For the third shoot of the season, I was excited to pack up my gear and hit the road to the first state in the United States – Delaware. What better place to begin my inaugural visit to this beautiful region than Lewes, the first official town in that first state. Being a coastal state, Delaware is full of diversity when it comes to fishing. I was eager to try my hand at both fresh and salt while in the area. Home to Delaware Paddle Sports, another one of Jackson Kayak’s premier dealers, and home to anglers Matt “Trucks” and Matt Campbell, I knew this trip wouldn’t disappoint.
After settling in and having a few drinks with Trucks, we hashed out a plan for our first morning on the water. One of Jackson Kayak’s original Fishing Team members, he has this area dialed in and suggested that we hit one of his favorite saltwater creeks to target striped bass. Inshore fishing has always been one of my biggest passions, especially in the tidal creeks because it reminds me of river fishing. You have to play the tides and the currents, which here on the east coast change every six hours. You really need to plan around them. I also know how aggressive even small striper can be, so together it makes for a deadly combination. Even though this day was set to be some of the worst weather we would have the whole trip, with cooler temps and high winds, I could still barely contain my excitement as we set out early the following morning.
Armed with my medium-heavy Rainshadow Judge, 30lb Seaguar Smackdown, 20lb Seaguar Gold Label fluorocarbon leader, and some white Z-Man swimbaits we hit the water. The tide was still moving in, so we made our way into the creek with it. It didn’t take us long to start marking fish with our depth finders. Enticing a bite, however, was a whole other story. As the day went on and the tide started to flip and come out of the marsh, water temps began to warm up. This caused the fish to become a bit more active with Trucks and I both hooking up.
Hooking up doesn’t necessary mean reeling in, and whether it was the new location, semi-lethargic fish, or simply my incompetence, I only managed to bring one fish to the side of the kayak before losing it. Trucks, however, seemed to have no trouble landing fish after fish. I have to admit I fully expect the people that I fish with, being locals and great anglers, will ‘out fish’ me the majority of the time. That, however, doesn’t change my desire to figure out a fishery. But knowing that the fish were eating while I was struggling was a hard pill to swallow.
After battling it out for a few more hours it was time to throw in the towel and head over to Delaware Paddle Sports to meet up with Matt C., and shop owners Brian and John.
As I mentioned, Delaware Paddle Sports is one of Jackson Kayak’s premier dealers and it did not disappoint to see it in person. With a huge selection of kayaks, and a dedicated and community-oriented staff, it was no surprise to see it so busy when we arrived. I think one of the coolest things about being there that first day is that they had just received their very first shipment of the brand-new Jackson Kayak Knarr! On top of that, one of the first Knarr owners was on his way to pick up his kayak. Rudy Yarworth, a chapter coordinator for Heroes on the Water, had seen that the Knarrs were arriving at Delaware Paddle Sports that day and he drove up from Maryland to snag one. Being able to be a part of that…seeing his excitement…was for sure a highlight of the trip.
After hanging out for a little while at the shop we decided to grab some dinner and hash out a plan for the following day. Matt C. would be taking over as guide, sharing one of his favorite small lakes for largemouth bass.
I try not to set any expectations when I’m on a fishing trip and to always keep an open mind. The next day of fishing, however, blew me away. One of the coolest things about kayak fishing is that it allows you to access to unique locations that bigger boats can’t reach. We drove for about an hour we reached the small lake accessible only by kayak. To be fishing a small lake full of cypress trees this far north, was something very special.
The entire lake was littered with cypress trees which all looked encouragingly ‘bassy’. I spent some time throwing a Chatterbait and topwater before swapping over to a Z-Man Zinkerz. I finally began to find success by casting as close as possible to the base of the cypress trees, sometimes even bouncing it off the trunk of a tree. Matt C. and I both landed countless fish including a few of my least favorite species, the chain pickerel. Slimy, stinky, and toothy, it is one fish I do not mind losing next to the boat! Most of the bass were small, although Matt landed a pretty nice one at around 3lb. With the scenery and the abundant wildlife, this beautiful location made me realize that kayak fishing is really is not only about the fishing.
The following morning it was time for something completely different. Joined by Rudy in his new Knarr, Trucks, Matt C., and I launched off the beach to chase a “new-to-me” species. Tautog, or Tog for short, is currently the only known member of its genus and is found on the stretch of the east coast from Nova Scotia to South Carolina. I literally had to do a web search because until this trip I had never heard of Tautog before! You can imagine my curiosity and excitement at the opportunity to catch a new species.
