Joe Underwood


Joe Underwood is an Virginia-based angler known for his generosity and passion for the sport.  In homage to his hometown and its respective hockey team, Joe often shares his knowledge via forum posts and blogged articles under the moniker PhillyJoe.  A skilled pursuer of stripers, Joe can often be found prowling the nocturnal environs of the Hampton Roads waterways or teaching the next generation of Underwoods the nuances and techniques of the sport.

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

I had been working so much with my new job that I really didn’t take the time to look around at where I was.  But when I did, I quickly realized this area is a fisherman’s dream! In May of 2011, I needed to get out and do some fishing, and before every good hunting/fishing trip, it starts with scouting. I searched the internet for everything I could about when and where to fish for flounder and striper in the Hampton Roads area. I luckily ran across Rob Choi’s fishing blog,and was amazed by all the stripers that this guy was catching. I was actually more amazed at the amount of information that he was willing to share; you keep your honey holes to yourself or tell just a few close friends. My wife and I had many discussions about purchasing a Center Console, and that was out of the budget for us at this time. I kept going back to Rob’s site and scanning through, and the pictures and reports of catching all these fish from a kayak. I then decided (after discussing this with my wife) that the kayak was the way to go! So, in May of 2011, my kayaking journey began…

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

My first fish out of my kayak was a flounder. That fish was only 12” long and insignificant to most flounder gurus, but it’s what has fueled this new journey/lifestyle of fishing.

Judging from your blog and your accounts of rather amazing striper catches by the light line, one could label you, at least in part, as a nocturnal fisherman.  Explain to us why it is that you choose to pursue the sport after the sun goes down.

I see you have done some homework as well! There are actually 4 reasons why I have chosen to fish at night. The first is that it’s so darn hot here in the summer time. Fishing late in the evening allows me to get out and fish and not deal with the blistering sun on my back all day. The second is because the winds generally drop and allow safer fishing. The third is because I have 3 wonderful kids at home. I make sure my home responsibilities are taken care of first before I venture out on a fishing trip. It’s much easier to get a “hall pass” when you help with dinner, homework, and help getting them to bed. The fourth reason is because it’s pretty easy to get on the fish. The fish just seem to be more active feeding at night. I have caught my fair share of stripers, trout, and flounder during the day, but there’s no question that I have caught more fish at night. The HRBT (Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel) light line is one of the most remarkable fishing area’s I have ever been able to fish. It actually got to the point that if I didn’t catch a dozen stripers a night I got a little disappointed. In New Jersey, where I started my striper addiction, if you caught a couple you had a permanent smile for week. I am officially striper spoiled!



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

The music that fuels my drive is Contemporary Christian Music. It helps to keep me grounded in the things that are most important to me; my God, Family and Friends. When I’m on the water I don’t think about anything other than fishing, so it’s a great time to reflect.

Food – who has time to think about food at all! It amazes me that I can be fishing for 8-12 hours with nothing to eat but when I’m home it’s always on my mind.

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

Luther Ciphers, owner of Yak Attack, is doing his part. Luther has developed some of the best kayak fishing accessories on the market. He’s helped someone like me put together a kayak fishing machine without taking my Saturdays to figure out how to do it myself.

Your angling resume is as vast as it is long, and details you having had stints as an Idaho fly fisherman and power boating seeker of flounder.  You have also hinted that kayak angling very well may be the end culmination of said angling career.  Tell us why this is.

Boating has its place around here, but for my style of fishing the kayak is the way to go. While I can’t get anywhere quickly, I take my time and thoroughly fish the areas I can get to. It makes me slow down and focus on fishing.



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

I think that safety is the most important issue we face today. We have so many anglers trying out this sport for the first time, and we need to be mindful of everything around us on the water. On my first kayak fishing trip last year, I had a boater fly by me at about 50 yards at full throttle. The wake from the boat sent me bobbing up and down for a few seconds but I quickly regained my composure. There was another boater that saw this happen and went to discuss this with the rude boater who was now drifting 150 yards away. He claimed he was far enough away and that we should be in “real boats.”  Kayak fishing is not going away, so we need to educate everyone that’s going to be on the water.

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

I would love to head to Florida and catch a Tarpon from my kayak. That would be a dream trip for me!

What’s in your milk crate?

My main essentials are pliers, knife (ever try to cut braid without one?), anchor, rod holders, 5 plastic tackle trays full of lures and plastics and usually a couple bottles of water.

Tell us about your best day on the water.

My best kayaking fishing day has to be back in August of 2011. I was out with one of my fishing buddies, Todd Ferrante, and we were targeting Stripers. I had caught a few stripers there before and was anxious to get some lines in the waters. Todd had told me stories of catching over 20+ stripers in one night. I have also read stories of Rob Choi and others with similar trips. Todd and I pulled up to the light line and he said “they’re here.” It was loaded with stripers, and at one point I counted over 15 22”-25” fish just cruising the light. I had in the past only seen one or two fish at a time, so this was quite an experience for me. The funny thing was that I couldn’t land a single fish while Todd was pulling them in and snapping photos. I finally slowed down my approach and finally landed my first fish of the night. That night I caught over 25 stripers, and it’s nights like that which continue to fuel my kayaking adventures.



What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?

For me it’s about the camaraderie with friends and family. It’s about getting out on the water and enjoying the solitude and quietness of night fishing. It’s about landing that trophy fish or adding a new species to your fishing bucket list. It’s about traveling to new areas and catching that targeted species. It’s also about getting off the couch and getting some exercise doing what you love!

Tell us a story, any story.

This is about my daughter Madelyn’s first kayak fishing trip with Dad. My wife and I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and without hesitation she said, “I want a kayak so I can go kayaking and fishing with you.” I was really taken back by that, and went in search of a kid friendly kayak. I found a used kayak that she could easily handle. That night I took her to a local fishing hole in Williamsburg, and watched her paddle for a few minutes, and before you knew it, she was paddling up and down the river. She paddled up to me and said, “Thanks Dad; this is really cool.” I handed her a fishing rod and she proceeded to reel a nice 14” or so largemouth bass. She held it up so proudly and we placed it back to be caught another day! We fished a little more, and as the sun was going down we called it a night. I called it “a night to remember!”

You have recently outfitted your ten year old daughter for kayak angling, and have subsequently included her on a few fishing trips.  How can we, as practitioners of the sport, foster interest amongst the younger generations?

I decided to ask Madelyn this question and this was her response: “I just wanted to go because you said it was really fun and I wanted to try it and it was really fun. You are always happy when you come back!”

For months I had never asked my daughters if they were interested in going out kayak fishing with me. I think we just need to just ask the question! Would you like to go kayak fishing?

You also need to keep it simple, fun, and make sure you make it about them. I focused completely on making sure she had a great time, and wants to go back again.

What does the future hold for you?

The future is all about my kids. I have 2 daughters and my son who love to go fishing with Dad. My girls are 10 and 8, and the little guy is almost 3. Taking kids out kayaking is something that I will enjoy doing for years to come!


3 Responses to “Joe Underwood”

  1. Werner Novak says:

    Hey Joe ,
    From this article (great interview) that I just read I’ve come to the conclusion that you are a real down to earth good Yankee and a super father and family man.
    Love the contemporary christian music too. Good to know some one else that does.
    Hey I’m glad to know you! Keep up the kayak fish jerking. Tight lines!
    BB Croaker!

  2. Rick Zeidman says:

    Great interview..Joe is a true gentleman”…..and Walter, there are a few good Yanks out ther

  3. Great read – Joe is a good friend and a fellow Kayak Wars teammate. We both share the same love of kayaking, fishing and priorities on family. Top notch!!

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