Another river float 8-24-2019

Yesterday morning, I woke up at 5:30 am to hit the river with my buddy and fellow Paddle N Fin host, Justin Marshall.The trip started off with a very cool evening with water temps in the low 70s. just last Wednesday evening, the river water temps were 77 degrees, so I was surprised when I saw such low temps but I’m not complaining! I love cooler weather.



We paddled upstream from our put in and started fishing downstream. Within in the first hour, I had 4 fish on my line, 2 of which snapped my line pulling under my kayak but was my fault because I haven’t retied a new leader on it a while. I got a look at the first smallmouth I lost, and I estimated it to be around 18'‘. The second smallmouth that i lost in the same spot 5 minutes after the first one, I estimated to be around the 16’-17’ range. I wasn’t a happy camper to start the day off but it got better. I ended up retying a whole new leader while on the water. Not ideal, but it had to be done.



Shortly after, We had 2 other kayak fisherman around us as we were fishing and they saw me pull 2 more fish out right in front of them. It was awesome. One of those fish were a spotted bass that came from behind a log in current. The funny part was when I casted, I casted the lure over this log on accident and immediately when it hit the water, the fish hit the lure so I had to drag this fish over the log and fight this fish. It was interesting to say the least. The other fish i caught shortly after that, I caught right next to a fellow wade fishing.

The fish I pulled out from over a log.

The fish I pulled out from over a log.

There was one set of fast moving riffles in the 1-3ft range that I pulled out 4 quick ones around the 13” range. Also had numerous small bites which I believed to be either small smallmouth or rock bass.



We caught smallmouth, rock bass, spotted bass, and saugeye. Most fish came out of quick moving current or tail end of pools. The tail end of pools are where the water starts to deepen and not move nearly as fast as the quick shallow current. Up against rip rap around 3-6 ft deep seemed to be productive as well. I ended up throwing the black and blue Zman TRD all day long. Had a couple misses on topwater, but they didn’t fully commit.


Overall, this was a fun trip, nothing of size, but man we had the numbers. Between the 2 of us, we had almost 40 fish combined. We spent probably 11 hours on the water and floating around 6 hours. At the end of the day, the river water temps hit around 75 degrees. With all these cool evenings and nights, the fishing should be getting better and better.

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I’m always looking for a cool opportunity to take a pic.

I’m always looking for a cool opportunity to take a pic.

River saugeye!

River saugeye!

Blown over tree in the background was really cool looking. Also that Bending Branches angler classic paddle >>>

Blown over tree in the background was really cool looking. Also that Bending Branches angler classic paddle >>>

I caught a fish on this cast lol. Also, was fishing the quick current here.

I caught a fish on this cast lol. Also, was fishing the quick current here.

Tip: for river fishing, find a calm pocket of water next to current. These areas typically can be deeper 3 ft or more and hold fish all year round. The line that the water creates where the current and calm water meet is called a seam. Those seams are good spots to fish because it is basically a conveyor belt of food for fish to get an easy meal. In the summertime, set yourself up in the calm water and cast into the current. Fish like the current in the summer because of the oxygen it creates.

Tip: for river fishing, find a calm pocket of water next to current. These areas typically can be deeper 3 ft or more and hold fish all year round. The line that the water creates where the current and calm water meet is called a seam. Those seams are good spots to fish because it is basically a conveyor belt of food for fish to get an easy meal. In the summertime, set yourself up in the calm water and cast into the current. Fish like the current in the summer because of the oxygen it creates.



Wednesday evening float 8-21-2019

As usual, I get off work and race home to load up my kayak like any other wednesday evening and head to the river.

Upond arriving, I always cast for a few minutes at this quick riffle. It’s highly pressured but sometimes I get lucky here. I started throwing the square bill crankbait in the quick current and knocking rocks. Didn’t have luck in that spot today so I headed upstream where I spent the rest of the evening. I hit numerous pockets with the crankbait and Zman TRD in black and blue color. The TRD was the ticket for the evening. I scored 4 fish, 3 smallmouth and 1 largemouth. The largemouth was tiny but cool because this river doesn’t produce many largemouth. Over the last 7 years, I have probably only caught 7 largemouth on the river. So I was surprised. He was chasing bait fish in calm water next to current. So when I saw a ton of surface blow ups, I decided to cross stream and cast a few times. First cast and I had him on.

I crossed back over the other side of the river and spent the rest of the evening on the side pulling other a decent 14-15” smallmouth, another small one, and a really good 17” smallmouth. The 17” came at the tail end of quicker current right on the bend in the river. I was casting right out into the middle of the river when I caught it. All in all, it was a great evening spent on the river.

