Fishing Apalachicola Bay From A Kayak

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Nutrient rich freshwater from a 20,000 square-mile drainage flows south through west Georgia and across the Florida Panhandle. It flushes out at the mouth of the Apalachicola River, where, guarded by a series of slim barrier islands, it churns with waters from the Gulf of Mexico into the fecund, brackish stew that is Apalachicola Bay.

Vast grass flats and long sandy points on the backsides of the barrier islands give way to deeper channels and strong tidal currents. It is the perfect habitat for some of the world’s finest oysters. And where there are oyster bars, grass flats and tidally influenced creeks, there are redfish. Apalachicola Bay has redfish in abundance, and plenty of trout to go along with them.

Even in less than 3 feet of water, the 200 square-mile expanse of the bay left me feeling alone and exposed, an insignificant speck in a 12-foot kayak. The flurry of action and diving birds that coincided with daybreak and an outgoing tide had slowed an hour ago. So I sat in the boat looking for some sign of life. A platform for viewing would have been very handy.

Then they appeared only 50 yards away, little translucent triangles darting on the surface. The school of reds appeared frantic as they fed in shallow water, skittering back and forth but ever closer to where I waited.

Apalachicola Bay01

A few quiet paddle strokes were enough to put me in position. With probably 30 fish less than 50 feet away, I cast with a 7-weight fly rod. When my polar fiber minnow plopped down in the school, they jumped on it. One strip: a hard bump, but no hook-up. Second, third, fourth strip: they kicked up a wake behind the fly. Then a jarring thump ran up my arm as one took the bait and began a series of blistering runs.

It was a 28-inch red that I eventually brought to hand and released, one of many I tangled with over a week spent exploring the bay. Local guide Capt. Randy Peart said the fishing is always this good. He admitted, however, that sight fishing is not usually feasible. Most of the time the water is stained brown from tons of sediment washing in from the river, and a steady wind makes it tough to search out surface activity.

So the angler is left probing structure like docks, oyster bars and changes in bottom composition with spoons, jigs, soft plastics or live bait for conventional anglers, or obnoxious, loud flies like Rattle Rousers for the fly anglers.

An added bonus to targeting reds is you’ll occasionally hook up with big trout that hang in the same areas. If you want to specifically target trout, they school up in the spring and fall on the oyster bars and on the first drops off the flats.

Although trout and slot reds can be the year-round main event, Spanish mackerel, silver trout, giant 37-inch bull reds and tarpon show up in the bay at different times of the year.

On The Water With Hobie

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Kayak Fishing Captiva: Old Florida Charm/World Class Fishing

Earlier this summer, the Lee County Visitor Bureau invited Hobie Kayaks and several of the country’s leading outdoor writers to experience the stellar kayak fishing that southwest Florida’s Sanibel and Captiva area has to offer. While I have spent an endless amount of time chasing redfish and snook along the area’s Calusa Blueways, I have only spent a minimal portion of that on the islands of Sanibel and Captiva. This trip was a great reminder that I need to get to the other side of Pine Island Sound more often.

JD found a bunch of redfish buried in the trees.

JD found a bunch of redfish buried in the trees.

Lee County is on the southwest coast of Florida, a couple hours south of Tampa. For those not familiar with the area, it’s worth checking out. The fishing is world class, and the amazing laid-back island surroundings make for a great vacation destination.

We had the great fortune of being lodged in a couple of amazing yet quite different resorts. The Hobie headquarters was Captiva Charm, an exquisite rental property nestled on the sound. This compound had everything a large family or group needs to make sure everyone stays busy as well as comfortable, including being able to catch fish right off the back dock. The guest writers enjoyed staying at the Captiva Inn (www.captivaislandinn.com), a quaint bed and breakfast located in the heart of Old Captiva. The inn’s location on Andy Rosse Lane puts it only a few steps from local favorites like the Mucky Duck, Key Lime Bistro and RC Otters, while the gulf and bay are only a stone’s throw away in either direction. Art galleries and an old-time general store make sure there is plenty to do for those who decide not to take advantage of the amazing fishery.

While there are plenty of activities on the island, our main objective was to enjoy the wonderful fishery. We mainly fished out of Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, which provided access to endless miles of fishy water. My advice, if you plan to make the trip, is to contact the Lee County Department of Recreation (www.leeparks.org/blueway/) and request a map of the Calusa Blueways. This free map will provide you with the location of all of the launches in the area, as well as the best routes to the areas you want to target to fish.

Jerry McBride with a healthy Captiva snook.

Jerry McBride with a healthy Captiva snook.

During our stay, Mother Nature did us no favors as the wind blew at 15 to 25 mph every day we were there, making it a challenge to find fishable areas where we would not get blown away. With countless islands, it was fairly easy to find lee sides that knocked the wind down and made it manageable to effectively work our artificial lures into the nooks and crannies of the islands. There was plenty of small bait in the sound, and this made my choice of baits easy.

I chose to mainly fish the Heddon Spook Jr., working it deep into the mangrove depressions, which allowed me to catch a nice array of redfish, snook and sea trout. My buddy and kayak fishing guru, Jerry McBride, had a lot of success working a variety of Egret baits including the suspending Kick It Mullet and Wedgetail soft plastics rigged weedless to avoid hanging up in the lush grass of the sound.

It had been a while since I kayaked Captiva. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the old Florida charm and the excellent fishing that the other side of Pine Island Sound has to offer. I can’t wait to plan my return visit.

Pedal On!

Don't forget your camera.  The wildlife is spectacular.

Don’t forget your camera. The wildlife is spectacular.

Getting Offshore in a Kayak

Friday, June 13th, 2014

Fishing offshore from a kayak is fun and exciting. Landing a large game fish from a 13 foot kayak is what dreams are made of, but launching and landing in the surf or paddling through an inlet can be a nightmare. “We had a guy walk in the shop, soaking wet, and looking like he had just lost his best friend. He told us he was fishing offshore, and on his way in he flipped. He lost 2 rods, reels and the rest of his gear,” Mike Beck owner of Kayaks etc. recalls.

