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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The biggest advantage of the W is its simplicity. Some people go so overboard with stuff, they spend more time fighting their gear than fishing. I talk a lot about using the W in Florida, but northern folks would have a blast with this boat on lakes and streams. Head to head, this boat has serious advantages over many small boats. Aside from being able to just throw it in the back of my Ranger, launching by myself is a breeze. If I’m in an area of long grass and sand bottom, I frequently will jump in the boat and just slide down the bank. To debark, I scoot to the back of the seat until I have the bow up on shore. Then I walk to the bow and step out on dry land. In the boat, the seat makes a great workstation and my gear is organized at hand and easily reached. The upright position and lack of back fatigue makes this my favorite boat. It’s so versatile, I feel like I’m in a 4-Wheeler. The W will go just about anywhere I point it.