Dwayne Walley could have said it was the unique angle it gives him in the marsh to spot tailing redfish.
He also could have pointed out how exciting it is to see a big bass blow up on a frog from not much higher than water level.
But what Walley said was his most favorite thing about his latest passion — fishing from a kayak — was surprising:
“I enjoy the serenity, being on lake with my wife Donna, who has her own kayak, and, while I love being on the water with her and enjoy the camaraderie and the bond, we can both still have independence to go where we want to go.
“Being with Donna on the water is the best, and I will give you an example that is one of my all-time favorite memories. We went to a local lake to teach her frog fishing (with a frog), and she caught about 4- or 5-pounder on a white frog. She had had several bites and I was teaching her to wait and give the fish time to inhale it, until she felt the pull. She missed a few, but then she ended up catching her biggest bass ever. Being able to teach another person, especially my wife, how to fish and do that in a kayak, which I also love, is great.”
This from a guy who first sat down in a kayak three years ago and now has a bad case of fever for the sport, travelling throughout the south to fish tournaments and even designing new Websites, one that unites kayak fishermen and another that helps run catch, photo and release events.
“I grew up fishing and I always had this dream to have a 21-foot bay boat so I could to the Gulf and the marsh and fish,” said Walley, 48, an electrician for a plastics company in Madison and a part time Web designer. “Now, I don’t know if I’d want one or not. I’m not sure I can get the same pleasure from that as I do from a kayak.”
The main stumbling block that kept Walley from getting his dream bay boat is what led him to kayaks — cost.
“What does it take to get into a new fully-rigged bay boat now, say 22 or 24 feet with a 200 horse 4-stroke, power poles and all the electronics, $40,000 or $50,000?” he said. “I can get as fancy as I want with a kayak for freshwater and marsh fishing and not spend much more than $2,000 or $3,000. Of course, you can go bigger for offshore kayaks and go wild with accessories and spend lots more, but nothing compared to regular boats.
“And with that kayak, I can get into a lot of places that bigger boats, either a bass boat on a lake or a bay boat in the marsh, can’t reach, so I actually get to fish more water. That puts me on fish that otherwise can’t be reached.”
In the three years that Walley has gotten into kayak fishing, he has become rabid about it.
He is now on the pro staff of Wilderness Systems and Advanced Technology Paddles, which are both part of Confluence Outdoors.
“It is amazing how fast the world of kayak fishing and kayak tournaments is growing,” Walley said. “It’s an infancy sport. People were kayak fishing 10 years ago, but it wasn’t looked upon as a sport.
“Again, I think the cost is what spurred it. With a kayak, you can carry it in the back of a truck or on top of a vehicle. There’s no gas costs, except for the automobile travel to reach where you are going. And it is environmentally friendly, and you’d be surprised how important that is to a lot of people.”
It also appeals across all demographics; something else Walley said is behind its growth.
“When I went to the KBF (Kayak Bass Fishing) Open at Kentucky Lake we had 159 fishermen,” he said. “Some came driving up in old pickups and were wearing suspenders, cutoffs and t-shirts. Some came in big shiny new trucks and with bigger kayaks and pro-fishing shirts.
“Once those kayaks went in the water though, it was an even playing field.”
Kayaking is one of, if not the fastest growing water sports in Mississippi. From Barnett Reservoir to the many creeks and rivers to the Gulf marshes, more and more kayakers are hitting the water and a lot of them are fishing.
Jimmy Ray of Brandon fishes Barnett Reservoir frequently in a 12-foot kayak, including this April during the annual crappie spawn.
“I was getting the limit pretty regular,” Ray said. “There were a lot of days that I was catching fish when none of the big boats around me were getting any bites to speak of. The key is I was not making any noise. I could paddle around the saw grass patches, pad stems and primrose and slide into pockets that they couldn’t.
“This is the only time of the year that I really get to do much crappie fishing, but I do a lot of bass fishing and even catfishing the rest of the year. I get a lot of funny looks from other crappie fishermen, and I get some interesting look from alligators. The gators used to make me nervous, but they just look and go on. Plus, I’m smart enough that I give them a wide berth and don’t do anything that they might misinterpret as a challenge.”
Brad Case of Florence has started a Kayak Tournament Trail of Mississippi, which is promoted through mskayakfishing.com, a growing forum for kayak anglers.
“We average between 15 and 20 boats a tournament now already in the first year, but it’s growing,” Case said. “We’re looking at holding events around the state and then have a year-end championship that will be bigger and attract a lot more boats. I’ve been into kayak fishing for a while about like Dwayne, and I see the growth. I run into more and more kayakers now, and they usually aren’t aware of the Website. Once they hear about it they want to join so they and we can advance the kayak community here in Mississippi.”
Walley, who developed mskayakfishing.com said he expects quick growth, both in the sport and the community.
“Once people learn we have an organized group, then it will really take off,” he said. “One thing I’ve learned about the kayaking community, and the kayak fishermen, it that we, they, heck all of us, we’re very passionate about our sport. I think we’re all interested in introducing new people to kayaking and spreading the passion.
“Now that I’m on those Pro Staffs, it is my job to promote not only those kayaks and paddles but also the sport of kayak fishing. It’s not that tough a sale, either.”
Walley said that he knows two things that will hook a fisherman for life on kayak fishing.
“One, the first time they see a big bass blow up on a surface plug, like a frog and see it from water level, they won’t forget it and they will be hooked,” he said. “Then there’s the redfish sleigh ride.
“That’s what we call it when we hook a big redfish and he starts pulling the kayak around, essentially turning the boat into the drag system for wearing out the fish. You do that one time, and I promise you will be hooked forever. I once had a buddy who hooked up with a big one or two and the fish dragged him 8 miles down the beach. He had to call his wife to come and meet him. But since he was in a kayak, she was able to get his truck and they could get it and go.”