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Kayak Gear | A List of Items You Need for Your Kayak

Featured Image Credit: Scott Beutjer

The growth in kayak bass fishing, due in part to the relatively inexpensive startup costs, doesn’t appear to be slowing. The boats are small and light; can be stored outside, in corners of garages or even in apartments. There are models to fit almost every personal preference and fit about every budget. It is only a question of choosing the correct kayak for you. Selecting your kayak gear up can be as simple as a quick trip to a big box store, or can be the culmination of hours and hours of research. 

 The first kayak in my adventure was bought at Caney Fork Outdoors in Nashville. After only a couple days of research my wife and I walked in with money to buy a Jackson Big Tuna, two paddles, an Astral life jacket for her (I had an old one), a rudder kit and a shirt. She had been in a kayak, I had not. We loaded it up, took it down the road from our house to Yellow Creek; and my life was changed.

That simple trip was an effort to find something that allowed us to fish while on camping trips or to explore waters across the country. To be honest we had no idea what we needed, but had a very clear vision for what we wanted. The only things we still use from that first purchase are the Astral PFD, and the shirt. It only took a few months to understand the paddles were too heavy and the tandem kayak was not going to work for us. In less than three years since that purchase, things have changed. We now know there are more than “want” factors in the decision process if you are going to truly enjoy the day on the water.

Kayak Gear: PFD’s

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Photo credit: Caney Fork Outdoors

I started my kayak tournament career in a life vest designed for water skiing, it was all I had at the time. I almost smothered to death paddling in the Tennessee heat – and it was early in the Fall. A kayak PFD choice is one you need to really spend a little time considering before purchasing. You are required to wear a PFD during all major kayak bass tournaments, so you will be spending hours on the water with it strapped to you; Winter, Spring, the hottest days of Summer, and Fall. They can be very restrictive, impractical and uncomfortable.

My choice today is the NRS Chinook. It allows movement while casting, is cooler than many models, and has a ton of storage options. I can keep my phone handy for pictures, store small amounts of terminal tackle, attach a knife (clips, hook remover, scissors, etc.); allowing me to use all available space in the kayak. It is adjustable, allowing for different body types while providing safety. I personally am not comfortable with a self-inflatable model, and fear slipping in some water and setting off an auto inflating version.

There are about as many choices for PFD’s as there are choices for kayaks, and the same advice holds true for both; demo them. 

Not all bodies are created equal, not all fishing styles are the same. You may find that an auto inflatable model works for you, or a self-inflating model. No matter what you “want”, make sure it will fit you correctly because it is meant to protect you in an emergency situation.  

Instead of rehashing a lot of details about styles and benefits, I am providing a couple of good sources for more info. NRS has a lot of information available: Choosing a life vest, then there are more information links on the site. REI also has an extremely informative article: REI Expert advice.

Kayak Gear: Paddles

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Photo credit: Bending Branches

Paddle, pedal, or powered are the options for tournaments. Some allow motors, most allow pedals, and all will let you paddle. Unless you are truly confident that you will only fish one trail or that you will never find yourself in shallow water or thick grass with your motor or pedals, it would be advisable to carry a paddle. Whether it be a full, half, or a Backwater Assault style paddle, the time will come when you need it.  

I carry a full Bending Branches Pro Carbon paddle because of my fishing style. Often, my kayak ends up in the skinniest or shallowest of water and the pedals become less practical. I have also seen folks blow out their pedal drives or tear the fins on stumps whizzing across the water, so it is good to have a backup propulsion method. 

Even if I am in deeper creeks, I will use my paddle to push me off banks and from under obstructions.

Wood, metal, plastic, composite… combinations of them all are available. Shape, length, weight paddle size and angle are all variables to consider. They are plain, multi-color, with and without images. 

What type of fishing do you choose; shallow creeks, reservoirs, ponds or rivers?  

Choosing the paddle can be a simple as walking in and saying “that one!” or it can be like taking a physics exam depending on how you approach the purchase.

Ryan Martin at Caney Fork did an excellent job of explaining the differences in length and weight… white water vs fishing… during our first purchase, but it really took several trips to understand what we really expected from a paddle; those original paddles are now on a shelf in my garage. So, when you start looking, pick up several; and if you can demo them.  

Bending Branches, arguably the favorite paddle for tournament anglers, has a good kayak sizing guide – Sizing Guide. Again, REI also has an article on choosing a paddle – Choosing a paddle

Kayak Gear: Tackle and Gear Storage

Having come from a bass boat with lots of storage space, I underestimated the amount of downsizing that would be required to fish from a kayak. Everything I owned related to fishing was stored under the deck, so I always had what I needed. When I laid that gear out on the deck of my kayak it didn’t take but a couple of seconds to realize I had a problem.

I picked up a milk crate, strapped it down and headed out on Kentucky Lake one early Saturday morning. I guess to be more accurate; I loaded up a small amount of my gear, my rods, my lunch and drinks… then flipped my kayak about twelve inches off of the ramp. My wallet and keys were submerged, my tackle was floating in Plano boxes, I could feel my rods under my feet (under the water), my lunch was gone (Diet Pepsi was floating) and I had no dry clothes.  

Fortunately, it was late spring so I didn’t get cold… more fortunately, I learned that I wasn’t prepared before I was too far from shore.

I immediately (well, after drying out and getting home) upgraded to a tackle storage option that had a lid, picked up a cooler that would float and bought a dry bag to hold dry clothes… or keys, cameras, phones, etc..

Kayak Gear: Crate Options

There are a lot of “crate” options for kayak fishing with the YakAttack Black Pak being one of the favorites among anglers. You need to find the one that fits the amount of tackle you carry, the number of rods, and the size of your kayak. Several options are listed in this ANGLR article about the favorites among many kayak tournament anglers – top 5 Kayak Crates.

Kayak Gear: Rod Holders

Outside of selecting a crate, you will want to consider rod holders also – or be prepared to lose them if you flip farther than 12-inches off a ramp. There are several ways to store rods… most crate options have integrated storage… and several ways to use them while fishing different techniques. A few are addressed in this ANGLR article – Rod Holders, but watch other kayakers and you will find several good options, many homemade.

