KayakFishing - Lifestyle with Endless Opportunities

by Andre Smit, Siemens Industry, Inc. Raleigh, NC, USA

My story started with one hobby which led to another hobby that transpired into a new business activity, and much more...

I used to be an avid golfer and really enjoyed golfing on a regular basis. What I like about that sport is the fact that you can enjoy playing almost year-round, travel to different destinations, play on scenic courses and meet interesting people. If I have to single out what I enjoyed most about the time I played golf, it would be being outdoors early in the morning in beautiful surroundings, doing something that completely takes your mind off work and stress. I joined a local Club and played almost every weekend, rain or shine. We typically teed off early morning to get back home by early afternoon.
All good things have to come to an end though. In 2011 the golf course that I was a member of had problems with the greens during the mid-summer heat and we could not play our course. We could play on other courses which made early morning tee-times almost impossible.
I decided to find something else to do in the early mornings over weekends.  I really love the outdoors and getting out early morning was the key. One day I drove past the lake and noticed how many people were out there in kayaks paddling for fun. That motivated me to look into getting a kayak for myself and joining in on the early morning fun on the lake. When I explored kayaks, I came across some that were built specifically for fishing, and this really caught my attention.
I was no stranger to fishing and in the past I have done some competitive game fishing in South Africa with a good friend of mine. When I came to the USA almost 20 years ago, I was more focused on playing golf and did not pursue fishing at all.

Getting back to the kayak fishing. I was really intrigued to be able to fish and exercise at the same time and things couldn’t be better. I proceeded to investigate and ultimately bought a kayak that was suitable for fishing.
This was the start of my new hobby. A huge part of kayak fishing is the rigging of the kayak. A kayak is a very small platform to fish from, so being organized is essential. Rigging a kayak is how you organize yourself and your kayak for the big event.

I soon realized that rigging the kayak was probably the part I like the most, and I was having a lot of fun with it. The equipment included, fish finders, a rudder, rod holders, anchors, anchor poles, lights, tackle storage, dry compartments and trolleys and so much more. I needed a workshop and had to get creative. I converted the tall crawlspace at our house into a man cave. I started to rig my kayak with everything that I could possibly think of.

The next step was to purchase fishing gear and tackle so I can see how the kayak and the new rig are working. I typically do not enjoy shopping but needless to say I had a lot of fun with this particular shopping spree.
After going a few times to fish, I discovered that some of the equipment I purchased for the kayak was not suitable for the job that it was designed to do, and in fact, it was damaging some of the components on my kayak. I then proceeded to find solutions for my kayak rigging problems. This included cutting up my wife’s plastic cutting boards to make mounting systems for the rod holder mounts, which turned out to be a good solution. It had many advantages and made the kayak more flexible to be equipped for outings on different bodies of water, fishing for different species of fish, etc...
One of my golfing buddies just so happened to be a patent attorney and when I showed him what I was working on in the crawl space, he suggested that I should patent my creation. I liked the idea, and my kayak fishing hobby then turned into something completely different. This was the start of a potential business opportunity.

It took me some time, but I finally completed the design of my mounting plate system, and submitted the idea for patent protection. The patent was finally granted in 2017.
I was fishing every weekend and loved being out there early in the morning while acquiring new skills in the process.

I decided to start a business.  The purpose of the business was to design and produce fishing kayak rigging accessories, and also to share my ideas and improvements with other kayak fishermen. I started by designing a whole range of products. It was a huge time commitment on my part, but fortunately I don’t need a lot of sleep.
The products included the mounting systems components for different kayak styles and models. I sourced the ideal materials and built numerous prototypes and field tested everything extensively. I can equip my small kayak with many rods ready for any opportunity that could present itself.
Things can happen fast on the water and if you do not have the correct rod reel and bait ready and at hand, you could lose the opportunity to catch that trophy fish of a life time. I made detailed drawings, and bills of materials for each product. Once again, I sourced all components from different vendors and built a price list for all products and their parts.
The next step was to take my product to market. I started by creating a brochure for the Business with all the available products. In order to make it look professional I had to learn how to take product pictures with proper lighting. I also taught myself how to edit the pictures and remove backgrounds form pictures so they can be included in the brochure.

