Thanks For A Great Season

She never fails to impress.  The most versatile kayak on the market today.
     Sunday's guided fishing trip marked the end of my open water guide season.  I would like to thank everybody that made 2016 a success.  We had a lot of fun chasing everything that swims in the lakes and ponds around Madison, WI.  I'm still a long ways away from being able to do it full time, but this year proved to me that it's worth pursuing for 2017.  For that I want to say THANK YOU.
     I've got big things planned for the 2017 season.  To start it off I'll be speaking at numerous events throughout this expo season.  Also I'm working out the details to expand my kayak guide service by adding a tandem kayak to the fleet.  This will allow me to handle the paddling and positioning duties so that anglers not familiar with kayak fishing can get more out of their time on the water with me.  This kayak purchase means I get to rig up another boat!  That's my favorite part of playing with kayaks, so keep an eye on these pages throughout the winter to see what I've got in mind for this new kayak.
     What else?  Oh right my book!  It's coming along and will be available in paperback or as an ebook in the next few weeks.  I've been busting my butt trying to wrap everything up and soon I'll be submitting it to Amazon for approval.  I want to thank everyone who's supported me in this little endeavor since I've never attempted anything like this in the past.  Turns out it takes a lot of work to put a book together and I'm excited to finally get this project completed.
     Finally, the Bluegills to Bull Sharks podcast is getting a format overhaul.  I've recently been contacted by some companies interested in sponsoring episodes of the weekly show, but I need to make some small changes.  Look for a brand new layout and more interviews in the coming months.  I've really enjoyed making the first 30 episodes and a second microphone and USB mixer were recently ordered so be sure to stay tuned (or subscribed on Itunes).
     That about wraps up this post on wrapping up my season.  I'd like to thank all of my sponsors for their continued support going into 2017.  Also I'd like to take a second to thank my kids and family for putting up with me and fishing.  I know this has been a hard year for me and the kiddos, but were keeping it together and pressing on.  Last up thanks to all of you that read the blog, booked a fishing trip, or listened to the podcast.  None of this would be possible without your engagement, so thanks.  On a side note... I know my guiding season is over, but that doesn't mean I've stopped fishing.  If you want to get out this fall or even head out on the ice drop me a line.  I'd love to fish with you.
     Tight Lines.

EP:30 Understanding Lake Turnover

EP:30 Fall Lake Turnover

     In this episode of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast we talked about understanding lake turnover.  For many this is just a term that they hear thrown around as the leaves start to change.  There's a lot of myths associated with this time of year.  These myths started because as anglers we know of the turnover, but we don't know what it actually is and how it affects the fish.  From the thermocline, to the epilimnion, to the cold and heavy hypolimnion layer we discuss what they are and how they work.  Using this information you can make better informed decisions on where and when to fish during this transitional time in the Midwest.
Leaving the lake and fishing the creek yielded this beautiful fall musky.
     Thank you for listening to Episode 30 of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast.  You can subscribe to the podcast on ITunes and Podcast Garden.  If you do choose to subscribe take 30 seconds to leave a review.  The reviews are essential for getting the podcast recommended in the search results of our fellow anglers.  Before you leave please take a second to sign up for my free monthly newsletter.  It comes out on the 15th of each month and only on the 15th.  It's full of tips, tricks, some discounts, and of course subscriber only content.  So make sure you get yourself signed up today!
     Tight Lines.

What The Hell Is Urban Fly Fishing?

Chasing carp in beautiful Madison, WI.
     Do you really want to know?  Then stop by the Badger Fly Fishers meeting tonight at 7pm.  I'll be giving my urban fly fishing presentation at the clubs monthly meeting.  This seminar will focus on finding urban waters, gear selection, and two popular fly species you can find right here in Madison.  If you're thinking I'll be talking about carp and musky than you'd be right.  I'll be sharing all my favorite tips, local hot spots, and the best flies you can use right now to get your hands on these amazing fish.  For more information on tonight's event or to learn more about the Badger Fly Fishers follow the link here.
     Tight Lines.

