Author Archives: Marty

Kayakjak’s 2019 Recap

It looks like the kayak fishing season is over for me in 2019. Many goals accomplished. Numerous new friends along the way. Thousands of miles traveled and eight different states fished. The best part…just fishing! It’s the tug for me. But I do keep stats! Keeps my brain firing synapses and burning all that extra glycogen. My main goal was to catch 2,019 fish for 2019. Mission accomplished! Caught 2,371 fish this year. 2,106 of them were bass. I’m sure there are those out there who most likely catch more but with my current occupation it is difficult to fish as much as I would like. I averaged 17.6 fish caught per trip for a total of 134 trips this year.

I fished in 61 tournaments, of which 37 were live and 23 online. Finishing in the top 5 was my goal in most tournaments and I had 42 of 61 Top 5 finishes for 69%. As for Top 10 finishes I had 51 of 61 for 84% of the time. Sixteen first places capped the season. Some of the most memorable finishes were at the KBF National Championships where I finished 37th and took home $600 in addition to the National Team Cup Champions with my teammates winning $10,000. That was a lot of fun! The Major League and Kayakapalooza are two of my favorites and took first in both of them again this year. I finished 2nd in the AOY standings for The Sticks-Nebraska Kayak Anglers Trail Series behind legendary Joshua Workman. Now he’s a STICK! Finished first in The Sticks-Tuesday Night League AOY and the AOY for the Sticks Thursday night league is still pending as Jareth Kaup and I are tied for the lead there.

I’ve qualified for the KBF National Championship for the fifth year in a row and it will be held at Guntersville, AL next spring.

I also had my highest finish in the AOY for the KBF finishing 22nd overall. Total winnings were $5,492.98 which helped pay my expenses when needed. My entry fees were paid for by KBF for the year as part of the prize package of the Team Cup Challenge.

 

My favorite guide trip was with ACT guru John Baylor and his son. They were simply awesome out there! It was also fun to host 9 youth events this year introducing even more youngsters to the sport of kayak fishing. I’m looking forward to the next season even though I’ll be turning 61. I’m starting to feel the effects of the physical and mental toll but that could be caused by other parts of my life too.

All I know is that I love this sport and love to see the success of everyone out there as well. It’s just plain fun! A big thanks to my beautiful wife Diane Hughes who supports my plastic boat adventures. Also, to my sponsors Bass Pro Shops, YakGear, Bending Branches, TourneyX.com, Kayakjak’s Outfitters and Fishing Guide Service, Strike King Lure Company, Emotion Kayaks, and supporters Select Sail & Sports, LLC., The Sticks – Nebraska Kayak Anglers, and all of my friends who constantly encourage me. I am very blessed to travel and participate and thank my Lord who created all of nature for us to enjoy!

Promoting The Sport of Kayak Fishing

The popularity of kayak fishing seems to be growing exponentially. At least that is what we can tell from the growth of kayak tournament fishing which gives us the data to show this growth. Depending on the age group, research shows a variety of outdoor activities are very popular today. The popularity of fishing does show up in some age groups. Kayaking in general is popular in the age group 18-34 according to the Physical Activity Council survey of 2019.Kayak fishing as a separate activity does not seem to be showing up on the national surveys yet. You would think it would with all of the kayaks we see on top of vehicles as we travel down the road or on the waterways of our country. Kayaks seem to be in every big box store. They are visible in numerous television commercials, and dot the pages of several magazines each month, regardless of the topic. One thing is for sure, kayak fishing is becoming more popular.

These little plastic boats are a way to get on the water and either paddle, fish, or sight see. It is also a very inexpensive activity to pursue depending on the level you wish to participate. You can paddle them, pedal, or even install electric motors to travel long distances. Some even have a sail. With the interest of fishing from a kayak one would think it was the world’s most popular activity.

How is it that this activity is growing so fast? Who and why are they promoting it? For one thing, if a person is passionate about something they are surely going to tell their family and friends about it. And from looking at social media lately there are a lot of people passionate about kayak fishing. What is it that makes kayak fishing so interesting? First, I would say that it is relaxing and it gets you very close to nature. Fish can be caught from very remote places that other vessels are unable to trek. The tug of a fish in a kayak is unlike being on shore or in a large boat. Even a bluegill can move your kayak from the end of that line when hooked. Speaking of “hooked” once a person tries kayak fishing they seem to be addicted to it’s unique nature.

