One ever-present challenge for the kayak angler is having to decide what stays and what goes. This is where kayak tackle management can be key. Take too much and you may as well be lugging an anvil around all day. Take too little and find yourself in desperate need on the water. We sat down with 2016 KBF National Champion Matt Ball to discuss how he builds his manifest each time he hits the water.
Kayak Tackle Management: Taking What You Need
Everybody thinks they have to pare everything down for kayak fishing. Well yeah, you do compared to a bass boat, but I still take a lot of stuff. I want to be prepared for just about any situation. If there’s nothing but a lot of shallow grass present, then yeah that narrows down what I need to take. But I fish a lot of deeper lakes where I may be fishing 30-feet of water. It’s all a process of elimination for me.
You just have to narrow it down for the water you’re going to fish.
I have a couple boxes setup for river fishing. I know those are the type of baits that I’m going to use and that’s all I really need. If I’m fishing a lake, it’s the same kind of deal. I’ll leave the rest in my truck for pre-fishing.
The biggest thing for me is research on where I’m going to be fishing, looking at the conditions, and knowing what I should expect from the water before I get there. I do a lot of research before I go fishing. You can eliminate a lot of baits and weight out of your kayak that way. I’m not going to take a box of 10XDs to a shallow lake. That stays in the truck.
Kayak Tackle Management: Find Ways That Work for You
Terminal tackle is the one thing I use a lot of. I try to contain all of my terminal tackle to my Cal Coast Battle Box. It’s one of the best things that I have found so far for kayak fishing. It has a lot of little cylinders that you can put your weights and hooks in. The little pill bottle style deals. Say I’m throwing 1/4 ounce tungsten bullet weight and a 3/0 Extra Wide Gap hook, I’ll have those two things in my PFD and I never have to go in that box. That way I’m not constantly turning around looking for something if I break off.
I carry about 6 rods every time and that’s another thing that you’ve really got to watch. A place like Caddo where we fished the 2019 KBF National Championship, you can’t have those rods sticking up all behind you because they’re going to be snagged in those cypress trees all the time. You have to have your rods staged where they’re accessible but they’re not going to get in the way of your fishing.
Instead of taking a spinnerbait box and a buzzbait box and so on, I have a box that has 4 or 5 spinnerbaits of various colors and sizes. In that same box, I have my buzzbaits, a couple top toads, a couple of frogs.
You’re throwing baits in categories instead of having the whole box full of just one presentation.
Your kayak crate is everything when it comes to your kayak tackle management. I use the Jackson JKrate. It’ll hold two Cal Coast Battle Boxes and 3 or 4 3700 Plano boxes. Then I have two soft plastic bags that I’ll keep under the seat. That’s where I have to do the most weeding down. One thing that’s really helped me in a kayak is that I’m a big user of the Z-Man plastics. By using those, you can take a whole lot less. There are certain situations where a Z-Man bait doesn’t work because I don’t want a buoyant bait. But for the most part I use a bunch of the Z-Man stuff because I know I can take one pack and it’s going to last me all day.
Kayak Tackle Management: Stick to the Basics
The other thing I’ve learned to do, I pretty much stick with 3 basic colors in my soft plastics. The black and blue, the natural colors and then the shad colors. You can do pretty much anything with those colors. There are so many color variances these days, but you don’t have the luxury that you have in a bass boat to have 6 different variances of pumpkin seed.
I’ll start out with a lot more tackle pre-fishing than I really need. But by the time the tournament comes and I have a pattern figured out, I can eliminate a lot of stuff out of there. That helps on loading and unloading the kayak too. There are some necessities like rain gear that you simply have to have. You can’t have a lot of stuff, but with necessities like that, I usually have them compressed down in a dry bag.
There are a lot of tournaments where we can launch from any public land. So, you can save yourself a lot of hassle and time if you’re packing light and can just dump the boat in off the side of the road instead of having to paddle 2 miles. The guys that can really pare it down have a huge advantage, especially on the bigger water without a lot of access points.
You just learn and adjust over time as you figure out what works best for you.