Bass fishing has gone through many changes through the years and as a sport, it seems to keep growing and evolving every day. Truth be told, however, the fishing part of the sport has not changed all that much. There are rods, reels, line and lures…still the same today as it was when the sporting nature of bass angling started over a hundred years ago.
The thing that has changed is the knowledge of the species and the technology used to make the rods, reels, line and lures. Add to this the evolution of the bass boat. Bass boats have risen from the in-line, tub looking boats to sleek and shiny boats that top 80 MPH with a ride as smooth as a car on pavement. They have progressed even further with the single seat, plastic models that can be transported in the back of a pickup or on top of a car.
Okay, that last line caught a few of you by surprise, I’m sure. PLASTIC? Yes, plastic…kayak bass angling is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States and things show no signs of slowing down given the current economy and fuel prices. Kayaks are much less expensive to own and operate than any gas propelled watercraft and are also easier to transport. Because they are small, they can access places on the water that other boat owners can only dream of getting to. They afford a quiet experience, no wind noise in the ears to speak of and if a person isn’t careful, he or she might even get in a little better physical shape due to the need to paddle!
Yes, there are some drawbacks as you can cover only so much water in a day, but is that really a disadvantage? Many of us in the bass boating world pass up a lot of water to get to those “honey holes”, missing the opportunity to learn how to catch bass in the rest of the lake or river.
Kayakers fish what they are presented with and they learn to fish it well. Many of the kayak bass anglers even install a small battery on board to add sonar to the mix and the slower rate of travel allows for more time to learn their electronics to the fullest. Some, however, like to keep their fishing/kayaking simple.
Shown in the first photo Raymond Wells, a kayaker of about five years now, started out with no intention of fishing from the “yak”. When he caught his first fish from it, though, he was hooked and kayaking was never the same.
“The kayak I use already had bungee cords installed and a half skirt (attached to the sitting area) with a zippered pouch where I could put fishing gear and my camera,” Wells remembers. “I used it for two years without adding anything else and enjoyed it!”
PICKIN’ A YAK
Jumping into the plastic armada can be a daunting task given the many brands and styles of kayaks on the market today. With a little planning and forethought it can become an enjoyable experience as well as a new and exciting way to catch your favorite fish. As for this first of a series of articles, I will proceed with the assumption that you, the reader, have at least a basic understanding of bass fishing and that you have a limited understanding of kayaks. There are a few things to consider when purchasing a kayak. The most important thing is your weight, the length and width of the kayak, the sitting position of the kayak and where you will be doing the majority of your paddling/fishing.
First, we will discuss your weight. No, I am not talking about dieting or health or anything like that! Just as boats have a weight capacity posted by the boat manufacturer, kayaks also have weight capacities and if they are not followed, it is highly likely the kayak will not be able to keep you dry! When considering this capacity, keep in mind your body weight and any gear or accessories you will have with you when on the water and then look for the models that will comfortably support that weight.
The length of the kayak is another important characteristic to consider. The second photo shows Tim Stewart, founder of Hardcore Fishing Team and member of the Great Outdoor Provision Co. Kayak Team. Stewart says the length and width are key features to how the boat moves.
“Short boats are generally more maneuverable, but longer boats track, or stay straight better, and are faster,” Stewart advises. “As for width, wider boats have more stability but narrower boats paddle easier.” He also points out that when learning paddling, it’s important to choose the right paddle for your size and the size of the kayak.
The type of kayak is probably the most debated topic when looking to purchase a yak. There are basically two types of kayaks to choose; a sit in kayak (SIK) or a sit on top kayak (SOT). The SIK places the boater deeper into the kayak, giving a lower center of gravity and more stability to the angler. It will take more practice getting in and out of the boat, though, due to the lower seating area.
The SOT is just what it sounds like; the boater sits on top of the kayak in a molded area that supports the sitting parts of the body and gives the yakker a little higher perspective of the water. The SOT boats are also typically wider to compensate for that higher center of gravity. Some can even be used to stand up on, with much practice, of course!
There are a couple real disadvantages to think about with SOT boats, though. There is no protection from the elements unless that protection is worn on the person. Also, there is limited space to mount accessories that might be wanted as anglers “wants” get more elaborate.
The last of the basic considerations is where you will likely do most of your boating/fishing. If you think you will primarily be fishing river systems, maneuverability and ease of paddling might be more important than speed. If your target waters are primarily larger, calmer waters, stability and speed might be more important. If you plan to be on all water types, then you will want to find that happy medium.
Some of the best advice of all comes from a relative newcomer to the sport, 17-year-old Austin Seibert shown in the last photo, “Keep it simple…a few rods, a few lures…safe and stable over flashy and looking good, and oh…have fun and catch some bass!”
Austin couldn’t have said it any better.