YakAngler (YA) How long have you been kayak fishing?
Josh holmes (JH) I started kayak fishing about 10 years ago, though my individual experiences with kayaking and fishing go much further back. I was introduced to fishing when weeks of begging finally convinced my mum to buy me a rod on my 8th birthday. I was introduced to kayaks in outdoor education classes at school. When I first started kayak fishing, it was all about being able to paddle just a bit further out than I could cast. But it didn't take long for my ambitions to go from their humble beginnings to what most people consider to be rather extreme.
(YA) Do you have a day job or kayak fishing your job?
(JH) I do have a day job, selling kayak & camping accessories for a small business in North NSW (Maclean Outdoors). That job keeps me close to the biz, which helps my other job (which I do voluntarily), which is editor of yakass.net. Both jobs are directly related to kayak fishing, so in a way kayak fishing is my job. It's now pretty hard for me to imagine a career that doesn't involve the sport to be honest.
(YA) What made you choose a yak over a normal motorized boat?
(JH) Initially, that's all I could afford. My first 'kayak' was a cheap inflatable thing, which I used primarily because a motorbike was my only transport (I'd load the kayak, pump & fishing gear onto a bike and ride to the beach). First time out I paddled out just beyond casting distance at my local fishing jetty and started catching fish immediately. That's how the addiction started, but little did I know that the sport of kayak fishing would eventually consume my life.
(YA) I’ve heard you mention you get most of you kayak and fishing gear for next to nothing, care to share you secret?
(JH) Yes, I do get some gear for free (not so much any more) and everything else at cost price. I worked for Hobie Australia for a year last year and a small part of that job was testing out gear & learning about it, as well as sometimes offering feedback. So whenever a new accessory became available I typically had the option to use one. I'm also sponsored by a couple of companies and receive support every now and then from a few others. So basically, it's all just fringe benefits, related to either my previous job at Hobie, my current gig at Maclean Outdoors, or Yakass.net (and my other older site, yakabout.com.au). That all said, I have spent a lot of money of kayak fishing gear regardless.
To anyone looking for advice on how to attract sponsorship/support and maintain it, I'd say either start dominating the tournament circuits (or at least rub ranking shoulders with the dominators) and or learn how to write (and form balanced informed opinions on topics you write about), aspire to take good photos (and even consider experimenting with video) and find some way of gaining a platform to share your stuff to the world. Sites like Yakangler and Yakass are a great place to start for those who lack the time or expertise to get their own blogs or websites started.
(YA) What yaks do you own and which on is your favorite?
(JH) I only have one yak and only need one yak - the Adventure Island. That is 3 yaks in one. I can use it as a standalone kayak, a Polynesian style outrigger (fitted with single ama) or as a Trimaran, with two amas and sail. Great for rivers, lakes, bays, estuaries, open ocean, you name it. If it’s too windy for kayaking, I go sailing and troll. No wind, I go paddling/pedaling. Hobie doesn’t market this as a fishing kayak, but to those who can think outside the box, the AI is the ultimate fishing yak. My next yak will also be an AI, unless someone can make something similar but better.
(YA) If you could take only one lure out with you what would it be?
(JH) I think I'd take a shad style soft plastic lure (let’s say a Shimano Squidgy paddle-tail fish). They are great for casting into bait balls, good for bottom-bashing & jigging for reef fish, and due to their inherent action, are fairly effective when being trolled as well. A close second would be a flick bait style soft plastic lure - my personal favorites being Lunker City variants, which are hard to get here in Australia.
(YA) I think your extremely lucky to live where you do and would love to one day fish down under, is there any place in the world you dream about fishing?
(JH) Yes... The east coast of Mexico, in the Caribbean. Let’s say just off Cancun for the Corona-flavored win. I have done some diving and fishing around there so I know what to expect. Kayak fishing there would be awe-inspiring.
(YA) Scotty or Ram and why?
(JH) Make mine a RAM. They have more models to choose from and I find them a little simpler to use. I find the RAM concept a little more modular and versatile than the Scotty system. Not that I have anything against Scotty products - I used them for years and think they're pretty good to.
(YA) Do you have any video camera advice for the aspiring kayak fishing videographer?
(JH) Actually, yes. First and foremost, mount the cam to the kayak. If the cam is in a fixed position, the kayak and user will always be stationary relative to the cam, and thus, no matter how rough the water gets, you don't get a 'shaky cam' effect on the focal point of the footage (kayak & user). Hat or helmet mounts (for example) sound great in theory, but don't produce consistent watchable footage in my opinion.
If you plan to do any narrating, make sure you speak loudly enough to be heard and if possible look at the cam when speaking.
Finally, don't be too eager to get your footage published immediately. You may be dying to share your magnificent catch with the world but a well presented video will get more attention in the long run. Take your time to edit the footage effectively. During the editing process, don't forget simple effects such as fading transitions, but try to avoid getting overly busy with effects. The more obvious the effects the more try-hard it looks. Often, less is more.
(YA) From you videos it looks like a lot of kayak fisherman in Australia have yaks rigged with sails, is that a popular option over there?
(JH) That phenomenon has only really taken flight recently and I think the popularity of the AI as a fishing craft in this country has a lot to do with the video clips I have produced, which are starting to get very well known in Australia. Thousands of people have been exposed to the AI through my clips and in watching them, it becomes obvious how good a fishing vessel the AI can be. I've had a couple of dealers mention that many more people have been asking them about AI’s for fishing, and the Yakass & Yakabout clips get mentioned frequently. Working in a kayak dealership myself, I've also witnessed this trend grow. I don't think it'll be long before the AI is being used as a fishing vessel just as much as it is being used for recreational sailing.
