By Drew Gregory
I look around at all the other Team Sperry Top-Sider athletes and realize I am blessed to be among a set of athletes who are out pioneering their various sports and taking their craft to places people never would have thought possible. Eric and Dane Jackson along with Emily (Jackson) Troutman, for example, lead the way in whitewater pushing the limits of whitewater kayaking. For me partnering with a footwear brand such as Sperry, that has been leading the way and pioneering so many accomplishments in footwear, just fits perfectly with my style/goals in kayak fishing.
Kayak fishing may not seem as extreme as whitewater kayaking, but there are a lot of “firsts” and ways we can certainly push the limits of what can be accomplished on a kayak. Recently, I had a mission in mind to pull of one of these “firsts” and the rest of this post is the story of how it all went down!
So, I’ve been learning how to fish the beautiful Florida Keys for about a year and a half now, ever since myself and the team at Jackson Kayak decided to make some real big water and salt water friendly fishing kayaks. Through the help of our team member who guides kayak fishing tours in the keys, Randy Morrow, I have learned a lot about the “flats species.” The main flats fish that we target are bonefish, permit, tarpon and redfish. However, the crowning jewel of all and the most difficult fish to sight fish on the flats is by far the permit. I don’t know of the exact number, but it is quite possible that less than 10 people have ever caught a permit off of a kayak; as far as I know, no one has caught one off of a paddleboard.
My goal this past trip, in April, was to be the first to catch a permit off of a stand up paddleboard (SUP). In a day, with the right wind conditions, and if you’re in the right spot, you may be fortunate to see one or two permit. However the hard part is seeing them and making sure it is indeed a permit so you know which rod/reel to pick up to cast with. If you throw the wrong bait to a permit, it won’t eat. It is easy at first to mistake any of fish for something else because there are so many fish that do roam the flats – barracuda, sharks, jack crevele, bonefish, tarpon, redfish. If you are fortunate enough to actually see one you likely have 3-5 seconds to make a cast to it before it sees you or you spook it off by making even the slightest noise. If you bang the side of your boat with your push pole, paddle or even have too much paddle drip coming off your paddle then you will scare the permit off. They have incredible hearing and eyesight and to make matters worse they don’t swim anywhere in a straight line so it is hard to know where to cast! Yes, they are very ADHD! Just think of the concentration it takes to be on the water all day, for several days, only to have it all come down to a couple 3-5 second moments that either make or break your chance at this fish, and possibly your entire trip, planning etc. Challenging is not even a word that describes this task!
On April 3rd all the conditions were adding up to be a pretty good permit day – wind was calm, sun was high, tides were just right and the water temp had warmed up enough for them to really get onto the flats. I hit the water with Randy Morrow, Brooks Beatty, Jameson Redding, Alex Tejada and Esteban Guttierez, all members of the Jackson Kayak fishing team. I had rigged up a really cool poling platform on my Jackson Kayak SUPerFISHal and had an incredible view from on high where I could see fish very well. Of course I had to wear a perfect “Keysish” Sperry shoe while on the water – the SON-R Pulse Sandal, which was perfect for on and off the water activities in the Keys.
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