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Ambassadorships/ Sponsorships/ PROSTAFF

I’m not an expert on these two subjects, but I would like to talk about a few things I have learned this year about these subjects.

A lot of people tend to think that sponsorships will pay your tournament fees, you get free stuff, etc. That’s not the case unless you’re a bigger name in the industry. What I’ve learned from ambassadorships and sponsorships through Loveland Canoe and Kayak and Team Bonafide is that it requires a lot of committment and work. I enjoy doing what is required of me though because I have a passion for fishing and kayaks. Things I’m required to do is to post sales posts for my brand (Bonafide kayaks all models), be at demo days assisting potential customers, and posting on social media tagging the shop at least twice a week. It comes easy for myself because I know the guys at LCK and they are all a great group of guys. I enjoy their company and working with them to promote the business. The demo days are one of my favorite things. I get to be at the shop hanging with the team and talk fishing. If we have anyone interested in demoing one of our kayaks, we let them hop on and try it, talk about the product, and help them decide what would work best for them. It’s a blast.

With ambassadorships/sponsorships, it’s always a good idea to be on your best behavior on any social media outlet. Companies don’t want to support someone who is always getting in arguments or cursing quite a bit online. It’s just not a good look. A lot of companies look for someone who is well mannered, committed to their brand, and does what is asked of them. Going the extra mile definitely helps as well. My advice is to work as hard as you can and prove yourself to whom ever is sponsoring you. Eventually that company will take notice and be more willing to help you out as time goes on.

As of right now, I don’t know how I feel about prostaff, but I do have some advice. A lot of people tend to think of prostaff as something of status when it’s only meaning is promotional staff. Prostaff job is to help promote a brand that you believe in. Don’t just jump into a prostaff position with a company whom you’ve never used any of their products just for the title of being “prostaff.” Instead, be more selective with the prostaff you apply for. Apply for companies you believe in and brands you actually use regularly.

Another piece of advice I have about prostaff is not to load up on a ton of companies prostaff. You end up not being able to rep all those companies like you should be doing. Pick a couple, the ones that mean the most to you, and roll with those. Also, make yourself familiar with all the products of the company whom you’re on prostaff with to help you to better promote the brand as a whole. Prostaff does offer some perks such as discounts, chances to earn gear, or even invites to the biggest fishing expo, iCast.

I have been more selective with prostaff recently. I have applied to Bending Branches pro staff and have gotten word back from their marketing manager letting me know he likes what he sees with me. Hopefully that is good news once the time comes when they pick their prostaff. Also, being a part of Team Bonafide, that means I also get the yak attack prostaff perks as well which is awesome because I love their products.

With all that said, don’t go into sponsorships, ambassadorships, or prostaff wanting nothing but free stuff. It’s more than just that. To me, it’s about being part of something bigger and having a love and passion for the sport of kayak fishing and even helping someone else out.

Like I said, I’m not an expert, I’m just handing out advice on what I’ve learned through this whole experience this year. I hope if you’re reading this, you can learn and apply these things as well. I’m here to help and I enjoy helping others through the process. It’s only fair of me to pass along to others what someone else did for me.

Go kayak fishing and have fun!

-Brad Hicks

Bonafide SS127 review

I figured since I’m a Bonafide team member and brand ambassador for the Loveland canoe and kayak team that I’d write a review about the kayak I spend so much time in.

Stability

First, let’s start with the stability. The Bonafide SS127 is one of the most stable fishing platforms I have ever fished off of. Quite often I paddle this kayak from the standing position and it never compromises the stability. The Perch pads on the sides by the seat are surprisingly easy to stand on as well. I thought it would very be unsettling standing on those pads, but it’s honestly not bad at all.

Fishability

The Bonafide SS127 is a very fishable and comfortable vessel. I have fished numerous tournaments and spent hours upon hours fishing out of this kayak all year long. The comfort level is amazing. I love the open deck space in front of the seat. The seat is the best seat on the market in any kayak and it’s not even close. There are 2 seat positions for the Bonafide ss127, high and low. I rarely ever put the seat in low position because the high seat position is just amazing on its own. Under the seat is a junk drawer which I absolutely love and use every trip. I store my soft plastics underneath the seat as well as my donkey leash, fish grips, and ketch board while on the water. The junk drawer is installed on a gear track and can be pulled out and pushed in and locked so it does not come open on it’s own. The junk drawer also has molded spots of the front top part of it that allows you to place rods while paddling to your next spot. I have been utilizing this feature quite a bit when paddling. It keeps my rods and reels out of the way and without having my rod tips hang over the bow of my kayak.

