Tips for fishing from the modern kayak
I have more than 300 hours fishing on open water this year, and only 10 percent of that time has been in a boat. The rest of the time I’ve been fishing out of a kayak. That will change now that I have started chasing the smallmouth bass in Chequamegon Bay and the lake trout around the Apostle Islands, but the vast majority of my early-season fishing revolves around the kayaks.
I have fine-tuned my approach when it comes to kayak fishing to the point where my efficiency level is extremely high. Let me share some of my insights with you.
Not all kayaks are equal. You must pick your watercraft to match your style of fishing. When I’m on a river, I prefer a shorter, sleeker, paddle-style kayak. I like to maneuver in current and I rarely fish out of the kayak when in the river, preferring it to get from Point A to Point B. I’m often standing on a beach or a rubble bar, and when that is not an option, I will use a gripper on a rope to attach myself to a tree and work from the kayak. Generally, however, when I’m out of the kayak, I’m casting.
On lakes, ponds and reservoirs, I use a pedal-style kayak. These revolutionary watercraft are the ultimate fishing machine on non-moving water. They are stable, fast, and built for fishing. They come in many sizes, and lately I have been trending smaller, preferring the Hobie Mirage Sport. This kayak is less than 10 feet long, but it is amazingly stable and easy to transport.
Definitely add sonar to your kayak for precision. That is what makes kayak fishing so productive. It is pure precision when you can see the fish right below, and you can watch your lure drop right down to them. I use the Raymarine Dragonfly 5 units with the Chartplotter. The mapping capability adds to the precision, putting you onto contours and structure, and the sonar paints the picture of what is down below. Fishing the close quarters of a kayak lets you drop the lure in the range of the transducer and see it falls all the way down to the fish.
I’m fishing mostly short rods these days. They are actually ice fishing rods. I’ve tried a lot of rods and have settled on the 24-inch Ugly Stik. I have landed some huge pike, trout and bass on these short rods. They work well for me on the ice, so why not in the kayak? Especially when I’m vertical jigging a lot. You can cast these rods too, but I keep a longer, stouter rod in a rear rod holder and grab it when I want to cast into the slop or throw some crankbaits.
My must-have piece of gear is a fly-fishing lanyard where I keep the line cutter tool, the mouth spreader, a jig-eye busting tool, and a small pliers attached. I actually have a few of these in my different tackle bags and never hit the water without slipping one around my neck.
Other must-haves include a small anchor (without a doubt), rod floaters for your rods, paddle straps for river kayaks and kayak-style life jackets or inflatable PFDs. With the proper setup you’ll find yourself grabbing a paddle instead of a set of keys when you go fishing.