By Chris Payne
The buzz is in the air. As spring approaches rapidly, anglers start prepping for the ice out, the prespawn staging or the white bass run and the buzz grows louder. Kayak fishing is growing across the world, but not as fast as it could. The buzz about industry growth can be seen and heard everywhere.
Think of the options you now have for kayaks and the retailers that sell them. Think of the number of manufacturers who have angling specific options. Think of the number of posts you have seen on the internet from various forums and Facebook groups on “Which Kayak Should I Get?”
So why would I say we can do better when it appears the snowball is rolling downhill? My view is that the snowball is lopsided. It’s not a perfect sphere. It may never be a perfect sphere but a well formed snowball, spherical in shape will go farther and build greater momentum than a lopsided sausage shaped snow mass rolling down a hill.
So how would I change it?
The first thing I would do is to plead with kayak fishermen everywhere to slow a little bit on the brand pushing. I understand you are passionate about your SuperJohn 987.M super stealth kayak with a jet motor on it. It’s cool. Almost everyone who sees it thinks it’s cool. The problem is it may not be the best fit for all of the folks looking to get into kayak fishing. We can’t put them all into the same category. The people looking to get into kayak fishing make between $0 and $1Billion dollars per year. They are men. They are women. They are tall, short, chunky and skinny. Some drive sedans while some drive trucks. They can lift 0 pounds or 500 pounds. They are young and they are old. Some of them even have red hair!
So with all of these different variables we should be purposeful about what we recommend. Yesterday I spoke with the owner of a kayak shop about the best kayaks for 10-year-old kids. The most expensive kayak was not the best fit. Not even close. He gets it and that’s something I really appreciate in a business. Custom fitting to your customers’ needs. I realize most of us are not dealers and most folks are not repping for a business but I would ask that you use forethought and questions to help people find the right boat, even if it is not the one you like or paddle/pedal. Some prospective kayak anglers only have $200 to spend. Pointing them to a used boat on Craigslist could be a great help. Talking them through questions to find the right boat is usually very helpful.
Regardless of the boat they choose, offering to meet up and fish together is a HUGE step in building the sport. Kayaks are cool but kayak fishing with good people and having a great day on the water is something that creates memories and an urge to tell other friends about it. Offer to let them paddle your kayak around for a demo, offer to bring an extra kayak just so they can get on the water and offer to help them rig their kayak when they finally purchase one. Camaraderie will help make that lopsided snowball much more of a sphere.
I know lots of people that do tall of those things but I also see the infighting amongst kayak anglers. And it’s not one particular brand. To an insider it may seem you have a great passion for your SlugSlime Deluxe but to an outsider who wants to be an insider, it can come across as, “Unless you paddle a SlugSlime you are inferior.” So keep it simple.
True kayak fishing ambassadors don’t care what boat you paddle/pedal, they care more about getting you kayak fishing. Very few of us started in an expensive boat. Let’s not forget our roots. I paddled a Pelican sit in for almost seven years. It was a great boat for me at that time and for what I could afford. It taught me a lot and I was lucky to be mentored by people who just wanted to show me how much fun kayak fishing could be.
If we pass on the true generosity, acceptance and great joy we all experience kayak fishing, the sport will grow and that will push our sport even faster into the lives of so many in need of the joy, peace and great times on the water. Help me make it a sphere. I’m not saying don’t recommend your favorite brand. We need passion. Just make sure it is the right fit and we always include anyone who wants to join in.