“In every town across America there’s a secret fishing spot where the water runs clear and the bass are always biting.”That’s how a narrator’s voice introduces each episode of South Bend’s Lunkerville, the everyman fishing show on NBCSports channel. For the first episode of the 2016 season, host Mike de Avila traveled to North Carolina to kayak fish with Ollie Hughes.
“Lunkerville is about real people and real fish stories,” de Avila explains, “not only tournament fishermen but kids, housewives, blue collar folks and executives.” Chasing real fish stories brought the Lunkerville crew to North Carolina to fish with Ollie Hughes. “Not only does Ollie have the passion, but he’s involved with Heroes on the Water, an organization dedicated to helping veterans heal through involvement in kayak fishing and the outdoors,” de Avila says.
For Hughes, kayak fishing allows him to relax and do something on his own. “With kayak fishing no one holds your hand,” he points out, “there is a lot going on and I’m actively engaged with the outdoors.” Working with Heroes on the Water not only allows him to help other wounded vets, it lets Hughes connect to his life before his life-altering injury.“It’s like a magician pulling rabbit out of a hat,” he says, “I know that trick, I know how to fish.”
For de Avila, that story fit the focus of Lunkerville. “Fishing can and should be easy, fun, accessible and affordable,” de Avilla explains, “that describes kayak fishing.” The episode was de Avila’s first experience kayak fishing. “It was incredible,” he recalls, “efficient, stealthy, peaceful, calm and easy.”
The crew was blessed with a beautiful day and Hughes took them to his favorite fishing hole. “It took us a while to figure out a pattern,” de Avila recalls, “but we found fish with soft stick baits near isolated structure.” After catching a few small largemouth, Hughes caught an 18-inch fish that started a healthy round of smack talking between the two anglers. Then de Avila hooked into a real lunker. “It was one of the biggest bass we’ve caught on the show,” he boasts. The bass measured over 23 inches. “Apparently you don’t weigh fish in a kayak,” he laughs, “but I estimate it over five pounds.”
The big fish wasn’t the star of the show. Even better than sharing a nice day fishing, Lunkervillespread the word about Heroes on the Water. “Ollie got to share how Heroes on the Water helped him when he returned from the battlefield an injured soldier,” de Avila says, “and that’s the real story.”
Ric Burnley is the editor of Kayak Angler magazine.
This article first appeared in the March issue of Paddling Magazine. To read the entire issue, click here.