Why would anyone want to chase species of a lesser celebrity status, especially if those fish are more prone to eating cut bait off the bottom than a well-presented, brightly colored, artificial bait? Well, times are changing.
You've probably already guessed this month's kayaking quarry is catfish, and not small, eating-sized cats at that. The question should be: Why not chase trophy catfish in a kayak? Who ever said that catfish the size of your leg were only worthy of behemoth, thick-skinned aluminum or fiberglass watercraft?
The reason you need those boats, especially during the warmer months, is to access backwaters of impoundments and remote stretches of rivers where big cats live. Kayaks can do that.
You also want to have a place where you can mount multiple, heavy action rods in order to fan-cast offerings into a variety of depths. Kayaks can do that too.
You'll need lights to see, a good anchoring system and a way to land the fish so it can be released after the fight. Kayak: check, check, check.
These and others are the thoughts that run through the head of Adam Fillmore, who owns Yak City Guide Service out of Lake Wylie Bait and Tackle and offers trips on Wylie and other Catawba River impoundments.
Fillmore said there's a little more to rigging a kayak for chasing big cats than largemouth bass. It's not just the rods, but the gear as well.
"Probably the most-important thing you want to have when catfishing is a good anchor-trolley system," Fillmore said. "That lets you deploy the anchor at the side of the boat where you can reach it, then trolley the anchor point to either the front or back of the kayak. Personally, I prefer to anchor with the nose of the boat downcurrent for downrod fishing or putting out flat lines in front of the boat."
In addition to the anchoring system, a series of stout rod holders is next on the list. Fillmore uses up to four rods when catfishing, and like any boating angler, he needs to have them within reach.
"I use RAM rod holders, which lock into adjustable rod-holder mounts made by Yak Attack," he said. "The mounts fit into the tracks that come with most boats, or you can buy tracks that install with a backing plate. Either way, it's a solid mount, not just something screwed into the plastic."
Unless he's fishing some remote stretch of the river or in a no-wake zone, Fillmore is cautious of boat traffic, particularly on weekends or at night when bass boats may be buzzing around. If he's night-fishing when big flathead catfish like to prowl, he'll also need some light, and he relies on a 360-degree white light, which is both required by law - red/green bow lights are not - and helps him see to bait lines and watch rods for a bite.
"I put a Yak Attack VisiCarbon Pro pole on both the front and back ends of the kayak. This gives me 360-degree visibility for safety, both day and night. It also provides light to see by, and the light will last all night on just three AAA batteries," he said.
Fillmore (803-610-9319) said many of his best spots for catfish on Lake Wylie are within paddling distance of popular launch sites. His recipe for successfully catching catfish is to find a shallow flat that drops off into deeper water - again, out of main traffic areas.
"Blues will move from the deeper water up on flats at night, and flatheads move out of heavy cover and will hunt on these same flats," he said.
Baits of choice are either gizzard shad, bream or crappie that he can often catch from the bank and carry in a soft-sided cooler for the trip. Fillmore brings along a small bait knife to cut the bait if he's after blues; he fishes them live for flatheads. Medium-action rods in 7-foot lengths that feature either white or glow-in-the-dark tips and Abu Garcia 5500 or 6500 baitcast reels are his preferred tackle.
"I like longer rods that will allow me to reach around the front of the boat, because during a fight with a big cat, he's going where he wants to go," said Fillmore. "I'll even rig my anchor line with loops every two or three feet and a float on the end so if I have to un-clip to fight the fish, I can come back to my same spot without having to pull the anchor."