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Thursday, 17 April 2014 00:00

To Kayak or Biyak - That is the Question

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I visited recently with Aaron Baldwin (aka Biyakboats on the YakAngler.com forums) about his innovation - the “Biyak”. I traveled to McClellanville to meet Aaron at his shop to look over the Biyak and the pedal drive component.

The Biyak is just over 12’ long. The pontoons are adjustable from 30” - 46”. This adjustment range provides the ability to transport the Biyak in the back of a van or truck. It also provides stability when you would prefer to stand while searching for tailing fish on the flats or in the grass. The Biyak weighs in at 90lbs, has a carrying capacity currently rated at 350lbs.

What makes the Biyak unique is the design of the pontoons. The first Biyak pontoons were made from wood. The second generation was made from fiberglass. Today, the pontoons are thermoformed. Front and rear hatches provide access to the interior of the pontoons for rod or other storage. Each pontoon has a flush rod holder installed, as well. A deck – the highlight of the Biyak - sits above the two pontoons, which has another storage hatch in front of a swivel chair. The Biyak can be configured for sailing, pedaling, or paddling. I can also image an option for an electronic trolling motor in the future.

Another accessory for the Biyak is the leaning post with rod holder. This is great for hunting the flats or flooded grass areas in search of the spottail. There are also the three “rocket launchers” for rod storage behind the seat. Noticeable items missing are adjustable pegs for foot placement when paddling. The Biyak has an adjustable foot rest with four positions.

We did manage to get on the water to see if we could slime “version three” of the Biyak, but we had a chance to talk a bit first.

Darrell. Aaron, please tells us a little bit about you.

Aaron. I live in McClellanville, a small fishing village north of Charleston, SC. I grew up McClellanville, went away to school at Clemson, and moved back seventeen years ago with my wife Terri so that we could be close to family. We have one child, a seventeen-year-old daughter, Marina. I’ve been teaching art and design at Charleston Southern University for fifteen years.

D. How long have you been fishing?

A. I’m 48 and have been fishing my whole life, but only fishing correctly for about ten years. I’m half joking about that, but around here we all grew up fishing with double bottom rigs and dead shrimp. I’ve gotten a lot better at fishing artificial lures and targeting species.

D. Who has been your fishing mentor?

A. I’ll catch grief for saying it, but I’ve learned a lot about fishing with my friends Bill Crouch and Wade Rhodes. You’ll never see either one of them in a kayak, but they do know how to catch fish.

D. What got you into kayaking?

A. McClellanville is situated with the Francis Marion Forest and black-water tributaries of the Santee River to the west, and saltwater tidal creeks of the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge to the east. It’s the perfect town for kayaking.

D. When did you decide to start fishing from a kayak? A. I started kayak fishing about four years ago. D. What was your first kayak, and did you make any modifications to that kayak when you started to fish out of it?

A. One Christmas, seven or eight years ago, my dad bought my brother and me a used Wilderness Systems “Pamlico” tandem. He’s since taken it back for himself, but we sort of share it. It’s a great boat. I’ve hunted and fished from it. I never made any real modifications to it.

D. What is your most memorial kayak catch story?

A. I had just finished building the wooden Biyak prototype, and was anxious to test and document its “fishability”. On the first big tide, I borrowed a waterproof video camera and headed to some marsh flats. I was standing up, casting a gold D.O.A. shrimp, and hooked up on a redfish with a tail the size of my hand. I hadn’t thought through the filming part, so I bent down and put the camera between my knees. If only there could have been someone there filming me, trying to film the fish. I ended up landing the 30” spottail, but dropped the camera overboard. I found the camera. Of course, it contained nothing but a blur of blues and greens. It was, though, the first time I caught a fish on the Biyak.

D. When did you start development of the Biyak, and why?

A. The Biyak began four or five years ago with an idea for a pedal drive. I was chasing spottails around in that same Pamlico, and was frustrated by having to switch back-and-forth from paddle to rod. I knew about the Hobie “Mirage” drive, and knew that I couldn’t afford one. I was convinced I could make something myself. In time, I did. I was pitching my pedal drive to some designers from Jackson and one of them said, “This would work well on a catamaran-style kayak.” I came home and started slapping together some plywood pontoons. As I built them, it occurred to me that there was no reason why distance between the pontoons could not be adjustable. There were many technical challenges along the way, but that first boat worked so well that I decided to keep going with it. Some good friends offered to pitch in some capital, and this is where we are.

