There are those of us who live and breathe fishing. We do it in the midst of busy work and family schedules. Well, Sam Cushing is one of these anglers. Sam is keeping himself busy by spending lots of time fishing, studying hard as a pharmacy student, running a kayak tournament trail and staying active in Maine’s fish conservation efforts. He is a little busy but seems to be loving every minute. I stole a few minutes of Sam’s time to learn a bit more about everything he is doing.
Lets start with the new Hobie kayak. The rig looks amazing. What Hobie kayak are you fishing out of? What went into selecting that particular kayak for your fishing?
The new Hobie is amazing! It is a Hobie Pro Angler 12 in Papaya color. I fished from a starter kayak the last 2 years and decided this was the year to make the big upgrade knowing full well I am committed to the sport. I knew I wanted to be in a Hobie and no other pedal kayak for a number of reasons.
In short, the Hobie is a fishing machine, priorities for me included a large open deck, pedal drive, comfortable and stable, and good use of storage options. The Hobie has one of the largest decks, the mirage drive is unmatched by anyone, the vantage seat allows me to fish 12 hour days with ease, anyone can stand in this yak, and the large rear tank well and front bucket hatch are awesome.
Regarded as the top of the line angling kayak by many out there it may not for everyone and it’s an investment for sure…but it was definitely the right choice for me. Being in a Hobie can also “open other doors” for an angler looking to commit to the sport and be competitive. One of the ultimate goals would be to be recognized by Hobie and fish for the Hobie team but that’s years down the road.
It looks like you have already some modifications and additions. What have you done to the kayak to make it more fishable for you?
I’m not one to have a ton of accessories on the kayak because I prefer to keep it clean and free of clutter when I’m fighting a fish and swinging my rod around the front of the kayak. That being said there are always some key things that I need in place to make fishing easier.
The first thing I did was add an anchor trolley which is a must for any kayak to stay in position in the wind. Second, is the custom PVC rod holder behind my seat. The Hobie comes with built in rod storage on the sides or rod holder accessories for mounting but I prefer all my rods behind me to avoid clutter on my sides. When it comes to kayak fishing modifications, everyone will tell you they should have also bought stock in PVC as well.
You worked with Three Belles Outfitters. Where is this kayak shop and how were they helpful in getting you setup in your Hobie?
I did! Theo at Three Belles Outfitters in Niantic, CT was actually the one that put me in my new Hobie this year. They are located right on the water and have every model available to demo and/or loan right then and there. Three Belles Outfitters is also the largest stocking Hobie dealer on the East Coast so you can trust they have whatever you’re looking for in stock.
I sought out Three Belles Outfitters when I was looking to connect with a Hobie dealership that I could form a partnership with and not just purchase a new kayak from. There are a number of dealerships that are closer and even within the state for me but Three Belles Outfitters simply does things no one else is and does it better. Coming from someone that works in a retail setting, the way to best your competitor selling the same product is simple, excel at your customer service. Three Belles Outfitters’ customer service goes above and beyond and what they offer speaks volumes about them. They make sure you are getting exactly what’s right for you, offer free rigging of your kayak, have a dedicated fishing team with members always assisting in the shop and offering advice. If someone is looking to get into a Hobie, they should check Three Belles Outfitters out, pick up the phone and give Theo a call; drop my name and you won’t be sorry.
Fishing Maine from a kayak means that you are often fishing when the water and air temperatures are a bit cool. These can present safety considerations for kayak anglers. What are your keys to staying comfortable and safe when the weather isn’t warm?
Maine’s weather certainly isn’t for everyone but it’s definitely not the worst in my opinion. Spring fishing in Maine does bring about some safety considerations as anglers are so eager to get out on the water after ice out even though the long winters keep the water temperature very low.
Much like any outdoor activity it’s important to dress in layers with the outermost layer being the most important in this scenario; the PFD. I don’t consider myself Mr. Safety but I will always wear my PFD 100% of the time regardless of season, number of anglers accompanying me, known or unknown water. This is coming from a lifelong competitive swimmer who can still swim the mile. I personally wear an NRS Chinook and it’s the only PFD I need. I’ve swam in the ocean in Maine in February and I’ve had a canoe flip in April on a river, I’m fully aware of my capabilities but I don’t take chances. Aside from that I consistently wear a neck gator and fingerless gloves in every season; I have light and heavy weight ones for the cold and warm seasons.
What are your favorite kayak fishing waters in Maine for bass?
Many of the places I love to fish are those usually accessible strictly by kayak or small vessel and consequently those that I prefer not to be advertised. I prefer to take my chances more often than not and fish a small pond that takes a mile to reach by river or stream than launch at the local lake.
