John Oast loves to bass fish from a boat, but he goes about it differently.
When Oast hits the Susquehanna River or a local pond, he needs to gasoline for a motor, no battery for a trolling motor and not even a trailer to haul his boat. Even better, Oast doesn’t even need a launch to get his craft onto the water.
All he needs is a path and a paddle.
Oast, who resides in Bloomsburg, does his bass fishing from a kayak. Oast took up fishing from a kayak several years ago when he lived in Virginia Beach and the lightweight crafts were popular with those who took part in surf fishing in the ocean.
Now, Oast said, kayaks are starting to catch on here as more people realize the advantages they offer over fishing from a bass boat.
The first benefit, Oast said, is simply getting to the water.
“You can launch anywhere. Just drag it through the weeds and jump in,” he said. “You can launch in places that jet boats can’t get to and you can do it without any help.”
Oast said there are kayaks designed specifically for fishing. The main difference, he said, is fishing kayaks allow the user to sit on top of the hull in a molded seat pan, which offers more stability and also makes it easier to cast from the higher position. Oast’s kayak is 13 feet, while those that are 11 and 12 feet in length are primarily used on smaller water. A longer kayak, he said, is faster while the shorter versions turn easier.
Fishing kayaks have plenty of storage thanks to a tank well — a place that can easily accommodate a milk crate — and several hatches for interior room. Oast stores extra fishing rods inside the hull and installed rod holders on the outside of his craft.
The cost for a heavy duty fishing kayak is approximately $1,000, Oast said, but plenty of models are available in the $500 to $600 range.
Most fishing kayaks weigh between 55 and 70 pounds, and can support at least 350 pounds.
Oast believes the relatively affordable cost and versatility are two factors behind the growth of fishing kayaks.
“Purchasing a boat is a big expense, in addition to the gas and trailer,” he said. “A lot of shore fisherman always felt limited because there are so many areas in the water they can’t cast to. They may have always wanted a boat, but not the expense. A fishing kayak is a good solution.”
Aside from being easy to transport and launch, Oast is quick to list other advantages with a fishing kayak.
They’re virtually indestructible, he said, allowing an angler to slide to logs and between stumps to get to where the bass are. When the plastic does get nicked, Oast repairs it with a heat gun, a process he says is a lot easier than popping rivets out of an aluminum boat.
The fact that a kayak can go virtually anywhere on the water also gives them an advantage on local lakes during bass tournaments.
“A lot of the lakes around here have a lot of lily pads. With a kayak you go go right over them and hit the holes that are way back in, while the powerboats are limited to the edges,” Oast said.
Perhaps the biggest advantage with a kayak is they don’t produce any noise, or wake, so fish are less likely to be spooked.
That goes for other wildlife as well.
“It’s so quiet that no one knows you’re out there,” Oast said. “This summer I was fishing the river in Bloomsburg and I paddled to within 15 feet of an immature bald eagle. There’s no way I could’ve pulled that off with a power boat.”