Shane Davies – Brazos River Kayak Fishing Guide Interview E-mail
Friday, 23 October 2009 09:10

Shane Davies – Brazos River Kayak Fishing Guide

Every now and then we meet people who really get it. We meet them in all walks of life. For our purpose here at KFM we’re interested in fishing and specifically kayak fishing. I’ve had the opportunity through my kayak fishing journey to be exposed to a great many people. Before kayak fishing I remember when I first became friends with Crazy Alberto (a well known Northeast fisherman). He had it. The guy could catch fish. He knew what it was all about. That’s how great fishermen are. That’s not me. My strengths lie in other places which have helped the sport. While I’m a good fisherman, I’m satisfied with being good at it. Part of it is my wanderlust. I enjoy fishing new places for new species and this doesn’t condone itself to learning one place or specifics well. Also I don’t go the extra couple percent that takes it to get to the final level. I recall when I spoke with Jeff Little several years back. He had it too. DC in Florida’s another. Recently we had an article about Drew, and while I haven’t spoken with him you can tell he’s of the same ilk as the rest of this group. Dean Thomas, who I got to spend time with in March on my Texas adventure, has it too. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this is all leading to the fact that Shane belongs in the group. Even before we spoke I could tell. All you have to do is read some of his posts and catches on TKF to understand this. The guy is a fisherman and knows his craft well. What’s great is he’s also a guide so you can join him fishing and benefit from his expertise. He uses kayaks in his guide service and has some outstanding accolades. In his home water’s of the Brazos River he’s both caught and led clients to some impressive catches. Included are a few records.

Shane’s going to start submitting a guide report with us each month. We’re thrilled to have him aboard. He’s well known in Texas and as you get to know him through his reports and other contributions to KFM, you’ll see what I’ve learned. I can’t wait to wet a line with him as I felt as if I was chatting with a kindred spirit.

1) How long have you been a guide and when did you get into kayak fishing and why?

First let me extend my grettings, from the Middle/Upper Brazos River, TX.
Next, I'd like to thank the good folks at KFM for giving me the opportunity to let folks know about the kayak fishing paradise we have here on the Brazos River, located in North Central, TX.

I am the Owner and Operator of River Run Guide Service. I have been a licensed Texas River Guide both full and part time since 1994. I specialize in guided kayak fishing trips and really have been enjoying the recent surge in popularity our sport has received on the inland impoundments and rivers of Texas. I have found this to be especially true in the last few years. That is what I've noticed, anyway.

Please, don't misunderstand. I have not always guided out of kayaks. I started guiding out of a 16x8 Panther Airboat powered by a GM 454 big block with a Holley 850 double pumper. We have a shallow water fishery here on the Brazos and at the time, it seemed like the best way to cover water. Then, about five years ago, after a year of field testing a sit on top design Ocean Kayak Scrambler XT Angler Edition, I came to what has turned out to be, the conclusion that completely changed the way I fish... Forever!

I found that when I fished from a kayak, I covered less of the same water and fished it more methodically with better results. Also, the combination of a stealthy approach and a proper presentation angle afforded me from a kayak, has helped me catch more and bigger fish.

Quite frankly, after 20 years of chasing Texas’ most popular game fish in the shallow, clear waters of the Middle/Upper Brazos River, I have found no better way to sneak up on big, wary river fish than from a kayak. If there was...I'd be using it.

2) What kayaks are you using and why?

My first fishing kayak was an Ocean Kayak Scrambler XT Angler Edition that I absolutely put through hell on the Brazos and along the Texas Gulf coast from High Island to Padre Island National Seashore. Other field testing and general use and abuse sessions were conducted on the Red, Canadian and Illinois rivers in Oklahoma. The Scrambler XT Angler Edition is perfect for what I do. I've caught more species of fresh and saltwater fish from my original Scrambler than any other kayak. Everything from 5' Bull Sharks to 18 pound, record breaking Hybrid Striped Bass. In fact, I still have my original Scrambler that I affectionately refer to as the "Battlescar Gallactica". Man, that kayak has some great mojo on it! I also have several other Scramblers in my fleet that get almost daily use in my guide service. Customers like the fish-ability, comfort and overall versatility of the Scrambler and I like the open cockpit design, rod holders, and deck rigging - in addition there’s below deck storage with a Gaspachi Hatch. At 12 ft in length and great stability, it's a kayak that is suitable for all but the largest of stature. However, I also have an Ocean Kayak Malibu II. The Malibu is a real payload workhorse that I utilize with larger customers. A couple or a parent and young child can fish together comfortably out of one, as well. I also like the Malibu II on river overnighters and live bait striped bass trips. Also, I carry all of my kayaks overhead, on a custom camper shell rack I installed on my truck. Since the Ocean Kayaks are designed to stack, it is a big plus as well. I also have a Heritage Fisherman Pro 14 that sees regular action. It is often my personal choice when I go on Brazos River bass trips. I did a little custom crate rigging to gain some above deck storage. IMO, it paddles and tracks better with the least amount of effort in shallow, flat water. It isn’t a large payload or rough water boat. However, I'm 5'9" and 140 pounds and it suits me or one of my smaller customers just fine.

