Jump to content

The 1000 $ smallie !

k olson

Recommended Posts

This story you are about to read is based on actual events that happened to me one week ago, some are graphic in nature and I hope no

one ever has to go through this .....


The sickening feeling in my stomach still lingers most nights as I try to shake of one of the worst days of my life. You see, it started last season. I have been in the worst fishing slump known to man. I can count all the fish I have caught on one hand since last September, hell I barely managed to catch two fish with John Graham on full day guide trip. I consider myself a decent fisherman and nearing the twenty outing mark already this year, knew this terrible streak had to end soon. The Dupage is my home river and I have fished the southern pools extensively. It has taken me over two years to get my john boat set up the way I want (I have a coosa but don't care for

it very much, I'll save that for another time) and last sunday my bad luck was coming to an end, so I thought.


I dropped in the duper at about 9 am in a pool known for having some pigs in the spring. I anchored up several times in the next two

hours throwing everything from the "Eric Bait" to John's big hammer swim jig, nothing so far but my attitude was still positive. As I was

making my last drift, I had a light tap on small football head w/ a crawl on it and managed to boat a 13" smallie. Ok i thought, I'm on the board I'm ready to end this streak. I decided I needed to make my was way down river to an even better pool, this turned out to be a really bad decision.


As I headed down stream, I realized some areas are still moving at a pretty good clip and the river has really changed. I could see that I had to navigate around a tree that was hanging down but I was going to fast and I smoked it ! I essentially clothed lined myself, which

capsized my boat, I managed to hang on to it as I was floating down river. I climed on it trying to catch my breath and figure out what

just happened, I managed to get over to a point and hold on as the water was moving pretty good in this area. This is where the story goes from bad to awful.


I did not realize that I had trapped the remaining of my gear under the boat, when I flipped the boat over I watched that go too. So let's do a quick inventory because it's not even noon yet. Brand new battery, almost new 55 thrust trolling motor, two spinning rods

(Falcon series), two bait casters, full tackle bag, lunch sack ,wet cell phone and favorite sweatshirt- all gone in about 30 seconds.


I would love to tell this is where the story ends, unfortunately it does not. I hiked back up steam dragging my boat, get it loaded up, head home and take care of my now water logged cell phone. At this stage I'm having trouble keeping my emotions in check but I figure I have to go back and look for anything I can. I load up the coosa and head back. In the past there is a back way to get into where I lost my stuff, but a downed tree made it almost impossible to do but I manage. Its almost 4 and I start to search, right away I

find my lunch sack (sandwich still good), find my seat and one of my spinning rods that had a brand new real that I put on that moring.

I feel little better, I padddle around a little longer and find my tackle bag, yes! I spend another hour but that was all I could find, ok so

not a total lose and almost 5, need to meet my ride down river at six. Are you still with me, it's about to get bad again. I start to head

down again, I know I to make a couple tight turns where a tree is down; however there is two trees down and bank changed. I get caught up in the second tree, dump my coosa. Mother F******* !!!! I lose the rod and reel I just found my sweatshirt and are ready for this? I manage to knock off my Maui Jim's and favorite hat-nothing recovered. At this I fight back tears, glad I put my tackle bag inside the coosa and make my way to the launch.


I don't really know if there is a lesson to be learned from this story or not. I guess I'm greatful to only have a few minor bumps, bruises

and scratches, it could have been a lot worse. In conclusion I have come to realize that Mother Nature will beat your ass no matter what and the next time you think you have had a really really bad day, you might want to think of me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with the above. You are still around to fish and you will eventually replace the gear.


In a few months when the weather is warm and sunny and you're catching fish you will feel better.


This is good lesson to all of us. Even though levels are down the flows are still really fast in some areas. I appreciate you writing this up.


