. Resumes are time consuming, especially because they require regular updating, but they are extremely handy in the outdoor world. Keep them short and sweet (one page, front only) and tweak them based on the target magazine or article. Include your fishing accomplishments, educational background, job, and any previous writing, web, or media experience.
20) Don't forget English 101. When penning an article, go through the basic steps in writing that you were taught in high school. Come up with a title, make an outline, write a draft, proofread the draft, have someone else proofread the draft, make final changes, check the details (word count, repetition, conciseness, etc.), and submit the final article.
21) Keep a list. I keep a running list of blog/article ideas in my phone because if I don't I'll forget half of what I wanted to write about. I include a brief title and a few notes about each subject. I'll randomly add to these notes and use them to help outline the structure of an article.
I have been extremely fortunate to work with a lot of different editors, writers, and anglers over the years. If you managed to read this far, I want to say thank you to you all. You've helped shape my life in many ways, and I hope the memories and advice blogged here can help others in their journeys. Also, if you are reading this and have something to add to this list, please let me know. I would be happy to add the info to the blog (and give you credit, of course).
Love my longtime friend, but ever since the first time I kayaked with him he always required at least one stop after I picked him up. That one stop always required the acquisition of a ‘honey-bun’ or similar pastry and possibly a drink or two. But for sure, a ‘honey-bun’ is always in the bag.
More than once that ‘honey-bun’ stop has resulted in a ‘crack of 8:30 launch’…LATE! LATE! LATE! Burning daylight for a honey-bun ?
Much has been said about habits, superstitions, and rituals people partake in prior to a fishing trip. I’ve seen people soak lures, avoid bananas, and wear the same clothes. All in an effort to increase their chances at catching some worthy fish.
That said, I’m not entirely sure Arnoldo’s ‘honey-bun’ was for any other purpose than to consume because he liked them.
On account of relocating away from the coast Arnoldo only fished one time in 2018. Sad indeed. That day was July 26. Of course after our usual 30 minute ‘honey-bun’ delay he proceeded to out fish myself and another local that very day. Arnoldo harvested his limit of redfish, I contributed a couple and our mutual friend John had rough one.
Now I’m not implying a ‘honey-bun’ stop will turn your fishing into catching, but I do know it works for Arnoldo, and the pictures attached are a testament to his skills and his love for ‘honey-buns’.
My Top 5 Favorite Fish From The Kayak By Tom Adams
I enjoy catching just about any fish I can from my kayak in the coastal waters of Rhode Island. I have 5 favorite species I target from my Wilderness Systems RADAR135 with the Helix pedal drive. Of course there have been some I haven’t enjoyed catching like the spiny dogfish and skate, I’m sure they’ll be others I don’t want on the end of my line in the future too. With 400 miles of coastline you can launch your kayak from just about anywhere and catch any one of these fish.
For now my top 5 most targeted species to date in order of arrival to Rhode Island coastal waters are as follows
1. Striped Bass or Stripers Striped bass start showing up in numbers around the middle to end of April in waves of schoolie sized fish. Seeing them means the bigger ones are close behind and will be here by the end of May beginning of June. At this time the 30lb, 40lb and 50lb class fish have made their way into the upper bays. Hooking up with these bigger fish will get your adrenaline flowing, especially when they crush a top water lure and start towing you around. The stripers can be caught into the fall when they’re making their way back south.
2. Fluke or Summer Flounder These fish might not have the fight force of the striped bass, but this bottom predator can leave you wishing you had your net ready quicker! Fluke have this frustrating ability to take tension off your line and spit the hook when they come flat to the surface if you’re not prepared. Have that net ready because in the month of June here in Rhode Island there is the largest one day tournament called Fluke Til Ya Puke. This tournament recently added a kayak division sponsored by Ocean State Kayak Anglers Association (OSKAA). Losing that fish of a lifetime because you didn’t have your net ready could haven’t been the one worth thousands of dollars! Fluke are also one of my favorite fish to eat.
3. Black Sea Bass Black Sea Bass are on this list for three reasons... first, they are also one of my favorite fish to eat. Second, they’re one of the coolest looking fish; they have variations of light to dark blues mixed in with the black scales- truly an awesome looking fish. The third reason is a simple one; fishing is fun and you can jig up plenty of Black Sea Bass around any rocky coast, structure or lobster pot.
4. Bonito or Atlantic Bonito These hard hitting, fast, toothy fish show up along the coast in late summer, early fall. Bonito run the coastlines chasing smaller bait fish like silver sides and peanut bunker, so throwing a lure like the locally made Point Jude Lures “po-jee” will increase your chances of hooking up with one. I use light tackle on these fish because I find myself chasing and casting a lot. When fishing these you will see them break the surface pushing bait fish up, so you pedal over and cast then they’re gone. A few hundred yards away they will reappear so you pedal there and cast too. It’s a repeat but fun process. One day we covered about 8 miles in 4-5 hours chasing and casting, that is why I’m thankful I have a Helix pedal drive on my RADAR135.
