I had a chance to exchange some dialogue with the man of many talents and the driving force behind Jackson Kayak. Amidst his busy schedule he carved out some time to answer a few questions about himself and what his future goals are.
Where are you located and what waters do you frequent near there?
I am on the Cumberland Plateau in Middle Tennessee. I have an abundance of whitewater rivers and creeks that flow near my house. Cane Creek, Caney Fork, Pine Creek, and many more…. I also have Great Falls Lake (in front of my house) and Center Hill Lake (2 miles from my house and where we competed in the Pan Am Bass Kayak Fishing Championships in May)
How and why did you start Jackson kayak?
I was a brand manager for Wavesport kayaks (now out of business) and my boss refused to make a kid’s kayak designed for my son, that would be the first ever kid’s whitewater kayak. My son was more important than the job so I quit and started Jackson Kayak and my first kayak was a “Fun 1” for my son, Dane. Over the next few years we cut the average entry age of whitewater kayaking in 1/2.
What is your favorite kayak (fishing and whitewater)?
Uh.. sorry- can’t got there…. I have different kayaks for different fun things…. For whitewater- Rock Star 4.0 for freestyle, Nirvana for racing, and Antix for river play…. For fishing it is: Coosa HD for any paddling adventure with moving water, Angler 360 for pedal/electric as it is the “World’s smallest bass boat”.
Tell me about the first ideas for the bluesky and how that came to fruition?
It was not my idea, actually, but I latched on to it right away! Andy Zimmerman, formerly from Confluence, thought a catamaran would make a good fishing kayak. 60 seconds of discussion with my right hand man, Dave Olson, and I knew this would be the right direction for us to change up the industry and make a fishing boat that a ton of people would want for tournament fishing, or just getting on the water if you are not an athlete.
How is the FLW tour going for you so far?
Awesome! I am not winning yet, but I am putting in my time and learning a lot. I know what it takes to get to the top of a sport and this is a very competitive, competent, hard working group of anglers to compete against. It is a worthy challenge to my intellect and grit.
What have been your favorite experiences on the tour so far? Should I mention the RV incident?
The FLW Family is amazing. I fished both BASS and FLW and while both organizations have amazing people, the FLW felt right to me. It was how I hoped it would be.
I have been lucky to befriend many of the top guys on tour and they are all awesome in their own way. While this is not only super competitive, but also their living, still, they have been very helpful and wanting to see me succeed.
I finally cashed my first prize money check this year for $10,000 at Seminole, catching only 6 fish for 2 days. I found some big fish and threw a “Hail Mary” with 3 minutes left and nailed a 4 pounder (my smallest fish). That moment was special. For that moment, of course, I have plenty of curve balls that I failed to hit, such as 2 fish for over 12 pounds that I lost at the boat (while in hand!)…. my RV going in the lake… uh… yea, not my shining moment.
Tell me about the Pan Am games and how you took 1st in the event. What was your game plan? Was there a lure that dominated?
Kayak fishing is still my strong suit. My kayaking skills give me confidence to fish where others can’t/won’t for one thing. I also have so much time on the water in rivers fishing that I can read the water and know where the fish are. For the Pan Am Championships, I had a great place for largemouth bass on Center Hill Lake near Cookeville, TN. I was catching them almost every cast in practice. However, I just felt stronger going up the river into the rapids where few would follow. First, I had to paddle up the current to the base of the rapids, then drag my Coosa HD up the rocks for a good 15 minutes (at my pace which is double or better than anyone else’s as it is what I do) and then fish in a very small area and catch most of the fish there. I averaged 19.1” per smallmouth for my best 10 over 2 days. My next competitor averaged 16.3”. In this tournament if I threw away my 10 biggest fish each day, my 11-15th would have won. It was simply a playground that I know how to play in. I fished three lures for the entire thing: Strike King Prograd Sexy Shad Swim Jig with a Rage Menace Trailer (white). Strike King Finesse Jig- 3/8 oz- green pumpkin, with a green pumpkin red flake baby rage craw trailer, and a 3.25” Rail Swimmer on a David Dudley homemade 1/4 oz jig head with a 3/0 hook. I caught a few on a ned rig, but non weighed in.
Your family is amazingly so humble and giving and they are all champions themselves. How do you and your family stay so grounded?
We do what we do for fun. Not for fame and fortune. All we care about it being good people, having fun, leading by example, and spending our time doing something that is worth of that time. We are all competitive, so we enjoy competing. Our philosophy is “kayak for fun, but competed to win”. With that said, we do everything we can to help others be as good as they can be as well, knowing that the better they are the more they Push us to improve.
What are your goals for next year (whitewater, kayak fishing or FLW)?
Whitewater- Right now my entire family is in Sort, Spain for the World Championships. I won at that site in 2001 the last time it was there. I was 6th place at USA Team Trials this year and am 1st alternate. It was the second World Championships Team I have missed since 1989 and I don’t want to miss another. I also want to get a few more new rivers or creeks under my belt.
For Kayak fishing- I want to back up my 2019 Pan Am Championships win with a second in a row in Mexico.
For FLW- in 2020, my 5th season, I am ready to break into the FLW Cup and win my first event. It took me 5 years to get to the top of the game in whitewater after committing full time to it. I feel like I am on the brink of tearing up the tour, even if my results don’t reflect that yet. So exciting!
Special Thanks to Eric Jackson.