Kayak Gear: Dry Bag

A good dry bag for gear can be essential while kayak fishing. We hope that we never need it, that we never roll and watch our gear create a debris field in its wake; but it does happen. If you end up at some remote launch alone and lose your wallet, camera, phone… and keys, it might make for a very long trek to find help.  

In cooler water, this can be extremely important. Hypothermia can overcome you, so first is dressing correctly and being prepared (cold water fishing in a kayak), second is having a change of clothes and some essential items readily available and dry.  

I personally carry a Magellan Outdoors dry bag for clothes or emergency gear and a Watershed Ocoee bag for my camera when I plan to take pictures from the kayak.  I would never opt for the more expensive bag just to keep some extra clothes, but for your more valuable possessions go with something like the Watershed products; excellent bags that seal up very well.

Kayak Gear: Measuring Boards

Ok, to this point, everything listed is required to just be on the water. Technically you could probably make it without crates, rod holders, or a dry bag; but at some point you will even add those for day trips with friends. They just make keeping things together on the kayak a lot more efficient.

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But, if you are going to be a tournament kayak angler, you will need a board to measure your catch.

Rulers, tape measures, golden rules, marks on the side of your kayak or even the tattoo down your leg are not acceptable. Most kayak tournaments require one of three measuring boards; the Ketch Products board, the Hawg Trough or the Yak Gear Fish Stick. Make sure to check the rules of the tournament trail you are fishing, most do not allow the Yak Gear version; and none allow anything else to be used at this time.  

The Ketch Board is quickly becoming the favored measuring device among serious anglers due to its durability, but that comes with increased weight. If you purchase this option, make sure you pick up a lanyard of some type. Once this board goes over the side without it being attached to the kayak with some device, it will go straight to the bottom.

The Hawg Trough is much lighter, but many anglers have broken them measuring bass of any size. They also do not float, but placing a bit of weather stripping in the grooves along the back of the board will resolve that issue. You may still want to consider a lanyard, if this goes overboard, it can be blown away or the current can take it quickly.  

Well, add a few rods, and some tackle, the items above will have you (at least from a basic needs standpoint) ready to tournament fish from a kayak. I will repeat it again, make sure you read the rules for whatever tournament you fish to make sure this meets their requirements… KAST rules for example also requires that you have a flag like the Yak Attack Visipole; and if fishing between sunset and sunrise, a 360-degree light is required.  

Hope to see you all out on the water!

Fall Bass Fishing | Shaye’s Fall Favorites – Scrounger Jig

A scrounger jig is an admittedly underutilized bait for me. This is one of the most effective finesse baits that can still be fished relatively quickly. In my recent article about soft-plastic jerkbaits, I mention how a Fluke is a fantastic follow-up bait to a lipless crankbait. Well, a scrounger is basically a marriage of the two. 

True, a scrounger obviously has no rattles. But the semi-hard plastic lip or a scrounger does generate a considerable amount of vibration and offers up a great middle-ground between the aggressive action of a lipless crankbait and the sometimes too finesse action of a Fluke. 

This is why a scrounger is perfect for semi-cold water and semi-stained situations, which are both very prevalent in the fall.

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Scrounger Jig: What Conditions to Look For

As the water starts to cool a little, it initially affects the behavior of the bait and the bass in a very positive way. Exhausted from the hot, stagnant summer conditions, the first cool snap that drops the water temperature is like a breath of fresh air to everything living beneath the surface. In a matter of hours it seems, shad magically appear in the backs of pockets and along the surface, moving at a very accelerated pace. 

And for a brief moment in time, it’s action-packed. You can catch them quick, fast, and in a hurry throwing a wide array of baits. But as that water temps continue to fall, you’ll notice a lot more boiling than busting from the bass. They won’t quite commit to a topwater bait and start feeding subsurface a lot more. 

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That’s when a scrounger can really shine.

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Scrounger Jig: Looking For a Change in the Water Color

Likewise, the water starts to get a little more color in the fall. For some areas, rain has been scarce for months. As we start to experience some of the first rains leading into the winter, the water color begins to change from the backs of creeks all the way to main lake pockets. And to this, the sediment stirred up in the water by the fall turnover and you’ll start to see a cloudy green tint in areas that were gin clear a few weeks prior. This too sets up well for the scrounger. 

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A scrounger like this was largely responsible for our day one lead and the eventual 3rd place finish my partner and I accomplished on Ft. Loudon in the 2010 FLW College Fishing National Championship during my time at Auburn University. 

For fall fishing, I prefer a smaller scrounger than those made popular in recent years by ledge fishing hammers like Jason Lambert. Where he pairs a massive 7” Jerky J with a 1-ounce scrounger head, I go with a 1/4-ounce head and an original 4-inch Fluke. The reasoning, he’s trying to mimic the size and action of a big gizzard shad in the summer, where I’m trying to imitate a much smaller, tighter threadfin shad in the fall and winter. It’s the basic equivalent to comparing a number 5 Shad Rap to a 10XD. 

The beauty of a scrounger is that it doesn’t require a lot of action. A slow, steady retrieve works best. If you do try to reel it fast, the bait has a tendency to roll. So, if you want to fish the bait closer to the surface, simply raise your rod tip a little. 

The bill on most scrounger style baits can rotate 360-degrees around the lead head. This is great for tweaking the bait until you get the desired action and can eliminate the bait’s tendency to roll as much as possible, but also frustrating in that any slight collision with the bill can knock the bait back out of line. So it’s good to add a touch of super glue around where the bill collars around the head once you do get the bait dialed in. 

Shaye’s Scrounger Jig Gear

Rod: Fitzgerald Vursa 7’ 0” Medium-Heavy 

Reel: Lew’s Speed Spool LFS 7.5:1

Line: Sufix Advance Fluoro 12-pound test 

Bait: Zoom Fluke

Scrounger Jig: Fish Head Dude 1/4 ounce

2019 Kayak Fishing Season Recap | Adam Rourke’s 2019 Season

Well, just like that the 2019 fishing season is over. It seems like just yesterday we were loading up my minivan and trailer for the 2019 KBF National Championship in Louisiana. Overall, this season has been a great one. I’ve met some really great people and have had the opportunity to get involved with a few great companies. 

