By Rusty Chinnis
sun staff writer
Call me particular, even picky, but I like to be able to see the fish I’m casting to. That’s why I like the three feet of added elevation I get from my front casting platform, or the 6 feet of height I get from standing on my poling platform.
Because I want as much visibility as possible, I’ve resisted fishing from a kayak. However, that all changed when Anna Maria restaurateur Ed Chiles introduced me to Patrick Bradley, owner of No Distractions Kayaks.
Kayaks do have a lot advantages. A kayak is low tech, easy to transport and can get you to the fish a lot cheaper than an outboard. It requires you to paddle to your destination, (or it did) but many anglers use their kayaks to get across deep water to places they can’t wade to.
Bradley was first introduced to kayaks when he lived in Oregon. His backyard bordered the Rogue River, and he found that he could fly fish from a kayak for steelhead, trout and salmon.
When Bradley moved to St. Petersburg 16 years ago, it was only natural that he followed his instincts to the water. He was passionate about fishing and waded everywhere he could get to on foot. The realization that he couldn’t walk to some of the area’s finest fishing, as well as a close encounter with a six foot blacktip shark, had him seriously considering a flats boat.
When a friend invited him to go fishing in a kayak, it was a revelation of sorts. Although he had fished from a kayak before, he had always associated kayaks with the white water he fished out west. On this trip he landed a 10-pound jack, and it was love at first bite. That’s what led Patrick Bradley, an avid wade fisherman and entrepreneur, to decide to use a kayak in Tampa Bay.
Soon he was guiding out of kayaks. When a client rolled a boat, concerns about liability caused him to begin innovating, and his company, No Distractions Kayaks, was born. He also began to innovate, such as creating an efficient stabilizing system which allowed him to stand up and see better.
When he fell out of the boat setting the hook on a fish, he fashioned a leaning post which also allowed him to fish a 360 degree arc. A stake out/push pole followed. When he suffered mild stroke, he worked with an associate to adapt a trolling motor to work on the back of the kayak.
The main objective of his company now is to sell accessories so that an angler can adapt his/her own kayak. However, it soon became apparent that a large number of anglers wanted the whole package pre-rigged. After rigging a number of kayaks, he chose the Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game as his main platform. The thirteen foot kayak has a 36-inch beam and can be rigged for two people.
Everything except the newest innovation, a poling platform (6 or 12 inches) and the motor mount, works as a kit. His most expensive package even comes with a Bimini top.
I got a chance to fish the kayak a couple of weeks ago when Bradenton Attorney Jim Knowles, Chiles and I joined Bradley and his Pro Angler Dominick Greco in Joe Bay. On a half day outing we piloted four rigged kayaks from the Sunshine Skyway approach to the far side of Joe Bay. It didn’t take long to get the hang of the wrist watch trolling motor control and the kayak was extremely stable. Not only did I get to see many of the redfish, snook and ladyfish I cast to, but I enjoyed the maneuverability that the trolling motor provided. The kayaks were stealthy, allowing me to get within yards of snook I estimated to be twenty pounds plus.
While I couldn’t fool the bigger fish I saw, I did manage a number of trout and missed shots at numerous redfish. At the end of the day, I liked the versatility of Bradley’s kayaks. They provided this die-hard sight fisher just the kind of opportunities that keep me coming back to the water with my fly rod. To book a charter, get accessories or even a rigged kayak complete with trailer contact Bradley at (813) 414-9279 or visit his web site at www.ndkayaks.com.