At the age of about 10 years old, I can remember getting my first tandem kayak. Either my parents or whoever we could convince to take us would drop me and a mate off at a local lake or river and allow us to explore all day. It was a key step in becoming an independent person, and it laid the foundation for my fishing career, forcing me to make my own decisions and break down water thoroughly.
You could say that I went from being a kayak fisherman to being a Bassmaster Elite Series angler, but that overlooks the fact that I never left my kayak behind. My passion and options just grew from there. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite ways to fish, and I don’t feel like I have a bit of a disadvantage when I’m fishing out of my Hobie. Sure, I can’t make 80 mile runs at 70 miles per hour like I can in my Bass Cat Puma FTD, but in other ways it’s better – I’m closer to the water, which puts me in tune with the conditions and forces me to pick an area apart rather than always looking for a new place.
For those reasons, I think it’s the perfect way to introduce a young person to the sport. The modern kayaks are remarkably safe (always wear a life jacket), they don’t require the same financial investment as a big bass boat, and you can access every little pond, river and stream in your region, as well as more protected areas of bigger waters. You don’t need a big truck or SUV to pull them, either, as many will fit in the back of a smaller pickup or even on top of a passenger car. While you can’t bring as much tackle as you would in your 20-foot fiberglass boat, or even a smaller aluminum craft, you can bring enough to be reasonably versatile, and any “limitations” merely force you to learn to use what you’ve got.
I don’t know if every kid is ready to start in a kayak on his own at 10 years old, and for anyone with children under 15 or so I’d recommend that you look at one of the many tandem kayaks out there first. That way not only can you tag along to ensure that they understand your safety concerns, but it’ll also give you a great avenue to spend time with your children away from the television and the computer screen.
You can buy a new one from a wide variety of sporting goods dealers, or check out the classified ads to find one that someone doesn’t need any longer at a discount. I think you’ll be surprised at how inexpensive it can be to get started. If this is something that you seriously want to pursue, I’d strongly recommend that you look at the models from Hobie which feature MirageDrive, a hands-free propulsion system. You can get by with paddles, but it’s much easier to fish effectively if you can control the boat with your feet.