An Unpleasant Experience with a William Joseph Gear Bag

I spent this weekend fishing the White River in Arkansas.  It was the maiden voyage of my drift boat, so it was a very pleasurable experience.  But there were some important lessons to be learned after the completion of this trip.  The biggest was that one should never take gear marketed as waterproof as gospel.

It rained a pretty good clip this weekend as we floated the 7 mile trip from the Dam to White Hole access on the White River.  Before the rain, we had pulled over to the bank and McClane and I secured the gear as best we could to keep it as dry as possible.

One of the tools we thought we would use was our William Joseph Gear Bags, as they are supposed to be waterproof and float with 45lbs of gear.  So we zipped everything up and took off down the river.  After about 4 hours of additional fishing and off and on thunderstorms we reached our take-out.  Upon loading the boat on the trailer and securing everything to be towed, I was surprised to see standing water in the bottom of my WJ Gear Bag.

The bag had sat on the rear deck of the drift boat , behind me and to my left, for the entire trip.  It is an elevated rear deck, so the bag itself wasn’t sitting in any water (just the wet deck).  Everything inside the bag was soaking wet — flyboxes, GPS Unit, FRS Radio, Headlamp, extra reel, fishing license, my wallet, EVERYTHING.

You can see a video of just how wet everything was in my bag by viewing this video I uploaded to YouTube .

Even though I didn’t pay for this product (both McClane and I were given these to use during our 2004 Trout Bum trip), I still feel that this product didn’t produce as marketed and wanted to let everyone know about it.

The bag is a sharp looking bag, and I really like the looks and storage capacity and layout.  However it just didn’t keep my gear dry as written about in several reviews (Here is an example review), and I wanted to warn everyone before they just assume that something that is marketed as “waterproof” sometimes might not always be.

–Matt Tucker

White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater) — Quick Drift and Out

We decided not to set the alarm on Sunday morning and opted for a lazy morning packing and perhaps a short float on the river – but things don’t always go as planned as we began waking up one by one beginning at 5:30am.  By 7am the phone rang and it was JimmyT – the savior to the coffee drinkers (Brent and Tim) – offering to pick up some coffee and drop it by.


After the coffee was drank, the boat and Durango were packed up, and everyone was generally ready to take off – we headed to Gaston’s Lodge for breakfast.  This might be the most undiscovered breakfast on the water – it was very good, and not too expensive.  It definitely will be a place we head to in the future when we are in search of morning fuel.


I had envisioned being on the road by 11am on the way back to St. Louis (we had a lot of work to do with drying out the boat and gear from getting soaked on Saturday) but by the time we had finished breakfast and checked out of Patrick’s it was 10:15am and we still hadn’t fished.  Jimmy had offered us the use of a boat for a short trip in the morning, so after a quick discussion we headed down to the boat ramp and picked up the boat to do a couple of quick drifts before heading out.

To make a long story short, McClane was on fire as usual and was picking up fish with ease on his two-fly nymph rig from Saturday as well as an elk hair caddis pattern fished in a slow pool.  Tim was running the boat for us, and I actually got a chance to fish – where I failed miserably (only landing one fish….not sure who really should be credited with the fish me or Tim), but we were on a schedule and headed back to the boat ramp by 11:45am.


The drive home was mainly uneventful, and I did verify that I do in fact drive slower at night than I do during the daylight hours as the trip home went considerably quicker.  The evening was filled with opening up fly boxes, boat storage boxes, and the general drying out of gear.  Lots of lessons were learned on this trip, and I can’t wait to apply them on my next float down the river.


–Matt Tucker

White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater) — The Maiden Voyage

The alarm went off at 5:30am Saturday morning (3-1/2 hours after we set it) and we quickly rose to the noise of a ceiling fan that sounded more like a creaky rocking chair than a ceiling fan and I wondered which one of us it would take out when it comes crashing down upon us in our sleep (but later it served its purpose as it helped to drowned out the snoring noises of 3 tired fisherman and 1 dog….who knew dogs snored).  We were to meet up with Brian Wise and Jim Traylor for breakfast at the Gold Pan Restaurant and Bar for breakfast at 6:15am.  We were in no real hurry to get on the water today, as the forecast was for thunderstorms and the temperature was doing its best sauna impression.  It was oppressively humid to say the least.   After a filling breakfast, and catching up with everyone, Jim headed to his guide trip and Brian, Brent, Tim, and I headed off to the Dam to drop our boats in the water and shuttle vehicles.After dumping the boats in the water and ensuring that we had all the essential gear, Brian and I headed off to White Hole where we left his rig and headed back up to the Dam to begin our float.

