Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Buckeye Kayak Fishing Trail, Summer Slam

This weekend, Rylan, Amanda, and myself competed in Buckeye Kayak Fishing Trails online bass tournament. The tournament format was the three biggest bass of the entire weekend of each angler would be totaled in inches. The bass were to be measured on a measuring board with mouth open and tail pinched as to ensure the maximum possible length. This would ensure that each angler got the most possible length out of each fish, and make it fair across the board. Each fish had to be photographed on a measuring board with the event tag. The event tag was a control item that became available at the beginning of the tournament. The event tag ensured that only fish caught after the beginning of the tournament were to be submitted. The tournament began at 6am Friday, July 26th and ran until 10pm Sunday, July 28th. This pretty much sums up the tournament format and rules.

This post will highlight each day of the tournament as Rylan and I experienced them. Each part is separated and is in the first person perspective. In other words under my name I will explain my experience and under Rylan's name he will explain his experience in his words.



My goals for the tournament were divided into two categories....(one) what I needed to keep my dignity, and (2) what I wanted to get. My goal to maintain my dignity was a goal of 50" between 3 fish. This would roughly equate to an average of 17" between my 3 fish. I felt that this was a goal that I could achieve even on three modest of days of fishing. My secondary goal was to hit 55", an average of roughly 18". I felt that this is what would be needed to crack into the top 5 places.


Before the tournament I stated that I would be happy to get 48", a 16" average on 3 fish. Many days of bass fishing a 16" plus bass can be hard to come by so I felt this was a good minimum that I wanted to achieve. I hoped 48" would get me in the top 10. I also stated that 54" would be an amazing weekend for me, an 18" 3 fish average. Turns out I either underestimated myself or had an exceptional weekend, maybe a combination of both. My secondary goal was not to lose any big ones.

Friday, July 26, 2013.....Day One


Friday my goal was to get three quality fish, to me this meant downsizing baits. I took a day off work to fish the early morning bite, however I failed to wake up to my alarm set for 4:45am. I did manage to wake myself up at 5:35am, rush to get the car loaded up, and get on the water by 6:25am. I started off throwing a hollow body frog and picked up a dozen quick fish working the grass banks. As the sun got higher I switched to a texas rigged Berkley Crazy Leg Chigger Craw. From that point I caught nearly a dozen more small bass. I was hoping to get into some size by catching numbers but it didn't work out that way. At the end of the day I had picked up two 15" bass and one 16" bass....for a grand total of 46".

Amanda's day was slightly better. She had opted to throw a bronze jig all day long. She only managed a handful of fish, but they were better quality fish than mine. Halfway through the day she hooked a good sized fish. After a couple minutes of fighting we quickly realized she had hooked into a channel cat. She landed it and we took a few pictures. It went 25.25".

An hour later she had picked up a good bass on the same jig. Her biggest bass of the day and it went 17". I was very jealous at this point. I  knew that a 17 inch bass would set really well, even in her top three.

At the end of the day she ended up with a 17", 13", and a 12.75" for a total of 42.75.


Friday I had a lot of stuff to do at work so I chose not to take the day off as Sean did. By the end of work I was chomping at the bit and could think of nothing more than fishing. I headed to a small lake as planned, the same lake that produced my biggest bass of the year a few weeks ago, a 19.75". A green pumpkin jig with a 4" green pumpkin Berkley Chigger Craw was my bait of choice and what I have almost exclusively used for bass in the past 2 months. It didn't take long before I started picking up some dinks in the 10-12" range. Three hours went by and I had failed to catch any over 13 inches so I was beginning to get disappointed. I knew I had the right bait and the big fish were there so I kept on trucking. Finally I got a 14.25", better but not a fish I wanted to end up with in my top 3. Shortly after I got a 16", it seemed the bite was picking up as it neared dusk. As the sun set I landed my best fish of the day, an 18.5" that weighed 2lbs 14oz.

18.5" 2lb 14oz Largemouth Bass
I called it quits at 9:30pm as I intended to fish the sunrise the next morning. I ended day one with 48.75", meeting my goal of 48" on the first day so I was pretty pleased.

