Jerry McBride

Jensen Beach, Florida resident, Jerry McBride is a freelance author, photographer, television personality, editor, and representative of DOA Lures.  Further categorization of the man is a woeful and unwilling dance with understatement, for Jerry’s extensive resume is matched only by his larger-than-life personality and passion for the sport.  Seemingly born to be a fisherman, Jerry McBride is an angler whose biography, in part, is best told by the central character himself:

“My first memory is fishing on the family dock in Boynton Beach, Florida, with my grandfather, who lived across the street. The dock was situated across from the Boynton Inlet on the C16 Canal. When the locks opened two blocks upstream, snook would pour through the inlet to feed on the forage flushing through the gates. This was in the late 1950′s before AC was common, so neighbors slept with their windows open. The “popping” of the snook would literally wake people up at night, and fishermen would grab a plug rod. As I recall, my uncle, who lived next door, actually held the 12-pound line class world record snook for a couple weeks as a result. Anyway, I’m sure this early exposure to the water, and listening to the family’s prolific outdoor stories, had its effects on me.”

Jerry can currently be found teaching kayak angling seminars, working with the Hobie staff, and penning articles for leading outdoor media outlets, including Kayak Angler and Guy Harvey.

What drew you to this style of angling? When was that?

I’ve always been a solitary, sneaky angler – minus the kayak. Besides feeding, netting, and sorting fish at the hatchery where I grew up, one of my jobs at age 6 or 7 was to remove green sunfish from our golden shiner bait ponds. I performed that task with an antique bronze flyrod, sneaking along the shorelines, extracting them one at a time. My father bestowed upon me the exorbitant sum of 25 cents per 100 catches – that’s right, 4 per penny. It wasn’t quite union wages, but it trained my powers of observation and lure presentation. The tiny trout stream that wound its way through our property likewise demanded stealth and the ability to visualize how fish orient to current and structure. By the time I was 8 or 9, I’d disappear into the hills with a rifle or shotgun or flyrod for the entire day by myself, as my siblings and friends didn’t share my outdoor obsession. My style of angling today is just an extension of those early years of exploring the hills and employing youth’s fishing lessons. I derive a huge sense of accomplishment from the physical, self-dependent nature of solo kayak fishing. I have yet to find a downside to the sport; on the worst day, I get some exercise, I catch some fish.

Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a kayak?

I don’t remember the first fish I caught from a kayak, but I recall the fishing trip. It was blowing over 30 knots out of the southeast the day my first kayak (an open cockpit, scupper-free model) arrived, but of course I had to try it immediately. A hundred yards into 4-foot waves, I remember thinking I had just paid $900 to die on the maiden voyage. But I eventually made it to calmer water and remember catching a bunch of trout and bluefish. I came back with a lot of confidence in that little 10-foot, 18-pound Kevlar boat, and it still hangs, although unused, on the garage wall.

You have extensively written about the sport, and currently have articles published in numerous leading outdoor magazines.  Your writing style often deviates from the standard play-by-play narrative, and as such, brings with it humor, dialogue, and illustrative nods to the human aspects of the story.  Explain to us how it is that you translate a fishing trip into an artful tale.

First, my writing style undoubtedly reflects the fact that none of my college classes included a formal journalism course. I quote local experts so that if the information in the story doesn’t pan out for the reader, he gets to blame whoever I quoted rather than the idiot who wrote the article. If I manage to inject some humor into my work amid a few useful tips, it’s because fishing and teaching are still fun for me, and I try to fish with people who feel the same way. I hope that a chronological blow-by-blow account of how I caught 87 fish would inspire nothing more than a long, collective nap among true kayak anglers. The sport offers so many possibilities beyond the fish count.

What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?

Depending on the time of day, my radio is probably tuned to the news on National Public Radio, or I have some old JJ Cale cranked up. As for food, I like to cook. I’m told by fellow kayakers that my breakfast quiche is edible if you haven’t eaten for a week.

Who, specifically, is shaping the future of kayak angling?

I’m probably the wrong person to ask. I honestly don’t read many fishing magazines, and I never watch fishing shows on TV, so I’m not up on current trends. However, I get excited about the number of kids who attend my seminars, or more likely drill me with fishing questions on our DOA Lures Facebook pages. Just this week, a lady stopped by my office to share the picture of a snook her son caught the day after he was in my class. So I hold out confidence there’ll be someone enjoying the sport long after I’m gone.

With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you? What, if anything, can be done about them?

Fish management issues, both at the state and federal level, concern me a great deal. Here in Florida, we also face major water quality problems that aren’t being addressed, and we lack funding for effective law enforcement. State wildlife officials have recently made a couple of what I consider very poor decisions that failed to serve either fish stocks or the recreational angling community that is a major contributor to Florida’s economy. Federal managers, from what I’ve seen, rarely let actual science interfere with their edicts. Continuous regulation changes based on flawed data are leaving the average recreational angler bitter and bewildered. Recreational anglers–and there are millions of us – have been criminally slow to organize and take advantage of our collective strength to demand sensible fish management that favors us over commercial interests that generate little revenue but decimate fish stocks and habitat.

What makes a good fishing story?

Simple stuff – scenic backdrop off the beaten path, people with a sense of humor and some knowledge they’re willing to share, finding something unique about the setting or fishery, maybe having to overcome some unforeseen obstacle – fishing trips rarely go as planned. The most essential element is great fish pics. You can make up any crap you want if you have the pictures to back it up.

Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak angling trip?

