The Rookie (Part 2)

By Darrin Collins

When I got to the ramp I helped a couple of guys launch their kayaks and then I wished them good luck. After all, wasn’t that what we were out there for? To encourage our fellow anglers?

With a quick launch I was in the water and immediately met by a wall of cold water and wind! It almost took my breath away. With ice cold hands and water splashing everywhere, I looked around and saw others struggling as they tried to bear down and paddle into heavy winds. Luckily, the wind was no match for the peddle drive and I began to make my way across the lake to my first of two spots I planned on fishing. My first spot was nestled in a cove and somewhat shielded from the wind. I posted here for 4 hours flipping into the cover to hope to net something worthy.

About 45 minutes into my fishing, I got a strong nibble on a trick worm rigged on a shaky head, with the tail dipped in some JJ’s garlic scent. OH! This was a big fish! Several times it pulled and bent my rod tip down and then I finally got him near the side of my kayak.

As I reached for my net, he pulled hard again and SNAP! He broke my hook off at the knot. Now there may have been several cuss words tossed about, but we’ll keep it PG13 here. I had seen the fish I needed and he was big. I estimated him at right around 18 inches, and knew I’d blown it! Netting several fish this size can place you on the leader board. There were 89 anglers at this event.

After several hours of throwing trick worms, craw baits, and Senkos into the weeds, I finally hooked up with my first fish. He wasn’t very big but beating the dreaded skunk was a relief.  It was around eleven o’clock so I had been fishing this spot about 4 hours. It was 4 hours of fishing in a box. I knew I had to get over to my second spot and hope for the best. Luckily my second location was close and I ended up tucking myself in between several boaters and 4 other kayak anglers from the tourney. This was the location where I had luck throwing a wacky rig Senko. I knew what needed to be done!

As I started out, my second cast was gold, into a rip-rap wall and BOOM! The eighteen incher I was looking for was hooked, and it came flying out of the water. Fishing with light tackle is always fun but the wacky rig gets my heart racing. Especially when you’re trying to bring in a bigger fish. My heart skipped a beat but I continued to work the fish, and soon he was in my net and then in the boat. I sighed in relief; I’d caught two of my five fish. Maybe we were finally getting somewhere.

I continued to work my way down the rocky wall, and came up to another boat; I asked the two gentleman if they mind if I cast behind them, opposite of the direction they were working. They said, “Yeah go ahead,” and next cast I’m hooked into a sixteen inch fish. And like his bigger friend, this one came flying out of the water too, giving me a heart attack. It flop once and then a second time as I worked him on my light rod and reel. After a few minutes I got him into the net, the third fish in the last hour, and was suddenly sitting on three decent fish. The wacky rig was putting in work.

So with three fish and nothing else biting, I began making my way to the boat ramp. I hoped for another fish along the way, and continued throwing a wacky rig into the grass line. It paid off, somewhat. I caught a small legal fish which gave me another 12 inches, for a total of 77.5 inches! I’ll take it.

I learned several things from my first event.  First, don’t give up!  I can’t stress this enough. Mishaps are gonna happen on the water but you have to be able to re-focus your attention on the task at hand.  Second, pre-fishing is key. I would have been clueless coming into this lake without some good research and trying to learn the patterns of the fish. And third, always pack accordingly. Our weather went from the 40’s to the mid 70’s throughout the day.  I went from cold rain gear in the morning with waterproof gloves, to an SPF long sleeve shirt, SPF gloves, and a face shield for most of the rest of the event.

I ended up in 19th place originally, but after some errors were discovered in the overall scoring, I was bumped down to 24th. I told myself I wanted to finish in the top 20.  Not sure if as new as I was, was that even feasible?  I almost made it, and it makes me wonder, what if I had caught that first fish?

There isn’t much time to dwell on it, though, because it’s time to focus on Grapevine Lake, the next stop on the tournament trail.

Lone Star Chronicles – Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Fish

Note: A native Texan, Darrin Collins calls Fort Worth his home. He works as an EMT-Paramedic with Careflite Ground Services, and when he’s not working, he enjoys the outdoors and being a father to his three boys.

Darrin also hosts a YouTube channel highlighting his kayak fishing adventures and helping beginning anglers get into the sport. You can find him here as The Paramedic Yakker (

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