It’s been about a month since I finally jumped headfirst into a kayak. I thought it would be good to talk a little about where my heads at and how kayak fishing has measured up to my expectations so far, so without further ado, here’s my kayak fishing review.
Kayak Fishing Review: My Transition to a Kayak
I bought my first kayak and made my maiden voyage on July 21, 2019. I wasn’t in a very good boat, so I was hurting after a few hours but I had a blast. My first impressions of fishing for bass from a kayak were certainly mixed after that trip. Let’s just say I’m glad I waited a month to write my kayak fishing review!
But what I soon experienced was one of the things I had heard the most about kayak fishing, the camaraderie. I received dozens of messages from different anglers about their experiences and setups. However, it wasn’t the same chatter I’d usually hear in the bass boat world where someone would try to convince me to buy something because they were sponsored by them and got a deal for 10% off. It was way more genuine.
“I have found that this works best for me.”
“Let me know how it goes or if you find something better.”
Anytime I asked a question, the kayak community would answer. And often I wouldn’t even have to ask and I would receive tips that quickly improved my experience in a kayak. It’s a whole other world from a big fiberglass boat and there’s certainly a learning curve. I think that’s what I have found to be so appealing about it. The challenge has made it so rewarding.
Kayak Fishing Review: Why I Left My Bass Boat
I’ve done about all there is to do from a 20-foot fiberglass boat short of fishing one of the top national tours.
For years that was the only thing in fishing that had any allure to me. I even made it as far last year as to purchase a brand new loaded Ranger with an MSRP of $96,000 just to get priority entry into the FLW Tour. But I was unable to come up with the $35,000 for the entry fees. Much less the expenses that would come along the way fishing the Tour which would likely exceed another $30,000.
So taking into consideration my $900/month boat payment and $140/month in boat insurance (no I’m not exaggerating), I was looking at having to work 20 weekends in exchange for 8 weeks off and put up roughly $77,480 to fish the Tour for one year. Say I had an unbelievably fantastic year on the Tour and finished 11th out of 170 boats in every single tournament. I would have “made” $77,000 ………………….. let that sink in.
So last fall, when I finally accepted the impossibility of it all, I sold my Ranger and got pretty down on the whole sport of bass fishing. I was that close to finally reaching my lifelong dream of fishing a national tour. A dream I was sold as a child and have chased all my life. The only thing in the fishing industry that lit any kind of fire under me anymore. All of that was gone.
So now what?
Even as I write this I understand that these are all first-world problems. That’s not lost on me. I didn’t get to fish for a living. So what. Much less than 1% of those who try to, get to. I still had a house and a nice truck and never had to worry about my next meal. I was doing better than most in the grand scheme of things.
But I was still very frustrated. I decided to dump all my energy into fishing locally and trying to become dominate enough to actually make money around the house. Very few have done that over the years but I thought, maybe I can do that. So, I bought a 2011 Nitro with an Ultrex and hydraulic jack plate and added two basic Power-Poles and my Panoptix that I kept off the Ranger when it sold. I had a boat with all the tools that I needed to feel confident competing against anyone and I was all in for about 1/4 of what that Ranger was listed for.
So I had made a good decision. I was being responsible and reasonable right? I fished as many local tournaments as I could through the course of the spring and then into the summer with little night derbies around the house. I think dad and I finished second in one and won another tournament in the spring. I won a few night derbies alone and we won a few together. I didn’t have the guts to keep up with the exact numbers but I feel like at best I probably broke even on what I was spending to do it.
I do recall a stint in the night derbies where I won $600 one night and then barely missed winning the next one, lost a good fish in the next one that would have won the tournament and big fish and then bombed in the next one. So I was within just a couple ounces and one bad jump from being up a grand. Instead, after four entry fees of $30 to $60 each, boat and truck gas and oil, I was back to even from the $600 I won at the first of the month. And that’s not taking into consideration the $350/month boat payment or the $72/month insurance payment.
Kayak Fishing Review: My First Kayak
So on July 21st, I was sitting around with all this running through my head. I had only fished 3 or 4 times in July. Each time in a tournament. I hadn’t cashed any checks. I was already in for around a $1,000 bucks for the month when you factor in the boat payment, gas, oil, and insurance.
