Shabbona Lake - Tank smallmouth and surprise musky (with video)

Digging the Aftco Fish Ninja Performance Fishing Hoody

Since Lake Michigan hasn't really been cooperating with me this year,  I decided to go elsewhere. There were a ton of options but a friend that I haven't fished with in a while wanted to head to Shabbona Lake. You may recognize the name as I have chased musky there a couple of times.

For whatever reason, I wasn't really feeling the toothy critters so I decided to chase some of the lakes other game fish like largemouth, smallmouth, and striped bass. I recently watched a video about vertical jigging a spoon for stripers so I wanted to give that a shot for a bit. About five hundred feet from the launch, the water is over twenty feet deep and I started marking fish immediately.

Using my sonar to see exactly where my spoon was, I lowered it to the depth where the fish were most heavily concentrated and started jigging. Sure enough, after a few minutes, I had a quick hit. I totally got caught sleeping and didn't set the hook until it was too late. A while later, I snagged the spoon on something and had to break my line.

That was my cue to go check out another area and chase some prespawn largemouth. The water was just a hair under sixty degrees and I know the bass are staging so I set up in area that goes from ten feet or more in depth up to a shallow flat. Even better is that there are a ton of submerged trees right on the transition so I figured it was a great place to start.

Since I could think of no better lure to start with on a spring day with some overcast and chop than a jerkbait, I tied on a Biovex Amp Stay 80 in Sunfish. I dropped the power pole just on the shallow side of the drop off and within a few casts, I had a small largemouth fall for it. A few casts later, a much harder hit.

I set the hook and kneww that this was definitely a better fish. A few familiar head shakes later followed by a dive and I had an idea as to what it was. The problem is that I had 8lb flourocarbon line on there and my hunch had a mouth full of super sharp teeth.

As I gingerly got the fish next to the kayak, my suspicion was confirmed....


Now I have certainly caught bigger muskies before but I was actually targeting them. I had big musky lures or giant musky flies. I have thrown those at this lake before without more than a follow so to have one hit - no matter the size - on a small finesse jerkbait was an awesome surprise. Plus the very distinct musky smell lingers on your hands for hours.

A while later, I moved around the lake to try to find some more active fish in similar patterns but aside from another small largemouth, I didn't see much happening. I decided to go back to the original spot and work the entire drop. After repositioning a few times and grabbing a rod that had a PB&J swim jig with a StankX Damsel trailer on it, I made a cast that fell slowly to the bottom. As I worked it pretty quickly along the bottom - bumping into wood, rocks, and grass, I got slammed.

I set the hook for the first time on a new custom rod and was in love with the way it loaded. The fish pulled and changed direction the entire time and I knew it wasn't another musky. As it surfaced for the first time, I was momentarily positive it was a new personal best largemouth. And then I wasn't sure. With the color of the water and the shoulders on it, I thought it was a drum for a second. Then it hit me...it was a nice smallmouth!!

I got it on the bump board and she came in at a fraction less than 19" and 3.5lbs which isn't quite my personal best smallmouth but a darn good one none the less!!

Feeling pretty satisfied with the day and the wind picking up even more, we decided to call it a day.

Here is a quick video with these two fish!


Great Fishing - Terrible Timing

For the past few weeks, the fishing on Lake Michigan has been stellar!! As soon as the ice broke up and open water was plentiful, reports of fast limits on coho salmon started flooding in from the southern shores. Mixed in with them have been browns, steelhead, and even a few king salmon!

Of course, this means it's the official start to my season as well. By this time last year, I had already caught multiple limits from the kayak. This year however is a different story.

I have tried to get out multiple times and every time so far has coincided with AWFUL weather. Strong winds, big waves, rain, small craft advisories, and dirty water...it just never ends!!

The last time out was the same story...gale force winds and a small craft advisory. I didn't care - I was tired of being beached so I dragged the Pro Angler 14 down to the surf and prepared for a tough day.

The surf was about 2' with the occasional 3' breaker coming in at 2 to 3 second intervals. In other words, the waves were coming in fast. This was my first surf launch with the Pro Angler and I wasn't really sure how it was going to go. I started walking it out past the shallowest breakers and.....

Well you know what - here is a video of the day!

Make sure to watch all the way to the end to see how both the launch AND the landing went...then continue reading ;)

Yep! You saw that correctly! The launch went great - the landing did not. I completely flipped it on the landing in the surf. Amazingly, nothing broke and I only lost my bump board and the fish that I had in the front hatch.

