Kayak fishing is on the rise. Interest in these relatively affordable craft has increased dramatically over the last decade and seeing kayaks on any Texas bay, river, lake or even in the Gulf is common.
And while kayaks are a primitive mode of travel (and fishing) modern kayaks are anything but primitive. Let’s start with navigation.
Hobie’s MirageDrive propulsion system for kayaks nearly make paddles obsolete.
Weighing in at under eight pounds, the MirageDrive 180 produces full power in both directions. Users can pull one of two shift cables to pivot the fins 180 degrees, almost instantly from forward to reverse and back again. The dual fins provide shallow water access and easy shore landings by simply pushing one pedal forward.
Possibilities include backing fish out of cover; safely fishing closer to obstructions; or fishing downstream while holding in current. Hands-free propulsion in any direction means better control: to cast, to present baits, and to concentrate on landing bigger fish.
Motors are also available for kayaks including the Torqeedo 402 electric motor from Hobie. It can operate for several hours on two knots but also allow anglers to move into bursts of speed.
Kayaks can also be fitted with small outboard and standard trolling motors with price and efficiency varying greatly.
Sonar is now easily accessible and tailor made for kayak owners.
Take the Humminbird Fishin Buddy Max Sonar.
A multidirectional mount allows it to be clipped virtually anywhere with no rigging or wiring required, and no transducer to mount. Depth capability to 600 feet allows you to identify cover and structure.
They additionally offer the 385cI Combo Kayak featuring a brilliant color 3.5-inch display with LED backlight, advanced DualBeam sonar with 2400 Watts PTP power output, and GPS Chart plotting with built-in UniMap.
TF&G Boating Editor Lenny Rudow says that kayak technology is great but you have to keep some things in mind if you want to keep the stealth part of kayak fishing effective.
“If you have a two-stroke outboard, shut it down before shifting out of gear. These engines make a lot more underwater noise in neutral, than they do in gear,” he said.
“Don’t think electric motors are 100-percent silent – they create just as much prop noise as any other motor will. Prop noise is directly related to engine speed, so even when going electric, approach hotspots or finning fish slowly.”
In a fishgame.com blog on kayak technology he said if your fish boxes, stowage compartments, and hatches aren’t lined with rubber gaskets, add them.
“You can pick up a rubber gasket at any marine supply store for chump change, and it’ll eliminate those slams and bangs that will spook the fish.”
Even shifting in and out of gear can spoil the stealth.
“This causes a loud “thunk” underwater, which will alert the fish to your presence,” Rudow said.
TF&G contributor Greg Berlocher has written extensively on kayaks and suggests anglers combine common sense with technology.
“Prep your gear Spend enough time getting everything ready beforehand so getting on the water is quick and stress free,” said Berlocher.
“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.”
According to Berlocher 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 freshwater 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?”
And while modern kayaks provide ample storage space, keeping things organized will make kayak fishing expeditions far more successful according to Berlocher.
“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.”
Kayaks can be as simple or complex as you choose. Of course, complex costs so maybe the basic kayak setup is for you.
If you do decide to go the technological route then realize you need to learn the gear by training with it and being prepared before you make your flats, surf or lake fishing debut.
Technology has brought kayak fishing into the modern era but it’s no replacement for good angling skills and common-sense boating safety and maintenance.
—story by AUTHOR