Most anglers taking to kayaks these days aren’t surf kayakers, but a little instruction can make your day of offshore kayak fishing much more enjoyable, and you’ll go out more than just on those glassy days. Here are a few tips to get you offshore safely:

  • At the inlets watch your tides- slack is best because waves will be minimal; if you have to launch with an out going tide, then return on an incoming tide.
  • On the beach, know the local wave patterns- talk to locals.
  • Hit the waves straight and paddle hard into them; don’t get sideways to the waves.
  • Always wear a proper fitting PFD.
  • Carry signaling devices, a whistle (required) and a mirror as minimum. Flares are a good idea in case of an emergency.
  • Keep an eye on the sky — weather changes quickly around here, and you do not want to be caught off shore in a thunder storm.
  • Properly secure you gear just in case you do flip — paddle/rod leashes can keep your gear safe.
  • If launching directly from the beach, store your rods inside your boat.
  • Keep it simple — carry what you need, not everything you have.
  • Know your limits — don’t pull an old man and the sea. A fish could tow you pretty far and tire you out; remember you still need to paddle back to shore.
  • Don’t forget hydration and nutrition- for every hour on the water plan 1 quart of fluid with electrolyte replacements, and about a 100 calorie snack.
  • Take a lesson from an experienced and qualified instructor.

Qualified instructors have years of experience, and are happy to share this knowledge with their students. Call your area kayak shops and ask if they give lessons on launching in the surf.

Watch the footage of Captain Alex Gorichky, Coastal Angler Magazine contributor, paddling out of Port Canaveral, FL, on a rough day. It gets rough out there, even for an experienced pro!

Adventure Angling Q and A: “Ask the experts, then try Gary.”

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Cash In On The Summer Topwater Blitz

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

On the Water With Hobie2

My alarm rattles me out of bed a bit earlier this time of year. I want to make sure I do not miss the best bite of the day, so I need to launch while the sky is still black. Better yet, I will start an hour before civil twilight and head out to throw a Heddon Spook Jr. in the dock lights. Here in southwest Florida, snook are my main target in the lights, but there is the chance a tarpon will be lurking in the shadows ready to put on an aerial display once they commit to an offering.

My friends who fish the Panhandle find some of their largest redfish hanging in the lights, while my Hobie teammate, Benton Parrott, out of Mobile Bay, crushes jumbo trout cruising through the lights. A little trial and error or local intel will give you your best options.

As the night sky begins to lighten, it is time to move on toward the targeted flats. Make sure your rod is close at hand, as you need to be ready to bomb away at the first signs of life. This time of year, I really like to key in on sizzling white bait (pilchards), but I definitely won’t pass on a school of frolicking mullet.

I usually carry three identical rod-and-reel combos aboard my Pro Angler. My rods are 7-foot, 3-inch medium-action rods from the TFO Gary Loomis Tactical Series. I pair my rods with Diawa Ballistic 3000 series reels that are spooled with 10-pound Spiderwire Invisibraid. While fluorocarbon leader is my choice in every other application, for topwater I prefer 5 feet of Trilene Big Game monofilament leader. I favor the mono because it acts as a shock absorber and stays a little higher in the water column, making the plug run truer.

This time of year, two of my rods will have topwater plugs tied on. My go-to plug is the Spook Jr. in bone/silver color. The other is the Heddon One Knocker in either bone or foxy mama. While I have supreme confidence that these two plugs provide me the best opportunity to bring a trophy snook or redfish boat side, they need some tweaking right out of the box. On the Spook Jr., I switch out the factory hooks with 4x strong VMC hooks in size 4. The One Knockers need a complete change out, as they are made for freshwater. I replace the split rings with Owner Hyper Wire Split Rings in size 4 and the hooks with Mustad 3Xs in size 2. You may be curious why I would purchase plugs that I need to put more money into, but I have had such great success making them bullet proof that the extra dollar I spend has consistently paid off in fish landed as opposed to the heartbreak of straightened hooks.

I admit that I am a topwater junkie and scoff at those who proclaim the only time to walk the dog is at sunrise and sunset, but shear stubbornness has proven to me that I can sling plugs all day this time of year with great success.

The greatest improvement to my topwater game has been in changing my kayak from a paddle model to a Hobie Mirage drive model. I now split time between my Pro Angler 14 and my Revo 13. I will admit that I have them both souped-up a bit, but if you read this column, you already know that. Mirage drive always keeps the rod in my hands, and basic math tells me the more effective casts I can make will result in more hookups. If you have not used topwater plugs in the past, now is the time to start honing your skills.

Peddle On!

The Line Between Life and Death: Fly Fishing from Kayaks

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides
—Lao Tzu

Paddle fishing is a term covering a large number of angling styles. Among these styles is the challenge of fly fishing from a kayak. So, why would someone want to fly fish from a kayak? For the same reason many of us get into kayaks in the first place: a greater sense of connection to the natural environment, the world around us and to the sport we are so passionate about. Before you run out and try your hand at flying from a kayak, there is one important thing to consider—the humble fly line.

If you think paddling long distances, fighting the wind and trying to locate fish are tough, you obviously haven’t played with fly line. The biggest challenge facing kayakers with fly rods is line management. Fly line seems to have the uncanny ability to find each and every element on a kayak that it can get caught on, squeezed in, or hung around—sometimes it finds all three of these elements at the same time. Making sure your kayak or canoes’ deck is free of these potential snags is the first line of defense. Some things that can cause problems include rod holders, accessory mounts, knots in bungee cord ends, buckles, loose straps, extra rods and tackle. The smoother the exposed surfaces the better off you will be, especially when you cannot reach the further parts of your vessel.

