With the weather starting to get cooler, your face needs some help too. This mistake from last year left a scar on my nose. I won't be repeating it this Fall and Winter. 

It was chilly that morning. Temperatures had just topped 40 degrees and the North wind was whipping at 15-20 mph. I had gloves on, a cold weather hat, three layers, wool socks and my bibs. I was determined to shoot some test footage with the two cameras I had in tow and wanted to get some time on the water and in my haste had hurried. As I unloaded the boat I went down my mental checklist and had my whistle, my PFD, my paddle, the Mirage Drive, pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. The sun was coming out and I had high hopes it would warm up soon as I shoved off and began a great day on the water. 

Fast forward four hours and I was beaching the Hobie Outback and envisioning the footage I had shot. I backed down the ramp to load up and felt an itch on my nose. I scratched it and my face lit on fire! A glance into the mirror reminded me of what I forgot. Sunscreen. 

I have been a big advocate of SPF 80+ for several years and had been on a three year streak of no sunburns. The end of my nose is a thin venous covering because of the years of damage I did in my 20s. Skin cancer is less likely an if but more of a when for me. I am trying to do everything I can but this English nose hides under few caps and without sunscreen it burns. 

I think my fatal flaw was not writing down a list. A mental checklist is only as good as the next distraction. Sunscreen didn't cross my mind because it was cold. That's stupid looking back on it. It's sunscreen, not heat screen. It is the light and reflection of light that chars me, not the presence of warmth. The sun reminded me of that. 

5 days later I was still dealing with the unsightly reminder of my blunder. Please remember to either sunscreen up before every trip or wear an item like a face Buff to protect you. A big wide brimmed hat can also help but is often left behind on a very windy day. 

The action you take today can yield better results down the road. Skin cancer is no joke. Safety is more than just a life jacket. Protect yourself out there. 

Custom Trailer Still Needing Paint
The trip to the coast was a success!


We didn't find the monster trout. We didn't even find big keeper trout. We did find trout however. Lots and lots of trout. I'll get back to that in a bit.

First, I wanted to talk about a myth. I have been hearing for months that I shouldn't take my Hobie to the coast. I have heard how there is no way you can get skinny and no way to maneuver. I also heard that I shouldn't even consider taking the Pro Angler to try. I heard from a guide that he hated his Hobie in the marsh. I heard from lots of people that you can't paddle a PA. It's too much of an aircraft carrier they would quip.

Full disclosure, I will not be fishing with Hobie in 2014. I am going back to independent status to be able to do more kayak reviews. I don't have anything to gain by the statements I am about to make but wanted to head off some of those ideas before they get off the ground. My Hobie Outback will be up for sale very soon just as an aside. Back to the myths.

A buddy and I took the Outback and the PA into the marshes at Newcomb Bend in Copano Bay. The fish were sitting in less than a foot of water. As we approached we removed the Mirage Drives. My friend in the Outback paddled up to the skinny water and I poled the PA up with my Park-N-Pole from YakAttack. We had a strong East wind pushing in our faces but we kept moving. I started laughing the further we got back into the slop. The PA handled it fine. My shoulders handled it fine. I don't know why everyone is so anti-flats boat about  the PA. Just for grins, when we finished fishing I paddled it back out and the half mile toward the take out. Never put the Mirage Drive back in it that day. The Outback I knew was no problem to paddle. I've done it numerous times. I guess I struggle with the fact that I almost bought into the myth. It was easy enough that when we planned a trip to the Port A jetties, I got back in the PA, went way skinny and threw the cast net to catch some finger mullet in six inches of water.

Also to be clear, I am no hulk.
In shape yes. Can I bench 300? No.
200? Who knows. I go to the gym for the tennis courts and treadmills.

So how was the fishing? Awesome! Well, the catching was awesome. We estimate we landed over 200 specks the three days we fished, almost all of which were on artificials. The downside was they were small. No giants, very few legals but tons of fun.

Stoker Shrimp from SWA
I have to say, I love that Skinny Water Arsenal Stoker Shrimp. You can work it slow, pop it along the surface and catch tons of fish. Because it has a single hook and is weedless, you only catch fish.No weeds or oysters were harmed with a Stoker this weekend. The other thing that impressed me was the durability. I caught all of my trout on two Stokers. I bought 10. The two I used are still good, I just tried a different color. The SWA Stoker is possibly the most durable soft plastic I have ever used. Especially considering the teeth on a speck. I would imagine a blue fish could cut it in half though.

