Articles for January 2015

How to Catch the Biggest Fish at Minimalist Challenge

If you want to know how to catch the biggest fish at Minimalist Challenge 2015, it’s “Go Big Or Go Home.”

The decision was made to move Minimalist Challenge 2015 to a new location again this year.  Leeville – not familiar turf for me.  After my first two scouting trips I couldn’t say I was very excited.  We found a few reds but no trout and no flounder.  But between us, my fishing buddy and I have been in the money around 6 of the 8 years it’s been held.  So the dream team was ready to go:

denis and I
Notice new Air Max Seat – Scotty rod Holders – and sky blue Yak Attack gear tracks all available at the Backpacker!

Every year we make our game plan and this year it was a strange one. We were going to start together with the other 100 anglers a the launch, but then split up and fish miles away from each other.  This turned out to be a decision that would bring very different results for two hopeful anglers.

My plan was to go to the only turf I knew in the area and hope that a little knowledge could carry me over the top during what had been tough fishing conditions.

I left the good camera at home (not sure why) so some of these shots are less than ideal but here is a shot with the scenery and the new AT Oracle Angler I picked it up at the Backpacker in Baton Rouge.

Sorry about my thumb but it was a pretty day.  If you look carefully you can see the ripples of a big red on the line.
Sorry about my thumb but it was a pretty day. If you look carefully you can see the ripples of a big red on the line.

My day began with a significant paddle to my first fishing spot.  I can tell you I was a little nervous watching one of the greatest names in South Louisiana fishing going down the bayou in front of me.  Choupique (as he’s known in kayaking circles) has wracked up an impressive string of tournament victories but he turned left when I turned right; whew!

So I settled in my spot as the sun came up and it wasn’t long before I started seeing reds.  Big reds.  How big?  The first fish I cast at, I threw at him three times before I hooked up.  I normally throw about 30″ in front of the tail.  Well, when I got him close to the boat this fish was snagged in the dorsal fin about 6 inches behind his head!  After about 20 minutes of being drug around I was able to shake him loose.

A few more fish in this area were clearly the same size and clearly not interested in my baits (picture of lures can be seen here).  I at one point saw a tail waiving in the air that was much larger than my outstretched hand.

So I moved into the marsh (with a promise to myself to come back when I could see better).  It’s counter intuitive to look for fish in shallow water when its cold but that’s where the redfish will often be.  I wish I had taken a picture but if you imagined an area about the size of  your living room that’s how big the space was where my first action or inaction would take place..  I came around a bend into a favorite spot and stood up.  There’s a school of reds!  I mean like 9 of them in 18″ of water.  Now water refraction is a funny thing. These reds looked about 24″ but would turn out to be much different but nearly 10 (felt like 20) casts later, nothing.  I ran the bait by their nose; I ran it over their backs;  I hit one in the lips with it.  It didn’t spook them nor did it interest them.  I changed colors three times and threw a topwater.  Nothing.  It was as if my lures were invisible.

electric chicken

So, I pick the ugliest brightest bait in my pack.  The “Electric Chicken”.  Sure, this looks like something that fish eat every day!  Still no reaction.  I sat down and thought – “I’m outta here”.  Then I thought, “Well there’s one last thing I haven’t tried”.  Deadsticking.  You just throw the bait out and let it sit.  Wiggle it just a bit.  I could see the whole thing as it looked like a piece of bubble gum.  He sucked it in – whoah nelly hold on!

first big red

The next one was the same story.  It was like he was reaching down to chew on some bubble gum (exactly what it looked like) and it was on.  I didn’t take a picture this time because you don’t mess with losing a tournament fish.  It’s a powerful rush to realize this fish might be the one and all you want to do is get him in the bag and zip it closed.  This one measured exactly 27″ but with 6 hours to weigh in maybe just maybe….

I pulled one more fish out of this small hole. This one was 23 inches.  3 more fish was all I needed.  9:30 am and things were looking up.  Then it happened again, and again:

big red 2 big red 3 big red 4biggest red of all

Bull red after bull red after bull red.  I caught 9 on the day and passed up about 6 more without even casting at them.  I can’t tell you how tired, and frustrated I was getting and I was crushing them!

