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Reel Talk: Jennifer Lampkin rings our belle!

Everything is bigger in Texas–and bass are no exception! As if on cue, Jennifer Lampkin (@southernbellefishingtx)is on site pulling up a monster largemouth bass, smiling from cheek to cheek.

Born and raised in East Texas, Jennifer knows a thing or two about tackling big fish that northerners might only dream of. For her, though, it’s often the sights and sounds along the waterway that make her day, not necessarily a lunker catch. Above all, it’s the relationships she fosters with friends and loved ones that makes fishing special to her.

I find it very important to teach my children patience through fishing,” Jennifer adds. “It can be a challenge, but getting them away from technology and appreciating nature is what makes it all worth it.”

Fishing is very much a family endeavor for Jennifer. Her father is also a Texas native, and the love of fishing has spread to the next generation as well. Her greatest, most cherished moments are those times spent sharing the water with her own children. Thus, fishing isn’t necessarily about the fish to this Texas belle, it’s about getting outdoors and sharing experiences with others.

That’s not to say there isn’t a rip-roaring angling persona behind the smile–Jennifer doesn’t back down from a fight! In fact, about a year ago she was set to join her dad in a tournament, but he broke his hand before the start. That just wouldn’t do. She had to get out and compete!

She saw a women’s-only bass kayak tournament, so someone offered to lend her a kayak. She had tried a pelican kayak in the past, but this was the first time she was in a real tournament kayak fishing. She met some folks at the tourney and they have been a great help in getting her set up and out on the right foot. She caught only a bluegill in the first tourney, but got hooked with the love to kayak fish.

After the first kayak tourney, someone told her there was a benefit tournament hosted by Heroes on the Water. She borrowed another kayak and joined with her friend John Mooney in Pinkston Lake, TX. Together they won the tournament, and Jennifer decided it was time to get her own kayak to enjoy these adventures more often.

True to her frenzied nature, Jennifer won’t be relegated to just Texas. She recently headed to Marathon Florida on a photoshoot organized by Gillz Gear. While there, she made sure to make the most of it: she joined with the famous Two Conchs charters and made some memories! She says that Captain Mike Macko made the trip a special treat: she reeled in her personal best–a 100lb goliath grouper!

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My fish Goal was a Goliath Grouper! I had no clue that when @gillzgear invited me to Marathon Florida I would be going after a Freaking Goliath! This fish was a beast! Talk about a full body work out!!! It took everything I had to hold this fish up for a picture. My whole body was sore, my arms weak but my smile big Y'all!!! Sure I'm not a picture perfect model but y'all this is a dream come true! I had caught a Jack and @capt_mike_macko broke the tail stuck a hook through it and said hold on! Guys i still can't believe how amazing this fight was! I am so so Blessed to be Part of Gillz Gear Pro Staff! Traveling across country had me a little nervous but everyone involved with Gillz Gear and @twoconchs was AMAZING! They really care for the Pro staff and women anglers! Two Conchs best charter you can use in the Marathon! I loved all the guys I met down there it was EPIC Thank you all so much! LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YALL AGAIN! DREAM IT AND GO FOR IT! DONT LET ANYTHING HOLD YOU BACK! For a 25% discount use Lampkin25 😘 ON Gillz Gear performance wear! #gillz #gillzgirl #gillzgear #gillzbassteam #twoconchs #ladyangler #fisherwoman #angler #lovetofish #goliathgrouper #grouper #keywest #florida #floridafishermenmagazine #bassgrls #largemouthbass #saltlife #laughmore #lovelife #epic #blessed #fishing #fishinglife #amazingadventures #adventure #performancewear #bestsunprotection #momoftwo #reelife #reelgirlsfish

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Still, she has some unfinished business. In the near future, she wants to catch a tarpon while on an ocean kayak. That’s not the end of her plans, either. Peacock bass are on her radar south of the border, but alligator gar are a little bit closer to home.

Jennifer is still getting used to being seen as an authority in her sport. She received messages and questions all of the time, and tries her best to help get people started on their own escapades. Looking to try kayak fishing? She recommends her Hobie Outback–not too big, easy enough to move, and stable enough to keep mostly dry. Want to get into bass fishing? Try the chartreuse H&H spinner, a classic that always earns more fish than its $2 price tag implies.

To that end, she’s hoping to start a series of Youtube videos to introduce kayak and fishing tips to new fans. It’s so important to get out there and try–not everyone has a family with the fishing know-how that she has been blessed with. One of her most cherished memories was pulling in a 4lb 2oz largemouth bass with her father a few years back– not her largest catch, but certainly a milestone memory for a budding angler. Helping others create similar milestones for themselves and their families is what drives Jennifer to keep chugging on!