A well worked out system is needed as a second line of tangle defense and to present your fly from a kayak. This includes a place to set your rod and reel, pile your stripped line and hold your fly. Often, this can all be accomplished with the use of a stripping basket. This is especially handy for keeping your rig at the ready so you can quickly stow your paddle and get your fly on the water without wasting time once you decide to fish. Some baskets can accommodate the line and your rod as well. I prefer a collapsing stripping basket that can be worn on the waist. It’s great for wading as well as use on the kayak and it stores nicely. Sit on top kayaks and open decks seem to do well with the addition of a stripping basket. Sit inside kayaks are their own stripping basket if you keep them free of snags and often a towel over the front of the cockpit makes a nice launch pad for your next cast. Some anglers simply pile the line in front of them and place their rod between their legs. Once you’re ready to fish, you simply put down your paddle and pick up you fly rod.

Standing in a kayak presents special challenges but is a great way to site fish if you have the ability and the right vessel. Casting and line management can also be easier from a standing position. A standing angler can strip off the amount of line they are planning to cast into the kayak or stripping basket, hold the fly, rod and line in one hand and pole along with the other hand or drift with the wind and current. If there are not a lot of weeds it may be easier to leave the fly dragging along behind a bit. This makes for a quick and easy presentation.

As is always true of fly casting, practice your technique and prepare your vessel before you get on the water. If you plan on doing any fishing from a seated position, get a nice low beach chair to practice from. Stow your equipment as you plan to paddle fish it and practice with it so that when you are finally on the water presenting to a fish the struggle is at only one side of the line.

Fishing for Springtime Reds from Your Kayak!

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

10 Rules to Not be Unhappy — A Kayaker’s Version of an Old Favorite

Monday, May 19th, 2014


Many years ago, when I was what we now refer to as a tween, I gave up my comic books and started reading outdoor magazines. In those days, the early sixties, Outdoor Life and Field and Stream were the big dogs, and I subscribed to and avidly read both of them. But of all the many articles I read in those venerable publications about fishing the Yukon for arctic grayling and such, the only piece I remember in any detail was entitled, simply, “How to be Happy.” I think Patrick McManus wrote it, but “Tap” Tapply could also have written it. The article provided four rules which, if followed strictly, the author promised, would ensure happiness to any fisherman. (I’m relatively certain that he did not say fisherperson.)

Here they are, though I’m not sure if in their original order:

• The Rule of One Lure – Never have only one of any particular lure in your box. If you do, this lure will be the only one the fish want and you will quickly
lose it.

• The Rule of Three Casts – Never just quit fishing and go home. Always take three more casts.

• The Rule of Today – Whenever you hear that the fish are biting today, drop everything and go fishing. The fish will not be biting tomorrow.

• The Rule of Naps – When you are tired, take a nap. (At the time I wasn’t quite certain how this one fit in, but I must say that over the years I have been more faithful to The Rule of Naps than I have been to the other three.) Now, fifty or so years later, I find myself presented with the chance to provide you, dear kayaking friend and avid reader, with a similarly intended list, in no particular order, of principles that will ensure, to some extent, your paddling happiness.

Out of deference to the original, we will call this doctrine: How Not to be Unhappy:

• Don’t cancel your trip because weather.com says there is a chance of thunderstorms. This is Florida. There’s always a chance of thunderstorms. Watch the sky and listen for thunder.

• Don’t paddle without your PFD. You probably won’t drown and you probably won’t get checked, but worrying about these consequences will have a negative effect on your coefficient of fun.

• Don’t try to keep your feet dry. The contortions you put yourself through in doing this will inevitably result in unintended immersion.

• Don’t abuse your rudder. Without care and proper respect it will desert you when you need it most.

• Don’t dawdle in the channel. When you have to cross the Intracoastal, try to do it in a slow-speed zone where the channel is narrow, and accept the Rule of Tonnage.

• Don’t let anyone else seal your dry-bag for you. They never do it right and the bag will always leak.

• Don’t trust anyone on a jet ski. They’re just different.

• Don’t let salt water pour out of your kayak and onto the roof of your vehicle. No matter how thoroughly you may rinse the car later, salt eventually has its way.

• Don’t pass up any chance to use the facilities, no matter what the facilities look like or how yucky the mud is. You may not get another chance.

• Don’t worry about you hair. Nobody cares, and you can fix it later.

As you’ve probably already noted, especially if you’ve been a paddler for any length of time, this list barely ripples the surface of How Not to be Unhappy, so we’d love to hear your ideas on the subject.

Tales from the Tupperware Navy: May 2014

Monday, May 12th, 2014

No Motor Required: Getting Exotic

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

When my good friend and frequent fishing partner, Adam Walker, asked me if I wanted to head south to fish for peacock bass I jumped at the chance. I have always marveled at the beautiful colors of the peacocks and always told myself that was one exotic freshwater fish that I need to have the pleasure of catching.

Adam Walker and jd with a nice pair of peacocks

Adam Walker and jd with a nice pair of peacocks

Adam informed me that his friend Sarah “Sasinator” Servant, owner of AR Lures US, had recently transitioned from fishing her proven wooden baits for largemouth bass to enticing their more glamorous cousins, the peacock bass, with her AR Lures.

Since they had been having more success sight fishing for them we decided to meet at the ramp at 9:00 am so we could take advantage of the sun being high in the sky. We launched into the canal and made a short run east so we could work with the wind. We were aboard Adam’s Canyon Bay flats boat. This area is also great for kayaks as there is not a ton of distance to travel and not too much boat traffic to make it dangerous or annoying. For my first trip I wanted to go in the boat to get the lay of the land and it proved to be a wise decision. When I go back, I will know exactly what to expect.

Cichlids came out to play as well.

Cichlids came out to play as well.

