HOWELL, Mich. -- If you wonder why people like fishing from kayaks, follow kayak guide Lucian Gizel through a narrow, twisting channel -- screened by man-high cattails -- that connects two small lakes in the Brighton State Recreation Area.
As we clear the far end, Gizel paddles along a shoreline bright with the first splash of fall color. And while it's Labor Day, the last big hoorah of summer for many, we're the only boats on the lake.
In fact, we're the only boats we see on this lake all day, probably because the channel is so shallow it discourages most power boaters from trying it.
"This is what I really enjoy about kayak fishing," said Gizel, a Livonia, Mich., angler who decided to make his lifelong hobby a career after the company he worked for eliminated 70 percent of its employees, including him. "You catch a lot of fish, but the real fun is getting into places bigger boats never even think of."
This day we're fishing for largemouth bass, casting plastic worms and critter baits along the lily pads that parallel the lake shore. In roughly 4 hours of fishing, I land 18 bass and Gizel about 25. We don't get any monsters, but his biggest is about 18 inches, and we both land a couple of 16-inchers and a batch that go 12-14.
"I'm still trying to get my master angler largemouth," said Gizel, who supplies clients with kayaks and tackle and meets them on lakes within 50 miles of his home, depending on where the fishing is best at the time. "I've had six master angler fish this year and want to add a largemouth before the season ends.
"I charge $160 per person for a 7-hour day. For two anglers it's $250, and three is $375," he said. "In spring we might fish for smallmouth bass, lake trout, walleyes and muskellunge, or maybe catfish and freshwater drum on sheltered bays on Lake Erie. People who have never caught drum on light tackle don't know what a great fighting fish it is.
"We get some great bluegill and crappie fishing in the spring, and in summer I fish a lot of inland lakes for bass and walleyes and pike. In the fall I fish local lakes for bass and make a couple of trips for salmon and steelhead. You can't describe what it's like to have a 20-pound chinook tow your kayak," he said. "It's all about new experiences and fishing places most people can't."
Kayak fishing, which started as Gizel's hobby, has taken over his life. He owns 23 of the little boats and is a rep for several kayak and kayak fishing equipment manufacturers. His master angler awards this year, all caught and released from a kayak, include a 42-inch muskellunge and a 22 1/2 -inch smallmouth bass.
Two years ago he won the redfish division in the country's biggest kayak fishing tournament at Virginia Beach, Va., which draws more than 250 entrants.
"Three of us from Michigan went and finished 1-2-3," said Gizel, who will fish the tournament again Sept. 26. "That surprised the Southerners. They've been into kayak fishing for 20 years, and it's pretty new in our state. But we have the best fishing in the country here, and I think it makes Michigan anglers really versatile."