For those that can’t get out and explore on their own, she hopes to continue mixing philanthropy and fishing whenever possible. This past year, she volunteered with Adaptive Sports to help people with disabilities catch fish. Additionally, Angling for Relief, a non-profit led by a remarkable young man named Jake, is an organization that attempts to improve the lives of those suffering from pediatric cancer by introducing them to fishing opportunities. Jake remembers that fishing was the greatest joy he and his best friend Ryan could share before cancer took Ryan away before the 2nd grade. Angling for Relief wants to share fishing with young patients by organizing “dry fishing packets” that help young learners practice before they head out to the stream. Wonderful souls like Jennifer are planning to be on hand to facilitate future on-water events as they are organized.

While her heart might be Texas-sized and her catches might occasionally tip the scales, Jennifer clearly likes her fishing to make a deeper impact on others around her.

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Fresh

Fin-Telligence: The oft-misunderstood Fallfish

The fallfish and its natural predator–the voracious fishing companion (both lived to swim another day–2012).

If you are an avid cold-water angler, then you know that clean, cold water isn’t only attractive to salmonids like trout, char, and salmon. Other fish enjoy the benefits of high-oxygenation and clear channels with lots of insect life. Today we are shining a little light on one of the “nuisance” fish that can ruin a day if you let it–or spare you from the ignominy of a skunk day.

Behold: the humble fall fish. This is actually considered a non-game fish, though it can have many of the attributes of its more glorious kin. The fall fish is actually the largest native minnow species in the North American continent, and can grow over 20 inches long. Not bad for a minnow!

The former commissioner of the PA Fish and Boat Commission used to eagerly refer to them as freshwater tarpon. Indeed, while they look a bit like baby tarpon, they can fight on a similarly measured scale. It takes a bit of imagination, and perhaps a dose or two of marketing, but even the fallfish can be a fisherman’s salvation when the standard gamefish aren’t biting.

Biology:

Early scientific drawing of the fallfish chub.
US National Museum (1875).

The fall fish is found largely in warm stretches of cold water streams and lakes of northern United States and Canada. This predator was actually the apex predator in many streams until humans intentionally added species like smallmouth bass and trout in many locations. Their color is usually silver to bronze, with large arrowhead-shaped scales throughout. They live throughout the Eastern edge of the continent, ranging strongly from Virginia through Ontario.

Fallfish also have a reputation for being especially slimy. This is true–they produce a heavier mucus covering, giving the fish a healthy line of protection against scrapes, diseases, and parasites. This can result in a long-lasting and somewhat smelly residue on the hands of reelers. The cure? Simply put your hands back into the stream a bit longer than you would to “clean off” after landing a trout.

Identification

A large fallfish caught on conventional gear.
(Alexander Y. Suvorov – Wikimedia commons)

Fallfish are often confused with other chub relatives because of their similar coloration, habitat, and diet. However, if the chub in question is larger than six inches long: it’s almost certainly a fallfish. They can also be identified by a slightly pointier snout than their relatives. Males grow bumps around their nose and eyes during the breeding season.

Fallfish enjoy pulling food from the same areas that trout do–they’ll eagerly take flies off of the surface or nymphs from the bottom. This also often puts them into contact with fishermen.

A fallfish falls for a beadhead wooly bugger.
(Jason Meckes – Clarks Creek – 2011)

Habitat

The slower waters that are bass habitat are very much the haunting grounds of fallfish. They prefer warmer sections wherever possible.
(Jason Meckes – Conodoguinet Creek, PA – 2020)

In the northern reaches of their range, fallfish prefer lakes and ponds. Toward the mid-Atlantic states, fallfish are primarily found in warm water creeks and rivers. In both cases, they are more prevalent in slack water than heavy riffles. Their name actually comes from their predisposition to enjoy pools, which are the natural result of waterfalls. Although many reelers claim to catch these fish in the autumn, they aren’t discernibly more active in the autumn than the summer or spring.

Catchin’ Tips

Conventional gear: The fallfish is like a trout in many aspects. They will eat the same gear you’d use for rainbow trout. Larger specimens will chase crank baits or take down a popper.

Fly gear: As with traditional gear, your approach should be identical to that which works for standard trout fishing. It is almost impossible to rig up something that appeals to fallfish over other gamefish– your best bet is to find slower, warmer water and try the same flies there.

The pheasant tail nymph is a prime fallfish fly.

