5S and Kayak Fishing E-mail
Thursday, 28 April 2011 17:39

In an effort to make myself a little more marketable in a recent job search, I enrolled in some evening classes that sang the praises of Six Sigma/5S and “Lean” Enterprise.  This is a Japanese concept that has become a common practice in many American businesses.  Initially it applied to cleanliness, but has since found its way in to just about every business process and practice.  After my first lesson, it was clear to me that just about all aspects of work, home, and even play could benefit from this training.  And, if any sport was meant to benefit from this way of thinking, it’s certainly the sport of kayak fishing.  If you’re not familiar with the process and culture of Six Sigma/5S or “Lean”, let me first give you the 50,000 foot high overview. 

 

The root principle behind 5S/Six Sigma/Lean is waste reduction.  See, companies are finding it harder and harder to make a buck by sales alone.  There is always lots of competition, always someone trying to cut a deal.  External forces like weather, war and freight certainly throw in other variables.  But there is money to be saved by eliminating variables in your own back yard.  Variables equate to waste.  Eliminating waste equates to spending less, which is every bit as much of a profit as closing that big deal.  OK, now you’re caught up and didn’t have to endure that boring slideshow like I did on my first night of class. 

So, how does this relate to kayak fishing?  If we can eliminate waste (in many forms) then we can be more profitable or productive.  Waste can be seen as misuse of time, materials, money, and effort.  That can be measured in fish caught, trips shortened, or even simply having more fun. 

The 5 S’s stand for Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.  So, let’s breakdown the 5S’s and apply that to our sport.

SORT:

Get rid of garbage – period.  Got a favorite lure that you always take but don’t use because the hooks are rusty?  If you know you’ll never fix it, toss it.  Do you have open bags of soft plastics from a fishing tournament 6 years ago?  Face it, you aren’t going to use them.  Throw them away.  You’re not throwing away value here.  You’re gaining value because now you’re making room for only the lures that you will use. 

SET:

A place for everything and everything in its place.  Now that your tackle has been right-sized, it’s time to put some order in place.  We don’t have a lot of room to work with when fishing out of a kayak.  So, it’s very important for things to have a home, and for those things to always (always, always) be returned there.  If you don’t, then everything you brought with you ends up in the footwells, and you waste time and effort when you need a particular item.  I took this “S” to heart since I always take too much and never seem to have room for what I feel I need.  The solution was a realistic SORT, then a realistic assessment of how much room I really had to work with.  You can’t put 7 gallons of water in a 5 gallon bucket.  My boat has mesh side pockets, and that’s where I keep braid scissors, clippers, sharpening stone, and floating pliers – nothing else.  I have a center hatch with a tackle insert.  In that insert I have lures I plan to use that day.  Not dozens and dozens, but what I will need for my time on the water – nothing else.  Since I have access to the hull from this hatch, I used Velcro to place a couple small tackle trays in there.  If I run out of lure x, jig head y or softbait z, the backups will be in here.  This is a sort of “kanban” system, but for us, we’ll just call it “back up”.   I don’t carry tackle in my milk crate because it’s not easy to get to back there. 

SHINE:

Clean, clean, clean.  Remember when you first got your boat and how nice and shiny it was?  There’s a certain pride that goes along with having your boat look its best.  This may be more of a mental “S” than a procedural “S”, but if it motivates you, do it.  Cleaning your boat, paddle, tackle can also allow you to inspect your tools and make repairs before they fail which could result in a wasted fishing trip.  If your gear and tackle is clean, then it’s ready for the next outing.  You’re already ahead of the game.

NOTE:  There has been spirited discussion by those in the professional arena about in which order these first three S’s should be performed in.  It can be argued that if you removed everything to SHINE and then SORT things as you SET IN, your objectives will be achieved quicker.  I figure if you can tie a fluorocarbon leader to braided line you’re already smarter than these folks.  After all, this is just fishing. 

STANDARDIZE:

You are what you repeatedly do.  As you repeatedly go out you will refine your processes.  It will become easier to continue to make things easier on yourself.  In years past, it would take me over an hour to get ready to go fish.  And that was after I’d spent too much time the night before “getting things ready”.  Now, I can have our boats and gear loaded in about 20 minutes because I take what I need, and what I need is in its proper place.  The hours I spent before can now be spent on the water.  And, after all, isn’t that our ultimate goal?

SUSTAIN:

Keep it up.  It’s real easy to slip.  You spent a tough day on the water and all you want to do is come home, get the gear unloaded, grab a beer, take a shower, grab another beer, and toss a ribeye on the grill.  Since you took less gear with you there’s less gear to clean up – you will be done before you know it.  Since everything has a storage place, putting items away is a breeze.  You’d be surprised at how much easier the load in/out becomes once you have a system in place. The more you do it, the better you get at it. 

Congratulations!  Now go get that beer …

Waste reduction also comes into play when you think about how you load/unload your boat, how you cast, how you paddle, how you work a shoreline, even how you play a fish on the end of the line.  By no means am I suggesting that you analyze everything you do in minute detail, because that would certainly take some of the fun out of fishing.  Find the balance. 

Now go paddle …

“The gods do not deduct from man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing”   Babylonian Proverb

 
Fishing kayak
 

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