Jun 13, 2014

Kayaks, Pontoons and Bass - Why Not!

Can one really fish from a Kayak? Well I'm going to tell you the answer is Yes! And I will soon be doing more fishing from my new Jackson Coosa I won courtesy of the Kayak Shed and Jackson Kayaks.

More on that later... First I would like to recap events that led up to this moment...

If you are one of the three people who follow my blog posts then you know I am a proud owner of a new Outcast Stealth Pro Frame-less pontoon boat. On a recent excursion to Hood River, I had already decided to do something most considered crazy. Wear your life vest, file and float plan, and have a backup plan are the instructions from my wife and those are backed up by my friends. You see my plan was to fish for bass on the Columbia River from this inflatable pontoon boat. I had three areas picked out that I could launch from to put me in close proximity to a couple of my somewhat secret locations discovered over the many years of experience. I had to prove fishing from a small human powered craft could be done; not only to others but myself included. Lets put this into perspective! This is an area of the Columbia river where the width could be close to a half mile wide and the spring flows are ranging from 300,000 to 400,000 cfs. It would be imperative that I use all of my knowledge of the river and its currents to ensure my success and safety. I know; I must be crazy!

Choose your launch wisely

On this day I chose an ideal launch location that favored the days wind report and down river I headed. It was pretty easy going. My first thought was wow this will be easier than I expected. I needed to travel a good mile downriver to get to a very fishy area. Following the Oregon shoreline was like discovering new possibilities of good fishing that previously I ignored. I found water falls and a sandy carp flat that caught my interest but I'll save it for another day. Today I'm on a quest to do battle with the rivers other bronze giants.

Reaching my destination with relative ease I quickly hooked into a respectful size smallie. A great feature of the frameless pontoon is the ability to maneuver with the use of kick fins. I found this very useful while fighting this moderate size smallmouth that has enough power in its tail to relocate this small vessel.

Tom Larimer enjoys a day to himself chasing bronze

Is that Tom?

A couple fish later and a boat pulled up on an outside main river point. This very point was going to be my furthest destination this day and held promise of holding the largest fish in the area. As I row my way down the shoreline catching a couple fish along the way the boat appeared to be a river sled instead of a bass boat. Not many guys come out on the Columbia in river jet boats to fish bass. I got closer and notice the angler was controlling the boat from a bow mount trolling motor. I only know one guy with a removable bow mount motor on his river sled and that would be Professional Steelhead Guide Tom Larimer of Larimer Outfitters. Still too far away to identify I continued to row closer to the point. Even if this wasn't Tom he had pulled away from the area I wanted to fish so I continued to work my way toward the point to accomplish what I set out on this day. I wanted to land a big fish and I knew this area would provide the best opportunity. As I drew ever closer to the big jet boat I now have determined that this is in fact Tom. I wish I had a picture of the look on his face wondering who this nut job is bearing down on him in an 8 foot inflatable. Priceless is an understatement! I shouted out "Hey Tom" and a quick reply came out "Greg! WTH are you doing out here in a pontoon boat?" We laughed almost endlessly. Tom invited me aboard and of course I took him up on the offer. We tied up the pontoon to his boat and continued on fishing and laughing.

Winston Boron IIIx gettin it done
Time came for Tom to get back to dock and of course he offered to give me a ride back to my truck. As much as I wanted to take the offer I knew that my goal would not be accomplished. I reluctantly declined the offer and said I must complete my adventure. We parted ways and I continued to fish for a little while longer as I worked my way back up the shoreline. At this point in the river I was in a huge back area out of the current so moving along seemed quite easy.

Up a creek (river)

About halfway back up the shoreline things change drastically! I hit the current and all of the sudden this method of propulsion shows its weakness. Stroke after stroke I watched the shoreline as I gained little ground. Ducks were mocking me with their displays of circling me. I knew as long as I could advance beyond the current speed that I would eventually make it to my launch site but after a while even that determination was on a downward decline. My phone rang but I couldn't stop rowing to answer or I would lose so much ground. I ferried over to Wells Island were I took a break and stretched my legs. It was Gabe that called and I returned his call..."Hey Greg, The Kayak Shed is holding a Kayak Bass Tournament this Saturday. I think I'm going to enter. Do you want to enter? Yes I said..I think I can work that in. Can I rent a Kayak or can I use my Pontoon? I asked. We'll find out Gabe says. Cool...well I got to get back on the oars. People are going to start worrying if I don't contact them soon."

Outcast Stealth Pro
Thinking about what I just committed to as I continued rowing for at least another 30 minutes all the while I can see my truck but yet still holding unto a small measure of doubt if I will get there. I pondered what I would do in a kayak bass tournament being held on the very water I was rowing. Hmm...Is this really a good idea. How much better is a Kayak in this water? How one can control a craft such as a kayak and be able to fish effectively. Of course one can just troll around with a rod out but to be able to cast from a sitting or standing position and work a fly while try to control a kayak at the same time is still the question in the back of my head. I will soon find the answers to these questions.

