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Outdoors commentary: Stepping up his game -- La Crosse man is chasing The All American Kayak Series Angler of the Year title.

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About a year ago, a man named Jeremiah Burish paddled into your reading space and talked about his exploits as a tournament bass angler, the kayak version, and the challenge – and thrill — it brings.

Remember him?

In catching up with the 33-year-old Burish — which is not an easy thing to do with this always-on-the-go guy — it seems he has stepped up is game. A veteran of more than 60 kayak bass fishing tournaments over the past five years, the La Crosse man is chasing The All American Kayak Series Angler of the Year title.

Even though the odds are stacked against him, it’s a good bet he will find himself right in the thick of the race. And maybe, just maybe, vie for the top spot.

Why, you ask?

It’s easy to sense his passion, his determination and his all-around, all-in, serious nature when it comes to tournament bass fishing. And if you know Burish, who is the director of sports sales for the La Crosse Area Visitors and Convention Bureau (Explore La Crosse), this guy gets things done.

Ever wonder why La Crosse is a landing spot for all of these big-time bass tournaments from Major League Fishing, FLW, and the Bassmaster Elite Series? The Bassmaster Elite Series, by the way, has an Aug. 26-29 date with La Crosse again this year.

Simply put, Burish is a key cog in the Explore La Crosse fishing machine, and works tirelessly to bring those tournaments — and smaller ones, like The All American Kayak Series mid-season championship, which is set for July 8-9-10 in La Crosse — to our area.

This guy knows how to hook fish, and fishing tournaments. While his impact on the water is measurable, his impact off it translates in millions in economic impact for our area.

That’s no fish story either, as rollover dollars help multiple businesses in our community.

“This year I have dedicated myself to fulfilling the requirements for the angler of the year race for The All American Kayak Series,” Burish said of his personal pursuit. “Anyone can fish it … It is a national series, but the Midwest is very well respected. I wanted to fish that series and see how I do in it.

“I have done two of the five events (so far). You have to compete in four (of 10) events. They take the best four events. If they fish more, it increases their chances. Obviously it is more beneficial to fish all 10 of the events, as you can throw out your worst finishes.”

Being a husband to Kelly, father to daughter, Evelyn, 2, director of sports sales, and assistant track coach at Viterbo University in charge of pole vaulters, leaves precious little time for anything else.

Burish, however, somehow manages to work in time for serious bass fishing.

He’s turned in some impressive tournament finishes already this year, placing fourth out of 44 anglers at Kentucky Lake on March 19, and sixth out of 53 entries at Lake Okoboji in Iowa on May 14. Both were All American Kayak Series events, leaving him in 19th place in the national standings at this point.

His next points event is the All American Kayak Series mid-season championships in July on his home waters, the Mighty Mississippi River.

“I do my best. I know Kelly is a saint for dealing with it all,” Burish said of his wife. “It is pretty tough and spreads me pretty thin. Most of our (track) meets are on Saturday, so from January to mid-May almost every Saturday is going for track and field.

“Most of my (bass) tournaments are over the summer, so thankfully there isn’t a lot of overlap.”

While some might think Burish adds to his already-stressful lifestyle by tournament bass fishing, it’s quite the opposite, he says. Piloting a kayak with a horsepower of one (himself) through the backwaters of the Mississippi, or in the hard-to-reach inlets and bays of a lake, is the ultimate way to relax, at least in Burish’s mind. It allows him to immerse himself in nature, yet challenge his considerable angling skills.

“I really enjoy kayak fishing more than anything else,” Burish said. “I am a competitive person by nature, so this is a way to channel that energy. I have thought about that (moving up to big boat tournaments), but I don’t have a boat whereas I would be able to compete. And big boat tournaments, they are intensely competitive and not as friendly, in my opinion.

“There is great camaraderie in the kayak series. Everybody wants you to do well and they (individually) just want to do better.”

Burish, by design, is a shallow-water fisherman, which lends to his kayak preference. And that’s why his top-five finish at Kentucky Lake, an expansive reservoir along the Tennessee River in Kentucky and Tennessee, was a bit surprising as it reaches depths of 75 feet.

“It (Kentucky Lake) doesn’t set up well to my strengths,” Burish said. “It is a deep lake and is very well-known for its deep ledges. People generally fish 30 feet. There is not a lot of that around here. I just caught it at the right time as the fish were ready to move up to spawn.”

When Burish said he likes to fish shallow, he’s not kidding.

“I like fishing in 3 feet of water, or less. I am a very shallow-water angler,” Burish said. “I half-jokingly say all the time that if my paddle isn’t touching, it’s too deep. There is quite a bit of truth to that. There are a lot of fish that go up really shallow.”

So, if you’re an angler of any level, you are already asking yourself this question: How do you navigate a boat in such shallow water without scaring off the fish?

“By making long casts up ahead of you. If you see a spot that looks good, you hit those spots well before you get into it with long casts,” Burish explained. “It comes down to predicting where those fish might be.

“When it is shallow water like that, I can float in about 4 inches of water. I end up easing along using my push pole. I will fan cast (around his kayak) and will move 10 yards at a time by using a push pole to cover more water.”

Burish revels in the fact he can reach fishing spots that others in a bass boat, or even v-hull or flat-bottom fishing boat, cannot. In fact, he says he stands 90 percent of the time while fishing from his Bonafide SS127 (the SS127 translates to: sit and stand, 12-foot, 7-inch) kayak.

“It has a high seat and great stability. The boat is incredibly stable; I equate it to standing on a dock,” Burish said. “There is a little bit of play, but you never feel like you are going to tip over. I have even stood on the seats before when the grass gets so high you can’t see. You need to get that height and get those casts in those hard-to-reach spots.”

While Burish said he’s never fallen in or flipped his kayak, he did hit a submerged log one time that shook his vessel, forcing him step ahead – but not out.

His kayak, which weighs 92 pounds without any equipment or gear, has proven to be his sanctuary. He typically carries eight to 10 rods and reels, and a hefty supply of lures.

“It depends on the event and how much gear you bring along,” Burish said of the extra weight. “The most weight is the lures. I probably have 50- to 60-pounds in lures. Going out for the first time in an event, you need to bring more than if you’ve been there before.”

Sometimes he will bring a trolling motor and electronics, sometimes not. One thing he won’t ever forget are the frogs.

“I fish really shallow with a lot of cover, so I throw a lot of frogs or surface lures with a hollow core body. In those (tournaments), nine of out 10 fish I caught were on frogs,” Burish said. “It’s my best quality and favorite way to fish.”

And so far, it’s working just fine for the Cadott, Wis., native and UW-La Crosse graduate. Why change a good thing?

ANY IDEAS? I’m always open for ideas, as the outdoor community is full of interesting people who do fascinating things. I just need help finding them. It can be someone who is into canoeing, trapping, turkey hunting, fishing, skiing or runs ultramarathons. If you know of someone, send me a note at

Jeff Brown, a former longtime sports editor for the Tribune, is a freelance outdoors writer. Send him story ideas at

“There is great camaraderie in the kayak series. Everybody wants you to do well and they (individually) just want to do better.”

Jeremiah Bush


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