There were points this season when things just felt relentless, from tough conditions to multiple tournaments back to back, I definitely spent a lot of the summer exhausted. Don’t take my previous statement as a negative, I spent my summer exhausted from doing something I love. It comes up every so often in conversations with co-workers or other people interested in where I go most weekends, you cannot compete in this sport unless you love it. 

Traveling and competing in events takes up a lot of time, money, and energy. Thanks to social media, the sport of competitive kayak fishing seems glamorous and effortless but what you don’t see is the hours spent driving to the next event or the hours spent organizing tackle. This probably sounds like complaining, but I’m just trying to communicate the passion and dedication it takes to be involved in this sport. 

Okay, with all of that out of the way, here are some of the high-level numbers from this season. My 2019 tournament season started in March and ended in September. In that time, I competed in 14 events and put about 15,000 miles on my van.

2019 Kayak Fishing Season Recap(1)

Yes, I drive a minivan, there’s nothing better for road trips. With all the travel comes a lot of routine vehicle maintenance, most of which I do myself.

My Tournament Season 

As I mentioned above, I competed in 14 tournaments this season. Those 14 tournaments are made up of the 2019 KBF National Championship, 2 KBF trail events, the Maine Yak Anglers trail, KBF State Challenges, a KBF One Night Stand, and another event for charity. These events were all fantastic, even the ones where I didn’t do so well. I always have fun at these events, the people really make the kayak fishing community special. 

The first event of the year was the National Championship. This year’s event was held in Shreveport, Louisiana. Competitors were able to choose from 6 different bodies of water to fish, Caddo Lake, Cypress Bayou Reservoir & Black Bayou Reservoir, Cross Lake, Lake Bistineau, Wallace Lake, and the Red River. 

After competing in the 2018 National Championship, with over 750 anglers competing on one body of water, the idea of having 6 options was fantastic. The reality set in quickly when we arrived in Louisiana and started pre-fishing. The challenge with any tournament, especially one of this size, is blocking out the noise from the locals sharing tips to other anglers sharing top-secret intel about what baits are catching fish. It’s hard to not get caught up in the rumors and for some reason, the folks in Louisiana were more willing to share information than most. 

On the drive down from New Hampshire, our plan of where to fish and when changed multiple times based on messages and information we received during the drive. Once we arrived we met some state troopers who insisted that Caddo Lake was going to be the place, regardless of how many other anglers would be there. They turned out to be right and that’s where we ended up. The event didn’t go well for me, I caught a few fish but nothing close to what I needed. 

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That’s tournament fishing for you.

I fished two other KBF Northeast Trail events this season, one on Lake George and an event on Lake Winnipesaukee. In both events, I didn’t do as well as I would have liked. 

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On Lake George, I caught the biggest bass of the event but failed to enter the Big Bass Brawl so that didn’t quite work out, either way, it was still a great catch. 

After the National Championship, I returned home and started preparing for the inaugural year of the Maine Yak Anglers trail. I’m thrilled to be a part of this club. Maine has a rapidly expanding group of great kayak anglers, huge shoutout to Jason Gardner for the work he’s put into getting this club off the ground! I won’t go through each club event but overall the season was decent. There was some tough competition this year which is the best way to grow and learn as an angler. As always, I got to meet some really great people while also reconnecting with old friends.

Other Developments

At the start of the 2019 season, I made the decision to resign from all of my sponsors in an attempt to evaluate the gear choices I was making and try out some different options. In doing so, I made some changes to my gear and tackle that ended up being major advantages for me this season. A couple of key changes, the first was the change from using monofilament line to using P-Line’s Fluoroclear. The Fluoroclear line is a copolymer line that has a lot of advantages while being super strong and durable. 

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My second big change, upgrading my reels to the new Shimano SLX DC reels. 

These reels have completely changed the way I use baitcasters by making everything extremely simple. Being able to cast just about any bait into the wind has just been a game-changer for me. I know that term is thrown around a lot, but ask anyone who’s used a DC reel and they’ll confirm that there’s nothing like it. 

Big Changes

Towards the tail end of the 2019 fishing season I was approached with an amazing opportunity, I was offered a spot on the Bonafide Kayaks and YakAttack team. This created a bit of anxiety for me initially as I had to change kayaks during a season but the transition ended up being really smooth and I’m extremely happy with my decision. Both Bonafide and YakAttack are companies that are aligned with my values and what I think is most important about the sport of kayak fishing. Both of these companies produce quality products that they stand behind and as a result make this sport that much better. 

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The 2019 season certainly didn’t go the way I had anticipated, but it was a great year. Now I’m stuck waiting for the 2020 season to roll around!

How to Use ANGLR to Create a Pattern While Kayak Fishing

If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you already know where I stand when it comes to the benefits of using the ANGLR app. In many of those articles, I share how I use the app to keep a historical record of trips and how the fishing was on that given day. 

Something I have yet to write about is how the ANGLR app can help you in real-time while you’re still on the water. 

I used to think that using a depth finder or any technology of that kind in a kayak was a waste of time and money. Over the years I’ve come to realize the value and power of having quality technology and electronics at your disposal. Currently, I live in New Hampshire but am part of a club in Maine. Most of the trail events are at least two hours away which I don’t mind, but it does limit the amount of pre-fishing I am able to do. To get around this, I rely on my fish finder, Google Maps, and the ANGLR app

It’s extremely helpful to be able to see a layout of a body of water that I’m about to fish. 

How I Use the ANGLR App

The ANGLR app offers some key features that allow me to figure things out and make adjustments in real-time while on the water. First, alongside the Bullseye, I’m able to see where I’ve been, where I’ve caught fish and what gear I’m using. Everyone has had those events where things just don’t add up and while you’re in the moment, it’s hard to take a step back and objectively figure out what you’re doing wrong or what should be adjusted. 

