This past Easter Sunday started off like most holidays at my house, with a little cuddling and giggling.

Then we headed out to the lake for some Easter egg hunting and visiting with family. It’s a beautiful spot in Central Virginia.

After all the festivities I ventured out onto the lake for a bit of kayak bass fishing. I’ve heard of good bass being caught in this 40 acre lake, from various family members, but I’d begun to question those reports, after many failed missions to find them. Today would be different. Everybody was out casting lines, the sun was out, and I was optimistic.

I paddled the Jackson Kayak Coosa HD out to where the creek rolled into the lake and started fan casting a Powerteam Lures Swinging Hammer trailing a jig. I wanted something big with some action to entice aggressively feeding fish. I found one within 20 minutes, when this big girl smacked my lure 5 feet from the kayak. After a little tail walking I got her on board.

For 10 years, while living in Boone, NC and Fayetteville, WV, I was heavy into hiking, rock climbing, and trail running with a little paddling sprinkled in.

I hadn’t gone fishing in a long while. I got back into it a little over 2 years ago, and it was kayak bass fishing that brought me back. It’s so dang fun, and the kayak fishing community in Virginia is pretty awesome.

Spurred on by the reports and photos of the many great Virginia kayak anglers, I’ve wanted to score a citation size bass in Virginia out of the kayak. When I pulled this big girl on board I knew I was close. Little did I know how close. I didn’t get a proper photo at first because all I’d brought on this quick mission was my phone, which I keep stashed in the pocket of my Ronny Fisher PFD. I was so anxious about losing the fish that I was hesitate to snap photos while out on the water, in the wind. I’d lost a big fish over the side of the kayak before; I didn’t want to do it again. So, I hooked her to my Fish Grips which I keep tethered to a Yak Attack track Mounted T-Reign Retractor, and slowly paddled back the short distance to my in-law’s house to get the camera and to show off the catch. ;)  Since getting back into fishing with this new found kayaking passion, I hadn’t caught anything over 5lbs.

I weighed her when I got to shore. She came in at 7lbs. 10ozs. It was a new personal best. I was giddy. Everyone came running down the hill to the water and my wife started snapping photos. She remarked that she hadn’t seen me this psyched in quite a while. “You’re so happy.” The kids all got super excited to go fishing. It was great!

As RMFC, aka Angling Addict, is prone to state, “I love this sh–!” During the chaos of congratulations and the quick photo session, I remembered that I needed to get a proper measurement to see if this bass was citation size. I slapped the bass down on the hawg trough, snapped a photo, and amidst cries from my wife to, “quit torturing that fish and just release it,” I let her go. When I took the photo I was certain it said 22″, the stated citation length for a largemouth bass.

After releasing that big girl I went back to fishing and managed a few more, but nothing of size.

That night, sitting on my couch with my wife, our girls safely tucked in to bed, I thought, ” I should check that photo and make sure it’s good.” I wanted that citation paper…

My mouth dropped open and an expletive escaped from my lips. Life affords you many lessons. This was one. In my haste, I hadn’t really looked closely when I snapped the shot, and now the picture revealed a fish that appeared to be just a tiny smidgen short of 22″.  An absolutely infinitesimal degree of missed opportunity. I was frustrated. Disappointed.

My wife asked,” It was your personal best. Does the fact that it’s not a citation make it less exciting or cool?”

It did. Not less cool, but a bit less exciting. Sorry. That’s the truth.

Don’t get me wrong, I was still very psyched, but I’m a competitive person, and I wanted that trophy paper I’d seen other anglers receive. My wife’s comment did give me pause though. It’s easy to get pulled into the hype train with social media, forums, etc. as this lifestyle/sport of kayak fishing takes off. But it’s important to retain that love of the process, the paddling out onto a peaceful lake or ocean, the excitement of your lure getting hit and of personal bests. Because in the end, that’s why we all love kayak fishing, or at least I do. It’s extremely personal. The intimacy we share with the natural world, the immediacy of that interaction on the water, is unparalleled. It is a great gift every-time we get to paddle out, with possibility beckoning, and this country’s great bounty at our fingertips.

Enjoy it folks.

Meanwhile, I’ll be out there chasing that paper, like a freshwater fishing hustler, trying to earn my stripes in a state and fishery, full of many talented, OG kayak anglers. ;)

And while this fish was a personal best, it wasn’t a monster by any stretch. But as the first big spring bass of my season, it got my heart pumping and put a grin on my face. I’ve got a long way to go to be the angler I wish to be, whether fresh or salt, but I want to say thank you to all who PaddleVa and continue to inspire and educate me in the pursuit of big fish. You guys and gals rock!!

See ya on the water!