The “10 Questions” column highlights a KBF Partner Trail or Club and its Director. Featuring established clubs as well as new clubs from across the country, the column showcase the variety of people who tirelessly devote themselves to growing our sport through their work with KBF.
This edition features Ken Wood, a KBF Tournament Director and U.S. Air Force veteran from Massachusetts. He is an accomplished kayak fisherman, member of the Jackson, Dakota Lithium and Ketch Fishing teams and the Tournament Director of Massachusetts Kayak Bassin’, one of the Northeast Region’s longest running KBF partner clubs. Ken & Co. will host the Northeast KBF Trail Events on the Charles River on August 1 and August 2, 2020.
Register for Day 1: https://www.kayakbassfishing.com/event/2020-kbf-trail-charles/
Reminder: Scott Beutjer hosts KBF Trail Directors for a live Captains Meeting on Thursday evenings prior to the weekend events. Watch the meetings on KBF’s Facebook media to meet the directors and for more event information.
- How did you get into kayak fishing?
Honestly, I can’t quite recall how I stumbled upon kayak fishing. After I got out of the Air Force in 2003, I joined a bass club as a non-boater. There were some good guys in the club and I learned a lot and had some fun, but overall it was a negative experience. Lots of petty drama and fighting, you know. Too many egos. Ultimately, I was kicked out of the club (a story for another day), so I decided to get back to my roots and I put a two-hundred-dollar down payment on a canoe.
Shortly after, however, I discovered fishing kayaks. After some research I decided this new thing (for me, anyway) was a much better option and dropped about two thousand dollars on a pair of Pelican Getaway 140s, one for me and one for my father. They each had a swivel rod holder and two flush mount rod holders, about as basic as you could get, but I fell in love kayak fishing. That was about thirteen years ago. I’ve since upgraded to bigger kayaks (currently I’m in a Jackson Kayaks Big Rig HD/FD), but I still have the old Pelican and use it from time to time.
- Tell us about your club – when was it founded?
I started Massachusetts Kayak Bassin’(MAKB) in 2016 out of a desire to fish for higher stakes, which at the time simply meant “more money.”
I began fishing kayak tournaments through the New England Fishing forum in 2007, but that group was small and they were against fishing for money. Instead, we fished for an ugly trophy, the “winner” of which was tasked with making it even uglier. Fun, but not all that rewarding beyond that. Years later I found another trail that was hosted through the MA Fish Finder forum. Great group of guys but also small, and with the low entry fee ($20) came low payouts. Sometimes placing in the money meant that you only lost half your entry fee. Again, fun, but not the most satisfying events.
That said, through that latter group MAKB was born, and we’ve come a long way from just wanting to fish for more money. We now host the biggest kayak bass fishing tournaments in the state, we’re partnered with Kayak Bass Fishing (KBF), and we offer our anglers the opportunity to work their way up into the “big leagues” if they desire it. Higher stakes indeed!
- Do you work alone as a tournament director, or with a team?
I work with a small team—Donald Davis, Bruce Levy, John Ferreira, and Kevin Amaral—and we get additional help from those in our group whenever we need it. I cannot say enough good things about the guys who fish our events or just participate in our Facebook group discussions.
- Your trail has both a single angler/AOY format, and also a Knockout Series. Why did you add the knockout brackets?
For fun, really. Years ago, I fished a similar bracketed series called the Grudge Match, which was for bass boats, and despite getting smoked in round one I really enjoyed the format. When I started MAKB in 2016, running a similar series was a no-brainer. It’s a more relaxed format and good for those who can’t commit to fishing our regular trail.
For those curious, the Knockout Series is a bracketed format where anglers are at first randomly paired, which starts the bracket, and then they fish head-to-head tournaments through five or six rounds (depending on how many register). The anglers choose the date, time, and location. The winners move on until just one angler remains. Pretty simple, really, and it’s gone over quite well. Long Island Kayak Bass Fishing now runs one, called the Eliminator Series, and I know Jason Gardner plans to do the same next with year with his group, Maine Yak Anglers.
- Describe the folks who fish your trail – what do they expect from it?