WORLD RECORD

The All-Tackle World Record for fallfish is 3lb 9oz caught by Jonathan McNamara in the Susquehanna River near Owego, New York, USA in April 2009.

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Fresh Guest Blog

Why Should You Learn How to Fish? That’s a Good Question

They say that nothing worth having comes easy, and this is certainly true when it comes to catching fish. Learning how to fish is anything but easy. Getting started involves handling sharp things with unfamiliar motor skills, there are plenty of confusing knots to memorize, and because the activity has an infinite skill ceiling, it can take a while before you’re any good at it.

But once you get the hang of it, fishing is more than just fun. Casting and retrieving eventually becomes muscle memory, letting you focus deeper on all the other factors that can be taken into consideration when catching a fish, and worrying less about keeping your line out of a tree.

The surface of rippling water.

Before long, fishing becomes meditative and struggling through the initial learning curve comes with valuable lessons.

If you’ve ever asked yourself why people like to fish or how people benefit from fishing, here’s our best attempt at answering those questions…

It feels good to improve

Being confronted with learning new skills and buying lots of gear can make it intimidating to start fishing. But it doesn’t take long to pick up the basics and that turns out to be half the fun. A limitless skill ceiling means you’re always getting better, and there are always new lures, techniques or locations to try. That keeps things interesting if nothing else.

Fishing cultivates patience

It can take a while before you develop the muscle memory to work your rod and reel, much less do anything meaningful with it. That requires patience itself as you learn to read the water, weather conditions and other variables. But you’ll always have times when you thought you had a bite, times when you actually did have a bite but the fish shook off, and a whole lot of times when you don’t get any bites at all.

Trout swimming in sunlit water.

Risk, reward, luck & loss

If you have a favorite lure, it’s probably sitting at the bottom of a lake. Your second favorite lure may only be a few yards away. Perhaps the trophy bass that snapped your line just swam by. And your boots are wet too. Damn. You shouldn’t have stepped there. More than just patience, fishing teaches about measuring risk, accepting loss, addressing failure, appreciating success, and dealing with unpredictable circumstances – for better or worse.

Making the most of things

Catching a fish can be hard enough in good conditions, but you often have to persist through challenging circumstances. Maybe the bail on your reel broke again, the lures you have aren’t ideal for the situation, or the weather isn’t as nice as you thought it was going to be. You aren’t always presented with ideal conditions, which encourages resourcefulness, adaptability and creativity to overcome the unexpected.

A fishing hole pictured in front of rugged terrain.

Thinking on a systems level

It doesn’t take long before you get the basics down and start thinking about water structure, lighting levels, lunar cycles, lure colors, presentation styles and lots more. You can get deep into the psychology and physiology different fish – what their vision is like, what feeding habits they have, how aggressive they are, whether they school or not, when they move to shallower or deeper water, and so on. Broad strategic thinking is developed by learning how to fish.

Better eating, more exercise

Fresh food has a vitality to it that you can’t buy at the grocery store and catching your own dinner enhances the connection you have with your food. It also doesn’t hurt to know that you can feed yourself in unfortunate times. Nor does it hurt that getting to your favorite fishing hole often involves hiking through rough terrain while carrying lots of gear. Seeing wildlife and breathing fresh air along the way is nice too.

Several trout pictured on the surface of water.

And why is fishing fun?

Casting and retrieving with precision scratches a similar itch to playing catch or shooting targets. It’s satisfying to throw a lure exactly where you mean to, especially if tree limbs or other obstacles are in the way. And once you start, you can’t stop. It’s easy to keep saying “just one more cast” because you never know what will happen. That element of suspense and discovery may be the funnest part about fishing.

Republished with permission from Top Strike Fishing.

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Fresh Tips and Hacks

How to Tie Fishing Knots – Two of the Best Fishing Knots to Know by Heart

Knowing how to tie fishing knots can make or break your experience on the water. For all the knots there are to wrap your head around, few are as valuable to memorize as the improved clinch knot and double uni knot.

Versatility can be hard to come by in a knot. Most of them serve a specific purpose with few use cases outside that special scenario. They also tend to be complicated, involving many wraps and loops to complete.

Preview of improved clinch knot being tightened.
Demo videos below!

Remembering how to tie fishing knots can be difficult between their limited applications and how many steps are often involved with tying them.

Whether you’re fishing for the first time or just brushing up on the basics after taking a season off, we’ve got you covered with a quick guide on how to tie two fishing knots everyone should know: one that will let you attach any line to any lure, and another that will attach any two lines together.

