Paul Shipman

Coming to us by way of Livonia, New York, Dr. Paul Alan Shipman is an angler known for his artful writing and infectious passion for freshwater kayak fishing.  Paul is a long-time member of the Malibu Kayaks Pro Staff, and has shared his positive approach to the sport through numerous workshops and seminars.  An Army veteran himself, Paul is a founding member, and on the leadership team of, the new Finger Lakes Heroes on the Water Chapter.  Paul’s altruistic spirit also shines in his role of university angling club adviser.  When he is not on the water, Paul can be found behind the keyboard, penning articles for the popular blog, Fishgator.

What first drew you to this style of angling? When was that?

Prior to kayak fishing, I did not equate the hassle of preparation and physical act of fishing with being a successful angler.  My past relationship with the act of fishing could best be described as a fleeting seasonal obsession rather than an enjoyable pursuit.  Each spring, the changing weather caused my mind to race with thoughts of a hooking a lunker, but a few unsuccessful attempts quickly extinguished this desire and over time, caused my enthusiasm to wane.

I didn’t particularly enjoy spending hard-earned money on licenses, tackle, or bait.  Nor did I take pleasure in countless hours adorning a shoreline while going through the repetitive motions of casting and retrieving.  Too often, only a few measly fish or a big white stripe down my back were my rewards for those efforts.  Insult to injury was added while dealing with snarled lines or losing brand new or lures to unseen depths.  Likewise, I considered going out on a boat as only increased expenditures and additional hassles only to produce the same results.  It was always difficult to reconcile the internal conflict that required this significant output with a relatively low return on investment.

In contrast, before I ever thought about fishing from a kayak, I loved to paddle.  For me, the ease of moving through the water under my own power and ability to observe closely things not easily seen from shore or larger watercraft is a reward unto itself.  I like going places where many cannot.  Kayaking provided a superb way for me to scratch my itch for exploration.

Once I had attained a relatively stable station in life having been married for many years with two children, a career, and numerous other successes, I couldn’t help but ponder about getting after those lunkers again.  Was it my true affinity for nature or a personality trait of hating to lose that was the biggest factor?  I am really not sure.

Moving from Oklahoma to the Finger Lakes Region in Western New York left me surrounded by ample and diverse fishing opportunities. With a little more change in my pockets, I began looking around for a bass boat.

I enjoyed taking out my sit-inside kayak on the local lakes and creeks, but never once had it occurred to me that you could fish from one.  During a conversation with my father, his simple observation changed my outlook forever.  I had spent hours researching fishing boats and discussing my plans when he made the following comment, “You have a kayak. Why don’t you fish from it?” I was at a loss for words.  The thought hadn’t occurred to me before.  In fact, I hadn’t considered fishing from my kayak and was unaware that the seeds of this quickly growing sport had previously been sown just a few short years before.

I began to feverishly modify my kayak by adding rod holders, anchor trolley, and a fish portable finder. I took pleasure in dreaming up new improvements for my fishing vessel.

Increased experience and confidence as a bass angler has now prompted me to try out other freshwater fishing experiences.  As a hunter, I liken kayak fishing as being to fishing what bow hunting is to hunting.  I know many bow hunters who wouldn’t pick up a rifle or shotgun to take a whitetail.  I guess that kayak fishing is the same for me.  I don’t disparage fishermen who use motorboats, but I prefer the more intimate foray to stalk fish where others can’t to get at them.

Now, as a hopelessly addicted kayak angler, I enjoy every foray out on the water, so every trip is rewarding, whether I catch fish or not.  The frustrating thoughts of getting out on the water have now been replaced with an insatiable desire to explore, tinker, create, and experiment.  For the first time, the trade-off between expense and effort are commensurate with reward.  The days when I don’t catch anything have become rare, and each year my knowledge and expertise has grown literally by the leaps and bounds of each fish that I’ve plied from the water – the inevitable result of spending many hours on the water fishing from a kayak

Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a kayak?

I remember going out on my first kayak fishing trip into a location where larger boats could not follow.  The area was also too brushy and overgrown to fish from shore.  This short trip– about an hour before sunset – yielded a 4lb bass and several smaller fish.  The fish jumped and flipped, pulled and tugged, but it was actually me who was the one hooked!



In addition to standard professorial duties, you act as adviser to the angling club at the university at which you are employed.  The club is competitive in numerous collegiate events, and has even hosted annual kayak angling tournaments.  Tell us a bit about this club and your role therein.