Standing in a Kayak
Finally I made it back to my truck. I took a minute to check in before I loaded up. The nice feature of these inflatables is how light they are. After all the effort to row back to my rig the easy part was dragging the boat up the hill and picking it up to load in my truck. The lightness of these frameless boats is certainly a great asset.

Tournament benefited Heroes on the Water

Saturday, Tournament day  

I picked up Gabe at 5am and headed to the event site. Neither one of us have our own kayaks so we opted to rent them from the Kayak Shed. John fitted Gabe in a Jackson Cuda and fitted me in a Jackson Kilroy.

We get set up and down river we go. Just like the pontoon experience it was pretty easy going. The area we fished is a good mile downriver. I outfitted myself with three outfits. One being a float and fly setup on a Sage Bass Series fly rod. This would prove to be my saving grace for the day. With using an indicator I could make my cast, set the rod in my lap and pick the paddle to control my position. The indicator also allowed me enough time to set the paddle down and get a hook set.

First fish of the day
My first fish that came to hand was a nice 18 inch. Good solid fish but I knew this would not bring a tournament win.

Gabe hooked a good fish and came up with a solid 19 inch. That might get a win. We both went on to catch a lot of fish that day, Almost all of our fish came on the float fly set up. Mostly just because it was a method that allowed for boat adjustments while a fly was in the water fishing. If a Kayak has a disadvantage it is the maneuverability while fishing. An advantage of the Outcast Stealth Pro was the ability to use kick fins to control boat position. A couple times I did find myself a little frustrated with the lack of control. Bass fishing is largely dependent on accurate casting. The Kayak brings some new challenges in this department.
Gabe with a solid 19" pig

20" should be tough to beat
While we caught many fish in the area I knew farther down-river was a main river point. If a bigger fish was going to come to hand, that was the place to go get one. I had already visited the point once this day with no luck but I decided to get back there and give it another go.
The wind was going pretty good by this time and control would mean set up at the upwind side and get a couple casts in while drifting with the wind. A couple casts later I would need to set the rod down and paddle back to the upwind side and drift it again.

A 20 inch might win it

This day I would not have to make a second drift. On my last cast before the wind would blow me away from the honey hole I felt the slightest of tick in my line. So slight that to most it would have gone undetected. Quickly my mind signaled that this tic was a fish and my experience told me that big fish often strike light. I set the hook hard not knowing if anything was on the other end. It was solid and sure and the fight was on. I knew pretty quickly that this was a good fish...possible tournament winning fish. The wind was taking me and the fish hundreds of feet from the hooking spot. I finally got a visual of the bronze bruiser. This bass has shoulders. My most feared moment was getting him to hand. I wasted no time belly scooping him when first chance came and quickly rested him in my lap. The measure board came out and the results were in. 20 inches! In my mind that was a pretty sure bet to win. I know these waters and not many fish come to hand over 20". I rapid fired off the photos making sure the measure would be validated at the check in. Cradling the fish from the belly while releasing I watch closely as she gracefully departed to the depths.

Check In

Check In was at 3pm and we had a good ways to get up river against current. I did not want to be late but I also wanted Gabe to keep fishing for a bigger fish. If I wasn't going to win this kayak then the only other person I want to see win it is Gabe. We worked our way back upriver while taking some time to hit the choice spots again along the way. It wasn't long and we hit the current. This is when the challenge begins. Just like the inflatable it was hard work against the current. You can't let up not even for a second or risk losing valuable ground. The kayak does prove to be faster than an inflatable and in this long stretch of water that would be important. All I could think of is not making it back in time to qualify. We did make it with just minutes to spare.
27 entries to check in

Gabe and I got our fish pictures checked in. Langston (Kayak Shed and Director of the Tournament) had his work cut out for him. It was his job to download everyone's photos and determine who had longest fish. At our time of check in I was in the the lead and Gabe was close behind. Twenty seven entries fished the tournament. I would call that a complete success. I have fished club bass tournaments on this river before and a good boat turnout would be ten or twelve.

The Winner is...BassProGreg

A winner was announced and my named was called! I had wanted a fishing kayak for a long time and I was thrilled to have won. It was very close. The next three places all had fish in the 19" range. Gabe grabbed 4th place with his right at a 19 inch bass. I told Gabe that morning that a 19 inch might win this but a 20 inch would be almost a sure bet. Gabe congratulated me on my win and said "you were right on, a 20 inch would win it."

Gorge Fly Shop Internet Sales Manager | Product Specialist

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

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