The horizon’s mighty close when viewed from an altitude of three feet. That’s the not so exalted elevation of the average kayak angler when seated on a fishing ‘sled.’
It doesn’t take a math whiz to realize that merely doing what comes naturally – standing tall as it were – doubles a person’s perspective.
Since time immemorial, anglers who go upon the water have elevated themselves. Boat helms are placed as high above the water as practical; look-outs perch far above the water atop tuna towers and crow’s nests. It’s intuitive and instinctual; we all understand the higher the vantage point, the farther we can see.
Now a few kayak anglers are stretching for the sky, standing up to fire that cast a bit farther, to spy out the structure, to sight-fish a bass or in the Gulf, a tailing redfish.
This evolution is natural. New fishing kayak designs opt for extra stability. On calm water and a wide, flat-decked boat like Ocean Kayak’s enormous Big Game, it doesn’t take an acrobat to stand upright.
But if that’s not enough, there’s a wide variety of outriggers on the market. Models are sold by Scotty, Hobie, Spring Creek, Yak-Gear and many others. Derisively dismissed as training wheels by skeptics for their original intended use – keeping the clumsy from turning turtle – the wide platforms they provide make stretching your legs a cinch.
The members of our watery tribe who ply the Gulf Coast and Florida flats increasingly fish on their feet. They buy a wide boat, staple a pair of outriggers aft, or even go for a paddle craft such as the Freedom 14. That unique kayak by Freedom Hawk boasts outriggers that unfold from the stern with the pull of a lever. It’s something James Bond would use – if only it were rocket propelled.
Now, kayak anglers who stand up for themselves are a decided rarity out west. Many of us fish on the rolling swells of the deep blue Pacific. Attempting to stand atop three skinny feet of pitching plastic is a great precursor to a swim. But there’s no reason why bay and freshwater anglers can’t pull themselves to their full heights if they opt for the right rides.
Because finding someone in California who really, actually, no-kidding fishes while standing is so difficult, I called Bill Bragman with a few questions. Bragman is the man behind Yak-Gear, a small but up-and-coming kayak fishing accessory and outrigger maker based in Houston.
Why Bragman? The fellow ventures ‘beyond the breakers’ – the term the pioneering explorers who live in the shallow water states use when they mean the ocean. One gets the feeling they’ve had so much good fishing right at their feet that they’re only recently started sampling the deeper salty water. So Bill, what’s the deal?
Plenty. Bragman said his outriggers give a ‘yak an effective 60-in beam. In kayak terms, that’s like turning a Cessna into a 747. That’s super stable, but not so much to forget situational awareness. An unexpected wake can still upset the applecart.
On the other hand, on the flats Bragman easily spots tailing reds and the slicks made by feeding trout. The glare is much less from up there too. He recounts a story of fishing with a pair of sit-down friends. Bragman quickly had four reds; they had none, hadn’t even seen a fish. Said Bragman, “If you were standing up you would have. Now they both use outriggers.”
But stand with outriggers on the swell-tossed Gulf? No way; Bragman keeps his seat. It seems we’ve all got some growing to do before we reach our full heights on the open sea.
Do your kayak fishing standing up? No, really? Send your name, photo and a tall tale or two to WON kayak editor Paul@KayakFishingZone.com. If its good stuff, you may appear in a future article.