The RIT Anglers Club is a competitive sports team and our members fish The FLW College Series and the BFL.  As a new campus organization with limited resources, we use kayak angling as a way to get out on the water and practice.  We also have used the kayak tournaments to select the club members who get to compete in the limited slots.  It is also an outstanding way to teach beginning anglers how to fish.  As the adviser, I let the club officers and members drive the future, but assist with the club administration and also provide seminars on various techniques including those associated with kayak fishing.

What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?

I have an eclectic taste in music and listen to just about anything except opera.



Who, specifically, is shaping the future of kayak angling?

I’m certain that common answers to this question are Jim Sammons for saltwater and Chad Hoover for freshwater.  I absolutely agree with these answers.  However, I also think that there are many knowledgeable kayak anglers all across the globe who are driving the sport in their region by their enthusiasm and personal drive to share the sport.

As a founding member of the Finger Lakes Heroes on the Water Chapter, you have established a healing resource for local combat veterans.  Forum threads and blog posts are often rife with anglers wanting to create similar chapters, and one could deduce that local chapters will begin sprouting in areas previously underserved.  What advice would you give to someone thinking about establishing a HOW chapter?

Some of the most valuable sources of experience that we have had for our Finger Lakes Chapter are veterans who already had a love of kayak fishing.  Also, you don’t have to always plan large formal events.  Often, taking small informal groups of veterans out kayak fishing or even one-on-one trips can be very meaningful.



With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you? What, if anything, can be done about them?

I think that the future of competitive kayak angling is developing as a serious sport, and one of the greatest challenges to make that happen will be establishing standard practices and methods to prevent cheating and reliably determine the winning anglers.  I believe that this needs to be done before it will draw the best anglers and sponsors.  There are many exciting technologies that could be incorporated to accomplish this.  I also think the establishment of a national tournament kayak anglers association could help to guide the sport to become a serious professional sport.

Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak angling trip?

There are many places that I hope to fish in the future, but one that stands out is the Amazon River Basin.

What’s in your milk crate?

Too much.  However, I could boil my preferred methods down to soft plastic baits, jig trailers, and jigs.

Tell us about your best day on the water.

That is difficult to say, but among my favorite days was fishing the Genesee River Gorge in Letchworth Park, NY, during the Fall two years ago.  It was about a five hour float through a beautiful and scenic canyon that is difficult to access, but free from fishing pressure.  My kayak fishing buddy, Kevin Webster and son, Alan Shipman, were with me, and we caught several dozen river smallies.  We also paddled through some fun class II rapids.



What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?

For me, the kayak fishing lifestyle is about fishing most places motor boats can go and many places they can’t, finding and exploring new un-pressured water to fish, not having to spend a fortune to purchase and maintain expensive motor boats (using money to buy better equipment and travel to new places), and sharing lots of time on the water with both new and experienced fellow kayak anglers.

Tell us a story, any story.

In addition to my drive to fish new places, has been unlocking the secrets of some of my home waters in the Finger Lakes.  I recall one time in the spring during one of the first warm rains having no luck with bass and after dodging lightning and getting soaked deciding to paddle for the launch to get off of the water.  On a hunch, I wondered if the rain and overcast sky combined with the still-cool water temperature had brought some of the big lakers up to the surface in the 90ft deep lake.  I began trolling a shallow diving crankbait and moments later boated a nice 28″ Laker.  I’ve since had several repeat performances of this and look forward to the same conditions every season.

Your Fishgator blog posts, be they product reviews, trip reports, or how-to lessons, feature a writing style that is refreshingly fair and well-balanced.  The internet is full of one-sided, glowing reviews written by sponsored anglers attempting to place a thin veil over what could otherwise be termed as extraneous advertising for the reviewed product.  In short, it is nice to see someone discussing all sides of a review or concept.  To what do you owe your ability to write with an unbiased pen?

First off, thank you for your kind words.  I suppose I write this way due in part to my being a scientist.  Also, I have to acknowledge my upbringing and desire to be honest in everything that I do.  It is simply not in my nature to BS about a topic simply for the promotional aspects.  Also, attempts to do so are usually transparent to the readers and credibility is soon lost.  I would much rather readers trust that what I write about is my honest opinion.



What does the future hold for you?

Exploring and fishing places where few others have fished, targeting and catching new species, and catching bigger fish.

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