Big Baits & Bigger Fish

Old Town, ME – By day, Daphne, Alabama-based Hayes Anderson punches the clock as a railroad mechanic. But come evenings, weekends, and vacation days, Anderson’s hunting trophy fish — often driving all night to make the water at daybreak.

For Anderson, that means rolling the windows down when it’s cold, blasting Led Zeppelin at ear-splitting levels, and pounding straight black coffee by the gallon — anything to stave off white line fever.

A rare breed of angler, the steely-eyed Anderson is willing to go anywhere big fish live, and would rather fish for one key bite than numbers of smaller fish. Yet, the self-taught angler is as humble as he is intense, giving credit where credit’s due.
“A little over a decade ago I was living in Kansas, fishing from the shore, and investigating small boats out of necessity. I graduated to float tube fishing but had a common sense moment when I moved to Alabama. There I was fishing, my legs and feet dangling around sharks and ‘gators! Then I stumbled onto a kayak fishing forum, and I couldn’t get on the kayak train fast enough. At the same time, I was reading and watching everything I could find from big bass gurus like Mike Long, Butch Brown, and lately, Oliver Ngy. And the guys in the Swimbaitunderground forums were super helpful,” says Anderson.

A couple entry-level price-point kayaks later, Anderson met a local kayak angling club organizer and Old Town pro while fishing a local river.

“We got to talking trophy fish tactics, became friends, and he helped introduce me to Old Town kayaks, and it wasn’t long after that he urged me to apply for Johnson Outdoors Watercraft pro staff, which I never would have otherwise.”

Looking back, Anderson’s glad he did. “These days, I’m fishing from the Old Town Predator PDL, which has a rock-solid pedal drive capable of 5.5 mph. That gets me to spots quickly and both my hands are free for fishing. What’s cool is it’s like riding a bicycle, but you also have reverse to back fish out of gnarly cover or hold tight on a spot.”

Anderson’s most recent big fish junket — a 14-hour drive from Alabama to the deep and turpentine-clear coal tailing pits of central Illinois — is a good example of what can be accomplished from an Old Town Predator PDL on little sleep but precise, hands-free boat control.

“I’ve never experienced anything remotely like the Herman Bros.’ Giant Goose Ranchnear Canton, Illinois. Located on nearly 1000 acres, they offer 52 lakes, all with different species. For me, it was the perfect place to fish big bass and muskies. I caught five bass over five pounds, incidental wipers to 10 pounds, and a 40-inch muskie! Funny how things turn out … I flogged that water pretty good with giant swimbaits, but caught the muskie while bass fishing with a 12-inch plastic worm, 40-pound fluorocarbon, and a medium-power St. Croix Bass X rod.”

From the epic struggle sans leader, catching sight of the toothy critter boat-side, to landing and hoisting the fish in his Predator PDL, Anderson says he now understands what’s called “muskie fever”.

“Everything about it intrigues me; the apex predator itself; the giant baits; limited windows of opportunity; and the solitary aspect of the pursuit … Not sure I’d fish for anything else if we had muskies in Alabama. I cannot wait to fish muskies again!”

Knowing Anderson, that’ll be sooner than later. And with fall fast approaching, it’s very much the season for his style of power fishing. Indeed, big baits equal big fish.