The Real Gift
By Chris Funk
It only takes one look at a landing area full of kayaks to see how different kayak anglers are. Some will have bare necessities, skeleton-rigged with only a couple rods, minimal tackle and can be on the water in minutes. Others will look like a modern attack vessel with electronics and every gadget known to man with a brace of rods and tackle that would make Kevin Van Dam jealous.
The one thing all kayakers have in common is the piece of plastic they are fixing to launch. No matter how it is rigged, how it is propelled or who manufactured it, that kayak is a bonding agent. It is the "virus" that infected all of us with this hopefully incurable bug.
When you get bit by the kayak fishing bug, it infects every area of your life. You will start to notice kayaks in trucks, on roof racks or trailers every time you drive, and your first thought will be where they are going fishing or if they caught anything where they are coming from.
When you drive over bridges you will crane your neck to see if it is "paddle-able" then, if it looks fishy, wonder where the nearest launch is located. Soon you will find yourself reading KayakFishMag.com and talking to people on kayak forums and in time you will be meeting with other folks who were bit by the bug and fishing with them. It is just the natural progression of things. Folks from different walks of life and every social status you can think of finding a common interest in a kayak.
The interaction on that common ground has been an amazing thing to watch as I have grown as a kayak fisherman. Folks who don't know each other from Adam reach out to help others and the only reason is because they are kindred spirits of the plastic boat.
I can't tell you how many times I have seen folks post up a need for help in a certain area and the kayakers there open up with assistance. This includes offering their homes as a place of rest for the adventure. My wife questioned me when I did just that last year and my answer was "he is a kayak fisherman, it will be okay." It turned out that I helped someone catch a new species they had been targeting and made a new friend in the process.
I have also seen numerous times when kayakers rally around people who were struggling with sickness or a sick family member. Benefit tournaments or fundraisers to help out are usually quick to follow and the support is incredible. The same can be said when a kayaker loses a loved one. The friendship, prayers and words of encouragement are often overwhelming in a serious time of need. These acts of kindness cross all boundaries politically, racially, financially and ecumenically.
The only visible connection is a plastic boat and some water but that makes one heck of a bond.
Kayaks offer some great advantages to the angler. They can be used in places too shallow or hard to reach in a powerboat. They are quiet and cause very little disturbance allowing an angler to get close to their quarry. They are inexpensive in comparison with a powerboat and can be customized to meet the needs of the individual, and they actually provide a bit of exercise while we are out having fun on the water.
There are a number of great things about kayak fishing that keep me paddling. In this time of giving, I have to say the greatest gift I have received from this sport is the people themselves: folks I am blessed to call friends that I would have never met if not for a tiny plastic boat.