We all tied on AS crank baits as the fish were on the beds and we needed baits that would get down to them. According to the research Sarah and Adam had been conducting, it is important to look for couples sitting on their beds; it is an extra bonus if you can spot the fry they are protecting. This time of year, they are more trying to chase intruders from their fry than looking to cash in on an easy meal. Sarah, who is great at spotting the peacocks, jumped up on the poling platform to get the best vantage point and it did not take long to spot our first orange tail. The first grouping we saw was towards the bank near a bridge. We tried to ease up on them but they were just milling around mixed in with cichlids and tilapia. They kept diving into deeper water out of sight. We moved on and started working the edges searching for beds. These fish tended, like many species, to gravitate to structure. We mainly found them around docks, rock piles and downed trees. The fishing, while exciting, was a bit hit or miss. This is truly patience fishing. The peacocks will attack time after time if you stay with it and drag that small AS Lures crank bait through their bed, you will eventually hook up. Once you do the excitement begins. The domestic peacocks are quite smaller than their cousins in the Amazon. The Florida state record is 9.08 pounds but the fish we were catching were in the 2 to 4 pound class. If you decide to go in search of P’s make sure you load up on top water and crank baits. If you like live bait, small shiners are the ticket. We used our normal redfish tackle with 20lb fluorocarbon leader. We had a little issue with the sun playing peek- a- boo, which made the sight fishing a little tough, but we saw plenty of fish including largemouth bass and snook. I cannot wait to get back down there with my Pro Angler 14.

Sarah Servant got in on the action too.

Sarah Servant got in on the action too.

About our host: We fished with Sarah “Sasinator” Servant. Her website is www. arluresus.com. Their email is: arluresus@ gmail.com. Her facebook page is sarah. sasinator@facebook.com. If you want to find out more about her hand-painted wooden lures, don’t hesitate to contact her.

BassYak Outfitted Kayaks

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014


All trolling motors systems will get you from point A to point B but the Bassyaks Motor System does more, it allows you to lose the paddle, allowing “Hands Free” operation whether you’re fishing or just cruising.

Bassyaks outfitted kayaks are some of the most maneuverable vessels on the water. With the propulsion on the transom the Bassyaks Systems motors can turn 90 degree allowing the best turning radius on the market. You can turn the kayak 360 degrees from a standstill. You get instant response in reverse and forward because the propulsion is directional, when engaging reverse while moving forward, the motor acts like a brake, you can stop the kayak in 10 feet.

With the paddle out of your hand you can concentrate on your fishing, you’re not fishing over your shoulder or under the kayak. You are able to pull a fish out of the weeds without getting pulled into the weeds with a paddle on your forearm and the rod in the other not going anywhere.

While trolling you can hold your fishing pole with 2 hands, not leaving your rod in a holder missing the strike, once the hook is set, you throw the kayak in reverse and perform a 3 point turn and face the fish actually having the drag on your reel work as if you were on dry ground. With larger fish you can use reverse to avoid getting towed around putting you in dangerous positions and exhausting the fish.

A Bassyaks kit it isn’t just a motor, It is a fully comprehensive kit, including a custom laser cut aluminum powder coated mounting bracket, front and rear wiring harnesses with a kill switch, cockpit throttle control, and a Lift kit to allow you to raise the motor at any time, and steering is controlled with fully adjustable foot pedals. All pushed along by a modified Minn- Kota Motor which has been sealed and adjusted for maximum performance.

Bassyaks uses only brand new, out of the box Minn-Kotas, the standard kits use a 30 thrust lb motor and offer motor upgrades including 40,45, and 55 thrust lb motors. They are available in fresh and saltwater versions. Bassyaks also offers an array of propellers for various needs, whether for speed, power or weed less for fine tuning your style Bassyaks offers complete trolling motor kits for those who already have a kayak who want to install a motor on it yourself, or they’ll build you one. Most kits are sub-assembled for ease of installation. You supply the Kayak, battery, and time. Bassyaks motors are rated IP68 that means submersible, the wiring harnesses are IP68, everything in the kit is IP68!!

Optional Electronic throttle controls gives you greater speed control, with a hand held remote which thus allows you to control your thrust from anywhere in your craft, front seat, back seat , standing or sitting. Electronic throttle controls offer variable speeds and extended run times. By using a PWM throttle control it is able to extend run times up to 5X as long, run times can also be extended by adding a second 12 volt battery, actually doubling your run time. As far as speeds go there are many variables but you can expect at least between 4 and 6 mph in most conditions, the more efficient the hull of your vessel is the faster you’re going to go.

Assembly time is about 5hrs. With normal tools, everything is mounted in an ergonomic place, keeping in mind not to ruin your kayak if you decide to remove the systems. The trolling motor can be removed in 10 seconds and the kayak will perform as it did before you made the modification. And the complete system adds 18 lbs to the weight of your kayak. Battery weight has also been a question, the battery we suggest for most applications is a 12 volt AGM 22-NF 55Ahr which weights 38 lbs and will offer around 6 hours of run time. AGM or Gel cell batteries work the best, larger batteries aren’t always the best, sometimes 2 smaller batteries work better.

With the Lift Kit option you can raise and lower the motor both vertically and horizontally from the seat at any time. There are 9 positions to choose from, this can be done with the optional Lift kit from the seat. Drop the motor after launching from the beach or raise it when beaching the kayak. No need to stand in the water like other designs. Weeds or underwater obstructions are not a problem, just raise the motor, and fling off the weeds, drop and go. The motor will run in as little as 6 inches of water so there’s a good chance your keel will touch before the motor does.
Whether used by itself or in combination with paddling or peddling, a Bassyaks System will complete your boating experience.

What are the challenges of designing one motor for many brands of kayak?
The Bassyaks is a simple but effective design and will work with almost every kayak out there, we require three things, there must be foot rails or a place to install them, a hatch to stow the battery inside the kayak, and a transom that will accept a motor mount bracket. Basically if the kayak can be ruddered, it can accept a motor. Some of the unique designs like the Freedom Hawks Pathfinder or Jackson Kayaks Coosa required a little more thought. With the new Thermoform lightweight kayaks hitting the market will require a little more attention on mounting brackets

How have you overcome them?
With having kits for about 80 different kayaks, we have elected not to design kits for some of the smaller or entry level kayaks, or kayak which would perform better without the motor such a Sea or Touring kayaks. If a kit doesn’t perform to the level of our proven kits we will discontinue the kit, an example would be the Hobie kits with the motor replacing the rudder, when you wanted to use the Mirage drive the steering was bad and the motor was a drag, so we decided that it would be better to delete the product rather than putting something out there which wasn’t right. On the other hand the Hobie Pro Angler makes an exceptional candidate for a motor with a separate rudder system leaving the transom room for a motor. Now you’re asking yourself “If you have a Mirage drive, why do you need a motor?”Because you’ll get hands free operation, reverse, and maneuverability all which you are missing.