So, let’s talk about promoting.  As I was preparing for a recent seminar on taking pictures of fish from the kayak I started thinking about how this sport had evolved in this area.  In the early days we didn’t have the cell phone or Go Pro camera to take the incredible pictures we are seeing today on the internet.  We did have those inexpensive water proof cameras that we could take a single picture with.  We would flag down a neighboring boat or even paddle to shore and find someone to take a picture of our fish to prove that we caught it before letting it go.  This might be where the original CPR (Catch, photo, release) came from.  Then there were the unique digital cameras that came out and we started taking pictures using the “selfie” to show our catches.  I thought about how the sport may have grown through those that posted pictures on the internet in those early fishing forums before Facebook and Instagram.  I remember posting pictures in the Nebraska Game and Parks forum and having other anglers comment about them.  They were intrigued by the size of the fish and that I was using this small plastic vessel to catch them.  This went on for around six years before someone would even go with me.  The pictures on the internet certainly have something to say when it comes to the growth of the sport.

Then, we started sharing our experiences.  For me, it was guiding others and working demos for the Nebraska Game and Parks.  Besides taking my own kids on the water there were those “brave” enough to get into the kayak while shaking vigorously in fear from capsizing.  Although the kayaks were very stable many were still fearful of this new adventure on the water. Once they overcame their fear it was game on! There were some days my clients didn’t want to stop fishing and then they wanted to purchase the kayaks I had there that day!  Through guiding hundreds of people I found that they were telling others and we were more busy than we could handle at times.  The media became involved writing articles and doing radio shows on this rather precarious activity we call kayak fishing.  Soon afterward other kayaks started showing up on the waters.  More kayak companies started appearing.  Small tournaments started appearing.  We had our own tournament and had about a dozen participants back in 2005.

Most of us tinkered with various home made accessories and then companies like Yak Gear and Yak Attack suddenly appeared from those ideas and offered state of the art accessories that made kayak fishing easier. Kayaks themselves were improved and made specific for fishing.  The camera improvements evolved rapidly with GoPro leading the way.  Videos started appearing.  Then came along the social media giants of Facebook and Instagram along with Youtube.  Kayak fishermen were so enthusiastic about sharing their adventures that these social medial moguls were flooded with new ideas and lots of great catches.  The tournament scene grew and thousands flocked to their friendly competitions.  Magazines emerged.  The KBF (Kayak Bass Fishing) appeared. A national tournament was born due largely to the efforts of kayak fishing guru Chad Hoover.  There was also the Tournament of Champions at Lake Fork in Texas which grew rapidly from a grass roots level at the helm of Beau “Papa Chops” Reed.   It was then passed on to videographer Cody Prather, and now Hobie Cat, organized under the direction of famed kayak angler AJ McWhorter.  Hobie also hosts a “World Championship” which is considered by some as the most prestigious event in the the world of kayak fishing. And now, most recently, there is another national spotlight on B.A.S.S. which will also host a national series.  Yes, thousands of dollars are at stake.  But most will tell you that the money is not the main pull.  They will tell you its the comradery.  The stories, the adventure, the trips across the country to waters never fished in their lives.  While kayak fishing has grown exponentially it seems the passion of those behind the scenes have skyrocketed interest the most.  The tug, the next big fish, setting up and breaking down the kayak are all influential variables.

Even with all of these national spotlights on kayak fishing there seems to be a promotion that happens every day without the use of social media, magazines, newspapers, radio, or videos.  It’s that boat ramp dialogue, the gas station stop, the restaurant rabble, that seems to stoke the fire of our interest.  Just a small decal on our truck can spark a conversation about kayak fishing.  We even have established bass boat anglers like Mike Iaconelli promoting this incredible sport.  Recently, “Ike” was at the Hobie Championships on Lake Ouachita cheering on the anglers.  He also carries a kayak on the top of his Toyota truck and his boat pulled behind.  Talk about promotion!