Let’s get tying.

How to Tie the Improved Clinch Knot

If you were only going to learn how to tie one knot for fishing, this would be the one you’d want to know. Also called the “salmon knot,” the improved clinch knot is simple to pick up, easy to remember once you’ve tied it a few times, and it can be used in countless situations – fishing or otherwise.

Top Strike Fishing's improved clinch knot illustration.

The improved clinch knot is particularly useful for tying your line to hooks, lures, or artificial flies. It works on virtually any type of line, including braided, mono-filament, and fluorocarbon, and it’s extremely reliable for the equipment that you’re most likely to be fishing with.

Depending on the type of line you’re using and what it’s being attached to, making four or five wraps should be sufficient, but you can always give the knot a healthy tug to be sure it won’t slip.

The improved part of this knot involves the last step where you bring the tag end through a second loop in the knot. This last step adds some additional strength and is left out when tying the regular old clinch knot, which only goes through one loop after making the wraps.

Demonstrated with a strand of bank line instead of fishing line for better visibility.

While not as strong, the “non-improved” clinch knot is generally secure enough if you’d prefer to skip the last step above. That said, it might require more wraps to be reliable on your gear (braided line for instance) which wouldn’t spare you much time or effort versus completing the improved clinch knot.

For as versatile as the improved clinch knot may be, its main shortcoming is that it can become more difficult to tie and less reliable when working with heavy line (30lb test for example) or large lures. More wraps become necessary as you size up.

However, if those aren’t your circumstances, then we wouldn’t sweat it. Your line should break long before the improved clinch knot budges – just ask us.

How to Tie the Double Uni Knot

This knot is a real line-saver. The next time you have to cut 10 yards off your spool because there’s a fray forming, snip out the weak section and join those loose ends with the double uni knot.

Top Strike Fishing's double uni knot illustration.

Along with being useful for eliminating frays without wasting line, the double uni knot can be indispensable for those moments when you’re so stuck in the weeds that you have to cut your losses to get out. After untangling the mess, you can often salvage some line instead of throwing it away (or leaving it behind).

The double uni knot is also great for those times when your reel could use some more line, but you don’t want to waste what’s already spooled up. Just swap in the new line, then tie the leftovers to the fresh end and keep on fishing. And of course, if you plan to go fly fishing, the double uni knot is vital for attaching different types of line together.

If you happen to already to know how to tie the regular uni knot, there isn’t much more to know about the double uni knot. You’re just tying two uni knots instead of one and they slide together to create a line-to-line connection.

As with the improved clinch knot, the number of wraps you make when tying the knot will mostly depend on the type of gear you’re working with. Four or five wraps should generally get the job done.

Demonstrated with thicker cordage instead of fishing line for better visibility.

Line that is heavier, slicker or different in diameter may require more than five wraps, and in some cases it might make more sense to use a double double uni knot. That’s the same exact knot except you start with the end of each line drooping down so they’re doubled up and you’re tying the knots with two strands on each side for additional strength.

There aren’t many drawbacks to joining lines with the double uni knot, but nothing is perfect. The main concern is that a knotted line might not come off your spool as cleanly as fresh line would, but this is tends to be a minor and infrequent issue that can often be avoided with knots that are neatly tied.

While a little trickier to grasp than the improved clinch knot, the double uni knot is equally invaluable for all types of fishing. And like the improved clinch knot, it can be used in many other scenarios. You never know when you’ll need a strong binding between two strands of bank line, paracord or any other type of cordage.

The double uni knot might not be perfect for every line-to-line connection, but it’s reliable and adaptable enough to be a must-know for both anglers and outdoorsmen alike.

Bonus: A Pocket Guide For Both Knots

Top Strike Fishing's business card with knot illustrations.

We’re working on finalizing our business card design ahead of launching our first kit of lures at Top Strike Fishing. If all goes well, each kit will include a standard 3.5 x 2-inch business card with a back side that has illustrations for tying both the improved clinch knot and double uni knot, as well as markings that can be used as a mini ruler for those times when you have to measure your catch in a pinch.

Above is downloadable and printable copy of that pocket guide in the event that you would like to keep it for future reference.

Note: Print this copy instead at 100% scale if you want the image true to size for the ruler.

Republished with permission from Top Strike Fishing.

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Blog Posts Events Fresh

Joe Boula: Slayin’ New Jersey

Joe Boula (@bassin_nj on Instagram) has pretty much lived his whole life in New Jersey.

“Technically, I was born out of state,” he says. “But I don’t know anything but New Jersey.”

