Kayak Trolling, 101

Spanish Mackerel on… Popping Corks?!
November 28, 2019

Kayak sharpie Zach Ditmars has lines deployed and casts a third rod, while slowly but steadily paddling along.

I enjoy kayak fishing, but I’m no kayak fishing expert. Fortunately I know a lot of people who are, and recently when one of them took me out for a day, he shared some basics with me which proved invaluable. The most important? Kayak trolling can be devastatingly effective – if you know these tips.

Kayak sharpie Zach Ditmars has lines deployed and casts a third rod, while slowly but steadily paddling along.

  1. Deploy lures that probe different depths. Not only will this help you find fish, it also reduces the chances of tangles (which can be frequent since the lines run so close together). Lipped plugs are standard kayak trolling fare, and we each ran a floating diver that ran a couple feet down on one line, and a neutral-buoyancy diver which swam at five to eight feet on the other.
  2. Keep a third rod in-hand, with a casting lure. Make your casts at a forward angle so by the time you complete a retrieve, the line is at 90-degrees off to the side or slightly aft, but nowhere near the trolling lines.
  3. When you pass by a good-looking spot you want to cast at a few times, don’t be afraid to slow to a crawl or even stop. Fish won’t commonly hit the plugs being trolled when they’re at rest like this, but they will often stare at them with curiosity. When you begin moving again, give a few strong kicks of the pedal or strokes with the paddle so the lure jumps away from any fish that might be curious – this will often trigger an attack.
  4. Trolling with a paddled kayak gives the lure an erratic swimming motion, which is great. But peddlers sometimes settle into a smooth groove. If you have a pedal kayak, don’t become complacent because erratic is almost always better than smooth, when it comes to working a lure through the water. Remember to vary your speed, and consciously try to make those lures swim like they’re alive.
  5. If you have a rod in-hand and are on a pedal model, and you get a strike, don’t stop pedaling as you crank in and drop the other rod into a holder. Instead, keep peddling and use your continuing forward motion to maintain tension on the fish until you’re ready to attend to it.

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