What are the advantages to your system?
All trolling motors systems will get you from point A to point B but the Bassyaks Motor System does more, it allows you to lose the paddle, allowing “Hands Free” operation whether you’re fishing or just cruising.

Bassyaks outfitted kayaks are some of the most maneuverable vessels on the water. With the propulsion on the transom the Bassyaks Systems motors can turn 90 degree allowing the best turning radius on the market. You can turn the kayak 360 degrees from a standstill. You get instant response in reverse and forward because the propulsion is directional, other motor systems with the motor midship can’t come close to this maneuverability because they are waiting for the force of the propulsion to hit the rudder before they can turn. And reverse is something that most kayakers dismiss but it’s a very large part of fishing with a motor. When engaging reverse while moving forward, the motor acts like a brake, you can stop the kayak in 10 feet.

Another overlooked feature of a motor is the ability to hold your position while in current, the motor works like an anchor when fishing rivers or bridges and jetties. With the paddle out of your hand you can concentrate on your fishing, you’re not fishing over your shoulder or under the kayak. You are able to pull a fish out of the weeds, not getting pulled into the weeds with a paddle on your forearm and the rod in the other, bumbling around usually losing your fish in the weeds.

While trolling you can hold your fishing pole with 2 hands, not leaving your rod in a holder missing the exciting strike, once the hook is set, you throw the kayak in reverse and perform a 3 point turn and face the fish actually having the drag on your reel; work as if you were on dry ground. With larger fish you can use reverse to avoid getting towed around putting you in dangerous positions or exhausting the fish from towing you around eventually killing the fish.

The optional Motor lift kit allows the kayaker the ability to raise the motor either vertically for shallows or horizontally for launching or beaching or for flinging weeds off the propeller. On most models the motor can be raised above the keel, allowing you to you the minimum draft available. Another option would be to raise the motor out of the water if you wish to paddle. If you happen to strike an underwater obstacle the motor would deflect upwards and stay there until the release lever is pulled allowing the motor to return to a vertical position avoiding damage to the motor and kayak. The motor can be removed or installed in 30 seconds.

What do you say to paddle purists?

Just look into the forums, you’ll read “it’s not kayaking”, my finial answer after all of the redirect is “you can always paddle if you want” it’s kind of funny, I tell them the sport called Kayak Fishing, It is not a paddle sport. Its fishing and the kayak is a tool. Putting a motor on a kayak transforms a versatile fishing vessel into an even more versatile fishing vessel. Many are offended by the motors and feel there is no place for it and that a motor defeats the whole purpose of a kayak. But after using one, I have to say that it compliments it and just eliminates some of the disadvantages that kayaks have, without really sacrificing the advantages. In the 8 years we’ve been doing this I have seen the attitude change considerably, and it’s growing daily.

What does the future hold?
What I would like to see is a manufacturer Bassyaks option similar to what Jackson is doing with Yak Attack and Go Pro. At the present time many manufactures support Bassyaks with referrals which works for both us and their sales. I think most manufactures will have at least 1 motorized option in their catalogs, whether it’s a motor mount, a complete motor system, or a drop in motor. Many manufactures have already tried the motor idea, some as early as 1997. As the battery technology gets better and the brushless motors are utilized the system will become lighter and more powerful.

What should anglers consider when choosing a power system for his kayak?
Put a system on a kayak you like and one that will suit your needs, don’t put it on a kayak you already have and aren’t happy with to begin with. Think on where and how you plan to use it, Saltwater or Freshwater, calm or rough, if there are big currents then you opt for a larger motor, it you plan on trolling many look into a variable speed control. If you not concerned with speed get a smaller motor and get longer run time. If you kayak is limited on the room for a battery and think about a smaller motor and variable speed control to increase your runtime up to 5 times as long. Ask questions!

What are some tips/keys to installing your system in a kayak?
“If you’re not sure ask !” everyone is nervous about drilling holes into their $1000 baby, and rightfully should be. I ask that every customer to lay everything out on the deck and see what goes where and think about how they’re going to proceed, I want them to know how to fix it when something happens on the water, if I do everything for them they’ll have no clue when something happens. As with mounting anything on a kayak ergonomics should be considered, are you right handed or left, which hand do I hold the rod with? You’re going to use that opposite hand to control everything else, so plan it that way.

What type of angler is using your system? Whom does it appeal to?
We see a few groups, the anglers who are getting up there in age, the baby boomers, who can’t cover the range they once did, Anglers with shoulder problems, or medical issues. And a group of savvy anglers who recognize adding a motor to a kayak makes a better fishing platform. Within the past couple of year we have seen a Female presence starting to form which is very encouraging for the sport. We are starting to see a large interest in Photographers who need both hands free, sneaking up on wildlife with a quite motor.

Why do you think alternative propulsion systems are popular with kayak anglers?
Because it allows them to catch more fish and that’s the reason we started fishing from kayaks in the first place. And then there a few out there who like to “Pimp their Ride” as a hobby, it allows them to express themselves and have fun doing it.

What are future advances to alternative power systems?
Eventually the battery technology will catch up and we’ll have light, inexpensive batteries and the advancement of Brushless motors will increase the power output.

Choosing the Right Fishing Kayak

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Walking into a kayak shop and attempting to discern which boat is for you may seem a little daunting, especially if you are completely new to the sport. For the sake of simplicity we will be concentrating on fishing kayaks and thus only the Sit on Top or SOT Kayaks for short. Cockpit kayaks or Sit Inside Kayaks (SIK) are generally used for touring, exercise, and camping as they can haul more gear and their efficient nature allows you to cover more distance with less effort. The nature of SIK’s requires a snug fit around the cockpit and thus they are not usually used for fishing…usually, there are exceptions to everything of course.


