Whether your kayak is paddle or pedal powered, positioning your kayak to more effectively fish a snag, drain, ledge, bait ball, school of fish or other target will catch you more fish. Kayak control can make the difference when it comes to landing a pinpoint cast and retrieving the lure at the optimal angle to get it into the strike-zone. It can also affect your ability to work the lure effectively and get the most out of it.
The most obvious option is the paddle. It allows you to propel the kayak forward, backward and sideways, but it can also be utilised in more subtle ways to control your kayak.
Clip the paddle into your paddle clip and it's out of the way. Rest it across your lap though and it is accessible, allowing you to fight a fish with one hand and use the other hand to dip one paddle blade into the water and perform short strokes to adjust the angle of the kayak or work the fish away from structure.
It is also interesting to observe how the breeze catches the blade of the paddle and moves the kayak. Something as simple as where you position the paddle on the kayak, when it is not in use and how you angle the blades of the paddle to catch the breeze, can assist in controlling your drift speed and the angle of your kayak when drifting or at anchor. Utilise this control option to angle your kayak so that you can more effectively cast along a bank or target structure.
Pedal kayaks offer additional advantages to the angler. Having your hands free to fish while propelling the kayak is super handy, as is the ability to hold position into the current or wind when targeting structure or holding on a school of bait or fish.
A rudder allows for much more efficient paddling as it assists the kayak in tracking straight, while also allowing minor adjustments with the rudder to change direction, rather than having to adjust the paddle stroke. The rudder is also a handy positioning tool, allowing you to adjust your distance from the bank or drift line when drifting with the wind. Rather than having to paddle or pedal to reset the drift along a bank, the rudder allows you to move closer or further from the bank, remaining a perfect cast away from your target as you utilise the wind for propulsion.
When the wind picks up you can find yourself moving too fast to effectively fish an area. It's time to deploy the sea anchor (drift chute) to slow your drift and control the angle of the kayak while drifting. The sea anchor is funnel shaped, made of a material such as nylon or vinyl and has straps from the wider end of the funnel that join to a centre point that is then attached to a rope and your anchor running rig (anchor trolley). The drag of the moving kayak opens the funnel which in turn captures water, creating drag and slowing your drift down.
It is ideal to set up an anchor running rig (anchor trolley) on your kayak, consisting of a pulley at the nose and tail of your kayak, a loop of cord that runs between the two pulleys and a tag end that comes off the loop to which you attach your sea anchor, or other anchoring option. You will find plenty of videos on You Tube that guide you through setting up an anchor running rig or anchor trolley. The loop allows you to pull the tag line to the front or rear of the kayak, adjusting the anchor point and in turn, the angle of your kayak. You can now control the angle that you drift at, allowing you to more effectively cast to your target or work along the edge of a bank or drop off.
Kayak control in tide and running water is a different matter. The tide is also your friend and by studying the tides before you venture out you can save yourself a lot of pedalling or paddling by working with the tides and setting up ‘tidal drifts'. This again allows you to cover ground and position yourself to drift the structure, bait or schooled fish you are targeting.
When the tide is higher around the second half of the run in and first half of the run out, drifitng can be a better option, as much of the structure is covered and the fish are often more spread out. In this situation, wind and tide often play a major part. Wind can be frustrating, but wind can also be your friend. Those glassy calm days are extremely comfortable on the water, but the bite can be tough. Enough wind to disturb the surface of the water provides cover for feeding fish while stirring up food, meaning the bite can really switch on. This wind also allows you to take advantage of what is commonly referred to as a wind drift. Take note of the direction in which the wind is blowing and you can set up drift lines along flats, mangrove lines and drop offs, or target schools of bait or fish.
By simply adjusting the angle of your paddle blade as it rests on your lap, or by repositioning your landing net into a different rod holder, you can catch the breeze and modify the drift angle of your kayak from a frustrating one, where you keep turning away from your target, to one where you are facing your target and can make an easy cast. Adding a drift chute or sea anchor to an anchor running rig on your kayak can give you even more control, slowing your drift when the wind blows hard and providing almost limitless control of your drift angle.