Day 1 Wrap up

At the end of day one Rylan was leading by a significant margin with his grand total of 48.75". I had second place with my 3 average fish at 46", and Amanda was trialing with 42.75". Even though I had the second most inches I knew that none of my fish would stand well in my top three, Rylan and Amanda had both gotten a fish that they would feel happy to have in their top three.

Saturday, July 27, 2013.......Day Two


Friday I got home at 11pm and got to bed by midnight. Four hours later my alarm went off, I took a shower and made some breakfast and I was off to lake number two, our favorite lake for big largemouth. I got on the water by 5:45am and at this point it was still pretty dark out. By the time the sun was peaking over the trees I had already found out the bite was hot, catching several in the 10-14" range on a white spinnerbait. Once it was light enough to see where I was casting I switched to the jig. Fishing continued to be good with the jig but nothing bigger than my smallest of 14.25". I wasn't sure where Sean decided to fish that day and seeing as he wasn't there by daylight I assumed he went somewhere else. However I was wrong, he arrived at about 7:30am and as he was putting in I got another decent fish of 16", this put me over the 50" mark so I was pretty excited, little did I know what was to come.

Sean headed to the other side of the lake, I was fishing our favorite area but I'm sure Sean is glad it worked out the way it did. By 9:00am I was making my second round through the area I had already fished and that's when the planets aligned. I hooked into a giant. After a short fight I had the lunker in my grasp. I had no idea how long this beast was but I knew it was at least 19". As I laid the fish on my measuring board I was shocked to see the largemouth touching the 22" line, the longest bass I had ever caught. It weighed 4lbs 11oz which was surprisingly less than my 21" 5lb 6oz personal best pictured in our banner. I was on cloud nine at this point and my 3 fish total was up to 56.5".
22" 4lb 11oz Largmouth Bass
22" 4lb 11oz Largemouth Bass
I would have liked to have got some better pictures of the bass but Sean was on the complete opposite end of the lake which was a considerable paddle so I settled for timer pictures. At this point it started raining but I continued fishing and an hour later I neared Sean so I paddled over to see how he was doing. As I got close I seen he had a decent fish in hand so It looked like the fish were biting on this side of the lake as well. This fish was his 19.75". I went on to tell him he'd never believe what I'd caught, a 22 inch. He responded that he had just got a 21.5". So turns out after all that I was losing... I quickly came crashing back down to earth. I had a 16" and it needed to go if I wanted to beat him.

I fished back through the bank I had already fished twice and didn't catch anymore. At this point it was noon, it had stopped raining, the wind had picked up, I was tired of fishing the same stretch of bank, and I had things I needed to do that evening so I called it a day. Later, upon examining our pictures, I found that I had caught my 22" at almost the exact same time as Sean had caught his 21.5".

My hands were owned at this point from holding on to big bass for dear life. The term fisherman's thumb doesn't quite do it justice, I had fisherman's hands. Keeping these bass on my measuring board can be quite an ordeal with a feisty bass as you can see in the following picture of a 16" trying to make an escape as I snapped a pic.

It doesn't do it justice but here's a picture I took of my thumb and index finger when I got home.


I got home after 13 hours of fishing and was beat Friday evening. I checked the weather and the weatherman was calling for 70% chance of scattered thunderstorms all day Saturday. I overslept the alarm once again, however I did wake up at 6am and checked the doppler radar. The worst storm was tracking north of my location. Which sucked because my initial plan was to hit a spot 20 miles north of the house, my plan B was a lake 15 miles south of the house. After a rushed decision I was headed south to fish plan b. I got there at 7am to find Rylan working one of the best parts of the lake. I knew he had been there since before daylight. As I was putting the kayaks in the water I quickly developed a game plan. The night was cold.....very cold...and we had gotten rain over night, so I made a guess that the bass would be feeding in the cool water at the shallow end of the lake and on the banks. I told Amanda that we were going to let Rylan fish the good end and we'd go explore the shallow end.....typically a very unproductive spot. We followed the creek that fed the lake as far as we could and started fishing. Since I had 3 decent fish I was in no mood to play with small fish all day. I had tied on the only bait that I felt confident in catching solely big fish on, the black and blue jig. I began working the lily pad edges, weedlines, and fallen trees. At 9:10 am I got my first bite. I hooked it and I thought for sure I had gotten into a channel cat. After it surfaced my heart began to race, it was a bass and a good one at that. To be honest it felt like forever before I got the fish in the yak. I was shaking pretty bad, at the time I didn't know it. It wasn't until I tried to take a picture of the fish that I realized I could barely hold the camera. It was my new personal best bass at 5lbs 0oz and 21.5" long. I nearly gave it a Mike Iaconelli scream.....but instead I tried to do everything possible to not let this one get off the board.

