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Corona Lake Lightning Trout… CAUGHT ON TAPE! 5 fish, 1 net!

I, like many of you, have been having an absolute BLAST with the Lightning Trout this season. Besides being beautiful fish that are absolutely delicious to eat, their tendency to stay schooled up, hang out about 6 inches below the surface, and eat EVERYTHING that crosses their face makes me think that these fish want hooks in their mouths and to find themselves sideways on my dinner plate. It’s been a whole heck of a lot of fun taking part in killing a few of these gorgeous creatures and though I know it’s late (I’ve been “busy” to say the least!), I thought you guys wouldn’t mind seeing a video of some Lightning Trout carnage!!

I was out at Corona Lake on 3/17/11 mostly to help film the massive stocking of these fish that went down, hand out fliers for the event, and kick around the Lake preaching the good word about the Inflatable Navy. Notice that I said “mostly”…I think that it would be a sin to hit the water in a float tube without having a rod and reel on board and ready to go!! While the overwhelming majority of the day was spent discussing the in’s and out’s of the tournament, at about 3:30 the lake began to clear and I decided it was a good time to go put a bend in the rod. So I tied on a 1/32 oz white Lip Ripperz mini jig and made the kick down to the dam. It would be difficult to put into words what I was greeted with so I’ll let some sped up video footage tell the rest of the story! What a blast, it just doesn’t get any more wide open than this!!! ENJOY AND THANKS FOR WATCHING!!!

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The Inflatable Navy SARL Float Tube Homecoming Event and Tournament REPORT!

My head is swimming like I’ve been up for 2 days talking fishing with the most amped group of fisherman I’ve ever seen…because I was! My voice is gone like I’ve been joking, laughing, hootin’ and hollerin’ for 24 hours straight with friends old and new…because I have been! And I’ve got a stupid smile on my face stretching from ear to ear like I just witnessed an event of epic proportionsBECAUSE I DID!!!

THE INFLATABLE NAVY SARL FLOAT TUBE HOMECOMING EVENT AND TOURNAMENT

If you don’t feel like reading on or even just scrolling down through the pics below, let me sum it all up with a single pic…UNBELIEVABLE!

My rods are hanging in the rod racks attached to the ceiling of my little car just as they were when I left for Santa Ana River Lakes yesterday afternoon. My tackle box remains untouched, my float tube never got inflated, and my waders are bone dry. Despite having not put a single crank on the handle on any of my reels over the course of the last 24 hours I can honestly say that this event was one of the best and most memorable days of fishing I’ve ever had! I lived and fished through each and every one of you guys and gals that made up the NEAR CAPACITY crowd at Santa Ana River Lakes today, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world!!! So I’m starting this report with the biggest THANK YOU that I could ever muster to EVERYONE that showed up to the event today. You all made this event truly memorable and for that I am truly TRULY grateful!! Just awesome. But enough of the “sappy stuff” from the “sappy dawg”…LET’S GET ON TO THE FISHING!!!!!

Friday, 3/18/11: Santa Ana River Lakes

I love the “die hards”. Those people that go to extreme lengths to make sure that they are there when “it” happens. And it seems that every time I think to myself, “well, what I just did was pretty hardcore”, someone is there to quickly remind me of what being a “diehard” truly means…

I pulled off the 91 freeway at about 4 pm. I spent the majority of my drive from the IE to the OC chatting with my good buddy Doug and I’m sure we both probably sounded like excited little kids on Christmas Eve. Doug was so stoked on what was about to go down that he hadn’t slept in 24 hours (I’m not joking) and I had 2 pots of coffee coursing my veins that I downed in a feeble attempt to make my regular work day seem to go a little faster (still not joking). As I pulled up to the gate I was greeted by the REAL diehards…a BUNCH of cars were already in line with tents pitched and bbq’s blazing!! I approached the group in the car at the pole position and they told me they had gotten there at…get ready…1 pm!!! Seriously, 1 PM!!! Just WOW!

We began an early Optional Jackpot sign-in for the diehards at about 9 pm. Brian from Lip Ripperz showed up with boxes stuffed to the brim full of Lip Ripperz Litl Ripperz mini-jigs AND his new Love Sauce. Big THANKS to Lip Ripperz for showing their support and providing some fantastic product. Brian even decided to stick around for a bit, help sign people in, and talk a bit of fishing! THANKS BRIAN!!!

We had some bonus giveaways for the elite crew of diehards and they could not have been more grateful. These guys were just great and made our jobs that evening a piece of cake! And that was true both during the registration process AND while these guys were waiting in line. Walking the line I saw families playing poker, friends bbq’ing on the tailgate, new buddies checking out each other’s float tubes, kids rigging up their gear with mom and dad…fantastic stuff that was a lot of fun to watch. Really fun chatting with all of you!!!! HBAR, I WANT YOUR KICKBOAT BUDDY!

Saturday, 3/19/11: THE BATTLE BEGINS!

