Hank Parker…no pic…you kidding me!

Back home from the KBF/FLW event on Lake Oauchita….working on a formal recap, but this is my personal “I always dreamed of being here, there goes Hank Parker, this was AWESOME (except for only finishing 24th – but it was out of 72 anglers)” post.  To be honest, I don’t want to spend time talking about the fishing; though it is a beautiful lake, it was tough….I would rather just talk about the experience…from my viewpoint…from the perspective of a guy who believes in the kayak community, that this community does exist, and is real and full of great folks who care about each other; that KBF, Hobie and the hundreds of local kayak groups are all a part of…one family with a passion for being in plastic boats (I always hear Scott Beutjer’s voice when I say or type plastic boats!) – fishing, paddling, pedaling, motoring or just floating.

Let me get this out of the way first….

I made the biggest fan errors of my life at one of the biggest events of my life!  The backstory…my favorite bait for bass fishing (that isn’t a top water bait) is the spinner bait.  Not just any spinner bait…the Mann’s Classic spinnerbait marketed with Hank Parker’s name on it back in the day.  There was a show I watched that showed Hank talking about the St. James River, and his technique, that had me buy one…and keeps me buying them (when I can find them!) when I lose ‘em….and got me 7th in the 2018 KBF National Championship…

…and here he was, walking past me while I was not only attending, but being a part of an FLW event (a dream!)…and I chased him like some crazed stalker, introduced myself…talked about his time in Hobie’s….then said thank you for the time and walked away…without a picture!!!!  I had finally met one of the biggest influencers of my fishing, in my (limited) success as an angler…and I didn’t take a picture, didn’t even ask!  I had 2000 dollars or more in cameras and lenses hanging around my body, a cell phone….and not a picture!!!!   Fail!  I did capture a pic (or fifty) of him on stage.

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So…back to the KBF/FLW event….we made it to Arkansas barely in time for the dinner with DeeZee, YakAttack and the folks from FLW.  Joy and I had just met Arlie Minton’s wife Crystal (I already knew Arlie), Darrell Cornelius and his wife Tanya, Jim Davis (fellow Tennessee dude whom I also knew), George Nemeth….and we talked as if we were life-long friends.  While none of us were strangers…we were all already Facebook kinda friends, not all real friends, the “I know you?  I think we are friends on Facebook” who share a common interest friends….I sat there thinking this is the kind of folks that kayak tournament fishing attracts. Good folks who enjoy sharing time with fellow humans, and while kayaking broke the ice, it was not long before we discussed occupations and families.  Joking and laughing with and about each other, we formed new bonds (now real friends as far as I am concerned!) that will be among my most cherished memories when I cannot pedal out any longer.

Darrell Cornelius and his wife Tanya talking with some of the anglers
Darrell Cornelius and his wife Tanya talking with some of the KBF anglers

During the line to get our food, you could hear people talking and laughing…we were about to fish for a lot of money (a lot of recognition), but you didn’t hear any of that in the conversations.  There was a bit of pre-fishing talk, but for the most part it was old and new friends enjoying each other…strengthening the connections that pull this community together and make it strong.

The days I spent on the water, the area I chose was shared with George Nemeth.  We talked about what was and wasn’t working for us, where we were from, what brought us to Arkansas…smiled together about how bad our day was going…thinking about it, those days make me miss the interactions if I go a couple of weeks without a tournament.

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George Nemeth doing “something” for the camera
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Bogdan Korostetskyi winner of the first FLW tournament was posing
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it was truly a family event…Mike Eady brought his own fan club!

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Joy and Crystal…waiting on us to get done with check-in

Found a pic of Arlie…well, Henry hooked me up! Henry, Arlie, Crystal and George

When Henry Veggian talked on the biggest stage of anyone’s fishing career after landing in 7th place…he thanked the folks at Albright’s Sunshine Store and Cafe.  I mean, the biggest event and he recognized a local place that had become a part of Dwayne Walley, Cory Dreyer, Shelly Efird, George Nemeth and his own stories during their time in Arkansas.  They had all been sharing a house together and found a local place that adopted them; and they appreciated each other.  Other than announcing Clint Henderson as the champion…and the two Arkansas guys Garret Morgan (3rd place) and Dwain Batey (2nd place)…and this were still very close in comparison…no other words elicited the response that Henry’s words did – the crowd cheered like the café had won….the next time I am in the area, rest assured that I will be finding the Sunshine Store and Cafe in Arkansas!

