Before I begin, I believe it should be noted that this is entirely an opinion piece. Some will respect my beliefs on this subject, some will despise it, but I truly believe that we can all learn something from it.
I posed a question on my personal Facebook page a little while back, not so much to ruffle feathers, but to open some honest and intelligent discussions on the subject. Many of you chimed in with solid responses, and a good friend, Drew Haerer, even added his thoughts on the subject in his personal blog. There was, however, one response that truly bothered me. I know the responder, and I think that added to the fact that I completely disagreed with his reply. I’d thought about not posting this, but events and conversations over the past couple of days have reinvigorated the belief that I simply need to put my 2 cents worth into this discussion.
Kayak fishing is easily one of the fastest growing sports in the country, and rightfully so. More and more are realizing the benefits of kayak fishing, not only to get to out to reach shallow areas, but also because of the freedom it presents. I’ve often said that when kayak fishing, you’re not only observing nature but also become part of it. To clarify, I believe due to our proximity to the water and nature in a kayak, that we have the opportunity to see so much more and experience so much more. We take a nice leisurely pace to reach our fishing destinations, therefore are more observant of our surroundings. I for one, notice that I’m looking around much more, thus witnessing all the serenity that being out on the water offers.
As great as all of this is, I believe there’s also so much wrong with our sport. Back to the initial response that spurred all of this… The question was, what does it take or what qualifies your being called the best. The answer was along the lines of whomever gets the most free stuff. The person who gets the most free stuff must be doing something right. Obviously, this answer could be attributed to the mindset in it’s entirety in today’s society. Instead of putting in the necessary legwork, many are simply inclined to find the easiest way to get something for free. I find this true in the sport of kayak fishing as well. Some in our sport have truly paid their dues, by building the sport through their dedication. This dedication could derive from giving seminars, writing for periodicals, writing books on the sport, or something as simple as helping out a newcomer to our sport while launching their kayak. I, myself, have been approached at a local kayak launch area, either launching or coming in, and have been asked questions on rigging, fishing techniques, or just general information on kayak fishing. I believe it’s our responsibility to assist those who ask for advice. I’ve also seen it in the various kayak fishing forums/clubs across the country. A newcomer will pose a question asking what kayak would be best suited for their fishing needs. You can always tell who the pro staffers are in their replies, as they say Brand “X” is the way to go. There’s truly nothing wrong with this type of response as this is what pro staffers are required to do. The issues lies with the fact that an explanation isn’t offered as to why Brand “X” is the way to go. I’ve often said I can tell you til I’m blue in the face that the brand kayak I use is the best there is, but ultimately, the most important issue is how will said kayak fit you, the individual. What suits me will not necessarily suit everyone. To that, my advice has always been to test out several brands and find the kayak that best “fits” you.
I’ve also seen several newcomers to our sport bounce from one brand to another within a few month’s time. This manufacturer doesn’t give them their expected due, so they look to go with another company. Here’s an interesting idea… promote the products that you believe in. Don’t ask to pro staff for a company who’s products you’ve never tried yourself personally. Work with the manufacturer, you might be surprised at how well the relationship grows from that simple gesture. Building relationships in this community is how you’re going to grow in the sport of kayak fishing. The relationships you build, will set you apart. Instead of simply looking for an easy hand out, put in the required time to build something, and that will be more beneficial that any simple free accessory that you’ll ever receive. Another thing I’ve noticed is how many expect and believed that they’re owed something in our sport. I was reminded of this on a recent trip where I took my 4yr old son to one of my favorite redfish spots. I myself, did not fish at all, but simply let my son catch the fish. Watching his excitement reminded me of why I started kayak fishing in the first place. It’s sheer enjoyment of being out on the water, catching fish, and enjoying myself. I believe many of us have forgotten the simple reason of why we started kayak fishing initially. It wasn’t to become the sport’s next big star, it was to simply find an affordable way to enjoy being on the water and catch fish.
In conclusion, I offer this advice. Bouncing from one brand to the next will only burn bridges and you’ll find yourself with the unenviable title of being a product monger. You’ll lose every ounce of credibility that you’ve earned, and that will be your ultimate downfall. Having your kayak littered with decals and stickers from your list of sponsors doesn’t’ entitle you to call yourself the best there is in our beloved sport. I’ve strived to build strong relationships in the kayak fishing community and amongst a variety of manufacturers. I firmly believe that how you carry yourself amongst your peers will be the defining factor of how you’re perceived in this sport. Besides, kayak fishing is supposed to be fun. I will never consider myself the best in this business. Mainly because I know there are many others who offer as much and more to the sport. I’m simply trying to enjoy the sport that I love so much, and share what little knowledge I have with those who are kind enough to ask. So, get your yak loaded up, head to your favorite paddle spot or fishing hole, and enjoy it.