Lucid Fishing Grips

     As human powered anglers we are often limited in what we can carry with us and still stay mobile.  When working the shoreline many times I am forced to decide on which items I take with me and which I am forced to leave behind.  Actually I find myself with this dilemma most of my fishing situations.  Everything I carry must serve more than one purpose if it's to accompany me on the water.  One item that has earned its place on the very short list of "must haves" are my Lucid Fishing Grips.

     I discovered the Lucid Fishing Grips at the Madison fishing expo four years ago.  I was browsing the aisles looking for a replacement net.  I stopped by the Thorne Bros. booth and asked them to show me a net that could fold down to under a foot, but with a bag big enough to land a musky.  As you can probably imagine they got a good chuckle out of my request.  Then a gentleman walked over and said that 2 ladies were selling lip grips at a booth near the main entrance.  I headed over to check them out and left with the 30 pound model (in hindsight I probably should have bought the 60 pound model).  Now that I have owned them a while I finally feel that I am qualified to give them a review.
Support the belly for a healthy release.
     The Lucid Fishing Grips are available in 2 sizes, a 30 pound model for smaller fish, and a 60 pound model for those of us that are after the big ones.  The grips are also able to be IGFA scale certified, the IGFA won't just certify any scale so the fact that they certify these grips gives me confidence in their accuracy.  With the comfortable grip, and smooth one handed operation I can land fish quickly and safely.  Most of the time I don't even have to take the fish out of the water to unhook them.  Another nice touch is the rotating head.  I can't begin to tell you how many times I have hooked the grips onto a musky or pike and have had them start barrel rolling in the water.  The head just spins around right with the fish.  I have seen more than one scar on larger fish from getting rolled up in braided line while sitting in a net.  This helps protect the fish, and when dealing with something as fragile as a musky it is a much appreciated feature.
     The first thing I did when I got the grips home, was adding a plastic carbinger clip to the wrist strap.  You might be wondering, why not just clip it to your bag or belt loop with the lip gripper end?  Because bushes and underbrush like the Lucid Fishing Grips as much as you do.  The carbinger clip gives you some added insurance that the grips will still be there when you arrive at your fishing hole.  SBH Tip: Use a magnetic net lanyard on your Lucid Grips when kayak fishing to keep them from going overboard.

     The grips also extend your reach, making them great for break wall casting, landing fish from a kayak, and ice fishing.  When fishing on break walls or steep rock banks that extra couple of inches can be the difference landing or losing a fish.  Using fish grips in a kayak keeps those annoying treble hooks out of your skin.  Besides nobody likes reaching into the ice water to scoop a walleye, pike, or big brown trout out of the hole.  With the Lucid Fishing Grips just work the fishes head up towards the hole and lock the grip on to the fishes mouth.  One quick pull and the fish is on the ice and your hands are nice and dry.

     But wait, I've read that lip grippers are bad for the fish.  I am sure you have all read this somewhere. Every time I post a picture with my Lucid Fishing Grips somebody pipes up and says "you need to stop using those".  Well a little common sense will tell you that driving a hook through the fishes mouth and then using pliers to rip them back out is probably more traumatic then using a grip to control their head. Also as long as you follow a few simple rules the fish are always able to swim off just fine.  First, keep the fish in the water!  I know this sounds crazy, but you won't believe how many people I see with the fish out of water for extended periods of time.  It doesn't matter if your using a net or lip grips, keeping the fish in the water will help with a healthy release.  Second, when you lift the fish for your photos and measuring keep them supported by the belly.  This takes the strain off the neck muscles, and helps to keep the grips from wearing through the skin on the fishes mouth.  Lastly, if your weighing the fish do it quickly.  No fish likes being hung by its mouth, or its gill slits for that matter.  You won't damage most fish species if you keep the weighing quick.  Another nice option would be to use a sling on larger fish and just clip the Lucid Fishing Grips to the sling.  Easy on you and more importantly, easy on the fish.

     So go and get yourself a set of Lucid Fishing Grips.  You'll love the freedom of not having to worry about transporting a net, and you won't have to carry a scale anymore either.  I gain some extra room in the backpack, and as a shore fisherman, that means fewer things I have to leave behind.  To learn more tips and tricks about the use of lip grips I'd go straight to the source at  Until next time...