It’s 4:15 am and the alarm was set for 4:30. I’m nestled in my comfy sleeping bag crammed between piles and piles of prizes that we are set to give away at the event when suddenly – *BANG *BANG *BANG on the door. It’s the Lake Staff. Evidently our line of cars was spilling WAYYYYY into the street even despite the overflow gates being opened a few hours earlier! HOLY MACKERAL!!!

The line for the Optional Jackpot registration table was already forming and we needed to get people in FAST!!! So easy solution…Let’s get people fishing!!! We opened the gates about an hour early, set up the assembly line at the registration table and got through everybody as quickly as possible. THE EVENT HAD OFFICIALLY BEGUN!!! And we couldn’t have done it without DONNA AND RICH from Team 57. These guys showed up early, stayed at the table until everyone was checked in and helped out BIG TIME by passing out the new official Inflatable Navy T-shirts NO QUESTIONS ASKED! THANKS SO MUCH GUYS!!!

The event was a huge success and had a near full capacity turn out at the Lake despite the last minute forecast of poor weather. The Jackpot participation was equally impressive and nearly half of all anglers also entered the optional $25 Jackpot, which made for a HUGE CASH PAYOUT. SARL said that they would give away more than $10,000 in CASH, food and prizes, and the actual amount given away went WAYYYYYY over that amount. $3,000 in CASH ($1,500 each) was actually handed to the two (very happy) first place winners in the two divisions, float tube and non-float tube. $1,500 CASH was the potential amount SARL advertised it would give to each of the 1st place winners and the Lake was very happy that they made that happen!

The float tubers came out to join us…en masse!!!!!!!

HOLY MOLY!!” I have NEVER seen this many float tubers at Santa Ana River Lakes. Not even close. And what was really great to see was that there were a ton of new float tubers as well! In fact some of these new float tubers were using their float tubes for the very first time at the event and what was great to see was the veterans helping get these guys set up, geared up, and on the water.

THE FISHING!!!
The Lightning Trout stockings this season have produced some absolutely WIDE OPEN fishing. For whatever reason, the majority of these fish want to school up and stay schooled up while chomping on anything that crosses their path. Last Thursday out at Corona I put 5 lightnings in the net in 5 minutes! No joke! The school was down by the dam (and was hard to miss seeing as how these fish are bright gold and there were thousands of them just below the surface!) and shortly thereafter, CRASH BANG BOOM, easy limit! And the same thing was happening out at SARL through Saturday.

I walked the entire shoreline multiple times throughout the day at the event chatting with people about the fishing and came across a bunch of people with limits. What was odd was to then walk over to the adjacent groups and see their stringers consisting entirely of holdover tailwalkers from the previous week’s stocking. You could basically trace out the path of the school of lightning trout just by looking at what people had in their baskets and on their stringers!!! And by standing up on the bank you could watch it all happen!!!! As the school swam down the shoreline you’d see the hookups begin from one end and proceed to the other!!!! Those in the right place at the right time had a ton of fish in their baskets and I saw several limits before 11:00 am. At one point, a dense school of lightnings showed up right in between the 2 boat docks near the tackle shop. Winnie is an avid float tuber and was the first to spot it. He tossed a jig into the school and with 3 casts he pulled 3 fish out of the mix! NICE JOB WINNIE!!!

There were two stretches of shoreline that seemed to be where the lightnings wanted to concentrate. I’ve highlighted them on the map below. For the float tubers, the area around the docks was where most people spent the majority of the day. You may also note the “$” signs…I bet you can guess what that means!!!! We’ll get to that soon!!

The consensus among EVERYONE fishing was that they were HAVING A BLAST and it was great to see that people were putting fish on the board. Lots of fish caught on dough bait, nightcrawlers and the famous “powermouse”. Rather than continue with more of my droning on, I’ll let the pictures do the talking!!!

Ken on his second trip out on a float tube!!! NICE WORK!!!!!

SLAB!!! NICE WORK BRENT!!!

George!!!

You guys may have noticed the SLAB crappie in a couple of those pics. These things were MONSTERS! Most of them were pulled from around the boat dock and were caught on either mini jigs or trout worms. I know that there are a bunch of you guys that love to slam the panfish and if that’s you, NOW IS THE TIME! They are doing their “thing” and several guys were able to top their personal best on the panfish!!! NICE WORK!!!

But this event was about so much more than just catching fish. There was a ton of stuff going on and man was it a ton of fun to be a part of! People won a bunch of cool stuff throughout the day including fishing trips, free line fill-ups, hats, shirts, etc. etc. etc.. Another HUGE thanks to our sponsors for giving us the goods to make this all happen. We couldn’t have done it without ya!!!

LUNCH!!! I asked our caterers if they wanted to move into my home. Free of charge, just cook this same meal EVERY SINGLE DAY!! They respectfully declined but told me that they will gladly return for any event that we ever throw…and believe me, we will be sooooooo happy to have them!!

FLOAT TUBE RACE!!!!

Best Rigged Float Tube – what you can’t see in this picture is that one of these tubes had a stereo on board!!! HA!!!

WINNERS WINNERS CHICKEN DINNERS!!!
The Awards Ceremony started at 3:30 pm sharp just as promised. The turnout was amazing!


