Friday, July 31, 2015

                                            Early Dawn...Late Night
                                                        Joe Davis

  There I am standing in line at the service station where I had stood so many early mornings before when in walks a trio of teens, probably 16-18 years old. I could tell by the half conscious look on their faces that they still had the idea in their heads that it was Friday night. It was in fact 5am Saturday morning and I was in line for what I would like to call an amazing breakfast but was in reality a 16 oz can of Red Bull and a sausage biscuit that was just good enough that I could choke it down before beginning my 8-10 hr journey down the Brazos River. My suspicions were confirmed when one said to the two others "don't let me forget, I have to pick up my sister in the morning." "Dude, it is the morning!" was the reply from his pal. I couldn't help but giggle a little knowing how many times I had been in a similar situation as a teen and young adult.
  This got me to thinking about how drastically my life had changed in recent years. I had gone from seeing the sunrise in a drunken haze to seeing it greet the world with a clear mind and the ability to actually enjoy the coming of a new day. Not that I regret any of those not so clear mornings. It was just a wilder time in my life I suppose. I had rediscovered something now that I had once dearly loved but somehow I had drifted away from it over the years. I had always loved fishing and the outdoors as a child but had forgotten just how important it was to me. Now that I have found it again, it drives me!
I could only hope that one day these three young men would awaken from their own drunken slumber and discover what drives them. I guess that is their path and story to tell so I left it at that and didn't bother to share any of my wisdom with them...
   Paddling down the river that morning, watching the sun break the horizon, I couldn't help but think that I too had an awakening that morning.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

                                                        The Conversion
   My Transition From A Power Boat Bass Angler To Chasing Red Fish From A Kayak
                                                            Joe Davis

