Gary Rankel, from Hernando, Florida, launched his kayak fishing club and website in 2015.
Since then, his website has become a useful source of information about fishing Nature Coast and Citrus County, kayak fishing techniques and rigging tips, the Nature Coast Kayak Fishers Club schedule and activities, and the Wavewalk 500, from which Gary has been fishing for the past seven years.
Gary offers lectures and advice on these subjects, and he organizes fishing trips, mainly to the Ozello wildlife refuge, where he and his friends fish for snook, redfish and seatrout, as well as other species. He is also active in campaigning for wildlife and fisheries conservation, following his decades long work as a scientist in this field.
Many seniors who would like to go out there and fish are prevented from doing so because handling and driving a regular size motorboat is too hard for them, while fishing out of a common (SOT or Sit-In) kayak is too uncomfortable for them, mainly because of back pain problems, leg circulation, difficulties in launching and beaching, and the need that some have for an extra source of power, namely a motor, due to the fact that their range of travel as paddlers is even more limited than that of younger anglers. Some elderly anglers, such as Gary himself, who’s in in seventies, no longer enjoys a perfect sense of balance, and appreciates the extra stability offered by the Wavewalk.
‘Sensible’ isn’t exactly what most people who practice fishing think about fishing out of a kayak. After all, not too many anglers practice kayak fishing, since it’s considered by most to be an extreme form of fishing, in the sense that fishing out of one of those SOT, sit-in, and hybrid kayaks just isn’t stable, comfortable or dry enough for most anglers to consider as being acceptable – or sensible.
But there’s also a type of kayak fishing that is safer, feels better, and it is also more practical. Sensible Kayak Angler is a magazine about fishing from kayaks that are more stable, don’t cause back pain, whose handling and use does not involve the hassle and discomfort commonly associated with with this sport.
Stability, ergonomics, and other problems are among the subjects discussed in the new kayak fishing magazine, and the more light shed on these subjects, the better, especially when elderly anglers are concerned, since they are both less capable of enjoying inadequate kayaks, and less willing to do so than the average kayak angler is.
This is a most unusual, yet most revealing story.
It says a lot about kayak anglers and the sacrifices some of them are willing to make for their love of fishing.
It also shows that propelling fishing kayaks with outboard gas engines is picking up, has a future, but it also faces certain limitations.
This story also shows that pedal drives for fishing kayaks simply can’t substitute a motor – any motor, in any way, and that when push comes to shove, they can’t replace the paddle.
And last but not least, it shows that two elderly people can go out for a long, offshore kayak fishing trip on a cold day in December, catch fish together, and enjoy each other’s company while doing so, without suffering from back pain, leg numbness, discomfort, wetness, or any other undesirable phenomenon that elderly anglers suffer from when they attempt to fish out of kayaks.
Members of the South Korean Sea Dreamer Kayak Fishing club, who are all courageous and avid anglers, outfitted their fishing kayaks with outriggers and outboard gas engines. These unusual people went out for an offshore kayak fishing trip December 31st, in cold weather. The fishing expedition included a few traditional SOT kayaks, and a W500 kayak, which unlike the other kayaks, was operated by a crew of two: And elderly couple who loves fishing, and enjoys fishing together.
Sungjin Kim, Wavewalk’s distributor in South Korea, published this story (in Korean) on his Korean kayak fishing website, and his post there includes a link to the kayak fishing club’s website.
Here are the fish this tandem crew of kayak anglers caught in the ocean:
The reader should be aware that imported fishing kayaks are expensive in Korea, and so are outboard motors and outriggers. For the cost of their motorized W kayak, this couple could have gotten a nice small motorboat, but not necessarily one that they could car top:
Another inconvenience with a bigger boat could have been the need to launch it from a boat ramp, which is neither easy nor convenient.
But let’s not forget that winters in south Korea are cold, and so is the ocean there. This means that elderly people can’t go fishing offshore out of regular SOT, sit-in or hybrid fishing kayaks: They need to fish out of a kayak that keeps them dry, which wouldn’t be the case if they used anything else than their W500:
And last but not least, elderly people need a level of comfort that can’t be found in kayaks other than the W kayak: They need to stand up easily and whenever they want to stretch, change positions, be free from any pressure on their lower back, and be able to fight and prevent leg numbness.
The reader has surely realized that fishing in tandem out of a kayak can be problematic, due to the small space available, and the reduced range of motion of the crew. But this was not the case for this tandem crew, obviously – They managed just fine.
