I so enjoyed this interview with Ryan Spuhler. Ryan conveys his passion for kayak bass fishing. We discuss all of it…fishing rods, why he loves kayak fishing, review of his Hobie kayak, electronics, his personal best bass, favorite places to fish and favorite beer as well. We cover a lot. So keep reading to learn all about Ryan.
First question is very selfish. The Dobyns Fury has been on the short list for a new rod for me. What model of the Fury do you have?
I only have one Fury rod and that is the FR 795 SB. It’s a 7’9” medium heavy fast casting rod designed for 1 to 5 ounce swimbaits. I think it’s a fantastic swimbait rod. For the price it’s hard to beat. It retails for $119.99 and for that price point it is incredibly light and balanced.
I was looking for a swimbait rod that wouldn’t break the bank that could throw a wide range of lure weights. I found it in the Fury series. It does have a sweet spot for lures like every rod does, and I found that to be between 1 3/4 and 3 ounces. With that being said it is still more than capable of handling lighter and heavier swimbaits. Its versatility is unmatched as it is designed for swimbaits.
I also use it to throw larger top water lures, like the Megabass I-Loud and Whopper Plopper 130 as well as some deep running crankbaits like the Rapala DT16 and 20. I would highly recommend giving it a try. I also hear that Dobyn’s warranty is fantastic and they stand behind their product…but I hope I never have to find out!
I’d say it’s right up there in comparison with higher end rod manufacturers. The build seems solid and the rod is constructed with higher end components. It’s holding up great thus far! I’ve had no issues with it, and I would recommend this specific rod to anyone who wants a versatile rod to chuck swimbaits and larger top-water lures.
When did you start kayak fishing?
I started kayak fishing in 2014 which is right around the time I started bass fishing in general. The Maiden Creek is located just outside Reading, Pennsylvania. You could easily wade into the creek and it was loaded with Smallmouth Bass. It had very nice pull-offs to park your car and even a small parking lot at one end. The accessibility was amazing. I must have fished that creek weekly all of 2013 into 2014.
One day in 2014 I drove over to the creek to hunt for smallmouth and the parking lot and pull offs were all fenced in and there was tons of heavy machinery there. Turns out the whole area was heavily polluted with lead from companies in the area dumping their old lead batteries around the creek. The state decided to remove trees and clean up the pollution. From that day forward I was looking and researching for a way to get off the bank and fish the local lakes.
I found that the most affordable and logistical way to do so was in a kayak. It was perfect for me because it wouldn’t take up much room at my parents’ home, where I was living while I saved up for my own home. I didn’t need a trailer to pull it like I would with a boat. I could throw it on top of my Subaru and store it easily in my parents’ basement. That September I drove to my local dealer and bought my first kayak, a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100. One week after that I caught my first Largemouth Bass from it at Blue Marsh Lake. It was a dink at only 12 inches but I was hooked after that. Kayak fishing quickly turned from a hobby into an addiction.
What do you consider the 5 best things about kayak fishing?
What I consider to be the 5 best things of kayak fishing is such a loaded question because it’s hard to say just 5 things about fishing from a kayak that I love. The fact that I don’t ever see myself fishing from anything but a kayak ever again illustrates just how much I love it but I will try my best to give the 5 best aspects of kayak fishing.
#1 – Ease of use with little to no maintenance: There is no easier way in my opinion to hit the water and fish. You can just throw your yak on top of your car or in the bed of your truck and go. You don’t need another person to help to load or unload, though it’s helpful. There is also no real maintenance. You don’t have to worry about forgetting to put the plug back in or if there is fuel in your motor. This also means you do not have to worry about the price of gas or if there is ethanol in the fuel you’re using. You have very little to worry about.
#2 – Affordability: It is the most affordable way to get off the bank and catch some fish. It’s as expensive as you want to make it. You can get starter kayaks for as low as 400 dollars or a tricked out yak for as much as 5k. It fits every budget. I know some bass boats are upwards of 70k.
#3 – Close proximity to nature: This is a big one for me. You sit down on the water. No engine noise whatsoever. Just the sound of your paddle hitting the water. It’s so peaceful. Without all the noise of the motor idling or trolling motor to scare the wildlife away you get to see some really cool things: Great blue herons fishing, turtles chilling out on logs, Muskies cruising along next to you, and Muskrats playing in the brush. It’s such an awesome experience to be at one with nature.
#4 – Accessibility: You can pretty much launch from anywhere as long as you can get your car somewhere in the vicinity of the water! You do not need to burden yourself with wondering if there is a boat launch on a certain body of water. You can pull off the road and drag your kayak to the water and launch from there. Not to mention you do not have to worry about the depth of the water. That really allows kayak anglers to get to places boats cannot go. If you hit a shallow spot you can get out and drag your kayak over the shallow area and keep fishing.