5. Albies or False Albacore Albies usually make their way to Rhode Island in September and stick around into October. Chasing these little speedsters is a lot like chasing bonito.....for miles! As with bonito I’m using light tackle on this fish. My light tackle consists primarily of my custom “Albie” rod made by Crafty One Customs paired with a Shimano Stradic 5000. I personally prefer the 5000 size reel for the power handle, where others prefer the smaller 4000 model. Albies are fast, really fast! When they slam a 4” or 6” RonZ lure, hang on because they are going to run and run fast all over the place! The screaming drag and ringing of the reel as the line is peeling off can only mean one thing, Fish On! At the end of the day when you’ve been fortunate enough to hook up with one of these fish you will have the biggest smile on your face, because plain and simply put, Albies are wicked fun to catch!
There are some fish out there that I have on my kayak fishing “bucket list”; as of right now those fish are: Ø Mahi
Ø Yellowfin tuna Ø Sailfish Ø Rooster fish Ø Wahoo Ø Red drum
Taking the time to locate live bait can be the difference between just a day on the water and an epic day of fishing.
Finding and Storing Live Bait
By Eric Tebbets
On the Central Coast of California we target a wide range of fish, all of which can be caught successfully on artificial baits. But, there are days when artificial baits just are not getting it done or you are targeting a species that responds better to live bait. In those cases, taking the time to locate live bait can be the difference between just a day on the water and an epic day of fishing.
Before filling the tank though, you have to find the bait. If you are lucky enough to live in or fish in an area that has live bait available for sale, it is as simple as paddling up and getting a scoop of your favorite bait. Many medium to large harbors have this service available and it is a quick and convenient way to fill your tank without having to search it out on your own. If this isn’t an option, then you will need to put in a bit more effort and hunt down those elusive bait fish. If I am fishing my local waters I know certain spots that generally hold bait so I will hit those areas first. Making bait can be a time consuming process if you do not know where to look. Having local knowledge or at least some insider info can help shorten that time and allow you to focus more on catching your target species as opposed to spending your day making bait. In addition to knowing where to look, is knowing what to look for. Having a fish finder and knowing how to read it is key to finding those elusive clouds of bait.
(Bait ball on a Raymarine Dragonfly)
On your fishfinder, a bait ball will show up on the screen like a cloud. These clouds can be located anywhere in the water column from just under the surface all the way to the bottom. But, generally I find that mackerel and sardines are located from mid-column up towards the water's surface, while squid can sometimes be found lower down. When you come across these clouds of bait, stop and drop your line down. Small bait balls can be more skittish than large ones, and the baits can get spooked easier. But, it is still worth a look and you might get lucky and land a couple of nice macks. If you do not have a fishfinder, there are some other ways to locate bait balls. The most obvious sign of bait, is diving birds. If you see birds swarming an area and diving into or hitting the surface of the water there is a good chance they are following a bait ball and you should be too. If the birds are close enough to get to quickly then head over and cast into the malay. I like to cast past the bait ball and then retrieve my line through it. This will usually load up a sabiki rig pretty fast and get me fishing quicker. If that doesn’t work, I’ll cast right into the middle and see if I can provoke some hits that way. A word of warning, remember that bait balls are essentially living, moving things and they can move over large distances pretty quickly especially when they are being attacked from above and below. It is easy to get tunnel vision and end up chasing bait or following birds only to find the bait ball has dispersed by the time you reach it or you are never actually able to catch up to it. If the action is far in the distance or moving away from you it may be wiser to keep looking closer than to waste time chasing birds. Another way to locate bait without a fishfinder is to pay attention to the water’s surface as you move along. If there is bait in the area, chances are there are fish trying to eat that bait and driving them up to the surface. Look for ripples on the surface or even bait fish jumping out of the water. Often times, when bait fish are hitting the surface it will sound like running water or rain hitting the water, as they try to escape the bigger predators below them. If I come across bait hitting the surface I usually stop and grab my sabiki to see if I can take advantage. Searching out bait can be a long, slow process but if you are successful the reward is often worth the effort.
(birds working a large baitball off shore)
Once I have located bait, I grab my sabiki rod and drop the line down. What is a sabiki? A sabiki is a bait fish rig. You can buy them pre-made and they come with a series of small hooks attached to dropper lines. The short dropper lines are attached in series to the leader. The top of the leader is attached to your main line while the bottom has a snap swivel to attach your weight. With a sabiki, you can catch multiple bait fish at once, filling up your tank quickly. A sabiki rig can be attached to any rod and reel setup but I prefer to use a special rod called a sabiki rod. Unlike a traditional rod where the line runs externally through a series of eyes, a sabiki rod is hollow and allows the line to run internally from the reel up to the tip. Because sabiki rigs have so many hooks, usually 8-10, they are notorious for getting snagged on everything. By everything I mean your net, your PFD, your seat, or your ears, and of course this all happens just as you have finally located the bait ball you’ve been looking for. A sabiki rod virtually eliminates this. When the line is reeled all the way in on a sabiki rod, the hooks are stored safely inside. When you are ready to use it, simply open the reel and cast or drop down and start filling your tank. I prefer using a small baitcaster reel for my sabiki but any reel will work and I like to use the lightest weight possible that will still keep my line relatively vertical if I am jigging for bait.