Without a helicopter or a super duper fish eye lens it was IMPOSSIBLE to get all of the people in the frame! They wrapped around the entire staging area from the parking lot by the boat ramp to the patio area by the bait shop. People were sitting on the fish cleaning station (I’m sure they realized that that wasn’t the greatest seat in the house when they got to their cars!), leaning on all of the railing, standing in the beds of trucks, stacked in between all of the cars…just unreal.

Awards were handed out for the Jackpot Tournament first and because of some generous contributions the day of the event from Davey’s Locker, we were able to tack on additional trips aboard the Freelance and the Western Pride to the prize list for our top 3 heaviest fish winners in BOTH the float tube and non-float tube divisions.

And everyone loves CASH!!!! And the winners from both divisions received a lot of it! $1500 CASH given to BOTH of our winners for a total of $3000 in cash winnings! Incredible!! And to top it off, the big fish for the day was a whopping 16 pounds 9 oz caught by Santa Ana River Lakes veteran Jay! The crowd gasped in unison when we brought this fish out at the awards!!!!

Non-float tube division winner Jay Lamori

Float Tube Division winner Julio Urrutia

These guys were so stoked on all of this that they could barely stand it. And the second and 3rd place winners were the same way. Awesome job guys, way to get out there AND SLAY ‘EM!!! The dollar signs on the previous map shows where both of the jackpot fish were caught. Here is the complete list of our Optional Jackpot winners:

Non-float tube division:
1. Jay Lamori – 16 lbs 9 oz
2. Mike Mirazo – 5 lbs 13 oz
3. Vince Virgen – 4 lbs 8 oz
4.
Float tube division:
1. Julio Urrutia – 3 lbs 15 oz
2. Steven Lessing – 3 lbs 13 oz
3. John Peterson – 3 lbs 11 oz (THIS WAS JOHN’S FIRST TIME EVER FISHING IN CALIFORNIA!!! NICE WORK JOHN AND WELCOME TO “THE NAVY”!)

And the fun was STILL not even close to being over! We had table upon table of gear, fishing trips, float tubing gear and prize packages to give away and people were eager with their gate passes/raffle tickets to see what they could win!!!

Here are a bunch of pics of our winners. The ladies were KILLING IT at the raffle! I’m willing to bet that everyone will be bringing their wives/girlfriends/sisters/etc. to the next one because good grief, the ladies were walking away with a TON of great stuff!!! People were having a blast. One guy even gave away a fishing rod he won to a kid sitting up front! Just awesome!

Brian Shaw Autographed TEAM 57 T-SHIRT!!!

And then it came down to the GRAND PRIZE GIVEAWAY! 2 outcast float tube packages valued at over $500 each. One package consisted of a Prowler Float Tube and a pair of Hot Spot fins. The other was a Fish Cat 4 DELUXE, Waders, Boots, and a pair of Hot Spot fins. 2 lucky winners were selected and the greatest thing happened…NEITHER OF THE WINNERS HAD EVER FLOAT TUBED IN THEIR LIVES! And even better…despite people approaching them and offering large sums of cash on the spot for their winnings, BOTH winners said that they wanted to keep their tubes and take the plunge into the world of float tubing! How great is that?!?! Welcome to the Inflatable Navy guys!!!!

What a day, what a blast, and I can’t wait to do it again! AND WE WILL!!!! I have a ton of video from the day and we are going to put something really cool together so keep an eye out! I have to run out of state for about a week but as soon as I get back, it’s into the “production studio” (aka my computer desk in the extra room) for me!!

Again, A HUGE THANKS TO ALL OF OUR SPONSORS!!!! You guys made this event one that everyone will remember for a looooooooooooong time! Every single one of you was just amazing and I personally cannot thank you all enough. I want to send an extra special thanks to Doug Beard from Chronic Fishing. Doug quietly worked behind the scenes making contacts, gathering prizes, and doing everything he could to see this thing to fruition. Doug, you are the man! Now let’s go kill some fish! I also want to send a HUGE thanks to Donna from Team 57 for everything she did for this event. We ALL know that Donna is amazing and my work with her on this event just made that even more apparent to me!! THANK YOU DONNA! I owe you big time!!!!!! The biggest thanks of all to EVERYONE at Santa Ana River Lakes for letting us do this and providing us with everything we needed to have a great time! Thank you for opening up your “home” so that we all can make this place our home as well!!!

And lastly, a MONSTER THANK YOU to all of you guys that came out! I had an absolute blast fishing and winning vicariously through all of you. Your kind words, handshakes, and the fun you all were sure to tell me you had mean the world to me! Plain and simple, we all fish because it is fun. Every time we are out there is an opportunity to forget everything stressful in our lives and create a memory that will last a lifetime. While I didn’t put a single bend in the rod this weekend, you guys all gave me a lifetime “fishing memory” and for that I am forever indebted. So THANK YOU to all of you for letting me in on your fun!!!! And let’s be sure to do this again….SOON!!!!!