The Dry pod is also a great feature. I used the dry pod to mount my fish finder on top of and transducer below. With how the Bonafide SS127’s hull is shaped, it’s like a catamaran hybrid type hull. The sides are almost like it’s on 2 outside pontoons with a smooth middle part that doesn’t hang down as far underneath into the water as the sides. That allows for the transducer to be mounted onto the bottom of the dry pod without any issues of the transducer hitting the bottom surface of any lake or river. I have not had a single problem with my transducer hitting whatsoever. The dry pod also comes out with the push of a hinge and a rubber part. The rubber part was a genius idea because if for any reason you do hit soemthing on the bottom of the lake or river with your transducer, it gives the dry pod a little bit of play without ripping off the transducer and breaking the dry pod or it’s hinges to keep it in place completely.

One of my favorite features of this kayak is the storage space. The front hatch opens both ways because of the hatch hinges Bonafide created. You can access the front hatch from inside the kayak by opening the lid away from you toward the bow and also open it away from the bow toward the stern if you’re outside of the kayak storing your gear after trips. The storage inside the hatch is unmatched. Inside my hatch, I can store all my rods (5), life vest, paddle, fish finder, rod holders (4), batteries, ketch board, and dry bag and still have room for more. When I’m talking to people who are interested in Bonafide, I ALWAYS mention the storage space because it’s something I believe other brands fall short.

The rear well is also a great storage area for the yak attack blackpak or a crate. The rear well will hold the blackpak in any position well you want to place it length way or width way. Bonafide also left the bungee system open for storing a crate or blackpak. The bungee system has these clips on the bungees, two on each side, that clip onto a blackpak or crate. I thought that was an amazing idea because the crisscrossing of bungees often get in the way of crates on other brands of kayaks. Also included in the rear well is a rear access plate for running wires and cables for a trolling motor and cable to control it with the foot pedals. On the stern of the kayak, they have 4 areas pre installed for a potential rudder or power pole. A lot of guys use those holes for mounting their trolling motors.

Back up to the foot pedals. There are 2 settings on the foot pedals, locking them in place and free motion of foot pedals. The locking of the foot pedals are used to lock those foot pedals in place for bracing yourself or while you’re paddling. The free motion settings is for controlling a trolling motor with the foot pedals. Bonafide has thought everything through with this kayak.

Paddling

First off, this kayak paddles extremely well in rivers and going upstream against current, even without the flex wings they released for the SS series. On lakes, the back end of the SS127 does sway even after the last paddle stroke, but the flex wings Bonafide created fix that with no issues. Those flex wings are a must have for Bonafide owners. The flex wings definitely help with the tracking of the SS127 but beware that they aren’t meant to be used on rivers. Using flex wings on rivers can cause issues with catching current wrong and turning you while going through riffles which is not recommended. The SS127 is a harder kayak to paddle up to speed, but once you get momentum, it’s fairly easy to keep a decent speed. I can paddle around 3.5 MPH with this kayak no issues.

Cons

Honestly, the only con I have about this kayak is the weight. It is a heavier kayak at 94 lbs with the seat. All my gear in the storage make it a lot heavier than it actually is though, but it’s a trade off I’m willing to make. I know not everybody will have that same view as mine. Another con I have is the paddle keeper bungee the paddle keeper bungee is hard to manage. If somehow Bonafide made a tab for pulling down the bungee, it would make it a whole lot easier to use.

Plans

I plan on doing a few things with my Bonafide SS127 to make it how I want it to be for lake tournaments. Eventually, I will be getting myself a torqeedo or trolling motor setup. I’m still brainstorming, but I think I have a decent plan. I do plan on getting a Bonafide RS117and scaling down in gear for my river trips. A lot of stuff that stays in my SS127 is unnecessary for river trips. Scaling down would make it a lot easier on myself with loading and unloading and dropping a lot of the weight I carry. Thanks for taking the time to read my review on the Boanfide SS127 and hopefully this inspires you to purchase one and catch some fish’ I know I completely stand behind Bonafide kayaks and their products and I know they too take pride in what they do.

SS127 Pics

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Evening River trip July 24th, 2019

As my Wednesday evening usual, I get the Bonafide SS127 out and do a two and a half hour float by myself. I find it very odd but satisfying that my best days always come with when fishing alone, far behind, or ahead of all my buddies who are floating with me. I don’t know what it is. Maybe its the quiet time alone that focuses me on the fishing. There is just something special about being able to dissect a whole stretch of river on your own. Don’t get me wrong, I love floating rivers with my buddies Justin and Josh, it’s always a good time.


