Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Werner. Paddle of Choice.

For a while, I didn't realize how much I loved my paddle.  I knew it was a big step up from my previous one, and I really liked it, but never felt like I needed to write about it.  Until one day, an opportunity came along, which sparked a long chain of events that really got me thinking.  I was fickle at first, perhaps a little wishy-washy, but I can honestly say now, that I know I made the right choice... Werner.

I quickly learned the importance of a quality paddle when I started putting in extensive hours and numerous miles on the water.  My starter paddle got the job done for me at first, but an upgrade became unavoidable as time went on.  After doing some homework, I purchased a Werner Camano and promptly became enamored with it.  Not only because I thought it was very pretty, but it made my time on the water more enjoyable.  My paddle strokes seemed smoother, easier, and more efficient.  I have a low angle paddling style for the most part so the Camano blade shape was just right.

My search for the right paddle was over and I went on to spend the next two years thoroughly enjoying my Werner.  With catching fish being of higher priority than taking the best care of my paddle, I admit that in the heat of doing battle with some gnarly fish, the paddle was banged around occasionally.  I used it to push off various structures including some barnacle encrusted pilings, but it has still held up strong and sexy as ever.  Yeah, that's right, I called my paddle sexy.

My decision stood unquestioned, until I got a message from a very highly respected kayak angler.  He wanted to know if I had a paddle sponsor and if not, I was welcome to join the company he was sponsored by.  Until that moment, I had not thought about paddle sponsors.  I didn't really care at first, but that message was a catalyst.  The thought of sharing a sponsorship with some of the people I really look up to in the sport became exciting.  Extensive research, testing of potential new paddles, phone calls looking for advice, all had me torn.

I sent Werner a message, but they could not reciprocate the same deal that the other company was willing to give me.  Even with a good word put in by Cory Routh, they could only offer a partial regional team member status with a chance to become full team member later on.  The other company was willing to give me full sponsorship immediately with two brand new paddles of my choice for free every year.  For most, that is an easy choice.  And to make it even easier, my research yielded a few paddles by the other company that had very similar attributes as my Camano.  And the cherry on top was the that a few good friends of mine owned those exact paddles and were willing to let me borrow and test them for a while. They were all in the same price range, weighed about the same, and felt very similar to the Camano.  And to tell you the truth, after testing them, there was really nothing wrong with those paddles.  So this really should be a no brainer.

But the thing is, every time I picked up a different paddle, I wanted it to be my Werner.  Whether it was small details that I couldn't pick out or some big design thing that I'm totally missing, I don't know.  I just knew that if I went with the other company, I'd always be wishing that I was still paddling that Werner.  And even though free would be great, it really comes down to my enjoyment on the water.  That's what it's all about.

I'm sure those friends of mine who offered me the sponsorship and also let me borrow their paddles know that I mean no disrespect by turning it down.  But I also thank those of you who gave me great advice, like "stay true to yourself" and "go with the one you believe in". 

My recap of 2011, as well as the rest of my blog will attest to how much time I've spent on the water with this paddle. From ponds, rivers, inlets and the Chesapeake Bay to mother-shipping 40 miles out in the Gulf stream, I have no doubt that it made each trip a little sweeter.  I am proud to say that I'm a paddler just as much as I am a fisherman and I love my Werner.  Those who I helped sway over the years towards getting one will attest their undying affection for their paddle and have no regrets.

I'm sure we would all agree... we can point out all the bells and whistles and rant about quality materials, workmanship, surface area, swing weights and paddle weights, various specifications, blah, blah blah...  but in the end, we love it because it just feels right.  It feels good.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Interview with Kayak Angler Magazine

I've always enjoyed and admired the writing of Paul Lebowitz.  
So when I got an email from him wanting to post up something 
on Kayak Angler Magazine's website about my recent video, 
I was ecstatic.  
After the short Q&A session, I found this a few days later...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Back in the Saddle

Itching with anticipation, Friday night couldn't come soon enough.  At 10:30pm, HRBT was the first stop where I met up with Justin.  I paddled out, keeping my eyes peeled for the welcome sight of a striper silhouette.  I was paddling over a small one when a voice greeted me out of the darkness...   "dude, there's a big one right in front of you".   I thought, what a nice way to greet a fishing buddy, as I caught a glimpse of the massive shape slowly sinking then fading.  We guestimated it to be in the upper 30" range and it was the only big one we saw.  Fish were scattered here and there and not wanting to commit.  They would follow the lure to the boat then take off.  I started twitching the lure once I got their attention and then they would strike.  Unfortuantely, I had several poor hook sets and the fish would get off.   It wasn't too long before the current stopped and I only landed one at 25" while Justin landed several.  We were off the water by 1am.

It wasn't the greatest night, but after an agonizing 31 days of kayak fishing deprivation, it felt great to finally  get back in the saddle.