Self shuttling has got to be the biggest downside of drift boats, but this shuttle wasn’t that bad – it took less than an hour.  During this time, Brent rowed my boat and Tim rowed Brian’s clackacraft up to the grassbeds near the dam and picked up several fish while we were gone.  By 9am we had the shuttle done, oars adjusted, and were shoved off and begun our float on the fog covered waters of the White River.

I wasn’t concerned so much with the fishing today, as I was with putting my boat through its paces and figuring out how the boat handles.  I used a lot of the stuff I had picked up from rowing my pontoon boat on the smaller Ozark trout streams and essentially the same principals applied.  McClane took position in the bow of the boat, and Tucker the Dog took his position up on the bow of the boat in front of the knee brace (where he would stay for most of the day).It was a little nerve racking as I tried to get used to maneuvering the boat in the fog covered waters and around other boats that were fishing (and wading bank anglers), but soon I tried to get in a rhythm and McClane started picking up fish with ease on a double nymph rig (a caddis pupa and worm set-up) as soon as we left the C&R area under an indicator rig.Wise and I played leapfrog with each other on the river, until we finally put some distance between us but the fishing pretty much remained constant until the rain came.

By the time we rowed infront of Gaston’s boat ramp, the skies just opened up and it rained, and it rained, and it rained some more.  I got really good at scooping water out of the boat (the sponge also came in handy as well).  We messed around with trying to film a little of the rain, while waiting for the lightening to stop.  In all the rain, McClane turned his attention to the pods of stockers along the river bank and picked them out with ease as Tucker the Dog ran around in the pouring rain.The rest of the afternoon was filled with much of the same, and just seeing what the boat would float through and how I could maneuver it.  Brent managed to pick up about 30 fish on his two-fly nymph rig so that offered reassurance to me that I was keeping the boat in decent water and giving him the opportunity to make good drifts (with his verbal commands of where he wanted to be).  It was pretty close to fishing, and I really enjoyed this aspect of the day. 

There were no big fish today, but we did spot one fish that easily broke the double digit mark so that was a plus.The other thing that was noticeable about today was how stable drift boats really are.  At the big flat hole in front of Gaston’s lodge, I had Tucker the Dog laying in the bow above the knee brace and I had McClane sight-fishing to fish while standing on the bow with the dog.  He didn’t even flinch as I rowed the boat toward fish he was spotting – I am sure it was a sight to see on the river.

We ended the day at White Hole Access about 45 minutes after Brian and Tim had pulled off the water and loaded Brian’s boat onto the trailer (and dropped the trailer for ease of shuttling), in the pouring rain.   After running to pick up my rig at the Dam, we loaded up the boat and began securing the boat for the drive.  It was during this time that I became increasingly frustrated with my William Joseph Gear Bag that was given to me during the 2004 Trout Bum Tournament.  My frustrations can best be seen on this video – it is safe to assume that I will no longer be recommending William Joseph products.  We had a few laughs at William Joseph’s expense and said good bye to Brian Wise (who had to get home to tend to a sick wife and kids) we headed back to Patrick’s on the White for a quick shower before dinner.

7:45pm found us pulling in to the 178 Club in Bull Shoals for dinner with Jim Traylor and Davy Wotton (whom were standing outside having a quick smoke before heading in).  I think this is the second or third time I have had dinner with Davy and Jimmy together and it is an absolute blast.  The amount of knowledge and oddities between these two is nothing short of fascinating.