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WFO Lightning trout, wetting my pants and voyeurism via ‘yak (Pic heavy)

Sometimes, a picture can say a thousand words…this is one of those times. The picture below came Thursday via text from my friend Matt:

I was sitting in my office when that gem came through. Talk about having a hard time finishing out your day at work knowing your buddies are sitting on that!

Of my friends on the water, every single one of them had the same story from Thursday…”Wide open…”, “Looked like a koi pond”, “Followers on every cast!”. Maybe this isn’t always the case but the people out there last Thursday took the “fish don’t hit on stocking days” rumor and went Mythbusters on it…

So a Friday fishing session was a must but I had a meeting Friday morning that I’d have to work into my schedule. Thus, I had to resort to good ol’ fisherman’s logic…You guys and gals know exactly what I’m talking about…Those times you say to yourself, ”(Part 1) Ok, if I get up at 4, I can get down there and be near the front of the line. I’ll be on the water by 6:05 so LOTS of time to fish. (Part 2) After I’m done I’ll change into something presentable at the lake and I’ll be at my meeting in plenty of time. (Part 3) I’ll then wow my colleagues, leave the meeting with a raise, and go home to my wife who will be floored by my masculinity and amazing time management skills.”

Ummm….well…”fisherman’s logic” and “reality” don’t often coexist…

Part 1: Woke up at 6:30…DOH! Stupid alarm! Threw on my clothes, kissed the dogs and the wife goodbye (in that order), ran down the stairs, poured a steamy liter of joe into my “coffee keg”, scooped up my lunch, jumped into the car, and WOOSH…out the door!

Part 2: Made it to the lake to find a somewhat crowded shoreline and a smattering of boats and float tubes in the water. Inflated the “Lightning Trout Camouflage” colored Super Fat Cat and launched into a gentle breeze and overcast skies. With only 2 hours to fish before I had to run to work, I refused to waste time kicking across the lake so decided early on not to stray far from the boat launch.

The fishing was on fire all the way from the courtesy dock to the dam. For those wanting something more specific, the green line shows where I spent my limited time…

Left the sonar and most of my tackle box on shore. My on-board arsenal consisted of a handful of various trout worms, garlic grease, and a few chartreuse and chartreuse/orange 1/32 oz. minijigs. Turned out that was all that I needed. Any of those options worked. Quick retrieve, slow retrieve, lots of taps, only a few taps. It didn’t matter. I really like fishing the minijig as it’s quick and easy so spent most of my time throwing that. As you’ve read in other people’s threads, truly amazing fishing on Friday with fish chewing the paint off of almost anything you wanted to put in the water.





Can you spot the 2 fish in the picture above??? 🙂

(Above) Color coordination of my fish and my tube!

Word on the street was that there was lots of action on the other side of the lake by Rattlesnake Beach and the East Inlet, but no time to find out for myself…on to part 3 of this drama.

Part 3: After piling all of my gear into the back of the toaster wagon (Scion xB), I changed my clothes on the shoreline, hurrying to put on my jeans and shirt, rushing to lace up my shoes, and quickly exchanging my fishing cap and face shield for what I thought was a neatly combed “hairdo”, professionally assembled by running my fingers through my disheveled mane a few times.

What I haven’t told you up to this point is that my waders have a small leak right in the crotch. This is NORMALLY not a problem as I only get an occassional splashing above the knees in the Super Fat Cat. You’ll see why this fun fact is important to “Part 3″ in a moment…

I show up to work with about 15 minutes to spare before my meeting. I see some of my colleagues in the hallway and we exchange pleasantries. I decide to hit the restroom one last time before our discussion and GOOD GRIEF

While washing my hands, I noticed that I felt a bit cool below the belt. “Are my pants wet?” I think to myself. Like a 4 year old that “just made a boo boo”, I strike an awkward, bowlegged, crotch staring pose and sure enough…My long ignored wader leak struck back. My thermals were dry enough to escape my detection and yet were just wet enough that they soaked my jeans, specifically in the crotch region, THOROUGHLY. Seeing the darkened area in my denim I immediately start thinking of how I am going to explain a wet crotch to my coworkers without mentioning how good the fishing was ½ hour ago. I look up at myself in the mirror in utter disbelief…and yup, more surprises. This time in the form of GLITTER. In the mirror I saw that below what was NOT a neatly combed hairdo but rather a frizzy, wavy mess of greasy hair, there was glitter above my eye, glitter below my nose, glitter on my ear…oh boy. I’ve got exactly 3 minutes for a sink bath and a bathroom dry cleaning and I better HOPE that no one comes in while this is going down…Did I mention that my hands wreaked of trout?

Stick my face in the sink, lose the glitter and lose the frizzy fro. Soap up the hands and lose the lightning stink. Run back to my office and grab a long jacket and lose the possibility of “Did you pee your pants” questioning. With streams of sweat saturating the t’shirt under my thick jacket and the dampness of my jeans sprawling from its origin in my crotch, I managed to get through my meeting without any mention of how ridiculous I looked. Mission Accomplished!!! But I can just imagine what people said after our meeting dispersed…“Did you see Aaron’s jeans? I’m pretty sure he pee’d himself. I told him to cut back on the coffee.” “Yeah, but did you notice the glitter and his hair?! I’m thinking last night must have been awesome!”