Getting on the internet:  The brochure was a great idea if I wanted to sell to resellers, but I decided to go to market through an internet based business where I could control the speed of business growth. I still have a fulltime job and could not let this business venture get out of hand.
Creating the website was easier said than done, I had no skills in website design and fortunately had the help from a friend’s wife who designed the website that I now maintain. In putting the website together, it again took a new set of skills. I created a procedure of taking pictures and then combining the pictures to be ultimately loaded onto the website.
We owned an old Mac and I used this to my advantage and quickly learned how to use Aperture for picture management and editing.
I had to take all the pictures, edit the pictures, making transparent pictures and more. I also decided to make a video explaining my product and application.

Making videos required an additional set of skills. This included shooting video clips, editing the clips into a video, composing music and doing the voice over.
Once I had the skill to make videos, I proceeded to make short videos of my fishing trips on the kayak and published them online. I had to get an action camera to make it possible. Of course, everything on a kayak must be waterproof and mounted.  I mounted a camera on a pole and captured clips while fishing. I am still working on the development of the perfect camera mount pole. The products that are available today are just not working properly.

One of my favorite outings still, is going to the lake and taking my French Bulldogs, Maurice and Louis on the kayak to go fishing. Afterwards when I get home, I go through the video clips and make a short movie of our outing.
Suddenly a fishing trip turned into a complete full day starting at 4 o’clock in the morning and ending around 8 o’clock in the evening when I could publish the video online. Maurice just loves to go out and will excitedly follow everything I do.  Louis just likes to paddle or sail, his thrill is when I put the sail up on the kayak and go fast.

The process of starting a business was very interesting and quite an adventure. This included banking, establishing reseller contracts with suppliers, sourcing materials, maintaining vendor shipping and shipping calculator software, learning and working with accounting software.
I also learned to manage company finances and keep all management tasks up-to-date. Before I knew it I had a fully functional business structure from concept to customer.
My factory or workshop is now in one corner of my garage in my new house.  The other corner is for fishing tackle, camping equipment and the rest of the space is taken up by my kayaks and trailer. I converted a yard trailer to double as a kayak trailer.

On a typical weekend the trailer will perform both duties.
I enjoy most forms of fishing and really took to fly fishing. This style of fishing is more challenging, you catch less fish but it’s much more rewarding when you do. I live only a few miles from a stretch of the Neuse River that I’ve caught numerous large bass on the fly and many other different species of fish.
I try to do some fly-tying in my office but mostly purchase what I need.
I practice CPR (Catch, Picture and Release). I have caught many bass more than once in a season, there is really no need to kill a bass unless you are very hungry. I do take the occasional fish at the beach for dinner. This is typically the exception, not the rule.

My vacations now always include a fly rod or two.  We always liked Island vacations but now I try to fish and golf wherever we go.  One of the most beautiful places that we visited was Belize, a fly fishing paradise. On the first trip, we stayed on a private island Ranguana Caye and I caught plenty of bonefish and even a permit, the Holy Grail for fly fishermen.
Some other places that we visited are Alaska for fishing king salmon, and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for rooster fish.
Every year I go fly fishing in the North Carolina Mountains for trout and we also travel down to Hilton Head Island for golf and inshore fishing for Redfish.
Even when I do not market and sell too many products, we still get some occasional orders.  My plan is for the business to provide a small income when I retire.
Hopefully the business will keep me busy.
Currently I’m working on a new product and a patent disclosure to add to the company’s product portfolio.

The kayak fishing business is growing rapidly today.  Many Fishermen are moving away from the traditional gas powered boats to a healthier  approach, getting exercise and still fishing for the same fish. I am sure my hobby is not the first that led to a business idea.

Andre Smit completed his studies at the Vaal University of Technology in Power Engineering in South Africa in 1988. He joined Siemens in 1989, working in the field of protective relaying for the past 29 years. He specialized in generator protection systems. From 2004 to 2008 Managed the USA Siemens Protective relay business unit. Current position is P&C Engineering Manager & R&D for Distribution Feeder Automation systems. He is the principal inventor of a new Distribution Automation System and holds various patents on new methods to protect and automate distribution feeders. He is a member of the IEEE.

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