Competitive, inspiring, comical, driven and loving — all words that come into play when this power couple hits the water. Janie and Chris Murphey are making their mark on kayak fishing in south Louisiana with both regularly making appearances in the winners’ circle at various tournaments across the state. They accomplished one huge feat with Chris placing 1st and Janie placing 3rd in the difficult Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club’s Minimalists Challenge earlier this year. Although they have only been kayak fishing for a couple of years, their determination and dedication are matched only by their love of the sport.
“We took a getaway to Grand Isle and were bank fishing along Highway 1. We were novices and knew really nothing about saltwater fishing. Not having much success, I saw two kayakers go by and a light went off. If we could only get on the water, I knew we could do better,” Chris said.
Shortly thereafter, they purchased two used kayaks, a pedal drive for him and a paddle kayak for her. They were immediately hooked, but things didn’t go as planned.
“I thought I would just tow her around with my pedals, but it didn’t go so well,” he said. “It was almost impossible to keep her kayak straight and became both strenuous and frustrating.”
Janie recounts one particular day fishing Shell Beach when fighting strong currents made them realize that the plan wasn’t going to work.
“Let’s just say that it was a long ride back to Denham Springs,” she said. They immediately purchased her a pedal drive and haven’t looked back. Both are now fishing newer Hobie Outback models, and all is well.
“I love my Outback,” she added.
Picking it up fast
By the success the two are having, you could never tell how relatively new they are to the sport. Their first kayak trip was in October 2020. Janie had only fished here and there with friends and Chris, although a bass tournament boat fisherman, had never before fished saltwater.
To say that these two are ate up with kayak fishing is a huge understatement. Janie keeps track of their trips and in 2021, they made 113 trips to fish coastal Louisiana and have logged over 60 so far this year. During the week, they regularly make freshwater trips close to home.
They enjoy the competitiveness and skill-building aspects of tournament fishing so much that they have added their own daily competition. The fictional “Murphey Cup” is their private challenge when hitting the water. The rules are made up and change as they go.
“Before the trip we’ll say ‘three biggest bass over 12 inches or two trout and two reds wins’ and whoever comes out on top holds the Murphey Cup until the next trip. When we meet up with fellow kayak anglers, they are always asking who’s winning now?” he said. They suspend the Murphey Cup challenge when fishing actual tournaments in order to concentrate on the task at hand, but it is great practice and motivation for the real tournaments.
“There is something on the line every time we fish together,” he said.
Their competitiveness was front and center when I met them for a trip for this article. While getting the kayaks rigged-up off the side of the road, I went to the truck for a second, turned around, and Janie was in the water and pedaling out.
“Oh yeah, if she knows where she is going, she is not waiting for anybody. She will be first to her spot,” he said.
For some reason, I had the notion that these two would be fishing the day side-by-side. Wrong. “While we fish in the same general area, we both go do our thing. We keep in sight or at least phone range for safety, but we are not usually fishing the same spots,” she said.
You own it
Both agree that the big challenge in kayak fishing is that all the decisions and actions are your own.
“You are captain, deckhand, and angler all rolled into one. You have to find, catch and land the fish all on your own. That’s what makes it such a challenge,” he said.
Being new to the sport and the salt, they knew that only time on the water would increase their skills and success.
“In order to fast-track our experience, we went as much as we could. Although we absorb knowledge from others and watch a bunch of YouTube videos, time on the water is the only real way to continue to learn and get better,” they both said.
While I’m not sure if this would happen on tournament day, there were a few times during the trip where the couple dynamic may have trumped the angler dynamic.
“Throw at that point over there, I saved it for you,” she said. You won’t hear that too much when two buddies are fishing together. I’m pretty sure had this been a tournament, Janie’s lure would have first hit that point with nary a word spoken. Of course, the trash talk is ever-present and is bolstered by who happens to own the Murphey Cup at any given moment.
While their competitiveness is fierce, it is friendly and healthy. Both genuinely wish for the other to succeed and it has the result of making both of them better kayak anglers. In order to chronicle their adventures and document their catches, they started the “Bent Rod’s Kayak Fishing” page on Facebook.
“It sounds corny, but kayak fishing has literally been life changing. We are sharing our adventures in hope of involving others in the sport,” he said.
Kayak fishing continues to grow as a sport. Couples kayak fishing is a growing segment within the sport. The Murpheys are a prime example. While tandem kayaks are available, they are not ideal for fishing with limited space for gear and close casting quarters. Single kayaks prove a much better decision.
Any kayak that gets you on the water is better than none. As the Murpheys discovered the hard way, paddling makes things a bit more difficult. Chris Murphey’s advice for couples thinking about kayak fishing is sound.
“Start out with anything you can peddle, using your legs. Paddling is difficult and you will need your arms for fishing,” he said.
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