From his hometown of Edison, Joe runs the New Jersey Trail for Slay Nation Tournament Fishing, a tournament dedicated to people who fish from small, non-motorized vessels, like canoes, kayaks, and jon boats. Slay Nation will be hosting its first full year of tournaments in 2019, and Joe is excited to be a part of it — especially since he’s just rediscovered the joys of fishing, himself.

“I used to fish as a kid a lot,” Joe says. “When I was thirteen, I got hit by a car and ended up sitting around in a cast for three months, playing video games. And I didn’t really get back into fishing.”

But it’s never too late to rekindle a passion.

“I had been talking about getting back into it for years,” he says. “And then my father sent me a picture of me when I was like ten. I was at a car show, and I wasn’t paying attention, I just kind of walked in front of a guy taking pictures for the local newspaper — up in Massachusetts somewhere — and he took a picture of me fishing in front of a car. And they put it in the paper.”

Seeing that picture was the motivation that adult Joe needed.

“When my dad sent me that picture, I was like ‘I’m doing it — I’m going to buy a fishing pole,'” he says. “I’d been talking about it for years, putting it off, putting it off, forgetting about it. Then spring came around, I was like, ‘I still haven’t done anything.'”

Finally, Joe pulled the trigger.

“I picked it up again just this past October,” he says. “Right before the winter hit.”

Initially, he was just doing it for the fun and nostalgia. But an off-handed joke turned it into a challenge.

“I said to my son and wife, ‘Wouldn’t it be real cool if I could get paid to fish and just quit work?’ And my son laughed at me,” Joe says. “I asked him, ‘What’s so funny?’ and he said, ‘You can’t do that!'”

Joe rose to the challenge.

“I said, ‘Watch this!’” he says. “I got serious. I started a dedicated fishing page and started trying to get some sponsors. But then the guys from Slay Nation approached me and asked if I wanted to run the tournament in New Jersey. And I said, ‘Yeah, sure, why not?’”

He’s already got it planned for the year.

“We’ve got six or seven events total planned,” Joe says. “April may be a little tough, but that lake specifically should be good for the first event.”

A busy realtor, Joe manages to balance time between his work, fishing and his family.

“My son is interested in fishing, now, but I’m not sure if he’ll do tournaments with me,” he says.

As for what it feels like to be fishing again?

“It’s just like riding a bike, you know?” Joe says.

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Blog Posts Fresh

Duayne Foust: Losing and Finding Himself in Fishing

Duayne Foust (@duaynefoust on Instagram) was born and raised in northeastern Pennsylvania, where he’s been fishing since he was ten years old.

“My father took me the first time, but then I started going with my grandpa,” he says. “But I didn’t really get serious about fishing until six years ago.”

Duayne never took a break from fishing, but rather had an epiphany about its effects on him.

“I was always fishing,” he says. “But it wasn’t until I realized what fishing did for me as a person that I started putting actual work into it. I started taking it more serious because I realized the potential that was there.”

Duayne found that, for him, fishing was not about catching his quarry.

“It’s not about the fish,” he says. “It’s much deeper than that. I would say it’s a form of meditation, almost, for me. It’s an escape where I can lose myself but also find myself, if that makes sense.”

Duayne lives just minutes from the Susquehanna River, which is where he finds his peace in fishing. He discovered the therapeutic nature of fishing the Susquehanna — and fishing in general — while he was making his journey through recovery.

“I was in a bad place with some worse things,” he says. “My path was wanting to get back into fishing, and it literally saved my life.”

He’s definitely found better things in the river.

“We’re usually going after smallmouth,” he says. “But we’ll also go after muskie and walleye, but mainly smallmouth. They’re all there in the Susquehanna.”

Duayne usually varies his lures and presentations based on the time of year.

“I’ll use a spinnerbait in spring,” he says. “If I had to pick a go-to set up that I would use year-round, it would be a green pumpkin tube. But, obviously, spring or fall, I’m going to throw a topwater, mostly.”

River fishing has its own set of challenges that differ from chasing smallmouth — or any other species — in a lake.

“I’m usually out looking for deep pockets and eddies,” Duayne says. “Anywhere there’s a current change is what I’m looking for.”

Duayne is a dedicated bank fisherman, so he’s adept at finding the water and structure he wants without the benefit of a boat.

“Usually, there are a couple spots that we’ll always go to if we’re just trying to catch a fish,” he says. “I try to broaden my horizons and go to new water and stuff like that. But if I’m land based and I’m stuck in town, there’s the same walk I’ll do every time. There are a couple islands I always walk out to that hold fish.”

