Fishing in shallow water can be a challenge if you drive a motorboat, because of the need for the propeller to rotate below the lowest point in the boat’s hull, which practically means that even if the boat itself has a shallow draft, namely a few inches, once the propeller is running you can’t drive it in water that’s less than a foot deep. This is unfortunate, since shallow water fisheries are among the most productive, and are home to fish species that are popular among anglers, such as redfish and tarpon in the South, and largemouth bass practically everywhere. Alternative propulsion, such as poling practiced in flats fishing isn’t that practical because it’s too hard for the average angler, as well as too slow. Paddling works better for sight fishing, especially if you can paddle standing, and indeed, quite a few people fish shallow waters out of their kayaks, although only Wavewalk kayaks offer comfortable stand up paddling for everyone, and not just for small-size anglers who happen to be physically. The optimal solution is to fish either from a motorboat that’s stable, lightweight and narrow enough to offer effective and easy paddling, such as the Wavewalk 700 car-top skiff, or from a kayak that stable enough to be easily and effectively motorizes such as the Wavewalk 500. More shallow water fishing info: http://wavewalk.com/blog/shallow-water-fishing/
Whether you’re on a paddling or fishing trip in shallow water, you don’t want to have to turn back, or worse – get stuck somewhere because of underwater obstacles. Such obstacles may be rocks, tree roots, fallen branches and fallen trees that prevent you from reaching your destination, be it an interesting place to tour or a promising spot to fish in.
If you have to turn back the W solution is either to paddle backwards, or turn the boat, or turn yourself inside the cockpit and face the direction from which you came from: The W kayak is fully symmetrical front and back and it feels the same paddling forward and backward.
Another strategy you can try is poling with your paddle (preferably the Wavewalk PSP), or going over the submerged obstacle – whether it’s top part is underwater or even a few inches above water: You position yourself at the back of the cockpit, thus raising your W kayak’s bow. Then you paddle forward full speed and try to get the boat to go as forward as possible over the barrier. If you succeeded in getting the middle of the boat pas the obstacle you’re almost there, and you’ll have to move swiftly to the front part of the cockpit and thus make your W kayak tilt forward and go over the obstacle. It may not be as easy as it sounds, but practice makes perfect, and in this case it’s fun too. It’s also great to know that you’ve gone where no other canoe or kayak could go… This video shows how it’s done:
Imagine you have a big boat, one that’s too big to beach. Well, you may actually own such a boat, and in such case you should be really interested in reading this post… Obviously, you’d need to tender this big boat with some kind of small boat, usually a dinghy. Why a dinghy? Because you need the thing to be really stable, protect you well, and enable you to carry provisions on board. For these reasons a traditional SOT or sit-in kayak might prove to be a bit problematic.
You may also want to use the little auxiliary boat just for fun and relaxation – maybe for paddling, or to go fishing in shallow waters. In this case the classic dinghy might be a bit awkward because rowing is OK for a short time if you really have to do it, but most people consider paddling to be more fun.
So, what’s the solution?
Read Cap’n Ron’s story about the beautiful ‘Ninja’ – his 42′ sailing boat, and the little green W Kayak that tenders it.
Jeff McGovern is a master kayak fisherman and W kayak fishing trailblazer from Palatka, Florida.
Here is what Jeff recently wrote me:
“In the W kayak I find myself poking the boat into grassy areas since the grass coming up between the hulls will hold it in place. With the slightly additional height the angler is at casting over the grass is easy. Also you don’t catch grass on the back cast as you would in a lower boat. I’ve fished the same areas out of a SOT and the W the last few months, and there are distinct advantages to both designs at certain times. At a higher tide the W can creep into the grass areas where the SOT would be surrounded by grass making a cast impossible. Also with moving forward in on the saddle the W becomes a pivot point so a larger fish has a tough time of getting on the wrong side of your efforts. In most other kayaks that concern is addressed with a longer rod to clear both ends of the boat but that is still harder. As you look toward newer W models I’m wondering if raising the saddle a bit would be nicer for big guys like me. Those little trashcans I use pushed in the hulls are pretty handy. One other thing about the W that comes up is the ease of dragging it on the ground. For short beach launches or for areas like the fish camp where I normally launch the W proves almost effortless. Other kayakers have mentioned how simple the W is to handle – I really only have to pick it up once at home to load it and then once more when I get back to put it away. At virtually all my launching spots all I do is pull it off the back of the Ranger and onto the ground. Once I place the rods in the rack I can drag the whole thing to the water and be off. Other kayak fishermen who use SOTs are either waiting for assistance or making multiple trips to the water. Jeff”
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.