Tracking what I’m doing, using, and catching in real-time allows me to take a breath, look at the app and try to figure out what I need to change in order to turn my day around. 

A great example of this was one of my last events of this season. I had just purchased a new Bonafide SS127 along with a Torqeedo motor. This setup was very new to me and I was still getting used to how everything worked and how to best operate with that setup. I’d pull up to spots, land a fish or two then move on. Towards the middle of the day, I found myself without a limit and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I grabbed my phone and started looking at the maps in the ANGLR app for some ideas. What I found was a bunch of lines all over the place, indicating that I had been moving from spot to spot all day without taking the time to find fish. 

After realizing that I was moving around too much, I started to take my time on spots that looked good. 

After a bit, I started catching more fish, sometimes multiple fish on the same spot. This is what I was missing while being distracted by my new boat and motor. Once you get into the habit of using the app and bullseye, you won’t even notice it and will find yourself with all kinds of helpful information that can make the difference between a good and bad day on the water.

Fall Bass Fishing | Shaye’s Fall Favorites – Soft Plastic Jerkbait

One of the simplest rigs in all of bass fishing is also one of the most realistic and least intimidating; the soft plastic jerkbait. When it comes to fall fishing, realism and stealth are the name of the game. 

Though there are several baits that fall into this category, the bait that it’s most widely associated with is the Zoom Super Fluke. And though Zoom certainly refined the bait to near perfection, some would say the original soft plastic jerkbait title belongs to the Slug-Go, the presumed conceptual father of both the Fluke and the Senko.

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Soft Plastic Jerkbait: The Perfect Shad Imitation

Regardless, this style of bait rigged weightless on a 5/0 hook creates the perfect imitation of a struggling shad, with it’s side-to-side walking action and shimmying, slow fall. As the shad become ever more present along the surface and in the shallows, this is one bait that you don’t want to overlook. 

Whether it’s offshore over deep water or in the back of a pocket on a shallow flat, I like to have a soft plastic jerkbait rigged up anytime I’m fishing around schooling fish. The only limiting factors to when I’ll employ it are range and necessity. 

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If I’m able to get schoolers to bite a topwater or lipless crankbait, I prefer to start there as both are much easier to cast. 

However, a Fluke is to these two baits what a shaky head is to a deep-diving crankbait; the perfect cleanup bait. 

If I’m continuously seeing bass boil on bait in close proximity to the boat but they refuse to commit to a topwater or respond to a lipless crank, I’ll then move to the Fluke. 

Soft Plastic Jerkbait: How I Like to Fish It

There are two basic ways to work a bait like this, quick along the surface with a little side-to-side motion and spitting action or slow and low with a wider walking action and a brief pause between twitches of the rod tip to let the bait shimmy a little. 

There’s also a third technique that only seems necessary when the water has cooled significantly (below 40 degrees) and the shad are starting to die off and the bass have gorged themselves and become lethargic. During times like this, I can sometimes still pick up a few fish shallow by dead-sticking a Fluke. Let the bait fall all the way to the bottom and then twitch it periodically and let it lie there again for a few seconds. But if I’m forced to fish a Fluke this way, I usually just change to something else like a finesse crankbait, shaky head, or a jig.

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Soft Plastic Jerkbait: Rigging and Line Selection

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When rigging a Fluke, you want to be sure to leave a little bit of a bend in the back of the bait instead of making it perfectly straight. 

This will give the bait considerably more action. One difficulty that will occur when fishing a Fluke, which can sometimes be magnified by this bend in the back, is the very annoying line twist. 

After fishing a Fluke for about 30 minutes, you’ll start to notice your line developing loops and tangles when it goes slack. For this reason, most anglers throw a Fluke on braided line with a fluorocarbon leader. And most use a spinning rod. 

I do use a braid-to-fluoro setup, but I prefer a baitcaster. For those of you familiar with my strengths and weaknesses, I grew up on a baitcaster and didn’t begin to utilize spinning equipment until later in life. So I’m actually better and more comfortable fishing even light baits like this with a baitcaster. But for someone starting from scratch, the spinning setup would definitely be the best to acquaint yourself with as it will allow you to do more over time, like skip docks and make longer casts. 

Shaye’s Soft Plastic Jerkbait Gear:

Rod: Fitzgerald Vursa 7’ 0” Medium-Heavy

Reel: Lew’s Speed Spool LFS 7.5:1

Line: Sufix 832 Braid 30-pound test & Sufix Advance Fluoro 12-pound test 

Bait: Zoom Super Fluke

Kayak Fishing in the Wind | Adjusting to Different Wind Directions

Featured Image Credit: Eric Siddiqi

The hard truth about kayak fishing is that wind can be an issue. Ok, that is an understatement; wind will be an issue and can ruin your day on the water if you end up on the wrong end of 30 mph gusts. Jump in a paddle kayak and head into a cove where the wind is blowing directly into, it will be easy to get in, but impossible to get out. I had this experience during a KBF event on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky.  

I hadn’t paid attention to the forecast and headed about a half-mile from the ramp and turned into a long arm of the lake. The wind picked up, and the guy who had launched with me said he was heading back to the ramp. I watched him move ten feet forward, then get blown into the bank repeatedly.  I was pedaling in a Hobie, so I eventually made it to him and tossed a rope to help pull him out; the wind was still beating us both. Between gusts, I would make ground, eventually getting close enough to see the ramp. That is where the wind caught the back of my boat and turned me sideways into 2-foot whitecaps and I immediately thought “this is how you end up on the news” as the kayak almost tipped several times. But I was fortunate enough that I had a paddle in my hand and pedal/paddled out of the situation and made it to the ramp.

Kayak Fishing in the Wind: Wind and Current

This was an extreme example of wind, but one I re-tell when I meet new kayakers as I caution them to look at the weather before each trip; paying much attention to wind and current direction. A 10-mile an hour wind from the south on Kentucky Lake will still allow you to cross the widest points safely, but if that wind comes out of the north and is directed against the current, it can become impossible to manage. You can adjust all you want trying to hold position, but you will most likely lose the battle.  