  Growing up, we didn't have a lot of material things. The video games and electronics that kids have today were only dreams in a designers head at the time. What we had to occupy our time was the great outdoors. Any given Saturday morning I could be found running the creek beds with one or many of the local neighborhood kids in search of craw fish, turtles or anything else that lived in that muddy water.
  Sundays however were a bit different. Though my family wasn't wealthy by any means, we did have one   thing in the drive way that the other families in the neighborhood survived without. Dad had a bass boat. Come 5am on most Sunday mornings, we had already filled our stomachs with scrambled egg sandwiches, had a lunch packed along with some cold sodas and were headed toward one of our local water holes to test our skills at tempting a few of the resident bucket mouths to take a ride back home with us in the live well. This was well before the idea of catch and release had caught on and we ate our catch.
  So the outdoor lifestyle was instilled in me at a very young age. I however had not yet really been hooked. I had yet to catch that bug that would cause me to spend hours upon hours researching the next fishing hole and paycheck after paycheck chasing the next big bite. That had not hit me yet but it was coming. That moment when I realized that this fishing thing was something more then just spending quality time with Dad on Sundays, that moment when I realized that this would be my life ambition was just around the corner...
  The tug on my line was a bit different then what I had been use to. I had caught lots of crappie, white bass, catfish and small large mouth but this was something different all together. This thing on the end of my line wanted to live! She was not giving up on this fight! I eventually landed what I could exaggerate to be an 8-10lb bass but was more then likely 4-5lbs. They all look bigger in the eyes of a twelve year old boy I'm sure. That was it. That was the moment I caught the bug. I wanted that next bite! It had to be bigger though. HAD TO BE!
  I will not bore you with the next 15-20 years of bass fishing. I had a couple of different bass boats through this period of time and caught lots of very nice fish. I introduced  my son to the sport much the same way my father introduced me. As a family, we were more into camping then fishing so the bass boat was sold and we picked up our first of many travel trailers. This first one was a pop up camper though which is a whole different story in its own....
  There I was. A fisherman without a boat. Though I was thoroughly enjoying not camping in a tent and making all of those now memories with campfires and camping trips, I so badly wanted to feel that tug again! Now sure, I fished from the bank on these trips but it was just not the same. I had heard from a fellow employee about his fishing trips from a kayak. This just sounded insane to me at the time but the more I walked those banks, the more reasonable of an idea it would become.
  That search for the piece of plastic that would get me off the bank and into the freedom of open water had begun. This was well before all of the wonderful kayaks designed specifically for fishing that we have today existed. Man have they come a long way! I did find a gently used Wilderness Systems Ride. This was one of the original style Rides with the one big scupper hole in the middle of the deck. Such a great model that it has been improved on many times over and is still in production today. I have one in my fleet now in fact.
  The next few years I spent finding new water that I would never dream of fishing before. It was just not accessible from a bass boat or even on foot. Bass lived in places that I would never dream of finding them! The best part about it was nobody else would put in the effort to find them there! Though times had changed and I could have gone out and purchased the bass boat of my dreams, I had no need for it. I was absolutely satisfied chasing these fish from my little plastic boat in places that I never knew existed before although they were in my own backyard all of these years.
  Fishing forums on the Internet began to flood with talk about kayak fishing. Then topic sections based solely on kayak fishing along with sites dedicated to the sport emerged. With all of this talk would come competition. I guess if you put enough men in a room together that all have a common interest, they will eventually have to decide who among them is the best at it! I'm sure that it has been this way since the first Neanderthals gathered around a campfire and started throwing rocks. I would guess that there is still a bit of that caveman blood still running through all of our veins!
  Not being completely sure that it was what I wanted to do, I entered my first kayak fishing tournament. I was after all completely satisfied with fishing in solitude at any of the locations I had recently discovered that were full of hungry fish yet void of competing anglers. This first of many tournaments was where it happened again. I hung into a brute of a bass that was by far bigger then any I had caught since starting my time in the plastic navy. It was for lack of better words to describe the moment, exciting! I was at eyeball level with my scaled opponent. She would pull drag and it seemed there was no hope in slowing her down when she finally gave in. That was the same feeling I had at twelve when I caught the bug. I thought I had felt it in the recent past but I was wrong. This was the thrill I had been missing!
  Now I had brought competition into the fold which brought more expense then reward by far. I greatly enjoyed it however and was happy to pay the price. I had noticed a few other anglers, though it was very few, picking up sponsors to help feed their addiction to the competition when I discovered an opportunity on one of the local forums. I applied for a pro staff position with Anglers Pro Tackle and was shortly there after accepted to the team. They were new to the scene at the time and had just started carrying some of the top brands in the sport. With their generosity and help, I was now able to expand my opportunities as a kayak angler. As a member of their pro staff, I was approached by Andrew Chidlow from KC Kayaks out of Baton Rouge, LA. about possibly joining their pro staff team. This is where things would get interesting for me as I would discover a whole new aspect and love for the sport.
  Being from southern Louisiana, this group of LSU graduates that started up KC Kayaks, were more into the salt water side of the sport. More specifically, red drum. I had caught them before in the surf or from piers on heavy tackle on the Texas coast but never had I battled with these aggressive fish under the conditions I was about to experience. It was an invite from Andrew to fish the Ride the Bull tournament in Grand Isle, LA that would put that opportunity on my plate.
  I picked up, fishing partner and fellow KC Kayaks pro staffer, Rex DelRey at his home just north of Houston on a Thursday afternoon and we drove....and drove....Until 4 in the morning we drove! I thought that for sure we had passed up our destination in southern Louisiana and were nearing Cuba! Finally we arrive in Grand Isle. Not at our residence for the weekend however. We were at our first launch site for the weekend! After a short nap in the truck we were greeted by two other KC staffers to begin what would be one of the greatest weekends of fishing I had yet to experience. These cajuns are serious about their fishing after all.
  We waited out some passing storms and we were on the water at day light. I hook up almost immediately with my first close quarters combat with a red fish. Brought him in on a top water plug which he selfishly took with him as he broke my line and flopped out of the boat. I knew then that I was dealing with a whole different animal then I was use to tangoing with back home in North Texas. Then it happened. I got that feeling again. A 20" red fish had blown up on my top water plug and the fight was on! This was it. This is the feeling I wanted running through my soul. I can honestly not compare it to any other feeling I have had as an angler. The fight in this fish was unmatched by any of my former foes. I was completely hooked again. It brought back the memories I had as a twelve year old boy landing his first trophy bass, and this was only a small one.....
  This started it all, my endless pursuit of the brutes that destroy anything swimming in a marsh. Hunting them in their environment, where they thrive is my passion in life. I still enjoy fishing my local rivers and lakes here in North Texas but that only gets me through until I can make my next trip to the marsh...