We received this story from Kayak Angler reader Shevie Stewart. His tale of trial and error, victory and defeat, catch and release will hook every angler who has dipped a paddle and wet a line. ed
I remember when my kayak fishing obsession started in the summer of 2013.
I was working in North Dakota at the time as a safety consultant for a big oil company. I’ve always loved the water and anything associated with it, especially saltwater. There’s just something about the salty air, the sunburnt sticky feeling after an all day trip to the beach. I also loved fishing, although I didn’t have much experience. I wanted to start fishing so I began my search for a small, used center console boat. I was due for home in a week and had a few that I wanted to look at. While searching Craigslist for the ultimate fishing machine, I received a call from a friend, who was also a co-worker. “What are you doing, sleeping?” he asked jokingly. “No, I’m gonna buy a boat when I get home!” I replied.
He probably doesn’t know it, but he’s the one that put the wheels in motion that would become my kayak fishing obsession. “You need to get a kayak” I remember him saying. He was planning on buying a kayak when we returned home because a few of friends of his did day float trips where we live. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to look into it while I was wasting time “working”. After all, how much could a piece of plastic cost? I could possibly swing a boat and kayak. So I took a break from the boat search and began researching kayaks. It only took one google search of “kayaks” and kayak fishing rigs began popping up. I had never considered or thought about fishing out of a kayak before. The center console boat search was over and the fishing kayak search was on full force! I watched tons of youtube videos of people fishing from kayaks and wondered why I hadn’t thought of it sooner. At that moment I realized this was going to be my passion.
I really didn’t know much about kayaks other than what I read online and ultimately choose a 12FT Ascend FST from Bass Pro Shop. Before this purchase and during my research, I saw the Hobie’s with the Mirage Drive. After looking at the price, I thought that it was way overpriced and didn’t consider that as an option. My first kayak fishing trip was down a shallow creek with a closed faced reel. I didn’t catch much, but knew I loved it and was gonna be the first of many. I read a ton from fishing and kayak forums trying to learn as much as I could. Youtube videos are great learning resources. For my first year, I mainly fished local freshwater lakes and rivers. I went from my closed-faced reels to spinning reels and then to baitcasters.
I began fishing for bream then progressed to bass fishing, but I knew I wanted more.
I needed to be in the salt. Although I felt comfortable in my Ascend, I knew I needed something that could handle the saltwater and my current kayak wasn’t gonna cut it. The search was on again… which kept me coming back to the Hobie’s. Again, the price was an issue for me. I struggled with wether or not I should spend the money. Sure, I could buy a cheaper paddle yak and still catch fish. After a couple months of drooling over the Outback, I decided to schedule a test run. I also tried out the Native Mariner. I tried the Mariner first and wasn’t impressed. It seemed bulky and big, I just didn’t feel comfortable. I guess I unknowingly saved the best for last. I got in the Outback, took it for a 5 minute spin and bought one that day… a brand new 2014 Caribbean Blue Hobie Outback.
For the first few months, I stayed in familiar freshwaters until I got comfortable with it and figured out how everything should be arranged in my boat. Rigging is part of the fun. Im a gadget girl and always want the latest and greatest, but it’s even better if you can make it yourself, although I’m not mechanically inclined at all. Wasn’t very long before I caught my personal best bass. Good thing I got the Outback because that couldn’t have happened in the ole Acsend :).
In the summer of 2015, I lost my job and my marriage within a month of each other.
I was devastated. I took six months to do nothing but concentrate on myself, move, and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I bought land in the country and moved my camper there. I went back to work as a police officer after being gone for four years pursuing another career as a safety consultant in the oil industry. I was thankful to have something to fall back on. After I quit feeling sorry for myself, I decided to find my happiness again.
It wasn’t long before I was inshore fishing.
I didn’t know a thing about fishing inshore and got skunked numerous times before I finally started figuring it out. My first speckled trout, then my first redfish, then my first flounder. Starting out, those were my trophy fish… my ultimate goals. Catching those fish are probably the equivalent to someone catching a swordfish or a marlin. I don’t think it will ever get old. But like everyone one else, I still wanted more. Had my eyes set on catching kings offshore so I booked a charter with 30 Miles Out’s Ty and Thesea Southerland (www.30milesout.com) because I didn’t want to go out alone my first time. From the very first day I began watching youtube videos of kayak fishing, they were part of the reason I began kayak fishing. When I found out they were booking charters in their home state of Texas I had actually considered making the drive over to fish with them, but it didn’t work out for me.