(YA) Do you ever worry about a Great White skyrocketing your yak like you see on all those nature shows?
(JH) No, I don't and here's why. Whenever you see that kind of footage, it's either a shark hitting a seal, or a shark grabbing a mangled fish tied to a stick. In the case of the latter, these sharks are practically trained to do it. As for seals, well, it's impossible for a shark to be unsure if a seal is in fact a meal. The smell alone is the only cue a shark needs. What I'm suggesting is that in these instances, the shark is completely confident that the object it is leaping for is in fact food waiting to be taken. That scenario is incredibly unlikely on a kayak, which is probably why it's never happened before, except for old historical accounts of it happening when seal skins were used as makeshift kayak skins and sails (during attempted Bass Straight crossings from Victoria to Tasmania).
In my experience, when a great white shark approaches a kayak, it will do so will a high degree of curiosity - but not certainty. It will come up and have a look and more importantly, come up and have a sniff. It will try to determine if the kayak is food of some kind, not brazenly just leap out and snap out at the occupant.
What does concern me about sharks, however, is the very real possibility that a shark might take a big bite of the rudder and damage the transom. If one was fishing 3 mile off shore and their transom was chomped off it would not be pretty. That's what almost happened to me and that’s exactly why I now use a shark shield. I'm not worried about being eaten by a shark, but I do consider the possibility of hull breach by way of shark bite. That’s why I now use a shark shield. It's comforting to know that cases of this happening are rare to say the least, but guys like myself put ourselves in the position where it is possible.
(YA) I can remember seeing one of your videos where a shark was basically chasing your yak can you describe that for us.
(JH) Here's what happened: I was fishing solo almost 3 mile off shore when I spotted bird activity. I paddled up to investigate and upon arrival, saw the shark just sitting in the middle. I didn't know it was a white and given my eventless encounters with sharks in the same waters in the past, over-confidently paddled up to try and get a few photos. So it spotted me as I moved in it fearlessly swam right over to me - you can tell by the look on my face in the clip that this was rather unnerving. It didn't help that it swam right at my position on the yak - not the bow, not the stern, not the ama, not the pedals - me. Right there and then I'm thinking about my jacket & vest color and the term yummy yellow and at this point, yes, I was thinking about the possibility of it leaping out at grabbing me (what happened next has squashed that thought).
It swam under the yak and then the pontoon grabbed its attention, which is when I started pedaling out of there. It tail-shipped the pontoon and then swam underneath again and then circled around and this is when it started showing so much interest in the rudder. It was rubbing its nose against the rudder blade (I could feel this through the rudder steering handle) and at that point I thought for sure it was about to take a big bite of the transom. In my head I was already trying to figure out how I'd make it back with a yak full of water. The video clip doesn't do this moment justice, but trust me, with the benefit of polarized vision, this was intimidating to say the least.
But at one point it just flicked off and then swam up beside me. I got a good look at it then and that’s when I knew for sure it was a white. But at the same time, I felt confident that it had just decided I was not food and as it swam into obscurity I felt sure that was the last I'd see of it. So confident I was that I actually kept fishing once I'd paddled 500 meters clear of the area. Mind you, an hour or so later my mind started playing tricks and I began seeing dark shadows in the water. Eventually this scared me off for the day. I returned the following week with a brand new shark shield and now I never hit the open ocean without it. There are lots of sharks in Aussie waters. Most are harmless, but some are quite deadly and apparently fearless.
It was a somewhat scary encounter, but not as bad as it would have been if I'd been taken by surprise by the shark. I knew it was there, so there was no fright or shock. And I approached it first, so even though it got a little out of hand for some stupid reason, I felt in control of the situation. Having a 16 meter humpback whale surface on my bow was far more frightening. Even though I knew the whale had absolutely no malice towards me (and very probably the opposite) when it appeared and surfaced just a couple of feet from my bow - and seemingly on a collision course - I knew that I was utterly helpless to whatever may happen in the following seconds. Amazingly, somehow it managed to do a weird twist to its right as it surfaced and didn't hit me. Heartbeats skipped, believe me.
(YA) Is there a target species of fish you want to catch and still haven’t?
(JH) Yes, several actually. First & foremost, I hunger for a marlin capture. I'm also ashamed to admit I have never caught a mulloway (also known as jewfish in Australia) from a kayak. Oh yeah... I'd love to chase Atlantic salmon in North American waters to.
(YA) If you could use one word to describe fishing in Australia what would it be?
(JH) I might be tempted to use the word 'kaleidoscope'. Australia is the largest island in the world and with over 125,000km of coastline (a lot of it relatively untouched) there is a vast array of species available in various parts of the country. About the only forms of fishing we don't have here is ice fishing and catfish noodling. Every shade on the color spectrum can be found in the fish species available in Australian waters and every fishing style tastes (save for ice fishing & noodling) can be catered for.
(YA) Country or Rock and Roll?
(JH) Rock & Roll baby. Truth be told, my music tastes are wide and varied. I like any genre, so long at it's a good example of the genre. But while you'll find plenty of rock & roll in my MP3 collection, at best I think I have one song from the Dixie Chicks :-)
(YA) Finally if a YakAngler should somehow find his way down to Australia would you take him fishing?
(JH) Most certainly. I've been to the states 6 - 7 times and have grown rather fond of our American comrades (just don't get me started on your politicians). I would, however, first get to the bottom of the fishing tastes & yak fishing experience to best determine where best to take them. I'm a little hesitant to take beginners too far out into open water these days.