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From Active Duty in the Air Force to Active Duty Outdoors

From Active Duty in the Air Force to Active Duty Outdoors

From Active Duty Air Force to Kayaking the Florida Surf

Robert Renfrow spent 23 years in active duty for the United States Air Force. Like many in the service, Robert was stationed in multiple locations during his career. Each stop provided different outdoor opportunities and helped spark Robert's love of the outdoors.

Now retired from the Air Force, Robert's outdoor adventures are just beginning. From active duty in the Air Force to Active Duty Outdoors, Robert films all of his adventures with the goal of helping others learn.

Whether it be hunting, kayaking fishing, scuba diving or pier fishing, Robert's main goal is to help others succeed in their own adventures. He shares all of his tips and tricks and even shares specific coordinates. From protecting our freedoms serving in the military to enjoying the freedom of the outdoors, Robert took the time to share his outdoor experiences.

Robert Renfrow Air Force Photo

What was your experience in the military like and did it play a role in finding your love of the outdoors?

Being in the Air Force is what really made me start loving the outdoors. I was stationed in Montana multiple times, totaling 13 years. Montana is such a sportsman’s paradise, where there is always hunting or fishing almost every month out of the year. Whether it was chasing antelope in the heat of summer or Elk in the snow capped Rockies. If there was not hunting then there was fishing.

Montana has an awesome fishery. I enjoyed catching beautiful Walleye with a slip bobber and leech or trolling for Northern Pike on the big lakes. In the middle of winter we would drill our holes and catch them then too! I honestly miss that the most, there is just something about looking out of the clam shelter and seeing your flags up in the air!

Robert Renfrow Pike catch

Are you still involved in any way with the military – With so many resources and programs available for vets, are there any groups or outings with fishing? On the shore or offshore?

I volunteer with a non-profit called Helping 2 Overcome or H2O for short. The program is awesome as it helps vets AND their families get SCUBA certified. They offer scholarships, grants, and accept the GI Bill to get families under the surface. It may not be fishing specific but those certifications can lead to a lifetime of enjoyment and it is a great way to spearfish down the road.

How long have you been an angler and outdoorsmen? Did you find your love for the outdoors early, or along the way throughout your life?

I fished and hunted with my dad a little growing up and I always admired my grandpa who was an offshore fisherman in California. I remember going out on his boat at a very young age. However, I really did not find my passion for it until I met my wife, Sara, and her family in Montana.

Her uncle, Ken, is a HUGE outdoorsman who taught me how to bow hunt for everything from Whitetail to Elk, and even the fastest antelope in the animal kingdom, the Pronghorn. Her other uncle, Todd, took me in and taught me a ton about fishing from trolling for trout to pulling up huge pike through the ice.

Robert Renfrow & Wife

What is your favorite thing to do besides fishing?

I love SCUBA diving! It is such an awesome experience being under the surface of the water and seeing the 71% of earth that many do not get to see. I am really getting into Lionfish hunting while diving, it gives my dives purpose and I can help take out some of these invasive predators. I am currently working on my Dive Master certification and hope to be an instructor soon.

Your channel focuses on fishing mostly the surf now from your Old Town AutoPilot, but what were some of your favorite species to target in fresh water?

I haven’t used the Old Town AutoPilot in fresh water yet. Though I keep telling my wife that when we go to Montana to visit family that I am going to haul it up there so I can troll for Northern Pike on Fort Peck. Or, so I can use it to get to some good cuts that hold a lot of ducks during waterfowl season.

The lakes in Montana are what I miss for sure. I tried to get into bass fishing when I was stationed in Georgia, I could catch a few here and there but those dang things are smart! My hat is off to those guys that flop a worm by a tree and pull up a 5lb bass every time!

Many people find fishing from a kayak on the ocean too intimidating to try. What are a handful of pointers or things you'd like to share about your experience to help others get through the wave of fear and out on the surf?

First and foremost PFD, PFD, PFD! This is so important while kayaking and even more so when kayaking through the surf and into the Gulf or Ocean. The ocean can be very unforgiving, and I don’t say that to scare people away from ocean kayak fishing. If done correctly it is a very peaceful and rewarding way to fish.

But, you really need to understand the inherent risks that are involved. The ocean conditions can change in a matter of minutes if not seconds. Understanding wind, swells, surf, and weather forecasts is a must. Which brings me to my next point. We rarely are creating anything from scratch anymore and I guarantee there is someone who can teach you how to ocean fish from a kayak.

The first few times I went out, I linked up with a guy that has been doing it for years, he taught me everything from how to read the surf, what a surf set looks like, how to tell which way the current was running, what a rip was, and he showed me how to ride waves back into the beach so I didn’t get sideways and flip on the way in. I would recommend the same to everyone wanting to get out past the breakers – link up with experienced kayak anglers and tag along. The next pointer would be to not let viral clips scare you. By now we've all seen the whales almost swallowing kayakers or the shark slamming into the kayak. They are viral because they are rare. I reeled in a giant shark a few weeks ago while fishing the Navarre reefs. I got him to the kayak and he broke my line and took off. He definitely did not want to eat me or tip me over.

Last but certainly not least is all the safety equipment:

  • Life Jacket
  • Whistle
  • Flares & Flashlight
  • Bright colored clothing
  • Cell phone & Waterproof handheld radio
  • Sunscreen
  • Never go alone and always share your float plan with someone

What is your favorite moment or outing on your fishing kayak?

It was most definitely landing my first Blackfin Tuna this last winter. I had been going out everyday for about 2 months in the frigid cold and it seemed that every time I hooked one while trolling I would mess it up. Either I would tighten my drag too tight and not tire it out or I would mess up the gaff at the kayak.

It seemed that I was learning a lot on what to do or not to do next time. But it all finally worked out on the last day they were in the area. I was able to get one to the kayak and was able to get the gaff just right and I landed him in the kayak! I was so excited. The feeling was just as equal to when I harvested my first elk with a bow. Persistence pays off.

Robert Renfrow Black Tuna

Why a fishing kayak instead of a boat, especially considering your love of ocean fishing?

Funny thing is, I have a Robalo R180 that I am trying to sell because I never use it. I just love the ease of a kayak. I can drag it anywhere and launch it anywhere. Where I live in Navarre, I would have to take my boat to Destin or Pensacola to get to a pass.

Or, I can take my kayak to Navarre beach and be at our reefs within a mile. With that same reasoning, most boaters don’t make it over to our reefs from Destin or Pensacola because of the distance they would have to travel. So we pretty much have an awesome fishery all to ourselves. Shhh, don’t tell anyone I said that!

And Finally, If you could only use one lure while fishing, what would it be?

Hmm, that’s a tough one for sure. I would have to go with a bucktail jig. I can bounce that around the reefs or rip it across the water or slow retrieve it….something always wants to eat a bucktail.

Meet Robert & Learn From His Experiences

Check out Robert's entire YouTube collection on his channel, Active Duty Outdoors.

Robert is also an active member of our online community, the Kayak Anglers Resource. He shares his videos, experiences and answers other members' questions about kayak fishing.

Taking advantage of resources like online communities, and the members like Robert that drive them, is a great way to expand your kayaking knowledge. One of the biggest mistakes newcomers make is not asking questions.

Get started with some of these discussions:

These are just a few examples of the many conversations dedicated to kayaks and kayak fishing. Join the conversation and meet members like Robert who want to help answer questions any level of angler has.

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Amber - July 1, 2023

Rob is such a great person! My boyfriend and I love going fishing with him. Such an awesome person to be around and is always super positive.

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