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I don’t believe I’ve ever fished for a fish where you count follows.  A follow meaning the fish following the bait to the boat.  I’ve counted strikes before when fishing and I’ve counted fish that have “long distance released” themselves, but never follows.  I learned last week that in musky fishing you count follows.  Otherwise what do you have to show for when you fish for them?  When you fish for the “fish of a thousand casts” you have to keep the optimism, counting follows makes sense, it helps to keep you casting and helps to keep that bait in the water.

I did a float last Sunday up in Tennessee with fellow Jackson teammates Chris Funk and Josh Tidwell.  Josh, having fished for musky a handful of times was our resident expert, which wasn’t saying a whole lot (no offense to Josh, I think he’ll understand), but he was the only one of us who had ever actually touched one.  We didn’t get too early of a start, getting a good breakfast in us before hitting the water.  We had heard a different section of the river we planned to hit was blown out, so we were a little nervous about the condition, but upon arrival it was in great condition, we would have a good day, even if we didn’t catch anything. which is entirely possible in musky fishing.  It was a little low, but clarity was excellent, with just the slightest of stain to it and all more important no one was at the put-in or the take-out – the water was all ours.

I have previously fished for musky before.  One time, four years ago, same stretch of water actually.  It was when Jackson first came out with the Coosa and a bunch of the OG fishing team guys went to the factory to find out a little more about the boat and this whitewater company that was making it.  We had a huge group on the float and none of us really knew what we were doing.  I remember getting a bite from something, probably a smallie, and that was it.  Not very memorable, other than it was the first time any of us had floated in the Coosa, or even in a Jackson Kayak at all.  I trusted that Drew knew what he was doing when he designed this boat and rolled the dice.  Fast forward to today and I am super happy to have made that decision, it has been a lot of fun being a part of the Jackson team and the boats just keep getting better and better.

Because of our slow day last time and because I really haven’t thought about musky fishing in the four years since that first trip – I really didn’t have high hopes of even seeing one, even though Josh was saying, “we will at least see one”.  Imagine my surprise when not fifteen minutes into our trip Josh is hooked up and it’s a musky.  Fish of a thousand casts my ass.  It was a juvenile fish, maybe around 24″, but it was really cool to actually see one up close and to know that it really was possible.  Unfortunately for me, he caught him on a walk-the-dog style bait and all my walk-the-dog style baits were in a saltwater box back in Louisiana.  Josh hooked up with musky below:

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The musky fishing quieted down after that fish and brought us back to reality.  More typical musky fishing took over and we began counting follows whenever we could get them.  I had two throughout the day with a near hook-up boat-side on a figure 8 retrieve with a buzzbait.  I finally got a solid eat almost within sight of the take out – a testament to the “fish of a thousand casts” moniker.  I was throwing a black/blue chatterbait hoping for musky or smallies when I got a vicious eat near the bank.  I saw the giant musky head shake and when I reared back to set the hook it came back limp.  He easily broke me off as I wasn’t fishing wire tippet.  It was enough to get the adrenaline pumping and to give me a fish story I can tell the rest of my life, where the subject keeps growing as I get older.  Right now I’ve got him at around 36″, but by the time I die that musky will be damn near 72″.

Conditions were excellent for the first half of our float, everything was beautiful, unfortunately the skies opened up on the second half.  Smallie fishing was pretty good throughout and the rock bass were on fire for Chris.  That man can flat work a jig, he was picking up fish left and right, especially right along any bluff wall.  I didn’t land too many of my fish, but managed to boat a nice smallie who hit a buzzbait pretty much on impact with the water.  I learned on this trip that I fish way too fast for freshwater.  Chris landed a couple personal best smallmouth and had a few heart stopping moments with musky as well.

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It was a good float and like Josh said, we did end up seeing some musky.  I’d love to have that one that ate back, that would have really been something special, but I wasn’t prepared and I paid for it.  I know better than that.  That was the first time I’ve fished with Chris and I’ve got to say, it is a hoot!  You’ll never meet anyone out there on the water that has more fun than that guy.  He has jokes for days too, which goes a long way in a good fishing partner.  Chris is an excellent photographer, so I didn’t really take too many, knowing that he would have better quality shots.

Back at camp we had just enough time to change clothes before we headed off to EJ’s house for a little pre-summit social.  It was a pleasant surprise to see that Jackson teamed up with Ninkasi Brewing out of Oregon and they had several of their craft brews available for us to partake.  Good people, good beer, and good food are the elements of a great party and the Jackson’s always hit on all parts.

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I had to work in Simmesport this past week, but knew that I’d have time to sneak away and do a little fishing at some point during each day so a kayak came with me. Having never been to this part of the state no matter what option I looked at would be a scouting trip. Nothing wrong with a good scouting trip, in fact they may be my favorite type of trip. I love the anticipation of fishing somewhere new; there is always that possibility of finding a hidden gem.

My first stop was in the Spring Bayou WMA where I found a nice public launch on the southern end of the WMA . I took a quick peek at the water before I launched and noted that the clarity wasn’t fantastic, but it wasn’t terrible either – definitely fishable. I launched and started working the cypress trees in the immediate area and soon enough I had my first bass.

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It was definitely nice to get the skunk off so soon and it showed me that there were bass around. Unfortunately I didn’t catch anything the rest of my time on the water, which wasn’t such a bad thing because it was a beautiful place to paddle. I found some really big cypress trees on a slough off the main channel and sitting next to them in a 12 ft boat made you really thankful that they somehow avoided the heavy timber operations that occurred back in the day. Another plus to Spring Bayou was that it was super windy out that day, but it wasn’t a bother with the tall trees and the multiple directions one could head from the launch.