Learning to understand the interactions of the wind and current will take time on the water, but there are a few basic facts you should keep in mind.

For all boats, but more for kayaks, the wind is just like the current. If you go with the “current” and it is strong, you are going to have a difficult time holding your position. There will be a constant battle to keep the back of the kayak from passing you, or from making you look like a drunken duck as the kayak spins you in circles while you try to correct the movement; paddle, straight, spin left, paddle, spin right, dosey doe and around you go… paddle… repeat.  

When I first started, I wasn’t sure why the back of the kayak was affected more by the wind, then I stepped back and looked at it from a physics standpoint. Most of us have some type of tackle storage that sits behind us, and the seats are not in the center of the kayak; they are shifted toward the stern a bit. When you are sitting on or in a light plastic hull, that basically makes all of that (you and the crate) a sail. In lighter winds, you can overcome some of the resulting actions, but it will still affect your path.  

Keep this in mind with boat position; use it to your advantage. I often sit with my kayak at an odd angle instead of fishing perpendicular to the shore; while slowly pedaling toward that shore. This allows me to maintain better positioning in relation to the location I am trying to fish while still letting me bring the bait with the prevailing current.

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This drawing makes the assumption that the current isn’t flowing in the opposite direction. 

 If it is, whichever is stronger will direct your boat positioning.  The best position for holding on open water while fishing submerged cover is to be downwind from the object; paddling or pedaling in the cover’s direction.  This will keep you perpendicular to the target, and reduce the number of times the kayak will spin you around.

Kayak Fishing in the Wind: Rudders and Skegs 

I am fortunate to have a Hobie Pro Angler 14. This kayak comes equipped with a rudder and a skeg that allows for better boat positioning in winds. The skeg can make it harder to turn but keeps the boat more stable in windier situations, and the rudder helps me face the “current”. Without these, or in pure paddle kayaks, even lighter winds can impact your day. Keep that in mind when choosing a kayak; understand how and where you plan to use the kayak. Know that you have to get back to a ramp unless you made arrangements to be picked up downstream.

I was recently in La Crosse with 20 plus mph winds forecasted, sitting in current flowing in the opposite direction. There was no way I could fight both for an 8-hour day on the water, so I chose a spot slightly protected from the wind, positioned my kayak facing the current and did all I could to keep out of the trees. At the end of the day, I had a 2-mile pedal dead into the fast current of the Mississippi River with a 20 mph gusting tailwind.  

In this situation, I moved in a zig-zag pattern to keep the kayak moving at all just to make it back to the ramp. Once I made it back, I had to hit the ramp at full speed to keep the wind and current from crushing me under the dock.   What would normally be a 30-minute trip in calm conditions took almost two hours, and I could see the ramp from where I hit the main river!

Kayak Fishing in the Wind: Plan Ahead

It may take you a trip or two to really understand how to handle your kayak in the wind (or current), all kayaks do not handle the same. Please plan your trips carefully until you learn how the boat you are in reacts in different situations. 

Use weather apps, the ANGLR app, and watch the local news to understand the conditions for the day and the body of water you are trying to fish. Understand wind speed, direction and the flow you will encounter on the body of water you are planning to fish. Consider the launch you will use; make sure that it is not going to add risk to your day. Sign up with your local outfitter to spend a day on the water, or search out a local kayak fishing club… there is always someone who will be willing to help you learn how to handle the wind and make your adventures safe and fun.

Adam Rourke’s Top 3 Cold Water Kayak Fishing Safety Tips

With the stability of fishing kayaks constantly improving, it’s easy to feel invincible on the water regardless of the weather conditions. As Summer starts to wind down and the cool mornings of fall begin, it’s extremely important to take some extra steps to ensure your safety when cold water kayak fishing

There are many things that can go wrong when it comes to dealing with cold water, but hypothermia is one of the most dangerous. Many anglers think that just wearing additional layers and warmer footwear will be enough to stay warm and safe. In some cases this is true, but if you ever end up submerged, those layers of clothing quickly start to work against you. 

The layers of clothing hold the cold temperatures against your body while your boots fill with water turning into weights on your feet. Cold water kayak fishing is not something to underestimate, so if you’re determined to get out, here are a few tips to do so safely.

Cold Water Kayak Fishing | Tip #1: Wear Your Dry Suit

Drysuits are always something that’s on my “To-Buy” list but never happens because of the costs associated with a good drysuit. At first, the prices are off-putting but a little bit of research will quickly show you the technology that goes into these suits and how well they work. 

These suits can literally be a matter of life and death, so while it may cost you upfront, it may save your life later on.

Drysuits form a seal and keep water out which gives an angler a significant advantage against hypothermia if they happen to be submerged. The suit itself will not keep you warm but it will allow for different layers to be worn underneath, allowing you to dress for the specific conditions.

Cold Water Kayak Fishing | Tip #2: The 120-Degree Rule

Along with Drysuit and arguably before you grab a dry suit, you should be aware of the 120-degree rule. This rule allows an angler a baseline “rule-of-thumb” to go by when looking into weather conditions. The way the 120-degree work is simple and offers a quick formula for any kayaker to use before a trip. 

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What you do is take the air temperature and the water temperature and add them together. If the value of those two numbers is less than 120, a dry suit should be worn. 

If the value is higher than 120, the threat of hypothermia is lessened. This rule isn’t perfect and discretion should still be used, but it’s a great starting point whenever considering a cold water kayak fishing trip.

Cold Water Kayak Fishing | Tip #3: Don’t Go Alone

One of the advantages of kayak fishing is how easy they are to transport, which allows for some great solo trips when our pals are busy working or whatever else. The summer is a great time for solo trips, the weather is typically warm enough that we don’t have to be concerned about cold water. 

Overall, it’s a good rule to always go out with a buddy, we never know what’s going to happen. 

