by Luke Clayton

My love affair with small boats goes back a long ways. My mother and dad were avid bass anglers and did most of their fishing from the banks of the many back woods farm ponds in Red River County where I grew up back in the late fifties and sixties. One day, my Uncle Jack showed up with a brand new, homemade wooden boat. I remember it to be about 12 foot long with a couple of padded bench seats. It was built from marine plywood. Caulked and varnished, my uncle’s handiwork was a little fishing machine.

This little boat opened up plenty of new waters for my parents and served double duty for running trotlines during the many family camping trips we enjoyed every 9 weeks when the broiler chickens my dad raised went to market.

Through the years, I’ve owned lots of boats but for the past several years, I’ve gone back to my roots. I’ve used a my 12 foot Nucanoe for everything from retrieving harvested wild hogs from the woods via creeks to catching fish in waters big and small. There’s just something special to me about being in a highly portable craft in which I supply the propulsion; one that will take me to areas and places that most people cannot or will not ever see.

My Nucanoe has allowed me to access backwater duck hunting spots where there the ducks receive little or no pressure. I often portage my boat over connecting strips of land, gaining access to areas that are only visited by beaver, nutria, herons, kingfishers, wild hogs and of course, ducks!

When it comes to gaining access to those secluded ‘fishy’ spots, a few strokes of the paddle puts me in the action! There’s no long lines at boat ramps nor costly fuel bills. I just park as close to the area I wish to fish and paddle my way into the action!

Nucanoe has a brand new model on the market now, the Frontier 12. Like its predecessor, the original Nucanoe is a hybrid of sorts, part canoe and part Kayak.   I recently picked up my new boat at Mariner Sails in Dallas, owned by Aris Tsamis (pronounced Cham-is).  If you are interested in small boats, this is a place you definitely need to visit and Aris is a man you need to know.

“I’ve watched the popularity of small boats grow rapidly the past few years,” says Tsamis. We started out with a small display area and have grown into what we are today.” Today, Mariner Sails has a spacious showroom filled with kayaks and small boats of all styles and brands, a big warehouse and even a spacious meeting room for hosting outdoor events. Mariner Sails has become the hub for everything related to small boats in the region.

With the brand new boat on the trailer, rigged and ready, my son Drew and I couldn’t wait to give our new craft a maiden voyage and hopefully catch enough fresh catfish for a big fish fry!  The blue catfish spawn is wrapping up but, channel catfish have just started moving into the shallows. I expected we would find the fish shallow, so we used a simple rig of a slip floater set 2-3 feet above a #8 treble hook with a small split shot crimped about 4 inches above the Little Stinker Baitholder rigs.

I had our Frontier rigged with a couple of comfortable swivel seats and as we paddled across a 300 yard cove to fish the heavy cover on the opposite side, I noted the scupper holes in the floor of the rear of the craft were doing their duty. In the original Nucanoe, any water that came onboard had to be scooped out or, lived with. The scupper holes in the back of the deck of the Frontier insure that water coming onboard can drain.  With our anchor and gear plus our own weight, we were approaching 400 pounds so we used the plugs for the scupper holes. With only one person in the boat or, a couple of lightweights, the deck remains dry on the boat when the scupper holes are left open.

Channel catfish are cavity spawners. They deposit and fertilize their eggs around heavy cover such as rock rip rap or standing trees and brush. A couple of dead trees with plenty of limbs caught my eye as we approached the distant bank.  As we nosed the Frontier into the thick of the cover and secured the bow to one of the limbs, I cautioned Drew that we would have to put instant and steady pressure on any catfish that took our baits to avoid getting hung up in the heavy cover.

To my way of thinking, nothing beats smelly bait for attracting channel catfish. Baiting areas with soured grain or cattle range cubes helps to quickly concentrate the fish. I’d forgotten to bring the soured grain but felt confident the Little Stinker Rotten Shad Dip Bait on the Baitholder hooks would soon pull catfish in under our boat.

Drew was the first to drop his bait into the heavy cover.  As Bill Dance stated on my radio show this past week, “Tie a channel and blue catfish tail to tail and the channel will win the tug of war and drown the blue.” Channel catfish are hard fighters!  Drew must have had a big channel take his bait. The floater disappeared and the catfish used the slack line to take the bait in the jumble of limbs and brush.  A good sign! One minute into the fishing trip and we already had a taker on the line!

As is often the case when catfishing, the bite and size of fish got better as the sun dipped over the horizon.  We boated a couple of blue catfish mixed in with the channels, one tipped the scales at just over 8 pounds but the lion’s share of our catch was scrappy channel cats weighing between 2-3 pounds.

In a larger boat, we would have had to anchor out from the cover and depend upon accurate casts to put our baits into the heavy brush where the spawning catfish were staging. In our Frontier, we were literally setting right on top of the fish. Technique was simple. Drop the baits vertically into the cover and the instant floaters started to bounce or, disappear as was often the case, set the hook. We lost as many to the heavy brush as we boated but about nightfall, the burlap bag we used to store our fish weighed 25 or 30 pounds.

As father and son paddled back across the cove to the vehicle, we had landed more than just fish from our little boat. We’d had the opportunity to spend some quality hours together. We talked about past outdoor outings we’d enjoyed together through the years and, those to come. The strain in our arms felt good as we dug the paddles deeply into the water. Our little craft was gently but quickly skimming along the tranquil surface and we quickly reached the distant shore and our truck.


Mariner Sails-  800-536-9463

Nucanoe- Watch the many videos and learn more about the boats.