A fishing kayak is a small vessel designed and outfitted to be used typically by one angler for recreational fishing. In most cases, the angler propels their kayak with a dual blade paddle (kayak paddle), and in their cases, the kayak is motorized, typically with an electric (trolling) motor powered by a battery carried on board. Most fishing kayaks are inadequate for fishing due to several reasons, including insufficient stability, poor ergonomics (lack of basic comfort), wetness, and lack of good storage space. Some bigger fishing kayak models are too wide, heavy and slow for an average angler to paddle. Such kayaks are commonly known as ‘barges’. Their large size also makes them too hard to car top, and they often require to be transported by trailer, which defies the purpose of kayak fishing. The only kayak that’s stable, comfortable and dry enough for an average person to fish from is the W kayak. It is also the only kayak offering adequate storage, as well as easy entrance into the cockpit and easy exit from it.
My nickname in the pest control industry is “Gadget” since I am always looking for the latest, greatest thing or making improvements to what is already out there. My favorite part of the job is speaking to large audiences across the country and I always bring lots of “Show and Tell.” I am no different when it comes to my passion-fishing.
Long before kayaks hit the fishing world here in Florida, canoes ruled the shallows in many areas. When I started canoe fishing here in the 80’s, there were a number of folks doing it, but it wasn’t well publicized. Then we discovered outriggers for canoes and things started to change. I could stand up in my canoe and see the fish I was stalking. Plus, I could go into water that was too shallow for a motor or into zones that were designated “no motor zones” like the ones near Kennedy Space Center. I love my canoe, but I wanted something I could just toss in the back of the truck and go. So we started shopping for kayaks.
Photo: Jim Green
We looked at sit inside, sit on top, rudder, no rudder, big, small, skinny, HEAVY. My wife, Kate, is small and wanted something small and light. I am not small. I am 6’3″, 245 lbs. and have size 15 feet. We started with two small sit insides. I enjoyed fishing from them-even won a fully loaded 13′ sit on top kayak catching a winning flounder during my club’s tournament-but I missed being able to fish standing up. My quest for a stand up kayak began. Then one day, surfing the web, I found a video clip of a guy jumping up and down in a kayak. I knew that I had found my dreamboat-The W.
I am not small. I am 6’3″, 245 lbs. and have size 15 feet.
The W has ruined me for other kayaks. My wife will tell you that the fleet (did I mention we now have 5 kayaks?) stays on the porch and the W goes fishing every Saturday morning. I do need to mention that there is a learning curve similar to learning to ride a bike when it comes to handling and fishing the W. I was discouraged the first couple of outings-but then I got the feel of it. Now I use it exclusively, even in tournaments.
When other yakkers stay home because of high winds, I’m out paddling around.
The W allows me to fish virtually all the time. When other yakkers stay home because of high winds, I’m out paddling around. In the W, your lower half is protected from the wind and the spray shield keeps water off you as well. A set of Frog Togs ensures that you stay dry and comfortable all day. I’ve spent as much as 5 solid hours in the W in cool weather and lots of wind. Padding is easier and requires less effort than in a regular kayak. I use a long stroke at a slower pace and have no trouble keeping up with longer kayaks that are using double the amount of short strokes. The W’s height allows that and helps me. Also, I “push” the stroke rather than “pull” it. The high hand and arm push the paddle through the water with the lower hand only pulling enough for guidance. This allows you to paddle longer because it’s less tiring.
The W also handles waves much better and far drier than other small boats and kayaks. We have a number of large yachts on the Intercoastal that kick up huge waves. Other kayaks and small skiffs get spun around or tossed badly. The W rides it like my CraigCat-up and down without a problem. Last week I found it also slips up and down over the backs of very large and too curious manatees. The boat tipped to one side, but remained upright and we both went home with a story of the one that got away.
Fishing is a sport of tactical knowledge and a feel for the area you are fishing. I own hundreds of rods and reels and have designed a few kayak/canoe rods. I also test new rods and reels for a number of companies before they go onto the general market. The more you fish, the more specialized your gear gets. The most important thing is to understand the area you are trying to fish. I envision the travel patterns the fish use to get from place to place. I think about where they can ambush a meal with the least effort or how the tidal patterns affect where they rest and feed. I have to understand how the light hits the water and how I might be exposed or hidden by it. The W allows me to move into their house and position myself to the best advantage. I wish I could come up with a way to describe the feel of the W. Sitting down, it’s like riding. Standing up-well, until I figure some way to put floats on my size 15 feet and walk on water, standing up in the W is the next best thing.
