This spring has been a great time to further test out the Old Town AutoPilot 120 on my home waters in the Menominee River and Cedar Rivers. I was fortunate enough to get on the water with a couple different customers thus far, and really enjoy the time. On my first outing in 2021, I went with Caleb, who Captained his brand new Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot 136. Initially, we targeted the Cedar River (about 45 minutes from the shop) only to find out after launching that neither one of us had the shear pin installed in the prop. After buzzing back home to get the tackle box of parts included with our kayaks, we then proceeded to the Menominee River and tried a few slack water spots that generally hold fish. It was early in the spring, though, and the air temperature that day (38 – 40 degrees) was lowering as a front of cooler air was moving back in. I was able to connect on a smaller Northern Pike that just gave a reactionary bite; unfortunately, it wasn't hungry. That day gave us a chance to check out the features on the new Old Town Autopilot boats, and we were both satisfied with our new purchases.
Fast forward to a mid-week trip at the Cedar River last week. Talking with anglers at the launch about catching 7lb + Smallmouth Bass, Jay Swille and I were excited to get on the water. Jay was paddling his 1-year-old Old Town Predator MX, and I was back on the AutoPilot. We headed for the mouth of the Cedar and started on the north rip-rap outcropping. I used a Get Bit Baits 2.75 Black (leech) tube, 3/8 3 0 insert, and Jay running the same, but with a Green Pumpkin Copper Fleck. I had one bite within the first 5 minutes at the point and then worked for the 2nd. Both were around the 1.75 to 2 lb range. I moved to the opposite side of the mouth because the wind was starting to pick up and was pushing bait towards the rip-rap. I connected with a 3rd smally, but I was on my secondary poll that had a monofilament on it with a less than an optimal knot. It broke off just as I was reaching for the YakAttack Fishing Net! All the while this hot action was taking place, I noticed Mr. Swille was eerily quiet. He did manage to get some pictures of me climbing the rip-rap after an errand cast bombed into the very top of the rocks. He also got another shot of me attempting to take a picture of one of the basses from the mouth. Jay suggested going up to the cut and making a couple of casts along the way. He had switched up to a 3.5" tube and was getting some attempts, but nothing to hookset. It was a quiet paddle to "the cut." This section of water is just inland of the M-35 highway bridge and can house some real monsters. I was excited because this is about the area that I caught my PB a few years ago at 6.5lbs. My first cast: ….. snag. All of a sudden, Jay gets excited. He caught AND landed his FIRST Smallmouth Bass! I wasn't at all worried. I had him beat so far. We both continued into the cut, admittedly Jay in the lead. Then without warning, Jay started hammering the Smallies! I managed to land one additional prize before Jay started pulling away like a Ford Mustang against a Chevy Aveo.
He is used to tournament fishing, and it clearly showed. In the end, I enjoyed the experience and was glad we were able to connect on 12 smallmouth bass that day in some of the most comfortable fishing vessels on the market. We didn't land a 7lb bass (nor did anyone else we spoke with at the launch), but we had a good time outdoors. Jay's largest bass was about a 17," and without a scale, we were guessing 3, maybe 4 lbs.
Our next trip: Vortex Optics Factory Tour. If I get a chance, I'll do a blog on it. Until then, Tight Lines!