I’ve always thought New Zealand would be interesting to fish, but I’m pretty easily amused. I still don’t sleep very well the night before I fish the same local water I’ve fished hundreds of times before. Every time I launch it’s a unique adventure, because each grassflat becomes brand new every six hours when the tide turns; that world-record seatrout could show up on the next cast. I’m headed for Hawaii and Guam in February, so it’ll be great to see new water, and I’m looking forward to a tour of Texas grassflats next spring with Mark Nichols. But I’m fortunate in that the Indian River Lagoon just down the road is the most biologically diverse estuary on the planet, and features the biggest snook and spotted seatrout in North America. So no matter where I travel, I’m always glad to slide my kayak back into my home waters.

What’s in your milk crate?

To me, the beauty of kayaking is the simplicity. The only time you’ll see my kayak burdened with electronics, rod holders, fish coolers and tackle boxes is when I’m teaching at an outdoor show. Otherwise, my gear typically consists of nothing more than the absolute essentials: upgraded seat, paddle, PFD, 7-foot Stick It Anchor Pin or homemade aluminum anchor, waterproof camera and two tow ropes. A pair of fast-action, lightweight 7-foot spinning rods, a spool of fluorocarbon leader and a plastic bag of DOA shrimp, jigheads and jerkbaits that fits in my shirt pocket constitutes the extent of my fishing tackle. I wouldn’t get out of the electric chair to fish with live or cut bait, so I’m not weighed down by livewells, aerators, batteries and castnets. I’d rather spend my time fishing than loading and unloading my kayak.

As editor of Florida Sportsman magazine, you spent a decade documenting the local outdoor scene.  With regard to kayak angling, what changes did you witness over that time period?

Kayak angling exploded in Florida during the last decade for a couple reasons. I think kayaks were seen as trendy toys among affluent consumers midway through the decade, and then when gas prices shot up and the economy tumbled, kayaks became an inexpensive means of getting on the water for the average guy. For whatever reasons, the end results are far more proponents of the sport, and exponentially more selection in kayaks and accessories. The coincidental rise of Internet forums during the same period certainly facilitated interest in kayak angling and the proliferation of related products. It also helped turn what I personally view as a solo sport into a group event.

Tell us about your best day on the water.

What stands out is that I can’t think of a bad day I’ve ever had kayak fishing.

A few year ago, I did a kayak camping/fishing photo shoot for an article with my kids. It started raining as I was trying to get them to smile while holding a redfish. I finally resorted to singing some really off-key songs through my nose to get them to laugh. Pics turned out great, the sun came out, and we paddled over to a nearby island and I cooked a fabulous shore lunch featuring fresh grilled pompano and homemade key lime/mango pie while the kids caught more snook and flounder. That was a good day.

What is the kayak angling lifestyle?

I remember one of my college professors stating that life is too short for sailboats. I’m guessing he’d toss kayak angling in the same category. Some days, my job demands the instant gratification provided by the internet, cell phones and maybe even 70 mph bay boats. However, I far more often utilize kayak angling as a major tool to perform my work, while at the same time it’s my refuge from intrusive modern technology – my mother always said I should have been born 200 years earlier. I tell my seminar audiences that no matter what level of fishermen they are, a kayak can make them better. Not because it is such a superior fishing platform, but because the speed limitations require them to put more thought into tides, wind direction, water temperature, lure presentation and all the other variables that good fishermen need to understand to be successful. For that reason, I preach the mental attributes of kayak angling as well as the more obvious physical benefits.

Tell us a story, any story.

Several years ago, my nephew and three of his friends from Creighton University visited me. I took them kayak fishing in a very pretty mangrove area north of here. They caught a few decent trout and I photographed them with a 30-inch trout and a 40-inch snook which I hooked. They thought holding those big fish was pretty cool, until a dozen manatees swam by. The stated goal of catching world-class fish went right out the window. They left me standing on an island by myself and followed that herd for over half an hour. You never know what people are going to value in a kayak fishing trip.

With regard to the sport of kayak angling, what are your predictions for the coming year?

Given the state of the economy, the popularity of kayak fishing tournaments, the number of queries regarding the sport that I receive, and the varied ages and socio-economic status of people attending my kayak fishing seminars, it’s obvious interest in the sport is still growing among a wide range of consumers. Kayak angling provides entry level access to the water for newcomers, and an exit strategy for boat anglers wishing to downsize.

You have been featured in numerous angling-related films and videos, and seem to have a natural rapport with the camera.  Whether you are highlighting a destination, technique, or product, your personality shines through, and really engages the viewer with the subject matter.  Tell us about the creative processes that go into the making of your videos. 

I can promise you that a lot of preparation goes into every one of my solo fishing trips. When I hit the water, my gear is ready and I have a plan. However, if you’re referring to videos or TV shows that Mark Nichols and I appear in, you give us way too much credit if it appears there has been some forethought to what appears on screen. We’re both genuinely enthusiastic about fishing, and after having done it and taught it for so long, we hopefully provide the viewer with some usable, valid information in a spontaneous, relaxed and perhaps sarcastically twisted format. Mark’s a true extrovert, and growing up on the fish hatchery, I was leading tours for busloads of school kids and tourists, as well as teaching adults how to fish, before I was 10 years old. So teaching seems a pretty natural concept for both of us, and I think we play off each other pretty naturally. But Mark and I definitely aren’t known for advance planning when it comes to a TV shoot. To us, a day on the water is comprised by one teachable moment after another.

What does the future hold for you?

I don’t foresee momentous changes in my near future. I’m told constantly that I have the best job in the world – working for a fishing lure company. It’s hard to complain about a job that justifies keeping a kayak on the roof of the truck for daily lure testing and photo shoots. The company enjoyed a great 2011 as our domestic, international and Internet sales all grew. As DOA expands its freshwater presence here in the States, I’ll hopefully find an excuse to chase bass, walleye and muskies at some point this next year.

One Response to “Jerry McBride”

  1. Rob Appleby says:

    That was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Keep up the good work Jerry!

    Thankyou Milkcrate for that insight into Jerry.

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