Interview of the Month with Mike Kogan (a.k.a. KayakMike) of Jacksonville Kayak Fishing. E-mail
Wednesday, 21 October 2009 09:35

Mike Kogan

KFM: Can you give our readers a bit of background on you and how you got started kayak fishing?

In 2003 I had a 23’ boat I fished with inshore and offshore, and really got tired of the constant maintenance and cost. So after I sold it I was looking for a way to get my fishing jones satisfied and found kayak fishing. After some research on the web, primarily at Kayak Fishing Stuff which was the only great site at the time, I bought a Malibu Extreme from KFS and have been paddling Malibu ever since.
 
KFM: What inspired the Jacksonville Kayak Fishing website (http://www.jaxkayakfishing.com)?

My professional background is computer software, and while I saw a few forums around the web, I wanted a site that had all the info I needed to fish our area. Beyond forums and photo galleries I wanted integrated weather, tides, detailed launch info, and maps, so I pulled all the pieces together and kept evolving it.

Instead of going the ‘club site’ route I kept it simple and JaxKayakFishing provides all the benefits of a club without any membership fees or the pain of consensus management. I went to our local kayak and fishing retailers and sold them on a local advertising model to get locals into their doors and to foot the bill for our servers.

One of the things that blows me away is when I stop and think of how many people I’ve met or become friends or acquaintances with through kayak fishing and the site. Our moderators are great folks and along with our community are a primary reason why so many people feel at home at JaxKayakFishing.

KFM: The Jacksonville, FL area is an especially kayak fishing friendly area, tell us a bit about the area and the kayak fishing community.

The First Coast has a wide variety of fishing opportunities for the yak angler. The inshore saltwater marsh estuaries off the St. Johns River and Intracoastal Waterway are some of the best around for redfish, trout, and flounder, and launch sites are plentiful. Off our beaches we get good King Mackerel and Tarpon runs in the summer, and we have solid inshore freshwater bass fishing also. The weather is good for fishing all year – something is always biting.
 
KFM: The Jacksonville Kayak Fishing Tournament has turned to be the largest kayak fishing tournament in the land – how did this evolve?

Once the site started gathering a lot of local interest, folks started suggested some fun tournaments. So we researched other events like the Osprey Bay tournament, worked closely with our local retailers to develop relationships with the manufacturers, and decided on a charity benefit format.

We ran 2 events in 2005 and after having 100 then 170 anglers participate realized we needed to go to one Classic per year (my wife insisted). In 2006 we had 230 anglers and couldn’t believe the event kept getting larger. We continued to tweak our processes for handling that many people and in 2007 hosted 282 anglers, and then really blew it out with 340 in 2008.

While the size of the event is impressive and we are known for putting on a professional show with great captain’s bags and value for the dollar, the aspect I’m probably most proud of is the amount of money the kayak fishing community has raised for our target charities, over $80,000 to date. That is from the pockets of kayak fishermen paying entry fees and participating in raffles, which was all made possible by our awesome sponsors donating great products. After the 2009 event we should be well over $100,000 in charitable donations.

KFM: Tell us about what is in store for this year’s event?

The 2009 Classic is shaping up to be another great event – whether we can continue to grow is questionable. The economy is challenging and every year we gain and lose some sponsors, but this year we are especially proud to have the Columbia Sportswear Company as the title sponsor of the Classic.

Over 130 anglers were already registered as of December of 2008, and we are expecting somewhere between 300-400 to come and fish with us on May 1-2.. As always we’ll have the killer captain’s bags, tshirts, and, BBQ, but we also have special VIP entry packages featuring some new technology apparel from Columbia Sportswear and Fish Grips from Norton Brass Rattler that are selling out fast. Working on sponsorships and prizes is an ongoing activity.
 
KFM: There are some big prizes given away during the event, how do you deal with the possibility of cheating?

If someone is determined to cheat there’s always a way in any fishing event, but we do take measures to reduce the opportunity. First off we only offer prizes (not cash) to try and deincentivize the cheater mentality – you can actually win more in the raffles! Second we hand out specific measuring devices and unique tokens which must be in the scoring pictures. Third we have software tools that enable us to verify whether someone spent their day using PhotoShop instead of fishing. Finally we have judges that have seen it all. We’ve never had to DQ anyone at the Classic and I think that speaks to the integrity of the people that participate.

KFM: What are some of the other challengers of running a kayak fishing tournament?

Over the years we’ve learned every year where to tweak our processes to make it run as smoothly as possible. We don’t want folks standing in lines or waiting around so we structure and plan the event to keep everyone having a good time. One of the biggest challenges is the check-in. Back in the day of disposable cameras we were at the mercy of ‘Photo Phil’ at your local not-fast developer. With digital cameras we do a much better job of getting everyone checked in and then judging the photos while the anglers enjoy BBQ and more raffles. One of our improvements last year was a big screen dynamic scoreboard driven off our scoring entry system that showed provisional results in real time.

KFM: You also are a kayak fishing guide, what is that like?

I guide part time and it’s definitely more challenging than I thought it would be. It’s one thing to take some pals out and show them a spot, but it’s another thing to be under the gun to produce fish for someone who has never been kayak fishing and is paying to go catch some fish. In a boat I can take people to a spot, anchor up or get on the trolling motor and tell them ‘cast there’, and have the ability to run all over till I find the fish if it’s a tough day. In the kayak you can’t run all over, you have to positively coach them on how to position their kayaks, where to fish, and how to land fish on the kayak. One thing I learned right off the bat was never take more than two people, and do not put more than one fishing rod in the kayak of a charter – first cast they often hook the rods in the holders ;)

KFM: You have seen the sport of kayak fishing make some great leaps – what advances and changes do you see next in the sport?

It’s a tough call figuring out where kayak fishing is going. I’m astounded at the continued growth, but the economic advantages of kayak fishing combined with the eco-tourism angles of being in a personal watercraft in some beautiful settings is certainly feeding the industry’s growth. Equipment-wise I think we’ll see lighter materials come down to volume price points in the next few years. Politically I think the kayak fishing community needs to stay tuned in and make sure special interests don’t negatively impact our access to the waters or fisheries.

KFM: Tell us about your best kayak fishing day?

It’s hard to pick just one best day. Catching a 115lb Tarpon off our beaches had to be one of those days you shouted ‘Thank you Gods of Fishing!’. But watching my kids fight fish from the gator hatch up front or in their own kayaks now that they are growing too big to ride with me is something I’ll always treasure.

KFM: What is in your personal fleet of kayaks?

I have a Malibu Extreme for myself and Malibu X-Factors for others to use. Everyone’s different but for me the dry ride and second-to-none storage makes the Malibu right for me. There are faster boats but I’m fishing not racing. My oldest son (9) paddles a Mini-X but we are looking into the Emotion Spitfire.

KFM: So what is next for Mike Kogan?

I’ve been working on evolving www.321Fish.com into something anglers all over the country can use to compete in online fishing tournaments. It’s a site whose roots were online tournaments we used to administer in forums, and now 321Fish.Com is moving into prime time hosting events that span large regions where common species can be targeted. In 2008 we ran cash calcuttas and some sponsored events (Berkley and Hobie) for anglers from Texas to Florida to Virginia. In 2009 we have more sponsored events in the pipeline and are looking to host events for all kinds of groups, regions, and fisheries.

 

 

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