I was pumped, I told Amanda that, "this day couldn't get any better." We continued to work down to the main lake. An hour and a half later I had my second bite of the day. This one was another bass, and another good one. As soon as I landed it, the hook pops out and the jig laid in my lap. I quickly re-hooked the fish, as to give myself insurance if it got feisty and jumped off the measuring board during the photo. This one went 19.75", and to be honest I don't know how much it weighed because I got caught up in the moment. I would guess it in the 3-4lb range.

This was the moment that Rylan had paddled over to me...as mentioned in his experience earlier. I had two good fish on the day but I had no idea what he had. I figured that I had stumbled onto a pattern that he hadn't but he quickly informed me that my 21.5" bass wasn't so special. He had in fact caught a 22" bass earlier. We quickly crunched the numbers in our heads. I had a 21.5", a 19.75", and a 16" bass. He had a 22", a 18.5", and a 16" bass. I had 57.25 as my total and he had 56.5" as his total. It was a dead heat. We both had 16"ers that we needed to get rid of. He then informed me that he had some things to do in the evening so he wouldn't be able to fish much longer. He left at around noon, at that point I looked over to Amanda and told her I wasn't leaving until I got rid of my 16" bass. I knew if I was going to get rid of my 16" bass it was going to happen that day..... The fish were biting so I was staying. We did another round and I started to hit the spots where Rylan had fished earlier. However, I failed to get a bite, he did a good job of getting the active fish. I then worked my way back to the spot where I had landed my 21.5" bass. I started working the pads again and I hooked a bass that I thought was over 16". The bass went 18", I was ecstatic. I knew that I had a good shot of getting top three in the tourney with the three bass I had. At this point Amanda had failed to catch any good bass on the day, she had began to get upset. I told her that I wasn't going to beat an 18"er so she could fish ahead of me on our way back to the car. About halfway down the bank she had given up and was ready to go. I told her that I would fish the bank back and then we could go home and eat. A handful of casts later and I had hooked into another good bass. Long story short......it went 3lbs 10oz and 19".

By the end of the day I had developed quite the fisherman's thumb/fisherman's hand as Rylan had mentioned in his experience above. I had developed fisherman's thumb from landing my fish by hand rather than trying to wrestle them on the board. Either way I know the pain of having a thumb that's been ran through a belt sander all day. It appears we had the same idea by taking pictures of our hands. Here's my picture.

Day 2 Wrap Up

At the end of day 2 I had developed quite the lead with a 21.5", a 19.75", and a 19" bass with a grand total of 60.25". Rylan had picked up a 22" monster and bumped his three fish up to a 22", an 18.5", and a 16" for a grand total of 56.5". Amanda had quite the day of photography but failed to increase her total much at all. She did manage to pick up a 14.5" bass to give her a 3 fish total of 45.25" with her 17", 14.5", and 13.75" bass. It was crunch time for Rylan, he had a 16 inch bass to get rid of on the final day, Amanda had to manage something if she wanted to place well, and I had managed to get a tremendous 3 fish total. I knew Rylan could pull off a big fish and beat me, and I knew that two bass had been caught out of AEP ponds that exceeded 20".......so I was going to fish Sunday and try to advance myself even further.

