The area fishing report in “The Kansas City Star” appears every Thursday. Several years ago there was a stretch of at least five consecutive weeks when the report proclaimed “Walleyes good” at one close by lake, Man! Talk like that gets me stirred up!
I was anxious to go after some walleyes, but there was a problem: I no longer owned a boat. So I called the marina and asked if they rented fishing boats. They did, and the price was $175 per day! I nearly fell out of my chair! $175 for just one day, there was no guide included, that was just simply for a large jon boat with an outboard motor. On my modest income there was no way I could justify that.
I remember a conversation I had with a guy about a year earlier at the VA hospital. He was recently retired from the U.S. Army and lived where the cost of living was fairly low (I think he said Wyoming). He told me he had a kayak. I asked him if a guy could fish from a kayak. He assured me that was possible — he did.
So I decided to go to one of the big box sporting goods stores and looked at their kayaks. I found an eleven foot, sit-inside kayak on sale for $399. I left the store with that kayak, a life jacket (PFD), and a cheap paddle for a little over $500.
At that time I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a sit-on-top kayak. I didn’t know many fishermen prefer them to sit-insides. I didn’t know a Southern California dude (Tim Niemeriere ) modified a surf board in the late 1960’s to create the first sit-on-top kayak. I didn’t know any of that when I bought my first sit-inside kayak.
However, I learned in grade school that kayaks (the sit-inside type) had existed for centuries. The native people of arctic North America, the Inuits and Aleuts, are believed to have invented the kayak over four thousand years ago. Those early kayaks were made with wooden or whale bone frames covered with animal skins. They were used for hunting.
In those frigid arctic waters it was essential to keep the water out of the boat and keep the kayaker as dry as possible. The native people sewed animal skins to the coaming around the cockpit of the kayak to make a spray skirt which was then securely tied around the chest of the kayaker.
An inherent problem with the sit-inside kayaks is they are easy to tip over. Skillful kayakers are able to self-right the boat with a maneuver which became known as the “Eskimo roll.” Sure enough, my very first time out in my new kayak, I tipped it over as I reached for the dock. Of course, in only two feet of water and no spray skirt, I did not attempt an Eskimo roll.
I didn’t even try fishing from my sit-inside kayak until my second outing. Every second on the water I was keenly aware of keeping my balance, and not making any move which might cause me to tump. Casting and retrieving a Rapala, I finally hooked a white bass. Once I had it up to the boat, I couldn’t reach the landing net which was held under the bungee rigging behind me, and I lost the fish. Worse, when I looked for my paddle I discovered it had fallen overboard and was floating about thirty feet away! I was relieved to find I could paddle with my hands to retrieve the paddle. This kayak fishing just wasn’t going well at all, much to my dismay.
I came away from that first kayak fishing trip thinking a fisherman needs a place in FRONT of him to hold his gear: a rod holder, a landing net holder, a paddle holder, a place to put a depth finder. The solution was obvious: I needed to build a dashboard to set in front of the fisherman to hold all his gear. I got right on it the next day. I made my very first kayak dashboard from a piece of 2×6 soft wood lumber.
At that time I had a portable fish/depth finder made by Bottom Line called the Fishing’ Buddy II. It had an LED screen, an adjustable plastic shaft with the transducer on the end , and the battery pack all contained in a single unit. It was light weight, partly because it was powered by three D cell flashlight batteries. It was that Fishing’ Buddy II that determined the length of the dashboard. The dashboard needed to be long enough to extend beyond the kayak so a large hole at either end of the dashboard would be directly above the water. That way the Fishing’ Buddy II could set in one of the holes and the shaft with the transducer on its end could extend down into the water. The bulky, clamp on depth finder holder which came with it would not be necessary, the holes at the end of the dashboard would take its place.
Originally I drilled holes in the coaming at the front of the cockpit to bolt the dashboard directly to the kayak. I was able to field test the dashboard on the lake and found that it largely performed as hoped. But there was one problem: mounting the dashboard directly to the kayak coaming prevented the use of a spray skirt. Several fishing trips when it was windy enough to create large waves which splashed into the kayak confirmed the wisdom of the splash skirt used by the Inuits and Aleuts. Another method of mounting the dashboard to the kayak needed to be devised that kept the coaming free so a splash skirt could be attached.
While pondering this problem and looking at my kayak, the solution came to me. There were screws through the side of the of the kayak hull which held the foot brace assemblies in place inside the kayak. What if I made a bracket which could be attached to the outside of the kayak using those same screw holes, and that provided a way to attach the dashboard slightly above the cockpit, thereby keeping the coaming free so a spray skirt could be attached around the cockpit? I made some prototype Hull Brackets and installed and field tested them. They worked like a charm.
The more I went out with the kayak, the more my confidence grew. I began to think I would probably never tump again. Then I decided to paddle up the Wakarusa River to fish the tailwaters below Clinton Lake. The Wakarusa was flowing at a pretty good clip that day. It was quite a workout to paddle upstream and progress was slow. About a quarter mile from where I put in there was a big tree that had fallen into the river and was stuck on the bottom. I tried to paddle around it, and as I reached the upper end, there was a white water disturbance created as the current hit the tree. The disturbance grabbed the bow of my kayak and flipped me. I had to swim and scramble to catch the kayak before it got away. Damn it! Worse, I lost my glasses and a really nice rod and reel. That small catastrophe and loss of my stuff made me sick to my stomach for months.
I was aware of outriggers, I just didn’t know where to get them. I probably should mention that I was computer illiterate then, I knew nothing about the internet and how easy it was to source products. So I got to work improvising and building a set of my own. I had an old walker laying around which I cut up and made an aluminum frame. I made a couple of pontoons from light weight 4″ PVC pipe. I cut the tops off a couple of 2 liter soda bottles. Then I filled each pontoon with spray foam insulation. They worked, kind of. Yes, they were goofy looking and awkward. They got in the way and prevented a full paddle stroke. In short, they left a lot to be desired.
Many months later I finally became a beginner computer user. One day at the library I was “surfing the web” and while checking out kayak fishing accessories I discovered some fabulous outriggers! They were simple and very good looking. I bought a pair and they were the answer to the capsize problem.
I tried the outriggers in several positions. First, I tried them behind the cockpit. I tended to hit them with my paddle, and sometimes when trolling my fishing line would get caught on them. So I decided to try mounting them in front of the cockpit. I devised several mounts which attached to the Kayak Anglers Dashboard before I found that the optimum method was to extend the length of the Net Holder an mount them to a platform at the far end of the Net Holder. The extended Net Holder with the Outrigger Mounting Platform (OMP) became the Dual Purpose Forward Mount (DPFM). Not only does the DPFM hold the outriggers in the perfect position, but by mounting the outrigger bases to the OMP, no more holes need to be drilled in the kayak itself.
After a lot of experimentation and refinements, I applied for a U.S. Patent. I manufactured a first batch. The Kayak Anglers Dashboard is now available to the fishing public. We also sell Yak-Gear Outriggers. Go to the SHOP section of our website to find out how to get these products for your own.