When most people think of kayaks visions of a small craft in white roaring waters come to mind. Certainly kayaks are designed for this type of adventure. However, there are kayaks specifically made for fishing. These are specialty watercraft intrinsically designed for anglers for fishing waters big and small.
Kayak fishing is growing in popularity throughout the country. Anglers around these parts use fishing kayaks on creeks and streams to catch many different species of fish. Also, kayak anglers venture out into large reservoirs, the gulf and oceans in search of fish with rod and reel.
Fishing from a kayak presents a different set of challenges. But, the fun involved overrides these small challenges. Manufactures are improving kayaks to making fishing from them easy and fun. Add in the competition of a tournament, like bass of course, and the fishing can get intense.
Specialty kayaks for fishing
There are several manufacturers that produce fishing kayaks. One such maker is Wilderness Systems of Greenville S.C. The company has produced kayaks for many years and has recently added a new model specifically for anglers.
“The ATAK 140 is 14 feet in length and weighs only 86 pounds,” said Wilderness Systems pro staffer Juan Veruerte of Belfont, Pa. “This kayak is so stable you can fly fish in it standing up.”
Veruerte and his son was on an excursion fishing various tributaries around the Southeast. He is a certified kayak instructor and also teaches single day courses on casting and fishing. Veruerte regularly takes his kayak fishing on the Susquehanna River near his home.
While anglers can fish from a canoe, a kayak is much more maneuverable and comfortable. According to Veruerte canoes are more difficult to hold in position for fishing. Also, he says the wind can spin canoes around due to their hull shape. Add moving water and wind it makes fishing from a canoe much more difficult.
“A kayak has a very efficient hull designed to maneuver in moving water.” Veruerte said. “Also, the kayak has a lower gunnel and is less effected by the wind.”
The angler kayaks are user friendly for anglers since they are more stable. The kayaks for fishing have storage areas and gear lockers that keep tackle within easy access of the angler. A kayak is more of a fishing machine Veruerte says.
River Bassin’ Tournament Trail
In 2010 a bass tournament trail exclusively for kayakers and canoers was started. The trail conducts local and regional events from the mid-Atlantic area throughout the Southeast and west to Texas. Events are held on rivers and creeks. Through these tournaments anglers can win prizes, cash and earn points to qualify for the trail championship.
Anglers can enter the river trail events as either individual, two-person team or both. There is also a category for youth anglers. At the national championship event, usually held in October, the winning team splits $10,000 and the top solo angler pockets around $30,000.
“It is really a fun way to fish and compete,” said 2011 River Bassin’ Trail national champion Tim Perkins of Heflin.
The 2011 championship was held in Virginia where there are many top kayak anglers.
When Perkins is not on a creek or river fishing, he is teaching elementary P.E. and coaching baseball at Cleburne County High School. He has been on the river trail since it started.
Last season, Perkins was almost a repeat nation champion on the trail. He finished second only one-quarter of an inch out of first place. It was a tough loss for a fierce kayak fishing competitor. Also, the week before the championship, Perkins’ dad passed away.
Perkins had an outstanding 2014 season on the trail. He fished in seven team events won six and was in second place in the other. This type of fishing a kayak and tournament trail is what Perkins enjoys. It is his style of fishing.
“I’m going back to my roots,” Perkins said. “I grew up fishing the Tallapoosa River with my granddad in a flat bottom boat.”
Perkins moved on to fish from regular bass boats. But, he says he loves river fishing. There is more relaxing pace and most of the time you’re not around other anglers.
At 52, Perkins is competing with other kayak anglers that are around 30. But, his experience fishing rivers and creeks runs deep. To date Perkins has been in the top five in 18 of the 20 events he has entered on the River Bassin’ Trail. He has won eight of those events.
The trail has allowed Perkins to fish over 100 different rivers in 10 states. So far this season he has fished two events and is ranked in the number five spot. His team partner, Lance Coley holds the top spot. But, there are many more events remaining this season.
Fishing the river trail events
There is an old saying among anglers, “A bass is a bass, is a bass.” It means bass pretty much behave and react the same no matter what body of water they inhabit. So the lures used here in Alabama can be just as effective in other states.
The tournament concept is a little different than most other bass tournaments. The fish are not weighed. Winners on the river trail are determined by their three longest bass to the nearest one-quarter inch. Official measuring boards are required and before the start of each event a unique logo identifier is given to the anglers.
“We practice CPR, Perkins said. “The fish are caught, photographed and released.”
The complete measuring scale and the logo must be clearly visible in the photo for the entry to be valid. Once back at the designated check point the photos for each angler are reviewed. The measurement from the three longest fish are totaled and this is the anglers score.
Fishing rivers in various states is not really different than fishing anywhere else. Bass will hold around, stumps, logs, rocks and eddies. If anything the fishing can be better according to Perkins. The bass are more competitive for food and there are fewer places to hide in a small river.
“I use a spinnerbait 70 percent of the time fishing rivers,” Perkins said. “I like sizes in the 1/4- to 3/8- ounce range. But sometimes I might move up to a 1/2- lure depending on the river and conditions.”
The spinnerbait brand of choice is a Premier League lure. Perkins helped design this bait with bass pro Dalton Bobo. The lure has hidden weight and has a smaller profile. A longer shank hook and two-tone colored blades help enhance the bait’s catchability.
Perkins uses standard bait-casting and spinning gear for river fishing from kayaks. He prefers a grey or smoke colored line in 15 pound-test monofilament. He said he uses this on all of his reels. That particular line blends in to any water environment.
During the 2011 season Perkins caught, photographed and released over 1200 bass. He has the most wins of any angler in River Bassin’ history. He remains humble and is always excited to share a fishing story. At the 2011 national championship after three days of practice he phoned his wife and told her he had only caught one fish in three days and was ready to come home. She told him you can’t come home unless you win.
Perkins says the experience of fishing different waters is nothing looks the same. You never know what’s around the next bend.
Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at email@example.com.