Back in January I was walking into a diner in Bull Shoals, Arkansas for some awesome hole in the wall breakfast and got a phone call from Texas. The voice on the other end was familiar though we’d never spoken to each other before that day. If you’ve seen Low and Clear, JT Van Zandt is the owner of that voice. We started talking boats and options. I was entertaining the idea of a Hog Island and was really impressed by all I’d seen on the internet about them. The drop test, the chainsaw cutting the boat in half and it still floats, and the shotgun test all peaked my interest. After speaking with Blane Chocklett, Alvin Dedeaux, and a few other people about this particular boat, I was pretty set on picking one up. I’d looked at other fiberglass and aluminum boats but decided that a roto-molded polymer boat would be tougher in the environments I fish and so far, that’s been exactly what I expected. I love that there’s no seams, no glues, and basically nothing to get line hung on unless I bring it into the boat. It’s stable, even with two adults standing on one side. Like Step Brothers, THERE’S SO MUCH ROOM FOR ACTIVITIES!
So back to the story. I had planned to go to Austin to buy JT’s new boat from him and do some fishing. Nature has a way of throwing curve balls and sometimes you gotta just roll with it. Not like you can do anything else when the rivers decided to turn to chocolate milk as you’re driving from Indiana to Texas. JT had to run trips on the coast that weekend but the boat was ready for me in his driveway. All I had to do was show up. My buddy Josh came in from Wisconsin and rolled with me. That’s a long drive. Texas is a country in and of itself. I’d always heard that and now that I’ve experienced it, completely believe that statement. We got to see Bobby Bosway and his lady friend for a few minutes while in Austin and then it was back on the highway and off to Missouri to fish with my homie Jeff Trigg of Ozark Sweetwater Guide Service. I knew Josh and Jeff would get along, knowing some of their past and all, and we had a hell of a good time fishing smallies on River X, one of Jeff’s rivers that consistently produces great fish. For real, if you want to experience beautiful scenery and hungry smallies you need to book a trip with Jeff this summer. His new Towee with a jet is able to run into some of the skinniest of waters on that river. We fished two days and then hit the road back to Indiana. By the time I walked in my front door Josh and I had spent 34 hours on the road together. We hadn’t killed each other which was a bonus.
I got the boat registered and all that fun jazz and hit the river. It was blown out and looked like Ovaltine but I got to stretch the Tohatsu’s legs and get a feel for it. It was lovely. The rivers came back like they always do and fishing has picked up. The first fish I put in the new ride was a solid pre-spawn smallie. My buddy Andrew dropped a few fish in the boat that day too.
The river temps have fluctuated from 58 to 64 multiple times the past few weeks with releases but Sunday after getting dumped on 5 times, a bite window opened up and the fish came alive on poppers. So good we fished one stretch 3 times and picked up fish every float through it. That’s a good day and even better on that stretch. This week, the Pro-Loks oar system will be here, then comes a trolling motor, and a few other toys over the winter to finish out the boat and this thing will be unstoppable.
I’ve had quite a few folks ask why the switch? Personally, I wanted drift boat room in a skiff. I think at the end of the day, you have to make your own choice on the type of boat you want to spend your fishing time in. You should take people’s opinions and then spend some time forming your own by research or spending time fishing in the boats that you’re interested in.
Huge thanks to John St. John and JT Van Zandt for everything. You guys rule.
The adventure continues…