There is no doubt that we are still in the infant stage of kayak fishing.  The last few years have provided a frenzy never seen before in the world of fishing.  One of the most commonly used words in our vocabulary is “kayak” and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon.  Let the frenzy continue!

You Never Know Where a Setback Will Take You

Many of us know that Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest boxers of all time. He is legendary in so many ways. But what a lot of people don’t know is how he got started out in his incredible journey. When he was just 12 years old he had his bike stolen in which he became very angry and reported it to a police officer. He told the police officer that he was going to beat up the thief. The police officer was also a gym trainer and encouraged Ali to get in the gym before he took on this feat. In his revenge Ali put all of his energy into the gym and trained under the police officer. Of course, you know the rest of the story as Ali dominated the sport of boxing for many years to come.

Most of my life has been spent in school either as a student or educator. In that time I was either running or fishing and playing various sports. Of course, my knees took a great beating from these activities and I ended up with ten knee surgeries (7 on one knee and 3 on the other) which hampered my ability to run or play sports. In the late nineties I had gained a tremendous amount of weight and turned to cycling. While I enjoyed it very much my true passion was on the water where I felt most at home. I spent most of my younger days on the beaches of California and local ponds where I could find lunker bass. One day, I noticed a kayak for sale on Ebay in 1997. I thought this would be a great way to get back into shape and be on the water which I enjoyed most. I was so naive about kayaking that I even purchased a nose plug and a book on how to do maneuvers like the eskimo roll. My first launch was at Rock Creek Lake in extreme Southwest Nebraska. The kayak was around 8 foot long and had a small hole where I could put my legs in and sit. It was very cramped and I could not move my legs once in the kayak. I was a little nervous at first. I put on my life jacket and entered the water paddling very close to the shore in case I capsized. My biggest worry was tipping over and not being able to get out of the kayak. I wish there was a picture of this experience! I can’t imagine what I looked like out there.

Anyway, I paddled around and found myself getting bolder and bolder paddling further from shore. At times, I could see fish below me and they seemed to not be bothered. So I brought out a fishing pole and a small box of lures. Little did I now how that first “tug” would change my life forever! I was hooked! I landed so many fish from the kayak and was simply amazed at how easy it was! Everyone that saw me in my kayak thought I was crazy. One of my former students named Dusty Birge recently messaged me and said, “I remember when you started kayak fishing, some thought you’d fallen off your rocker. But you did it anyway, because you enjoyed it.” I then purchased a second one from Florida for a thousand dollars. It was a Wilderness Systems 115 Ride Scuba kayak. I could fly across the water in that one! I paddled the perimeter of lakes to get exercise and fished at spots I thought held fish. I did this for around six years before anyone else went with me. There was the fear that they would capsize and never get out of the kayak which were my same thoughts when I started. Incredibly, I have never tipped or “turtled” in a kayak in all the years I’ve paddled or pedaled. I also purchased a Perception “Caster” which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

Around 2004, a local Pastor named Chris Farmer asked me to take him fishing in the kayak. I was pleasantly surprised and agreed to take him. His intention was for me to guide him so he could catch some nice fish. Afterward, he paid me. I didn’t expect this and even told him he didn’t need to. I went home and told my wife and she said, “It’s about time!” Jokingly, of course. My Superintendent Dallas Watkins started calling me “kayak” because I went out so much. Then one day, he called me “Kayakjak!” because my real name is Jack. Everyone started calling me that and it stuck as my kayaking nickname. Then I started a guiding business at the encouragement of Pastor Farmer who I had recently taken out. We started “Kayakjak’s Outfitters” in 2004 and have been guiding since.I had dreams of fishing with others and even a tournament someday. I organized a small tournament at Rock Creek Lake and had around 12 participants. The winner got a six foot long Emotion Kayak. We gave out trophies as well. From there my business grew and we did hundreds of trips through the next 18 or so years. I did demo’s with the Nebraska Game and Parks and conducted seminars at Expo’s across the state. We grew the tournament to the Kayakapalooza and just in the last few years the sport of kayak fishing has exploded! It seemed to grow from the coasts from guys like Chad Hoover in the east and Jim Sammons and Dennis Spike in the west. There was also Dean “Slowride” Thompson in Texas. I must have been in the middle and grew it from here. Ever since that first paddle I’ve been passionate about this sport and what it has done for my health, well being, and purpose in life. Some of my fondest memories are with my kids kayak fishing numerous lakes and ponds across Nebraska. I’ve made hundreds of friends I would have never known if I didn’t take that first paddle on the water. The journey has been fun and I am looking forward to many more years of the “Tug”!

