When someone is interested in beginning kayak fishing, the standard advice is to demo several kayaks before deciding which one to buy. However, you still can’t truly get the feel of how a kayak performs under actual fishing conditions. Enter Hobie’s “First Cast” program. We recently tagged-along to see what the program is all about, and according to all of the participants, it was an overwhelming success.

Teaming up with local dealers, the program is designed to get potential kayak anglers into the Hobie model of their choice for a day of guided fishing and instruction. Pack & Paddle is a Hobie kayak dealer located in Lafayette, and regularly runs First Cast trips out of PAC Kayak Rentals in Point-aux-Chenes. The program is inexpensive, unique and answers all the questions an aspiring kayak angler might have.

Meeting at the marina, the group’s participants milled around as various Hobie models were set up. Questions were asked and answered about the boats and equipment supplied for the trip. Most of the necessities were included, except fishing rods and tackle. (Rods and reels are available for a small rental fee, and participants can purchase a small tackle pack specifically selected for the trip. To make it easier for those that don’t know how to tie fishing knots, rental rods come with tactical clips to make changing lures simple.)

This trip was led by Pack & Paddle marketing manager Eli Braud, along with Hobie Fishing Team member Butch Ridgedell. Braud and Ridgedell acted as instructors and guides for the day, with the goal of introducing several anglers to the addictive world of fishing in a kayak.

Ridgedell gathered the group together to go over three simple rules for the day’s trip: 1. PFDs had to be worn at all times while on the water. 2. No alcohol was allowed during the trip. 3. Participants had to stay in sight of the guide.

Ready for launch

With the assistance of the participants, the kayaks were launched and each angler boarded their chosen ‘yak. The group then moved to the harbor, where any necessary seat/pedal adjustments were fine-tuned and they got a feel for pedaling, steering and also had any additional questions answered.

The nice thing about launching at PAC is that the anglers can begin fishing in less than five minutes. The trip isn’t billed as a fish-catching adventure, but that’s one of the obvious goals. Really though, it’s designed to get each individual a hands-on kayak-fishing experience that combines teaching kayaking skills, basic navigation and tips for locating and catching fish. Kayak fishing is a little different: As a solo occupant, you are the captain, the deckhand and the angler all rolled into one. That is one of the many alluring aspects of the sport, but it can take some getting used to.

Once the fishing began, the group split in half, but stayed in the same general vicinity. The three anglers in Ridgedell’s group all had some fishing experience, but this was their first time in a kayak. Bret Rogers was joined by the husband-and-wife team of Chris and Elizabeth Blades. 

“A great experience”

The morning proved tough for fishing, but as the day wore on, everyone caught and boated several fish. While slowly working down a shoreline, Rogers found that a purple and chartreuse plastic tail under a popping cork was his ticket for some consistent, albeit undersized, trout action. However, he was thrilled to be catching his first-ever kayak fish. The trip cemented his decision to buy a boat. “Everybody should try it. I will definitely be doing it again, and my only decision now is which kayak I am going to buy,” he said.

As we pedaled over to a new location, Elizabeth Blades was struck by how easy it was to get acclimated to the Hobie Compass. Even though she had not yet caught a fish, she was having a great morning. 

“I’m just thrilled to be out here and can’t believe how easy it is to maneuver. I’m having a great time,” she said. 

At the next spot, Ridgedell explained to Elizabeth about using the current to her advantage, and letting her popping cork/dead shrimp combination drift over a point on the shoreline. She pedaled into position and after feeding a few bait stealers, she hooked into a nice black drum that put up a good fight on her light tackle. From there, her day got even better. 

She landed the fish and got it secured on the fish grip. That’s one of the things new kayak anglers quickly realize — catching and landing fish is a solo proposition with no calls to “get the net.”

Meanwhile, Chris had located a nearby multi-species honey hole. Also using a popping cork/dead shrimp set up, he found small reds, drum and trout all in the same spot. Blades said he had been contemplating purchasing a kayak for fishing, but had a lot of questions. 

“This was a great experience being able to pedal around, and actually realizing how far of a range these kayaks have. It was comfortable, stable, and alleviated any concerns I had about fishing out of such a small craft,” he said. 

Without much need for actual fishing instruction, Chris chose his own fishing spots and went home with some fresh speckled trout and redfish for dinner. A kayak is definitely in his future.

Back at the dock, the participants had nothing but excited words about the First Cast program and the guides. 

Elizabeth summed it up best: “It was a great experience. Even as a rookie, it was a fun and easy day. That kayak really scoots and cuts through the water.”

As an added bonus for participants who decide to buy a boat, Pack & Paddle will credit 50 percent of the cost of a First Cast experience toward the purchase of a new kayak if it’s made within 30 days. 

Kayak curious? 

Get on board a Hobie First Cast trip and try it for yourself. For more information and to see other trips offered, go to www.packpaddle.com.