Trophy Hunters: Aaron Rubel | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
Aaron Rubel poses with a fish he caught on a fly line. Photo: Aaron Rubel

Targeting the biggest fish and the toughest catches

Trophy: Light tackle lunkers.

Hunting grounds: Gulf Coast.

Trophy room: Kayak-caught length world record holder, four-time kayak fishing tournament winner. 

What is a trophy?

I’m an engineer, so I’m suspect of absolutes. I once calculated the average accepted trophy length compared to the longest fish caught on public record within those species. The minimum length to term trophy class for some of the more common species came out between 75 to 85 percent of longest ever caught, compared to 55 to 65 percent for the more uncommon ones. So, if I were asked to define a trophy catch, I’d have to say the minimum length that would be acceptable among fishing circles is around the sixty-fifth percentile of the largest caught on record for most species, with some of the more common species pushing into the eightieth percentile.

Toughest accomplishment?

Learning to be successful in saltwater flyfishing from a kayak. Fishing saltwater and estuaries can be very challenging, but beautiful and rewarding too.

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Favourite fish story?

A few years ago, I made it a goal to win a big saltwater kayak fishing tournament, but I wanted to do it on the fly against others using conventional tackle. I have found fly fishing to be an extremely effective way to target big fish. In the Mobile Bay Kayak Fishing Association Five Rivers Tournament winds were blowing 35 all day. Early that morning, I fooled a 23.5-inch speckled sea trout on a popper fly. I won the tournament against 75 other anglers using conventional tackle.

What motivates you?

The process of understanding a species, their habitat and then consistently being able to catch the wise elder of their kind.

Advice to future trophy hunters?

When I have a dry spell, a friend’s words come to mind: “It’s about TOW, time on the water.” Make the most of every second. Don’t take a break, keep fishing, manage time and don’t give up. When I’m on the water, focus, focus, focus. In almost every case where I’ve caught species above the sixty-fifth percentile, it’s been the only fish caught on that trip.

How do you celebrate?

Without friends, fishing would be a lonely sport. Without the fish story, fishing would be an empty pursuit. Sharing the experience on the water with a fishing buddy is my favourite way to celebrate. Then telling the story of the catch again and again, reliving it forever.

What’s next?

I’m shooting for an International Game Fish Association World Record on fly. I’ve landed largemouth bass, skipjack herring and ladyfish longer than the IGFA All Tackle World Record when I didn’t have a sanctioned measuring device onboard. 

This article was originally published in Kayak Angler, Volume 10 • Issue 3. Read this issue.

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