MCPHERSON STATE FISHING LAKE — With what looks like a small solar panel on the bill of his cap, Clay Dixon is easy to notice on the water.
In these days of 20-foot, monster motored, $50,000 bass boats, Dixon’s also unique in a tiny plastic craft that cost $800, including the trailer and low mousepower outboard.
Each side of the small boat reads www.kansasfisherman.com.
But it’s through that website, and by fishing from such a small craft and videoing his angling with that small camera upon his cap, that Dixon hopes to help Kansas anglers catch more fish.
“Most articles and (television) shows really don’t do much to help the average angler,” said Dixon, 63. “About 65 percent of the people that fish don’t own a boat. The majority of those that do, don’t own a real bass boat. I’m wanting to show you don’t need (expensive equipment) to enjoy fishing in Kansas.”
About two years ago Dixon decided he wanted a new angling challenge.
He’d fished in tournament and for pleasure in some of America’s largest and best known water for years, and wanted something simpler.
Dixon decided to start fishing small public waters, ones that he’d never cast a line in, and try to run a streak of consecutive trips with success.
He was at 18 in a row going into Monday at McPherson State Fishing Lake.
What he’s found at most of the lakes he’s visited has made him realize he could help others with a website and blogs.
“The more places I went, the more it appeared to me the average guy has little to no clue when it comes to fishing,” Dixon said. “I had a desire to step to the plate and help more people catch more fish.”
As well as video blogs showing parts of individual trips, Dixon has how-to segments online. He said he has 13 segments currently available, and expects the number to grow to about 60 by late summer.
Some are very basic, like how to tie a common improved clinch knot. Others show more detailed information, like how to rig and fish a drop-shot rig for bass.
The blog is accessed through the website, and people can sign-up to receive notice when new items are added. Dixon also welcomes e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for fishing questions.
He doesn’t cherry-pick his fishing spots.
“I’m finding good fishing in public lakes that are minutes from most peoples’ front door,” Dixon said. “They’re places where the average working person can get to from home, after a day at work.”
Most of his targeted waters have been either state fishing lakes or waters within Wichita or surrounding towns.
He’s impressed with what he’s found in most of the about 18 lakes within the Wichita urban and suburban area.
One blog shows nice crappie numbers coming at the KDOT lake on the east side of I-135.
Chisholm Creek North Lake has been kind to him, too, with crappie to 15 inches and some nice bass.
Blogs have included catches of catfish, bass, crappie and saugeye.
Though he has a full-rigged bass boat at home, stuffed with high-tech equipment, Dixon uses other gear when he’s videoing.
His 11-foot boat is as fancy as he gets, though it is rigged with a bow-mounted electric motor and a depth finder. Some blogs are shot as he fishes from shore, or from an inflatable float tube.
Dixon’s fishing gear is not expensive. Some of his fishing rods sold for $15 to $40 in bargain barrels in discount stores. He’s purchased most of his casting reels used and online.
“I’m proving you don’t need $600 or $700 outfits to catch fish in Kansas,” said Dixon, owner of an Internet business with his wife, Jackie.
And as he hoped two years ago, Dixon has found challenges along the way as he lengthens his string of consecutive successful trips and improves what he offers online.
For one thing, he has no sponsors so he’s completely financing the adventures.
He also does most of the work.
Dixon said a common problem is that he has to reach up and turn on the video camera after he’s hooked a fish.
He also has to wait a few seconds before reeling in the fish, so he’s sure he has some footage.
During those few seconds from the hook-set to the fight some fish have come unhooked.
It may take six hours of editing to get a segment ready and uploaded.
And there’s always the challenges of getting the fish to bite.
Monday’s howling winds, cloudy skies and falling temperatures didn’t bode well for his streak.
When the trip had been planned with a guest, he’d hoped to find lots of bass in sun-soaked shallows at the lake he rates as one of the best public bass fisheries in Kansas.
But for about an hour there was no sun and there didn’t appear to be any bass.
Finally the shallow-running crankbait he was casting met with success.
“That’s 19 in a row,” Dixon said as he hoisted a fish aboard.
With that one 13-inch bass Clay Dixon’s streak remained alive.
And anglers will again be able to go online to gain more information that could put more fish in their hands, too.
Hearing of their successes is Dixon’s favorite part of his mission.
“When I get e-mails from people who say they’ve enjoyed the blog and are learning the things that work, and I get a lot, that’s the payment I get,” Dixon said. “That’s what keeps me going.”