Although he works hard to be a successful angler, the act of fishing and what it brings has always been important to Duayne — even before he got serious about it.

“There’s always been a connection… with everything: Other people, other fishermen, the connection with nature, itself,” Duayne says. “It humbles you. It can humble you really quick.”

 

 

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Blog Posts Fly Fresh

No Matter the Season, @4Seasonsflygals are Reelin’

Back in September 2016, Texan Karen Clark was visiting Vail, Colorado with her husband, some friends — Beth Paterson and Leisha Scaling — and their husbands.

“Our husbands were golfers,” she says. “And we were looking for something fun to do. So, we decided to try fly fishing.”

Karen, Beth, and Leisha had never really fished before. But they went out with Katie and Cooper Anderson (of Anderson’s Fish Camp) and were instantly hooked on the sport.

“We loved it so much that we decided to form a little fly fishing club and start an Instagram account,” Karen says of herself and her two friends (all of whom live in the Dallas area).

And that’s how 4 Seasons Fly Gals was born. When I caught up with Karen and Beth, they were visiting Karen’s rental cabin in Branson and had been out fishing on Lake Taneycomo in 24-degree weather.

“They stock rainbow trout in Taneycomo,” Karen explained. “We’re still very new to it. We’ve got to the point where we’re going out by ourselves — without guides — wading, and actually catching fish. But there’s still so much to learn.”

The Fly Gals have added another twist to their new pastime, as well.

“We’re strictly catch-and-release,” Karen says. “I would never eat anything I catch. But we take pictures of our fish. And sometimes when we get back to the cabin, we’ll print off the pictures and paint watercolors of the fish we caught. That’s always fun. We also keep a fly journal of each trip we go on.”

Gals have also started tying their own flies.

“About a year ago, we took the Orvis fly-tying class,” Karen says. “I bought the set, and I’ve tied a few flies. Every time I come to Branson, I try to the flies I’m going to need. I’ve learned to tie an egg pattern. I’ve learned the wooly bugger, I’ve learned the sculpin. The squirmy worm, the San Juan worm — we fish with a lot of those in Branson. Tying flies is a lot of fun.”

As much as they enjoy fly fishing, the Gals are occasionally met with incredulity.

“I get tickled,” Karen says. “Sometimes, we’ll be walking through the airport with our fly rods and guys will come up to us think we’re carrying our husbands’ fly rods. I’ll be like, ‘No, it’s mine — he’s the golfer.’ We do attract plenty of men with our fly rods.”

For the Gals, the learning has been a big part of the joy they’ve found in fly fishing.

“Every time you go out, you learn something new,” Karen says. “There’s always something to learn.”

She referred to their outing that day as an example.

“Today was the first time that she went out and waded by herself, and she caught her first fish,” Karen says.

“Without a guide,” Beth clarified.

“Usually, in Colorado, we go with guides because we love Katie and Cooper so much,” Karen says. “We’re all grandmas, and they’re excited to see people our age taking up something like this.”

“Especially women,” Beth adds.

Most importantly, the Gals are creating many memorable moments as they continuing honing their fly angling skills — even if some of them don’t involve catching fish.

“I was fishing for the first time by myself for the first time at this little lake. Some other folks who were fishing there suggested that I move to a spot where the fish had really been biting,” Karen says. “I picked up my rod, but I didn’t hook my fly onto it — I just let swing. And as I ran over to the new spot, I hooked the fly in my calf.”

Ouch!

“I didn’t know what to do, so I decided to go back to the fly shop and see if they could get it out of my leg,” Karen says. “So, I was walking back, and this gentleman goes, ‘What kind of fly were you using today?’ I put my leg up and said, ‘Well, it’s right here if you want to take a look.’ He said, ‘Come on over here. I’m a surgeon, and I can pop that right out for you.’ It was really funny.”

Beth recalled a recent trip to Mexico.

“We went to Punta Mita, and we thought we were really big stuff. So, we chartered a boat and went out on the ocean, fly fishing,” Beth says. “I got sick as a dog. They finally took us back to the bay.”

“We thought we knew how to fish on the ocean because we’d fly fished before,” Karen says. “We were just too big for our britches on that one.”

Although the fly outing didn’t go as planned, Karen did get a jack crevalle on spinning gear after they returned.

“That was a little more fun because we really didn’t know what we were doing with the other,” Karen says.

Karen and Beth have a wonderful sense of humor about some of their missteps. Make no mistake, though. The Gals catch plenty of fish, and their enthusiasm for fly fishing has taken them on plenty of adventures.