Sometimes the best laid plans don’t seem to go down the way we intend them to. In fact, they rarely do ESPECIALLY when cramming in a few minutes on the water means juggling a bunch of life’s other “stuff”. BUT, bottom line, I got to go fishing and I HAD A BLAST!! Over the years I’ve learned that one of the hardest and most important aspects of fishing is simply finding the time and the means to get out there. But the cliché “when there is a will, there is a way” rings SO true with fishing. Have the will, find the way, and life seems to work itself out. For me, “life working itself out” means that people at work may think that I pee my pants, but oh well, I guess everything has its price…

2/19/11- Voyeurism via Kayak

It rained HARD the night of 2/18/11. Driving rain and wind all night long. I knew there had to be at least a few diehards out at Corona taking advantage of the 24 hour fishing being offered over the weekend and I couldn’t help but shiver a bit for them while watching tv in my cozy bed.

Waking up the next morning, I found the sun shining and only scattered clouds cresting the Santa Rosa Plateau. Great news! I had to take a kayak to Orange County and the decent weather meant that I could soak it in Corona Lake for an hour or so, see what people were up to, see how the lake looked so I could share the info with you guys, load things up and be on my way! So that’s what I did!!

Upon arriving at the lake I saw that the rain had definitely affected the water quality but in a non-uniform kind of way…

Sorry for the low image quality as that is a video still, but what I’ve highlighted there is the reason that the shore anglers did not do nearly as well on Saturday as the people in boats and float tubes following the heavy rain. A creeping “murk” extended anywhere from 50-100 feet from the shoreline leaving most shore anglers no other option but to fish in it. The areas down by the inlets were hit hardest as sediment laden water came into the lake from the south. The shore anglers catching fish were mostly those that were able to find cleaner water close to shore. There were a few fish caught out of the dirty stuff but the real action was just a bit further out. What was really peculiar about this ”murk” was that it abruptly stopped against the typical clearer water that we’ve been enjoying the past few weeks. If you’re having a hard time visualizing it via my words and the image above, here’s what I saw in map view…

The greyed area shows the extent of the murky water on Saturday. This map isn’t perfectly precise, but you can pull the general “murk trend” from the image. And there’s a good reason for why this trend would be the case. The “river” delivers a concentrated sediment load to the lake and thus from the hillside behind the bait shop you could see a plume of sediment entering the lake from the south. Sediment is also sourced via direct input from the surrounding shoreline. The most clay rich shoreline runs along the north/east side of the lake while the area on the west side of the lake by the dam is largely gravel. So to get to that clean water you had to be just a bit further from shore than usual and if you HAD to fish from shore, the area down by the dam seemed to be a decent option. But there were pockets of clean water along the shoreline in a variety of places, they just required a bit of hunting and tricky tricky, they moved! Being the excellent fishermen that they are, the float tubers noticed this right away and they were out there slaying them.


Bit and hiding it!


Look at that fish!

Look away from the gorgeous fish for a second and notice that he’s sitting in GOOD WATER! Being in the right place at the right time sometimes takes a bit of know-how, and its obvious this guy (I’m pretty sure his name is Aaron too) “knows how”! Good chatting with ya buddy!

Got a chance to have a fun chat with Kerry from fishinglegend.net who was out there killing ‘em too along with the other tubers. Great to see you guys out there representing the Inflatable Navy while I was jamming around on my hunk of plastic taking video and pictures!

Most of the guys I saw were working the powermouse rig. The fish above was caught on a white egg above a yellow Powerworm being drug slowly along the bottom on what looked to be about an 18″ leader if I saw things correctly. The fishing was not nearly the stupid wide open fishing that the lake experienced Thursday and Friday, but good fishing all around with at least a few fish hanging from most of the boats that I stopped by. But alas, I couldn’t stick around…I had other fish to fry.

After running to Orange County to trade in the kayak that lead me around Corona Lake that day, here’s what I caught Saturday…All 88 pounds of it…

2011 Hobie Pro Angler. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this boat. I can’t wait for the first giant whiskerfish to slam the deck of that bad boy. One of these wouldn’t be half bad either…

The rain pounded again last night and I’m curious as to how the lake looks now. Based on how things looked on Saturday, my obvious recommendation is that you find any way that you can to get off of the shore. Rent a boat, buy a float tube, beer-bribe your boat owning buddy to take you out, swim (just kidding)…whatever it takes! The lake is now full which is a great thing in terms of the time it will take for the murk to clear out. When water is spilling over the spillway things clear up MUCH faster than when the lake is low so we shouldn’t have to deal with murky water for nearly as long as earlier this season. But for those going out in the near future, the above “off of the shore” recommendation stands!

As always, thanks for taking a read. And to everyone that came up to me over the past few days excited about everything going on with the Inflatable Navy and From Aaron’s Angle, I can’t express to you how great that makes me feel.