A few months ago I saw they were moving to Pensacola, Florida, which is my local waters for salt. It would be a few months before they began chartering because of the move, but went ahead a booked an offshore trip. I wanted so badly to go offshore and didn’t want to wait. I’m very impatient, to a fault most of the time. I bought the pre-rigged setups and purchased a few lures online and picked a calm day for my first offshore outing. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I got skunked with the exception of a few hard tails. The water was crystal clear and calm so to say it was a bad day would be a lie. I headed back in to pack up and leave when I met a fellow kayaker. We began chit chatting and I told him it was my first offshore trip and had no idea what I was doing. He gave me some good pointers and I decided to try again the next day with frozen cigar minnows instead of pre-rigged set ups. The next day I tried again and water/weather conditions were the same. I managed to catch two Bonita throwing a Gotcha Plug into a school of baitfish. Those are some good fighting fish! Got skunked again as far as kings go, although I did get a few hits. I knew nothing about stinger rigs, 7 strand wire vs single strand, etc. Still a good day because I was in my happy place.
A co-worker is experienced in offshore kayak fishing so we were able to plan a trip the following week.
He taught me how to make a stinger rig and what wire to use. We launched right at sunrise and set off for my first kingfish! As soon as I got out pass the breaking waves, I decided to start trolling my frozen cigar minnow. Within five minutes I was hooked up. I knew it had to be a king the way it was making my drag scream and it was. I finally did it! It wasn’t a record breaker by no means, but to me it was. I managed to catch one more before we headed back in. I knew this was the beginning of my “chronic” addiction to fishing from a kayak. After that, I managed to fish one to two days a week and haven’t gotten skunked since… yet. I did keep my charter with 30 Miles Out. Water conditions weren’t that great the day of the trip and it was cut short. That was probably the easiest charter for them. I was no expert by any means, but felt like I had the jist of it. As soon as we launched, I was gone!. I know Ty was probably like “what the hell”, but thats what I love about kayak fishing. You can be in your own little world. You don’t have to depend on anyone.
There are times I’ve been bored at night, loaded up and went fishing.
I don’t think I would feel as free in a boat. Simplicity has become my life. Ive decided to live simple and cheaply as possible so I can enjoy the things I love like kayak fishing and being outdoors. I decided to live in my camper indefinitely. After that I will experience “tiny house” living, but I’m in no hurry. I’m simply enjoying life and what I love. When I talk about living simple and cheap, it’s just so I can buy more kayaks and fishing stuff. I tend to try and justify my irresponsible purchases. My first Kayak (Ascend), I bought because I thought it would serve my purpose and it wasn’t all that expensive. I then bought the 2014 Hobie Outback because I knew I enjoyed kayak fishing and would get my monies worth. I kept the Acsend because it was a good creek kayak. When Hobie came out with the Vantage seats for the Outback in 2015 I was jealous. I am 39 with my fortieth birthday coming up so I figured a new Outback could be my birthday present to myself. I absolutely love this kayak! I had it decked out with Marine Mat, rectangle hatch, anchor trolley, turbo fins, sail rudder, and several other things… because I was turning 40. I didn’t sell any of my other kayaks because “what if somebody wants to go fishing with me?”.
Several months later, scrolling through Facebook, I saw a 2016 Hobie Pro Angler decked out with a trailer for 3,000. This thing was worth well over 5,000 easy with everything it had with it soooo… I bought it solely with the intent to resale immediately to make a little money. Well that didn’t happen. I thought it would be a great inshore/bridge fishing kayak, especially in the winter because I could stay dryer than in my Outback(s), but I still needed my other kayaks. The Outback is much easier to handle offshore… plus it’s my fortieth birthday year. See how i justified all that? I just think how people have hobby’s that cost money and this is no different. Some people collect guns, I collect kayaks. Some people collect coins, I collect fishing gear. Some people race cars, I kayak fish. I guess my point is made.
The older I get, the more I like being alone and time to myself to enjoy the simple things that we sometimes take for granted.
Kayak fishing allows me to do that. The sunrises and sunsets I’ve seen while out on the water are unbelievable. I try to capture them in pictures, but they are never the same as being there. I’m probably one the most inexperienced fisherman around, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone as thankful and passionate while being out there catching nothing. As I write this I’m thinking about how far I have come in just 2 1/2 years. From Bream to Kingfish. I see progression in the people I follow on youtube. Ive enjoyed Marty Zoffinger’s adventures when he was just starting out fishing. Ty and Theresa from 30 Miles Out have come so far since there Youtube channel started, as well as Jack Motley. I have no desire to start a channel or anything of that nature, but I do enjoy watching others that are as passionate as I am and learning from them.
My bucket list consist of different places I would like to fish and slowly but surely, I’ll be checking them off. Next month is Belize… because its my birthday year! Then in November is Key West… because it’s my birthday month! I guess my whole purpose of this long rambling writing is that I wanted to share why I love kayak fishing. People seem to get caught up trying to achieve what society thinks is the American Dream, all the while forgetting to enjoy life and the things they love. This past year I have manage to achieve my version of the American Dream by finding happiness being on the water in a piece of plastic chasing fish that are bigger than me. My goals my seem stupid to the ones working 70-80 hours a week to purchase material things they can’t enjoy because they’re always working, but thats ok. If I’ve learned anything in this past year, it’s to stop worrying about what others think I should or shouldn’t do and enjoy my life.