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I bring this up because it too reminds me about the spirit of this group.  It reminds me that I am a part of something bigger than us all…again, whether you believe it or not….this community, this willingness to share the stage with people who just in passing touch your life…I am all in for life!  When you hear what else Henry was willing to share on tournament day (read official recap coming soon); you will truly feel the soul of this group…I love it!!!

Well, need to work on the official recap.  I just wanted to say how proud I am to have been a part of this KBF/FLW/DeeZee/YakAttack/TourneyX event on Lake Ouachita. Say what you will about Chad Hoover, KBF, the Hobie BOS and AJ Mcwhorter…me, my mama…my daddy… (not Joy, dishrag or sis; we might just throw down)…..this was an excellent event…this is an excellent group of folks…and I am grateful and so blessed to be part of all that the community is and has to offer.

peace

also:

Want to give a personal shout out to the folks at the Rose Retreat, the place where Joy and I stayed in Hot Springs Arkansas.  They have built a little space close to town (walking distance) with several little cottages – ours was the Monet’s Cottage.  It isn’t the kind of place you would take a group of guys to spend a week fishing, but it was a great place for Joy to spend the day knitting and reading while I was on the lake.  Cindy and Jim didn’t realize I was bringing a trailered kayak with me, but even with limited parking for all of the other guests, still found a way to make it work for us.  Each and every day, we talked about fishing and they always asked how I had done on the lake.  If you go back to the area and need a clean, quiet and well-appointed space for the trip….check them out on Evolve.  And don’t miss the tiny Elvis gnome….or the pirate out front…quirky cool kinda place!

…and the winner is….us!

Since I have written my pity post talking about my performance at the 2019 KBF National Championship in Shreveport/Bossier Louisiana, I will not rehash that at all.  I developed a solid pattern; launch, fish, come back empty handed – it just wasn’t a winning pattern.  (stole that line, think it was a Ron Himmelhaver quote)

Congrats to Mike Elsea for taking us all to school. A great tourney for our 2019 KBF National Champion!

It was just awesome to see the area community so involved with what we were doing; being so informed.  There was not a gas station, ramp or restaurant that I visited where someone didn’t ask about kayak fishing.  I spent hours just talking to folks about kayaking in general; where to get boats or how much they cost, how do weigh ins happen, where are we from, what we were catching and how – even suggestions about where to be or why the fish were not biting…it was the most welcoming bunch of folks I ever met!  They taught me what a chinquapin, sac-a-lait and white perch were (that the last two are the same), and how to say them correctly in spite of my Tennessee accent.

The Shreveport KOA was extremely accommodating to Joy and myself; suggesting restaurants like Sam’s Southern Eatery and Crawdaddy’s Kitchen, selling me too much ice cream.  Harrah’s Louisiana Downs casino was all too willing to take my money; but also provided a pretty cool venue for our check in and captain’s meetings. I did have some major wins!

I have been a part of the KBF family for two years and am impressed with the growth of the organization and the professional manner in which the staff conducts the events and just need to get some “thank you” love out there.  I have no idea what you all do during the months up to, or the days during the event; but I know that this ole boy really appreciates that I can show up and take part in this (and all events) every year.

  • Chad Hoover thanks for bringing this to the world stage, for having the vision
  • Kristie Hoover thanks for keeping him straight and raising the bar, for helping to organize the days
  • Joe Haubenreich thanks for all you do, for the shared conversations about points; for helping me poke at Brent Lanier (always fun!)
  • Richard Wohlwend-Penny thanks for the open and honest dialogues about tourney management and where we are headed with KBF
  • Amanda Brannon thanks for excellent judging and somehow managing to keep all of us straight – and for the kind words about my writing
  • Lynette Brentlinger thanks for organizing all of the stuff and the mail and all that jazz, has to suck dealing with us at times
  • Josh Martin thanks for the reports, the standings on Facebook
  • Scott Beutjer thanks for the shared enthusiasm for the sport and the passion – and the Westbrook Supply Ketch board I barely used. Look forward to seeing the photos and video; also look forward to sharing some water and conversations with you
  • To all the folks in the KBF organization that video, take pics….do stuff that I cannot begin to understand is required for an event this large..I wish I was better with names! Thanks!!!
  • Dwayne Walley and TourneyX; man, I love your software and its simplicity – thanks for the conversations through the year

If I missed anyone at KBF…I am truly sorry….I appreciate you all!