What a weekend and there’s still plenty more to go! I have a giant kayak waiting for me in the garage that I’m about to go play with! WOOHOO!!!

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Basics of Float Tubing

By Aaron Sappenfield

                Fall, 1996…the Salton Sea.  It’s 6 am and the dry desert heat joins forces with the distinct odor of decaying fish to create a cocktail of some of the most disgusting air you could hope to not ever have to breathe.  Despite the putridity of this setting, I’m inflating a float tube for the first time in my life, gearing up to wade through a mass of rotting fish carcasses in search of monster corvina that like to slam swimbaits and provide free “towing services” to anyone willing to battle them on small floating vessels.  But most significantly and yet unbeknownst to me at the time, I’m about to radically change the way I fish…PERMANANTLY.  While kicking out on my float tube for the first time, I immediately realized the freedom, mobility and ease of access afforded by the use of this fishing platform.  Latching on to double digit corvina was the nail in the coffin.  I have not looked back since and still find fishing from my float tube one of the most enjoyable means of catching fish that I can imagine.   

Fishing is a game of opportunity and a huge part of winning this “game” is a matter of statistics: the person spending the most time on the water is the one that typically will score the biggest and the most fish.  So the first question you should ask yourself if you want to catch bigger and more fish is, “What can I do to get out on the water more often?”  Sometimes simply finding the time to get out there can be the most difficult aspect of fishing. 

So moving on to Step 1:  Quit your job.  I’m just kidding.  In reality, step 1 is to find a new means of getting out on the water that is easier, more affordable, accessible, and more PRODUCTIVE than what you are currently doing.  Purchasing my first float tube was my solution to that very dilemma!

 This article will cover the basics: the essential items that you need in order to get out there on a float tube, what you can expect once you arrive at the lake, and some common courtesy that will keep your interactions on the water friendly.  I will preface all of this by stating that this is coming entirely from my perspective.  There are a million ways to get out there and have a great time.  This is simply what I’ve found to have worked for me.  You will fine tune things until you find what works best for you.

Float Tube Basics

                Float tubing does NOT require a ton of gear.  You truly can get into this method of fishing with minimal expense if you know exactly what you need to get into the sport and that is the purpose of this section: to list out those needs as well as some things that you may want on your boat to make your journey a little more comfortable.  We’ll begin with the needs and end with the wants. 

“What gear do I NEED to float tube?”

                To put it briefly and concisely, here is a list of the bare essentials:

1)       PFD – I put this first because safety should always be first.  Not to mention that it is the law to have a PFD on board.  If you think this is a joke, ask the numerous coast guard agents that have stopped me to ask if I had a PFD in the harbors.  It’s no joke.  Carry a PFD. 

2)       Float tube – This will probably be your most enjoyable purchase in this gig.  I still remember clicking the “Buy” button on the tube I use now…and that was 6 years ago!

3)       Waders – There are a bunch of different types of waders. The sole purpose of your waders is to keep you dry and warm.  The water out at Corona Lake was 51 degrees last week.  Trying to deal with that in your swim trunks would not be fun. 

4)       Fins – Even strong swimmers would have a difficult time moving these boats without fins.  A good set of fins means staying out when the wind comes up and not having to deal with cramping legs all day.

5)       Basic fishing equipment – People seem to think that you need smaller gear, shorter rods, and tiny tackle boxes to fish off a float tube and that cannot be farther from the truth!  I do not fish any rods shorter than 6’6”, I carry a plus sized tackle box full of equipment on board, and I have a giant net because I’m out there looking for big fish!  Whatever you are currently using to catch fish will work on your float tube.

If you already have some basic fishing equipment, you can easily pick up these essentials for well under $200.  In fact, I’ve seen setups consisting of a pfd, float tube, waders and fins in the used market selling for under $100 for the entire setup.   

“What gear may I WANT so that this float tubing adventure is a bit more comfortable?”

Eventually you will find that you want to go beyond the essentials. You may discover that the bare minimum is not enough even prior to your first time out.  For the gearheads out there, the possibilities are virtually endless to both enhance as well as expand upon the list of items provided above. In addition to the necessities, I’ve listed just a few of the optional accessories that can be easily obtained and utilized for float tubing in the adjacent image. And though this list is lengthy, shockingly enough, this is NOT a comprehensive list!

                Just to give you another idea of what you can be done to modify these things, check out the picture of my float tube.  It started out as an Outcast Super Fat Cat but with all of the modifications, I’m just waiting for the DMV to require me to register it as a Class 3 RV.  In fact, I’ve been asked several times while out on this beast, “Where’s the flat screen TV?” or “Do you have any beer in the fridge?!?”  This thing may look like it is ready to tackle type 4 rapids, but in reality, it is an incredibly comfortable and convenient platform to fish from.  The image is labeled so that you can see exactly how I have things arranged. 

                 

                That image lists only the attached, “structural” components of the tube.  Add on pliers, a game clip, tackle boxes, a cooler, etc. and that diagram will begin to look even more like a bowl of alphabet soup!  This arrangement is only what I’ve come up with and again, the possibilities are endless.  If you like to tinker, it should be obvious that you’ve come to the right place.  If you want to keep it basic, that works too.