Sunday, July 28, 2013........Day Three


Sunday, Amanda, Jake, and I went back out to try and pick up a few more fish. We fished from 6am to 11:30am. The morning was super cold, and the wind picked up around 8am. I managed to catch 4 fish, with the largest at 15". Amanda and Jake failed to catch any fish so I felt that if we had a hard time catching fish, then everyone would have a hard time getting fish. With that to help ease my mind I decided to leave at 11:30am and go take a nap. After my nap I made a few posts on forums and submitted Amanda and I's fish.


Sunday I decided to fish the same lake I fished Friday again to try an cull the 16". I fished from 2pm to 9:30pm and failed to find the fish I was looking for. My best bass of the day was yet another 16". I headed home and submitted my pictures.



I finished the tourney with a 3 fish total of 60.25", a mark that I probably won't hit again in a very long time. I set a new personal best bass while fishing the tourney which was awesome. (This makes for the 3rd personal best bass I have gotten this year.) It was amazing to note that Rylan also got a public water personal best on the same day, on the same lake. I'm not quite sure what had caused the big fish to bite on that specific day, but I was glad they did. It's going to be torture waiting for the results to come out. We will post the results in a separate post when they come out. As always I want to thank the guys (Neil, Travis, Chase, Aaron, and Larry) who put on the tournaments and everyone who helps to run them. I want to thank all of the sponsors for all of the raffle items, and all of the items to come. Check them out at the BKFT Website.


I ended up with 56.5", which was way higher than I expected and nearly a 19" 3 fish average. I caught a huge bass that I won't soon forget. With all that said I couldn't be happier. I'm hopeful that my 56.5" will be good enough for a top 5 finish. Maybe I will even get lucky and make the top 3 although I know Sean beat me and one other person that likely beat me based on two fish that they have revealed (20.25" and 20.75"). The top 3 get a mystery tackle box from www.mysterytacklebox.com, the main sponsor of the tournament. Check them out, it's a pretty cool concept. I want to say thanks to all the sponsors of the BKFT and all the guys who help run the tournament. Also good luck to Sean and I hope he gets a deserving victory.


The results have been posted on the BKFT website, check them out here. A one two finish for Sean and I. Sean got $100 for first, I got $75 for second, and we will both be receiving a mystery tackle box from www.mysterytacklebox.com. Amanda finished 12th and won a two 8" Yak Attack Geartrac's from the raffle. 22 people particpated and 10 people got over 50" with 5 bass exceeding the 20" mark. Thanks again to the BKFT team and all the sponsors.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rocky Fork Creek, Enjoying the Scenery

Tuesday we finally took the trip to Rocky Fork Creek. The creek is a rather shallow creek that can only be floated when the water level is high from rain. Creek flow is measured in cubic feet per second and in height. We were told not to try it when the creek is below 250 cubic feet per second because we would end up dragging our kayaks more than we floated. We had a window of water around 239 cfs so we took it. We aren't white water kayakers so I figured if we floated the creek below 250 that it would be ideal/safe.

There's really not a whole lot I can say about the creek. The fishing wasn't the best but you can hardly complain. They say a picture is worth a thousand words.......this might be one of the longest blogs yet.  I'll let the pictures do the explaining and put captions on them as I go. Enjoy!
Our first riffle and we see some whitewater. I'm sure she's thinking, "don't show this to my mom."
Second major riffle. Moving on.
Russ taking the same Riffle....trying to avoid a crash with the camera man.
Another riffle.....Russ getting a rough start to a swift riffle.
Rock Island
Some hidden patriotism.
Russ....."How can you even fish with a background like that?"
"Okay I see why your fishing now" New nickname.....MR. Channel Cat
Some neat water carvings.
The Rock Arch.
Upstream of the rock Arch
Amanda going into the arch.
Russ coming through the arch.
A cool cave.
"Hey!!!!!.....we came to fish."
This is probably one of my favorite pics, because I'm in it of course. Joking......maybe.
"How far do they go?"
Lots of whitewater here. 
That looks like a good spot
It was a great trip all in all. It was like visiting a national treasure and getting to fish at the same time, you cant go wrong with that. I imagine that we'll do this float several more times with family and friends, maybe next time I'll figure the fish out. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