I forgot to mention I own a 17' Old Town Discovery Canoe? Some of my first paddling in the Brazos Basin was done from one of these "Clydesdales". I guess that’s the "Old School" paddler in me, coming out. lol

3) What’s your season?

The Middle/Upper Brazos River is very much blessed to have a year around fishery and extended growing season that allows the fish to thrive throughout the year.

North Central Texas has had some very mild winters in years past. This helps with the overall comfort for my winter kayak clients. It also offers some of the best fishing of the year. Especially for our migratory guests such as Striped Bass, that have been displaced from Brazos River Impoundments and found their way into the River and eventually settled in as residents.

4) What species do you catch?

The Middle/Upper Brazos River features some of Texas most popular gamefish. Species we encounter include Striped, Hybrid Striped, Largemouth, Smallmouth, Spotted and White Bass. Other species include Channel, Flathead and Blue catfish. Freshwater drum and several species from the gar family can also be encountered.

shane

One of the many great attributes of the Middle/Upper Brazos River is its ability to produce a fantastic multi specie bite during a day’s fishing. It is not at all uncommon to catch up to eight species of river fish on one of my "Wanderlust" trips, where a wide variety of game and non game fish are targeted and caught with a wide variety of native baits (fished on circle hooks) and a wide array of artificials. I also have my die hard river bassing customers who are interested in nothing but a CPR "Brazos Slam" or CPR "Trophy Brazos Slam". The "Brazos Slam", as I define it, is when a Largemouth, Smallmouth and Spotted Bass are each caught by a single angler, during the course of a day’s fishing on the Brazos. I like to add "Brazos Trophy Slam" as an additional angler achievement when the 16" mark is exceeded on all three species. The "Trophy Slam" is special, in IMHO. I have had more than my share, personally. However, I still get a chill when it all comes together for a customer or guest. It's like the "first time" happening all over again. Frankly, I can't get enough of it!

Targeting the Striped Bass that inhabit the Upper Brazos is a specialty of mine. Some of the largest Striped Bass ever certified by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept came from these waters. Several were caught by me or one of my customers in the mid to late 90's, when we had some fantastic big fish years. However, I was not present in 1999 when the current Texas State Record Striped Bass behemoth of 53 pounds was caught from the Upper Brazos.

We have a pretty amazing year around Channel Cat bite. In fact, in the last few years, we have caught more Channels between 30 and 34", than in 20 years previous. I don't specialize in catfish. However, they are great addition to the fantastic multi species bite opportunities we have on the Middle/Upper Brazos.

Flatheads and Blues in excess of 40", can occasionally round out the catch during fall and winter months, when I target them on certain areas of the Middle/Upper Brazos.

5) Tell us about your fishery?

The Brazos River, other than its impoundments, is a put and take fishery. In other words, when an angler fails to CPR (Catch, Photograph and Release) a fish of any specie, there is no stocking program that exists to replace it. The exception to this is a limited stocking of 8-10k Rainbow Trout annually in the Winter/Spring and a onetime stocking of Smallmouth and Florida Strain Largemouth Bass. Every other fish is either native to the Brazos Basin or has migrated into it during periods of sustained high water. Once in the River, the forage base is vast and the pickings are easy. River fish never have to move far for a meal. For this reason, I always put an emphasis on presentation. I have often said, "Nothing is better at taking bait out of a fish’s strike zone, than the angler." The water quality and salinity levels are high throughout the Middle/Upper. This has given our Striped Bass and Shad forage base a real boost over the years.