Tidal movement also creates eddies around prime structure and these eddies will disorientate bait and bring it to awaiting predators that are holding in the eddy out of the main flow. Points, banks, rocks, timber and manmade structure like boats, walls and pontoons can all create eddies and a back current that can hold your kayak in position for long periods without the need to reposition. Make the most of these eddies as they allow you to spend more time efficiently targeting structure that is likely to hold fish.
What about if the structure I want to fish has no eddy? Rather than go zipping past the structure trying to fish it as you drift past it can be much easier to put in the paddle strokes and paddle into the current until you are within a cast of the down current edge of the snag. You can then utilize the forward glide of the kayak to make two or three casts to the edge of the snag.
If the current is running hard you may have to paddle back to the snag three times or more to fish it effectively. On the first approach try and target the down current edge of the snag looking for fish holding in the eddy. On the second approach aim to fire a cast down each side of the snag searching for fish and on the final approach a couple of casts over the snag, covering the pressure wave at the front of the snag and the snag itself. It can be tempting at times to put your first cast over the snag and retrieve the lure through this prime water. The problem is that if you snag the lure you can often spook the fish when trying to retrieve it. It is worth leaving the lure snagged, picking up a second rod and fishing the snag before retrieving the snagged lure.
Often times the three-pronged attack of targeting the eddy, the edges and then over the snag, minimises the chances of snagging on the first cast and also produces a wider variety of species and potentially more fish from the one snag.
Clear Shallow Creeks
The kayak is the perfect craft for exploring small creeks that are inaccessible to boats and larger craft. Small creeks can often be shallow, clear and narrow – all things that can make the fish spooky and the bite tough. The key to fishing these small creeks is stealth – slow movements, minimal noise and minimal water movement. At times you can use the kayak to access the larger pools, slide it up on the bank and fish on foot for the ultimate stealth.
Position the kayak so that you can throw long casts, rather than picking your way along, working the snags. This is worth a try as we have found that in the clear or shallow water fish pick up on the vibration and flashes of the lure and will travel some distance to attack it. Throw long casts down the centre of the creek and as close as you can to each bank while still maintaining the casting distance. If you try to paddle close to snags to make accurate casts, you will often only succeed in shutting down or spooking the fish.
It may not be possible to travel down the centre of the creek and fish the snags on both sides. Again, you may be shutting down or spooking the fish and minimising your chances of success. Have a good look at both banks and decide which side is more attractive to the fish, looking at features such as structure, shade, depth and bait and insect activity, all of which can attract predators. Hug the less fishy looking bank and throw a cast ahead of the kayak and another to the centre of the creek in case fish are holding in these areas, then you can spend more time focusing your efforts on the fishy looking bank.
These are just a few things that work for us when fishing from kayaks and the important thing to remember is that before you have even cast the lure there are steps that you can take to maximise your chances of success. Rather than spending time with the lure in the wrong spot, rushing the retrieve, fishing a difficult retrieve angle or awkward rod position, take the time to learn to control and position your kayak so that you are driving your lure through the strikezone. Spend less time casting and more time hooked up!
Lakes and Impoundments
Without the strong currents to compete against, lakes and impoundments are often ideal for those getting started in kayak fishing and kayak control can be a lot easier. You still have the wind to compete with though and a sea anchor and secondary anchoring option are still handy.
When targeting snags it can be worth taking some time to position the kayak side on to the snag. This makes it more difficult for the fish to get the kayak moving toward the snag on the strike, giving you the split seconds that can be the difference between extracting the fish and losing it and the lure to the weed or timber.
Allowing the kayak to rest against weed beds is an option in some impoundments; enabling you to fish parallel along the weed beds and spend more time thoroughly working the points. Backing the kayak into the weed is another option that allows you to fan casts and cover plenty of water.
Quite often the fish being targeted are schooling and a sounder is used to locate these schools. Once located, deploy a marker buoy to mark the school because impoundments are often large expanses of water and after drifting off the school or being dragged away from the school when fighting a fish, the last thing you want to be doing is wasting time searching for the school again. Instead you can return to your marker buoy and get the lure straight back into the zone.