 

Thank you Caney Fork for hooking me up with my first, second, third, fourth and fifth kayak…or hooking Joy up – y’all still need to not talk about boats with her ever!  Thanks for the opportunity to represent you with the Hobie team this year.  Thanks for helping me to have the best gear on the water!

 

To all the National Championship sponsors – I am pleased to be a consumer of many of your products, proud to share this community with you all.  I look forward to opportunities to talk with you all, to meet the innovators and creators who make our lives on the water so much easier.  You guys don’t catch fish for me, but you make it easier for me to do it myself.  I mean let’s be serious, it wasn’t that long ago that the entire bass fishing community was geared toward bass boats, not us; now I can buy gear for my kayak that is made specifically for that kayak!

A special thanks to Jody Queen and Brian Aliff for putting me on some fish and helping me to lose the skunk on Caddo!  Thanks to Jay Minor for snapping the pic!

I left it behind because these two saw a brother struggling and helped him out when they did not have to do so…but then that is who this community is to each other!  Those two personify kayak fishing to me!  It is why I love this so much!

 

As always, I got to talk and laugh with old friends…made new friends…

 

Just realized this is sounding like some award acceptance speech, and I only won a door prize of some Gruv tackle boxes (thanks so much!). I will stop gushing like I am at the Oscars and naming all of the folks who made it possible….but I will not before I again say how proud I was to represent the KBF community on And off the water in the National Championship and was able to share that with all who asked…and give thanks that I can do that the rest of the year; not only for KBF and Hobie, but with those of us who live and breathe kayak fishing across the world.

 

Going to get out of here….see you all at the next tournament.

Ketch me if you can…..

So….I know it is Thursday because I have been counting the days until I leave for Shreveport and the KBF National Championship (tomorrow!)….but for me, it is Westbrook Wednesday part Two!

Now I am not going to lie, I had no idea what a Westbrook Wednesday was until I met Scott Beutjer at Bienville; a chance meeting that left me with a new friend on a weekend that I still consider one of the greatest in my kayaking career.  We paddled and talked, and made a wrong turn…then back on course…then paddled (well I pedaled) and talked back to the ramp.  Anyway…when I got back to the hotel, I looked him up – not in a creepy Facebook stalker way – ok, maybe in a freaky Facebook stalker way; but mostly because I was curious about what a Westbrook Wednesday really was, and what it was about.

I found that Scott, just as he appeared on the water, is as passionate and in love with the sport and the community as I am!  This guy believes in the future of kayak bass tournaments and its competitors; and has found an outlet that allows him to promote that passion and build his brand while promoting others.  We have since spoken a bit, and I feel a kinship with his personality, his vision and that love and passion.

Ok, enough about my man crush!  Let’s get back to Westbrook Wednesday on Thursday for this guy!

Back up two weeks, I was in the middle of a skunkfest (still not certain that it has ended but hoping!) when I saw a giveaway on Facebook.  Post something and pick up a Ketch board….well, I had been playing with a skunk dog toy and creating some posts – I wish I could say purely for fun, but my ego was truly CRUSHED – and thought oh well, let’s tell more folks how bad my fishing adventures have become; I was contemplating buying a Ketch board before the National Championship, so why not.

Well on that episode, as with all episodes I am learning, there is a guest…it happened to be Jamie Denison, a great angler who had a phenomenal year.  But on this one, this guy (me) and his run of bad luck….displaying his skunk for all the world to see….ashamed, beaten, broken, demoralized, crushed…well, you get the picture…saw his luck turn when in a very extreme turn of events…from zero to winner…heard his name spoken on national WestbrookFacebookLive TV…

…and today…My Thursday edition of Westbrook Wednesday began as I opened the box to my one of a kind, super special, sorry to you all but it is mine; my very own Westbrook Ketch Board!

Not bragging, but after a long spell of painful losses (life in skunkville USA), I am enjoying the victory!

 

But all kidding aside, Y’all check out Westbrook Wednesday over at Westbrook Supply Company. You will hear Scott talk with some of the top anglers from our community and learn more about them and how they compete.  It will not take long to see how this guy feels about kayaking and its future as a sport; it is definitely worth a listen…or two…or more.

 

Oh yeah…did I say I won this on there???  One more pic for the road…..little bit of the Flukemaster came with it…

 

….see a lot of y’all in Shreveport, be safe!

Why does the old fat guy have to take pics?

Bienville….day ahhhhh one….day ahhhhh two, ahh three…..

