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!