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First Portage with a Kayak | MN Bass Fishing

A few weeks ago I set out on my first major kayaking adventure. Being a twenty-something-year-old woman alone in the woods is one thing, but portaging over a beaver dam to get to an entirely isolated lake... Well, that's another.

When I was a kid, my family would camp out on this very remote chunk of state land. There was once a public access, though few people ventured to it, that has long since been overrun by the mischief of beavers. When I discovered that the access road was completely inaccessible due to the flooding caused by the beaver dam, I made it my goal to one day buy a kayak and portage to the long-forgotten lake from my childhood.

This year I knew it was time to take on this adventure. I purchased my kayak, a Perception Access 11.5, and got acquainted with it. I practiced paddling, I did some bobber fishing off of it and got ready for my first big adventure. With my kayak strapped down and secured, I headed to the old road (if you can call it a road, it's now more of a glorified four-wheeler trail,) and found what was left of the access road. I found a spot to park in the trees and unloaded the 56-pound kayak. Once I loaded it up with all my gear, I was ready to make the trek to portage the flooded access road.

Before I could set off, the sound of a four-wheeler engine roared through the woods. An older gentleman rode up and said hello before turning off his ATV. Up in the backwoods of northern MN, it's not hard to find people ready to give you a hard time and I was prepared for this guy to do exactly that. I was pleasantly surprised when he turned out to just be a nice guy who was simply curious as to why anyone else was even out that way. We chatted for a bit and he asked if I was alone, to which I said yes. He told me to be safe and wished me good luck "catching dinner".

Once he rode away, it was time to make the trek. Paddling and portaging across the flooded access road and beaver dam was harder work than I expected. With all my gear loaded in the kayak, it weighed about 65lbs, which is quite heavy for a girl my size, but I was determined. After making the portage to the lake access I sat a minute to catch my breath. Aside from the wind blowing in the trees, there was nothing but silence and serenity. I was ready to hit the water and catch the monster fish I had been dreaming about.

The wind was strong and I didn't have a depth finder so I knew I had to be cautious on the lake. My dad had told me all the best spots to hit, but once I was paddling, the wind started throwing me every direction but where I wanted to be. With little memory of the lake's structure, other than some old sunken fishing boats, I made my way against the wind to what looked like a decent bass spot.

I tried throwing spinners and buzz baits to no avail. By this time the wind had started drifting me out of the reeds and towards a point with a downed tree. I decided to try a new strategy. Crankbaits. I threw on a crankbait and cast it out beyond the point with the downed tree. My first cast came back with nothing so I threw it out again, towards a little deeper of water. Almost instantly, I felt the tug of a fish. It hit hard but didn't put up much of a fight. That is until I saw it and it saw the kayak. A big largemouth bass was on my line and dove underneath the kayak, bending my medium-heavy rod over so far I thought it was about to snap. I had a net with me but was too nervous and excited to reach for it in fear the fish might get off. After a short fight, I was able to lift the bass into the kayak. I was shaking with excitement and a feeling of accomplishment. My first kayak bass.

It was at that point that I was kicking myself for not bringing a scale, but I knew from my past experiences and years of bass fishing that the largemouth in my lap had to be 4-5lbs. I was grinning ear to ear as I unhooked the crankbait and snapped a photo with my fish, which I learned is incredibly hard in a kayak without a selfie stick. I released the bass and gained my composure. By this time I had drifted almost halfway back to the access so I had to paddle back to the point. After a 10 minute battle with the wind, I cast out a couple of times, and BAM, another big largemouth of the same point. I was thrilled, I had done exactly what I set out to do. This fish seemed slightly bigger than the last, but still, put up very little of a fight. I could tell these fish were lazy and not used to being caught.

After another round of battling the wind after releasing the fish, I noticed the waves were getting worse and I would be forced to wrap up my adventure. I circled back to the point and cast out one more time. A heavy hit but no fight made me think I had snagged a log, but then it happened. The fish jumped. It was a massive largemouth bass. Much bigger than the previous two I had caught. I was shaking and this time prepared the net. I got it up to the kayak and swiftly netted it. When I reached to unhook it I was in awe of the size of its mouth. A true bucket mouth. I could easily fit my entire hand inside of that fish's mouth. After taking a photo, and kicking myself again for not having a scale, I released the monster fish to swim (and spawn more like it) another day.

I sat there in my kayak, drifting back to the access, filled with gratitude and pride in myself for doing what I had been dreaming of for years. I tossed the crankbait out once more, but only a small northern decided to bite, so I decided to call it a day and head back to shore. I sat for a while, enjoying the evening while taking in the view of the lake that had only lived in legend for so long to me. I made the portage back to the car, completely exhausted. As I paddled the last stretch of flooded road, a beaver came within 2 feet of my kayak, scaring me as much as I had scared it. With a flap of its tail on the water, it disappeared into the red, iron-stained, water. I loaded my kayak onto the roof of my SUV and headed back to the cabin. My first kayak adventure was a complete success.

Needless to say, I can't wait to get out there again and chase more monsters...


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