I didn't get much love at the jetties and went back to trout fishing shortly after. The wind ripped almost the entire trip during the day and laid at night. The last night we were there, I decided the three of us should count how many trout we caught. We landed 60 trout in just under two hours. Not many better ways to end a trip.

The next morning we packed it up and made the five hour trip home exhausted and happy. When we left there was no wind. Figures.

It was a great time and sure to fill my thought this week while back at the desk job. I am secretly plotting my revenge on some redfish as I write this.


Salvador Dali gets it
Oh Dear Little Baby Jesus in your golden fleeced diaper! This week is going to crawl. For sure the first two days of it.

I have today and tomorrow to wrap up any loose ends and then Wednesday is an off day for final prep before the sixth edition of "Assault on the Salt" happens. We leave out early Thursday morning and I hope to be cast netting bait by 2PM Thursday.

Waves of cold fronts are coming in, cooling off the waters and some large trout are being caught. I cannot wait! Even better will be the night fishing around the lights and my blazed out blue SuperNova lit Outback. I'll be fishing with the drive out mostly this trip but I don't plan on having to cover tons of water. Copano Bay on the Texas Coast is chock full of put in and take out spots. With the kayak trailer finished, we'll load up quickly and move from spot to spot if needed.

Friday some of my friends from the Dallas area are heading down and staying just across the bridge from us. With that kind of man power in the water hopefully we can find fish and get after it. I plan on taking lots of pictures this trip but little to no video.

I feel like video is best left to those guys who love it. Bobby, Alan, Rex, Rob and all the others in the kayak world do great stuff. Maybe someday I'll get back to it but my JoBu superstitious streak has me cautious and I don't want to spend my time away worrying about battery life and angles. Maybe another time.

Emails are slow coming in today. Apparently the cool weather has everyone a little sluggish. Might be time to make yet another list of all the gear I need to take, cross reference tide charts and plan where to eat lunch on Thursday.

Maybe I'll watch a few YouTube videos tonight of Rob Choi, Robert Field and Tino Medietta.

Is it Wednesday yet?
I'm sorry to be the one to say it. Well... not really.

For you new guys, the lurkers and quizzers, the ones wanting to get into kayak fishing or just kayaking in general, the perfect kayak does not exist.

For you kayak fishing vets, not all of you but some of you, stop telling them Kayak XR34 is the best in the world and you have to have one or you'll be sorry!

I get it. You love your kayak. You think it's the best. And here's the thing: For you it might be!

But let it be said once and for all, there is no perfect kayak for all people in all situations.

People with a bad back will need a lighter kayak or a trailer. People with only $400 to spend can't afford the Hobie Pro Angler 14 so stop suggesting it.

People who want a river boat may not want the Native Mariner. Especially in low water conditions.

I get it. You are loyal to your favorite brand. That's good. Please understand however, not all kayaks fit all people and situations the way it might fit you.

To grow the sport the most important thing we can do is encourage people to demo as many boats as possible. Sure, you might encourage a certain brand. I think we all do but please, whenever possible, don't encourage someone to buy a kayak "dry". If a person has never been in a kayak and you are encouraging them to buy the XR34, you are rushing. Asking lifestyle questions will lead you to only a handful of kayaks to choose from.

Hey, new guy! Does it seem overwhelming picking your first kayak? I've been there. I bought the only one I could afford. It got me on the water and that was good but it could be very frustrating and I almost died once because of a bad choice of a kayak. Please new guy, be patient. We understand you are super excited to try this cool sport out. We love it too but we have all made different mistakes. I made a really bad one that almost pushed me out of kayak fishing all together.

I purchased a kayak, sight unseen, dry with no demo about five years ago. It was such a good deal I couldn't believe it. So I bought it. Later that week I took it for its maiden voyage and almost turtled a dozen times. I hated that kayak. I felt like I was fighting it the whole time. It was awful and I sold it a month later and lost money. Since then I have purchased several kayaks for different purposes. I have a small water/buddy kayak, a big water kayak, and a family kayak (tandem). All three are different brands. I like them all and they have different purposes. For anyone to tell me that I could get all of my wants in one kayak would seem a fairy tale and frankly, unrealistic. I fish a wide variety of situations. Most people do.

If you only fish one set of ponds or one stretch of river, you might could find one kayak that works well and it could be perfect for you. That doesn't make it perfect for your buddy or that new guy on the forum.

