Be a Viking!

Be a Viking!
Author’s new Viking kayak loaded and ready to launch for an offshore fishing adventure.

Most people in the Texas saltwater fishing community know me simply as "Oz , The Shark Guy." Sharks provided the genesis for my fishing persona; they always have been and always will be the most important fish in my life. The charters I run on Texas beaches provide me with so much joy, especially when I'm able to help someone experience a personal connection with a wild shark for the first time.

Most of my days in the great outdoors are spent on the beachfront, but certainly not all of them. I'm honored that so many people think of me as The Shark Guy, but I do also seriously participate in an entirely different coastal angling niche, one I helped kick-start about twenty years ago, and which stirs my angling passions to this day. I still find many thrills pursuing big, oceanic gamefish from the back of a kayak.   

In the beginning, when ocean kayaks were first introduced in North America, the shark fishing community took notice. Sit-on-top kayaks truly changed the rules and procedures for land-based sharkers. In years prior to the kayak revolution, shark enthusiasts resorted to an array of creative measures in order to place their baits far away from shore.

The eager (some might say crazy) ones would swim or paddle through the breakers on surfboards or inner tubes, carrying big bloody hunks of meat. A small number of more affluent ones could afford to employ jet-skis or small inflatable outboard boats to get the job done. But when the kayaks were introduced, the surf-fishing community recognized a cost-efficient and safer way to deploy large baits well away from the sand. Like gasoline poured on a fire, this caused an explosion in the number of people interested in fishing for sharks from Texas beaches.

As soon as using kayaks became the norm in the sharking community, it felt like everyone on the beach had access to one. I bought my first ‘yak 22 years ago, specifically to use for running shark baits well away from the decks of local piers. As the years passed, and the hours spent paddling the plastic boat passed, I became one with the kayak and naturally adapted to handling it atop the swells of the open ocean. During this same time, I also made a transition from sharking on the piers to concentrating my efforts in the surf. I quickly recognized my calling as spending time on isolated stretches of the beach, blasting big baits out for giant sharks.

Inadvertently, I also discovered a second passion, while using my kayak not only to deploy baits, but also to catch them. At that time, fishing well out beyond the breakers for magnum pelagic species was nothing short of taboo. Most people considered the endeavor frivolous, even dangerous, and no one had any experience doing anything like it. For most folks, the thought of hooking fish large enough to pull a small plastic sled halfway to Cuba felt more than intimidating.

I understood all that, but soon I felt like an explorer, discovering a whole new world of angling. Once I began landing jack crevalle, bonito, and sharks from the kayak, my friend T.J. Pilgrim and I began engaging in casual competition, to see who could land the biggest and most revered species from the back of a ‘yak. This friendly duel later developed into the Kayak Wars Tournament, which I hosted for several years. While we competed in those events, my friends and I realized the world had changed, and we knew we stood on the edge of a new frontier.

For several years, I fished hard from the kayak, targeting kings, ling, snapper and sharks offshore, finding a soul-satisfying retreat. I wanted to experience it all as fully as I could; I won tournaments and was fortunate enough to be the first angler to land a yellowfin tuna from a kayak in the Gulf of Mexico. During the winters, I focused my efforts on chasing speckled trout in the bays, eventually bringing a 31.5" trophy to hand, while riding the waves on my kayak.

I got on a real roll back in those days, pushing the boundaries of this new way of fishing. Then life happened, my children came along and my priorities changed. Once the kids got out of diapers and I turned again to more selfish pursuits, I jumped right back into the life of running charters targeting sharks in the surf, and succeeded in catching one of the largest sharks ever landed on a beach on this continent, a 14'8" great hammerhead.

Soon enough, I craved a return to my second angling passion, and I once again began chasing big red snapper from the kayak. Catching snapper from a yak is fun and depending on the circumstances, can also be somewhat easy, if regular-sized fish are the targets. However, finding and catching monster sows is much more challenging.

This year I began spending some time fishing with old friends again. Glenn Madden and Tod Johnson had stepped up and carried the kayak revolution admirably; both currently ranking among the top kayak fishermen in America. With their inputs I quickly learned the sport had evolved tremendously and I needed to catch up. Through my re-association with these two, a very cool thing occurred when I was contacted by the U.S. division of Viking Kayaks and invited to become part of their team.

Viking is a New Zealand-based company with an acute propensity for making useful innovations within the industry. Jenn Nolan, who oversees Viking's operations in America, has a curious and determined mindset, and she trusts me to help push the company forward. The Viking Kayaks company has overcome some obstacles in recent years, which only served to make them stronger. They're hyper-focused on their operations, and their modern kayaks are leaders in the industry.

Currently, I'm running the Profish Reload kayak, an amazing tribute to the powers of engineering. Ultra-fast, sure and stable, this craft caters perfectly to my style of angling. At just under 15 feet, this hull comfortably houses six built-in rod holders, along with multiple railblazer mounts. A large front storage hatch will hold several jackfish without throwing the boat out of balance. Among its design innovations, the most unique is the central, interchangeable pod layout. The main tackle pod serves as the heart of the kayak, providing a hub where users can mount the highest quality fish-finders on the market.

I was sold the first time I voyaged out in this kayak. Its speed, stability and optimized layout create a well-thought out fishing platform. I simply could not be more pleased with Viking Kayaks and what they have in store for the kayak fishing community. Easily accessorized to suit individual angler needs, Viking has models to suit every type of fishing from offshore to backwaters. Anyone interested in checking them out should contact me directly, and I will facilitate connection with the right retailer and a future full of smiles and adventures.