Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Eastern Shore Rookie Reds...

50"er Photo Credit : Kayak Kevin Whitley

First off, let me start by saying that I am a rookie when it comes to Red Drum fishing.  A little research is the first thing anyone who knows absolutely nothing about reds would do! Where to start? First, check out websites from guys like, Kayak Kevin, Rob Choi, Jay Brooks and Lee Williams. Also, spend hours on the internet for red drum tips and tactics. That’s exactly what my buddy Richie Bekolay and I did a lot of this winter.
While it’s no secret that the Eastern Shore holds some monster bull reds, it takes hours and hours on the water to find these fish. Local kayak fishermen with years of knowledge and experience aren’t going to just give that information away. You’ve got to put some time on the water and earn it.
With that being said, my first trip is equivalent to a rookie MLB pitcher throwing a perfect game in his first major league start. It’s rare and unexpected, but it can happen.
From the research I had in hand I ventured out for my first Eastern Shore red drum weekend trip.  It was one for the books! In fact, it was 3 for the books!
This is such a huge area to fish, so “where to start” was the first thing that came to mind. This is where experience and time on the water would have played a big role into my decision process. Since this rookie didn’t have that, “instinct” or as some have called it “luck” was going to play a big role.
 I started out by standing and sight casting in my Hobie PA12 looking for any signs of reds. I had near perfect conditions with good water clarity and little winds (apparently a red fisherman’s dream). I saw my first bull red within the first 1 ½ hours. The fish was on the surface about 20 yards in front of me and turned quickly to my left and out of sight. I quickly grabbed my rod rigged with a swimbait and made my first cast.  I started the retrieve and within a few seconds I was hooked up! I almost had the rod jerked out of my hand from the sheer power of this fish. Remember I said I was a red drum rookie. Well, one thing I know how to do is fight a fish. The heads shakes on a bull red are the most violent of any fish I’ve ever fought. The power of these fish is almost indescribable.  The fish had spun me around multiple times and had dragged me around for a few minutes. It took me about 8 minutes (from the GoPro footage) to land my first ever 45” Bull Red.

45" Red Drum

I could see two kayakers a distance away when I started the fight. And by the time I landed my fish they were within pretty close talking distance. It was none other than Kayak Kevin (click name for link to Kevin’s report) and Lee Williams – aka - red slaying masters! I asked for help with some pictures and immediately Lee hooks up! Kevin comes over to help me out and while taking my pictures his rod buckles over. I got to watched two well respected kayak anglers battle bull reds – now that’s something not everyone gets to do!
Kayak Kevin Hooked Up
I didn’t want to be left out so I made another cast and SMASH! The fish made a quick run on the surface and it didn’t look like a red. Within a few minutes I landed my this 38” striper.

38" Striper

The action got slow for a little while until Lee hooks up again and this time it was a 49”er!

We started trolling around again looking for the school and my rod buckles over! I’m a quick learner and after a few questions to Kevin and Lee about my gear, Lee’s says to “crank down the drag” (those of you who know Lee know I’m paraphrasing, Haha). Before long I was holding my first Virginia Citation Red Drum at 47”. A few pics and she was back in the water.

47" Red Drum - Remember to clean your lense - water drops can spoil an othewise great photo!

I threw my line over and started to get another rod ready and Lee yells “JOE- YOUR ON!” Sure enough my rod is buckled over and I’m fighting my 3rd bull red of the day! I just can’t believe my luck and neither can these guys. This fish took a little longer to land; it just wouldn’t come off the bottom. I was only using a 7’ Shimano Compre  med/heavy rod so I really didn’t know how much pressure I could put on this thing. For the record - you can put a lot pressure on this rod! Once I had this fish in my lap I knew it was a beast! Kevin quickly put the tape on it and said “fiddy” (with a big grin).  My third redfish and my second citation - 50” Bull red.

50" Red Drum - Photo Credit : Kayak Kevin Whitley

Having an obvious fishing high, I was eager to get out again quickly. Richie Bekolay and I decided to carpool down to save a little on the gas and tolls and parking fees. Within the first two hours I was on! I fight this fish for about 5 minutes, before I get a good look at her and all I could say was “WOW”. I finally got this fish in my lap and Richie helped me get a measurement. It’s another 50” Virginia Citation Bull Red and my 3rd citation of the weekend!

50" Red Drum - Photo Credit: Richie Bekolay

50" Red Drum - Photo Credit: Richie Bekolay

I started off by saying that I was a rookie red fisherman. That’s a fact, even if the results don’t reflect it! I know guys that put in hundreds of fishing hours at the Eastern Shore to land just 1 in a season. Now that I’ve had a taste of the red addition I will certainly be putting more hours on the water if the potential is Giant Bull Reds!
I have three words that sum up my day - Humbled –Thankful –Blessed!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spring Fling...

It starts out like this… so what do you want to do on your day off? Followed by a slight pause… the answer is pretty obvious – FISH! Where is the only decision left.
This time of year with the bass getting ready to spawn it’s hard to not think about it every minute of the day.
I had a few hours to fish in the morning last week so I called my fishing buddy Richie Bekolay to get his input. I knew he’d just been out chasing bucketmouths the day before with good results.
One code amongst fisherman is when they give you a little intel you never and I mean NEVER give that information away. If you ever had a spot burned then you know exactly what I'm talking about...
With the information I received I quickly made my morning plans to launch at ---------.  The morning started off with winds at 15 and they would be increasing throughout the day so I knew the early bite was going to be my real chance at a big girl. The first fish of the day was a beauty at 21” and 6lbs+. NorthStar Custom Baits jig tipped with a Rage Craw was the ticket on this bass. This bass was caught deep in a laydown in 12' of water.  