I have been hitting a stretch of the river that my buddy Justin and I discovered a few years ago wade fishing. This spot is loaded with smallmouth bass of all varies sizes and has yielded quite a few really good fish. I start out fishing right where put in is because its a great summer spring and summer spot to fish. This spot has it all, fast current, a seam where fast current and slow moving water meet, an eddy, shallow riffles, and a pool above the riffles. Within the first 10 minutes upon arriving, I have a fish on and bring it in. This smallmouth was about 12-14” but extremely healthy and fat. That fish was caught on a white whopper plopper right off the current seam. I notice that as the evening approaches, these summer fish like to hang out on those seams to feed up. Same goes for the morning. During the heat of the day, those fish hang out in fast current in the summer time.


I decided to paddle upstream to this spot I mentioned earlier that my buddy and I found. This spot is awesome. Its on a sharp bend in the river and it loaded with huge chunks of rock. Now the current here isn’t super fast and there isn’t a raging riffle, but the topography of this area is very cool. It starts out coming around the corner, bouncing off a point where a storm drain comes in and creates a quick moving eddy right off the bat. This eddy is roughly five and a half feet deep. Followed after the eddy, the current going down stream slows down a little, but the depth changes quiet a bit, and gets shallower the more you go downstream until you hit a “semi riffle” but its not actually a riffle but rather slower current being diverted in multiple directions but multiple huge rocks. After that the water deepens back up again and so on and so forth. This stretch follows that formula for 3 separate pools and once the current makes its way past the last set of huge rocks, the river drops down deep to 10 ft and followed by yet another bend. Fishing that deep current in the summer time is key in catching some big smallmouth in this area. As the river makes it way around the final bend, the river really starts to shallow up again coming back to the riffle where I like to put in.


Now that I have the area described, I’ll talk a little bit about my tactics on catching these smallmouth throughout this whole stretch. My main goal with this blog is to help people understand rivers and how to fish them. I really want to go into depth on how to read the river and what causes the river to do certain things. I don’t consider myself a river professional by any means, but I do feel confident in my skills to find and catch smallmouth bass on the river. With that said, lets get into some of my techniques that have worked for me on this last trip.


As mentioned before, i caught my first find of the evening on a whopper plopper off of a current seam. You can use quite a bit of lures in areas like this. My go too lures in areas with a current seam and slow moving water is swimbaits, grubs on a 1/8 oz jighead, buzzbaits or whopper plopper, spinnerbaits (smallmouth love the colors white and chartreuse for any bait), Zman finesse TRD, and tubes. Most of those baits work well in quick current as well. Just remember that the quicker the current, the heavier oz jighead you should be using to get your lure down into the strike zone. Thats crucial to catching more fish. I think thats where a lot of guys go wrong, they will stick to using only 1/8 oz when thy should be throwing 1/4 oz.


Heading on upstream where I mentioned all these rocks, the eddy, and deep hole. I start fishing this area pointing upstream always because I don’ want to paddle through the areas i want to fish throughly. I start out throwing the deep hole first, Here I have been throwing the Zman TRD into the deep moving current. I ended up catching a couple nice ones out of that spot. Now, I do fish swimbaits in that area as well, but haven’t been lately because of my current obsession with the TRD. Hardly do i ever throw any topwater at this spot, it never seems to work and I think its because the water is just deep there. The next few spots I fish all the same way. I’ll post up on a rock on the shoreline with my leg holding me in place so the current isn’t taking me downstream. These spots have little channels coming around these big rocks and causes it to be great ambush spots for smallmouth. These areas, i love throwing the swimbaits, topwater, TRD, or even a square bill shallow diver crankbait. Sometimes the erratic action on the square bill bouncing off rocks drives smallmouth insane and they have to hit it. Final spot, the quick moving eddy. This spot is hit or miss when though there is a current seam that bounces off this point. I hav caught fish in this eddy before, but its never consistent. I love throwing the TRD in this area. Also, if the river is up and muddy, I found a pattern where the fish like to hide in the back corner near this water inlet grate. The water doesn’t move back there at all and is a protected area from flooding and surrounded by big rock, manmade concrete, and grass. I think the smallmouth go to those types of area for protection. This is where I have learned that a chatterbatis really shines on the river. Anywhere there is a grass line and the water is up and muddy, throw a black and blue chatterbait near those weed lines and I’ll guarantee you catch some fish. Thats a pattern I put together rather quickly this year since our rivers in Ohio have been up and muddy almost all year long. I also noticed that those weeds act as a filter as well. Not only does it create more oxygen, but the weeds help filter out the mud from the water. There is always clearer water in weed lines. Remember that when fishing spring and fall for river smallmouth.