More Creeks and More Smallies

Saturday, Rylan and I floated a 7 mile stretch of creek from 2pm to 10:30pm. Water clarity was near 18" and the water level was normal for summer pool. Rylan started out with his lure of choice, a jig and chigger craw combo. I decided to try a new technique and throw a spinnerbait for smallmouth. We also both had a rope lure tied on in case we came across any gar. I took the west side of the creek and Rylan took the east. The day started off slow for me, while Rylan picked up a couple quick fish. I had my doubts with the spinnerbait but I had made my mind up to finish the evening with it, and it was hard to do while hearing Rylan talk about getting bites and losing fish.

About halfway through the trip I had ran into a stretch of creek that was deep and lacking cover. So I took a break and got something to drink. As I was sitting in the shade I noticed a gar surface, a minute later I looked upstream and saw a few gar sitting underneath a tree. On the first cast I got the gar I casted to, a 36" longnose gar.
I then took the opportunity to catch a few more gar. A couple smaller gar later and I had spooked just about everything off. I drifted along the bank looking for gar until I found another rocky bank, weed line, or fallen tree. I then went back to throwing the spinnerbait. I eventually caught a small spotted bass off of a pile of rocks on the spinnerbait. I was slowly building my confidence in the spinnerbait. Halfway through the trip I finally caught my first smallmouth on it. It went 16" and 1lb 12oz, I took a timed image of myself with the fish. It was my first smallmouth on a spinnerbait, its always exciting to pick up a fish on a new bait or technique.
As the evening came to a close we caught a few more small fish, got soaked by a passing thunderstorm, and ran out of daylight. We came up about a mile short of finishing the seven mile float, which gave us plenty of time to fight our way through a massive mayfly hatch.
The pictures do it no justice whatsoever. The mayflies were so thick that we couldn't look up while paddling without getting hit in the face with dozens of them, you could forget about trying to breathe with your mouth open.

Sunday, Amanda, Russ, and I floated the same section of creek that Rylan and I had floated Saturday, except we only floated the first half of the stretch. This time around I took the east side of the creek, the side that Rylan fished the day before. Russ started off on the other side and Amanda went where she wanted....bouncing back and forth to whichever side looked better. On probably my 10th cast I hooked a good smallmouth on the spinnerbait again. It was a great way to build my confidence even further. While taking a picture of the fish on the measuring board for our Kayak Wars online tournament it decided that it wanted to go for round two. Luckily I still had the bait hooked in its mouth so I reeled it in and took a few more pictures.
The smallmouth went 16" and 1lb 14oz.
Russ then went on to have a multi species streak. He ended up catching a gar on a wee craw, a channel cat on a spinnerbait, a dozen smallmouth/spotted bass, and a baby sauger. Amanda on the other hand struggled in the first half of the float. She did manage to bring a gar yak-side but while admiring it and waiting on me to come land it, the gar broke free and swam off.

As the sun started to set I gave the spinnerbait a break. I tied on a rattling storm chug bug and started to work the weed lines. I quickly picked up a couple small spotted bass, and then I hooked an acrobatic largemouth. It went 15.5", one of the largest largemouth I have personally seen out of this stretch of creek so I took a picture.
As it got dark I failed to find any bites on the popper so I tied the spinnerbait on again, hoping that the vibration would trigger a few bites from fish that were to shy to hit a topwater bait. I started to experiment with the retrieve. I watched Amanda pick up 3 smallies in a row on a jig and chigger craw combo, at that point I started jigging the spinnerbait.  I threw it out and let it sit, I would lift my rod up and let it settle back down. Each time I could feel the vibration of the blades, and then all of a sudden I went to lift my rod and I felt a thump. My 3rd cast with the new technique and I landed another good smallmouth. I honestly couldn't see it the whole time I was fighting it so I had no idea of what species it was or what size it was until I landed it. I guess it's a good thing it wasn't a gar. This one was only 15.25" but I was glad to have it.
As I was waiting for Russ and Amanda to return with the cars I took a picture of the moon as it broke through the clouds. You can see that the mayflies were still around, however they weren't near as thick as they were the day before.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Creeks: Here, There, and Everywhere

In the last three weeks we have had way more rain than a typical summer in Southern Ohio. Creeks have been high and muddy for nearly 3 weeks straight, which would keep most people off of the creeks..... not us. We've been on the water nearly every day, however the fish haven't cooperated. The trips have been un-blogworthy for the most part.