     Tight Lines.

EP:29 Kayak Fitness An Interview With Spencer Jones

     In this episode of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast we interviewed Spencer Jones from Jonesin' to Get Fit.  Spencer is a kayak angler, writer, and personal fitness trainer.  He recently started an online business that caters to practical exercises for the outdoorsman.  He offers up a weekly newsletter that shows you exactly what you need to know relieve common issues such as a sore shoulder, lower back pain, even that numb leg feeling you get after hours in a kayak.  The guy even has a weekly cooking show that will help you with make healthy eating choices (and it's funny).  I would like to thank Spencer for taking the time to talk with us this week.  You can learn more about Spencer Jones and follow all his crazy adventures and exercises at
     Thank you for listening to Episode 29 of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast.  You can subscribe to the podcast on ITunes and Podcast Garden.  If you do choose to subscribe take 30 seconds to leave a review.  The reviews are essential for getting the podcast recommended in the search results of our fellow anglers.  Before you leave please take a second to sign up for my free monthly newsletter.  It comes out on the 15th of each month and only on the 15th.  It's full of tips, tricks, some discounts, and of course subscriber only content.  So make sure you get yourself signed up today!
     Tight Lines.

Wolf River Smallmouth Part 2

Spencer Jones dropping into the first set of rapids on our Wolf River trip.
  What was I talking about again?  Oh right,

Certain Death!

    We were dropping into the first set of rapids.  Spencer's NuCanoe slid right through the whitewater.  He was hooting and hollering with only the slightest correction needed for that big heavy boat.  Once through he backed into an eddy and yelled, "You're clear!"  At this point every possible scenario had gone through my head.  In fact I was starting to seriously regret my decision.  I was about to go into whitewater for the first time.  Worse, I was about to go into whitewater for the first time in a kayak I wasn't familiar with.  So I took a deep breath, checked my life jacket, and nervously paddled towards the rapids.
    What happened next is still kind of a blur.  It seemed fine when I started into the first chute.  The water was fast, but it wasn't unmanageable for my paddling skills.  Sure I was swearing a lot, but I always swear when I'm asked to do physical activity.  My biggest problem was the kayak was turning to fast.  I'm used to my big heavy Slayer and this Ultimate wouldn't stay braced.  It kept trying to spin on me and I couldn't slow it down!  Then WHAM!, I hit the side of a rock.  "F@#K! I'm pinned", "Da*#mitt!", "It's filling with water!"  I lost it, I was in the water.  This happened so quick that I couldn't react.  I tried to get my feet in front of me like I've read in the magazines, but I couldn't get my weight shifted.  I just bounced from boulder to boulder in the foam.  Each time I surfaced Spencer looked more and more worried.  I would later discover that it was because he lost his GoPro, not because I was in distress.  Finally, I reached the eddy where my kayak had stopped.
It's cool I borrowed the boat.