Before even walking into the kayak shop you should have a good idea of where you plan to fish and what you’ll be primarily fishing for: Stalking the flats for bones/permit/ reds, deep jigging offshore on the wrecks and reefs for snapper or Amberjack, or maybe just pitching shrimp under dock lights in the ICW or lake near your house. Maybe you want to do a little of everything? As with all things in life there is no such thing as a perfect boat but the great thing about kayak fishing is you can come pretty darn close.

One of the main factors I try to emphasize when placing someone into a kayak is efficiency, you will hear it over and over again and the concept is quite simple: Longer and skinnier kayaks will paddle more efficiently than shorter and wider kayaks. This is something to consider when thinking about the areas you will be fishing, will you be paddling long distances to fish? Maybe you’ll paddle out a mile, anchor up and sit in one spot all day? Any fishing kayak will fit the bill for both extremes but you don’t need a 15’ kayak if you are only paddling short distances and paddling long distances in a short kayak will make you never want to paddle again! The longer a kayak is the more glide you will get and this helps you cover longer distances as opposed to a short boat which may not glide at all, but, if you are simply fishing the lake behind your house than it may be just what you need.

SOT Kayaks are basically available in three different materials and once again for simplicities sake I will give the abbreviated text:

Roto-Mold (Polyethylene or simply “plastic”) – Inexpensive yet tough, most fishing kayaks are Roto-mold, will warp if left out in the sun for extended periods of time, plastic is also the heaviest of the materials used for kayaks and can be difficult to repair.

Trylon – A few kayak manufacturers are using this material (namely Hurricane Kayaks) as it is much stronger than the standard Poly material: it’s tougher, lighter, smoother and more rigid (This means they paddle better i.e. faster), and they do not warp in the sun! The material can be repaired like poly but it will last much longer so it may never be necessary. These boats cost a little more but the investment is well worth it.

Composite (Fiberglass or Kevlar) – The lightest material available and also the easiest to repair. A fiberglass kayak can last a lifetime as any cracks or scratches simply require fiberglass cloth at the worst and usually only gel-coat to patch up. These kayaks will paddle much more efficiently than plastic or Trylon boats and will weigh substantially less but these are the most expensive boats and true-to-form fishing kayaks made out of composite materials are few and far between.

For all intents and purposes most people just getting into the sport purchase a “plastic” or polyethylene kayak as they are more affordable and will get the job done just fine. The subtle differences between the various fishing kayaks can be hard to discern and so to aid our customers we have grouped fishing kayaks into four different categories, which I will further explain in this article: Pure Fishing Kayaks, Camping Capable Fishing Kayaks, Cruising Fishing Kayaks, and Fast Cruising Fishing Capable Kayaks.


Pure Fishing Kayaks

These boats are made for one purpose and one purpose alone…fishing! There are many reasons a kayak could be grouped into this category: Malibu’s Mini-X is a 9’3’’ X 34’’ plastic kayak that weighs 38lbs. The small size of the Mini-X means it won’t get you anywhere in a hurry but it is a rock-solid platform for fishing as it has a 300lb capacity for a paddler and gear, perfect for pond-jumping or short jaunts on the flats. The Freedom Hawk 14 (pictured above) is another specialty kayak made for the skinny-water angler as it has built in stabilizers that make the Freedom Hawk as stable as any flats boat out there. The Freedom Hawk has little for storage and that, coupled with a wide open cockpit, is what makes it a Pure Fishing Kayak. These kayaks can be used for activities other than fishing but there are many other kayaks better suited for exercise, surfing, or just cruising, these boats are made to put you on the fish. Another example would be Emotion’s Temptation (aka “The Stealth”): A 10’ kayak that’s short enough not to be a cruising kayak but has ample room for rod-holders, a live-well, a cooler and with a $579 price tag it will get you on the water, cheap. Purpose-built kayaks like the Mini-X, the Temptation, and the Freedom Hawk are great for the dedicated angler who won’t spend much time in the kayak without a fishing rod.

Camping Capable Fishing Kayaks

Up until recently very few SOT kayaks fit into this category as the standard SOT kayak only has one hatch (usually located at the bow) and an exposed rear tank-well (The exception was Ocean Kayaks Scupper Pro with bow and stern hatches). Overnighters were always possible like this but it was a wet and cramped affair until Ocean Kayak released the Prowler 15 Trident (pictured above) and with it the Rod-Pod. The Rod-Pod was developed so offshore anglers could stow their fully rigged rods in the kayak while launching in the surf to avoid snapping rods in the event of a capsize. It was a great innovation and also opened up the entire middle section of the Trident 15 for storage! So now you could load everything you want, including the kitchen sink, into a SOT kayak, the amount of storage is impressive by any standard. Ocean Kayak recently introduced this feature in the Trident 11 and Trident 13 so now you could have the great storage capacity available on a smaller kayak. I recently took a Trident 11 camping in Hell’s Bay and was amazed that I could fit everything into that little 11’ kayak that I fit into my 19’ cockpit boat…plus a cooler! Ocean Kayaks Trident’s are a great choice for an aspiring kayak angler looking for a more versatile craft and the ability to load up and disappear into the backcountry for week or so.

Cruising Fishing Kayaks

These boats were designed with recreational paddling in mind and so they will be less voluminous than the aforementioned kayaks and thus they will paddle more efficiently. Although these kayaks are designed with recreational paddling in mind converting them to fishing kayaks is as simple as adding a few rod-holders, that’s it. Hurricane’s Phoenix 130 is a great example of these kayaks: Light, fast, and huge rear tank-wells that can accommodate a massive amount of gear. The benefits of these boats are too numerous to list but in short they will get you to where you want to go faster and more importantly it will require less energy on your part. Other good examples would be RTM’s Tempo (pictured above) and the venerable Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro (both 15’ respectively), once again these kayaks were designed for recreational use but are easily made into speedy fishing kayaks with the addition of rod-holders. These Cruising Kayaks are great for anglers wanting the capability to travel slightly longer distances in search of fish or those who simply want the most versatile craft possible.