My main colors I have been throwing this year has been black and blue because of the muddy waters. You want to use black baits or black and blue baits and also something that vibrates to help the fish track down the bait. the darker the bait, the easier it is for the fish to see in muddy waters. As mentioned before, I love pearly white colors for smallmouth as well as anything with chartreuse. When the water is clearer, I’ll opt for more natural color baits like green pumpkin, white, silver.


Hopefully this blog post will inspire you to get out and try fishing rivers for smallmouth and hopefully you have learned something through my rambling and experiences. Get out there and fish!


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The Bonafide SS127 is a great river fishing platform!  www.BonafideKayaks.com

The Bonafide SS127 is a great river fishing platform!

www.BonafideKayaks.com

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Bending Branches is the only paddle for me.    www.BendingBranches.com

Bending Branches is the only paddle for me.

www.BendingBranches.com



-Brad

What a ride it has been

This year has been absolutely nuts from the start. I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll begin with my good friend Justin Marshall, who was on the Paddle N Fin round table episode. By him being on that episode, it has helped me tremendously by getting my foot into the kayak fishing scene. Jay and Brian both gave valuable information on what it took to become part of a kayak team so I decided to go for it. More on this later.

I was on the fence at the beginning of the season about tournaments. I didn’t like the idea of paying to go fishing. That all changed after I attended my first tournament at Cowan Lake in Ohio. I got skunked that day as well as more than 60% of the other anglers. Only 15 anglers caught fish that day. It was cold and windy. Water temps in the 50s. It was miserable. But I still had a blast out there. I met some great guys that first tournament.

The second tournament I fished was supposed to be a little Miami River tournament but due to the river levels in Ohio being blown out, it got changed to Cowan Lake yet again. The day before the tournament was Loveland Canoe and Kayak’s fishing day. That’s where I met Jason’s Ricketts for the first time. We talked about his awesome Blue Sky Angler 360 and also what it took to become part of a fishing team. That opened up a lot of doors for myself. I guess Jason liked the fact that I just walked up to him and started talking to him like we knew each other. Awesome, I made a good first impression which is usually a game changer. First impressions are huge.

Later that evening, I attended the captains meeting and met some guys as they went over tournaments rules and such. The raffle was great and the company was great.

Next morning tournament day, I didn’t expect much since Cowan Lake has always been a Lake I don’t really care much for. Conditions yet again were terrible. Windy, rainy, cold, 50 degree water temps but this time, I pulled it off. I got my first tournament win in my second ever event. I was the only angler to limit that tournament day. 1st place out of 37 anglers. I’m still shocked to be honest. Yet again, I feel like I impressed Jason with how I conducted myself and winning that tournament. A few short days later after keeping in contact with Jason, I get a phone call from him asking if I was interested in joining the Loveland Canoe and Kayak fishing team and jumping into a Bonafide kayak and repping that brand for them. I was absolutely in. This is what I was working toward and it was already happening for me. I was blown away and still am. I am so thankful for everything Jason and Mark from LCK has done for me. It’s been a blast and a blessing.

Around Memorial Day, I decided to put in an application for Team Bonafide. Shortly after, I got an email from Greg Timmer, Bonafide’s team manager letting me know that I made the team and all he needed was to talk to Mark over at LCK. We got it all squared away and I was finally added to Team Bonafide! Another goal checked off the list. I’m learning more and more everyday how great of a decision it was to join Bonafide. Their customer service is amazing and they make a great product. It has definitely been hard work being on LCK and Team Bonafide but I throughly enjoy it all. I get to fish and rep a brand I believe in.

I have fished a few more tournaments throughout the year placing 19th of 28 in May Ohio KBF monthly, 18th of 41 in June Ohio KBF monthly, 11th of 38 in Cincinnati Kayak Fishing Trail, 5th of 15 in Paddle N fin Meetup on cowan Lake, 1st in team at that same meetup, and currently 6th of 27 in July KBF Ohio monthly. I have a few more tournaments I’m looking forward to and hope to try to qualify for the KBF national championship at some point. Lots of hard work ahead!

One other thing, how could I forget, the Paddle N Fin guys asking me to be part of their podcast doing my own segment for nationwide tournament recap! I have had a blast doing this for the 3 episodes we have done. We have a lot planned so stay tuned into The Reel Down!

Sorry all for the long blog post, but it’s my first one and had a lot to share. I’ll try to keep up with this weekly! Stay tuned!