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The next day I headed the other way and tried out a pond in the Richard K. Yancey WMA (Three Rivers). I was super excited after doing the clarity check at this pond. It was looking good thanks to an abundance of submerged vegetation. The sub-veg hadn’t matted yet either so it seemed like I would be hitting this pond at a great time. I launched in record time and started pounding the water with various baits. Surprisingly I wasn’t getting any hits on fly rod popper/dropper rig which is usually money this time of year. I switched over to a spinnerbait and started working just over the grass. With the clarity of the water being so excellent I was able to watch a choupique pick off my bait.

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I continued working my spinnerbait, encouraged after catching the choupique, but after awhile of no action, I had to stand up to survey the water. Sightfishing I would at least be able to spook fish and see what was out there.  The pond was covered in grass from one bank to the other and the fish species I saw were numerous, however they weren’t bass nor bream. I saw carp, buffalo, gar and choupique. I’m sure bass lived here, but I was convinced they didn’t live here in any great number. It was somewhat disappointing, but  I really didn’t mind making lemonade out of lemons and I stood up and tried to sightfish whatever I could. Although the water clarity was excellent, sightfishing was tough. The overcast skies and windy conditions weren’t helping at all. I was able to sightfish a choupique in a shallow cove, but I never got a solid hookset in him.

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Again I found a beautiful place to paddle (full of gators BTW), but the fishing proved to be tough – kind of a bittersweet experience. It was really cool to be able to sightfish a choupique, like freshwater redfishing, I only wish they were here in more numbers. The carp and buffalo I mentioned that I saw were all hanging in deep water and really didn’t lend themselves to sightfishing.

The last pond I explored was near the Old River Lock. Upon arrival the water clarity and vegetation was consistent with the last pond, however, this one had more matted veg. out in the middle. Again I started trying to target bass and bream, but that proved unfruitful. Much like the last pond standing up showed me that there was no shortage of gar. However it also showed me that this pond held more choupique and they could be sightfished. After pitching a texas rigged worm to a couple and getting eats but no solid hooksets I changed up. I decided that I was seeing enough to be able to justify tying on a redfish fly just to see if I could land one on the fly rod.

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After several spooked fish (yeah, you can spook choupique) and blown shots, I finally put it all together and got a nice one to eat. She ended up being around 23 inches and 4 lbs. It was a great fight, made tougher because you had to fight it in the salad. Pretty cool to catch a new species on the fly, but even cooler that I was able to do it sightfishing. This has huge potential in my mind. A little more challenging than redfish, but not as tough as carp – this could be a great option if the weather on the coast sucks.

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From one spillway to another, I fished the Bonnet Carre this past weekend. I was looking for sacalait and potentially some largemouth bass. I did find each, but not in any significant numbers. It was a good time exploring a new fishery though. I’ve driven over it several times on Airline Hwy heading to see Amanda’s family, but now I finally got to fish some of the ponds. There are tons of ponds too, so many places to check out in the future. I didn’t catch too many fish, but that doesn’t mean the area doesn’t have potential. Another thing, for such a beautiful day, I thought I’d see a lot more people, but I was able to have ponds all to myself, which was pretty nice.

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Picked up my new 2013 Desert Camo Cruise from Pack & Paddle last night. The color is a mix of black, brown, and sand; I think it came out really good. Desert Camo is available in all the Jackson Kayak Fishing line, so with the Cruise being part of the Rec line I had to pay a little extra for it. The only color that really appealed to me in the Rec line was the Earth and I’ve already got an Earth colored Cuda 12.

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I’ll have to do a minimal amount of rigging to make it a fishing craft fit for me, but that was one of the reasons I was drawn to the boat. The Cruise is my blank slate, I can rig it out how ever I like. Jackson does provide four inserts screws in typical locations just waiting for Ram mounts, but you’ll have to buy those yourself as they don’t come with the boat, something I failed to remember – I keep thinking the Cruise is in the Fishing line because it just looks like it should be.

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While at Pack & Paddle I was able to attend LKFC’s monthly meeting. They’ve got their first tournament of the season coming up this weekend, Marsh Madness in Cocodrie. It’s got a pretty interesting format, click the link to check it out. Wish I didn’t have to work this weekend. Another interesting tidbit I found out at the meeting was from John Williams with Pack & Paddle. They’ve launched a new section of their website dedicated to Kayak Fishing in Louisiana. It looks to be a great resource for both rookie and veteran paddlers. Check that out as well, love those folks at Pack & Paddle.

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Now is the time of year that all the big outdoor companies are releasing their new products to look for in 2013, Jackson Kayak included. Shows like iCAST, OR, and IFTD are the epicenters of this activity and for those that won’t be in attendance all we can do is wait for the info to trickle down. Fortunately JK has put out a video to satisfy our appetites which highlights their new boats and a few are sure to interest kayak fishermen. Check it out:

If they weren’t already, the folks at JK are up to their eyeballs in kayak fishing. With a new SIK and a new SUP specifically catered to fishermen, plus the arrival of the Cuda 12, they have shown that they are taking the kayak fishing contingent serious. Flying under the radar is the Cruise, which is basically a bare bones Cuda for less, a real sleeper in my opinion. Be sure to check out the JK website for more information on all the new boats, especially this page: http://jacksonkayak.com/newin2013/

I can already tell that a Cuda 12 is in store for me. 11-13′ boats are right up my alley, especially if I can stand in them, there is no better size for river and marsh fishing, which just happens to be what I like to do.

UPDATE: Isaac Miller has done an outstanding job of previewing the 2013 kayak fishing lineup from Jackson, much better than I could have, check it out here: http://yakfish.isaac-online.com/jackson-kayaks-2013-preview/