- These craft are made to order for fishing small and remote waters.
- You will never go back to aluminum canoes once you’ve fished from a kayak.
- You can customize a fishing kayak for anything.
By Jim Low
Ask anyone who has fished an Ozark stream (or anywhere) in a kayak, and you are likely to hear a paean on the many advantages of these craft. My “aha moment” came within five minutes of climbing into a 10-foot Old Towne model.
A slightly overlong cast landed my Rebel Craw in a wad of flotsam and I swore like a sailor, knowing I’d have to paddle like a demon against a stiff current to retrieve the $6 crankbait. Resting my rod in the notches provided for that purpose, I grabbed the double paddle and instantly became aware of the advantages of kayak fishing. Instead of the heavy labor needed to propel a bulky aluminum canoe upstream, a few strokes had me within reach of my lure. Then, instead of struggling to turn a 16-foot behemoth around in tight quarters, I executed a neat 180-degree turn and was fishing again.
In the South, when food is so good you can’t believe it, they say it will make you want to slap your mama. At that moment on Bryant Creek, I wanted to slap my Grumman. Don’t get me wrong, canoes have their place.
There’s no beating the cargo capacity and stability of an 18-foot touring canoe on a camping trip. Lightweight Kevlar models in a variety of sizes and styles make canoes much more versatile than they were 30 years ago. But for fishing skinny water or remote spots, nothing beats a kayak. You can throw three or four of them in the bed of a pickup truck and carry them in to places other anglers can only dream of reaching.
I had no idea how important portability was until I found myself near the end of a day-long float on the upper Maries River a few years ago.
My fishing buddy has bad hips and knees and could barely get in and out of his borrowed kayak with assistance. We were tired and ready for a hot meal with adult beverages, when the river unexpectedly ended. A flood had deposited several thousand cubic yards of gravel and hundreds of trees in what once was the main channel. What was left was a quarter mile of small rivulets separated by gravel bars and choked with willow thickets.
Randy got himself and our fishing rods to the end of the blockage, but it fell to me to drag our kayaks through the hellish mess. I don’t know what we would have done if we had been in a canoe.
Many kayaks are not particularly well-suited to fishing. Dagger-like racing models are not stable enough, and too long to be maneuverable. Short, inexpensive kayaks are similarly tippy, and there’s no place to put your fishing rod and other gear. To enjoy kayak fishing fully, you need one fitted out specifically for that purpose. Prices for fishing kayaks range from a few hundred dollars for models with basic features and to thousands of dollars for boats that practically paddle themselves. There are quite a few features to look for, understand and think about.
Check the many features out in Part 2 of 2, coming up next week.
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