As the fall weather starts to kick in, it’s even more important to practice the buddy system whenever you go out fishing. This ensures that if something were to happen to you or your buddy there will be someone there to help out. Kayak anglers get extremely comfortable on the water just simply from the amount of time we spend out there, but we should never underestimate it. 

We don’t know how we’ll react if we were to tip and it’s often how we’d like to think we’ll react. It’s always a good idea to have someone there who can help you just in case.

What Every Rookie Kayak Fisherman Shouldn’t Leave Home Without

So you’re new to kayak fishing? Well same here. And from one rookie to another, I’ve found there are a few basic essentials that you don’t want to leave home without. In no particular order, here are a few must-have items.

Pliers

Whether you need to tweak something on your boat, unhook a fish, or cut your line, a good set of pliers is absolutely essential on a kayak. I’ve forgotten mine a couple of times and it makes for a long day of fishing. I find that I am in need of pliers far more often in a kayak than I am in a bass boat. 

The main reason being… treble hooks. 

I have never been hooked past the barb in all my days of fishing, but I’ve already had several of the closest calls of my life in a kayak. When you bring a fish into a kayak it is either in your lap or around your legs and feet. A bass flailing about the bottom of the boat with 6 or 9 little gaffs sticking out of its face is enough to make you river dance. 

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Having pliers to remove the hooks from the fish will certainly decrease the chances of you getting a hook in your hand. 

But in the unfortunate event where one of those hooks end up in you, piers may be your only means of popping the point back through and cutting the hook in the bend to be able to remove it. It’s not something I want to do. But it’s something I’d want to do a whole lot less without a good set of pliers

Personal Flotation Device

I’m not going to lie, I don’t wear a PFD all the time when I’m just fishing in a big fiberglass boat as I should. But I ALWAYS wear a PFD in a kayak. Part of it is probably due to my unfamiliarity with everything, but I believe its best for a kayak angler of any skill level to wear one. There are just so many more ways to mess up in a kayak. 

Whether you bump a submerged tree in a calm pond or you’re blistering through a rapid in a swift river full of rocks, things can go wrong in a hurry. 

Just put the thing on and forget about it. You never even know you have a good PFD on. And one with compartments on the chest is actually very handy for fishing from a kayak. One of the biggest things I want in a kayak is to have everything within arms reach. What better thing then than a wearable tackle box that might also save your life. I’ve been using one made by Stohlquist WaterWare that my buddy Scott Beutjer gave me. It has compartments on the front large enough for my phone or battery pack and high back padding to get out of the way of the seat. 

Paddle

Obviously, but still worth mentioning quickly. A good kayak paddle is really nice. I had a little cheap metal and plastic one that came with my Sundolphin Journey 12 SS but once again, Scott stepped up and hooked me up with something much nicer, a Bending Branches Angler Classic

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Having a quality paddle that’s the right size for you and the boat you’re in definitely makes a difference. 

Another good thing about this paddle is that it has a ruler marked on it in the event you need to measure a fish and don’t have a bump board with you.

Tackle

Tackle is the thing I was the most worried about when it came to kayak fishing. How am I supposed to condense the hundreds of pounds of tackle in my boat to fit into a milk crate? Funny thing is I have found that simplifying and condensing my tackle has been super easy.

I’ll go over what’s in my basic tackle box below. But outside of that, I just prepare for each trip specifically. No matter where I’m going, I have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to do when I get there. And with just a couple handfuls of additional baits, I can give myself several alternatives if plan A isn’t working. 

The thing I didn’t think about is how unnecessary 90% of the tackle is that I take in my boat. 

I don’t need 50-pounds of punching gear when I’m on Lake Lanier, but it’s in my boat. Heck, I don’t even need as much punching stuff as I have in my fiberglass boat on Okeechobee. 

If I’m going to be fishing shallow vegetation during the spawn, I obviously don’t need my 4 boxes of deep crankbaits. What I do need is a couple of frogs and a few packs of Senkos. It’s really not that daunting of a task and the limitation of tackle is actually kind of freeing at times. I find myself trying harder to figure out the water in front of me with what I have to work with, which at times is the whole name of the game when it comes to kayak fishing. 

Rod Combos

Again, obviously, you need rods. But I’ve found that a few setups and strategies in particular work best for kayak fishing.

For starters, a 7’0” medium-heavy is the most common rod I use paired with a 7.5:1 gear ratio reel. This is a great rod to do a lot of stuff with. I typically have two of these, one with 14-pound test fluorocarbon and one with 30-pound test braid. Braided line when possible is your greatest ally in a kayak when it comes to getting a good hookset into a fish. 

I’ve found that it is difficult to set the hook well from a kayak because I’m either too unsteady to really lay the wood to them or I’m out of position and don’t have enough range of motion to drive the hook into the fish. The lack of stretch in braid definitely helps combat these things versus monofilament or even fluorocarbon. If I need to use fluorocarbon, another trick is to step up your rod size. If I usually use a 7’0” medium-heavy I’ll go to either a 7’0” heavy or a 7’3” medium-heavy for that technique. 

Outside of a couple 7’0” medium-heavies being standard, I again just select 4 or 5 rods for whatever fishery I’m going to be on. If I’m dropshotting on Lanier I’ll have more spinning gear. If I’m fishing grass on Guntersville, more heavy-duty baitcaster combos with braid. It’s pretty simple. 

ANGLR Bullseye

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my Bullseye while writing an article for the manufacturer’s website and app. But it’s honestly worth reminding you here because I often forget it myself and am frustrated by that fact once I get on the water. 

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I really believe the capabilities and benefits of the ANGLR App and logbook are extremely important to my growth and development as an angler over time, but the app alone isn’t going to do me a lot of good in a kayak if my Bullseye is in the truck and my phone is in the dry box. 

So don’t forget your Bullseye.

Miscellaneous Items

A few other items like sunglasses, water, snacks, and toilet paper are all obvious. Sunglasses are a must-have. I’ve forgotten mine a couple of times and it’s been brutal. You get a lot more glare it seems like because you’re closer to the water. 

