Guest Contributor Joe Carberry reached out to the anglers on the NRS Fishing Team, pried a little into their background and lifestyle to show us that in the end, although these guys are spending that 9-5 grind hunting for and hooking up massive fish, in the end, they’re just down-to-earth guys who’ve realized—one way or the other—how to turn a passion into a career.
Robert Field (The Road)
Robert Field has no home. Well, he has a home but it’s a travel trailer that goes wherever the fish are biting. This is the way it’s been for Robert over the last five years as he’s worked to make kayak fishing his life. He first got into the sport when a long-term relationship came to an end and he needed something more. “I started fishing from a kayak and fell in love with it,” he says. “Three years later, it was my full-time job.” Now Robert produces a weekly YouTube show, boasting some 90,000 subscribers.
So you got into the sport pretty fast. How have you found the learning curve?
I’ve had a few funny moments. Five months after I started fishing I thought it’d be a good idea go out in the ocean off Texas and fish for sharks. Alone. I landed a six-foot black tip shark. I’d had the kayak anchored down but I unclipped when I caught the shark. The seas got rough while I was fighting it; I didn’t know a tropical storm was rolling in. That’s how much of a newbie I was.
I was looking for the float anchor line that I was attached to when I lost focus and flipped the kayak. The bait lid was open so I’m floating in a pool of mullet blood and chunks. The visibility is two inches. It took me three minutes to get the kayak righted. A lady from the beach saw me flip and sent the Coast Guard. I was fine by the time they got there but I produced a vid called Eight Golden Rules of kayak fishing highlighting all the stuff I did wrong. The video has 5 million views.
What has been your best day on the water?
One of em’ was in Portland, Oregon during the pilot season of my show, Field Trips. I was driving from San Diego to Seattle, fishing the whole way. We were fishing for salmon on the Columbia River, so I was using light tackle and 25 pound test line. I hooked a 275-pound white sturgeon and fought it for two hours as it towed me up and down the river. She breached 50 feet in front of me and I didn’t know what it was. The entire experience was amazing.
Tools of the trade: “The Chinook PFD makes my life so much easier. I use it even when I’m not in a kayak. You can store your rod while you’re changing gear. It just organizes you.”
Chad Hoover (Tennessee)
Chad Hoover is a storyteller. And he tells those stories by going on adventures and bringing his YouTube audience with him. Using a small crew of filmmakers, mostly whitewater kayakers, he brings imagery and lip-ripping action to fishermen everywhere.
So, is your YouTube channel mostly about teaching people to fish?
I teach people but it’s more like entertainment, ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’-style. I concentrate on the inspirational aspect of it all, making people want to do what I do with high-end imagery, drone footage and slow-mo.
Sounds like you love rivers? We can relate.
I’m a kayak bass-fishing guy. My favorite thing is fishing rivers—they’re harder to film because you’re constantly moving and you have to really choose your spots to get footage. But for the tranquility of it, getting away from people, the skill it takes, catching fish out of moving water, I love it.
You’ve had some pretty crazy—and hilarious—moments in your kayak. Want to share a few?
I’ve seen all sorts of things in remote areas, like people running for their lives in domestic disputes (that was scary) to getting lost in the dark and fog and unknowingly sleeping a few feet from my truck (that sucked). The most funny was when I was fishing off Virginia Beach and all of a sudden my stomach flipped. I had to go to the bathroom.
So, I laid my pants across the kayak and slipped in for an aqua dump. When I finished, hanging on to the side of the kayak, I looked up and my pants were gone. Nowhere to be found. It was 7:30 am when we left the beach but we came back at 2:30 pm and the beach was full of people. I didn’t have anything to cover up with so, I just said, ‘f*** it’ and landed the kayak like I owned the place. Now, normally it takes a couple of trips to the car to unload all my gear but I made that a one-and-done deal. Beachgoers got a good view that day!
