Once it was determined that the alligators weren’t going to hang around for long, everyone was excited. Dee Meador, guiding the kayaking trip, assured the group that the gators would leave once people began paddling around in the estuary. Five casts later, alligators were forgotten as a redfish grabbed an electric chicken grub and made off with it. The young angler attached to the other end of the line gripped the rod tightly as the redfish spun his kayak in a clockwise circle, looking for an escape route. After two complete rotations of the craft, the redfish came to the boy’s grip, released to fight again — both of them.

Whether you’re in it for the peace and serenity that comes from fishing without motorized propulsion, or whether you just want to get into some untapped redfish action, kayak fishing has a lot to offer.

During the spring and fall, fishermen take to skinny waters in search of tailing reds. Kayaks have a lot to offer in that regard; they are easy to use, highly portable, and cost a fraction of the price of a shallow-water flats boat.

During the summer, these boats shine as a way to access backwater estuaries and pools that are inaccessible by conventional methods — an excellent way to have unpressured fish to yourself.

Choose a fishing kayak

Greg Franklin knows kayaks. He is the South Carolina-area representative for Ocean Kayak, a company based in Ferndale, Wash., that is on the leading edge of developing kayaks for fishermen.

“The trend in kayak fishing started, obviously, on the West Coast” said Franklin, “then we saw it move into Texas. Ocean Kayak actually sponsors a kayak tournament fishing team there. The trend hit Florida and then skipped up to Virginia. Now, it has come into South Carolina and Georgia, and those anglers can benefit from the designs and features that other anglers have already discovered.”

The biggest decision when selecting a fishing kayak is whether to go with a “sit-on-top” model or a cockpit-style kayak. There are advantages to each, depending on your padding ability and the water you fish.

“The sit-on-top models really lend themselves to kayak fishing, because they allow more versatility in setting one up” Franklin said. “There are several ways to set up a sit-on-top for fishing, whereas with the cockpit style, you’re fixed in one position.”

Franklin said that 75 percent of the fishing kayaks his company sells are sit-on-tops, but a lot of that is personal choice by the angler. The company is breaking into the freshwater and stillwater fishing market with cockpit-style boats. The design bodes well for rivers, lakes, and other waters where fast currents and surf are not an issue.

“Someone who wants to take a cockpit-style boat into the ocean really needs to know what they’re doing,” Franklin said. “There’s a lot that could go wrong — if you flip that boat over, it’s going to fill with water. A sit-on-top doesn’t have that problem, because they are all self-bailing.”

When selecting a fishing kayak, anglers should look for a boat that will allow them to tailor the set-up to the way they fish. A fly-caster will want room to coil fly line without it becoming entangled with excess gear. A bait fisherman will want flat space in front to mount rod holders, and a trolling angler — an increasingly popular tactic involving paddle-only propulsion — will want an easy-to-reach, sturdy mount for trolling rods. One of the more advanced options is the ability to incorporate sonar/electronics on the kayak.

“Manufacturers are designing boats with lots of surface area to accommodate rodholders, storage bins, even electronics,” Franklin said. “We have a model that allows the installation of a sonar transducer into one of the scupper holes, so the transducer doesn’t rub when the kayak hits bottom.”

Read the rest of this story in the South Carolina Sportsman archives.

Subscribe to ensure you don't miss a single information-packed issue of this monthly magazine.