It's back to Maine for another Kayak Angler Profile. This time it's Jason Gardner. While I always complain about the miles I put on my Tahoe each tournament season, Jason is a true road warrior. We first met at Toledo Bend, which isn't exactly the southern border of the Pine Tree State. Jason is a cold, deep, clear water angler which adds a completely different perspective for some of us. Jason is also very active in growing the sport of kayak tournament fishing in the northeast. So kick back, grab your favorite reading glasses, and let's see what Jason has to say.
Jason Gardner Topsham, Maine
Have we fished together yet? If so, do you remember where?
In the same tournament, yes, at Toledo Bend, but never saw you out there until the awards ceremony when you introduced yourself.
What kayak do you use for tournaments?
Hobie PA 14. I call her Hobie Dick. My son actually came up with the name. It’s perfect because so many people think that people with Hobie’s are stuck up and that we think we are “better” than everybody else. Although that may be true, I’m living proof that I’m not better than most people.
When and why did you start kayak bass fishing competitively?
I started 2 years ago when my buddy, Jason Burden, started talking to me about tournaments in Tennessee where he lives. I started googling tournaments in Maine and came across Sam Cushing and NEBASSIN. I now direct the trail once Sam left to finish school. These guys became friends more than competitors and I never turned back. Sam was a huge help getting me to be a better angler. I owe a lot to him and Burden.
What are some of your accomplishments that you are most proud of in the sport?
I haven’t accomplished anything yet. On paper I have qualified for “big” events. The 100 and the KBF National Championship, but I didn’t do very well in either. I would say its bringing a KBF Trail Event to Maine this year. The Northeast is the red-headed stepchild of fishing. Nobody gives us a chance. So I’m hoping to get 50+ people at this event and show people we have numbers up here, and we can fish. Having Mike Elrick catch an 8+Lb TOAD at the NC and cash $7,000 helped give us some cred too. LET’S GO PEOPLE, SIGN UP!!!
What are some of the companies that you are sponsored by or pro staff for?
What is your biggest fish to date and what did you catch it on?
I was fishing in this small pond in Maine that my buddy Matt McGee told me holds big fish. Fished that place with Matt all spring and caught tons of 15” fish. Went back the last week in June and threw a Senko next to a log in 3 feet of water. When I jigged it up, I felt a thud. Thought I hooked the log, until I started to pedal forward and the fish dove under the log. Fought that pig for a while and when I got it to the yak, I had no net and had to boat flip it. 23.25” and 7lb2oz Largemouth. Maine record is a little over 10lbs, so that is a giant for us. I was shaking and dropped it in my Hobie 3-4 times trying to get it on the Hawg Trough. It was out of the water SOOO long, and my buddies were down the pond from me. Embarrassed to say the only picture I have of it is on the trough. I was so afraid it was going to die from being out of the water so long, I just got it back in and let it swim away.
What are your biggest challenges either during tournaments or leading up to a tournament?
I have a couple challenges I’m trying to work on. 1. Fishing water deeper than 15’. 2. I am a Senko ninja. So I struggle using anything other than Yamamoto Senkos when things are going good. Meaning when I am catching fish on Senkos, why leave them? I know I can catch bigger fish on jigs and swimbaits, but I’m catching fish. That’s like leaving fish to find fish.
Sleep in the car, arrive the morning of the tournament, or grab a hotel?
Car or morning of. Fishing is expensive enough, so I try to save where I can.
One piece of equipment that you wouldn’t consider fishing a tournament without?
Senko count as equipment?
We all have preconceived notions of what we were getting into before that very first tournament. Have there been any surprises along the way for you? If so, what were they?
The only surprise has been the cost. People think you can just go out and make money. I’m hoping to break even on my tournaments, let alone the cost of my tackle and such. Last year I had made money in tournaments, until Toledo Bend, that trip was expensive.
Who is one person you would love to kayak bass fish with?
Have to list two. It’s a tie. Even though I have only talked to him online, a couple of times, Corey Dryer. I am a huge fan of his. The other is Jason Broach. Does that guy catch a fish under 25”?? Both of those guys can flat out fish, and I think I could learn a lot from both.
What body of water is your favorite to fish a tournament on? Why?
I’ll fish anywhere. No favorites. BUT I prefer to fish clear water with wood, and rock piles. If a place has those, I’ll catch fish.
Are you an old school “rely on my instincts” angler, or do you employ technology more in tracking down where you are going to fish?
Instincts. For some reason when I get to the water I just get a “feeling” as I survey the area. That I know “that place” has fish. I do bring up Google Earth before a tournament to see if I can find island/rocks/wood though and will go there first. I also like to go fish those areas at “the other end of the lake” because people don’t want to take the time to go there. They think they need to be on fish 5 min after the tournament starts instead of a place that takes 20 minutes to pedal too.
What would be one piece of advice that you would give to someone considering entering the sport?
Have fun, learn multiple techniques, don’t fish near me because the fish are probably on the other side of the lake, and don’t be intimidated to fish tournaments. Kayak anglers, for the most part, are a great group of guys that will share knowledge. I’ve never had anybody turn me away when I asked a question.