I would venture to say the W offers improved casting with any gear. From the riding position, I get more power with my casting and spinning because I can put my whole body into the cast and use my legs. The solid feel of the boat gives you a great sense of security. Netting fish is also easier because you can bring the net handle up and across the noodles and just hold in until you net the fish alongside. This allows you to compose yourself and arrange things to remove the hook without tangling your gear or hurting the fish. WARNING: It is very important to fill the handle of your net with spray foam. This is so that when manatees and sundry aquatic creatures borrow your net, you can get it back. I know from personal experience these critters are very inconsiderate and will leave it on the bottom where you can’t find it. I would venture to say the W offers improved casting with any gear. It’s a great exploration kayak and there’s a great sense of adventure for the user.
My favorite scouting position in the W is standing up. I can spot fish and then move in stealth mode with a push pole or paddle blade. There is a serious advantage to being able to stand and see over grass or oyster beds. Being able to peak over cover is a big deal. Sometimes, like when I was working my way along the Ocklawaha River, I was moving through snag (and gator) infested waters with logs, bed pads and deep, dark places you might not want to get into. The W handled that type of paddling better than our other craft. You could stand quick to see ahead, duck and move around things. It’s a great exploration kayak and there’s a great sense of adventure for the user. No craft is perfect for all things, but sometimes I have so much fun with the boat, I forget to fish.
A kayak is not a bass boat, bay boat, or a flats boat when it comes to hauling equipment. While a kayak can fill most boating roles, space is limited– so serious thought is needed as to what to carry. You outfit your boat according to the needs you have in your own fishing area. My fishing time is split between saltwater and freshwater in Florida. The gear is similar, except for the tackle changes normally associated between the two types of fishing.
Safety gear is first. You need to be safe in the water and there are some things that are mandatory and might be required by law. A PFD or personal floatation device is very important and should be worn at all times while in the kayak. A whistle is required as a signaling device and should be carried on board. Hat and sunglasses add protection and comfort from the sun. Proper clothing, either rain suit or sun protection, needs to be accessible for when the need arises. Fishing gloves protect the hands from sunburn and can aid in the landing of fish. Sun block should be worn at all times to protect the skin. I prefer at least SPF 30 or higher. Foot wear needs to be nonskid and of a type that can be worn in the water. Here in Florida, shoes with a sturdy sole help prevent cuts and slashes from oyster beds and shells. I also carry a sponge or towel to wipe my hands after a fish, as well as to soak up any water I get into the boat.
You need some way to secure your kayak while still fishing. An anchor or stake out pole is ideal for this. My preference is to use a small folding anchor on an anchor trolley rigged to the side of the kayak. If the water is shallow enough, in the W you can simply change your position on the seat to pin the hulls to the bottom–a great method for stop and go style flats fishing. In deeper water, a drift sock or small bucket can be used to slow down your drift. In addition to securing the kayak at times, you’ll also need a place to keep the paddle out of the way. You can either place it across the cockpit, resting on the cockpit noodles or on paddle hooks (as seen on the W website.)
Fishing tackle needs a place to be kept out of the way until needed. A fishing vest with multiple pockets is fine for small terminal tackle and packages of plastic baits. It also gives you a place to carry a small camera, line clippers, dehookers, and other small fishing tools. I use small gear reels or lanyards to keep the gear close at hand but out of the way while fishing. Larger lures in tackle packs and other tools can be placed in a small plastic trashcan and slid under the deck on whichever side is most convenient. A net is handy and a small one can be kept under the front deck opposite the side with the trash can. Another great tool for landing and controlling fishing at the boat is a pair of fish grabbers.
I keep drinks and snacks in a small soft cooler behind me in one of the hull spaces. If fish are to be kept for dinner, they can be stored in a cooler bag in a hull space as well.
Rods and reels are placed in the flush mount holders, if the W model you have is equipped with them. My F2 has two holders, while my standard W boat has a three-tube crate rig mounted on the deck behind me. If I need extra rods, I use multi-piece pack rods stored below the decks. Some folks like to troll while paddling and the new Ram rod holders are ideal for this purpose. Remember that, even though space is limited compared to a powerboat, there is more than enough room for a day of fishing in a kayak. It just takes a bit of thought and planning.