Out in a kayak, fishing on the lake waters in Kansas, there’s one thing you need to prepare for: friendly conversation. In the midwest, not too dissimilar from here in the lowcountry, it’s normal to see people paddling over for a hello. It’s indicative of a community that welcomes new faces and swaps stories about loving the water and loving fishing.
“Kayakers are probably a little too friendly sometimes,” jokes Jonathan Morse, president of Air Capital Kayak Anglers Club. “I met Eddie [our Director of Tech] because we were at one of our local lakes, just out fishing. I saw him catch a big ol’ five pound fish, paddled over there and told him about the club. Ever since, he’s got a kayak to fish with us and he helps us out by designing our jerseys, logo and even our trophies. We just ran into each other.”
Getting out into the community is essentially how Air Capital Kayak Anglers Club begin. After participating in a fishing tournament with a kayak fishing club in Kansas City, Morse decided he wanted to offer the same thing in the Wichita area. His group, ACKA, started as a Facebook page for the local community back in 2015. Now it’s a sizeable organization that’s hosted several fishing tourneys — 7 in 2017 alone — and continues to grow.
“Our goal is to just keep fishing, to have fun, to bring new people to the sport and grow the sport,” said Morse. “We’re growing one of our events that we have a hand in, the King of the Hill Kayak fishing classes, it’s going to bring in more people from the midwest and also help people right here in our community be more aware. We’re just continuing to have fun with it.”
In other words, teaming up with the biggest names in fishing isn’t the most important thing. From the beginning, Air Capital has generated a lot of interest, with tournaments gaining attention from well outside of Wichita. As Morse notes, the club’s seen people from Colorado come down to join. And as the club grows, so do their sponsors. But for Morse, it’s not about capitalizing on cool prizes, it’s more about sharing the story of their members.
“We’re going to companies like Rheos Gear who understand us and where we’re coming from, someone who is good for the community. It’s important to promote someone who is in the same situation as we are,” said Morse. “Most fishermen are these people that are just generally good, loyal folks. They’re always willing to give you advice and help you. So when somebody is willing to invest in what we’re doing, invest in the kayak community especially in middle-of-nowhere Kansas, that says a lot.”
The club aims to keep their tournaments as simple as possible, to make fishing accessible to even more people. They’re is now doing a mini-series with different clubs across Kansas. Fishing in Air Capital’s events can earn you points for Angler of the Year, and so can fishing in other clubs’ tourneys. With so much camaraderie, Morse said sometimes they have to “remind themselves it’s a competition.”
“The cool thing is that somebody forgets something, like their measuring board, camera, paddle — well somebody at the event may have brought an extra just in case. And they’re willing to let you use it so you can enjoy your day on the water,” said Morse. “Even though this is a competition, these guys will give you the shirt off your back and I think that’s something that’s specific to this community.”
And community is really the heart of everything for the kayak fishing club. The group has adopted families for Christmas, fed the homeless at Thanksgiving and hosted a Boy Scouts Fishing Cub where they’ve taught young kids how to fish, tie knots and paddle in a kayak. Morse says he hopes to pass something down to the future generations of outdoorsmen. But most importantly, he aims to connect the community by introducing new faces to the world of fishing.
“We’re in this social media day and age where everyone shares their opinions and everyone is really good at being offended or offending others. I think when you get face-to-face with somebody, you see yourself in them, you start treating them a bit better,” said Morse. “When you can take someone who has a different background and you can go out on the water and learn a new technique and catch fish together... You’ll come away with a better understanding of yourself, your surroundings and the outdoors.”
As for how to get started? There’s just one piece of advice Morse has for someone joining the kayak fishing club.
“Just get a kayak that floats,” said Morse. “It doesn’t have to have the bells and whistles, just get out there and the rest will fall in place.”
Follow Air Capital Kayak Anglers on Facebook for future tournament details or email the club at firstname.lastname@example.org. Are you a member of a club that’s doing big things? Let us know!