Interview with Craig Sheppard of Kayak Fishing Stuff. E-mail
Tuesday, 13 October 2009 06:53

This month featured interview is with Craig Sheppard of Kayak Fishing Stuff. For those who might not know him Craig is the General Manager of KFS, but started out rigging kayaks for them back in 2004. He has probably turned more kayaks into fishing machines than anybody else in the industry.

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 Tell us how you got involved in kayak fishing? 

One day while lurking on the KFS forums I noticed an advertisement for part-time work at the KFS shop, which as it turned out was only 30 miles from my house in northern NJ!
I made a phone call, visited the shop, and the next day I was working for KFS. The rest is a blur of polyethylene, power tools, and time on the water fishing from as many different kayaks as possible.

 

 How many kayaks do you think you have rigged for fishing?  

Hmmm… That’s like asking me how many shots of Irish whiskey I’ve ever had – it’s really hard to remember (laughs) Probably 1200 kayaks.  I’m not telling you how many shots (laughs)

 

Tell us about a normal day at the KFS?  

A normal day? The sport is growing so fast that there are no more normal days – some days at KFS we don’t eat our lunch until dinner time. I just do my best to keep on top of everything that’s going on around the shop. We have a very high volume of phone calls, emails, and online orders. And every week the retail store gets busier and busier. Fortunately we have a great crew here at KFS and that makes my job much easier

 

Can you share with us your most challenging rigging job? 

The most challenging rigging jobs to me have always been adding rudders and hatches to kayaks that weren’t designed to accept them. Usually this involves snaking cables, fabricating brackets, and a little plastic welding here and there.

The best part about the increasing popularity of the sport is that kayak manufacturers are making boats now that don’t need many modifications to be highly functional fishing kayaks. 

 

You have installed 100's of Depth Finders, what are some of the problems you encounter with units and what can people who choose to install units themselves learn from your experience?  

The biggest problems with depth finders are corrosion from salt water and getting a good clear signal through the hull.

Corrosion can be avoided to a large degree by simple maintenance, but based on the phone calls and emails we receive most people don’t take the time or are very lax when it comes to maintenance.

Also, most transducers are set up to shoot through the hull of a kayak, which has worked very well over the years. The downside can be a less than perfect signal. If you mount a transducer in a foam pocket and set it in glob of Vaseline you will get a pretty good signal. But if that transducer comes loose on the water, you’ll have to beach your kayak and push it back into place. This is OK if you’re in a lake, river, or even in the bay - but if your in the open ocean you’ll definitely need some assistance with this.

If you use silicone, Goop, or Lexel to glue a transducer to the inside of a hull the results will certainly be more permanent.  But – if you get any air bubbles between the transducer and the hull you will either have a poor signal or no signal at all and may have to start over.

The bottom line is that both methods will work if done properly and the remedies for common the common problems that arise are fairly simple.  Until the industry has some better options to offer it makes sense to stick with what works. 

 

What do you look for in electronics and what type of changes would you like to see in the future? 

I prefer very basic, user friendly depth finders and GPS units. They are fairly inexpensive, and compact so they don’t over-clutter the kayak. I personally use color screens because they are easier for me to see in the dark.

 It would be great if someone invents a wireless transducer that can be adapted to fit various sized scupper holes.  Something like that would make rigging kayaks much easier and would result in better sonar readings and lessen the problems of corrosion as well. I’m sure that someone is out there developing one right now.

Also, battery technology seems to be getting better all the time. If the battery could be built into the unit like a cell-phone or a lap-top, that would be really cool and would also further eliminate the problems with corrosion. Have I ever mentioned how much of a problem corrosion is when dealing with depth finders Joe? (laughs)

 

Ocean Kayak has come out with a transducer pocket that keeps the transducer in the water as opposed to shooting through the hull - what do you think of this set up? 

This is definitely a step in the right direction, but you still have wires to deal with and corrosion. The more wires there are the more things there are that can go wrong.
Our whole lives have become wireless. I don’t even have a land-line phone in my house anymore! Why should our fishing kayaks be any different? (laughs)

 

You field a lot of questions from people rigging their kayaks, what is one of the questions you receive the most?  

“Why won’t my fish finder work?” (laughs)
 We also field many, many calls about where to install accessories, which type of rod holders will work best for such-and-such situation, which fasteners to use, etc…
The other question we get a lot is “do those pedal kayaks really work?” (laughs) Once I tell them that I personally own 2 of them they start asking a lot more questions.

 

What advice can you give somebody about how to rig his or her new kayak for fishing?  

Don’t be afraid to drill a hole in your kayak! It’s just plastic. If you make a mistake you can fix it (laughs) I’d much rather drill a hole in plastic kayak than a granite countertop or a new hardwood floor – wouldn’t you?
If money is tight my advice is start with a basic rigging. Install 2 flush mounts behind your seat and a rod holder up front. Aside from all of your safety gear that is all you really need to get started kayak fishing. And if you’re a do-it-yourself kind of person you’ll probably get a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction out of customizing your own kayak over time and as your finances allow.
If working with tools isn’t for you or your so busy with work and family that you just don’t have the time, give KFS a call a we will do it for you.