My first guided kayak fishing trip with Pastor Farmer

Kayak Fishing without Sonar?

The technology advancements in fishing have evolved into a realm that has us virtually playing a video game on the water at times.  Sonar units can easily find structure and fish for you as you paddle or pedal your favorite waters.  Maps and water temperature are also vital and the sonar unit can guide you virtually anywhere in the world without the use of the stars above. The color graphics are incredible and with the newer side image models you can easily spot structure or fish to either side of you while fishing.  Purchasing some more elite models can double the value of your kayak in a hurry!  Powering them is easy with a small 12 volt battery and there are even newer lithium batteries that are super light easing the load as you move on the water.  We know the advantages and ultimately they help us find fish.   

For years I fished from a kayak with no sonar. For many years there were no units that were compatible with mounting on a kayak. Then companies created products which could easily mount on our boats. Without sonar I learned to read the water from my small plastic boat using my lures and line to determine the depth and structure below.  Sometimes even my paddle served as the depth gauge of how deep the water was below me.  It was easy to figure out rocks, timber, brush, grass, by using different lures to “feel” for these objects without the “eyes” of sonar.   

This past couple weeks my sonar went down which spawned this writing and made me think about how I fish without the screen in front of me.  First, it was the battery that went on the blink.  Then the screen on my sonar unit decided to retire.  I was fishing at Sam Rayburn Lake in Texas and was fishing in a KBF tournament.  I went in “blind” as they say and felt my way around using a chatter bait, Neko rig, deep crank bait, and jig. Each has it’s own purpose for me when retrieving them through the water. The chatter bait might pick up some grass, the deep crank bait can tell me if the bottom is hard or soft and the jig can be dragged over submerged tree limbs that can hold fish underneath.  I still had great success catching fish and a feeling of great satisfaction that day.

Without sonar I have found myself observing clues to where the baitfish might be and structure that might hold big fish.  Clues such as a few shad busting the surface gave me signs of larger fish below.  A bird diving into the water and coming out with a baitfish was a great clue.  Using my natural senses to observe my surroundings helped me zero in on the fish.  To me, this is the most fun and figuring out a pattern after I’ve determined my surroundings makes it even more fun.  There is one way to improve your fishing prowess and that is turning off the sonar for a couple trips and trying this method.  You might be amazed at what you have missed previously!   You can still be successful fishing and if you are tournament fishing you will be more focused on your surroundings which may get you a nice limit.  I was forced to do this the past couple weeks without sonar.  I still competed very well and found the fishing more exciting!  I witnessed some incredible sights and other animals near the shoreline. Does this mean I won’t use sonar? Of course not!  I’m still going to either get this unit fixed or purchase another as sonar is a great resource while understanding the science of fishing.  It does shorten the time spent looking for structure, bait fish, and the fish we are attempting to catch.  At the same time, leaving it at home to hone my fishing instincts is a great way to stimulate the mind and a feeling of accomplishment.  So, why don’t you give it a try!  You never know what you might see in our incredible outdoors. 

2017 Fishing Goal Reached!

It is not an easy to goal to reach but well worth it in the end.  Four years ago I started setting an “outrageous” goal of catching the number of fish in correspondence with the present year.  My first year it was close but I did not make it.  The second year it took a valiant effort on the last day of the year through the ice to get the last 41 fish in 2015.  2016 was a great year landing more than 2,900 fish.  This year was difficult with a move and new job but I was able to get out just enough to achieve it once again.  I caught more largemouth than ever mostly due to the number of fishing tournaments across the country.  This year I caught fish in Tennessee, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Texas.  This entailed 131 separate trips and all of my fish were caught from a kayak this year.  In total, I landed 2,211 fish this year.  Now with a string of three years in a row my hope is to continue this challenge for the next few years.