There were a couple of rock jetties, or walls, creating breaks from the Atlantic Ocean to the shoreline that we had to go around on our way out. These were tipped with lighthouses that made for a very scenic and historic peddle out to sea.
Knowing nothing about this species of fish, I put all of my faith in Trucks’ knowledge and he had me step out of my comfort zone of mostly throwing artificial baits. That morning we had stopped at a tackle shop before launch to pick up sand fleas. Sand fleas are small crustaceans only slightly larger than a quarter that apparently Tog love. Having teeth very similar to a sheepshead, practically human looking, the Tog feeds on crustaceans that live in the rocks making these sand fleas a delicacy to them. Feeling totally out of my element jigging a live bait directly under my kayak along the rock walls, it’s no surprise that Trucks was the first to hook up on the target species. Matt C. was able to hook and land a toadfish, or what the locals call an “Oyster Cracker”, which I would’ve been hesitant to touch. I’ll let you use google for that one.
I was left fishless watching Trucks catch Tog after Tog. He was the only one fishing that had a motor on the back of his kayak and he was able to use his Torqeedo to maintain perfect boat position. I believe this, combined with his knowledge and experience, allowed him to stay in the strike zone longer. After watching Trucks for a while I decided to focus on holding boat position the best that I could and it paid off. I was finally able to bring one of these tasty Tog fish to the net! Having the skunk off the boat, it didn’t take long for me to catch my second and much nicer Tog of the day. At this point the weather and current was beginning to pick up, and we knew it was time to make our two-mile trip back to shore. We made our way back to the house and shared fish stories over tog tacos.
The next morning Matt C. and I met up to hit the water with Delaware Paddle Sports owners, Brian and John. I couldn’t help but want to redeem myself after my lack-luster performance on the first day of fishing on this trip. The weather was much more favorable with warm temps and lower winds, and we hit the water with high tide. After making our way into the creek a bit we stopped at the first major intersection, and after a few casts it was official…. I had caught a striper in Delaware! Using a mix between Z-Man Diezel Minnowz and a white Chatterbait, we proceeded to have an epic morning full of laughs and juvenile striped bass. Every intersection and small creek mouth produced a bite, and my revenge was sweet. I must admit, I found it difficult to get off the water that day, but I did enjoy the afternoon spending a bit more time at the shop and having dinner with the staff and everyone from the trip.
Delaware did not disappoint. Whether you’re looking to explore cypress tree filled lakes, or go offshore to check off a new species, you should consider adding this diverse fishery to your bucket list. Also, be sure to check out Delaware Paddle Sports. They truly have every kayak and accessory you can imagine, and they are experts in rigging it to fit your needs.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I found success on the same setups I’ve used all season. One of the realizations I’ve come to over the years is that I can pretty much catch anything on the same six, or seven, rod and reel combos. For the live bait Tog fishing my go-to was a 7’2” medium-heavy, fast-action, Rainshadow Eternity with 30lb Seaguar Smackdown braid, tipped with a 30lb Seaguar Gold Label fluorocarbon leader. On this we ran heavy jigheads with live sand fleas. For everything else, I threw a mix between this rod and a 7’ medium-heavy, mod-fast-action, Rainshadow Judge with 30lb Smackdown braid, tipped with 15-20lb Gold Label fluorocarbon. I found success on the wacky rigged Zinkerz at the bass lake and white Diezel Minnowz and white 3/8oz-1/2oz Chatterbaits. I exclusively fished out of the Jackson Kayak Knarr in every location. With changing weather conditions, and cool water temps in the Atlantic Ocean, I was able to stay super comfortable and safe wearing my NRS Sidewinder Bib Waders and the new NRS Sawtooth jacket. Being able to layer the NRS gear and stay dry was key with the changing conditions.
It never ceases to amaze me how awesome the kayak fishing community is. Both Trucks and Matt C., as well as Brian, John, and staff at Delaware Paddle Sports, went out of their way to share a little piece of their paradise with me. They made this trip one that I will never forget.
About Road Trip Angler: Jackson Kayak’s Road Trip Angler is a multifaceted media project designed to help showcase brands and products to a dedicated and engaged audience of avid anglers and outdoors lovers. Leveraging host Jameson Redding and Jackson Kayak’s significant dealer and consumer distribution channels to reach markets across the US, this show hits the road to find the best fishing in America in the coolest regions. Jameson Redding will explore the many fisheries across the US with the businesses and angler influencers who call these regions their home. Each 30-minute TV episode airs nationally across Bally Sports Network. Brand interested in partnering with Road Trip Angler are encouraged to reach out to Heliconia’s Partnership Manager, Malvin Young, at firstname.lastname@example.org.