The sun was high enough at this point (9am) to be able to see beds and the bass were there but not willing to bite - yet. I tied on a lighter leader (10lb test) and then I was able to coax these bass into my offerings. I landed quite a few 15”, 16” and 17”+ bass before I had to call it a day.  

 I love this picture of 16" bass with a mouth full of Jig N Craw! It just flat out produces fish...

Now the weekend was upon us and I only could fish until 12 or so… I had a pretty good plan to fish a different lake than my earlier trip and decided to give Richie (click on his name to see his report) a call to see what his plans for the day were going be. After a quick discussion he decided to head on up my way. We hit the water early and decided to fish some laydowns and drops offs until the sun was high enough to find some bedding fish. The early going was tough, this really didn’t produce fish like I thought it might but we kept at it like most anglers would. Then I noticed some baitfish busting surface and decided to throw a white double bladed Colorado spinnerbait right in the middle and landed my first fish of the day. Little guy maybe 12” or so… (good tip here - have plenty of rods rigged and ready) then landed another little guy about the same size.
I then decided to toss out the Northstar Custom Baits Jig and Rage Craw. I did some research and most Pro's say that 70% of the time (or more) a bass hits a jig on the first fall. This was exactly the case on this fish, right as the bait was falling I felt that little thump. Yeah you know what I'm talking about - thats when you reel in fast and try to get a good hookset before he knows your offering is about put a whoopin' on his jaw. He put up a real nice fight for an 18” bass. 
Here's a great sequence of pictures of this fish...
Photo Courtesy - Richie Bekolay

Photo Courtesy - Richie Bekolay

Photo Courtesy - Richie Bekolay

Photo Courtesy - Richie Bekolay

Photo Courtesy - Richie Bekolay
Photo Courtesy - Richie Bekolay

I landed 6 largemouth and before I knew it the time to head home had come. It’s tough to leave when the fish are biting but the wife had plans and I didn’t want to be late.
Richie went for round 2 - see the rest of his day here http://www.hookline-sinker.net/
This time of year is an exciting time to be a bass fishing. Before long the saltwater reports will be starting to show up on websites and blogs and the bass will be long forgotten. Until the next trip.
Be safe on the water and enjoy every minute!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Taking the little one and landing a big one!

 The last couple of outings were a lot of fun for me because I was able to bring my son Wyatt. He also gets pretty excited to head out on the Hobie with Dad. One of the big advantages to the Hobie PA 12 is that I can easily take him with me. He can either sit on the front or the back of the kayak. The first trip started off pretty good with us landing 4 LMB and these were a few of the day.
He was pretty happy to land them but he was happier when I pulled out the snacks! The one thing I've learned is that without snacks it's a short trip for Dad. Plenty of snacks means more time on the water.

Trip #2: We headed out for the WKFA Perch n Jerk outing. This outing was a little colder than the last and Wyatt didn't want to wear the extra sweatshirt but asked to wear my "necky thing". He's a funny little 3 year old. We met the boys a little later than expected but started to pick up fish right away. We landed over 20 crappie, 1 perch and a shad. A little later in the afternoon we  met the group back at the launch where Darren hooked us all up with some burgers and dogs. It was great to get out the see some of the WKFA guys and enjoy a very nice day on the water.


Trip #3: On this trip I was able to get out on my own and go after some bigger fish. I promise I won't bore you with the minor details and just show you some pics. The first fish of the day was a dandy for sure. I landed this 21" PIG on a Rage Craw and proceeded to land 5 or 6 fish and most of them were on the same bait.

I can't wait until the Saltwater action starts to heat up but until then I'm enjoying the LMB action!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Last trip to the Elizabeth...

Since I had to work on Good Friday my scheduled plans for fishing that day were cancelled - so I thought...

I decided to call my good friend Richie and see what his plans were for Saturday. We quickly decided that we should make another run to the Elizabeth River for some speckled trout. Richie had just entered the Virginia Fish Tagging program and was really wanting to get some of these tags on some fish... Check out his link here - Hook Line & Sinker.

I quickly got a little tweaked off when traffic was at a stand still on 64 and after sitting in that for an hour I finally arrived at Richie's to load up the vehicles.

We arrived at the launch and a few fellow kayakers were just returning with just a few strikes and no fish landed. One kayaker told me had a 30" + on his kayak last week and was taking a picture when she went bat crazy thrashing around and flopped over the side. He was back trying to get some revenge on the gator!

I've had some great success on the Elizabeth River this year. In the last 6 months I have landed 8 Virginia Citations so I was pretty confident that we'd get on the fish.

One of my favorite methods to finding fish is trolling plastics. Once I locate some fish I work that area over good and then move on to another location. One key piece of equipment that I won't leave home without is my Lowrance Elite 4X fishfinder. Once I locate the baitfish it's game on!

I started off trolling two of my favorite Rapala jerkbaits and landed a little guy right off the bat!

I casted plastics for about 10 minutes without another bite and decided it was time to move on. I was fishing in about 3ft of water when I got another hit and landed my first ever VA Tagged Speckled Trout. This was not a big fish by any means but still pretty cool to land a fish with a tag! I took the numbers down on the tag and released her back to be caught another day.

I proceeded to landed 11 trout that ranged from 15"-19" and two small stripers. Soft plastics and jerkbaits are still getting it done on the Elizabeth. This is probably my last trip to the ER until the fall so until then...