Peace on the Water

Photos by Jimmy Lafakis/The Herald
Lance Reynolds drops a fish into a bucket at Kentucky Lake in December. "It's just a way of life," he said. "As far as what I think about bowfishing, it's a good way to get friends together. It's also a good way to get family together."

By JIMMY LAFAKIS
jlafakis@dcherald.com

As Kyle Gudorf and Lance Reynolds searched for their next great catch, the bowfishermen learned the value of teamwork. Becoming dedicated outdoorsmen came with trials and tribulations, but Kyle and Lance turned their favorite hobby into a lifestyle.

Bowfishing has helped the duo find their peace on the water.

“It’s just a way of life,” Lance said. “As far as what I think about bowfishing, it’s a good way to get friends together. It’s also a good way to get family together. You teach kids to stay off of drugs and stay out of the streets. You get them a bow in their hand.”

Bowfishing offers unique challenges because it requires a distinct set of archery equipment. Bowfishermen shoot with bows and employ combinations of various tips and arrows. When bowfishermen shoot in the evening hours, they use lights on their boats to illuminate the water. 

Because bowfishing brings a particular twist to the sport, finding the proper aim can be difficult at first. Fishermen shoot fish such as common carp, grass carp, Asian carp and bigmouth buffalo. 

“Since I’ve gotten into it in the last six years, it’s just blown up,” Kyle said. “It’s just something fun to do. You don’t have to sit there and wait for a fish to bite your hook.”

Kyle learned the tricks of the trade while he developed his love for the outdoors in Jasper.

Kyle Gudorf prepares his boat in Evansville. “If you like hunting and you like fishing, you’re going to fall in love with bowfishing,” he said. “Let’s put it that way.”

“If you like hunting and you like fishing, you’re going to fall in love with bowfishing,” he said. “Let’s put it that way.” 

While growing up in Monticello, Lance cemented his legacy as a fourth-generation fisherman in his family. Much like Kyle, he merged his passions for hunting and fishing with his admiration for the outdoors.

“Ever since I was born, I’ve been an outdoorsman,” Lance said. “I literally grew up hunting and fishing. I killed my first rabbit when I was 6. I killed my first deer when I was 8.”

Lance began his bowfishing journey as a 14-year-old boy. His travels brought him to Minnesota, Florida and “every state in between,” but he yearns to fish in states like California, Texas, Maryland and South Carolina. As he reflected on his adventures, a contemplative grin broke out across his face.

“That’s a long time, now that I think about it,” Lance said. “I didn’t realize that it’s been 20 years. I’m 34 now, so it’s crazy. I’ll be 35 here in March.”

Once Kyle and Lance participated in a few competitive tournaments, the native Hoosiers found themselves hooked. This year, they will compete in the Carp Mayhem Tournament Series held at Kentucky Lake. The opening “Ice Breaker” tournament was set for last Saturday, but the event was canceled because of inclement weather in the area.

“I started doing tournaments and figured out that I’m actually pretty good at it,” Kyle said. “It kind of turned into something we do all the time.”

Kyle Gudorf, left, and Lance Reynolds assemble their bowfishing equipment at Kentucky Lake in December. "We have a good relationship when it comes to bowfishing," Lance said. "We know each other in and out. We know how to work with each other's pros and cons. We get along with each other."

Most tournaments award the competitors who capture the most fish in the allotted time frame. Other tournaments reward fishermen who shoot the heaviest fish. The drive to win ignites burning desires within Kyle and Lance. 

“As far as me and Kyle, we’re extremely competitive,” Lance said. “If I’m going, I’m going for No. 1. I don’t want to be second, third or fourth. I’m trying to win.”

Although the tournament season was delayed until March, Kyle remains confident in his team’s ability to succeed.

“We’re going to beat you in tournaments,” he said with a hearty chuckle. “That’s just the way it goes in the bowfishing community. Every one of us will talk so much smack to each other, but it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, we’re all good buddies.”

Lance and Kyle built an unflappable bond through their competitions. Their chemistry pays dividends in the most intense moments.

“I love it,” Lance said. “We work well with each other. He knows what I do. I know what he does on the boat. We help each other when things are broken and stuff like that. We’ve got a good relationship when it comes to bowfishing. We know each other in and out. We know how to work with each other’s pros and cons. We get along with each other.”

Kyle echoed his friend’s sentiments.

“We know what’s going on,” he said. “We know what we’ve got to do.”

That knowledge has helped the duo establish their roles. Lance guides the boat while standing up and remains laser-focused on the task at hand.

“Every once in a while, I’ll snack or something like that,” he said. “Most of the time, I run off of Red Bulls, Monsters and water. No joke.”

Fellow fishermen are quick to participate in some good-natured ribbing, but Kyle loves the playful interactions between the teams.

“It’s all fun and games,” he said. “Sometimes, it gets a little rowdy. It’s still fun.”

Bowfishing is more than just a pastime. Because Kyle and Lance are passionate about the ecosystem, bowfishing provides an outlet for their desires and efforts.

According to Lance, grass carp and common carp spawn and take over the same spawning grounds as bass, crappie and bluegill. When they spawn, they destroy beds by aggressively moving between each other.

“By shooting these, we preserve the population of the natural species of the ecosystem of the United States, Kentucky’s waterway habitat, Indiana’s waterway habitat and all the other places that we shoot,” Lance said. “That greatly helps out bass fishermen, crappie fishermen, bluegill fishermen and any other kind of fishermen out there.”

As a veteran bowfisherman, Lance stresses the importance of water safety. He and Kyle bring a surplus of gear when they embark on fishing trips.

“Always be extra cautious,” Lance said. “Always have your life jackets. Always watch the weather and the elements. Storms on the water and waves can come out of nowhere.”

Additionally, he encourages fellow fishermen to clean up after themselves and remain diligent at all times.

“If you think it’s sketchy, double-check yourself,” Lance said. “You’re not above the elements. You’re not above Mother Nature. She is mean. She is relentless.”

Both Kyle and Lance enjoy helping new anglers get acquainted with the water. Paying their knowledge forward makes the entire experience come full-circle.

“The first time, a lot of it is luck,” Lance said. “Some of it is skill. Practice makes perfect. The longer you shoot and the more you shoot, the better you will be. If you want to start bowfishing, great.”

Hobby, passion, and lifestyle — bowfishing checks all three lines. Kyle and Lance remain on the hunt for big hauls, but the satisfaction of sharing their tips and tricks brings the most enjoyment.

Much like bowfishing, their ultimate goal is simple yet complex.

“I’m going out and having a good time with my buddies,” Kyle said.




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