Becoming a better kayak angler is quite easy. All it takes is time; however, if you were thinking this means years of experience, you would be wrong. Noted basketball coach Bobby Knight was fond of saying: “The will to prepare to win is as important as the will to win.” Translation: You must take practice as serious as the game. This is as true for kayak fishermen as it is for athletes. If you want to be successful on the water, you need to be serious about it before your trip.
Each of the following tips will elevate your game but each requires an investment of time or money. If you want to become a better kayak angler, tear this page out and tape it to the wall where you can read it periodically.
1. Game Plan Do you have a game plan for where and how you will fish before you arrive on location? Have you checked out the forecast, wind direction and strength, tides, water clarity, and solunar tables? How about water and air temperatures? Each can have a significant impact on your success. Since kayak fishermen are extremely limited in their range, a game plan is essential to your success.
Game plans are not immune from failure. Weather patterns change. Cold fronts are notorious for stalling and getting to a location ahead of time. And, of course, sometimes the fish don’t cooperate. You need to be committed to your plan but if you are several hours in and it is not working, don’t hesitate to adjust your game plan based on conditions.
2. Scout Nothing is more valuable than first-hand reconnaissance. Distances can be deceiving on maps. If you scout an area before you fish, you can look for launch spots ahead of time rather trying to make an impromptu decision as the sun is rising. Do other kayakers launch in the same area? How rough will the water be? Are there dangerous rips, currents, or boat traffic? All these questions can be answered with the investment of a little time ahead of your fishing trip.
3. Extend your vision Frustration, annoyance, and irritation are all accurate descriptors of my emotional state when I paddle a good distance, only to find that it was a waste of time and energy. For instance, paddling a half mile to cast to a pod of tailing reds, only to discover that the tails were mullet tails. A set of waterproof binoculars, will extend your vision and help you make better decisions while you are on the water.
4. Prep your gear Spend enough time getting everything ready beforehand so getting on the water is quick and stress free. A recent trip to the coast serves as a good example of what not to do. A late business meeting delayed our arrival in Rockport Friday night. The days prior to the trip were consumed attending a trade show. In short, there was no time for preparation. By the time we were settled-in Friday night, it was midnight. When the alarm went off four hours later, I couldn’t find the gear I needed when it counted most – a rookie mistake.
5. Maintenance pays Kayaks and fishing tackle are not maintenance free. Straps and buckles break. Metal cables and hinges rust and corrode. Electronics go on the fritz. A fresh water rinse is needed after every fishing trip. Create a maintenance clipboard for your kayak and fishing tackle. After every trip, note anything that requires attention. Date all entries and periodically review your maintenance record. Set up a schedule to regularly lubricate all mechanical linkages. Do you remember the last time you changed the line on your reel?
6. Organization I organize my tackle boxes at least once a year and they stay that way for a month or two. At the end of every trip, lures and tackle get dumped on the work bench. I am a piler, not a filer. However, I am getting better. I transfer the lures or terminal tackle I will use on a trip (think game plan) from my main tackle box to several kayak-friendly clear plastic boxes. I also organize the contents of my milk crate before and after every trip so everything is easy to extract when needed.
7. Fancy gear isn’t needed Advanced gear, such as a depth finder, won’t necessarily increase your success. Invest the time and energy in the basics before worrying about electronics.
8. Keep a journal Keep a journal in your vehicle, and spend five minutes jotting down major points from your trip as soon as you get off the water. You can turn the bullet points into complete sentences later but capture important information such as wind direction and speed, water movement, moon phase, and bait activity. What was your game plan? Did it work or not? This allows you to remember key points from good and bad trips. Review your journal when putting together a game plan.
9. Take a paddling course The term kayak angler is made up of two separate words. Most kayak fishermen are fishermen who happen to paddle. Paddling takes a back seat to fishing. Taking a course to improve your paddling skills will increase your mobility and range, and will put less wear and tear on your body.
9.5 Become a student of the game There are no shortcuts to success. Time spent on the mental aspects of kayak fishing will translate to achievements on the water. Investing time, and perhaps a few dollars, in the sport you love will yield a surprising amount of dividends.
By Greg Berlocher