Aside from the confirmed minimalists, we can probably all agree that rigging your boat is part of the fun of kayak fishing. Whether you are the DIY type or you take advantage of the many amazing products on the market, pimpin’ your ride is at least half the fun. Just look at most any kayak fishing forums. The majority of the conversations are about how to mount, make, or rig some life enriching piece of gear on the kayak. But how much of the bling we hang off our kayaks put more fish in the boat?
Don’t get me wrong. I love my BlackPak and my super duper adjustable ram mount for my fish finder and my panfish portrait so I can take those “grip and grin” shots. And I have rod holders, leashes and bungees, and a variety of other bits guaranteed to make kayak fishing more enjoyable. And many of those things make my day on the water a bit easier. But today I want to talk about what puts fish in the boat. Everyone has their own ideas and styles but here are my big 3.
I have found that one of the most important things the fish finder has done for me is to help eliminate water. We are fishing in kayaks, not glitter rockets so jumping up on plane and moving to the other side of the lake isn’t really an option. So we need to be as efficient as we can on the water. Fish tend to relate to structure and edges. The fish finder (or depth finder or sonar or whatever you like to call it) gives us the depth of the water and shows us ledges, drop offs, changes in the bottom, sunken trees or underwater brush – anything fish tend to relate to. If I know where those features are, I can spend my time targeting those areas instead of blindly casting to an area that may or may not hold fish. Regardless of what magic lure you are using, if you are throwing it where there are no fish, you wont catch them.
The fish finder can also …………………… find fish! Not that I paddle around chasing those little fish symbols on the screen but by watching the screen, I can see patterns in what depths the fish might be holding. If I find that fish are mainly relating to structure at 10 feet, then I increase my chances if I fish that part of the water column. The sonar can also identify schools of bait and given the option, I want to fish where the bait is.
How to use electronics is a fairly lengthy discussion and it is not a good idea to rely solely on that little screen. We still need to pay attention to what is going on around us. Watch for birds, look for movement in the water, look for changes in the type of bank or brush etc. But using electronics to eliminate unproductive water and to identify areas where fish are more likely to be has definitely put more fish in my boat.
Boat Management System
The ability to manage position on the water, with a stake out pole of some sort and/or anchor combined with an anchor trolley puts more fish in the boat. Once you have used your knowledge, your observation, and maybe your fish finder to identify a potential hot spot, it is important to fish it effectively. An anchor trolley that extends as far as possible to the bow and stern of the kayak along with an anchor or stake out pole allows you to position your boat and sit stationary so you can make the most efficient presentation to that area.
Once I locate an area I believe is holding fish, or maybe I have found fish in that location, I want to be able to pick it apart. I start by casting to the edges and working my way through the middle. Unless it is a dead still wind, the only way for me to do that is to anchor or stake out in a position that allows me to hold the ideal position.
I personally use a YakAttack 8’ ParkNPole for my stake out pole and absolutely love it. It is light, plants easily, and it floats. I will use an anchor in deeper water. I use a float on my anchor line in case I need to release to fight a fish or on the very rare occasion that I need to go retrieve a hung up lure. The anchor trolley allows me to move the anchor point to the bow or stern depending on the wind and/or current so I can position myself to attack an area. I can say without a doubt that my boat management system has put more fish in my boat.
My first kayak did not have a rudder and I remember hearing people say they would never have another boat without one. But I always assumed they were talking about tracking straight in windy conditions and smaller turning radius. A rudder does both of those things well but the greatest benefit in my mind is that it allows me to maintain position while drifting.
I know I just said that sitting still has put more fish in my boat but sometimes it takes some work to find those spots to anchor and sometimes the most effective way to fish a shoreline is to drift along it. Before I had the rudder I felt like I was constantly making adjustments with the paddle as I drifted a shoreline. Depending on the conditions, I am making adjustments between every cast or even during a cast. Well, every time I had to make an adjustment with the paddle it meant I had to stop fishing momentarily. The rudder allows me to keep the boat in the position I want as I drift so I can continue to make casts. And I’m no rocket surgeon but it seems to me that my chances of catching fish increases if I can keep the bait in the water.
The Big 3
So consider this scenario. I have used my fish finder to discover that there is a sharp ledge that goes from 3 feet to 10 feet just 10 or 12 feet off the bank. I use my rudder to effectively drift and fish along that shore line. I picked up a few fish so I circle back and drift it again. I catch a few more and notice that smaller fish are coming from the grass at the bank but larger fish are coming right at the drop off. So I circle back again, this time placing my kayak just inside the drop off and anchor myself with the ParkNPole. Now I can cast along the bank and fish the entire ledge laterally at the depth the bigger fish were holding and I can work my way down the shoreline like this fishing each section thoroughly. I am confident I will put more and bigger fish in the boat.
So those are my big 3. What are yours?