#5 – The culture/community: I know everyone says this but kayak fisherman are some of the most helpful guys around. Everyone is always willing to help answer questions and offer advice. The community really makes this a fun hobby. You meet any random guy and you find out he kayak fishes…you get this instant connection. It’s really cool. I haven’t really seen that in many hobbies.
What kayak are you fishing out of?
I’m currently fishing out of a 2017 Hobie Outback. It’s truly an amazing kayak. I guess I’ll start by explaining why I chose this kayak. When looking for a kayak you have to find the one that fits your needs. Everyone wants a Hobie Pro Angler and the Native Titan but if it isn’t a fit for you it’s not going to work.
I had a shoulder injury a few years ago and paddling and casting all day would really make my shoulder scream at me, so when I decided to upgrade I needed a pedal drive. Having to car top my kayak instead of throwing it in a bed of a truck or on a trailer really helped narrow the search. I wanted a stable kayak that wasn’t terribly heavy and wide because I car top two kayaks. I also wanted a kayak I could stand and fish in.
I found that in the Hobie Outback. It weighs in at around 84 lbs so it’s a bit heavy but can easily be cartopped. It also has a pedal drive. What’s nice is it has the Mirage 180 pedal drive system which is one of the best in the industry. It uses fins instead of a propeller which allows you to use the pedals in extremely shallow water and doesn’t get tangled up in weeds. It also has pull cables to flip the fins backwards so you have a full speed reverse. Most propeller drives give less than full speed while in reverse. I fish extremely shallow and I would be in trouble if it wasn’t for the reverse of the 180 Drive. It really comes in handy as well when you hook into a big fish because you can back your kayak out and pull the fish out of lay downs or brush.
The Vantage CT seat is also very comfortable. It has multiple adjustment points located around the seat to fit everyone’s comfort. The adjustments are also located in areas which you can reach while on the water for real time adjustments without having to get out of your kayak to adjust. The seat has both a high and low seating position, however, I use the low 90% of the time. The high seat position is good in aiding with standing up and returning to the seated position. On top of all that it allows for truly hands free fishing. You don’t have to worry about keeping a hand on your paddle while fighting a fish.
The stability is amazing. While it’s not as stable as its big brother the Pro Angler, with some practice you can easily stand and fish from it. It’s also incredibly maneuverable. As I stated before, when fishing really shallow maneuverability is key. I upgraded the rudder to the larger sailing rudder and she turns on a dime. The kayak is also loaded with predrilled holes for easy through-hull wiring for fish finders and other electronics. It’s very well thought out.
With all the good things to say about the Hobie Outback no kayak is perfect. It lacks a lot of storage and deck space that the larger pedal drive kayaks have, but with a proper crate system it is easily manageable. It also doesn’t have the ease of standing and fishing as large kayaks have. As I said before you can do that in the Outback with some practice. No one kayak is perfect for everyone. I recommend test paddling/pedaling every kayak you can and really think of the design aspects and components that are most important to you.
You have a Lowrance on your kayak. What unit are your running?
I am currently running the Lowrance Elite 7ti with a total scan transducer. I absolutely love it. The screen is large enough that you can see three different images at the same time yet compact enough to fit a kayak perfectly. It’s also a touch screen which makes navigation a breeze. The unit comes as a plug and play unit without a lot of set up. The most I had to do was change the scroll rate to fit the slower speed of a kayak. After a few minor changes to dial it in for your needs you are good to go.
The total scan transducer is where it truly shines. Side imaging is a must have for shallow water anglers like myself. I fish a lot of dirty water that has very low visibility and with the naked eye you miss a lot of the shallow water structure. The side imaging allows you to see the structure you would normally miss. For example I fish a lot at Blue Marsh lake and before I had side imaging I missed a few submerged lay downs in a particular cove. This means I was missing fish. I had no idea the logs were there. I pedaled into the same cove with the Elite Ti and I saw them. I was able to catch fish I normally would have missed. There are a ton of great units out there from different brands that are all fantastic and basically have all the same technology. My advice would be to make sure your unit has side imaging because it has made such a huge difference for me.
Tell us about the best day that you ever had in your kayak chair?
I’m sure everyone says this but literally every day I’m on the water seated in my kayak and not my office chair or my couch is truly the best day. If I had to pick the best day out of all of them it would have to be this last August when I caught my personal best largemouth.