Davy shared stories of his recent trip to the

Yellowstone area, as we discussed everything from the recent release of the “proposed” trout management plan options, the humor of British television and my lack of understanding it, and just life in general along with a lengthy discussion of chipmunks of all things.  Lots of laughs were shared for sure, and hopefully this is an evening that will play out over many years to come.  But the food was finished and we were all fading fast so it was time to pay the bills and head out.

We were originally supposed to hook up with Chris Gates and Ryan Mueller from

Columbia, Missouri but they got down on Friday morning early and floated a lower section on Friday and stayed in that area on Saturday as well.  But missed communications meant the only time we were going to get to hook up would be on Saturday night.  So after dropping McClane off at Patrick’s on the White, we headed down to Gaston’s for quick hellos and trading notes on the day.  They hadn’t ran into the vast amount of rain that we had earlier in the day (the rain had only hit them at around 5pm) which was odd, but lends credibility to how crazy the weather was today.  It had been a couple of years since I had seen Ryan on the water, so it was good to catch up with him and talk with them about their day and how their boat handled the White.  But Tim and I were fading fast, and passed on the barley beverages and opted to head back to Patrick’s on the White to hit the sack.  Lights out at around 11:30pm.

 –Matt Tucker

White River (Bull Shoals Tailwater) — Driving Through an Ozark Hurricane

I had been waiting for this weekend for a long time.  This was the weekend that my drift boat took its maiden voyage with me at the oars.  This trip was in the works ever since Chris Gates ( Forum member) invited me along a little White River float trip that he and a couple of buddies were doing this past weekend.  With Karen’s recent accident, I was a little unsure if I was going to get to go or not, but Karen couldn’t get me out the door fast enough.  I hadn’t been on the water since Mother’s Day weekend and she was growing tired with my cabin fever.It is amazing how many things you have to worry about when traveling with a boat.  I had previously gathered all my fishing gear and what not for the weekend, and thought that I had the boat all ready for the trip and loaded properly as I waited for Tim Biesendorfer and Brent McClane to show up at my house and load in for a quick weekend trip to Arkansas (hell, I even left the office early). What ensued was a calamity of issues with the boat trailer that is best described as a learning experience. However, thanks to the help of my fishing buddies we were on the way to Arkansas by 6pm.

The trip down to the White was anything short of disappointing, as we entertained the problems of the world – more specifically isn’t a drift boat just a sail boat? That seems to be the consensus with people we met at gas stations along the way – they seemed to ask where we were going with the sail boat. It was an easy but slow drive (apparently I drive pretty slow when it is dark out, and apparently I drive even slower at night when towing a trailer….you know what they say – Safety First), until we hit what I swear was an Ozark hurricane.My canvas boat cover didn’t stand a chance in this storm, as cars were pulled over and there was a line of flashing hazard lights for miles. McClane checked the radar and confirmed we drove through or near 3 separate tornado warnings. The rain needed no further explanation, it just dumped water on us without looking like it would let up.

We stopped at Western Sizzlin’ in Lebannon, Missouri for dinner. What a crap hole, and I really need to swear off chain restaurants while on a fishing trip. The dinner reminded me of a bad hospital lunch. But not all was lost, as the stop provided a chance to let Tucker the Dog out for a drink and to stretch his legs (McClane had an issue with k-9 shots and the dog, so the dog made a surprise appearance with us for the weekend…..and all dogs should be this good).

After a few more pit-stops (including the obligatory Wal-Mart SuperCenter stop in Ava, Missouri) we rolled through Lakeview, Arkansas and a missed turn led to me being baptized into backing up the boat in the dark (12am) on a rutted dirt road in the middle of a field and then weaving between trees as we pulled into our final destination for the weekend – Patrick’s on the White.None of us were familiar with Patrick’s on the White, but its location is on the White River very near the Bull Shoals Dam and the price was right ($75 for 3 people). The accommodations are what you would expect for $75 a night for 3 guys. I have stayed in worse rooms, but I have also stayed in better. The location, however, is pretty tough to beat. It would do as a base for our operations for the weekend, and after all, it isn’t like we would spend much time there over the weekend.After watching some SpikeTV and watching Tucker the Dog chase armadillos out in the big field we turned out the lights around 2am on Saturday morning.

–Matt Tucker