Hobie Invasion on the Rainy River
All the way from California to River Bend Resort on the banks of the Rainy River. This week, representatives from Hobie brought a complete line of kayaks used for fishing to the Walleye Capital of the World for a media event. Hobie is a company that Since 1950 has been in the business of shaping a unique lifestyle based around fun, water, and quality products. Known originally for their surfboards and then Hobie Cat sailboats are now a main player in the kayak business, and from what I experienced, for good reason.
First off, I have to say, I have never fished out of a kayak before, let alone a Hobie. There are many differences with a Hobie as I learned, but to me, one main difference is you pedal a Hobie vs using a paddle. As an angler, this interested me as my hands were totally free for actually fishing.
For a couple of days this week, I had a chance to hit the water in a Hobie and fish with some other outdoor media folks from AGLOW (Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers) targeting parts of the Rainy River and Four Mile Bay. I have to say without reservation, I am impressed. I don’t plan on vacating my tournament walleye boat anytime soon, but I have to tell you this experience really was enjoyable.
Our initial target was sturgeon from a kayak. Interestingly enough, sturgeon were breaching or jumping all around us. They weren’t, however, taking our bait from the bottom of the river as quickly as we liked. With small minnows surfacing all over, we wondered if those dinosaurs weren’t possibly feeding up in the water column. Nonetheless, there were a few sturgeon caught from a kayak. What a ride! Jason Houser, an AGLOW member and outdoor enthusiast from Illinois caught the first one. It wasn’t a big fish by Rainy River standards, but it was still 37″ and a big enough fish to pull a Hobie around for a bit.
Coincidence or not, Houser also caught a 35″ pike back in Four Mile Bay on a spinnerbait. “Joe, you need to get over here now, I have a giant,” I head yelled across the water from the ecstatic Houser. The fish buried it’s head in the weeds and with some assistance from Kevin, one of our Hobie representatives, this huge pike emerged with a lot of salad all over her. “I will never forget this day,” exclaimed Houser with a grin and out of wind from the struggle with the pike.
Eventually, in true sturgeon fashion as they do eat a lot and typically provide a good bite, girl power kicked in with Barb Carey and Jody Rae catching some big sturgeon on the Rainy River near the Birchdale area. Paul Johnson of River Bend Resort also pulled in a good one in that same area. Targeting shallower water with some current was the ticket on this given day and sturgeon along with some walleyes and bass cooperated nicely.
I love hunting for fish so we deviated a bit from the sturgeon plan and went casting in the Rainy River and Four Mile Bay. The experience of pedaling in a very stable kayak from River Bend to around Wheeler’s Point into Four Mile Bay was half of the fun. As the Hobie has both forward and reverse simply by pulling a cord, I worked some of the resort docks with a spinner bait on my way while many of the charter boats were out and about catching walleyes on the big water. We had some good action with pike and a few bass being boated. The beauty was as the wind pushed me into the docks, I had the Hobie in reverse mode and would simply give a few pedals allowing me total control with my hands free for fishing.
The Hobie has some features that really make it comfortable and easy to maneuver. A handle on each side of the kayak is used for turning the rudder for steering. When we wanted to put on some miles, pedaling is super easy with low resistance. There are easy adjustments to fit each person’s legs and comfortable level. The seat of the Hobie was very supportive and comfortable with adjustments for up, down and for the backrest forward or back. Never fishing out of a kayak before, I was wondering if I would be sore. Not at all. Super comfortable seat. I think I could have fished all week without a problem (and wish I could)!
Stability with the kayak was a concern heading into this event. No problem. Not at any time did I feel unstable in a Hobie despite some decent waves on the bay and a few charter boat wakes when I was on the edges of the river. This experience is very different to me than my canoe. In fact, I didn’t have to even think about stability, it was a non issue. This surprised me in a good way.
I cannot tell you how much fun it was fishing nooks and crannies we normally just pass by. Some give the Rainy River not as much credit during the summer vs spring and fall as many of the walleyes return to the lake. This is true, but there is always a resident population of fish in the river and we caught many. Walleyes along with other species which we caught during our two days in the kayak such as saugers, sturgeon, smallmouth bass, crappies, perch, pike, rock bass and even an eelpout. There are even more species possible, but you get the picture. So much for no fish in the river during the summer!
Our small group of media ended the day in the new confines of River Bend Resort. I say new as the bar and restaurant are only a couple of years old due to a kitchen fire a few years ago. Everyone enjoyed food and their drink of choice from the bar and dining room that overlooks the Rainy River across to Canada. We were spoiled with home cooked breakfasts and delicious dinners with bag lunches while on the kayaks. A fish fry with walleye in their patented batter, homemade tartar sauce, baked beans, fried onions, fried potatoes, bacon, coleslaw and potato salad was the meal I gravitated to the most. Delicious!
It isn’t how I normally roll, fishing out of a kayak. In reflecting, it’s one of those things that I knew about but didn’t have the chance to experience. Let me tell you this, if you have any interest in trying out kayak fishing, try a Hobie. I am not a Hobie owner but this experience was definitely an “aha” moment that was truly good for the soul.