By this time, I’ve returned to my starting point I’ve caught two more monster fish (the last above is one of them).  I try one more time:

one last try

And again I can’t even lift him into the picture I’m so exhausted.  Well I look at my watch and I’ve got 45 minutes to get to the launch – let’s go!  The whole way there I’m enjoying the weather, the wind and tide are at my back and I start to realize I’m cutting it close.  The clock is running out and I’ve got a big fish in the bag.  This paddle was a lot longer than I realized but I pull in with 7 minutes to spare and walk into the line.

Two big fish hit the ruler – they’re too big (all fish must be in the slot between 16 and 27 inches).  I’m getting pretty excited but have no idea of the actual weight of the fish.  We hit the weigh station and I pull out the fish (gasps).  As it slides into the official position silence settles in (good fish is murmured in the background).  The tail is pinched and it is 26.5 inches.  Now to the scale…..

8.55lbs!  Fist pump – personal best.  If nothing else I have that but I’ve never seen a better weight at a kayak tournament.  And it would prove to be enough as I took home the big fish prize for the tournament and still pulled a 10th place finish with only two fish.  Team Backpacker had a good showing with fellow member Clayton Shilling placing 2nd – but that’s his story!

big fish of the day

 Bill Crawford has previously served as the Wilderness Systems Fishing Ambassador and currently fishes for the Backpacker Fishing Team.

A Paddle Worth Paddling- Advanced Technology Oracle Angler Paddle Review

Kayak Fishermen often fail to realize a very important fact.  Your paddle is your engine.  We will spend $200 or more on each of our fishing combos (rod and reels) and then we balk at spending $100 on our paddle.  We will use 3-5 rod and reel combos in a day but we will use that one paddle on every trip.  Reels often die about every two years but a good paddle could last a lifetime.  Yet we fail to invest in what may be the second most important piece of equipment in your garage (next to you Kayak)!

This past week I was fishing with my new AT Oracle Angler paddle.  It’s an engineering marvel: light as a feather and as stiff as glass.  It transfers every bit of my effort into the water.  Another thing that has recently begun to amuse me is the realization that Kayak Anglers will go to all sorts of lengths to hide from the fish they are sight casting but they will then stick a bright orange paddle blade into the water the fish lives in.  So the angler who argues whether tan shirts are better than grey are better than blue will then put the equivalent of blaze orange into the plain view of the fish!

In that confused jumble of thoughts I inject the AT Fish Camo pattern.  How good is it?  Check this picture out that I took at my most recent tournament:

disappearing paddle

OK stop looking at the fish and look at the paddle – where did it go?  This image is not photoshopped; it’s real.  So the next time you are at The Backpacker, consider picking up an AT Oracle Angler edition paddle – you won’t regret it.

For you paddlers, they have regular editions and ergonomic bent shafts, too.  Get out there!

Bill Crawford previously served as a Wilderness Systems Fishing Ambassador and is currently on the Backpacker Fishing Team for the past 2 years. 


Camping at Indian Creek with Hobie Tandem Island

In my opinion, Indian Creek Recreational Area is one of the best campgrounds to bring someone who is new to any type of camping. They have a dedicated primitive area if you really want to rough it, but you have the ability to drive your vehicle right up to the site, so you can still bring your luxuries from home. If you want more comfort, they also have numerous developed camping areas, some even have electric hookups, with a shower house nearby. Of course, I chose the less traveled route, strapped a few kayaks to my truck using the Yakima Outdoorsman, and decided to stay at the primitive area, which was only $8 per tent AND the site was right on the lake, which is actually a 2,250 acre reservoir

Yakima Outdoorsman with Hobie Tandem Islands

As a side note, please be wary during the holidays and some weekends, this can be a very popular place for motor boaters, which makes sense given it is inside Alexander State Forest and only 15 minutes south of Alexandria. However, luck was on our side that not many people were on the water that day so we had the lake mostly to ourselves for camping at Indian Creek with the Hobie Mirage Adventure Island and Hobie Mirage Tandem Island kayaks. Even if there were major traffic on the water that day, there are several fingers to the lake that can make for a peaceful paddle.

