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I recently spent a day kayak trolling, and while I’m no kayak fishing sharpie (I usually have 22 feet of fiberglass underfoot) the angler I was with, Zach Ditmars, certainly is. He’s focused on hooking everything from speckled trout to striped bass on his Native Slayer, and has it rigged to the teeth with everything from pedal drive to GPS. So I paid close attention to everything he said and did, and by the end of the day had culled out these three important kayak trolling tips.
Zach cruises his Slayer to the fishing grounds.
- Pedal drives are great for getting where you’re going quickly and efficiently, but aren’t always best for trolling. In fact, trolling via paddle can be more effective in certain circumstances. The advantage comes in when you want a more jerky, erratic presentation. Peddling obviously transfers power from you to the propulsion system much more smoothly and efficiently, and when you’re trolling a lure such as a lipped crankbait, which creates plenty of its own action as its pulled through the water, peddling works great. But when your offering is a lure that benefits from additional input, like a jig or a bucktail, the more erratic nature of paddling can make for a much better presentation.
- Setting, retrieving, and monitoring your line is a lot tougher than it is on a larger boat. As a result, it’s critical you prevent your lures from scraping bottom and picking up weed or snagging shell. You may not notice for quite a while and if you do notice, simply clearing a fouled line can basically shut down the entire operation. Naturally, however, if the fish are close to the bottom that’s where you want your lures to be. A good way to make immediate adjustments in lure depth is to have four rodholders, two set straight up and two set at a 45-degree angle to the water. Then when trolling two lines, you can set the depth for running them from the angled holders. When there’s a sudden hump or rise and you need to quickly get those lures four or five feet higher in the water column to avoid rubbing bottom, simply switch them to the vertical holders. When you go down a drop-off, do the opposite. For a full explanation on this topic, you may want to check out Controlling Lure Depth While Trolling From a Kayak.
- When you ID the depth fish are holding at, follow contours. This is where having a fishfinder which includes GPS mapping is a major advantage. You can’t trust the contour lines of a chartplotter – they’re almost always off by a hair this way or that way – but they can put you in the right neighborhood and let you know when an abrupt change is coming. Then, you can use the fishfinder to make precise adjustments in your course.