Fast Cruising Fishing Capable Kayaks

As you may have guessed from the name of the category the kayaks in this class were not laid-out with fishing in mind, they are long boats and usually quite slender when compared to the standard SOT kayak. These kayaks were made for exercise or even touring/camping but they can be adapted for use by kayak fisherman with the addition of rod-holders. These kayaks are not for everyone, some people may find the slender nature of the boats a little “tippy” and thus unsuited for fighting fish, some of these kayaks may have limited storage capacity making them unsuited for carrying all of your kit but that doesn’t mean they cannot fill a niche as a “light fishing” or a touring/fishing kayak. RTM makes a kayak called the Disco: 13’8’’ X 26’’ and 55 lbs, very smooth lines and a sharp entry make the Disco a dream to paddle but it has very little room for storage and its maximum payload is around 200lbs. For some average to larger paddlers this simply won’t do but for someone looking to do some light fishing or maybe more paddling than fishing it is a great choice as it paddles great and when not used for fishing makes a great surf, exercise, or just simply cruising kayak. RTM also recently released the Midway (pictured above), which is basically a larger version of the Disco and apparently it is quite the rave amongst offshore kayak fisherman in Australia. Another example would be Current Designs Kestrel 140 SOT or The Zone, both are composite boats that travel at light speed when compared to the standard poly SOT’s and although they were designed for cruising and touring they can be retro-fitted with rod-holders to get the job done, in a hurry too! The Fast Cruising Fishing Capable Kayaks are perfect for those of us who like to cover ground, have a very versatile kayak that is touring-capable, or even old salts who may want something a little quicker than their plastic fishing kayak.

A quick note on seats…

Some kayak manufacturers include a seat with the retail price of their kayaks, namely Ocean Kayak; other companies build a hard plastic seat-back into their kayaks to save their customers a little bit of cash. Personally I prefer a high-quality seat such as Seair Sports Pacific Angler, its $120 price tag may steer many away but if you spend a fair amount of time on the water wouldn’t you want to be comfortable? A good seat is imperative as your level of comfort will dictate how often you go paddling, if you don’t feel comfortable using the kayak chances are you will not use it that often. A lot of people get hung up on high-backrests when in reality the most important thing is lower back support. Just take a look at any serious touring sea-kayak and you will see a small back-band and that’s it because that is all that is really necessary. A high-back seat will allow you to recline in a more relaxed position which is not a good paddling position. Once again the best bet is to try out a few different kayaks and a couple of different seating arrangements to find what is best for you.

So what have we learned? That kayaks are as varied as their applications, there is no “perfect” kayak, and that essentially any kayak can be used for fishing…the real question will be how comfortable you be doing it. The key is to go out and demo a few kayaks before you buy, how else will you know that a particular kayak is the one for you? And another point I can’t stress enough is to avoid “angler packages” direct from the manufacturer as they usually tack on $100 for two rod-holders that cost $12 each and a fish decal. It is much wiser to paddle the boat bare-bones to get a feel for where you would want everything to go and once you’ve figured that out you can install rod-holders and whatnot yourself or have your local kayak shop do it for you. Some kayak shops even offer free installation, anytime, provided you purchased the kayak from them. So get out there and paddle because if you are sitting at home right now you’re missing out…

SUP: The New Wave in Fishing Watercraft

Friday, April 4th, 2014


Ok, I was a kayaker. I used to kayak fish at every opportunity I had to target saltwater game from Southern California to the Gulf of Mexico. I found that the kayak helped me when fishing redfish in super skinny water or sneaking up on laid up Tarpon in the mangroves. The kayak got me into places I would have never been able to fish with a skiff. However, I was bitten by the Board bug 30 years ago…

I recall 30 years ago taking my 10 foot long board out into the kelp beds off San Diego and fishing for yellowtail (West Coast version of an Amberjack) with the fly rod. What stands out most about those early surfboard adventures is how stealth fishing from a surfboard could be. I had the ability to quietly paddle into to a school of feeding yellowtail and present my fly without spooking a single fish.

The only disadvantage to the surfboard was not being able to stand up to get a better vantage point on the fish. I thought how great it would be to have a board that would lend itself to standing instead of sitting.

The old Wind Surf Board

My next board was an old windsurf board. Wide bodies and stable, it was the perfect fishing platform for my kelp bed adventures. I could stand tall and see fish much better, however, it was not made for quick paddling, weighing close to 40 pounds, it was close to imposable to push it through the water at a good clip with my home made paddle made out of two plastic boat oars weird together and duct taped at the middle. I made some very memorable fishing journeys with my “old windsurfer” but soon I realized I need a better fishing craft.

The Kayak Years

I thought I had found the perfect fishing water craft in the Kayak. Like my boards, I could load the kayak onto my truck racks, I could launch it anywhere and unlike my windsurfer, it paddled like a dream! My kayak accompanied me up and down the West coast and deep into Baja California chasing everything from trout to roosterfish, marlin to tuna! There was no body of water or fish, big or small, I could not catch on my Kayak. What more could a fisherman want?

Well? How about a SUP?

I’ve been known to change my mind. On the issue of the perfect water craft? Well, I’ve changed my mind. Yep, I have found the perfect fishing watercraft after all these years. The fishing SUP is the new wave of the fishing water craft future. They are a far cry from what I use to fish off of in my “long board” and ‘”Windsurfer” days. Today’s SUPs are ultra stable, well tracking and set up with the fisherman in mind. I can now head out on a fishing adventure with a Yeti cooler strapped to my board that acts as a seat, a rod rack that doubles as a stripping basket and more tie downs for dry/tackle bags then I would ever need. These wonderful crafts can take me into inches of water to chase tailing redfish or explore the near shore waters on the West Coast searching for yellowtail, white seas bass and Bonito.

Boy, water craft has come a long way in the past 30 years! I’m sure glad I’ve been along for the ride…I mean the paddle!

My Choice of SUP: Bote Ahab

Kayak Fishing Check list

Friday, April 4th, 2014


Before you start your kayak fishing adventure, be sure you have the proper kayak fishing safety equipment. At some point, even the most seasoned kayakers can count on getting wet so it’s important to be prepared. Every kayak angler needs to wear a PFD (personal flotation device). When choosing a vest, be sure it is comfortable. (That way you will actually wear it.) The pros recommend choosing a vest with a mesh lower back panel designed to work comfortably with even the highest-backed kayak seats.