I found myself at the Elizabeth river by 7am looking for big speckled trout.  I tried everything from topwater, soft plastics, to various MirrOlures, slow to fast and everything in-between, from deep drop offs to shallow flats, the infamous party cove area and a few oyster bars with little luck.  I managed one 20"er and called it the first kayak fishing trip of the year.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Addiction: Kayak Fishing (Video)

After compiling a years worth of footage from 2011, here's a visual cornucopia of kayak fishing delights from VA. It's not instructional, but perhaps motivational. I hope you enjoy and get pumped up for the new year.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Starting Off on a Boat

First trip of 2012 was with Bob Shepherd on the James River.  We launched his boat a little south of Hopewell and put out a spread of cut shad that we cast netted that morning.  The action wasn't hot, but we still had a good time with the few that we found.

51lb Blue Catfish

Not many people can say they had a good time fishing with their boss.
Maybe one day I'll get him to try it in a kayak.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Closing Remarks & Opening Statement

Without a doubt, 2011 was my best angling year thus far.  My wife's generosity seemed to know no bounds and I spent more time on the water than ever before.  I was lucky to have that much time and to say that I did pretty good would be an understatement.

Although I left a few goals still on the table, I accomplished more than I thought I would.  I beat my personal best Red Drum 3 times (40", 45" and 48.5").  I boosted my personal best Spadefish several times up to 15.5", and raised my tautog record (22.25" twice and a 23.5").  I caught my first cobia ever along with 3 others.  Even though it wasn't from a kayak, it still felt good to check that off the list.  I'll be looking for the brown clown from the yak in the coming year.

I caught 10 Virginia saltwater trophy citations in 2011 spread through 4 different species (Red Drum, Speckled Trout, Sheepshead, and Tautog).  In the freshwater world I had one Blue catfish citation and one flathead catfish citation.  The Flathead also happens to be my new personal best at 41".  I targeted and successfully caught carp for the first time as well. 

Relentless in my pursuit, I launched my kayak over 75 times, spent more than 470 hours on the water, and paddled roughly 315 miles.  My addiction also drove me to add almost 10,000 miles to my car.

My competitive nature was put to the test while participating in two different year-long online tournaments, one of which was a big national venue with different divisions based on what area you live in.  With over 300 registered anglers in over 100 teams, Kayak Wars is one of the biggest online kayak tournaments hosting some of the best kayak anglers around.  Virginia, being clumped together with the Northeast states made it very challenging to compete with the striper saturated northern states.  None the less, our team, Fish Junkies, came in a respectable 2nd place in the Northeast division and I placed 3rd in individual ranking for the Northeast (second year in a row).  With 279 registered fish, 5325 points spread through 15 different species, claiming 7 records, I'm pretty proud of my 3rd place.  I feel like I gave it my all and that's that.  I'm not sure that we'll get any actual prizes, but the bragging rights are pretty sweet.

The other tournament was with a smaller, more local, kayak fishing club called the Pirates of Lynnhaven. I won the Angler of the Year tournament along with a few of the smaller week long tournaments.  I accumulated a few excellent glass mounted FishDV8 plaques, several gift certificates, an offshore deep drop trip with Rudee Angler, and a brand new kayak (Moken 12 angler from Appomattox River Company).  The cherry on top is the fact that all the proceeds from that tournament went towards the VCU Massey Cancer Center.

My desire to promote the sport caught the eyes of some companies who had similar goals.  In 2011, I was asked to join some very respected names in the industry in helping to showcase some innovative and excellent quality products made by some of the leading companies of the sport.  YakAttack, Hook1/Kayak Bass Fishing and Werner paddles added me to their respective teams and I hope to keep contributing and helping to get their message out.  And much to my appreciation, Hook1 and YakAngler continue to publish my articles on their website/blog.  On top of that, I was also honored to be included in Kayak Kevin's 2nd fishing DVD.

Having said all that, with so much to be proud of, I think the thing I cherish the most is the couple of times I took my 3 year old daughter out.  There are few things more satisfying to me than when she says she wants to go fishing with daddy.  2012 will definitely bring more trips with the wee ones.

Also, I look forward to helping the Heroes on the Water again in the coming year.  My experience with the program left a supreme sense of satisfaction that mirrors the level of gratitude I have toward our service men and women.

I treasured the time I spent with some great fishing buddies and truly enjoyed making some new ones, too.  I savored my time on the water and maintained vigilance to keep learning as much as I can about the fisheries I explored.  But also, I remembered to simply enjoy the paddle and soak in what mother nature had to offer.

Although, some times mother nature wasn't so nice.  I found myself in some scary situations in 2011 which will serve as a reminder to myself, and hopefully you too, that safety is always priority number one.  Know your limits, wear your pfd, and please practice your self-recovery skills.

As far as goals for 2012 go, there are many.  I've shared some already, but others include more trips closer to home and trying for a broader range of species.  I plan on trying some new places for new species as well.  Also, I promised my wife that I wouldn't doing any long term tournaments in 2012.  So no Kayak Wars and no Angler of the Year tourneys.  Kayak Wars served as a good way of keeping track of how many fish I caught, so this year, I will have to try to keep a separate log.  I plan on creating more artwork as well as some entertaining videos.  But mostly, I hope to keep learning through time spent on the water and then sharing those experiences. 

I thank everyone who enjoys checking out my blog and hope you all have an excellent 2012.  Whether it's just getting out on the water simply for the joy of paddling and being out in nature or you're quest is for the next big fish, 
stay safe and best of luck.

Oh and watch out for deer on the road.