                I do want to mention that I think everyone should eventually consider adding removable rod holders to their float tube package.  Unlike being on a boat or on the shore, a tube affords you little space to place a rod “on deck” and have it be out of the way.  Thus, in order to prevent having to keep all of your rods in your hands at all times, it is essential that you have multiple locations where a rod can be quickly hung out of the way in order to avoid missing and losing fish as well as for sheer comfort.  If you counted all of the “A”’s in the image above, you’ll see that I have 7 different places that I can place my rods.  SEVEN!  But this does not mean that I carry seven rods.  I normally carry only three but I still use all of my rod holders every time I go out.  I am constantly juggling rods throughout the day and with all of the places I have on my tube to put my gear down, the juggling doesn’t feel like so much of a circus act.  Rod holders are also convenient places for your pliers, scent bottles, and anything else that you can get to fit in them.  You do not need to fabricate rod holders.  Rod holders can be purchased from a number of retailers usually including the same retailer that you bought your tube from. Store bought rod holders normally run around $20-$30, can be used universally on most float tubes, and are easy to use.     

                Beyond rod holders, it is all up to you.  You may be thinking, “Camera mounts?  A net holder? SONAR??  BAH, who needs it?!”  And you’d be totally justified in your thoughts.  But I love filming what I catch, thus I need camera mounts.  And I use my sonar extensively and thus I figured out a way to mount my fishfinder.  And having my net behind me works perfect with my setup and so I made a mount to hold it securely in that position.  But that’s just me!  Take your float tube and make it your own.  Experiment.  PVC is a wonder material for float tubers.  You can use the stuff to make just about anything you’d need on a float tube and best of all, it’s cheap and easy to work with.

Well I’m ready…LET’S FISH!

                So you’ve gone through the checklist and have gotten everything that you need so that you feel comfortable on the water.  Now you’re just nervous about what is going to happen once you get to the lake.  What you are going to quickly find is that this is all incredibly easy and relaxing.   

                Sure, easy enough, but if I think back to my first time float tubing with more experienced anglers on that beautifully putrid day at the Salton Sea, I know that not having a clue can make you nervous your first time out.  So the purpose of this section is to provide you with all of the information that you need to get out there and feel like you’ve done this before.  We’ll go through what to do when you get to the lake, launching, where and how to fish courteously, and some basic techniques specific to float tubing that are tried and true methods of catching fish.

“What do I do when I get to the lake?”

                I consider my freshwater home to be Corona Lake and that’s for good reason; the scenery is great, launching is incredibly easy, and most importantly, the fishing is incredible.  This is an excellent place to float tube whether it is your first or millionth time out there.  On any given day you’ll have the chance to chat with fellow tubers, explore the various “honey holes” on the lake, and fill your limits with ease.  I’ve recommended a number of first timers give Corona Lake a try and none have been disappointed.  Thus the following rundown is specific to Corona Lake, however, the general details provided herein will be the same no matter where you go!

                I typically try to get to the lake with plenty of time to inflate and rig my tube prior to the gates being open.  At Corona Lake, there is plenty of room in line to do any required inflating and rigging.  Bring a headlamp or a flashlight so that you can see what you are doing.  Using your car’s headlights is a bad idea. You don’t want your dead battery holding up the entire line when the gate opens! 

After my tube is rigged, I place it on the roof of my car and strap it down with a standard cargo strap looped around my tube and through my rear doors.  This keeps the boat plenty secure for going through the line and driving to the launch. 

When you approach the booth at Corona, you will pay the standard entry fee and an additional $5 to launch the tube.  If you have used your tube anywhere else other than Corona Lake recently, be sure to tell the employee tending the gate due to the ever-present Zebra/Quagga mussel concerns that lakes now must deal with.  You will sign a waiver, keep a carbon copy, and you’re off on your adventure!

“Where can I launch? And more importantly, HOW do I launch?!?”

                When at Corona Lake, I always launch from the area north of the boat dock.  I’m not certain if there is a specific rule stating that you must launch there, but I’d rather follow the “boat launching protocol” and I find that most others feel the same way.  I see others launching from other areas around the lake and while it works for them, I figure it to be a bit of common courtesy to launch in the specified area.  I utilize this practice at any lake that I visit.

                Park your car away from the shoreline so that it is not in the way of the shore fisherman.  Inflate your tube at your car, gear it up and then carry it to the edge of the lake.  Do a quick checklist to make sure that you have everything you need:

1)       PFD

2)       Tackle – hooks, bait, weight, etc.  

3)       Sunglasses – amazing how easy it is to forget your shades when you are gearing up in the dark.

4)       Net

5)       Stringer/creel

6)       Miscellaneous – lunch, cell phone, camera, sunblock, hat, etc.

