Good times, bad times on the water
The Led Zeppelin song, “Good Times, Bad Times,” was echoing in my head following a convoluted morning of mishaps and bungles. Sometimes you just have one of those days. Other days you can do no wrong. Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you – metaphorically speaking, of course.
We were participating in the 23rd annual Greater Niagara Spring Outdoor Media Event and it was the first time that Jackson Kayaks (or any kayak company for that matter) was participating in the week-long fishing frenzy. Outdoor media teamed with a long list of corporate sponsors to take advantage of a western New York fishery that is second to none in diversity and quality. The only caveat is usually the weather, and even then you can usually find someplace to fish.
The first day on the water for John Deshauteurs of Mississippi and Roberto Briones of Ottawa, Canada, who were representing Jackson Kayaks, was greeted with snow the morning of April 29. Things were delayed until later in the day. A swirling wind and chilly temperatures put the small crafts at a bit of a disadvantage. It was then that they made the executive decision to try Wilson Harbor the next morning.
Monday morning, I was called into action. When a couple of the media contingent cancelled last minute, they needed a media person to help fill the gap until more media arrived the following day. There were already other media pursuing trout, salmon and smallmouth bass in the lower Niagara River, Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.
When the Jackson Kayak folks showed up at Wilson-Tuscarora State Park, it was 8:30 a.m. Joining them was Buddy Prause of Florida, representing Cuda, a marine tool company under the umbrella of Acme United Corporation. It was his first time in a kayak. While it wasn’t my first time, each time out I can relate to the Foreigner song, “It Feels Like the First Time.”
Four kayaks were unloaded and fully rigged. We needed to determine what rods and reels and lures to use and, most importantly, where the sandwiches would be stored. By 10 a.m. we were ready to hit the water. Well, almost. In the haste of rushing around that morning, one important component was missing – one life jacket. We either had to draw straws for who was going to stay in or find one someplace else.
Across the harbor was Bootleggers Cove Marina. Two phone calls resulted in a voicemail and an answering machine. There was a charter boat in a slip at the park that was unoccupied, Roger Young’s Papa Smurf Charters. A quick call and Roger picked up on the first ring. Two minutes later we were pulling out a life vest, one of those big and bulky orange ones with the large over-sized collar. If you had a problem on the water, you would want to be wearing something like this. Not in a kayak though. And because I was the one taking pictures, I volunteered to wear the Michelin Man-ish outfit.
I was in a new Coosa FD Model Jackson Kayak that offered pedal power. Considering I had a limited range of motion due to my informal attire, it worked wonderfully. In the meantime, the murky water of the harbor was not being very cooperative as far as catching fish.
The anglers in the three kayaks were focused on docks and tossed tubes, spinnerbaits and swimbaits at anything that would hit. Prause was getting the hang of things quickly and he was standing on his kayak to toss baits toward unsuspecting fish. At every opportunity he would give a rundown on the products he was representing.
Cuda had tools for everything – pliers, clippers, braid cutters, scissors, knives and even a tool containment system that inserted into a cup holder that allowed for easy access on the kayak. But one tool they didn’t have was a cell-phone holder that would help secure the device or keep it afloat.
When we all came back to the launch ramp for a bathroom break, Buddy was a bit quiet (which was not like him). “I just lost my phone over the side of the kayak,” he said. “I was talking to my boss and somehow I must have knocked it in.”
He took it in stride, kidding around about it. Of course, we all had to give him a few jabs. I related a similar story on the Niagara River where I was bending over the side of the boat to put water into a bag to carry bass to the scales of a contest. My phone was in my top pocket. Of course, when I bent over the phone made a muffled splash as it slowly descended in 20 feet of water. Cuda needs to develop a new phone tool.
Nothing seemed to be going right so they made the decision to pull the plug on the Wilson Harbor adventure and head back to the Niagara. Capt. Frank Campbell greeted them there and, while they readied the kayaks for another outing, he tossed a swimbait along the docks. First cast was a 5-pound smallmouth. Their luck had just changed.
As they tooled around off Youngstown, they finally broke the jinx and caught some nice bass. Using artificial baits for the catch-and-release season, Briones hit something much bigger on a tube. It turned out to be a 45-inch muskellunge. It was his personal best and he was all smiles as he released it back into the water.
Sometimes you get the bear …