Biyak fishing kayak

D. When is the Biyak going to be available on the market?

A. I’ve been wrong about this so many times, I’m afraid to say. My hope is that we will all be biyaking sometime this summer. It’s ready, really. I just want to paddle, sail, and fish this first plastic boat for a while this spring.

D. What does the future hold for Aaron Baldwin and the Biyak?

A. I’d like to continue teaching. I really enjoy my students. Working on the boat has made me a better designer, and I hope that makes me a better teacher. I have had nice blocks of time in the summers to focus on Biyak. Now it’s time to do something with it and the pedal drive. I’m interested in finding a company to partner with or in licensing the designs, but I’d also be happy building smaller numbers, myself, and growing the company here in McClellanville. Either way, there will be Biyaks on the water.

Biyak Stability

After the interview, it was time to hit the water. We launched the Biyak from a private spot near some shrimp boats. We paddled down Jeremy Creek toward Matthews Cut, Aaron in the Biyak and me in the Jackson Kayak “Big Tuna”. Once at the cut, we paddled to the left in the search of some redfish. The water was full of bait, and occasionally we would see a swirl indicating a spooked redfish. When we arrived to a spot on the Matthews Cut, Aaron took over the Big Tuna while I paddled the Biyak back to the launch. The first thing that I noticed was the stability of the Biyak when I launched from the bank. The next was how nicely the Biyak paddled, and its straight-as-an-arrow tracking. . When we got to a point in the cut to cross into the small creek, I decided to wait for several boats to pass us. I then paddled the Biyak into the wakes created by the boats. I was very surprised with the stability in some heavy wave action. I was surprised how easily the Biyak turned, even with the dual pontoons.

If you would like to demo the Biyak, you just might get the opportunity at the October Boondoggle - Aaron is currently planning to attend. This will give you the opportunity to provide your opinion and feedback on this wonderful innovation.

Last modified on Saturday, 19 April 2014 21:28
Darrell Olson

Darrell Olson an avid Fisherman enjoys bait fishing, using a spinning rod, bait caster, fly fishing, and fishing challenges that come his way. While living in England he was recognized as the 1981 Master Angler from the Rod & Gun Clubs of Europe. He has been kayak angling for a little more than five years. He is one of the founders of the South Carolina Kayak Fishing Association’s monthly Meet and Fish events. He is currently the Secretary/Treasurer of the Lowcountry Kayak Anglers. For the past three years he has been participating in the Inshore Fishing Association (IFA) Kayak Tour for the Atlantic Division. Darrell is a member of the Jackson Regional Kayak Fishing Team, an Ambassador for Power-Pole and Raymarine. Darrell is also a member of the YakAngler Pro Staff and the YakAngler Will It Fish video series.




# RedFishJax 2014-04-17 12:43
Great article. Looking forward to the Boondoggle, and possibly getting to test one of these.
# Aggroman 2014-04-23 01:00
Great article!
# Kevin Jullion 2014-04-25 15:51
Let's get a biyak down to the FL Keys and see how it does among the mangroves... ;-)
# biyakboats 2014-04-25 18:02
You won't have to twist my arm on that! Hopefully, this summer.
# Robert Yarbrough 2014-06-13 14:39
What a great idea. The only change I'd want is a higher seat, maybe 18" so that an old man like me could stand up easier. Would be hard to do from the low position. I'd love to have one here on the Gulf Coast near Houston. Texas has tons of kayakers and I bet it'd see real good down here.
# Robert Yarbrough 2014-06-13 15:45
How about a higher seat, or adjustable up to 18" above the deck? Maybe a high seat/standing platform combo? The high seat would help with steering the trolling motor easier. A standing bar with a tray of some sort on top to hold a tackle box or other gear for quick access? For offshore trips, how about a 14' or 15' version, especially when sailing. Maybe a 15' tandem for two fisherman.

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