“It’s fun at this point in our lives that we could find something that we just love to do,” Karen says. “It’s just such a learning experience. Every time you go out, you learn something new. And we’re just beginning.”

“It’s like a treasure hunt when you’re out there fishing,” Karen says. “You just don’t know what the day’s going to be like. You don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but you’re not going to leave until you catch a fish.”

“It’s beautiful, the scenery…,” Beth says. “It’s just a great way to spend the day.”

 

 

 

 

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Blog Posts Fresh

Matt Becker: Tearin’ Up the Tour

Matt Becker (@mbeckerfishing on Instagram) lives in Pittsburgh, where he was born and raised. He also happens to be the 2018 FLW Tour Rookie of the Year.

“I’ve been fishing since I was born,” he says, laughing. “My dad got me into it.”

Go out with his dad, Matt started fishing in a pretty typical way — streams, ponds, bait on hooks.

“My dad had a little boat,” he says. “That got us into fishing some smaller lakes.”

Later on, they joined a local club.

“With the club, we did some family-oriented tournaments,” Matt says. “And bass were pretty much all I ever wanted to fish for.”

Those early tournaments fueled Matt’s competitive nature. Matt remained pretty serious about fishing throughout his childhood.

“It’s pretty much all I’ve ever wanted to do,” he says.

Unfortunately, Matt’s high school did not have a fishing team, so he had to find his own way.

“I never did anything with school,” he says. “They didn’t have any fishing clubs, so I pretty much had to do everything on my own, basically.”

During high school, however, he was able to fish at a much higher level.

“When I turned sixteen, I was able to fish in the adult leagues,” Matt says. “And that’s when I started fishing tournaments on my own.”

Not long after that, he went pro.

“2019 will be my second year as a pro angler,” he says. “I do ten or twelve tournaments a year.”

Even when he’s not in a tournament, though, Matt’s out on the water.

“I’m always going somewhere, practicing for a tournament or checking out a fishery,” he says. “But I just don’t do a whole lot of fun fishing right now.”

Lake Erie is where Matt feels most comfortable.

“It’s one of my favorite spots,” he says.

When asked why, he responded, “Well, first, giant smallmouth.”

“I guess I just understand how they set up in Erie better than anywhere else, their movements and everything,” Matt says. “I always seem to have good success there.”

Of all his tournament appearances, winning the 2017 1,000 Islands tournament in the FLW Costa Series is the one that stands out most to Matt.

“Winning 1,000 Islands gave me the financial ability to be able to fish professionally,” he says. “If I hadn’t won that tournament, I wouldn’t have been able to fish the tour last year. It one hundred percent launched my career.”

During the 2018 season, Matt was successful enough to be honored as the FLW Tour Rookie of the Year.

“That was cool,” he says. “They looked at my average across seven tournaments, and even though I had an up-and-down, roller coaster year, I had a lot of strong finishes. And it’s cool to have the highest average over seven events.”

Matt is hoping his momentum will get him off to a strong start in 2019 — and so do we!

To keep up to date with Matt, follow him on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, and check out his FLW Profile.

 

 

 

 

 

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Blog Posts Fly Fresh

Ken Tanaka has a wish4fish

Ken Tanaka (@wish4fish on Instagram), who grew up in North Carolina, has been reeling since he was four years old.

“It was a major thing I did with my father,” he says. “And I’ve always been very technical about fishing — even with conventional gear.”

As his career — as a DJ and also in marketing, branding and promotions — took off, though, Ken found he had less and less time for fishing. He traveled and lived in major urban areas like Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

“In the Twin Cities, I decided to try fishing in one of the inner-city lakes,” he says. “I caught a 48-inch pure-strain muskie. It was 2012 and all I had was a crappy iPhone.”

Ken says, “A lady stopped to look at the fish, and I handed her my phone and she started recording.”

He posted the video on YouTube and started racking up the views.

“But I also got a lot of questions and comments,” he says.

Ken took a look at some other fishing sites and channels.

“I thought, ‘I can make a better video channel or vlog than what’s out there,'” he says. “So I started Wish4Fish. I started out wanting to help people who were trying to learn how to fish.”

While he was in Minnesota, Ken was introduced to all sorts of new-to-him species like muskie, walleye and northern pike. But then he went to visit a friend in Montana.

“He said to me ‘You have to try fly fishing,'” Ken says. “Growing up using conventional gear, I thought fly fishing was pompous.”

But he tried it anyway.