How many days does it take to get to what kayak fishing is really about to me?

….three…..

Some of you may not understand the reference to an old commercial, ‘cause you ain’t that old, but it was about the chocolate center of the Tootsie Pop…Google it…but that is what my day on the water was like; getting to the gooey center…the best part of it all!

While the Ten was setup for a big day on Lake Purvis (good job on day one guys!), those of us not in the top ten set out on the two other lakes in search of a big bass. It seems many had the same idea; to push off shore at seven a.m., and make the mad dash to the spot where the Jeff Fader had just kicked our butts in the KBF Tenvitational.

6:59 and you could see everyone leaning toward their kayaks. In my head it looked like bobsledders moving back and forth before the run toward the hill…my story, my visions.

6:59 and a half…how can I beat a Torqeedo to the spot?

6:59 and three-quarters…everyone looked around…everyone knew where everyone was headed.

7:00…now kayak fishing is not a sport designed for shot gun starts; so there was a lot of “bump”, “sorry”….”hit your paddle”, “sorry”….bumper boats on a mission.

I broke free!

One motor in front of me…and a pedal yak. I cranked the Hobie into overdrive and passed the motor kayak (the Mirage Drive is an awesome thing!) and almost caught the pedal yak before we reached the channel.

Then I made an error; I stopped on the entry side ( mostly because I was out of breath!). As I watched the graph for fish and made a few casts….a steady stream of kayaks went past me.

I saw Casey Reed catch a fish halfway down the channel and heard excitement on the other end.

I pedaled through to find a pile of kayaks casting to a single location and wearing out the bass! Slamming ‘em!

Then it happened.

I got to the gooey center.

“Come on. Cast over here.”

Casey Reed, Russell Johnson, Corey Dreyer, David Kittrell, Jim Williams, Arlie Minton, Micah Marbra, Tim Issacs, Barry Davis….others I am sorry I don’t know…but tell me their names please…were sitting in the “honey hole” (some showed up later) slaying em and inviting any who passed down the chute to join.

We all fished and I witnessed several giants caught, but I wasn’t catching any. At one point they had several fish on and wanted a picture…so since I was doing nothing else (and they kept reminding me)…I took several.

For the rest of the day we, seriously competitive anglers; joked, laughed, encouraged each other…talked good and bad about each other…ok, mostly about my inability to hook a fish…

At one point we decided to leave the spot alone for a bit and dispersed. I passed Florida Jerry and Matthew Brannon who told me what they were catching them on…Matthew going so far as to offer me a bag of baits when I told him mine were in the truck.

…we shared what had to be one of the greatest days of fishing I have ever experienced….and I didn’t catch a fish until late in the day! But by that point, it wouldn’t have mattered if I had skunked…it was an amazing day of fellowship and camaraderie that, to quote Russell – “we will remember (this day) for years to come”. Yes the fish were swarming, but it became so much more than that…sounds kinda silly, but the day took on a life of its own. And it was everything that drew me to the kayaking community sitting in a few hundred square feet of water.

Chad Hoover and KBF (or something bigger?) brought us together on Bienville Lake 14….and today reminded me that the soul of kayak fishing is a beautiful thing….

….the gooey center.

…..no……

The child in me wants to say “NO….LEAVE ME ALONE!” so I don’t have to talk about the first tourney of 2019. The KBF Tenvitational sponsored by Dee Zee.

And technically, I don’t have to share at all….I do control the typing after all…but, I am not six…and I can’t pretend I wasn’t here…

Bienville….day one….well day two, but it ended much like day one; not skunked, but not catching enough fish!

So I left the Senkos in the truck to avoid the crappie bite from day one….rigged all of my rods with baits I do not typically use because yesterday did not go well….and pedaled off to explore all of Lake 14.

I did intentionally leave one area alone, because I didn’t want to crowd the leader.

7:30; caught a 15 inch bass on a Mann’s Classic spinnerbait.

2:00; caught a 6 inch bass on a Texas rigged Zoom trick worm in black.

2:15ish; caught a 14 inch bass on a Texas rigged Zoom trick worm in black.

I watched guys all day catching fish with the techniques (and baits) that had failed me the day before. Baits that were resting in the back seat of my truck because I wanted to try something different!

The end. I haven’t looked to see where I finished…I am sure I will know one day, but for now I am going to cover my head and lick my wounds….

…..the upside to it all…..