Choose a vest with plenty of front pockets for holding gear and a place for your knife. Next, be sure to protect your body from the elements, such as cool water temperatures and sun exposure, with immersion ready clothing, UV protective clothes, and sunscreen. Pack food and water to keep hydrated and energized.

Next, include a VHF radio to reach the Coast Guard should things (notably, you) go south. Place your cell phone in a dry bag. Pack a small medical kit, pliers, and a tow rope. Accidents happen when you least expect it, so think safety first. Last, don’t forget your paddle, seat, rods, gaff, net, sabiki rig, rods, tackle, leashes, bait tank, battery, and fishfinder.

It takes patience figuring out how to best organize such a limited space with these “must haves” and as soon as you get it figured out, you will think of something new to bring next time.

Putting Lipstick on a Pig

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Taking standard soft plastic shrimp and turning them into killers is well within your control. Take for example, the standard Rip Tide or DOA soft plastic shrimp. These shrimp come out of the package with the perfect shape/outline, but when a little make-up is applied, you have a really dressed up and perfect looking shrimp that will fool the old man that typically ignores most artificial offerings. I have said this before in different articles, but the most basic of all fishing concepts is getting (whatever you are fishing for) to put your bait or lure in it’s mouth long enough for you to set the hook. It’s a simple theory, but true. I have seen many fish come behind the bait and then for some reason flare away, not to be seen again. This was because of one of more reasons. It didn’t look, smell, act or sound right. Even with live bait, if your hook is too large, tag ends too long, big mono leader and/or swivel too large—something made it not right, so it did not get into its mouth, and you did not get to set the hook.

These days, with my limited time, relentless weather, cost of fuel, etc., I am spending much more time in the backwaters where this shrimp really comes into play. I have been introduced into the rapidly advancing world of kayak and electric powered watercraft for fishing the backwaters. I never knew anything like today’s kayaks existed until a couple years ago when I fished from a Hobie (peddle powered) kayak. With almost effortless footwork, you can power ahead with stability and surprising speed. Then I experienced the Freedom Marine Twin Troller—Boy, what a wake-up call! Talk about hands free fishing. That’s all I’ll say about the ever-changing world of (skinny) watercraft. That’s how you get there, this is how you catch them.
Back to the shrimp. I said all that, to say this: Everything eats a shrimp. If you have limited room for rods (like from a kayak), I would have just two rods, one with a float (popping and/or sliding), and one without a float with this shrimp.

To give this natural color #47 (Rip Tide) shrimp the ultimate look, color the eyes, and not the entire stem, (black or red) with Spike-It coloring and a Q-Tip. Next, dip just the very edge of the tail Chartreuse, or use a Q-Tip if the liquid level is low in the bottle. This coloring visually turns this into a perfect white shrimp. Now address the smell of the shrimp. I like the shrimp flavored PRO-CURE gel. There are others but I have a certain degree of confidence with PRO-CURE. With the smell just right, they kept the bait in their mouth long enough for you to set the hook. Now let’s address the action of the shrimp and how it swims. I have run out of room (words) for this article, but you can watch the full-length video of the entire process on the website titled “Trickin’ Out The Shrimp” in the How-To section. In this video, I will address the look, smell, act and sound in detail. April is no foolin’.

Take Me to the Water: Safely Transporting Your Kayaks

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

While performance on the water is the ultimate factor when choosing the perfect kayak, being able to get it to the launch and into the water without incident is almost as important.
How you transport your kayak has almost as much to do with the vehicle as it does the boat. You probably would not to try to put a Pro Angler on top of a Civic, transversely you probably do not need a trailer to haul a single average size fishing kayak.

Here are a couple of different options when determining the most efficient way to get your yak to the water.

The roof top carrier is the most common way that kayaks are moved from home to the launch. A sedan will require a roof rack with cross bars to be installed, while most SUV’s come with some type of factory rack. Some SUV racks are quite serviceable as is, but many kayak fishing anglers choose to upgrade to some of the great racks available from Yakima or Thule. Once you decide on the racks, it is time to select the best seating to combine with your choice to provide the ultimate in ease and safety while transporting your boat. Your options can be as simple as a set of rack pads or as elaborate as the Thule Hullavator which actually lifts and secures your kayak to the roof. If you prefer to put your baby in a cradle, you will find quality options from Yakima, Thule and Malone in a wide variety of price points. Once the kayak is on the roof, you need to strap it down. Use both front and rear kayak straps (available at your local kayak dealer) avoid using bungees, as they can pop loose and cause a disaster. When traveling long distances, you may want to use additional tie-downs tethered to the front and rear undercarriage of your vehicle.


The Pickup is the vehicle of choice for many serious kayak anglers. Not only does it offer a multitude of ways to carry multiple boats, but it makes loading a lot easier, as you only have to pop the boat up to about waist level before pushing it into the desired position. A plastic bed liner makes this especially easy and prevents scrapping when combined with roto-molded kayaks. A bed extender is another key accessory to improve your Pickup as a kayak hauler. Personally, I like the T-Bone by Boondox. It is light weight aluminum and powder coated to prevent rust. The extender plugs right into the trailer hitch and is especially useful with the Hobie PA’s, as well as, some of the larger Jackson kayaks. Attach a strap to the boat’s front handle and the truck bed’s front U-Bolt, secure the rear of the kayak to the T-Bone and you are good to go. Remember to tie a flag onto the rear of the kayak for safety and add a locking pin to protect your investment.

For anglers that need to consistently transport multiple kayaks of have one of the jumbo crossover boats, a trailer may be the way to go. There are some sweet models made by Trailex and Yakima, while most local trailer shops will fabricate custom trailers capable of towing an entire fleet. If you are mechanically inclined, unlike the author, you can repurpose an old Jet Ski trailer into a very nice kayak hauler.

There is no perfect way to transport your kayak. I hope this helps you chose an option that is best suited for you.

Pedal On!