Kayak fishing is one of the hottest trends in the outdoor industry today. Extremely popular with costal anglers, the paddling-and-angling approach is quickly drifting inland as freshwater anglers catch the kayak-fishing bug.
Don Theoret fished a weedy bay to land this largemouth bass taken on a topwater frog.
More freshwater enthusiasts are becoming kayak converts — and for good reason. Compared to power boats, kayaks are a low-cost solution for getting off the shore and on top of some great fishing spots. Although there's no shortage of fish you can target out of a kayak, paddling your way to a largemouth backwater bonanza is definitely one of my favorite ways to spend a day. Here's what you need to know about using kayaks to battle Mr. Bucketmouth.
Beyond the Limits of Powered Bass Boats
A big advantage to kayaks is that they let you access small ponds, rivers and backwater areas normally off limits to bass boats. Even more, these areas are often excellent areas for big largemouth. Before you launch, however, take some time to pick prime fishing waters. One good tactic is to find smaller backwater spots connected to the larger water body known to hold big fish. As long as there's not a blockade, if decent bass are in the bigger system, they'll be in the smaller areas too. These fish are also likely less-pressured, which can mean outstanding fishing.
For exploration purposes, I find a sit-on-top kayak best. This design lets you easily get in and out of the boat. Once you arrive at your destination, it's up to you to catch the fish, but here are my favourite largemouth bass kayaking techniques.
Slop Fishing Stealth
One of my favourite ways to target largemouth bass is with topwater frogs. This presentation is a blast out of a kayak. Kayaks let you get right into the heart of this cover. In thick slop, weeds will wrap around paddles, making manoeuvrability and paddling more challenging than in open water, but the effort is worth it for the shot at a trophy fish. Once you get into the shallow stuff, a stealth approach is a must. Keep noise and boat-to-boat chatter to a minimum to avoid spooking fish.
When casting topwaters, be prepared for strikes at any time during the retrieve. It's common for bass to hit a frog a few feet from a kayak, which happens much less often when I'm in my power boat.
Jamie Pistilli paddles an Ocean Kayak through shallow water to a back bay off limits to larger power boats.
For frogging, I use a heavy-power baitcast outfit, teamed with a 7:1 gear ratio reel to help me quickly winch largemouth up and out of the thick cover. Sometimes dropping an anchor on the edge of the slop can prevent you from being pulled into the weeds when locked in battle with a fish.
In addition to slop and pads, I use hollow-bodied frogs and swimming toads in open water areas. I like that these baits can pull double duty, so I don't have to bring a lot of topwaters out with me.
Slam 'em on Spinnerbaits
Without a doubt, a spinnerbait is an excellent search lure for bass. What I like about a spinnerbait is that, due to its horizontal presentation, it's perfectly suited for the low-to-the-water seated position of kayakers. Another advantage to spinnerbaits is they're a single hook lure. Whenever I can, I avoid treble hooks when kayak fishing, and if I do use them, I try and always net-land fish. Sticking with a single hook helps reduce the chances of boat side mishaps in the kayak's low-to-the-water position.
Spinnerbaits also make great search lures, letting you comb through a bay or drift along a shoreline firing out casts to quickly determine if any bass are in the area. Mostly weedless and snag-free, these baits excel in almost any conditions, excluding heavy cover. Bulge them on the surface or slow roll them over deep weed tops. When kayak fishing, space is always a premium. I opt for versatile lures I can work in a variety of fishing scenarios. The spinnerbait is one of my top choices when I'm out of the slop for largies.
Finesse 'em with Softbaits
Softbaits catch a lot of largemouth, and there's no reason you can't fish them out of kayaks. In a light breeze, drifting and hopping, grubs, tube jigs or Texas-rigged worms is a deadly way to cover water and intercept active fish. You can also fan cast areas, which is good situation for swimbaits. When conditions are calm and the bite's tough, casting wacky-rigged soft jerkbaits is deadly on bass out of any boat.
Dunk Weed Pockets
Vertical presentations can make for challenging hook sets when seated in a kayak, but are still worth trying in prime conditions. When bass are holding tight and deep in weeds, sometimes the only way to hook them is picking apart an area. Short-line flipping (i.e., with an engaged reel and the free hand pulling, then releasing excess line) or dunking weed pockets can be done from a kayak, but often only in calm conditions. It takes a bit of practice, but you'll soon get the hang of it. As a general rule, try and keep the lure positioned in front of the boat. This way, when you set the hook, the movement follows the length of the kayak ensuring a more stable hook set.
Being Low is a Good Thing
Although the low position of a kayak may be perceived as somewhat of a disadvantage for flipping situations, the posture these paddle boats provide makes for great skipping baits under overhanging cover from a kayak. Using a side-arm cast, keep baits low to the water and toss them under shaded cover areas, like docks or trees. Top skipping baits include tubes, soft jerkbaits, or salt-loaded creature baits rigged Texposed.
As you can see, many of the top power-boat bass-fishing tactics work, or can be adjusted, to fishing out of a kayak. If you haven't yet, consider renting or borrowing a kayak and paddle to some back bays you know hold bass. Be warned though; once you lock in battle with a largemouth in a kayak, you might find yourself assimilated into one of the hottest and fastest growing trends in angling today. Don't say I didn't warn you.