In other words, while the other anglers who participated in this cold water and weather, offshore expedition practiced kayak fishing as an extreme sport , this elderly couple practiced traditional, cozy fishing – as it should really be. The only difference between their motorized W500 and other motorized W500 kayaks is the fact they outfitted it with outriggers, like all the other participants in this fishing trip did. This safety measure is understandable in view of the hazardous environment and the risk of hypothermia in case of an accident, the fact that two people were on board the W500 and not just one, and the fact that these were elderly people whose sense of balance might be impaired by age: Seniors are usually more cautious than younger people are, and rightfully so.
Interestingly, the other motorized kayaks that participated in this expedition were of the type that features a push pedal drive, but all the other anglers carried a paddle on board as a safety measure in case the motor stalled, and in order to propel their kayaks in shallow water, when launching and beaching. In other words, out of the three propulsion devices (paddle, motor and pedal drive), the drive was redundant. The fact they didn’t count on their pedal drives for such a long, offshore trip also shows that such devices cannot be counted on as means to extend a kayak’s range of operation, and cannot serve as a substitute for some kind of motor when currents and wind are to be dealt with.
For most anglers, kayak fishing is an extreme sport. Extreme in the sense that an angler fishing from a kayak is compelled to give up the two essential things that any regular fishing motorboat provides, which are adequate stability and elementary comfort. The third requirement, storage space is important as well, but less than the first ‘must have’ two. Indeed, fishing kayaks are not stable enough, and they are extremely uncomfortable, when compared to regular size boats. As for storage in fishing kayaks, the situation is as dire as it is with regards to stability and ergonomics.
The Promise vs. Reality
Kayak fishing promised a cheaper, hassle free, low maintenance, lightweight, car top form of fishing craft, and a direct, sporty experience. However, today, out of tens of millions of Americans who fish from boats, merely one in every thousand fishes from a kayak, and this is after a decade of promises that ‘kayak fishing is the fastest growing outdoors sport’, etc. The bulk of US anglers have followed neither the kayak fishing pioneers nor the fishing kayak manufacturers’ hype, and since growth in kayak fishing participation is no longer as fast as it had been several years ago, it is safe to say that the US kayak fishing market has matured. This is partly a result of decreasing enthusiasm from new participants, as well as a high dropout rate that has been typical to this sport since its early beginnings.
But kayak fishing feels extremely uncomfortable only if you’re fishing from the old fashion, sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks and sit-in kayaks. In contrast, when you fish from a W kayak, you experience a level of comfort that’s equivalent to that of fishing from a regular size boat, and some W fans would argue that you feel even better.
When stability is concerned, the level of stability an angler experiences while fishing from a W500 kayak is on par with what they’d feel fishing in a regular size fishing boat, in the sense that they are not required to constantly address the issue of balancing, and they can fish standing up with ease, comfort and confidence that are outside the world of fishing kayaks.
The W500 is the only kayak offering storage space that’s dry and accessible any time, and as much as any kayak angler may need, even if their fishing trip includes camping, and therefore carrying on board numerous and bulky items that so far only canoes and regular size boats could carry.
The Future Of Kayak Fishing
This is to say that kayak fishing has a future, and a bright one, but not as the extreme sport it’s been for most kayak anglers so far. The future of kayak fishing as a broad base sport and leisure activity depends on the participation of regular people, who care about their personal comfort, and demand a performance level in stability and storage that is not sub-minimal. In other words, the future of kayak fishing is W kayak fishing.
Senior anglers are on the look for any new idea that may improve their user experience when they fish out of kayaks, and some kayak manufacturers are trying to cater to this need by offering very wide fishing kayaks of a design concept known as ‘Hybrid Kayak’ – an abbreviation of hybrid kayak-canoe.
Kayak fishing magazines are filled with reviews praising the stability of such kayaks, and the new canvas on frame seats that some of them are equipped with. Some manufacturers claim the hybrid kayaks they make are suitable for fishing standing up, and those claims are faithfully echoed in the same kayak fishing magazines and websites that survive on paid advertizing fro these manufacturers, by we’re already digressing here to another subject, when in fact we’d like to know what’s the reality behind these claims – Are hybrid fishing kayaks that stable, or more comfortable than their traditional non-ergonomic kin the sit-in and SOT kayak?
A new article goes to the bottom of these questions, as well as some others, and offers a comprehensive review of the hybrid fishing kayak from the only perspective that matters – yours. It discusses a variety of subjects from kayak design to ergonomics, back pain, stand up fishing and paddling, safety, speed, pedal drives, and even rigging the kayak with a trolling motor. It’s a must read for senior kayak anglers looking for straightforward answers. The article is entitled “The Hybrid Fishing Kayak – Facts, Hype and Plain Nonsense”.