     Success!  I had officially made it through my first set of rapids.  Sure it could have gone better, like if maybe I was still inside my kayak.  Still everything was in the boat and the day was young.  Only 3-4 more sets to go!  By the end of the day I hated whitewater.  I was only able to stay upright and in my boat through one set.  The issue wasn't my skills, it was my skills in this kayak.  Turns out that the big clunky Slayer I left in the garage would have been perfect on the river.  All that weight would slow it down and let it flow through the current like Spencer's NuCanoe.  By trying to go in a lighter more maneuverable kayak I'd inadvertently set myself up for a very long day on the river.  Each set of rapids got harder and harder as I grew more and more tired and extremely frustrated.  Here's a quick run down of how each set went.
       Lost all my gear in the next set.  Luckily Spencer's really fast, like P90x fast and was able to swim around and retrieve most of it.  Thank god I had my smokes in a waterproof box.  I mean thank god I had floats and leashes on all my rods.
     The next two sections got me well acquainted with my new hand pump.  I've never needed to use a hand pump in the past, but I do highly recommend this particular model.  The Aqua-Bound Bilgemaster will definitely empty a kayak of excess water and it floats!
Another on bites the dust!
     The final set was nice enough to not only empty the kayak, free all the gear, and roll my ankle.  It also broke my favorite fly rod.  This was becoming an expensive trip really fast.
     Believe it or not I was trying to stay positive, but I was shutting down.  You know how sometimes you just get to that point were nothing goes right and you just want things to end.  Try going through that with a buddy catching a nice fish every time you have to start pumping out your boat.
A nice smallie pulled from some heavy current.
     I'm not gonna lie I even walked one set of rapids because I couldn't take it anymore.  I was done, unfortunately we still had quite a ways to go.  Then just when I thought I was gonna have to call Global Rescue to send in a chopper for an evacuation the river opened up.
     It was absolutely beautiful all of a sudden.  Big bluffs surrounded us on all sides.  Sections of tall reeds punctuated by solitary boulders.  We would stop at every likely spot and be rewarded by some strong little swimmers.  It didn't matter if you casted a fly or a lure the fish just ate it.  I was having so much fun that I almost forgot that I wanted to hate this place for the rest of my life.  This was like being in one of those history specials I watch on PBS.  I was living one of the adventures I always talk about wanting and suddenly I was enjoying it.
     I can't thank Spencer enough for putting together this trip.  I also want to give a big shout out to my sponsor Rutabaga Paddlesports allowing me to borrow the kayak (sorry again about the condition I returned it in).  If you ever get the chance to go paddle the Wolf River you should definitely do it.  The smallmouth bass fishing is amazing and I'm told the trout fishing is pretty epic too.  Just bring a heavy kayak, an extra rod or two, and maybe a helmet!
Spencer with the biggest fish of the trip.  I was still pumping out my kayak.
     Tight Lines.

