Canoes, Kayaks and Aluminum boats: Getting where others can’t

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John N. Felsher

Probably more fish in history have hit the decks of a canoe than any other watercraft.

Many people with big boats and big engines would rather run than fish. I think some people just want to impress their club members with their horsepower numbers.

I’ve heard bass anglers brag that their boats can reach speeds exceeding 70, 80 or even 90 miles per hour, but I’ve never once seen anyone catch a fish going that fast. How many fish do they pass up when converting fuel into debt and noise?

Personally, I never understood why some tournament anglers run 50 to 100 miles for hours just to make a few casts, then, run for home before the scales close. Why do bass anglers launch at Marina A and run 50 miles to fish the docks at Marina B on the other side of the lake? Meanwhile, anglers fishing a tournament from Marina B run 50 miles to fish the docks at Marina A.

sidebar-boatsPeople with small boats fish, not cruise.

I don’t often enter bass tournaments, but years ago, I fished two annual tournaments organized by the Men’s Ministry department of the church I attended at the time. In the first one, I fished from a 16-foot canoe. The following year, I fished from a 10-foot aluminum flatboat that didn’t even have an electric motor, just a paddle.

I won both events, much to the chagrin of anglers who spent $100 in gasoline to compete for a $5 trophy. I won not because I’m such a better fisherman than the others. I won because I threw more casts than the others. Fish simply can’t hit lures or baits if they’re not in the water.

After all the big boats launched and blasted off to the other side of the lake, I threw my boat into the water. My first cast landed next to the launch ramp. I fished the docks of the marina for eight hours and never ventured more than 100 yards or so from the launch. My last cast landed next to the launch ramp.

In contrast, the other competitors spent the first hour of the morning, the best fishing time on a hot summer day, trying to beat the other anglers to their “secret” honey holes. At each hole, anglers made a few casts before declaring no fish in the area and running to another hot spot several miles away. I doubt they threw 10 percent of the casts that I made that day.

Small boats simply can’t reach as many spots as boats propelled by 225 horses. However, small boats can enter some areas where big boats can never venture. Growing up in south Louisiana, I fished small boats. I could penetrate into tiny swamp streams and fish waters that seldom saw lures.

Larger boats could never venture into these places, so they remained largely unfished. Sometimes, narrow ditches actually led to “lost lakes,” wider, deeper openings in the swamps that few people ever fished.

Thinking I discovered something out of The Lost World, I spent many hours fishing these isolated ponds. Although perhaps only a few hundred yards off a major waterway or highway, these routes-less-traveled seemed like wilderness in the middle of the Amazon where no human had ever trod. Only occasionally, I shared a spot with a fellow small boater.

Pirogues (the Cajun version of a canoe), kayaks and canoes grant access to even smaller areas. Often, I threw my wooden home-built pirogue in places where no boat launches existed and few other people ever dreamed of fishing.

I could thoroughly fish a pond measuring just a few acres or a small creek, gliding along silently without burning an ounce of gasoline. In some of these ponds, big, hungry bass competed to gulp anything hitting the water. In some of those places, I’m sure many fish died of old age without ever seeing a lure

In marshes, I often paddled pirogues through trenasses so narrow that I could jump across them—and I was certainly no Olympic athlete even back then. Frequently, I could only cast straight ahead of the boat into the channel. Water often measured barely two feet deep, but some of these places held good fish.

Moreover, small boats SHOULD limit the amount of equipment people can carry, although that doesn’t always work. How many people carry three tons of lures on a fishing trip just to use the same five favorites each day? Guilty as charged!

A small, flat plastic box of lures carefully chosen to fish that particular water body and one or two rods should prove sufficient for most fishing trips, even when using big boats.

Small boat anglers don’t usually fish for money, honor or prizes. They fish mostly for fun and relaxation. They fish in kayaks because they could go where others could not.

If an angler needs or wants power in a more compact package, a number of manufacturers such as AlumaCraft, G3, Tracker, Ranger and Xpress (see sidebar) make johnboats and more fully rigged aluminum boats under fifteen feet that can be outfitted with single-digit up to higher double-digit horsepower outboards, with all the trimmings that a Bassmaster might need.

Often, I enjoyed watching wildlife in these seldom-used channels as much as the fishing. That’s something I can’t do wearing a crash helmet and rocketing 50 miles across a choppy lake at 75 miles per hour in a bass boat. If I caught small bream, bass, catfish, garfish or anything else, that just added to the experience


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