I was on my home water, Blue Marsh Lake, doing what I usually do and that’s fishing the shallows with a jig. I ended up hooking into a monster bass for that lake. Fought him to the surface, saw him, and the knot failed me. The line snapped and he was gone. Blue Marsh is a hard lake with very few catchable larger bass so I figured that was my one good fish of the day.
I retied on another jig and kept throwing it out there and ten feet from where I lost that fish I hooked into another big one. This fish didn’t fight as much. I netted him and he looked massive. I pedaled over to a take out to get out to measure the beast so I wouldn’t lose him if he decided to fight when I had him in the measuring board. He was my personal best measuring in at 20.75 inches in length. What made this my best day wasn’t the fact that I caught my personal best largemouth but when I held him up to take a picture he thrashed and I dropped him on the ground. When I bent over to pick him up again he spit out my first jig. So not only did I catch my personal best but I caught him twice within 5 to 10 minutes and got my lure back!
What are your favorite souteastern PA bass waters to kayak fish?
I’m a true lake fisherman. I’ve only ever fished rivers from the bank and since I have a kayak I have not fished anywhere but lakes. I should mention I am currently saving up for a kayak specifically designed to fish rivers as I hear the Susquehanna River is gnarly for smallmouth bass.
I frequent Marsh Creek Lake, Chambers Lake, and Nockamixon, which are all great for different reasons. But my favorite lake I fish 90% of the time is Blue Marsh Lake. I’ve referenced Blue Marsh quite a few times in this interview so it’s easy to see that it’s my favorite Lake.
It’s about a ten minute drive from me and it’s become a bit of an obsession for me. The lake gets a super bad reputation and it’s commonly referred to as the Dead Sea. I heard from numerous anglers how it’s a junk lake with no fish. It is super pressured and I suppose that’s why it’s more difficult to figure out. From late spring to summer it’s a hive of activity from anglers and pleasure boaters alike. The water is heavily stained with very few grassy areas. The challenge is why it’s my favorite. Each time I’m on the water I learn something new about the enigma that is Blue Marsh. It’s a tough lake to figure out, but once you do it’s a real joy to fish there.
What do you consider your top techniques?
Oh this is a funny question. I tend to lack patience and finesse in every aspect of my life expect fishing. I love finesse/tiny flipping jigs and the Ned rig. I love throwing tiny baits. The key to being successful is simple for me and comes down to me telling myself to slowdown. Flip a jig to some cover and let it sit for a second before you hop it again. I fish fast, and likely too fast, so I have to constantly tell myself to not retrieve it too quickly. It’s a very simple way to fish and it’s the first technique I learned when I started to bass fish.
I have since moved on to other techniques, like crankbaits and spinnerbaits, but the finesse fishing is by far my favorite especially with our super pressured waters in south eastern pa. I try to learn a new technique each year. This coming season I’m going to invest my time concentrating on jerk baits and big jointed swimbaits. That’s what makes bass fishing so much fun. There is always something new to learn.
What new bait have you collected over the winter that you are most looking forward to using this year?
I actually have two baits I’m super stoked to throw this season and both are by Megabass. The first one is their top water lure the I-Loud. It’s a single jointed bigger propbait designed by ITO Engineering. It’s a rad looking lure which is what really made me want to try this bait. It has this crazy low-pitched, loud, knocking noise as you retrieve it which is heard in the fish’s lateral line. This causes the fish to strike.
The other bait which has me super pumped to throw is the Dark Sleeper. It’s a compact hybrid between a jig and a swimbait. It was designed for fish that are holding super close to bottom structure. The hook is between the lure’s dorsal fin so it is already weedless and will cut through grass with no problem.
As I stated above I’m a finesse jig junkie and this bait seems to fit the bill in its compact size and killer action in the paddle tail. I plan on throwing this as I would a jig to shallow cover and just popping it off the bottom, working it back toward me. I ordered the bait on a whim and when I saw how compact it was and the action of the tail I knew this bait would be deadly!
In 2018 after you catch your new PB largemouth, are you drinking bourbon or beer?
As much as I enjoy a nice bourbon after fishing I always kick back by a fire and have a nice craft beer. I’m a fan of anything hoppy. Nothing beats a nice fresh IPA or Double IPA. I prefer to keep it local with hoppy beers as they do not last very long. My go to post fishing beer is hands down Victory Brewing Company’s Dirt Wolf Double IPA. It’s brewed in PA and is always amazingly fresh.
Please call me Ryan when you get that next PB. I will buy the beer. Ryan can be followed on Instagram @ yakn610.
Read More about Kayak Fishing Blue Marsh Lake: A Kayak Angler’s Guide to Fishing PA’s Blue Marsh Lake