Wilderness Systems Ride 115

Thanks to how easy the rigging is set up, the Hobie Island kayaks are very easy to learn how to use, even though they are 16-18 ft long in length and have sails of approximately the same measurement in height. Within a few hours and a good wind, I was able to teach my friend how to master the lines and sailing techniques, even though she has never been on a kayak before.


Number One suggestion for the Adventure or Tandem Islands, get the tramp kit accessory. You will not be disappointed, I guarantee it! These kayaks are rated for 400-600 lbs, you will not have a problem overloading them. In fact, during the Mississippi race, Team Backpacker had four people on the Tandem Island with ease and efficiency. Plus tramp kits provide an ideal storage space or a great fishing platform.



Overall I was extremely pleased with the kayaks and with the location. With all the creature comforts so close at hand, and just over an hour from Lafayette, LA, Indian Creek is an easy choice for an easy outing, no matter the skill level.

Sailing at DuskPaddling past the weedsHobie Tandem and Adventure IslandsCampsite at dusk

Written by The Backpacker Baton Rouge Store Manager, Anthony Arabie.  Anthony has worked for The Backpacker since 2008 with a couple of breaks to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine and other adventures.


Choosing a Fishing Kayak

by Bill Crawford (AKA RevRedfish)

When you are choosing a fishing kayak, keep in mind that all are not created equal. By brand and by type they seem to be nearly as diverse as people. I have some biases they will be reflected in this post but you can trust that this information is based upon over 8 years of experience and over a dozen kayaks owned from 6 different brands

Here’s what you need to think about:
1) How much are you ready to spend?
2) How are you going to use this boat?
3) How often will you fish?
4) How often will you just paddle?
5) What is your body type?
6) What is your fitness level?

1) Cost is a driver. If you aren’t ready to dive all in then you probably shouldn’t reach and buy a really expensive kayak. However, if you are confident of your involvement you don’t want to waste resources. Ultimately you are the only one who can answer this question – so let’s start through the decision points.

2) How are you going to use this boat?
Do you plan to fish small ponds? Jump from place to place after work? Will you haul it on top of your car, in your truck, or on a trailer?

3) If you are looking to use the yak for short periods after work and for exploring your local environment then buy light – especially if you will be loading alone on top of your car.

I suggest a Wilderness Tarpon 100 or 120

4) If you plan on fishing exclusively then you have further questions to deal with.


5) What is your body type?  Are you short or tall? Are you round or thin?  Are you a runner or a lifter?  Bad knees or bad wrists?

Great legs but arm issues – Then you may have to commit to something a little more expensive but very proven.

The hobie outback

The hobie pro angler

The Outback is the all around Hobie platform.  Peddles well, fishes well, good for marsh or open water.  The Pro Angler is more of a comfort boat but works extremely well and is extremely stable.  I would strongly encourage demoing all boats before you buy but these are great options if they fit your budget.

However, if you are looking to fish I find the Wilderness Ride series to be the best boat on the market for value, and function they are hard to beat.  I’ve been fishing from “Wildies” for a few years now.

And the Ride 135 is the boat for me.
There are a number of options and price points for the Ride all are great.  Why?  I’m 6’3″ 235lbs.  Every kayak decision for me is driven by this fact.  Most boats are just not big enough for me.  The Ride is big enough for me and my copious amount of gear:

Pictured in my Ride 115x

So if your body type is “large” you need to buy accordingly!

Lastly I mentioned fitness level.  I’m not an athlete but I paddle often.  Take care of your body and it will take care of you.  If you have health issues take it slow.  Again you might consider a lighter kayak to build endurance in.  The great thing about Kayaks is you can often resell at a great return.  You can start small and upgrade later.  I own one for every family member.  It’s a great family activity.

Hope this helps!