When you fish competitively for a living, it's easy to miss out on the simpler, purer aspects of the sport — those times when nothing is on the line. No money or trophies to vie for, no sponsors or media looking over your shoulder — just plain ol' fishing for fun.
Even when we're not competing, there are many other obligations. Sport shows, in-store promotions, sponsor meetings, writer junkets — all of which require considerable time and effort. Throw in the roadwork associated with these various commitments and there's really very little time for fun.
Don't get me wrong — I'm not complaining. Tournament fishing can be hugely rewarding, even "fun" at times. But life as a professional angler is no cakewalk. It's packed with pressure 24/7. And I don't care who you are; that eventually takes a toll.
Like people in any profession, we try to find some relief — time away from the chaos to decompress. One way I achieve this is by going fishing (yes, fishing!) but in a completely different manner.
I'm talking about downsizing, and I mean everything — tackle, boat, even the body of water I'm on.
Thanks to a recent writers junket, I was reminded of how much fun fishing from a smaller boat can truly be, especially on smaller bodies of water.
Hosted by Ranger Boats, the junket was held at Bienville Plantation in north-central Florida — a place with lots of small lakes and interconnecting ponds. We were there to introduce Ranger's new line of aluminum johnboats and the setting was perfect … for a couple of reasons.
That week we were dealt some pretty harsh weather with lots of wind. But because Bienville's lakes and ponds feature heavily wooded shorelines, finding protected areas to fish was easy. That, and the fact that they're packed with fish!
It was a great experience. Though we were "working," it felt more like R&R. And as strange as this may sound, fishing from smaller boats brought back a sense of adventure.
Since the junket, I've logged considerable time in an aluminum Ranger. And I have to tell you, small boats can put you around some really big fish! I've experienced several stellar days on the water — small water — which wouldn't have been possible in a bigger fiberglass boat.
Go Small, Think Big!
Just a few weeks ago, I invited industry friends Doug Olander and George Large to fish Bienville with me. The pair showed up with all their gear, plus a couple of Hobie kayaks in tow. It looked more like they were headed to the mountains for some sort of whitewater adventure.
So you know, Doug is the managing editor of Sport Fishing magazine and George heads up Yozuri. Both are accomplished anglers, and once they got their Hobies off the trailer, it was like a pair of ducks taking to water.
To my knowledge, they're the first to brave Bienville's alligator-infested lakes with such small watercraft. To that point, aluminum johnboats were the smallest craft used. And I have to say, I was impressed. Bienville is home to some big gators, and they're not shy.
Anyway, that afternoon the pair returned from one of the more remote areas of the property with big smiles and a bunch of photos to share — proving even small boats can catch big fish.
Whether you're fishing from a johnboat, kayak or canoe, these types of watercraft will go where a big fancy bass boat can't. Small lakes, creeks and ponds — especially those without ramps — are ideal, and they're places where big fish rarely, if ever, see a lure.
So, will I be giving up my big Ranger anytime soon? Not a chance! But when I'm not on the trail or working some sponsor gig, you can bet I'll be fishing somewhere remote in a downsized rig, catching fish other anglers are likely never to see.