You see, what had happened was....

I tried to ride the surf in with the Pro Angler like I used to do with the Outback but a combination of things went wrong. First, the waves were coming into the shore on an angle - well multiple angles really. Secondly, the back of the Pro Angler is much more square than the Outback so steep surf waves tend to grab on to the back end and turn the kayak sideways extremely quick. Once the kayak goes sideways, you need to correct your angle before the next surf wave comes in. Since the wave intervals were so short, I just didn't have time to correct and in the water I went.

I ended up doing some research on surf launching and landing after this and learned that the best way to do this with a Pro Angler is to actually come in backwards. Since the front end isn't so square, staying perpendicular to the waves is much easier. Considering how smooth the launch went, this makes complete sense!! I am going to spend an afternoon soon doing nothing but surf launches and landings to get comfortable with it.

In spite of the dunking, I was beyond impressed with this new kayak. I was a bit worried about big waves and this kayak since it is quite a bit larger than the Outback was. That worry vanished so fast once I was out there. In open water with big waves, this thing is so solid it's not even funny. I kicked my seat to the low position and never felt anything but perfection.

As for thBiovex Mid Runner crankbait. All hits came in 30 to 36 feet of water on a west troll. I also was dragging the new StankX Gobius for a bit on the bottom and got SLAMMMMED! As soon as I set the hook, the line snapped. I either tied a bad knot or had a nick in my line but it got me excited.
e fishing, we only had lines out for about an hour and I ended up going 3 for 4 on coho using the

Overall, it was an adventurous day and felt good to slime up the new kayak. I just hope that I didn't wash off the initial slime coat on that flip.


100,000 miles worth of memories

This morning marks 100,000 miles on my Nissan Frontier and man have there been some amazing miles memories on that thing.

I am not sure why but I have always felt a certain connection to most of my vehicles. They tend to be my worst enemies or a great friend.

This truck made me think for a long time to figure out what our relationship was going to be. It took me a few years to understand it's personality. Past vehicles have been clear wild children or temperamental a-holes or cocky over achievers.

This truck was different. It wasn't really anything for a long time. It was just...there. It didn't do anything exciting but it wasn't boring. It never really fought me and never really asked a whole lot in return.

About a year ago, I finally figured it out. This truck is loyal - it's calm, wise, and ready to go when I am. It takes its job seriously to make sure that I get to where I need to be or want to go. It keeps my family safe when we all travel together. It doesn't do it with a lot of flash or drama. It doesn't ask for recognition. It just goes.
First day home

Before this truck, I came from a temperamental wild child that loved to play hard and go fast but it was always in need of attention. After my wife I were married, I knew a family was inevitable and that car just wasn't ready for that job. When I traded her in for this truck, I found myself wanting it to be everything my old car was at the same time as being everything that it actually was. Fast forward five years later and I realize that it never was going to be that...it was just going to be what it is.

And I love that.

This truck has seen me through some major milestones in life - most notably, the day that my wife and I drove our first child home from the hospital. I can't believe how nervous I was driving him. He seemed so fragile and I was terrified that I might break him. Every bump I hit, I cringed. Every time I hit the throttle or applied the brake, I hoped for the smoothest reaction from the truck. I have never driven under the speed limit intentionally. On that day, I think the closest I came to hitting the speed limit was ten miles an hour under. To this day, it still takes its role seriously as a child transporter.

It has been there when I needed it to get somewhere fast. Back in 2013, you may remember my story about the scariest moment of my life. On that day, more than ever, I needed that truck to tap into into it's inner racecar and get me to the hospital to be with my wife and son who had just been in an accident. Despite being loaded to the max with two kayaks, a passenger, and more fishing gear than I care to admit, it got be there faster than I ever thought possible.

It's also taken me on so many adventures like a marathon drive in the middle of winter to the southern stretches of Florida and then to the smokey mountains and back home through a blizzard of epic proportions just so I could fish the ocean and a tiny mountain stream.

There are so many more memories that I could write about, but if you scroll through this blog, you can read about many of them. Others are between my truck, myself, and those that shared them with us.

Truth be told, I have never had any one vehicle for as long as I have had this truck. While it's personality isn't exciting, I know I can trust it. I know it will be there. This milestone isn't the marking of the end. Instead, it's the mark of many more to come.

Let's do this


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