Following Sungjin Kim and Gary Thorberg, here is our beta version of a Power W500 kayak:
The 2HP 4-cycle Honda outboard gas engine is perfect for the job: It’s powerful, lightweight (28 lbs empty), user friendly (quiet), environmentally friendly (low emissions), and easy to use (throttle grip). Most importantly, one of the 2 models Honda offers features a 20″ long propeller shaft, which is an absolute requirement for the W500. Shorter shafts (e.g. 15″) won’t do. The Power W500 went at high speed even when another passenger weighing 115 lbs came on board. Driving it feels pretty much like driving an aquatic motorcycle – it’s fun, and exciting. Getting used to steering with the tiller handle behind your back takes some time, but eventually it isn’t hard, and the sitting-riding position feels comfortable.
For most anglers, kayak fishing is an extreme sport. Extreme in the sense that an angler fishing from a kayak is compelled to give up the two essential things that any regular fishing motorboat provides, which are adequate stability and elementary comfort. The third requirement, storage space is important as well, but less than the first ‘must have’ two. Indeed, fishing kayaks are not stable enough, and they are extremely uncomfortable, when compared to regular size boats. As for storage in fishing kayaks, the situation is as dire as it is with regards to stability and ergonomics.
Kayak fishing promised a cheaper, hassle free, low maintenance, lightweight, car top form of fishing craft, and a direct, sporty experience. However, today, out of tens of millions of Americans who fish from boats, merely one in every thousand fishes from a kayak, and this is after a decade of promises that ‘kayak fishing is the fastest growing outdoors sport’, etc. The bulk of US anglers have followed neither the kayak fishing pioneers nor the fishing kayak manufacturers’ hype, and since growth in kayak fishing participation is no longer as fast as it had been several years ago, it is safe to say that the US kayak fishing market has matured. This is partly a result of decreasing enthusiasm from new participants, as well as a high dropout rate that has been typical to this sport since its early beginnings.
But kayak fishing feels extremely uncomfortable only if you’re fishing from the old fashion, sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks and sit-in kayaks. In contrast, when you fish from a W kayak, you experience a level of comfort that’s equivalent to that of fishing from a regular size boat, and some W fans would argue that you feel even better.
When stability is concerned, the level of stability an angler experiences while fishing from a W500 kayak is on par with what they’d feel fishing in a regular size fishing boat, in the sense that they are not required to constantly address the issue of balancing, and they can fish standing up with ease, comfort and confidence that are outside the world of fishing kayaks.
The W500 is the only kayak offering storage space that’s dry and accessible any time, and as much as any kayak angler may need, even if their fishing trip includes camping, and therefore carrying on board numerous and bulky items that so far only canoes and regular size boats could carry.
This is to say that kayak fishing has a future, and a bright one, but not as the extreme sport it’s been for most kayak anglers so far. The future of kayak fishing as a broad base sport and leisure activity depends on the participation of regular people, who care about their personal comfort, and demand a performance level in stability and storage that is not sub-minimal. In other words, the future of kayak fishing is W kayak fishing.
Boaters are always ready to help one another. Usually it’s motorized boaters who assist paddlers, but yesterday, while paddling our W kayaks on the Charles river in Waltham, we had an opportunity to help Anthony and Kelley, whose boat’s outboard motor had stalled.
We attached the back of my W kayak with a rope through its carry handles to the front of the motorboat.
From their motorboat, Anthony used my 9 ft long paddle, and Kelley paddled using a canoe paddle they had onboard. I paddled using an 8ft long paddle that belongs to my 9 year old son Yanay who had been onboard my W kayak and moved to the motorboat before we began the operation.
Yadin, my 12 year old son stayed in his own W kayak, and took pictures using a camera he borrowed from Anthony and Kelley.
It was a long and slow process, although the distance we had to paddle wasn’t long. After about 15 minutes we heard thunder and it started raining.
The Charles was already swollen from a previous thunderstorm, but since this part of it flows slowly the fact we had to paddle upstream didn’t seem to change much. The rain grew stronger, and after some 20 minutes more of paddling we made it to this dock in Waltham, where our cars were parked.
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.