And I had only been fishing a few times. Each of those nights filled with frustrations. Fishing was no longer my sanctuary. It was a job. And one I wasn’t even making money at. I no longer enjoyed it. I just pitched fits when I lost fish. I didn’t look around and appreciate how fortunate I was to be fishing with my dad. I didn’t talk to God on the water anymore. I was burnt out.
Fishing had nothing else in store for me… or so I thought.
Then enters a $300 chunk of backbreaking plastic known as Tea Cup that I couldn’t be more thankful for. For those of you who have never met Tea Cup, that’s the name my mother affectionately tossed at the Sun Dolphin Journey 12 SS that I bought at Tractor Supply that day. You sit down really low in that boat and it is brutal to fish out of for a 5’ 11”, 32-year-old man in the 250-pound range.
But I had a ball in it. I fished from it 6 out of the first 7 days I had it. The first fish I caught out of Tea Cup was about a 2-pound spot. That fish turned my boat around and threw water all over me and put up one heck of a fight. It’s weird and silly, I know, but something just came over me when I put that first fish in the kayak. From a big bass boat, I would carelessly discard 2-pounders with a little backhand toss out of the side of the boat and more of a “next” mentality.
I found myself just looking at that fish… proud of it. Thankful for it.
So often we hear that it’s not the destination, but the journey. I think that is so true in both the little picture and the bigger picture. Each successful catch is essentially a destination. All the work that goes into catching that bass, the journey. All that effort to me is what makes catching a bass in a kayak so special. As for the bigger picture, fishing out of a kayak wouldn’t be half as appealing to me or as satisfying if it weren’t for all the ups and downs I’ve experienced in bass fishing as a whole over the last year. That journey has made this destination truly spectacular.
I don’t know if kayak fishing will be the end all be all for me, or if it will just be a season in my life. And I don’t honestly care. I think I fished out of a kayak 15 or 16 times this month. And for the first time in a very long time, I enjoy fishing again and I’m not just focused on catching and winning.
Kayak Fishing Review: My First Month in Review
I have introduced my dad to kayak fishing and we had a ball catching 12-inchers in a farm pond. We are already planning trips to ponds he hasn’t fished since he was a kid and a camping trip on the creek like we used to do when I was a teenager.
I’ve spent a day on the water with two wounded warriors from Denmark that I’ll always remember.
I also bombed in two other night tournaments out of it and still had more fun and lost less money than I did some nights when I’d cash a check out of a big boat.
I took my 81-year-old buddy Neal Webster out in a kayak for the first time and listened to stories from his childhood fishing out of a washtub in the middle of an inflated tractor tube and his days in the Marines standing shoulder to shoulder with 5,000 soldiers on transport ships.
Kayak fishing has also gotten my creative juices flowing again and I’ve built a Livewell system to fit in the back of a kayak. I will have a DIY article up soon on how you can build your own. I’m even considering building a few and selling them. If anyone is interested, feel free to message me on my Instagram.
All of that has happened in my first month in a kayak.
Meanwhile my Nitro has essentially turned into a giant tackle box and hasn’t left the shop. I’m even strongly considering putting it up for sale. Luckily my dad has a 2002 Ranger that we can fish team tournaments out of and I can always buy another big boat down the road if I want to. Currently, though it’s just a $422/month obstacle to walk around.
So a lot has gone on in a month. I’m excited to see where the coming months take me. It’s just a matter of time before I venture into the actual kayak tournament scene. I’ve already thought about the coming winter months when I will be hesitant to fish from a kayak around here due to the cold water. But if I sell the boat I can use that money to take some trips down to Florida. One of the things that I can’t wait to do is tie into an 8-pounder punching in a kayak. That’s going to be epic.
So for me, kayak fishing has been re-invigorating and so rewarding. It has far exceeded my expectations and put me on a new path in the fishing industry to find my place and my community. My only regret is not having taken the dozens of people seriously over the years who tried to tell me what kayak fishing was like. It’s just one of those things that’s hard to adequately describe.
Once you go, you know. And now I know.
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
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