Then all that is left to do is put your fins on and kick out!  Turn your boat so that when seated, your back is in the direction you want to go.  Have your fins in hand and begin to walk BACKWARDS into the lake.  When you are in about knee deep of water, go ahead and sit down.  Hold your position by keeping your feet in contact with the ground.  Put your fins on one foot at a time and you’re all ready to kick out!  It’s that easy!! 

While kicking out, be sure to mind the shore anglers.  This does not only mean not getting tangled, this also means being mindful to avoid stomping around where the shore anglers are fishing

 “Where can I fish?”

                When on the float tube there may be a tendency to think that you are a tiny insignificant “speck” on the water that could in no way ever get in the way.  WRONG!  In the tube, you will almost always be moving and thus it is your responsibility to avoid other people’s lines and stay out of their fishing zones.  This includes the shore anglers, boaters, and other float tubers.  When moving, you have to be aware of your surroundings.  Tangles are not only annoying; they decrease yours and other’s fishing times.   Time spent unknotting your line is time not spent trying to catch fish.  Plus, it’s a great way to irritate those around you.  Consider a sudden splash 10 yards away from a 4 oz. torpedo sinker a warning shot signaling that you’re too close!

                That being said, maintain a good distance from the shoreline.  The lake rule is 100 yards.  If you are having a hard time judging 100 yards, watch where people are casting and fish at least 20 yards beyond that.  Same goes for boats.  If you are fishing over someone’s bait, you are squashing their zone.  Kicking your fins over a stationary bait in 10 feet of water is a sure fire way to ensure that bait’s safety!  Don’t do it. 

                Beyond avoiding the other anglers, you can fish ANYWHERE!  On the tube, the world is your oyster…enjoy it!  Go to the treeline and put that tube in the shallows.  Don’t think twice about getting in close to the rocks.  Work areas in your little tube that no boat ever could!   The map of Corona Lake provided with this article will give you a starting point for where to fish.  These are well-known hotspots on the lake that have produced innumerable fish for me and they can do the same for you!  All you have to do is get out there!!

“OK, But how do I actually catch fish on this thing?!?!”

                Ah yes, the magic question…”How do I catch fish on this little boat?”  The tactics you’ve learned from fishing on a boat or from shore are ALL applicable in a tube.  The difference now is that you are no longer restricted to those tactics.

Some of the biggest bonuses of being in a float tube are the ability to move and the ease of controlling your drift.  You’ll soon find that kicking your feet becomes instinctual.  With the flick of a fin you can completely turn your boat.  With the kick of your leg, you can be trolling your plastics.  It’s remarkable to think about the options you have once you have the opportunity to pick up and move quickly and easily.  Thus, most techniques specific to float tube fishing relate directly to the distinct advantage a float tube has in how easy it is to move. 

One of the easiest means of fishing from the float tube is by utilizing the “slow troll”.  Because float tubes are so mobile, it is incredibly easy to set yourself up to move slowly through an area, working your bait the entire time rather than continually casting and retrieving.  This keeps your bait in the strike zone for a longer amount of time.  A key point in this is to keep your bait moving.  That means making sure that your boat is moving slowly ALL OF THE TIME in as linear a direction as possible.  That may sound ridiculous but you’ll find that heading into the wind means an entirely different kick regime than going downwind or crosswind.  A great way to make sure you are moving in a straight line is to watch the shoreline.  Keep the same distance and track your position relative to a car or anything else that is stationary.  You don’t need to stare, but just “check in” every now and again to make sure that you are not veering too far off course.  Slow trolling is incredibly effective.  Baits, plastics, jigs…you name it, you can slow troll it and you WILL eventually get bit.

Another technique that I like to use but I see used less frequently by others is what I call the “mediated drift”.  When fishing on a boat and the wind comes up, I often throw a “drift chute” to slow down my drift.  Drift chutes (sometimes called “sea anchors”) look like parachutes that upon opening produce drag and slow the boat considerably.  Carrying a drift chute on a tube can be done, but these things could really get in the way of your fishing.  So a way of being your own personal “drift chute” is to sit forward in your seat with your fins pointed straight down or slightly behind you.  From that position, “flutter” your fins.  By doing so, you’ll feel like you are trying to swim yourself up out of the water.  This will SUBSTANTIALLY slow or even stop your drift, even in pretty strong winds.  This is a really cool tool to have when the wind comes up and you want to fish downwind of a particular spot.   It also works great when you have multiple lines out and you do not want to have to reel them in just to turn your boat around.

                These techniques are not difficult, but they do take a bit of practice to get right.  It sounds amazingly easy to slow troll a bait or to mediate your drift, but just wait until you get out there and see that there is an art to getting it right.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you in regards to your fishing is to ask questions!  Float tubers in particular are often eager to discuss their rigs, their bait, or anything else fishing related!  Make some friends out on the water and you’ll pick it up faster than you ever could on your own!  

Summing it all up…

                YOU CAN DO THIS!  All you have to do is dive in.  You have a list of the basic essentials that you need, you have an even longer list of the optional items you may want to acquire, you know the where, what and how’s of getting out on the water…all you gotta do is go for it!  The affordability of this sport means that you can’t afford to NOT participate if you are at all interested in trying this out.

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