 

What kayak do you personally fish from? 

I make it a point to try every model kayak that we carry at KFS and I’ve managed to narrow my personal fleet down to 5 kayaks (laughs).
My first sit-on-top was a Hobie Outback – a demo model given to me by KFS. I still own it and use it for much of my freshwater fishing on lakes and rivers.
 I also have a Hobie Adventure that I use for my salt water fishing. It’s a great kayak, but if I had known the Revolution would be emerging on the scene only 1 year later I would have waited and gotten one of those instead. The Revolution will do everything that I need it to do just as well as my Adventure.
Last year I repaired a severely damaged Tarpon 160 just to mess around with and I have really grown to like it. It’s a really fun boat to paddle and it’s been great for those really shallow rocky places that I don’t want to take my Adventure into.
The other two kayaks I use are a Tarpon 100 and a Tarpon 120. I use these for some of the shallow rocky rivers near my house. I beat the heck out of these two kayaks – dragging them over rocks and paddling them over small spillways. These are also my loaner kayaks, for friends or family members who are intrigued by the idea of kayak fishing, but just aren’t ready to take the plunge and get one of there own. 

 

Ok, tell us how you rig your personal kayak - I mean we want to hear everything from electronics to rod holders?  

My personal set up varies slightly from kayak to kayak and from fresh-water to salt-water, but the core set-up is always the same:
-2 flush mounts behind my seat (the left one for my extra rod, the right one for my lipper tool)
- A Ram Rod/Tube  up front for trolling
-An Eagle 320C on a Ram mount up front (I fish a lot at night and it’s easier fro me to see the color screen than the black on grey)
-If I’m in the salt I always have a safety flag and a light mounted behind me to my left.
-I keep my lures in small waterproof Plano boxes and my phone and keys in a dry bag.
- I also carry a handheld GPS when I’m in an unfamiliar place – it’s a Lowrance I-Finder H20.
- My Adventure is also set up to accept outriggers, but I really don’t use them that all that much.
Lastly, I have to admit that my T-160 has absolutely no rigging at all (laughs) it came off of the scrap heap (it had been run over by a forklift.  Twice!). I never bothered rigging it because I always half-expected the gigantic 2 foot long splits that I repaired in either end to give out one day. They haven’t – so I think I’ll put 2 flush mounts and a Ram Rod in it this season.

 

What is your favorite species to fish for?  

I grew up here in New Jersey so I’ve always had a lot of species to target. I live within a 100’ of a lake and a river so I spend a lot of time fishing for largemouth & smallmouth bass, pike, carp, trout, and panfish.
When I was a kid we always went to the beach for our family vacations. I don’t think I even left the state until I was a teenager (laughs)
One of my uncles lived in Forked River NJ and he’d take us out in Barnaget Bay during the 1970s & 80s where we’d fish for fluke, bluefish, and weakfish. We also did a lot of surf fishing, clamming and crabbing. I don’t remember catching any stripers back then, but they are definitely one of my favorite species to catch now.
Since I started kayak fishing I’ve also been to Florida – they have AWESOME year-round fishing down there. I caught snook, reds, trout, jacks, ladyfish, and a bunch of other fish down there that I had to look up in a book to identify (laughs).
I know, I know, you asked me which one was my favorite. This past year I’ve spent most of my time fishing for pike. So, I suppose they are my favorite species for the time being.

 

Tell us about some of the kayak fishing you do in your home waters?  

Most of the water I kayak fish in is fairly shallow. The deepest I ever fish is 25 feet. At that depth I rely heavily on drop-shot rigs, jigs, and tailspin type lures. I also prefer the Hobie for this type of vertical fishing because I can hover over my spot and get a better hook set because there is less of an angle in the line.
However - most of the time I fish in 10 feet of water or less and when fishing in rivers or at night I will often fish as shallow as 1 foot. I really like to go out on a lake late at night and drift quietly up to a stream mouth or a flat near a drop-off. For this type of fishing I use a buzz-bait or a weightless soft plastic – most of these fish haven’t seen a lure since dusk and are ready to whack at anything that hits the water.
During the day I like to cast to shoreline cover, docks, or around structure while drifting. I also troll when paddling or pedaling to a new location. I hardly ever anchor, but I will if the conditions require it.
When fishing shallow I can cover most of the water column with a small variety of lures and since the kayak is so stealthy I don’t have to cast very far. I rely mostly on soft plastics and spinner-baits, but depending on the conditions I also use sub-surface plugs, surface buzzers, and jigs as well.
My favorite thing about kayak fishing is the closeness to the water. Most of the fish I catch strike within 20 feet of the kayak! And with bluefish and pike I get a lot of strikes as I’m lifting the lure out of the water!
If you are a fisherman and haven’t fished out of a kayak you are missing out. They are simple, fairly inexpensive, and a lot of fun.

 

Thanks Joe, I’ll see you at J-Bay in a couple of weeks.

Craig can be reached at the Kayak Fishing Stuff by calling                  973...       
Or email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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