Yes, sorry you had such a bad day also.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

With so much access on the Dupe plenty of good water can be fished by simply wading/ car hopping. Save all the floating paraphernalia for bigger, deeper rivers, stillwater fishing, or where access is a problem. That said I'm not familiar with much of the extreme southern section of the river below I-80, which I assume you're referencing, where floating might be more required due to access limitations.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Or learn some paddling strokes to keep you away from them. Learn to eddy out...or ferry paddle to move away from them. To "ferry" paddle, point the nose of the boat toward the strainer (usually on outside bends) and paddle backwards on the upstream side of the boat. This move, along with the current will push you to the inside of the bend away from the strainer. I have done this thousands of times on tiny, fast flowing streams and rivers and have not had an issue since I learned it.


We need an ISA paddling clinic. If you come down to SO IL, I will happily help in instruction.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for sharing the story. That took some courage on your part, but it lets us all learn from reading instead of drowning. It always happens unexpectedly. Here's an irony. the tree that knocked you in saved your life since you were able to hang on to it. Go back and give that tree some Job's Tree Spikes.


Next time? I do not know if you were wearing a PFD or not.


A while back I admitted to myself that I cannot swim out of every boating mishap. I bought Sospenders which I wear all the time when I am in any boat. (I do not want to think about life vests that I might take off if they got too hot.) Some day the Sospenders will save my life. The lure that catches fish is the one you have on your line; the PFD that saves your life is the one you have on.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh my. I'm so sorry. That must have been very frightening/major downer. Glad you were not harmed ultimately. Not to pile on by any means, your story has about a dozen danger warning bells going off as a I read it. Treat this as a learning experience and you'll soon be on the water safely mastering river smallmouth.

Thanks for the courage to tell this story because this could happen to anyone new to floating rivers, trying out a new kayak, on a new river, and fishing out of a kayak. It really should be a learning experience for the new yakers out there. Luckily, you were tough to the task of surviving! Others may not be, so it is important to share.

Trolling motor and battery? No way. Not sure the extra weight and awkwardness attached to a river kayak is a good idea in moving water. Sounds like a terrible idea if you aren't on flat water. a kayak out of balance won't handle as well and the motor may snag on things as well. A paddle is more than enough to fish any river I've been on. If you want to maintain position, there are safe ways to anchor without burdening your maneuverability. Care should be taken that any anchor rope can easily be jettisoned in an emergency.

There really is a lot to learn about kayak fishing and it starts with safety and what not to do, then what to do if you already have done it!.

Short trips to start. As you advance increase the length time permitting. Schedule at least one mile fished per hour, but it could take much longer if a finesse bite is on. Be prepared, so you don't end up in the dark or even miss your take out.

Water levels can be too fast for you to handle, one should monitor USGS gauges for your river(s) and ask fellow anglers with experience if is safe. Float with at least one other person in case something bad does happen, you won't be on your own. Too many protrusions off your kayak is a bad idea, because they will hang on trees- losing gear or causing a tip. Keep notes as to the gauge height, CFS, or rise/fall situation. It will clue you into what to expect.

The biggest danger are 'strainers', objects water can move through that you cannot. They'll take your boat and gear and leave you in the water or even pinned underwater by current in the wrong situation. This can be a tree that spans the creek, barbed wire fence, boulders, a right angle bend that sends you into overhangs or just a lay down. Once you get downstream of the obstruction, you are completely safe. Until then there is nothing in the world more dangerous to you. One always has to be aware of strainers and water hazards.

Ways to deal with strainers and river obstructions---->. First, you can always get out and walk. Get out of the boat if you can. Is there a shallow near by? An eddy you can pull into? Pulling a kayak through the woods is much safer than risking a narrow chute.

Second, if you cannot just get out and drag your kayak past the obstruction: Paddle hard around (or possibly over the obstruction). Keep pointed as downstream as possible and dig hard. Do not ever get turned perpendicular to the current, if you hit something like a rock while perpendicular your Sit on Top kayak can tilt and can immediately fill with water. As easy as just hitting a rock sideways opening your hull to fill up with rushing current!