I will say that staying hydrated is a lot more important too. Being closer to the water and not moving around much can make for a pretty hot day. Add to that the physical exertion of paddling and it’s much easier to get dehydrated in a kayak than a bass boat.

Shaye’s Basic Kayak Gear and Tackle

Pliers: Rapala Fisherman’s Pliers

Cutters: Rapala Fisherman’s Side Cutters

Scissors: Rapala Super Line Scissors

Paddle: Bending Branches Angler Classic

PFD: Stohlquist WaterWare

Logbook: Anglr Bullseye 

Rods: Vursa 7’0” Medium Heavy

Reels: Lew’s LFS Speed Spool 7.5:1

Fluorocarbon: 14-pound Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon

Braid: 30-pound Sufix 832 Braid 

Hooks5/0 offset, 4/0 EWG, 4/0 flipping hooks, trailer hooks, wacky hooks, dropshot hooks

Weights1/4 ounce, 3/8 ounce, 1/2 ounce, dropshot weights 

Terminal tackle1/4 ounce shakey head, bobber stoppers, whacky tool

Kayak Fish Finders | How to Meet Your Needs Without Breaking the Bank

Featured Image Credit: Scott Beutjer

It is very easy to be intimidated standing at a counter filled with boat and kayak fish finders. All of the brands, sizes, features, buttons… the images rolling across the screens. If you are lucky, there will be a guy behind the counter who knows about them all and can help you through the process of selecting the one for you. If you are not as fortunate, there will be some guy there who is trying to sell you a certain unit to increase his personal profit; regardless of your needs.

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I can still remember my first purchase over 30 years ago. I bought a Hummingbird unit that showed the fish in red; not because it was what I needed; but it was really cool! When I left that unit on top of my truck and drove off one day, I learned that the red leaked out of the resulting crack, and I was left with a fish finder that would perform the tasks of a cheaper unit… and was still more than I used in the local creeks. 

What I used – depth to keep from hitting the bottom, and temperature … well back then… to be honest, temperature was extra information too.  

I never looked for fish on humps or ledges; I fished in creeks out of a jon boat with a trolling motor and two rods and needed to keep from snapping the shaft of my trolling motor. So let’s consider several things before you end up with red “stuff” (not sure what it was) leaking across the screen of a unit that is over kill.

Kayak Fish Finders: Consider Your Fishing Style

Fishing in skinny water, small shallow streams and creeks, you most likely don’t need kayak fish finders to find the fish. The fish relate to pools or structure that is very visible, and most likely, you can touch the bottom; or even stand in it without getting your shorts wet. If you would like a unit for the pools or to know the water temperature, one of the most basic units on the market will be more than adequate.

 If you choose to go with kayak fish finders, consider how you will mount the transducer to keep it safe. Some kayaks come equipped with locations to mount the unit and transducer, some will not; you may need something like a YakAttak Transducer Arm to keep it from being damaged; allowing you to pull it up in certain areas.

Once you move out of the creeks to the secondary points, the main lake or looking for humps and ledges, you may need to see structure on these spots and how fish relate to that structure. Your lower priced units will still function, showing you fish, but the structure shown on the units will be hard to recognize. If you know the area, that may be ok, but if you are fishing tournaments it becomes important to eliminate water on new lakes. 

Being able to know a tree from a brush pile or trash can be critical. This is where the mid-range units begin to provide more value. I had a $100 finder that served me well for a long time, but once I got serious about using the electronics to cover water more effectively, I moved to a finder with down imaging and side scan. The Lowrance Elite TI ($300-$600) quickly enhanced my fishing experience because I no longer had to decide if it was cover, floating junk, or a school of baitfish under me; I could see it.

Kayak Fish Finders: Screen Size Does Matter

I made two steps in this range. I first bought a TI with a 5 inch screen, then moved to a 7 inch version of the same unit. Twenty years ago, the 5 would have been awesome; today, I cannot really see the screen; unfortunately, until you get it on the kayak and in the water, you cannot tell how easy it will be to see. I considered moving up to even larger units because you get a wider screen and an enhanced processor, but the price point didn’t provide the value in my opinion. You get the same views on bigger screens, but unless you are connecting to multiple devices onboard a fiberglass boat to monitor them all, the five hundred to a one-thousand dollar difference for the larger units just was not worth it to me.  

Three months ago, I talked with Clint Henderson who won the FLW/KBF event in Arkansas and he showed me a screenshot of the fish he was crushing for three days. It came from a Hummingbird Helix. Several weeks later, I was shown another from the unit. Three weeks ago, I told my sponsor (my wife) about it. I showed her the level of detail that it provides, how fish look like fish; not dots.

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Now, I am about to install this unit on my kayak because the reality is that if you are fishing tournaments, and venture away from the backs of creeks and the shore, you need every advantage you can get… well, that is how I told it to justify my anniversary gift. 

I have most likely just picked up more than I need, but the images you get once you reach this range of fish finders are impressive. Just make sure you are ready before you move to these higher end units.  Again, if you are in the backs of creeks all day or fish once in a while; think about it before you go to buy one.

Kayak Fish Finders: Mount Options

Regardless of the unit you want, keep in mind that not all kayaks are the same. Consider where you will mount the unit and the transducer. Hobie makes Ram ball mounts that attach to the H-rail, Ram Mounts has options that work with YakAttak Gear Trac or Mighty Mount and some kayak brands have fish finder install kits that are made specifically for them.  

You might need a transducer arm on some kayaks, or some of the products from Berley Pro to keep the transducer safe.

Look at what other anglers have done with their kayaks before you choose a finder. As with any other gear you attach, the solutions are only limited by your creativity, but a quick search will provide you with solutions for every need.  

Kayak Fish Finders: Battery Options

Then there are battery choices to be made… and that is not as simple as it sounds. When considering your kayak fish finders, you better consider the power it will consume because a twelve-inch screen with side scan and all the coolest new features will draw a lot more power than a basic unit. Research the amp draw for your unit, then choose.  

