Mazonia - 5/1/2016 - Post Frontal Grind

Back to Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Center...

If you haven't guessed, you'll be hearing a lot about this place from me this year. It's close to home, a new type of fishing to me, and it has the potential for some massive bass (by Illinois standards at least).

On top of that, I have teamed up with Hobie and Quest Watersports on a program called First Cast. The program allows someone to get out with myself, or another local Hobie Fishing Team member, and spend a good chunk of the day on the water in a Hobie kayak to get a real life feel and understanding of what the Hobie life is all about. The money spent on the outing can be directly applied to a Hobie kayak of their choice if they ultimately end up buying one.  It's a very cool program that has taken a lot of the country by storm - we're just bringing it a bit closer!

Since I really want to get people on fish, I am really trying to understand these lakes as much as possible. With over 200 lakes to choose from in the park, I have been trying to find two or three that offer easy access and some reliable fishing. That brings us back around to my original point that I will be spending quite a bit of time this year.

On to Sunday's results...

A nasty cold front that brought quite a bit of rain, and some cold temps, to the area had me scrambling in terms of my game plan. I was thinking that the water would be in the low 60's since it was in the upper 50's a week ago. I quickly realized that I was absolutely wrong. As a matter of fact, the highest temps that I recorded on two different lakes was 56.

The first lake I tried out was a little no name lake/pond that I have been wanting to check out. It has pretty easy access and I was able to pull out a bass from shore on a previous scouting day. Once we - I had friend and fellow Hobie Fishing team member, Teddy, with me - launched, I was stunned at how clear the water was. At the very minimum, there was seven feet of visibility.

Clearly he was excited to get his first kayak bass of the year - caught on a swim jig with Fishing Physics Swimbait trailer

It only took us a couple of hours to work the entire lake and while we put some fish in the boat, the size was minimal and we simply didn't see a lot of life. My theory is that there just aren't enough nutrients in the water to support a decent base of fish. Of course, the possibility that I just suck at clear water bass fishing hasn't completely escaped me so shhhhhhh!

Rather than spending any more time at this lake, we moved down the road a bit to another lake that has a little feeder creek running into it. With the rains and wind, visibility was less than a foot but I know that there are good numbers of bass in here - and the potential for some real size. The water temps were the same on this much larger and much muddier lake (55 to 56 degrees).

Since the water was so dirty, I knew I wanted a presentation that would give off some good vibrations and have a good sized profile. I debated for a minute between a chatter bait or a spinner before settling on a 1/2 oz Biovex Stangun with a Fishing Physics Grub as a trailer. Once that decision was made, I contemplated between black (which seemed like the obvious choice) or white/chartreuse. Not being someone who always chooses the most obvious options, I went with white.

I pushed off from the little gravel boat ramp and immediately saw a nice opening in some reeds and put my lure right in the middle of it. As I started my retrieve, I let the lure fall down the steep slope and as it bounced off of various rocks and pieces of wood, I lost feeling with the bait sooner than I had anticipated so I set the hook. Wouldn't you know it, first fish on the first cast!

She had a plump belly on her which has me even more excited for the spawn!

We continued working this area of the lake and I was able to put a couple of smaller males on the board as well before moving towards the creek in flow. Water here was even dirtier but I stuck with the same presentation that has been working - 8 to 12 feet of water and bounce that noisy spinner off the bottom really slowly. By the way, I think that this is when the Fishing Physics Stuff really shines...the natural water based scent lingers in the same area for so long, instead of floating to the surface like oil baits, that it adds a bit of a scent trail. That's my theory at least.

I had another couple of fish come off before getting them on board but the action was consistent. As I started moving to the other side of the lake, I felt a great thump after the bait hit a log and as soon as I set the hook, I knew it was a decent fish. I played her a bit more carefully than usual but patience paid off as she hit the net.

After snapping this picture for me, Teddy realized that he didn't have an spinners with him - it was first outing of the year so he wasn't fully organized yet - so I gave him one of mine. I know...I'm such a nice friend.

He stuck to the same approach and it wasn't long until I heard him from across the lake, "Fish on!!"

It's hard to tell from the above pic, but that was the biggest fish of the day. Look at the belly on her!

I, on the other hand, decided to switch things up a bit and play with the Ned Rig. In case you haven't heard of it, it's a finesse technique that is known to put numbers in the boat. If you want to learn more about it, you can click here.

I have been kind of excited to give this a shot; so excited in fact that I had Ed from FSA Custom Rods build me a rod specifically for the technique. As the "how to's" out there will tell you to do, I made a cast and let the bait sloooooowwwllllllllllyyyyyyy fall to the bottom on completely slack line. With the wind, this was a bit painful for my impatient mind but I did what I was supposed to. After I was kind of sure that it had hit the bottom, I started reeling in my slack and just as I started to feel something, the line got heavy so I started reeling faster instead of setting the hook - talk about a hard thing to accomplish! To my disbelief, there was actually a fish on the end of the line.

That plastic was a StankX Stix that I ripped in half
I spent the next 15 minutes or so playing around with it and while I had a few more bites, I wasn't able to refrain from snap setting the hook so I didn't land any of them. Why I was able to do it right the first time but not again after that is beyond me, but with some practice, I can actually see this technique paying off (the ned rig part...not the power hook set part).

After that, it was time to call it a day. The wind had picked up and the temps were dropping even faster which meant that the weathermen were right for a change...storms were coming.

Till next time...


The Recent Cheating Scandal - Bad for the Kayak Fishing World or the Tournament World

If you are a kayak angler, I am pretty sure you have heard about the cheating scandal that has rocked our little world. If you haven't, here's a link to get you up to speed on the cheater and how he was caught by the folks at the Kayak Bass Series.