6) I don’t know many folks who have a cat slam to their credit. Why don’t you tell us about that?

Well, I can't say that I know of any other kayak CPR Trophy Catfish Slams either. The bottom line on that nighttime solo kayak strike was.... Being in the right place at the right time and ready for battle. It was Nov. 2008 and I had planned a trip into a very remote portion of one of the major tributaries of the Brazos. My game plan would be based on some very copious notes on a spectacular catfish bite I had experienced many years earlier, following a similar major flood event in the same area. I was simply looking for a repeat performance from the big cats I knew could be patterned following similar circumstances.

Shane

I was alone for this trip and actually went deep into the night to round out my trifecta of Blue, Channel and Flathead Catfish. After the dust settled, I had CPRd 5 Channel cats from 30-34", one 42" Flathead and three Blues ranging from 35-38". These cats were on an absolute rampage, destroying the biggest live and cut baits I could get in front of them. What impressed me was the average size of each species. Especially the Channel cats!
For the photo, I had managed to keep a 34" Channel, the 42" Flathead and a 35" Blue alive and in a portable holding pen in the river. Next, all were loaded into the kayak for a timed camera shot off the bow. It was pretty cool to get the Trophy Slam and the CPR. I'll remember that night for a long, long time.

7) You’ve had some great catches. How about telling our readers?

Well, I basically have divided the freshwater professional part of my fishing career into two time periods; BK (before kayaks) and AK (after kayaks).

Some of the great catches of my BK career had to be my first Smallmouth over 6 pounds in 1991, which actually Certified at 6.2 pounds and stood as the Brazos Water Body Record for a few years. My other notable catches include the first Striped Bass over 40 pounds to ever be certified from the Brazos River at 40.4 pounds. It also stood as the Brazos River water body record for a number of years until I guided Skeet Hooks to his 42.66 pound Brazos water body record Striper that replaced my record. I also successfully CPR a 41.8 pound Striped Bass from the Brazos in 1996 that stands as my Personal Best. Historically, my clients catch bigger fish than I do. I have guided my customers to eight Stripers over 40 pounds from the Brazos since 1995. According to Texas Parks & Wildlife Records, I am the only licensed Texas Fishing Guide to ever put a customer on a Certified Texas Striped Bass over 40 pounds. That was Skeet Hooks 42.66 pound monster Striped Bass in March of 1995. He was a fantastic customer and individual. Putting him on that Record fish ranks as one of my greatest personal achievements in my professional fishing career. To this day, the only fish that has ever been certified from the Brazos larger than Skeet’s, is the current Texas State Record of 53 pounds.

The highlight catches of my AK career would probably start with the 17.97 pound Hybrid Striped Bass I caught from my Scrambler XT in 2008. It is certified as the current Brazos water body record and also recognized by the State of Texas as the largest Hybrid Striped Bass ever certified from any Texas River. Since I only fish rivers, I'm rather proud of that fact.

My best Brazos Slam from a kayak was also a personal best Trophy Brazos Slam as well. It happened in early Feb. 2009. The Slam was made up by a 20.2" Smallmouth, a 15.4" Spotted Bass and a 23.3" Largemouth.

Then there is the Brazos Trophy Catfish Slam we talked about earlier.
I came within a fraction of an inch of breaking the Texas Catch and Release State Record for Largemouth Bass in July 2008 with a 26" Giant bucket mouth I CPR. That Largemouth was also a personal best for me.

Other notable catches include guiding my 9 year old son to a qualifying Junior Angler Texas State Record Catch and Release Smallmouth Bass of 20.5" from the Brazos on Father’s Day 2007. I also guided him to a qualifying Junior Angler Catch and Release State Record Striped Bass of 35.8 " from the Brazos in July 2008.

During one of my guide trips in Sept. 2008, a customer caught a 64" Longnose Gar that qualified for the Texas State Catch and Release Record and dimensionally rivaled the current and longstanding Texas State Record of 50.4 pounds that has stood since 1954. What was really spectacular about the Longnose catch was that it happened with a mouth hooked fish on straight 15 pound Suffix monofilament and no leader. Even with the circle hook firmly planted in the corner of the gars mouth. I don't know how it all held together. That fish went nuts as soon as it felt the sting of a hook and went on a 9 minute eye popping rampage that put everything and everybody to the test. Wild stuff!

 

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