Some of the waters I do enjoy that I don’t mind sharing include Little Sebago Lake, Hancock Pond, and Horne Pond. I’m the fisherman that would rather go out all day just to catch the one big one rather than hundreds of fish. Those waters mentioned are all a little bit different, vary in size dramatically, but are great fisheries to catch a number of species even outside of bass.
You are headed for a Maine lake in early summer that has both largemouth and smallmouth. What are the setups that you are taking on the average day?
If I’m headed to a lake to pre-fish for an event, I will treat it like an event as well. The local trail that I run and fish allows 6 rods to be brought each time so that’s exactly what I bring. I never feel cluttered and would much rather have more rods with different baits pre-rigged. I consider myself a power-fisherman and I prefer that style especially starting an event. I may have a Spinnerbait, Flippin Jig, Hard Swimbait, Mid-depth Crankbait, Senko or some soft plastic, and some kind of top water, spook, whopper plopper, popper. Each rod setup is specific to technique.
Same question but let’s make it later summer. How do your summertime strategies differ from your June approach?
I guess the only differences between early and late summer would be what baits I have pre-rigged before going out. I may have a Spinnerbait, Football Jig, Mid-deep Crankbait, Senko or some soft plastic, Hollow Body Frog, and some other kind of top water.
How was your 2016 kayak tournament season?
The 2016 season was great! It was the first season an established kayak bass fishing tournament trail was run and it provided a great start for the sport to grow up here in Maine. I connected with the organization New England Bassin in late 2015 when I was looking to get competitive and signed on to run a kayak/small boat trail in Maine for 2016. We only averaged about 6 or so anglers each event but it was a blast and definitely one of the highlights.
Our 2017 season is already underway and we have basically tripled in members competing with even more interested for 2018. 2016 finished up with a qualification to the KBF National Championship and a road-trip to CT with some good friends to fish the NE Bassin Regional Championship on a body of water new to me where I placed 1st and took Lunker on a very tough day of fishing for everyone. 2016 really gave me a boost to my fishing resume and allowed me to pursue connections with some companies this year.
What are your goals for your 2017 kayak tournament season?
My goals for 2017 include:
1. Pursue some connections to companies I wanted to work with, check! With some I’m still pursuing over the year.
2. Upgrade the kayak to a Hobie, check! And in the process formed an amazing connection to Three Belles Outfitters
3. Run a successful 2017 NE Bassin trail in Maine, in progress but already looking great with so many new anglers.
4. Qualify for the 2018 KBF National Championship. I’m also most looking forward to fishing some of our own events on lakes I’ve never fished as well as the New England Bassin Championship in New Hampshire this year on a water still TBD.
5. See Maine implement a trophy fish recognition system based on length to increase recognition for big fish while encouraging anglers to catch + release. The Maine Sportsman currently runs the program based on weight by certified scale and game wardens signature. My letter to the editor was just featured in the June edition and is showing strong support.
6. Did I mention that I’m a full-time Doctor of Pharmacy student beginning my final year of pharmacy school? The ultimate goal is being able to accomplish all of this as a graduate student in the midst of clinical rotations and preparing to take my licensing exams.
Who are your sponsors and companies that you represent?
There a just a few companies I am currently working with to help represent and grow however, none of them are sponsors in the traditional sense. Most notable is New England Bassin. Thanks to owner Jamie Verab I was able to get started in the competitive scene and bring a competitive kayak fishing trail to Maine.
Theo Maryeski of Three Belles Outfitters, as I mentioned, was instrumental in getting me into a brand new Hobie PA 12 as an upgraded kayak. I can’t see myself finding a better outfitter to work with or connection to make as I grow in the competitive scene; this is seriously a place everyone needs to checkout if they have the slightest interest in upgrading to the best of the best.
I also represent Limit Out Lures and strictly use their custom painted crank/jerkbaits. Owner Matt Monahan is a stand-up guy who has some serious talent and isn’t looking to take anglers for all their money to get some high quality painted baits.
Swagger Tackle Co. is who I utilize and represent as my tungsten weight company because they simply are unmatched when it comes to cost and quality, they’re one of the cheapest tungsten companies that create a product superior to any others I’ve tried. Everyone is welcome to use and share the code: sam10% to receive a discount.
Lastly, I am in the midst of working with Cast Local, a brand-new startup clothing/lifestyle brand dedicated to supporting local home waters and sharing information around the states to help other anglers succeed.
All of these can be found via their pages on Facebook or online with a simple search. I am always looking to connect with more companies and form strong relationships for the future but I am certainly not eager to fill up my fishing resume with just anyone. I prefer to work with local companies and those who have a superior or innovative product with which we can both benefit from.
Rocky Ledge Tackle and owner Jim Migliozzi is next on my list in terms of companies I would love to help represent in a more established relationship. He hand-pours incredible lead-free baits that everyone needs to checkout. I ditched all my spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, and swimjigs to go with his products.