Tools of the Trade: “The Chinook, hands down. I love all NRS gear but the Chinook is a wearable tackle box with everything I really need, right at my fingertips. And I’ve seen it save people’s lives.”
Jameson Redding (North Carolina)
Jameson Redding has made chasing fish his life. Whether small mouth bass in his home state of North Carolina or redfish on the Gulf Coast of Florida, he’s ready to go after whatever is biting at a moment’s notice. And he’s done that by becoming as proficient behind the lens as he is in front of it, using self-taught cinematic skills to propel his life on the water.
How did you get into kayak fishing?
Living in North Carolina, I was always looking for ways to access places to catch small mouth bass on rivers. Whether that was wading or using a canoe. Then two buddies and I got kayaks. One thing led to another and I started fishing tournaments and fell in love with it. Now I make a living at it and it’s been almost a decade. I think the connection with fishing from a kayak is very intimate. When you’re in a regular boat, you’re not gonna get pulled around by a fish. In a kayak, it’s the perfect balance of chaos, dealing with current, wind, fish, and keeping up with the tackle. A bad day of kayak fishing is still a day of kayaking.
What was it about filming and camera work that drew you in?
I realized early on that no one truly just fishes for a living. It’s about what you can offer: either you’re winning tourneys or doing public speaking. I kind of started playing with cameras and enjoyed capturing the great moments as much as being a part of it. I went to the Google and YouTube schools of editing and filming. I got a lot of advice from producers and videographers and incorporated that advice into what I was doing.
Like the Jackson clan, you’ve taken your family on the road. How does that work?
A lot of athletes travel with a trailer and camp/sleep in a hammock or tent, but I don’t feel like that allows you to ramble and chase opportunities. You’re always trying to come home when it’s happening somewhere you didn’t expect. When my wife got pregnant with my son two years ago, I didn’t want to miss his growing up so we made the leap last year to a full-blown Class A motorhome. Living on the road is such a challenge but it’s fun. I don’t miss opportunities to go where the fishing is good and I don’t miss seeing my family and watching my kids grow up. We’re still figuring it out to make sure the balance is there—I have a tendency to chase every fish—but it’s working and we just added a daughter to the mix so this season should be interesting.
Tools of the Trade: “I love the Sidewinder Bibs for cool weather and cool water and I have the Chinook PFD rigged with everything—from line-cutters to radio—and it’s there for me in case of emergencies.”
Ron Champion (Georgia)
We’re pretty sure Ron Champion has heard this before, but could a tournament fisherman possibly have a more suitable surname? Especially one with a record like Ron’s? The Tennessee native who now lives in Richmond Hill, Georgia with his wife and two children is one of the best kayak fishermen in the competitive bass fishing realm and pretty much feeds his family off tournament winnings. “I’m a diehard tourney angler,” he says. But what, exactly does that mean?
Kayak fishing tourneys have taken off?
In 2014, the sport really made a jump. It seems like every year since the payouts have doubled. I focus on higher profile events with the most media coverage. I fish out of a glass boat and do it well but I just enjoy fishing out of a kayak. It’s made me a better angler. Fishing out of a kayak makes you slow down and learn the area you’re in. And it’s a lot of travel but it’s worth it, especially since the money has gotten a lot better.
So, the sport is kind of like golf. You have to really study the places you’re fishing and almost use an analytical approach, right?
Lake study is key to winning. Just like golfing, you’re reading a green—fishing is the same thing only you’re reading what the bottom of the lake shows you. I had 16 different state fishing licenses last year so I’m fishing waters I’ve never fished before. In shallow water, you can pretty much throw out a beer can and catch fish but once you hit ledges in the bottom where it moves to deep water, it’s a whole other animal. For big events, you put a lot of study time in, using Google Maps and researching the places you fish (in regards to bait and tackle and what works).
What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you during a tournament?
