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Local fisherman sees kayak he designed go to market

By Walter Geiger Randy Vining of Milner saw a dream fulfilled last week when a fishing kayak line he helped design was introduced to the market for the first time. Randy has vivid memories of fishing with his grandfather, Hugh Vining, in a jon boat on area rivers as a child. ’Every time we got to a rock, we had to get out and drag that thing across. I swore that, when I got old enough, I would get a boat with a motor and I did. I kept getting bigger boats and bigger motors. I had a Triton bass boat that would go 70 mph. It was expensive to operate and maintain. Something was missing,’ Randy said. What was missing was the slow pace of the old jon boat and the intimacy of river fishing. ‘I started looking for a way to get back on those rivers but not having to drag a jon boat.’ ’I read stories about guys in California fishing from kayaks in the ocean and knew I could use those on the river. I was hooked,’ he said. Kayak fishing, particularly fly fishing for shoal bass in the Flint River, became an obsession for Randy as did the internet message boards regarding the sport. He became known as the River Pirate online. Most of his close friends now refer to him as just ‘pirate’. He expanded his arsenal by learning to throw plastic baits with a fly rod and wrote about it. ’Plastics don’t tear up like flies. They’re cheaper and they last longer. One shoalie can tear up a fly in no time,’ Randy said. ’I probably posted too much on the internet but it got me noticed and I eventually got offered a spot on the fishing pro staff for Johnson Outdoors,’ Randy reported. Johnson makes Ocean Kayak boats, Old Town kayaks and canoes, Minn Kota trolling motors, Hummingbird Sonars and many other outdoor products. Now Randy travels the southeast presenting seminars about fishing from kayaks and spreading his passion for the sport. About two years ago, Johnson Outdoors decided to design and build a kayak for lakes, rivers and ponds and asked Randy to help. He went to every design meeting. ’Some of those meetings were in Washington state. I had never been west of Alabama and had never been on a plane but in one day I did both. The company brought in reps from the top retailers of its products to ask what their customers were looking for. We asked them what they wanted and they said stability. We went out to a lake and paddled every kayak on the market. Then we set out to design and build the best,’ Randy added. After two years, the Predator and Predator MX were introduced to the market. Predators are designed for lakes and ponds while the MX model is for mixed waters, including rivers. ’These kayaks are wider and have a hull design that is more stable. You can stand up in them and cast. While ocean fishing you may have to paddle six miles. So, you need a long, narrow kayak that goes faster. These are shorter, wider and much more stable,’ Randy said. Randy is no stranger to design work. When on dry land, he works at Manley, Spangler & Smith Architects in Griffin. His attention to detail is obvious. Predators have plates to which fishermen can attach accessories to customize their boats as they desire without drilling holes in the boat itself. They also have a mount for a small trolling motor and room behind the seat for the battery. Predator kayaks are not of the sit on top variety that is all the rage right now. ’I did a lot of fishing in an Old Towne canoe. I like having the sides for containment and stability. I’m on the pro staff but I’m not out to necessarily sell you an Old Town or Ocean Kayak boat. I don’t want you to buy a kayak, load your gear then go out, turn over and cuss kayak fishing. I want you to enjoy it because it is a great sport,’ Randy said. It is also big business. In fact, kayak angling is the fastest growing segment of the fishing industry. ’Johnson Outdoors saw that coming. I’m just glad they called me in to help and I am proud of our designs. I think they are great kayaks,’ Randy concluded.

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