Monday, February 3, 2014

The Best Kayak Angler Around?

In early January, Tony Hart of Yak Outlaws posed the following question on Facebook -
"Question of the day... what entitles someone being called one of the best kayak anglers around? Is it proving yourself in tournaments? Being sought after by those in the industry? Being involved in the media industry?  Truly promoting the sport thru seminars, video, etc? Just curious what you folks think."

It got me to thinking about my opinions and I realized that no short Facebook response would ever sum up my feelings.  I don't have any clue who the best kayak angler is...not even close.  There are guys I look up to in the sport and for entirely different reasons.  Some guys are great fishermen, some think outside the box, others are incredible promoters, some are extremely personable & kind people, and others are the epitomy of professionalism.  I try to emmulate those traits in myself.  So exactly what traits do I value and why?  You are about to find out.


Nothing like exploring new water with friends - and catching fish!


I was fortunate enough to have a phenomenal mentor in the sport when I was first starting to blog, pursue sponsors, and write articles.  Coincidentally, he is now one of the biggest names in kayak angling, so clearly his advice was pretty sound.  He encouraged me to work extremely hard.  He told me to always go the extra mile - whether it be answering an email, talking after a seminar, or helping other anglers.  He reminded me to never say anything in a public forum (social media, websites, etc.) that I would later regret.  And he assured me that folks would take notice if I stayed true to myself and conveyed my passion for the sport to others.  He also conveyed the importance of spending time with and relying on close friends and family for support and rejuvination both on and off the water.  Does any of that relate directly to being the best kayak angler?  No, probably not.  But it does relate to being a good person, living a balanced life, and conveying your passion - all of which I find have made me a better person.

In terms of fishing, there are a lot of guys and gals out there who are extremely talented kayak anglers.  The people who stand out to me are the ones who are really pushing their limits and doing things that no-one else has (or least very few).  They are the guys who can catch fish no matter where you put them.  They are the ones who try new things, and use failure as a learning tool.  They are guys who find a new piece of water on a map, launch on it, and catch fish.  They are guys who can adapt to all sorts of weather conditions.  They are the guys who consistently perform and have the intuition and attention to detail that seperates them from the pack.  And by "guys", I am referring to the broader, all-inclusive "guys" that includes women, teens, etc.

I will always be impressed most by fish caught on public water and on different bodies of water (except those salty guys who are technically on the same water, but totally different spots/techniques).  But again, it is all about personal preference.  I like to fish rivers more than lakes - many don't.  I like to fish lots of different bodies of water - again many don't.  I am also impressed most by efficiency.  For instance, let's say angler X caught 500 fish last year on his 50 kayak fishing trips.  Angler Y only caught 300 fish, but he did it in 15 trips.  To me, Angler Y is way more impressive - averaging twice as many fish per trip.  The same goes for the size of fish caught. 

Anglers also set very different personal goals.  For me, the BASS Slam was a huge goal and a ton of fun.  It was definitely a challenge and I worked hard for it.  I got a ton of awesome feedback about the Slam, but I know there were others who didn't see it to be as cool as I did - and that is fine with me.  Meeting personal goals is much more important than what others think.  If you constantly build on those goals and keep setting the bar higher for yourself then people will take notice.   


Introducing out of towners to new water is always a blast


As for winning tournaments, I think it takes a lot of things coming together to win a tournament.  And any angler who consistently does well has certainly earned my respect.  Most events these days have pretty stiff competition and you see folks taking them very, very seriously in terms of preperation, pre-fishing, financial investments, etc.  Personally, I don't have the time or money to give everything I have to tournament fishing.  I would rather spend an extra couple days at home with my family then spend it on the road pre-fishing and I have no desire to spend money on expensive electronics that barely get used.  Tournaments are definite resume boosters, but I believe that much of that is because many companies these days don't truly understand what sells a product.  But, the bottom line is that tournaments are helping to grow the sport and that is a good thing.

I think passion is probably the most important aspect of what fuels someone to strive to be the "best kayak angler around".  But passion is also different for different people.  Some are very loud and boastful about it - constantly blowing up social media with banter and photos.  Others tend to lead by example and let their actions do the talking.  Some show it through being serious and others by being goofy.  Some convey passion through seminars and talks, others through guiding or writing or blogging or making videos or introducing people to the sport.  We are all different and unique and that needs to be recognized when considering how passionate someone truly is.  Again, if you are putting in the effort and working hard then your passion will show through. 

So all this rambling has led me to the point that there is no exact answer and you could ask 20 different people and get 20 totally different responses to Tony's original question.  My responses above have been transformed since I started kayak fishing.  About 4-5 years ago I sat down and debated what I wanted out of the sport. Where did I want to fit? How could I become the best kayak angler around? At the time, I wanted to be the KVD of the kayak fishing world - with dreams of fishing big tournaments and signing on with big sponsors. I fished a bunch of tournaments, I did well, I got some sponsors, and I quickly burnt out. A couple years later, I sat a crossroads in my kayak angling journey and re-assessed where I wanted to fit in the industry. It is funny how much differently I felt. I had been through ups and downs, victories and mistakes, and I didn't really care about the glitz and glammer anymore. I saw the ugly side of the industry - the smoke and mirrors side. I saw jealousy and negativity and bashing and I wanted to get away from it. That is when I decided to do the BASS Slam. I wanted to reconnect with fishing and get back to what I love, which is being a river rat, exploring new places, and creating new adventures. And from that point forward, I worked my butt off to showcase myself as a good person and mentor for the sport as much as being a good angler. Today my goals have evolved even further. I love guiding. I love writing. I love fishing with family and friends. I love showing people how easy it is to create an adventure. I try to let that love show through in everything I do. I now see tournaments and social media as somewhat of necessary evils, in that they have both positive and negative aspects. I now work with a few select companies whose products I love and can whole heartedly endorse. And overall, I feel like I am starting to find my place in the industry...and that feels good. I do not consider myself the best kayak angler around. I never will. But I definitely strive to be the best person and kayak angler that I can and my life is better for it.

Until next time, tight lines!

7 comments:

  1. Drew its a honor to have you on Carolina Custom Rods Pro Staff.

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    1. Thank you. It is an honor to work with you and represent such a great product!

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  2. Great post Drew! Gotta stay true to yourself, whether that be in kayak fishing or life. Being the best person you can be is really all that matters anyway.

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    1. Thanks Ben and congrats on the new addition at home.

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  3. Love it Drew. I remember when we talked about sitting at that crossroads, burnt out, some time back. I haven't quite hit the ground running like you have, but it sure give me hope and I am damn proud of you.

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    1. Thanks. I couldn't agree more. I get a lot out of those talks with you and other members of the kayak fishing community. I think it helps keep you motivated, but also gives you different perspectives so you can really root out what is most important to you. I know you have a full plate at home right now, but I am sure you will be out there landing beastly fish in no time.

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  4. It is not about being the best. I look up to guys who help others, share the sport, and don't let their heads get too big. You are one of them. Keep on keeping on.

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