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A Subtle Wake

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February 7, 2014

A Subtle Wake

The number one driving force behind my passion for fishing has been the pursuit of the unknown. The mystery of what might be lurking in the depths. The gamble that always pays off in one way or another. For me, the mystery is the beauty itself. Perhaps the vast intricacies of nature are what provides its allure and also a mirror to our own intricacies. Something wild and untamed, something free. For an angler like myself, it is the big fish, the rare fish that embody the mysteriousness. In my pursuit of the rare, my most valued asset is efficiency. Of all things to be efficient with, I most value time. Time increases your chances at catching a big fish. Time at the very least, extends an experience from which to learn from. If you ask an experienced angler what the best learning tool they have is, the answer is usually unanimous....time on the water. In today's fast paced society, finding time for sports that require various gear, travel and windows of opportunity can be challenging. For the longest time, I was a bank angler. In my quest for efficiency, I would carry a backpack with my gear and one or two rods that were versatile enough for several presentations. With this setup, I was able to pound the banks and cover as much water as possible. Sometimes, I would circle an entire pond or lake trying to develop a pattern and locate the fish. In some situations, fishing from shore was more effective than being in a boat. Much like a trout angler quietly wades a stream, keeping a low profile, shore fishing presented the opportunity for a subtle approach. However, like many shore anglers, I was looking forward to the next step...owning a boat.

My first "boat" was a belly boat. A glorified inner tube  propelled by wearing fins on one's feet. It was fun being able to fish areas I previously could not reach, however, the pace was slow and I was limited to smaller water bodies. Eventually my tube had a leak and I started becoming convinced that this method of fishing was not efficient enough for me. Soon enough, I had graduated to a two man "bass buggy" style boat. Once again, I was limited to smaller water bodies. Propelled by only a trolling motor, I wasn't able to cover much water either. In the back of my mind, time was always pressing and I often didn't have time to try the things I wanted in a given outing. However, with each new vessel I tried, I kept learning more and more about efficiently pursuing big fish. Finally, the happy day came when I purchased my first bass boat. It was a simple aluminum Bass Tracker with a 50hp Evinrude outboard and a foot controlled trolling motor. I thought I had finally become satisfyingly efficient on the water and especially because my local waters were not large. Yet, the problems that come with owning a boat soon became evident. Trailer wiring, dead batteries, shorted fuses, gas consumption and a multitude of other headaches seemed to constantly plague my outings. There were times when having a motor powered boat made fishing better than any other means but I began to feel like the negatives were outweighing the positives. The first time I took my wife out, we hit a small, local bass lake at the perfect evening hour. Within ten minutes my trolling  motor propeller had become hopelessly entangled in some heavy braided line someone had broke off on a log. We went home early, which to a hopeless fishing addict like me was just the pits. Then one day, while out in my boat on a lake a few hours west of where I lived, I saw something very intriguing. There was a guy fishing in a kayak. This guy was slicing through the water with ease. He looked very content and relaxed. He had a milk crate strapped to the back of his kayak with pvc tubes mounted on it as rod holders. In his milk crate he had all his tackle stowed securely. I watched as he eased onto a weed bed and started pitching his bait into holes and catching some nice bass. It looked so effortless! I began thinking about the easy to load and unload it would be, never having to worry about engine trouble or anything related. It seemed so efficient for my style of fishing and the locations I fished. I don't know who that guy was but he left an impression on me.

Over the next couple years, I didn't think much of buying a kayak. I figured although it was an interesting idea, it would not be suitable for me. I figured that fishing on a windy day or trying to keep upright would be difficult for a 6' 200 pound dude like myself. Then one wintry day, I was scouring our local bass club's fishing forum when someone posted a link to a new fishing kayak that had come out. The video featured a guy standing in the kayak and jumping around and it advertised amazing stability and features like built in rod holders and anchor recesses. It blew my mind! People that know me, know that when I start fishing, I usually don't stop casting until it's time to leave and even then it's difficult to pry me away. That said, fishing appeals to me in a whole variety of of them being the peace and tranquility I get from being on the water and in nature. One thing that will slow me down on the lake is the sighting of wildlife. I will stop to photograph everything from an eagle to a bullfrog sitting in the lily pads. While watching this kayak promo video and seeing a guy float down a stream in peace and quiet, the subtleness of the kayak had great appeal to me. I started thinking about all the backwaters I could reach. I thought about the fact that while I would have all the advantages of a shore angler, I would also be able to reach the same areas I could in a bass boat. I started thinking about efficiency and time on the water and before I knew it, my bass boat was for sale and I had ordered a top of the line fishing kayak.

For once, I had a boat that lived up to all my expectations. I could launch from almost anywhere. I could paddle into waves that crashed over the top of my kayak. I could fish the shallowest of water and the deepest as well. I had found the versatility I was looking for. Also, there was something very gratifying about the oneness with nature that I felt in the kayak. It was quiet and peaceful and I left a very small footprint. I encountered wildlife  more frequently and battling a big fish was much more exciting as they towed and spun my kayak. There are of course situations where a having a big boat with an outboard will catch you more fish and be more efficient...but for my style and in most of my situations the kayak has been an amazing tool. There are pedal propelled kayaks on the market that can take on huge lakes and the ocean for that matter. Guys go out and catch sharks and sailfish in their kayaks. My brother and I caught two giant blue catfish in excess of 75 pounds each last summer from our kayaks. The amazing part is I doubt we could have accessed  and caught those fish by any other means. Among all the great benefits of kayak fishing is the fact you also get excersize while paddling around. For me, it is a sport that benefits the mind, body and soul. In my lifelong pursuit of those mysterious lunker fish, I have found my favorite way to stay afloat. I'm capturing something larger than any fish and leaving only a subtle wake.

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