Tyler Thiede is a Bending Branches Regional Ambassador from our home state of Wisconsin. He’s been an avid kayak angler for many years and now enjoys bringing his son Jackson along to fish too.
Tyler and Jackson Thiede kayak fish with their kayaks tethered together (photo courtesy of Chang Lor)
At the time of our interview with Tyler and Jackson, the younger Thiede was 7 years old. He’s already a veteran of being on the water both with his dad and in his own fishing kayak.
We wanted to know more about Tyler’s own fishing background and ways he’s found to help Jackson get started kayak fishing so they both can have fun on the water together.
Here’s what we learned from the Thiede men:
BENDING BRANCHES: How did you (Tyler) first get into kayak fishing?
TYLER: We have a nice small electric-only lake near where we live now. When we moved there about nine years ago, I wanted to leverage that. So, I borrowed a little John boat from my father-in-law with an electric motor. It wasn’t very stable, and I’d always kill the battery, especially if it was windy. So, I couldn’t go out very far.
My cousin was working at Bending Branches at the time, and he asked me if I’d ever thought of a fishing kayak. I didn’t know what he was talking about! I had always heard the stereotypical stories of kayaks that they’re tippy, they’re uncomfortable, they’re heavy.
But I looked into them and ended up buying a Feel Free Lure. It was like sitting in a recliner, they’re so comfortable. And super stable—stable enough to stand on. I liked the fact that it didn’t take any gas, I didn’t need expensive insurance and I didn’t need a big towing vehicle.
Jackson pulls in a bluegill
Then my cousin set me up with an Angler Pro paddle and since then I’ve had a lot of different Branches paddles. That’s how I got connected with Bending Branches.
BENDING BRANCHES: Did you fish first, then take up kayak fishing?
TYLER: Yes, that’s how it worked for me. But we ran a small craft business for a few years, and I saw a mixture of customers. Some were tired of boat payments and all the costs and headaches that go with it. They had learned of kayak fishing—how inexpensive it can be and how it can get you into more remote areas.
One couple used to bank fish together for years. One day they decided they really wanted to get on the water but didn’t have anywhere to store a boat and didn’t want to pay to store it. So, they bought a couple of fishing kayaks and it’s worked out great for them.
The biggest learning curve when starting to kayak fish is how to control your boat when it’s windy. If you have a pedal-drive kayak it’s a lot easier. But with a standard kayak, I’ve learned the key is to install a foot-controlled rudder.
The Feel Free rudder system is $250, which seems like quite a bit of money. But once I got mine and found how much easier it was to control my boat in the wind, I wish I had gotten it years sooner!
It still takes practice to master the “one-arm awkward paddle” while you’re reeling, so for those starting out—kids especially—pick calm days when wind won’t be an issue.
BENDING BRANCHES: How old was Jackson when you first started to teach him to kayak fish?
TYLER: He was four or five, but he went out with me in the kayak even before that. I have a tandem fishing kayak, and I put him in the front seat with me before he was even two years old, of course always with a life jacket on.
Jackson, a few years younger, in the front seat of his mom’s tandem kayak
If you have a kayak with a rear tank well you can get one of those kid-sized plastic armchairs, bungee it down and just sit a young kid back there. It’s within arm’s reach when you need to help out, and they can cast behind you right from the chair.
I advise getting them started early. Jackson was so young he couldn’t paddle or even fish yet. He’d literally fall asleep in the front seat. But it got him used to the water and how kayaks handle. Then I slowly eased him into fishing and paddling.
When he was about four and ready to fish, I had him in his own kayak but towed him everywhere and kept all his gear in my kayak. I kept a paddle with him for when he wanted to try it but otherwise just let him fish.
BENDING BRANCHES: What other tips do you have for teaching young kids to fish from a kayak?
TYLER: I like to clip the bungee from Jackson’s kayak to my anchor trolley so we’re connected. I’ll put my shallow water anchor down when we’re fishing and trolley him next to me so we’re sitting side by side. It works great.
Don’t use it on a really windy day though! I practice re-entry every year, but this year I had my first unintentional rollover and ended up in the water! I was turning around to grab something, and a wind gust blew his kayak away from me, which pulled my kayak and rolled it. Luckily, almost everything I have is either tied to the kayak or floats, so I only lost a couple of things.
Jackson’s boat stayed upright so I grabbed stuff from the water and put it on his kayak and we got back to shore OK.
When kids are old enough to paddle and fish from their own kayak, I’d avoid those really cheap kids kayaks. You’ll spend more time trying to keep the kid on the kayak! They’re fine for tooling around the beach, but not for fishing.
Jackson paddles his own adult-size kayak as a 7-year old
Jackson uses an adult kayak, the Feel Free Moken 10. It’s only 10 feet long and so light he can paddle it easily. They’re not terribly expensive, and even I can use it. We have four of them (Tyler and his wife also have a 13-year-old daughter).
Tyler’s wife and daughter on their fishing kayaks
When the kids are little, they can sit in the back. Then when they get bigger, they can use that same kayak themselves.
Don’t push it with your kids. It can be frustrating to prepare everything, get to the water, unload, get it all set up, get out on the water and then hear, “Dad, I’m tired. Dad, I’m hot. Dad, I’m hungry.”
Enjoying a break and a swim
Bring snacks, bring water. Bring a tow rope and don’t push it. We have a beach down our lake so if he got bored fishing, we could stop at the beach for him to go for a swim and play a little bit. It can help to break up the fishing time with snacks or swimming. But there have been a few times when we were out for four or five hours. Of course, it helps when you’re catching fish!
Make sure all their stuff is tied down or floats because they will drop their pole and knock their tackle box over! I have rod floats on all our rods.
We don’t do any early spring or late fall fishing because the combined air and water temperatures are too cold. Start out in the summer when it’s nice and hot. Then you don’t have to worry about them flipping over or falling out.
BENDING BRANCHES: Jackson, what do you like best about kayak fishing?
JACKSON: Paddling is kind of fun. Catching fish. I always catch blue gill—except I caught my first bass this year. It was 12 inches.
Jackson’s first bass
TYLER: He likes having little picnics with snacks. We’ll bring a cooler with stuff to eat and have a picnic either on the beach or on the kayaks. He also likes to jump off his kayak, swim around and climb back on. The fishing kayaks are stable enough to do that.
BENDING BRANCHES: What would you like to tell other kids about kayak fishing?
JACKSON: It’s fun. It’s cool learning how to fish, learning about the parts, how the baits work.
TYLER: One thing I’ve found is that kids seem to get more into fishing if they’re kayak fishing because they’re their own captains. If they get bored they can go paddle around. If they get hot, they can splash in the water. It gives them a little freedom.
Tyler makes sure everything in Jackson’s kayak is either tied down or floats!
BENDING BRANCHES: What’s your favorite kayak fishing paddle?
TYLER: Jackson likes how the wood paddle looks, the Angler Navigator. And he likes the Angler Pro Fiberglass because it matches his kayak. For me, for longer padding outings I like the Angler Pro Carbon, but overall I like the Angler Navigator—the way it looks and how light it is. It’s gorgeous and efficient in the water.
Thanks to Tyler and Jackson for their time and comments!
Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]
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