Saturday, June 8, 2013

Kayak fishing is the fastest growing segment of the sport

Bill Sudia battles a big fish on the Myakka River.

(NOTE: I wrote this for Sport Fishing Weekly:

I was fishing with a friend the other day who told me one of his clients wanted to get into kayak fishing.

He said his friend, a very accomplished fly angler, was going to buy Brand X.

I asked why?

"Because that's the brand the last speaker at our fly fishing club recommended."

Kayak fishing arguably is the fastest growing segment of the sport. Kayaks not only are economical (they range in price from $300 to $2,500), but also are stealthy and efficient platforms from which to fish.
But there's no one brand or style of kayak for everyone.

I own a fleet of Native Watercraft kayaks ( I have three Native Watercraft Ultimates and a Slayer 14.5. My personal boat is an Ultimate 14.5. Native Watercraft meet my needs. They paddle easily, track very straight and have plenty of room for tackle, gear and other stuff.

I heartily recommend Native Watercraft. But before you run out and buy one, you might want to try a few kayaks out. Many kayak dealers have a local body of water where you can test their products. Do some research, then test several brands.

I have been a full-time kayak fishing guide since 2006. I run Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing in Sarasota (, Fla., about 50 miles south of Tampa on the west coast. I fish Sarasota Bay, Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound, local rivers, lakes and The Everglades.
One of the main attractions of kayak fishing is that you're only limited by your imagination. If you can find a place to launch and park, you can fish.

Kayaks eliminate the limitations of most forms of fishing. Kayak anglers can fish where they want, when they want and for what species they want. They can stay late or leave early. And they don't have to rely on anyone else.

And there's usually no need to stop at a gas station on the way home.

I believe fishing from a kayak makes you a better angler. If the action is slow, you certainly can't turn a key, slam the throttle forward and speed off for a hot spot 10 miles away. No, you're at your spot for the duration.

So, you get to know your spots quite intimately. You become familiar with every inch of the waters you fish.

You know where every sand hole is. You know every edge. You know where the fish are at most any stage of the tide.

I co-founded the annual Fall Fly Fishing Challenge in Sarasota nine years ago. Three years back, I decided to fish the event from my kayak.

"Only makes sense," I told myself.

Prior to that, I had fished the tournament with a buddy out of his technical flats skiff.

The first year out of the kayak, I caught enough fish to win two of three divisions in the catch, photo and release event. I caught nearly 200 inches of snook and more than 150 inches of spotted seatrout. But since entrants are only allowed to win one division, I opted to take the more prestigious Snook Division.

The angler who won the Trout Division had 42 inches.

My tournament performance isn't really a true indicator of my fishing ability. It's more of a testament to the effectiveness of the kayak than anything else.

Kayak dealers are springing up all across the country. So, you shouldn't have any trouble in your search. 

Paddle different brands. Test out different models. Figure out which length is right for you.

When you finally decide, don't trick you new boat out with all the bells and whistles right away. Most kayak anglers simply add as they go.

One staple item that is universally accepted is a milk crate. You place it behind your seat and it serves as a place to store your tackle boxes. On my milk crate, I've attached six rod holders.

I also added an anchor trolley -- a line running through pulleys on the bow and stern. You clip your anchor to the line and move it to whatever position you want. That way, you can always face the direction you need to fish.

My kayaks are so stable I can stand up and fish. So, I also have a 9-foot push pole that I use to slowly move me along the shallows. I've found plenty of fish while poling along the shallows.

Of course, your paddle is your main power source. It's my opinion your paddle should be your second most expensive piece of equipment. I used an Aqua-Bound Surge Carbon Paddle (

Pedal  kayaks are popular is some areas. Several kayak dealers (including Native) offer pedal craft). They're not my cup of tea, but they do appeal to a certain segment of the kayak-fishing community. I do a lot of fly fishing, and the pedal mechanism tends to catch the fly line a lot.

No matter your choice of kayak, rest assured your fishing probably will improve significantly. And you'll be joining the fastest-growing legion of anglers in the country.

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