By Eric Jackson
I had the honor of being invited to the Strike King Writer’s Conference on Kentucky Lake in Paris Landing, Tennessee along with many of the who’s who in fishing. Joey Monteleone, fellow Jackson Kayak team mate and long time fishing media icon was there writing articles about different people as well. I was representing as a kayak fisherman, and FLW Pro, but the big interest was about the explosion of kayak fishing in the industry. Strike King has a long history in the lure industry, and the management of the brand is made up of icons in their own right. Doug Minor, VP of Sales and Marketing, who really is the gate keeper for new innovative products, etc.. has been at the helm for decades. I never really paid that much attention to the lure industry, related to how much effect they have on the overall lay of the land in the fishing world, but certainly the lures change the methods of fishing, and rods, reels, line, boats, etc. all adjust to accommodate that. Kayak fishing is bringing a new element to the fishing world, and at a pace that has the industry “reeling” to catch up. While kayak fishermen are fishermen first in most cases, the kayaking itself with the off the beaten path mentality, is different than the tournament fishing mentality. Tournament fishing out of bass boats has dominated the industries focus related to product development, marketing, sales, and media. Rightly so, as no group of people are more focused on finding ways to catch big fish effectively than those doing it as a full time endeavor with their livelihood riding on it.
I was fortunate enough to have Kevin Van Dam join Joey, Roger, and I for dinner on Monday night and hear his perspective on many things related to tournament fishing. Nobody has done a better job being an all around ambassador than KVD, while competing at the highest level. Kayak fishing, however, will be throwing many for a loop in the years to come as the landscape is changing rapidly, and the “influencers” will no longer be limited to powerboats. At the rate that kayak fishing is taking off, fishing kayaks will outnumber fishing powerboats in a few short years. This phenomenon is not going unnoticed by the industry. Organizers, manufacturers, and the media are starting to see the writing on the wall. During my time at the Writer’s conference I had 4 interviews (8 hours worth) scheduled on Monday and 2 on Tuesday. I ended up doing 7 interviews on Monday, having multiple media outlets interview me at the same time. I did 9 interviews out of my Jackson Kayak Coosa HD, and one out of my Ranger / Evinrude . While there were some fairly knowledgeable, on the subject of kayaks, TV, Radio, Print, and Online reporters, most were seeing a true, modern, top of the line fishing kayak for the first time close up. Seeing my kayak equipped with the Power Pole Micro and Raymarine Dragonfly , elevated seating and standing ability caught their initial attention and they were quite impressed with the level of evolution the kayak has had since their last look.
It was the little things that ended up stealing the show, however, related to these interviews and my Jackson Kayak. The ease of access to your tackle, just a reach under your seat, the rod tip protectors, the Line Cutterz on the seat, the leader line dispenser under the console, the recessed transducer scupper for paddling over rocks, etc.. without worrying about your electronics, and more. It was the total fishing package that got the most attention and had the unanimous effect of having everyone there want to get their own kayak.
One thing that really hit home, however, and is, and will continue to be the, biggest deterrent for new kayak fisherman is the ready availability of cheap kayaks that are not suitable for most people to fish out of. All kayaks are not created equally. The reason the fishing kayak market is exploding is because of the recent creation (2011 Coosa by JK) of wider, more stable, high seating position, stand-able kayaks. Chain stores offering kayaks out front for low cost, are selling an abundance of narrower, less stable, not very fishable kayaks that turn people off on kayak fishing if they are larger (over 200 pounds for example), or not very athletic. Jackson Kayak now has boats like the “Big Rig” which allow fishermen over 300 pounds to enjoy kayak fishing, and give the over 200 pound crowd a very confidence inspiring boat that gets them into skinny water and fresh, non pressured waters where the big fish and eager fish reside. Luckily there are lots of forums, websites, and dealers, kayak clubs, etc.. that are directing new kayak fishermen to the right equipment. A great paddle, like my Werner Shuna Hooked limited Jackson model makes your life easier as well with lightweight, efficient paddling.
Being on Kentucky Lake is awesome for me. It is one of the most famous ledge fishing lakes in the world, and home of huge bass. I fished the FLW Walmart Tour event there this past summer and did a 70 mile run from Kentucky at the dam to Tennessee where I had a 6.5 pounder in my live well by 8:30am on both Thursday and Friday of the tournament.
Photo by Joey Monteleone
What a way to start a day! It was great to get on the lake again both in my Ranger, and hit some shallow waters in my kayak out of the range of where you can get a power boat.
Thanks Strike King for the invitation and the opportunity to get to know many of the “who’s who” of fishing that I hadn’t met yet.
If you haven’t fished from a kayak yet, the boats we make will put a permanent smile on your face- give on a go! Mark Copley, the Marketing Director for Strike King is quite fired up on his new Big Rig… I can’t wait to see his first fish out of it!