THE ANGLER’S LOG: Floating a few ideas for your personal watercraft needs

Brandon GoodBuffalo of Florence is a sit-on-top kayak pro angler and the representative of a kayak manufacturer that specializes in SOT fishing kayaks. An SOT kayak technician, Brandon can help design and outfit an SOT to meet your angler needs. FRANK ARMENDARIZ/PHOTO

With salmon season fading into the sunset, winter steelheading still a few weeks off … and the holidays looming, I thought a decision on a couple of types of personal float craft would be timely. So over the next two editions of the Anglers Log and starting with this edition, I’ll focus on two different types of personal fishing-specific watercraft. One excels on lakes, bays, slow-moving rivers and even in the ocean. The second is best for floating rivers, will handle moderate whitewater and can carry enough gear for a multiple-day river-fishing expedition. Both continue to grow in popularity and are far more affordable than your typical motorboat or even a traditional river drift boat that doesn’t have to be transported on a trailer or require a vehicle capable of towing a boat and trailer package on the highway. 

So let’s jump in and this week discuss what is commonly called the “fishing kayak.” Not necessarily new to the market, boats designated as fish-class kayaks have been around for a while and the “sit on top” (SOT) versions have become favored by most kayak anglers. SOT kayaks were originally introduced as a safer alternative to the “sit inside” kayak and eliminated the potential for entrapment if the boat were to roll over. The fact is, learning to exit and re-enter a sit inside a kayak takes a little training and practice. But with an SOT kayak, if the boat goes over … you just fall off. You will surely get wet but if you’re wearing a life jacket, climbing back on is relatively easy and off you go. … Adding to their safety, the hull of an SOT kayak is completely sealed, making them virtually unsinkable too. For these reasons and a few others I’ll explain shortly, the SOT kayak has really become the kayak of choice for anglers.

Early versions were pretty stark, adapted from boats offered by recreational kayak manufacturers; they were originally sold to beginners and were designed to be more stable than sit inside models. But because of this innate stability, they were not very streamline on the water and were a bit cumbersome to paddle. But even with that drawback some found that as long as they weren’t paddling too far, SOTs were very stable (enough to stand in) and began to customize their own SOT kayaks to meet their needs as anglers. Adding footman loops to tie down a cooler and other gear, rod holders, seating adaptations with better ergonomics are popular and made fishing far more comfortable. Giving an angler better leverage to land a big fish like a salmon … thus turning their simple SOT kayak into fishing machines that could conveniently be carried on the roof of most cars with a simple bunk-style roof rack.

Today, several manufacturers offer “state-of-the-art” fishing kayaks and kayak fishing experts have taken the sport to a level that easily competes with traditional boating anglers. One of these people is pro kayak angler Brandon GoodBuffalo who lives in the Florence area and who I’ve often seen fishing at Siltcoos Lake. I ran into Brandon recently, he had been out on the lake and had a nice coho salmon in his cooler. A few days later I meet him at Breen Marine in Florence (www.breenmarine.com, 2530 U.S. Hwy 101, 541-991-8783) and we sat down to talk about the boat he uses and another one that he helped outfit for the shop owner Bobbi Jensen, which is on display in the shop. Bobbi is the grandson of Breen Jensen, the original shop owner and well-known longtime Florence local. Breen Marine also services outboard boat motors and sells other traditional-style boating accessories too.

Now I seldom direct you to a specific business, but in this case there is no one else in our region that has this expertise and no paddle shop that stocks the line of appliances to customize your fishing kayak to your specific needs. Breen Marine sells every kind of add-on for your fishing kayak and with the components available plus a little imagination, you can easily take your current SOT to a new level. They have mounting tracks to affix trolling motor mounts, tie-downs to hold gear in place, attachable rails for marine electronics and compact marine batteries. Also kayak paddles and life jackets, both the self-inflating type and the more traditional foam-filled high-back PFDs that are comfortable to wear against a kayak seat back. Or they can sell you an efficient paddling modern fishing kayak already outfitted to your personal angling style and built specifically to the types of fish you chase. The base boat offered at Breen Marine is manufactured by FeelFree Kayaks, is made of roto molded plastic, they are extremely resistant to UV and a solid, durable platform to mount any number of the available components.

Powered by an electric trolling motor, with fish finder, navigation lights, and even a four-speaker stereo system … What you can accomplish with the proper rigging and outfitting components is only limited by your imagination. FRANK ARMENDARIZ/PHOTO

Both Brandon’s and Bobbi’s boats started out as paddle-style sit on top kayaks but with the outfitting and motor mounts for sale at Breen Marine are now fully motorized, with high thrust electric trolling motors. Both kayaks have fish finders, navigation lights, and an LED light bar for night fishing. Multiple rod storage holders, trolling rod holders and upgraded seating. Bobbi’s kayak even has a four speaker stereo system and everything is powered by a modern deep cycle marine battery for those long days on the water. 

Brandon’s kayak has the trolling motor mounted in the back and he controls the direction of the kayak with foot pedals originally intended to control a rudder. Bobbi’s kayak has the motor mounted in the front and uses a Bluetooth hand held controller with the option of utilizing the traditional foot controller common to electric trolling motors when standing. For safety reasons both men do carry a kayak paddle but from my own experience, electric trolling motors are highly durable, very dependable and when in use leave both your hands available to fish. Motorizing any boat in Oregon will require you to register the hull with the State Marine Board but you can complete the process on line.

If the cost of an electric trolling motor is a little too rich, both boats are available with pedal drive units that drop into a receiver designed into the boat. It’s a lot like pedalng a recumbent bicycle and also frees up both your hands to fish. I’ll finish by adding that I was impressed by the depth of knowledge and whether to shop at Breen or not. Brandon GoodBuffalo and Bobbi Jensen are always open to answer your questions. 

In a couple of weeks we’ll focus on “fishing rafts.” Those have also been around for a while but there are features that make some rows better than others, I’ll address those differences and other things to consider when purchasing an inflatable fish raft.

Lastly, from my wife Tami and me, Happy Thanksgiving to all the readers of The Chronicle.  

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