Captain Linda Cavitt is an angler and guide known for her infectious spirit and inspirational ways. In addition to making a name for herself within the sport of kayak angling, Linda, through a new partnership with Bote Boards, is slated to become one of the world’s first sponsored stand up paddle anglers. A true advocate for both the sport and its associated lifestyle, Linda can often be found spreading the word at club meetings and via social media. An angler held in high regard by her peers, Linda was recently named by the Kayak Angler Choice Awards as both Guide and Angler of the year.
What first drew you to this style of angling? When was that?
I remember living in Atlanta, 12 or so years ago, & I distinctly recall being at a Barnes & Noble in the magazine section. Even though I had never even been in a kayak, I found myself engulfed in an article with the topic being camping & kayaking on the beaches of Florida. I remember thinking that was something I had to do, but of course I would add fishing into the mix. I ended up moving to the Gulf not long afterwards, as I had always been drawn to the water. It wasn’t until a few years later that I got in a kayak & began fishing from it, but that magazine article stuck with me. I believe that moment at the bookstore was a defining moment for me, as that would begin to pave the path I would walk, or should I say float, down.
Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a kayak?
I don’t remember the first fish I caught; I do remember the feelings I first felt when I began kayak fishing, though. The serenity & quietness that comes along with kayak/board fishing is something that is in a category all by itself. Being on the water makes me forget about anything else. It is what I do to unwind, de-stress, & decompress from of all of life’s twists & turns & cares of the day. Those first few weeks of paddling to a fishing spot…all is quiet until that fish eats, and then that sound of peeling line from your drag seems to just resonate through the quietness. That is something you never forget.
As a member of the Bote SUP pro staff, you are among the first wave of sponsored board anglers. As such, do you have any thoughts or opinions regarding the future and potential growth of this developing sport?
I think SUP fishing has a huge growth potential among the fishermen. Right now the sport is just exploding among the recreational paddlers, but as that continues to grow, we will see more & more people out there fishing on them. I will say this – getting towed around by a big fish sitting down, doesn’t even compare to the excitement while standing & getting towed. I’m very excited to be a part of this style of fishing, and can’t wait to see it grow.
What food and/or music fuel your drive to the put-in?
I try and eat less carbs these days – a sort of modified version of the paleo diet. I bring nuts & dried fruit; they pack well. Always plenty of water. It’s so important to say hydrated out there. I bring my iPhone tucked away in a lifeproof case and sometimes jam out to The Strokes or Modest Mouse while getting to a spot. Once I’m on the move & actually sight fishing & looking for fish, the music gets turned off. I go into stealth mode and sometimes I have to remind myself to take a breath.
Who, specifically, is shaping the future of kayak angling?
There is a group of guys down in Pompano Beach that put on the Extreme Kayak/SUP Fishing Tournament every year in Sept. Joe Hector, along with Doug Perez & Joel Makielski, are the guys I’m watching. Their catches this year have been impressive to say the least. With the fish they have been catching, they are in a great location to take yak fishing to the next level.
With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you? What, if anything, can be done about them?
My biggest issue is safety. It’s so important that, when getting into the sport, you understand the safety measures that should be taken. From making yourself seen on the water to what you will do if you go overboard. If you aren’t involved in a local kayak fishing club in your area, I highly recommend doing that, and if you don’t have one then, hey, you should start one!
Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak angling trip?
My dream kayak/board angling trip would not be to one area but to a bunch of locations catching as many different species as possible. One fish that comes to mind on my bucket list though is a roosterfish, also a sail on the SUP.
Last year bestowed upon you two titles stemming from the Kayak Angler Choice Awards – guide and angler of the year. What do these accomplishments mean to you?
Honestly, there were many anglers & guides much more deserving of these titles then me, but it was a contest where you were voted for by your angling peers, family, & friends. I guess I have a group of people that really believe in me & enjoy seeing my photos & reports. I also have amazing support from our local kayak shop in Panama City, Sunjammers Watersports.
What’s in your milk crate?
In my milk crate, besides my safety equipment, tackle, water & snacks & sunscreen, is something that can be overlooked but is something that I will not go on the water without and that is a sharp knife. Between entangled rope and braided line, you never know when you might need it. My favorite knife is the Benchmade H20 Griptilian, made from a highly corrosive resistant blade steel.
