Do you remember what you were doing about this time five years ago? Me either, but with some research it all came back to me. Back then (okay, this was maybe more like 8 years ago), I had been in touch with the fine folks at paddling.com, and they wanted me to write an article about kayak fishing - one article. Relatively speaking, the sport was still in its modern day infancy, and paddling.com thought that this crazy segment of paddle sports just might have a following. So, let's try one article, see how it floats. So, I dug deep to try to explain to the non-paddle angler why this sport is so much fun. The result was our first iteration of "Why Fish From A Kayak?". As I pondered this article, I read that one again. Guess what? The reasons are STILL the same, after all these years.
NO, KAYAK FISHING IS NOT A FAD AFTER ALL:
After listing and elaborating on a number of reasons why I personally chose to fish from a kayak, I closed that historic article with the line "Whatever your reason may be, rest assured you are not part of a fad - kayak fishing is here to stay." And, that line couldn't hold more truth today. Here in Florida, pretty much any place you can park and walk to the water is a potential launch spot. As I cruise past those spots now, I see a lot more trucks with kayak racks and a lot more cars with makeshift canoe pads on their roof. Any given weekend will find hundreds of paddle people on the water, and they still don't make as much noise as one lone flats boat.
THEY WORK HARD FOR THE MONEY:
One sure fire way to know if something is a fad or not is to witness how much in advertising dollars are spent in order to promote it. A decade ago, you'd see advertisements in paddle sports industry magazines and the beginning of the transition to the internet. Most of these would discuss a particular brand, and maybe have a little blurb stating, "… and by the way, we make a boat designed for fishing". Right … one boat, maybe two. At that time, the sport was way too green to invest mega-bucks in R&D, molds, fine tuning, manufacturing, and finally, advertising, into boats specifically for fishing. Fast forward to today and there are as many fishing yaks on the market as there are fish in the sea. But it's beautiful because that competition has brought innovation. And that innovation has brought us some choice fishing rigs that we couldn't have dreamt of just a few years ago. The industry works hard and we keep fishing, that don't sound too bad.
BUILD THEM, AND THEY WILL FISH FROM THEM:
Yes, fishing kayak manufacturers have really stepped up. When I was affiliated with one of the big boys, we had one boat designed for fishing, and *could* put rod holders on several others. Now, there is a full line of angling specific boats, featuring both sit on top and sit inside models. Fat ones, fast ones, long ones, short ones, you name it. There is a fishing craft for everyone now. And, the manufacturers see that their work is never done. The other guy is always raising the bar concerning features, weight, and performance. It's a win/win scenario for us consumers.
In those earlier days, there were several local paddle fishing tournaments that I could participate in, but it was pretty much a bunch of forum buddies getting together for a day of collecting bragging rights. Now, I receive notifications for tournaments pretty much every week. The entry fees have risen, so have the quality of prizes. Granted, many of these tournaments are still various forum members getting together, but it's a lot of forum members, and a lot of different forums. It's happening in every state, and overseas too.
And guess what else I'm seeing? I'm seeing corporate sponsorship for teams. Most major kayak manufacturers sponsor teams to compete in events all across the country. Does a particular kayak make you a better angler? For many years, I'd say "no". Boats are merely vehicles, but anglers are very different in their styles and prowess. Now, I'd have to say the characteristics of a particular model of boat do make a difference. The difference comes in comfort (how long can you stay in the boat, or how far can you paddle versus pedal), accessibility to gear (which means you can change a lure quickly), silent hulls (increasing the stealth factor), and the ability for the paddler to customize their boats to their particular needs. What a better way to sell that notion than to have a sponsored team go out there and catch a lot of quality fish. The kayak is a tool, but the better the tool the better the result.
THE ECONOMICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL ADVANTAGE:
One of the local fishing pages I read had an advertisement in it about the cost of owning a boat. The ad proudly noted the monthly payment (for 15 years) for an 18' boat, motor, trailer. At the time, it was around $380. Add to that insurance, taxes, and maintenance. Last, but not least, we don't even need to talk about the cost of fuel. OK, let's talk about fuel. One of my buddies who is a boater, uses his trolling motor a lot whenever he goes out. He powers up to go from point A to point B, but uses battery power to cruise the flats - brilliant. He also rags me about the fact that plastic kayaks are made from petroleum distillates. Well, some manufacturers are now making kayaks out of manufacturing scraps. The color is actually pretty cool. I know when I was doing the kayak fishing rep thing, we once used floor sweepings to test a new mold. The resulting boat looked great. Go figure. But, when fuel prices rise (and we know that they do), the better it looks and feels to be captain of a self-powered vessel.
KAYAK FISHING IS HERE TO STAY:
I could go on and on, but this article would start sounding a lot like that first article. No need to reinvent the wheel (thanks to hyperlinks), but we can surely celebrate the fact that this wheel is still rolling, straight and true.
So, thanks for being a contributor to the growth of this sport. So, what will happen in the next 5 years? Ask me then, I'm sure I'll write another article about it.
See you out on the water!
"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after"
~ Henry David Thoreau