Wolf River Smallmouth Part 1

     Rolling down the highway I was really fired up to get out on the water.  Fishing in northern Wisconsin is not something I get to do on a regular basis.  Add to it the fact that we would be fishing the iconic Wolf River and I was in high heaven.  Even though I can count all of my river fishing experiences on one hand my sponsor Rutabaga Paddlesports was nice enough to loan me a rental kayak (Ultimate FX12).  I had it all rigged up and ready for a relaxing day on the water.  I was head to the Appleton area first though so I could join up with my buddy Spencer.  He was the mastermind behind this particular adventure and found us lodging, worked out the shuttles, and provided the food, all I had to do was fish!  Arriving at his house I sat down for dinner and was immediately asked this question.

"You're okay with Class 1 and 2 rapids right?"

     I wasn't of course, but I quickly replied "yes."  Again I have almost zero experience fishing on rivers.  I've drank beer in a kayak on the river while floating with my family, but I don't think that counts.  Besides they were Iowa rivers so they weren't real rivers.  Why would I spend anytime fishing rivers anyway?  I live in a town with 5 lakes.  Still I was sure it wouldn't be a big deal, people float the Wolf all time right?
     By the time we made it to his in-laws cabin it was getting pretty dark.  After getting a quick tour we got the rods rigged up and our gear sorted out to save time in the morning.  It was a beautiful place to be staying and I could barely contain my excitement about finally getting my north woods experience.  We settled in for the night and it was all I could do to force myself asleep.  I don't know about all of you, but I almost never sleep well the night before a fishing trip.
     The morning finally came and I was treated to an amazing home cooked breakfast.  If you ever get a chance to do an overnight trip with Spencer insist he cooks the meals.  Believe me he's the best!  We piled into the Prius and drove to the launch.  It was a bit of a hike with a heavy kayak to get to the water.  It probably wouldn't be so bad if I wasn't an overweight pack a day smoker, but after a lot of whining and bitching I made it.  Spencer of course is a fitness coach so he trotted down the trail ahead of me like a freaking antelope and was already casting by the time I arrived.  "I wonder if there's any fish?" he said making a cast.  "Probably were under a bridge" I replied.  As I finished catching my breath his rod loaded up and soon he had the first fish of the trip.  He was smiling ear to ear already and I hadn't even put my boat in the water.
First smallmouth of the trip on a Manley rod.
     It sucked that he caught the first fish, but I was happy for him.  I get really fired up when other people get hooked up, maybe it's the guide in me, not sure.  We were stoked to say the least and we quickly dropped our boats in the current and headed off down river.  We worked our way along bouncing from eddy to eddy picking off smallmouth bass as we went.  They were holding in all the likely areas.  We found them in ripples, seams, behind boulders, even along the pockets of reed grass.  It was a great time and I didn't have a care in the world.
Big thanks to Rutabaga for the kayak.  Sorry it came back in such rough shape.
     Then while standing knee deep at the end of pool I heard nervous laughter.  It wasn't Spencer, he was fighting a fish.  That's when it came around the corner, a raft, with 6 people, wearing helmets.  Seriously, they were wearing freckin' helmets!  They all looked terrified and as I watched them float by I started to feel a hollow pit in my stomach.  "Class 1 and 2 rapids require helmets?" I wondered.  "I'm in a fishing kayak with $600 dollars worth of gear, none of which was a helmet."  Spencer hollered over sensing my unrest, "I'm sure they're overreacting."  "It can't be that bad" was the final words he said. At that we jumped back into our kayaks and paddled around the corner.
     Well lets just say I could hear the rapids before I saw them, way before I saw them.  The water was dead calm leading up to the first set.  Pulling over to the side of the river we hopped out of the plastic boats and nervously peered over the side of the rocks.  "Looks doable" said Spencer, "Probably just need to stay in the center of the run."  All I saw was boulders and whitewater.  This center he spoke of was nonexistent.  Wandering back to the kayaks it suddenly occurred to me that my borrowed kayak was a sit inside.  No scupper plugs, no drainage, no saving it if it fills with water.  I was screwed if anything went wrong on my attempt.  I was slightly terrified, Spencer was excited.  Slowly we pushed off from the shoreline and made our descent towards the roaring water.

To Be Continued...

EP:28 Cold Water Largemouth Bass Fishing

EP:28 Cold Water Largemouth Bass Fishing

     In this episode of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast I discussed cold water bass fishing tactics.  Not so much the tactics and skills required to catch those strong and bullish smallmouth bass most associate with cool water.  I'm talking about the scourge of the waterways the largemouth bass.  I love to chase this species of fish and the fall transition can yield some quality fish, if you know where to find them.  We talked about locating largemouth bass, rod and reel setup, and even went into some specifics on lure selection.  I tried to give you an explanation of why squarebill crankbaits, echotails, and swim jigs, work so well on America's favorite fish.  So be sure to give these tips a try as we enter into fall here in the Midwest.
     Thank you for listening to Episode 27 of the Bluegills to Bull Sharks Podcast.  You can subscribe to the podcast on ITunes and Podcast Garden.  If you do choose to subscribe take 30 seconds to leave a review.  The reviews are essential for getting the podcast recommended in the search results of our fellow anglers.  Before you leave please take a second to sign up for my free monthly newsletter.  It comes out on the 15th of each month and only on the 15th.  It's full of tips, tricks, some discounts, and of course subscriber only content.  So make sure you get yourself signed up today!
     Tight Lines.