From the start we have endeavored to run a fair and honest trail, to embrace positivity rather than negativity—the latter of which being what too many fishing groups and anglers seem to thrive on—and that is reflected in our members, whether they fish our tournaments or are just part of our online community.
We have had a few people try to stir things up, but for the most part everyone supports and encourages each other. No drama, no fights, no egos, and countless friendships have been made because of it. That’s really what it’s all about. There is some trash-talking, of course, but it’s lighthearted. Massachusetts lighthearted, anyway.
- How do you promote your club? Do you have a media strategy?
No, we don’t do much of that. We have our Facebook group, website, and an Instagram page (that I don’t use enough), but beyond that we don’t promote the group much. We’re growing too fast as it is and are now contemplating opening up new divisions within the state if we can find the right people to run them. The demand is there, that’s for sure.
But while it’s humbling to have so many interested in MAKB, our lakes are so small that we just can’t accommodate them. We can’t have a hundred or more anglers at our events. As it stands now, we max out at twenty-four and we’re playing bumper boats all day at some tournaments.
Who knows what the future will bring, though? Good things, I imagine.
- What is your view of how kayak fishing has grown in recent years?
It’s hard to even measure how drastically it’s grown in recent years, particularly in New England, where just a few years ago people gave you the hairy eyeball for fishing out of a kayak. Many openly mocked you, as if fishing out of a kayak somehow marked you for derision.
Today, however, kayaks are everywhere up here. Whether they’re traditional kayaks or fishing kayaks, on any given lake at any given time you’re more than likely to encounter someone else paddling or fishing out of one. Definitely cool to see.
But strictly speaking of the evolution of kayak fishing, I jokingly posted this to our Facebook group last year, but it’s still accurate…
2016: “Love my sit-in. Never buying one of those big expensive kayaks.” 2017: “Love my big kayak. I can’t stand! Never buying one with a pedal drive, though.” 2018: “Whoa, baby! Love my pedal drive. Never buying a motor, though.” 2019: “Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”
- What do you foresee as the biggest goal that kayak fishing should strive to achieve in the coming years?
Solidarity, or a general mutual respect among kayak anglers and organizations. I realize that not everyone is going to like each other and there will always be competition out there, but when things are already this cut-throat and every johnny-suck-lately thinks he can do it better and spends so much time and effort tearing things and people down, it’s extremely counterproductive for something that, in terms of growth of the sport, is just learning the walk well on its own.
- Has your club fished the Charles River before? If so, tell readers about it.
Yes, we’ve fished there a few times over the years, and we hosted a KBF Trail event on the river back in 2018. This year we’re double-dipping, fishing it twice. Not something we normally do, but with all the COVID-19 restrictions and recommended precautions, rivers offer us the ability to not only host an event without a cap on participants but to do so in a safe manner, practicing good social-distancing.
Typically, we fish one stretch of the river, meaning the area between dams (there are a lot of dams along the river), but for the for our upcoming event, which will run concurrently with the KBF Trail event, the boundaries extend roughly sixty miles or. Plenty of water for everyone.
For those interested in coming out, the river isn’t a world-class fishery, but it does offer great bass fishing. Quite a statement considering that roughly thirty years ago 1.7 billion gallons of sewage was discharged into the lower basin each year. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency gives the water quality a grade of A-.
- What would you like visitors to know before they travel to Massachusetts for your Northeast KBF Trail events?
At this time of year, the river moves slowly. In narrower, shallower areas it will run a bit faster, but you can easily paddle it. The river runs through mostly urban areas, so don’t expect a peaceful float down the river, especially on the lower basin, which is in the heart of Boston. Expect traffic on and off the water. The good thing is, big boats can only access a few sections of the river—the Millis area, Waltham, and the lower basin below the Watertown Dam.
Beyond that, attractions like the Museum of Science and the New England Aquarium will have reopened by August. Check them out if you have time.
About the author — Henry Veggian is the KBF Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator and is on both the Jackson Fishing Team and Ketch Outdoors Team. He also runs a fishing blog at www.bowfincountry.com