You’re not a true kayak fisherman until you’ve flipped your first boat. I’ve been flipped three times and I’m a big dude so it’s hard to get back in. The first time I flipped at a tourney I was in a hybrid canoe/kayak and I hadn’t been out 10 seconds when I went in. I had no extra clothes and I was out for eight hours in 45-degree weather. I froze to the bone and it was the most miserable fishing day of my life.
Tools of the Trade: “There is not a better lifejacket on the market for a 6’4”, 315-pound guy than the Chinook. And the Boundary Boots are pretty much everything I need as far as footwear goes.”
Brooks Beatty (North Carolina)
Brooks Beatty is a lifer. He’s been fishing near his home in Charlotte, North Carolina for as long as he can remember and has grown up in the fishing industry. And while he may not be front and center, fishing every tournament, he’s become an influential force in the sport.
So what’s your niche in kayak fishing?
I’m with Jackson Kayak Media House and work full time on video production and photo work across the industry. I miss the tourney scene, though. There’s a lot of traveling involved with filming. And it’s not like you just win a paddle or kayak at tournaments anymore. You can win life-changing money.
What is your favorite aspect of the sport?
It’s kind of a two-part answer. There’s this awesome tradition of community: for example, these boondoggle events where kayakers get together and everyone’s cooking great food and hanging out, socializing at one spot. It’s like summer camp for kayak anglers. Then there are the rodeos, where 15 or 20 people will do an overnight float on a section of river and just fish and camp. Overnight fishing trips are amazing and in my mind, kind of embody what the sport is all about.
It seems like weird things always happen on the water?
There’s always crazy stuff happening: I’ve almost gotten caught in strainers, I lost my kayak, had giant, 10-point bucks cross the river in front of me. About five years ago I was out with Chris Funk, Paul Lebowitz and Drew Gregory down in Florida and I was throwing this frog imitation out and this owl kept swooping down to try and capture it. It would grab it and if I didn’t pull it back it would have flown off with it.
That’s Mother Nature, though. If you don’t go, you’ll definitely never know.
Tools of the Trade: “The Sidewinders are up there. They’re key when I’m filming and I’m really impressed with how breathable and tough they are. Plus the Osprey inflatable paddleboard is fun to fish off of. “
Gene Jensen (Georgia)
Gene Jensen is a teacher and there’s no doubting his ability to get people amped on fishing. The YouTube celeb has found a niche in the sport that wasn’t being filled, creating a place for himself in kayak fishing that would be tough to replace these days.
What’s your favorite type of fishing?
My personal favorite are the trips where I’m learning stuff that I can then teach people what I’ve learned. I was recently down in Louisiana fishing for redfish. I’m not a huge redfish angler, and as I was learning how to fish for them, in my head I was figuring out how to put a video together to teach other people.
Your students (viewers) get pretty excited about your stuff.
Yeah, the most rewarding part of my job is when people message me something like, ‘you helped me catch my first fish,’ or ‘you helped me teach my son how to fish.’ In my book, there’s nothing better. There really are a lot of dads out there that want to take kids fishing and don’t know how. My goal is not to be a kid’s hero, but make the parent the hero by teaching them how to fish and pass on that knowledge.
How stoked are you on being able to teach fishing for a living?
I was shooting X-rays in a trauma room at a hospital before I started this. I never hated that job. It was always fun. Teaching kayak fishing was never a plan. It honestly just happened. I saw a need in the fishing industry to teach people how to fish. The industry had forgotten to do that. Everybody was trying to sell product without teaching people to use it. I’m a good fisherman but I’m a really good teacher. The business kept growing and I thought, ‘maybe this will be something I could do for a living,’ Turns out, I can.
Tools of the Trade: “The Chinook, I absolutely love it, and the Guide Pants are awesome, too. NRS just needs to make them 38” waist and 32” length. Ha!”
Editor’s Note: Guest contributor Joe Carberry is a writer, editor, and producer who has been covering action and outdoor sports for nearly two decades.