So, you have your brand-new fishing kayak, and you’re ready to hit the water to find some fish, great! You’ll soon learn that fishing from a kayak is a totally different game when compared to fishing from shore or even from a bass boat. You are able to do so much more than you realize and the world is your proverbial oyster, but where do you start? Here’s a quick look at 5 things to keep in mind when you’re trying to put fish on the deck of your kayak, and some common mistakes to avoid, in order from what I feel is the least impactful to the most important. Hopefully, this helps you on your kayak fishing adventure, to end up with a big haul at the end of the day!
The first tip may be common knowledge to most but is absolutely something that you can benefit from no matter your stage in the game, and that is scouting your fishery. Scouting can come in many ways, but using Google Earth has become the way that I seem to be able to make the most impact. I like to look over the map of the lake and learn first and foremost where do I want to access the fishery from. Knowing your launch points ahead of time will put you in the best position to get into fish quickly. While knowing your launches are important, knowing the structure of the lake is even more necessary. I like to look for laydowns, steep drop-offs in topography, or naturally occurring “humps” or structures that fish will tuck up into. When you are armed with this ahead of time, you can make a game plan on what sections of the water you want to hit first which can make your day so much better when fishing from a Kayak. One thing to keep in mind is the areas your Kayak can get to, that bass boats and other watercraft cannot. Tucking into tight corners, or overly shallow water is an absolute advantage for us as kayak anglers. Don’t be afraid to keep places like this in mind while scouting your fishery, where kayaks lack in speed they shine in the areas we can fit them in. It’s no secret that compared to a bass boat, covering water out on a kayak is far more time-consuming; in all reality, very few of us will cross entire bodies of water in a given fishing day. Being armed with the knowledge of the points you want to hit, and where you can go to put in and access them quickly can get you on to fish that much faster.
Now once you get to the fishing spot you chose, what do you do? I like to pre-rig my rods ahead of time and have a plan of attack for which baits I plan on throwing that morning or evening. The number one trap most anglers fall in too is overcomplicating their bait and trying to force something to work. The bait and lure market has been booming lately, and there are so many different types out there I doubt I could fish them all in my lifetime. The biggest tip I have ever received is to keep it simple and don’t try to throw the kitchen sink. Sure, we all have days where it seems like nothing is working, so we just spend the day retying lure after lure praying that something strikes, but most of the time that just turns into a day of retying lures. When I set out, I look at the three main styles of fishing that I prefer, top water, finesse, and flipping or pitching grass pads. I will set my rods up accordingly and mix in one or two other disciplines like spinnerbaits or medium depth cranks to allow me to cover the water column, and I will try not to stray from that. By keeping things simple and getting a feel for the types of lures you prefer to fish with, you will begin to know when one works and when another will be the better bet. All of this, will lead you to landing more fish in your boat, don’t get too caught up in the hype of the newest latest, and greatest lure, keep things simple as you learn what works for you, and grow from there.
Now that you have your day on the water planned, and your points on the map you want to fish, how do you find the fish? Well, that is a question of many circumstances generally speaking. It really comes down to what species of fish you are targeting, and the time of the day or year you are targeting them. Most of my trips are for largemouth and smallmouth bass, so take my examples with a grain of salt if you aren’t a bass fisherman, but the techniques can absolutely apply to most any species. The best bet to get on your fish of choice is to know where to look for them. Unless you are in the open water pinging fish many feet down with sonar, most fish will stick to some sort of cover, an ambush point for smaller bait fish, laydowns and tree branches, or places where the fishery comes together in a natural point. Know what type of habitat your fish species likes to be found in, and begin by picking those areas apart. I prefer to start in an area with tree cover up toward the shoreline when bass fishing. Working a lure out of cover and through the color line in the water (the line where you can see the water actually change colors from one to another) as I work my way down the shore. Working your lure off the shoreline and back into the main body of the lake, the goal is to get the fish to react and bite as it swims by. Fishing through points of cover like this will allow the bass (or other fish) to react naturally and ambush your bait as if it was its next meal as it passes by them and will help you entice many more bites. As my dad used to tell me when I was learning to fish as a kid, “you can’t catch ‘em where they ain’t!”
There is a very fine line, however, on wearing out your welcome, the last tip section is two-fold. So, for tips 4 and 5, all me to summarize them into one statement, don’t leave fish leave the location. What in the world does that mean you might ask, and you’re right, let me explain. Many times, even in tournament settings we will hook in on one or two decent fish and decide to move down a little further and try another spot only to spend the rest of the day going without a nibble. If you’re in an area and catch a fish, you can almost guarantee there are more to be found. At that point, your job is to figure out what they will eat collectively, and if the first fish hit, there’s a good chance you’re on to what they want to eat already. Don’t be too quick to leave a spot assuming it’s dried up after you land one or two. That being said, don’t overstay your welcome in an area just because it “looks fishy”. I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to force the situation by fishing an area of Lilly-Pads or high grass that just looked like bass heaven, to never catch a fish. While it’s true you need to be in their habitat, if you have been in an area for an extended period of time and can’t seem to land a fish, don’t be afraid to move on, no matter how good that honey hole may look, if it’s not producing.
Hopefully, by combining everything above, you can start to put together successful trip after successful trip. Remember, most importantly, that it’s called fishing and not catching so don’t get discouraged. Fishing is an ever-learning process, and the more time on the water the more you will learn about what works with your strengths when it comes to fishing. The biggest tip of all, and a freebie at number six, is to spend time on the water. Like anything else out there, it takes practice and the more time you put into it, the more rewarding your experience will be! Tight lines, and I will see you on the water!