Most problems occur when guys panic and stop paddling. If you do find yourself in a tip. Don't panic. Use your paddle to slap down at the water in the direction of the tilt may regain your balance. Usually, just calmly leaning the other way with care gets you through. But before you even venture out, you should intentionally tip your boat to see what she can take before going over. This will help you stay calm in a situation like a near tip or near submersion. Remember the lower you sit, the less likely to tip. Center of gravity. Seats that raise, should be fished more often in the 'lowered' position when running rapids and making lots of turns.

Dangerous obstructions should be circumvented one at a time. If you are with others, navigating dangers one by one at a time ensures you don't pile up in those dangers together! The other floater should pull off into an eddy or back paddle until you have safely made it past any danger. Once you get through, wait for them to get past the obstruction/danger. The worst thing would be a co-kayaker that is a half mile ahead when you go in the water!

It's easy to see guys loaded up with 5-6 rods on their pretty new yaks and forget the safety issues moving water presents. I think sometimes fishing personalities forget not everyone is a grade 'A' superstar water sport person. They are naturally trying to push their skill level higher and higher and can forget about the knowledge gap of their customers. Most of the instruction is great at getting you to the next level, but way beyond what beginners should immediately emulate. A potential hazard could be imitating someone with 10 rods who fishes in a large river or bay, when you'll be floating small, woody creeks and rivers. Completely safe for them, not so safe for you!

Standing in kayaks: River bass fishermen talk about "one last cast". If you are likely to do this at the end of the day, how likely are you to do try to get one more cast in before that low hanging branch or riffle? Answer is: We like to think we're supermen, some of us. Cold water and standing? Remember the 120 degree rule! A combined 120F air and water temp for safe submersion from hypothermia.

Always secure you lure's hooks before going anywhere near overhangs or obstructions. Your lures will easily snag limbs creating a hazard. Braided lines can create an especially large problem should a lure snag a limb. They just don't break. Keep hooks away from any angle of approach. Common sense here, tether your hooks on all your rod(s), so they don't grab anything they may come near..

There really are so many of these apples to oranges comparisons with rivers, kayaks, and fishing...I would never take anything anyone says on one body of water as gospel on your body of water. Much healthier to talk about the type of river you're going to fish, the hazards, what will be safest, most effective on that river.

Personally, I take one rod, so I can be mindful of where my snags are on the boat.If I end up in the river, the damage is limited. Sit on Top kayaks are easy to fall out of, when you do, you can potentially lose hundreds of dollars in equipment. That should be foremost in your mind right after safety. Can you afford to lose everything you have on board? It is much easier to grab one rod and a paddle if you do end up in the drink. Watch that the ropes on your kayak are secure so you don't get tangled and drown should you end up in the water.

Wear your Personal Floatation Device. It may save your life.

Kayak fishing is a great sport. It isn't easy. It takes a great deal of care to be safe. Safety and enjoyment should be job 1. As you improve your skills and on the water awareness and your confidence grows, add some bells and whistles.

Welcome to the sport. Everybody ends up in the water at some point! Again, sorry about the Baptism by fire. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, very nice. Would be a good article for our Bronzeback Bulletin. Thanks for taking the time to write it Brendan.


FYI his first mishap was in his jon boat. He came back looking for his gear and also flipped his kayak. Double "doh!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very good stuff, especially with the explosion of yak fishing. Lots of inexperienced guys getting yaks these days. I know it sounds corny, but I truly fear moving water. Every strainer I see up ahead gets my wheels turning well before I approach it. Lots of folks I've taken out for their first float have "no fear". That's fine for the sticker in the back window of your pick-up, but you better have plenty of fear around moving water.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, very nice. Would be a good article for our Bronzeback Bulletin. Thanks for taking the time to write it Brendan.


Yes, indeed. The two posts in tandem would make a good entry for the bulletin. Canoe, kayak, jon boat, it's all the same. The only thing missing would be something on PFD selection.


In the past I have read a few posts by wading anglers who went past the point of no return in heavy current. That is, the pressure of the current is so strong that they cannot back out of where they are and one step forward or to either side puts the water over the top of their waders. There is a bulletin article there about what to do in that situation. Call 911? :wacko: It can happen even to the most cautious person.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...