Tell us about your best day on the water.
I have had a lot of great days in on the water but there is one day I will never forget, and that is about 2 years ago when I hit the water in search of a sailfish. The bluewater was pushed in & I was solo that day – about 1/2 mile out. I had caught a small sailfish 3 days earlier, and was in search of mama. I found a school of baitfish going crazy, and quickly caught 2 giant Spanish sardines from the school – hooked them both but kept one just in the water close to my yak. I threw the first one into the school, and it got slammed almost immediately. My line starts peeling off and after getting towed out what seems like forever, I finally see what I am hoping it is -a big sailfish! It’s putting on quite the show, tailwalking all around my yak; at one point I have to let line out to give it some room ’cause I’m thinking it’s about to land in my kayak. It’s still taking me for a sleigh ride when out when out of the corner of my eye I see a dolpin (mahi) swim right up to my yak and inhale the other bait just dangling on the edge of my yak. So now I have the sailfish off my bow and a dolphin off my stern – double hookup!! Now the adrenaline is really flowing and I’m actually just a tad nervous as I look back at the horizon and the line of hotels is looking pretty small. I set the hook on the dolphin, loosen the drag a bit, then set it in the rod holder. I continue to play tug of war with the sail & snap a few pics until I can safely release it. Thankfully before I land it, the sail has made a turn back inland so I wouldn’t have quite a long paddle back in. The other rod with the dolphin is still bouncing around so I reach behind me and fight the dolphin. Getting it close to the yak I stick a gaff in it and slide it onto my lap. I paddled the whole way in with a grin from ear to ear on my face and a fish story that I couldn’t wait to tell! It was these catches & the attention they stirred which helped me get my first sponsorship (Sunjammers Watersports in PCB).
What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?
I would say if you would rather get that next adrenaline rush from being pulled around on a board or yak over riding in a boat, then that is your lifestyle. When 80% of the people on your Facebook have a yak/sup in their profile pic then you probably are living the lifestyle. If you have boards & kayaks hanging on your walls in your living room, well…
Tell us a story, any story.
I’m going to share a story that is very vivid in my head, not because I want to scare people as to what could happen, but that it’s important that people are aware that it can be become very dangerous if you aren’t prepared. When I first started fishing in the Gulf by kayak…you have to understand I am an angler first & then a kayaker. So when I first started I didn’t care much about rigging or tying my stuff down, I just wanted to get to the fish. So I am out there fishing and I catch a few kings. I decided to keep one for whatever reason, so I pull out my knife hack it in half so it will fit it my cooler, I’m covered in king mack blood and continue to fish. At one point I notice a very large shadow under my kayak; it is a hammerhead longer then the 12ft kayak that I am in. I’m not too worried about them, as they are normally pretty docile. I continue to fish, and hook a very large barracuda. This thing must have jumped 15t in the air and was a blast. I finally get it to the side of the yak and realize how massive it is. I decide it is photo worthy and lean over to pull it into the yak. While the same length as a large king, it is much heavier. I misjudged the weight and at the same time a wave hits the side of my yak. The kayak flips over, the cooler opens, the bloody king floats out, I’m still covered in blood, a hooked barracuda with razor shark teeth is swimming circles around me and somewhere down there is that big ol hammerhead. Sharks love to eat barracuda. So after watching all my gear, which was not tied down slowly sink to the bottom, I manage to flip my kayak right side up and, in one swift motion, get back in my yak. That’s adrenaline for you. I escaped that day with no injuries except maybe a bruised ego, but needless to say I learned a very hard & expensive lesson that day about being prepared and being smart out on the water. This was one of the reasons I founded the Panama City Kayak Fishing Assoc, so that new kayakers would have a place to go & learn.
In possession of an infectious passion, a demonstrative and lengthy list of catches, and a prolific media presence, you have, perhaps, become the de facto role model for many aspiring female kayak anglers. Do you feel that this is a fair assessment, and, if so, what are your thoughts regarding this title?
Well, I like to think it’s not just women that I have inspired to get out on the water. The women actually out there doing it is still a rather small number compared to the men. When it comes to fishing & this sport, I look at us all equal. When we’re out on the water, my fishing buddies just treat me as one of the guys.
What does the future hold for you?
The future…well I really don’t know. To be honest, I do what I love to do & where that road takes me is fine with me.