To determine which battery works best, you can use this information from Techwalla.com; Amp-hours are calculated by multiplying the number of amps (A) a battery provides by the discharge time in hours (h). So, if a battery provides 10 amps of current for 10 hours, it is a 10 amps × 10 hours = 100 Ah battery… or you can do what most of us do and get the biggest Ah battery we can afford. 

I know guys who use batteries designed for deer cameras, full size deep cycle batteries, motorcycle batteries; but personally, I run a Bioenno Power lithium battery. Initially I chose an SLA (sealed lead acid) battery, but it just wasn’t providing enough life. The lithium batteries are lighter, efficient, and slightly more expensive; but worth the extra money. Bioenno and Dakota Lithium are two of the favorites among the tournament anglers. 

You notice that I didn’t mention all of the brands on the market.

I only talked about those that I have used, not because I think they are the best, but they were the best for me at the moment. I also didn’t get into all of the technical aspects of each fish finder, or the new viewing capabilities of some units on the market. That was intentional. It is more important that you really understand where and how you are going to use the equipment. Like I said, you may get the guy who will try to sell you the latest 12 to 16-inch monitor for your 12 foot kayak… but unless you plan for it to double as a sail, you will most likely not need the other features that come with it… and your kayak will most likely just not have the room.

Fall Bass Fishing | Shaye’s Fall Favorites – Topwater Walking Baits

We return to the fall favorites series with a look at one of my all-time favorites, topwater walking baits. The fall is all about shad here in the south and across a lot of the country. In discussing my fall favorites I’ve touched on several shad imitators. You can check out some of my other fall bass fishing favorites by clicking these links:

  1. Lipless Crankbaits
  2. 1/4-ounce Buzzbaits
  3. Small Spinnerbaits
  4. Squarebill Crankbaits

All of those baits are great and essential to a full-blown fall arsenal. But I rarely use any of them to take advantage of one of the most exciting parts of the fall, fishing for schooling fish. 

As the water cools and bait moves close to the surface, bass begin to use the top of the water column to their advantage. Corralling the bait against the surface, the bass condense the strike zone and then bust through the bait when it has no more room to swim up.

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Topwater Walking Baits – Why These Bait Works So Well For Schooling Bass

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Fishing a walking style topwater like a Spook, Sammy or Gunfish around schoolers is a great way to generate ferocious strikes but it can also lead to some heartbreaking battles where the bass comes out the victor. 

To level the playing field a bit, I’ll typically upsize my treble hooks any time I’m fishing a topwater around schoolers to give myself the best chance I can at hooking them well. 

Often times you’ll have a fish boil on a bait or slash at it several times before finally hooking up. These larger hooks hang down farther in the water and have wider gaps increasing your chances ever so slightly at connecting with the bass. But it’s certainly enough of an increase to take advantage when you’re talking about 3-to-5-pound bass busting bait. Getting just one more of those fish into the boat in a day’s time can make all the difference. 

Perhaps the most frustrating part of fishing for schoolers is that they always seem to be just out of reach. 

In my younger years, I would chase them all over a vast area. As soon as I saw them break the surface a hundred yards away, I would kick my trolling motor up on high or even jump down and fire up my outboard and race to where they were, only to see them busting right where I had just been as soon as the boat stopped. 

Noise is extremely important, or the lack thereof, when targeting schoolers. I have found over time that I’m far better off waiting patiently in one spot for the fish to make their way back around. It seems like a much longer wait at the moment because the bass are busting, but it usually only takes a few minutes for the fish to chase the bait back in your direction if you remain still and quiet. 

Topwater Walking Baits – Increasing Your Range When Targeting Schools of Bass

There are also a few ways to help increase your range and draw the fish in a little closer a little quicker. For starters, braided line in place of monofilament is imperative. The braid not only increases your range but it also provides a better hook up ratio on long casts with a topwater than the far stretchier monofilament. Just be prepared to back off your drag as the fish nears the boat to help prevent it from tearing off. 

You also want to use a fairly light action rod like a 7’ 0” medium-heavy or even a medium action to help with this. A monster hookset isn’t necessary either with a topwater like this given its treble hooks. And since the fish will often miss the bait on the first few swipes, I typically try to just continue working the bait until I feel tension and the fish essentially hooks itself. Then I’ll pull back and start applying pressure throughout the fight. 

Now, I don’t buy into the Hydrowave in most settings. For instance, I don’t see any advantage to having a fish be drawn towards my trolling motor when I’m fishing a stump field in 2-feet of water. That’s counterproductive. But I have heard too many stories and seen a few instances myself that credit a Hydrowave’s effectiveness in offshore situations where bait is present. In these instances, I believe the artificial sounds of bait and fish busting on them can activate the actual bait and bass in an area.

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Topwater Walking Baits – Bait Selection

Now, let’s get back to talking about the topwater bait itself. As far as bait selection, I don’t really have a gold standard. I’ve fished with several different brands and sizes over the years. The Bowstick from Jackall is a very effective bait when looking for a big profile. A Sammy 85 by Lucky Craft is great when targeting finicky fish around small baitfish. 

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The Heddon Spook is perhaps the industry-standard given it’s been around a long time and is extremely effective at catching fish. 

I’ve found that schoolers, in particular, can be very picky so I try to let them decide which walking-style topwater bait I throw. I keep several options on hand and if I have a couple fish blow up on a bait and not get it, I’ll change to one with a different size, color, or sound. 

But topwater walking baits aren’t limited to schoolers alone in the fall. I’ll often throw a topwater around riprap, seawalls, treetops, and docks in the fall. This time of year, bait is plentiful and everywhere. So you can often catch fish anywhere. And the appearance of a wounded baitfish that is given off by walking topwater baits is a great way to draw strikes from these fish. That’s what makes a walking style topwater one of my fall favorites. 

Shaye’s Fall Topwater Walking Baits Gear

Rod: Vursa 7’ 0” Medium-Heavy 

Reel: Lew’s LFS Speed Spool 7.5:1

Line: 30-pound Sufix 832 Braid

Baits: Spook, Sammy, Gunfish, Sexy Dawg