As a kayak tournament angler myself, and as a past tournament director, I have read and discussed so many thoughts and opinions on this and how it affects the kayak community. A friend of mine had mentioned how crappy it is because of his view of the kayak angler community's welcoming, honest, and humble nature. When he talks with random strangers about kayak fishing, this is the point he drives home the most. Like so many of us, we don't care what kind of kayak you have...we just dig kayak fishing and enjoy talking to people about it.

I think that Chris Payne (awesome kayak fisherman and even better writer that has an opinion on everything about the sport and isn't afraid to share it) really summed it up perfectly in his post about this unfortunate event.  Before continuing reading this post, I highly suggest giving his a read.

Now that you are back, I'd like to echo his sentiments. I do not believe that this incident is limited to the kayak community nor will it tarnish our reputation. At the most, this will be a tiny black speck on an otherwise clean blanket.

What really concerns me is how this might hurt the growing movement of catch, photo, release tournaments in all types of fishing. There are shore based tournaments, online tournaments, boat tournaments, and I'm sure there's other kinds that I haven't even heard of that use a system that so largely relies on the honesty of the participants. The bigger the stakes/prizes/money are, the more that I feel like people are going to cheat.

These types of tournaments - outside of the ease of cheating - are a tremendous step in the right direction for the tournament fishing world. There is no doubt that getting a fish back into the water as quickly as possible is best for the health of the fish. Even with today's modern live-wells on boats and even kayaks, there is no substitute for the fish's home body of water.

Don't get me wrong...there have been plenty of cheaters caught in the boat based world of tournament angling as well but having a fish right there for all the judges to see makes it a lot easier to catch someone trying to cheat. Many of these events require an inspection of the boat's live-wells before they launch just to make sure that the angler doesn't already have a fish or five in the boat. I just feel that it's a bit harder to get away with it in these tournaments.

With that, my concern with this latest scandal is how potential sponsors and future "paper tournament" anglers will react to this. Will this slow the momentum of bigger sponsors who are ponying up huge dollar figures that, up until extremely recently, were unheard of in all but the largest fishing tournament stages out there? Will it give them pause when they hear about stuff like this?

As an example, the cheater had used his cheating method to win the November portion of the Angler Combat Series and won $1,000. The organizers of that series, in light of recent news, stripped the cheater of his title and gave the prize money to the rightful winner. The problem with that is that $1,000 had already been paid out to the cheater. I am guessing it will be a long long time - if ever - before they recoup that money so they are in the red for a decent chunk of change. Now imagine if this happened at the KBF open where the winner was awarded a staggering amount of money (over $30,000). If I am a potential sponsor for one of these CPR based tournaments, I'm not going to be too upset over a few hundred dollars in cash or gear. What about $1,000....$5,000....$20,000?? The folks at Angler Combat absolutely did the right thing but at what point does it simply get too expensive to do the right thing?

How do you make it harder to cheat in these things and how does the CPR tournament world of planners ensure major sponsors that a potential cheater won't get caught?

What do you think? Does this hurt the future of CPR based tournaments or will it take more than one bad person to slow the momentum of our growing sport?


More than 20 years - Father and Son Fishing

Earlier last week, I sent a text to my Dad, "Wanna go kayak fishing with me on Saturday?"

Until this point, it had been more than twenty years since we had been fishing together. It wasn't a point that I had even considered until Friday night as I was getting the kayaks and gear ready.

There isn't really one reason why it had been so long. I suppose it's a long and varying list of reasons that I won't really get into but I was excited when he - despite some nervousness on his part about kayaking for the first time ever in pretty cold water - said yes. I have grown a ton as a son, a person, and an angler since the last time we were fishing together and I was looking forward to the student showing the teacher what I've become.

That morning, we met at my house, loaded the truck and were on the road by about 7:30. I wanted to check out a lake that I have had on my mind for a while. There were no boat ramps and it was going to be a little but of a hike before we could launch. In hind sight, I suppose it probably wasn't the best idea to tackle an unknown path with a first timer but after a few breather breaks, we made it to the water's edge.

After a bit of an instructional on the Hobie Pro Angler 14, he had the hang of pedaling and steering. We set course for the N/W corner of the lake that I really wanted to focus on.

On his lines, I set him up with a mid-sized inline spinner and a small plastic worm on the other. I started off fishing some jigs without a ton of success. Seeing a fair amount of bait and fish within 10' of the bottom, I decided to switch over to a 1/2oz Biovex Stangun Spinner with a Fishing Physics White Grub trailer. It wasn't long before the first fish was in the boat. A short while later, fish number two was in the boat.

Soon after, I looked ahead and saw the old man's rod bent over. The pressure was off as he landed his first. While not his first bass he ever caught, it was the first one that I had seen him catch in a long time. It was also the first time he had caught a fish from a kayak. And it was the first of what I hope will be many.

Not much later, he had another one on the line. I had just about turned the camera on and was about to head closer to catch the action when I felt a slight tick. This was out first double header.

At the end of the day, we caught eleven bass. Most were small with a couple of decent ones mixed in. I had switched up lures to play with a few presentations but the white spinner and a white chatter with various trailers including the grub and a StankX Damsel were the top producers. Everything on my line hit close to the bottom as I slow rolled the bait along the bottom. Pops stuck with the inline spinner and put four in the boat.

Aside from the double header, the highlight of the fishing end of things came when he asked me, "Do you have three of four?" Just as I was about to answer, I got thumped and said "Four!" It was just one of those perfect fishing moments.

Fishing aside, the absolute highlight of the day was breaking that twenty year plus slump. It was great teaching my Dad something when he was the one that taught me how to fish in the first place. I got a text from my sister later that night saying how he had called her all excited and how great of a time he had. He summed it up to her as one of the best days of his life.

That's friggin money!

Here's the video from the day's action and some more pics!


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