Lots of places around the country have kayak dealers who specialize in kayaks, not just a bait store or grocery store that sells them. Ask them for a demo. Mariner Sails in Dallas has people on staff who specialize in kayak fishing and who have paddled all the different brands they carry. They aren't the only shop either. Take a look around and see what you can find. If you still don't see a dealer in site, ask on the local fishing forum. Lots of people would be happy to let you try their kayak. I take new people out all the time just to share the kayaking experience with them.

So new guys, demo, demo, demo. Only you can choose for you.

Kayak addicts, encourage them to demo. Don't just be a boat pusher.

So where do you start narrowing it down? Check out this form:

In nine days I leave for a guy's getaway to Rockport, TX. In the coastal bend of the Texas Gulf Coast, Rockport and the surrounding ports and bays have great big fish potential.

For several years we have gone to Galveston but this year, I wanted to branch out. I wanted to try some new water, some clearer water, maybe on a bay and with some green lights behind the house. We found one suited for our needs and booked it. That has been almost four months ago now and we are just nine days away.

With the many distractions of freshwater fishing in  tournaments, doing kayak demos, going to big get togethers and family time, I haven't until this week been able to really focus on what is about to go down. I have been doing some recon here and there and have talked to a few guides in the area. Going on some of their recommendations, I've purchased a few lures. Going off on my own, I have purchased a few others.

Of the new baits, there are three that I am most excited about.

The first one is a custom swimbait from Neptune Customs. These are typically made for big freshwater bass but I had Jesse outfit it with saltwater parts; I plan to swim it through the edges of the lights at night. Maybe it will work for trout, maybe it won't but I am going to try it. I'm not shy when it comes to trying new things and even out of the box things. My Neptune is in a floater gill. This is it on the rack as it is curing the top coat. It'll be here Friday most likely.

Neptune Customs 6.5" Floater Gill

The second bait is from Henry Stokes at Skinny Water Arsenal. It is an imitation shrimp that is weedless and made to swim just like a shrimp. It is a soft bait so it swims easily and the fish will hold onto it longer. I got some great advice on these from Dean Thomas at Slowride Guide Service. These are also not commercially available en mass so you have to call Dean or visit the one shop that has them. I can't wait to drag this through a drain on some tailers. 

Stoker Shrimp Tail from SWA

The third bait caught me from a rack at Cabelas. I had never seen a more realistic looking shrimp hard bait and decided it was worth a shot. This fisherman catching bait is the Yozuri Crystal 3D Shrimp. It looks amazing. We'll have to see how it works but it sure caught my attention. 

Yozuri Crystal 3D Shrimp

Maybe these will work, maybe they won't. I'll know in nine days. If you were me, what would you throw?

Some thoughts from Neptune Studios on Catch and Release and Slot Limits. 

I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a fishing pole. I also can’t remember the first time I went fishing. I have a few vague, water color type memories of small bream and a sunset but nothing else to really tie them together as a memory.

I do remember when I became hooked on fishing though. Every single detail.

My dad had taken me to Lake Trammel, a small impoundment outside Sweetwater, Texas. He and my grandfathers had outfitted me with a few lures they felt they could part with, a rod, a Zebco 33 and a lot of smiles, shoved into a small tackle box. 

Dad had found an area with lots of coontail that held some black bass. When we arrived, he tried every avenue to convince me to not tie on a lipless crankbait. A plastic worm would be better he implored. He knew in short order the gold Cordell Rattlin’ Spot I tied on my line would be a donation to Poseidon or the fisherman who came across it if the water level dropped.  

30 seconds later he thought he was right. After a short cast and a couple of cranks I was tugging, pulling and making quite a racket. I couldn’t get my lure back. He sauntered over with a half smirk on his face when I was pulled forward. Weeds don’t pull back! After a short fight he held the fish while I ran to get that blue stringer I had insisted on brining along. A two and a half pound giant black bass was toted home and shown to anyone who would look. After a few pictures, most of which I cried through because of the bristled teeth of my foe, the bass was prepared and made into a nice meal. 

The cycle had been completed and a new angler born. Little did any of us know that this one bass would start a fire that has yet to be put out.
From the time I was little, I remember hearing that bass (large and smallmouth, not the white ones) are for catching and catfish are for eating. The only bass kept around our house was a large one that died and was skin mounted back in the late 80's. We caught lots of bass growing up. We would take pictures and then release them to make more babies for years to come. That's the essence of Catch, Photograph and Release.

