story by Greg Berlocher
Not much more than a decade ago, the only boats sighted around lakes and major reservoirs were bass boats, ski boats and johnboats, with the occasional deck boat thrown in to round out the mix.
Kayaks are not the curiosity they used to be and can be seen on every watershed of the state. Canoes have always had a devoted following, but kayaks have brought paddling into the mainstream.
Kayaks are reliable fishing platforms to chase anything that swims in freshwater. Interest in bass fishing dwarfs the other freshwater species so we will first look there first.
Bass ‘yakers use their crafts to fish the same water as their brethren in metal-flaked hulls, only at a slower pace. Once on station, the kayaker works an area thoroughly before moving even a short distance. “Run and gun” isn’t in the kayaker’s vernacular.
Kayaks can be outfitted with the same electronics found in powered vessels. GPS location units and depth finders are a must to pinpoint humps, drop-offs, and the edges of channels.
A kayak’s slender shape allows it to penetrate deep into brush and push through narrow openings, something even a mini bass boat can’t do. The down side is you can’t stand up to fish. You can, however, turn sideways and fish sidesaddle. Many kayak anglers prefer this orientation and, with practice, learn to twist in the seat without capsizing. Of course, it is best to master this maneuver sans fishing tackle. Remember the Three L’s: leash it, lanyard it or lose it. This applies to rods and reels, too.
Working tight to brush and pitching or flipping jigs is productive. Kayaks penetrate tangles of brush easily, allowing the angler to sneak into areas that deter other boats.
Kayaks can be stationed over structure in deep water, too. Pinpointing turns in creek channels and anchoring is your best bet if the wind is blowing.
An anchor system utilizing pulleys makes the task much easier and safer. Mushroom anchors are a good choice in lakes, as they are easy to deploy and retrieve.
Quietly easing down a shoreline and pitching crank- and spinnerbaits is a great tactic for spawning bass. Paddles are significantly stealthier than even the quiet hum of a trolling motor. Plus, you don’t have to worry about a mutinous propeller beating against a submerged branch. Bedding bass are spooky and a fisherman seated in a kayak presents a significantly smaller silhouette than does a fishermen standing in a bass boat.
In autumn, kayaks are fun vessels from which to snipe at schooling bass. Be aware that the sounds of approaching power boats will often spook a school of feeding fish, causing them to dive for the safety of deep water. Wait a while and they will usually resurface in the immediate area. As discussed in Chapter 2, boats float because their hulls displace a large amount of water. When a boat planes across the water’s surface, it displaces less water than when it is at rest. Imagine all the water that is displaced when a planing hull slows to a stop. The amount of water that is in motion during the final stage of deceleration causes a cacophonous racket and subsurface pressure wave.
Kayaks can float for extended periods amidst schools of busting fish. The reason: stealth. Assuming another boat doesn’t crash the party and put the school down, of course.
The kayaker is at a disadvantage to a standing angler when it comes to casting distance. To maximize casting distance, throw aerodynamic lures, such as Little Georges and Rattle Traps. Scaling down a line size also helps milk extra distance from each cast.
White bass are another open water adversary. Electronics can help you spot schooling fish hanging hovering near structure deep beneath the surface. Fishing heavy slab spoons with jig trailers is a productive technique. The same long distance casting techniques for tapping surface-busting schools of black bass work just as well on white bass.
Hybrids and stripers are battlers that prefer to roam open water in search of threadfin and gizzard shad. Deploying bait rigs from rod holders is easy to do from a kayak, assuming it is safe to paddle in open water. Baits can be kept frisky by towing them in a floating container behind your kayak. There are certain reservoirs in Texas, such as Lake Conroe, where the noise of an approaching boat will shut down the bite. Kayaks are the ideal vessel in these fisheries.
Using a kayak to meander down a shoreline during the spring and dabbling minnows for spawning crappie is relaxing. A fly rod or cane pole can be holstered in a side-mounted rod holder when you need to unhook a fish. A minnow bucket holding several dozen shiners can easily be tucked between your knees.
When they are not spawning, crappie adore the hominess that bridge pilings provide. Instead of working a handful of pilings from a roadside pull-off, a kayak allows you to work them all; the same with submerged trees and brush. Brush anchors (a large spring clip tethered to a rope) are handy for securing your kayak to a promising treetop. In a pinch, the clamp from a set of jumper cables can be pressed into duty. Brush anchors don’t require twisting to deploy and can be released with a squeeze of the hand.
Bream fishermen can get in on the action as well. Conventional gear, fly rods and cane poles are all good choices for dispatching a mess of bluegill and redear for a fish fry.
Kayaks can be used to run trotlines, but there isn’t much room in the cockpit to dodge prickly spines. A small bucket is a good option to drop fish in. Kayaks are also a good option for tracking down jug lines. Regardless whether your favorite catfish rig is tethered or free floating, use goof judgment and don’t tangle with extremely large fish while afloat; instead, tow them back to shore.