3 Tips For A Better Hook Set

Spencer Jones putting it all together to land another Wolf River smallmouth.
     You've made the perfect cast, worked the lure through the water column, then suddenly you feel the bump.  Swinging back on the rod you feel the weight of what's sure to be the next state record.  Then after a quick's gone.  It's a crushing blow, I know because it's happened to me.  I have nightmares about fish I've lost.  Honestly though sooner or later it happens to everybody that wets a line.  However you can do a few things to help stack the odds in your favor the next time a fish finds himself on the end of your line.
     The mechanics of a hook set are actually very simple.  Just apply pressure, bury the hooks, and don't lose tension.  See simple, but then why do so many fish still get away.  It doesn't matter if you're casting frogs, trolling, lure fishing, or ice fishing.  If you don't set the hook properly, you are going to lose fish.  With this in mind I thought I'd offer up 3 tips that will help improve your hook set and land you more fish.
     First up you've got to sharpen the hooks!  This is probably hands down the biggest thing people miss.  I learned this lesson the hard way chasing muskies.  Even brand new lures straight out of the box need have their hooks sharpened.  We all know it, but we don't all do it.  If your hooks are dull then it requires a lot more pressure to drive them home.  An expensive hook file or sharpener can make a big difference.  So quit making excuses and keep those hooks in top shape.
     Second, stay tight to the lure at all times.  The reason we joke about the swing and the miss is because of line slack.  Don't set the hook until you're tight to the fish.  It doesn't matter if you're hopping a jig, swimming a crankbait, or wiggling a worm.  If the line isn't tight then you're gonna miss fish.  So give the reel a couple cranks until the rod loads slightly or you feel the weight of the fish, then set the hook.  SBH Tip: When trolling from a kayak accelerate a few boat lengths by paddle or pedal before setting the hook.  This will take up any slack in the line allowing for a stronger hook set.
     Third is sweep the body (not the leg).  Sweeping the rod across your body allows you to put all the rotational forces of your torso behind the hooks.  That's a lot of force and will help guarantee the fish stays pinned.  Lifting up on the rod is just not enough to keep those hooks buried.  So do what the pros do in all those Berkley Trilene commercials and sweep the rod across your body.
     Putting these tips into practice will make a big difference in your fishing.  Especially the first tip about sharpening the hooks.  These are simple things that we all know how to do  As a guide I'm shocked at how often a client loses a nice fish because they didn't get those hooks buried well enough.  A good hook set is something that took me a while to master, but now it's second nature.  
A beautiful Lake Monona largemouth from the kayak.
     Tight Lines.

Casting for Carp

The best of the local carp patterns.
     I recently had a post about a little pond I found on Google Earth.  I caught some bass that day and had an absolute blast.  As I was leaving I noticed some bubbles and a little brown tail tip on the surface of the water.  I knew exactly what I was looking at, feeding carp!  Their were tons of them all eagerly feeding in the shallows without a care in the world.  I knew that I had to come back soon, and with a fly rod.
     The days passed and soon I found myself back on the banks of that little pond.  I had my trusty 7 weight in hand and started scanning the surface for signs of active fish.  After a little work I found them, a pod of about 5-7 fish.  Sneaking up to the edge of the pond on my knees careful to not make any sudden movements I fired off a cast to the center of the pod.  As the fly began to sink the line touched the back of one of the fish.  The water erupted as it spooked them and they took off for cover.  I sat on the shoreline a broken man.  What a stupid mistake I thought, this isn't panfishing!  I lit a cigarette and waited to see if anything was still around.  After a few minutes I saw the tell tale bubbles starting to form on the surface.  They were back and I was determined not to make anymore stupid mistakes.
     This time I took the time to figure out where the lead fish was.  I carefully spooled off some line and sent out my cast with all the attention and care of a steelhead fisherman on the swing.  It landed softly and sank out of sight.  Keeping my rod tip low I watched intensely for any movement of my fly line.  I stripped a little line back, maybe 1-2 inches then again let it settle.  Staring at the waters surface I noticed it, the line moved.  It didn't so much move as it kind of breathed.  Heaving back on the rod I found myself instantly connected to the mouth of a freight train.  Carp run like nothing else in freshwater.  It took off and quickly had me in the backing.  Tearing this way and that across the pond he did everything in his power to free himself from the hook in his face.  I could tell straight away that he wasn't that big as far as carp go, but he had an incredible spirit.  It took almost 15 minutes to land him and on more than one occasion I damn near fell into the water.  Finally laying on the edge of the undercut bank I reached out with my Lucid Fishing Grips and claimed my prize.
     Even on the bank he refused to give up, twisting and turning in my hands.  I tried politely explaining that I just wanted to take a selfie with him.  He wasn't having it and looked mad even in the photos.  It was quite the experience and I will be back to try for the bigger one I saw that day.  If you haven't tried to catch a carp on a fly you should.  It will make you a better angler and they are stupid amounts of fun when hooked.  If your gonna be in the Madison area and want to go after one give me a call.  I would be happy to take you out after the golden bonefish.
     Tight Lines.