We tried to focus our fishing efforts below low head dams since water levels were less affected here than everywhere else. As the water rises it flows over a dam, if there's a dam on the downstream side it has no choice but to flow over the next dam. Above is a picture of a small dam that typically has no flow whatsoever, this time around it was raging. We quickly discovered that although the water levels may only fluctuate a half a foot or so, the water was really moving. It was quite the experience, we had a blast playing in the swift water but it seemed the fish had disappeared.

We did spot some wildlife on a couple of the floats. The first thing we noticed was an osprey perched in an old dead tree.

On a separate float we also found a young great horned owl. It appeared to have something wrong with one of its wings. I tried not to get too close so it wouldn't get excited and cause more harm to its wing. Here's the best pic I could get. You can see it sitting under the overhanging branch.

We took one float on Rocky Fork Creek in Highland County, Ohio since the water was high. This creek is nearly unfloatable when the water is low, so we took the opportunity to hit it. It carves its way through the limestone bedrock of the area, and makes for an incredible experience. At some points during this float you are literally floating in between 2 cliffs of limestone walls that stretch at least 100 yards above the water. Breathtaking, humbling, amazing, beautiful, etc. are all words that could be used to describe this stretch of creek. At one point Jake, my little brother, made the remark that he felt like Indiana Jones. I could relate, with an environment like what we were in, it definitely felt like we were in a movie. I didn't take nearly as many pics as I should have, partly because I was in awe and that I wanted to see what these limestone boulders were holding under, behind, and around them.

As always the water was moving.

The water was still pretty swift even after several days of dry weather. In fact the water was so swift that I missed a lot of spots that I would have loved to fish.

The lowlight of the trip was when we got to the take out vehicle, the vehicle we use to go get my car and trailer with. We get within 100 yards of the take out when Amanda informs me that she doesn't have the keys to her car. I was speechless, it was after 9pm and we had less than 30 minutes before dark. Jake and I checked our phones to find out that we had no service. At that point I turned and looked upstream. I told them I don't think I can get back upstream. They quickly remind me of several points in the creek that I wouldn't be able to get up. Jake then offers to walk back, I remind him that he'll have nearly 8 miles to walk. At that point Amanda checks her phone to find that she had just entered into service. A few minutes later she got a hold of her mom. At 10:30pm Amanda's Mom and Stepdad had brought us the keys to her car and my car.  I was very glad to have that evening over with.

Thanks Theressa and David.

Wednesday the water had dropped enough for the fish to cooperate for the first time in a long time. We floated a 6 mile section of creek after work. We quickly figured out that the "Put In", the place where we put our kayaks in, was very skinny. In fact we ended up dragging our kayaks through grass, under trees, over trees, etc. for nearly 3/4 of a mile before we got to the main branch of the creek. It didn't take long for us to find fish. Rylan found a 16.25" smallmouth on one of his first casts in a logjam under a bridge. It went 1lb 13oz.

A few hundred yards downstream on a rock bar I got a smallmouth that would have served as a good twin to Rylan's bass. Mine only went 16", a quarter inch shorter, but it was an ounce heavier than Rylan's bass. It went 1lb 14oz.

The immediate success had overshadowed the exhausting 3/4 mile drag. We fished the next few miles only to find that the smallmouth wanted to chase baits up to our kayaks. Rylan had two bass right at his kayak that he thought were bigger than his first bass. In hindsight we should have tossed a rattletrap or crankbait to see if we could pick those fish up. Maybe we will find some fish tomorrow.