Almost all freshwater kayak tournaments are done this way. Some saltwater tournaments are but I want to focus on freshwater today. Specifically I want to zero in on largemouth and smallmouth CPR.

Catch and release is a noble thought. Your prey gives you entertainment, you see value in that and want the fun to continue in the future so you let it free to fight another day. Sounds kind of like the Roman Emperor in Gladiator letting Maximus live. We build tournaments around this idea too. It is noble but is it harmful?

First let's look at some official wildlife science documents. 

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency put together a book for ponds and small lakes to discuss many aspects of maintaining a healthy population balance. A quote that jumped out at me very quickly was, "Fish must be harvested regularly for the population to remain in balance." More to the point it says, "The best way to avoid overcrowding in a pond is to harvest fish regularly and in adequate numbers.

That's all well and good. But what about lakes? Does this apply to lakes? Don't people already harvest these bass? 

It isn't that simple says Dr. Mike S. Allen from the Department of Fisheries and Sciences at the University of Florida. Allen shares in a paper, "...size limits are a tool for fisheries managers and have the potential to improve catch of large fish and total harvest. However, size limits will not improve every population! Fishery managers in Florida use specific regulations to improve fisheries that have rapid growth and good recruitment, such as the 15-24 inch slot limit on bass at Lake Istokpoga. Conversely, other fisheries with slow or moderate growth are often managed with more liberal size limits to allow anglers to harvest slower growing fish. The potential for success depends on ... each population!"

So what should we do as tournament fishermen? 

If a fish population seems skinny and long, should we change our format for that lake to a harvest format? Should we use stringers? 

Debra Dean, Editor of Honey Hole Magazine, has some thoughts she shares on the subject. She writes, "The art of catch and release could be on the verge of be coming the next big concern of fishery managers and biologists. It's actually already been under scrutiny for some time because keep-and-eat is what's supposedly missing from "workable" slot limits. Fisheries biologists claim that the only way slot limits really work for any lake is for small fish, those under the slot, to be retained in larger numbers than what is currently in style with bass fishing society (which is practically none).
   But they were inclined to support and promote catch and release as part of their fisheries plans and perhaps had hoped to strike some kind of balance between live release and a visit to the table, for bass in particular. No one realized that catch and release would become THE THING TO DO, almost a religious experience, for bass anglers and that such a noble ethic could become a problem for fisheries management."

But what is the right thing to do? Is a tournament needed where the aim is to harvest the heaviest bag of fish under the slot at lakes like Fork in Texas? And then have a fish fry after? 

It's not easy to decide but it is one that needs to be discussed. So what do you think? Is catch and release hurting our lakes?

Pedro Cerrano's Ritual
Are you superstitious? More and more I think I am. I wouldn't say I am superstitious to a debilitating standpoint but perhaps ritualized. And when I say ritualized, I'm not talking JoBu from Major League.

When I am on the way to fish, I listen to the same music until that music fails me (meaning I come home skunked). In college it was always Willie Nelson. Later it became Brad Paisley but for the last three months I have been blaring Mumford & Sons "Live at Red Rocks". The whole album. It builds my confidence and puts my mind at ease that I'm settling into a familiar pattern.

I recently sold all my GoPros. When I was fishing with the cameras on, I struggled. As soon as they ran out of batteries, I started catching fish. Beau Reed of Papa Chops Rod and Reel Repair saw this first hand in September on Lake Austin. We fished all morning and I couldn't boat a fish. Thirty minutes before we left, my batteries ran out and the cameras shut off. In the next five minutes I boated two fish. And this wasn't the first time it had happened.

In the past I have caught fish on camera without problems. So what changed? I started thinking about the camera. I kept trying to work angles, make sure certain things were just so. It became a giant distraction on the water. In order to increase my catches and reduce distractions, I sold them. Maybe it's superstitious, maybe it's realizing what is throwing you off but either way, I fixed it. At least for now.

Other things I like to do are line up and load up the night before. I walk through my list and lay everything out that I need and then, once it is all accounted for, I pack it in the car.

I do have a lucky hat. I have had a few over the years but this one has some cool smallmouth mojo. I've caught more smallies in the last couple of weeks wearing it than the previous eight months on the same body of water.

I also have lucky shoes. My black and white Astral Brewer water shoes. When I don't wear them I feel off all day.

Maybe it's just me but I doubt it. Much like a confidence bait, we all have our go to's and most of us feel out of sorts if we leave them at home.

What are some of your superstitions and rituals?