I still have the next two days left to fish with hope that I catch the biggest bass of the day on an incredible fishery; Bienville Plantation.

Many folks hear about, and dream of fishing this place; I can now say that I have!

Thanks to KBF , Chad Hoover and team (Amanda Brannon, Richard Penny)…for a great tourney….I have spent the last two days fishing with and against the best. Anglers I consider my friends and family because of this organization.

If y’all haven’t been to a KBF event, come on out. Feels like it is going to be a big year!

2019….let’s do this…

The Nissan has just shy of 120,00 miles; almost 30,000 of those miles came from last year. It definitely does not have that new truck smell – more like fish slime and dirty clothes mixed together.

The R-Pod, our camper, has new tires and a new fender; the old fender blew off when the tire exploded just outside of Tennessee after leaving the Santee Cooper tournament.

The Tennessee trailer has a new tire and fender; somewhere in Illinois, a deer ran head first into it on the way from LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

My garage looks like a small tackle store exploded, leaving remnants everywhere; not to mention the four kayaks that consume every free inch of space that once existed there.

I blew out my favorite pair of flip flops wading in Arkansas’ Beaver Lake while trying to find water less than 70 foot deep; bought some of the ugliest I have ever seen at a Dollar Store in Toledo Bend.

Drove over eight hours to several tournaments so I could sleep in parking lots for an hour or two (often less), then drive back home; was awakened at Guntersville by a car that had parked beside me – the occupants were, well, it was a guy and a gal…you fill in the story.

Ran over a brand new Bending Branches Angler Pro Carbon paddle, broke two rods, kicked four others off the kayak (fished them out)…lost the cover off my depth finder in South Carolina…had a fish knock my identifier out of the boat in the first hours of the Hobie Open on Kentucky Lake….sat on my iPad…ate a dry biscuit off the floorboard of my truck because I forgot to pack food for a 24 hour tourney…

…retired my favorite rod (crying) Read about my old friend

….Made many new friends, but lost a good one in Louisiana…#goldenhour….

…and I just finished planning my vacation days and sent it to the folks I work with; this year, I will (again) fish my vacation away.  I booked a room and signed up for Bienville Plantation this month…signed up for the Hobie BOS at Chickamauga…

Why?!?!?

Because:

I did make those new friends, and have some great memories of conversations on the water and at tournaments; memories with my Joy on those trips.  

We ate at some great local places, visited a Buddhist Monastery, lighthouses, stayed on the beach, carried dishrag camping…visited way too many Pilot stations….a yarn store or three…collected drift wood and rocks from some of the most beautiful shores in America!

I fished many great bodies of water; caught my first walleye, my first pike…placed high enough in enough tournaments to believe that I will win one, or more, this year.  

Made it into a KBF video or two; even if they called me Matthew during my seventh place finish at the National Championship (smiling)…I got my fifteen minutes of fame while fishing with Brad Case in Arkansas.

I was blessed with the opportunity to represent Caney Fork Outdoors on their fishing team, and am being added to their Hobie Fishing team.  Both opportunities will allow me to talk about, teach kayaking and fishing while getting others in kayaks…snd share the passion for fishing that has existed in me since I was a child; all while doing something I love.

 

I could go on about the reasons I am going to be willing to drive countless miles and hours just to close my eyes long enough to pretend I slept…on and on about the fish I hope to catch….the friends I know I will make this year…I thought a long time about not doing it again…

But I have to admit that a big factor in in doing it is because I am married to a beautiful woman who believes in me, who encourages me to dream.  She supports me, eats bad food all across the country with me…laughs with me on the long rides.  She tells me that all I have to do is catch bigger fish…suck it up buttercup.  My Joy tells me that I need to “fish with soul” when I get so wrapped up in myself that I forget I am fishing after all – when I forget the love of it and make it a chore; not to take a bad day so seriously. 

Listens when I tell her to not buy me a new kayak…wait, technically buying a non refundable gift certificate for the cost of one is the same…so maybe that last one ain’t true!  But I am fortunate beyond description to have been stalked by her….she may not agree to my version of our first days…but I am the one typing so….

I cannot make you understand the why I will, or what it means to travel across the states just to chase a bass or two….but that was not my intent.  This post was really just to convince myself that I am not insane….I failed, reading this it makes no sense…but I am heading to the garage to clean up the pile of senkos, spinner baits, crank baits…yes, a jig or two…because I absolutely love fishing tournaments from my Hobie and need to pack it up and get ready.  Here we go 2019!