“He took me out on the Madison River,” Ken says. “And I caught a rainbow within the first hour. Right then, I decided that that’s what I wanted to do — I haven’t picked up conventional gear ever since.”

Ken moved back to North Carolina and started to get serious about his new brand. Fishing and Wish4Fish started to encroach on Ken’s work and family time.

“I was fishing five days a week on top of working five days a week,” he says. “My wife was wondering how long I could keep up with it.”

It didn’t take long before Ken realized he had to make a choice.

“I took it as far as I could part time,” he said. “I was lucky that with my marketing and branding connections, I was able to launch Wish4Fish into a full-time endeavor.”

And he continues with fly fishing.

“It’s the pinnacle of fishing,” Ken says. “It’s very manual. You don’t rely on the gear. You’re stripping and casting with your hands. It’s an art and a skill — and you have to know a little entomology.”

Even with the growth of his brand, the hands-on fishing remains important for Ken.

“I’m out there chucking streamers in the morning,” he says. “I’m big on tailwaters and streams that are wild and naturally producing.”

As much as the fishing itself drives him, Ken is also fascinated by the depth of knowledge required.

“It has completely captivated me,” he says. “The culture. The knowledge. There’s and endless amount of knowledge that you can absorb — not just in fly fishing but in fishing, in general. The pursuit to learn more keeps me going.”

Gaining and sharing knowledge not only drives Ken, personally, but it’s also key to his brand’s endeavors.

“Social media is a blessing and a curse,” he says. “But it drives growth in the fishing industry. In fly fishing, the growth is largely driven by kids and women.”

And inspiring new people to fish, in turn, is what drives Ken to being a role model for others.

“Used correctly, social media has been amazing for the sport of fishing,” he says. “It drives growth and diversity — and people come together around fishing in spite of any differences.”

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Blog Posts Follow This Fresh

Happy Payne’s Happy Place

Although Happy Payne (@thehappypayne on Instagram) was born in White Plains, New York, she grew up in Houston, Texas and settled in the Nashville area more than two decades ago.

Nashville is where she met her husband, photographer Adrian David Payne, who also happened to introduce Happy to fishing.

“I started fishing about 10 years ago,” she says. “And then about seven years ago, we bought a boat.”

Adrian is an avid fisherman.

“I figured he would fish, and I would just lay out on the back,” Happy says.

It didn’t quite work out as planned. Happy realized that she, too, preferred to fish.

“I have still never laid out on the boat,” she says. “I’m pretty fair-skinned, so it probably wasn’t such a good idea, anyway.”

Fishing is not the only thing that Happy and Adrian have in common.

“I’m a professional make-up artist — I do a lot of TV and music videos — and my husband is a photographer,” she says. “So, we get to work together a lot, and we like to do all the same stuff — which is really good, because we spend so much time together. Whenever we’re not working, we’re fishing.”

Their go-to fishery is Old Hickory Lake, an impoundment of the Cumberland River just outside of Nashville.

“Old Hickory is just a couple minutes from the house,” Happy says. “So, it’s really easy to grab the boat and get out on the lake.”

Although Tennessee is largemouth country, Happy isn’t set on a specific species.

“We catch largemouth, smallmouth, stripers and even catfish,” she says. “Although when we hook into a catfish, it’s accidental — we don’t target them.”

Happy is open to exploring all that Old Hickory Lake has to offer.

“We heard that there a few good places for walleye and sauger,” she says. “So, we’ve been bouncing Lindy rigs off the bottom trying to get them to bite.”

She hasn’t had had much luck yet.

“It must be pretty rocky on the bottom there,” Happy says. “I keep breaking off my line and haven’t caught a walleye.”

That doesn’t mean that Old Hickory hasn’t been good to Happy.

“One day, we were out and I caught a 43-pound striper,” she says. “That was the biggest fish I ever caught. And not too much later — on the same day — I reeled in a 47-pounder! So, it was a pretty good day on the lake.”

Happy is a strict catch-and-release reeler.

“I don’t even like fish,” she laughs. “But sometimes we’ll keep one for my husband.”

Although her schedule keeps her pretty busy, Happy is looking forward to expanding her fishing horizons.

“I’m wanting to try my hand at some tournament fishing,” she says. “And I would love to try fishing in different places and for some bigger species. I want to charter in Florida to go after tarpon and sharks.”

As long as she’s on a boat, though, it doesn’t matter what she’s chasing.

“I just love being out on the water,” Happy says. “It’s beautiful and relaxing. Plus, I’m a competitive person. I love to feel the bite and the tug on the line. Fishing feeds my competitive spirit and lets me get out on the water at the same time.”