“why have you got so much gear on your kayak?” a question often put to myself & kayak anglers like Stephen Tapp at a local beach or ramp before heading out or coming back from a trip. A quick show of the fish captured that day quickly changes the subject, when those that ask the question see how successful kayak fishing they then want to know how you caught the fish.
It is here we try to make them understand in that moment that it’s no one thing but a combination of all the gear and knowledge that results in a bin full of fish more often than not. Given that the fishing experiences of these people is usually limited to checking that old Bill’s calendar says today is good fishing day, dropping an anchor, lobbing a bait and hoping for the best. After all fishing is 90% luck right? Wrong…
Quite frankly if I am investing my time and money in heading out to catch a feed for my family (my primary reason for fishing) I sure as heck am not going to leave it to luck when some planning & preparation will make all the difference. I will use a recent kayak fishing trip with Stephen Tapp to emphasize the point of some of the key reasons we are more successful is when you combine planning & preparation with the right gear for the job.
Note : this is not about tackle choice as that is too broad to go into detail, we used 2 techniques on this trip… whole pilchards & trolling hard body lures over the shallows. Our kayaks of choice which are high on the list of key tools to greater success are the Viking Profish Reload kayaks..but this article is more focused on isolating some of the key accessories and factors to greater success on the water
Whenever I get a chance to join Stephen Tapp for a fish in Northland I am always excited at what the day might bring, adventure is a guarantee as is the opportunity to get among some reliable fishing under his guidance. This trip for both of us was a chance to take a day off work and collect a feed of snapper for family and friends. As always Stephen found fish and more importantly found the fish that were feeding, late autumn is not always productive at the time of day we were on his gps marks but Stephen always has a plan B, C & D.
(That feeling of excitement as you rig up talking about what the day will hold)
Over the years I have taken knowledge from every trip up north with Stephen and applied it to my routine and kayak fishing trips. The result is that when I am looking to gather a feed of fish for the table I, by applying all I have learnt, I generally come home with fish. Through this trip report I will outline some of those important learnings that make all the difference to catching fish and not. The gear carried on this hunter gathering trip is the same gear I carry on the majority of my kayak fishing trips
(The information in Stephens Lowrance Elite 7 HDI sounder is an essential part of planning for a succesful trip)
whether your just popping out for a quick fish, targeting a trophy fish or fishing a competition, you need to first have a plan, just heading out and hoping for the best without doing some research will generally leave your chances up to luck. This planning will also be important in the selecting of what techniques you will be using and what tackle you take with you. Take the time to plan, as much as it’s great just being on the water, I am more satisfied when I can take home a feed for my family after spending that time on the water
(Jason checking the settings and tracking on the Lowrance Elite 5HDI is all set up ready for the day of hunting down snapper.. pictures like these captured on the Railblaza Camera Boom 600)
Fishfinder – find the fish and stay on them
By far my number one tool for more success is my Lowrance fishfinder & chartplotter… in this trip we hit the water a little later than we would have liked which meant we missed the prime change of light bite time. This would mean we were going to need to rely on Stephens local knowledge of the area through his GPS marks and using our sounders to identify fish worth targeting. For much of the morning we paddled from one gps mark to another, dropping baits on sign but moving on quickly once identifying, other than the odd nibble and small fish, the bigger targets were not on the feed.
It’s at this point where many anglers, especially those not using sounders to identify whats really going on below, will persevere in that spot thinking “it’s only a matter of time and the big one will strike”. With the sounder we identify where the bigger fish are in the water column and by controlling the position of the kayak while presenting baits we can see on the sounder what reaction these signs/fish show.
(Identify the target and watch them take your bait as it is deployed, this shot from Jason’s Lowrance Elite 5 HDI)
Once you have identified that the fish might be there but are not feeding its pointless staying and better to move on. This is how we spent the session, occasionally picking up a fish worth keeping but continually moving, hunting the fish using our sounders. This is a technique I have watched Stephen Tapp use for many years now and I can only say you just need to read his articles and see his reports, he very very seldom misses if at all…even when others are struggling.
After lunch we moved out wider to one of Stephens further GPS marks we hit the jackpot and found a large school of snapper which were feeding…our bag limits of 7 fish were filled quickly, mission accomplished, we then spent time catching and releasing snapper on every bait dropped until our baits were gone.
The other key technique where a good sounder comes in handy is trolling hard body bibbed lures over the shallow weed and reef … the sounder allows you to stay in the optimum depth for the lure and lets you identify sharp rises before your lure snags…I landed and released a nice 55cm kelpy snapper using this technique on the paddle home.
(be prepared to move on if the fish are not biting, keeping an eye on the sounder as you paddle may pic up targets on the way to and from your gps marks)
Fish Storage – keep it fresh from the ocean to the table
(Even after a full 7hrs on the water the the slurry of salt water in the Chill Pod is very cold meaning the fish are in optimum condition for eating, I can tell you this really makes a difference to the eating experience, both Stephen and I get countless comments from family & freinds who cant believe how much fresher the fish we share with them tastes)
After catching the fish the next most important thing for me is ensuring I can keep it fresh from the moment it leaves the ocean to when it hits the table at home. For me there can be no compromise here if the fish goes off within a day then the whole exercise was pointless and could have been avoided by as much as a $5 bag of ice and a good cooler option… As we were on the water for a lot longer than planned, est 8hrs and more, knowing I had ice in my Chill Pod which is good for keeping the ice chilled for 8 or more hrs I knew I could fish on without risking the quality of the fish
(ample storage for your catch, Stephens pickings from this session will be shared among grateful friends and family)
The right kayak – and practical accessories to get the job done
Both Stephen & I fished from our Profish Reload kayaks in this session, these kayaks are set up in such a way that everything is in its place making fishing sessions comfortable and convenient. Most importantly we know the kayak has the ability to take us far offshore to find the fish and get us home again. Knowing your ability and that of the kayak should the conditions change are important aspects to a successful day fishing.
( The Profish tackle pod system really has been a break through in cockpit organisation for kayak anglers all around the world)
Without a doubt one of the great features of modern fishing kayaks like the Profish Relaod is the ability to carry all you need and keep it close at hand. There really is now price that can be put on having the ability to carry all the gear you need and more without compromise, you are so thankful for this facility when the time comes and you need that one tool to get you out of a bind or allow you to cash in on an opportunity that presents itself..
eg while fishing for snapper if a school of kings or tuna turn up you can re rig quickly and target them…or you run out of bait and you know your mate has both his rear pods full of pilchards 😉
(carry a spare 2pce paddle, this is of no inconvenience to carry and should one of us break a paddle when 5km offshore we will be very thankful not to have to tow one or other home. Buy an affordable spare 2pce paddle HERE )
Food, water and spare safety equipment are also a must, you may ask how they help make you more successful? This trip went longer than we planned, easily more than 8hrs on the water and further offshore than originally planned. The fact that we both had ample space to carry more than we needed in regards to food water and spare clothing meant this was not a concern and we could continue hunting the fish without putting one another at risk or making for an unnecessarily uncomfortable experience due to be being hungry, thirsty or too cold.
Practical accessories – Like the Railblaza mounts and accessories allow us to be versatile on a small craft giving the ability to keep everything in its place with the option to reconfigure on the go as ness. One of the standout bits of kit for myself and Stephen aside from the StarPort mounts themselves would have to be the camera mounting options, without them we could not share our experiences with you… items we find useful regularly are Rod Holder II, Pro series Camera Booms, TracPort 350
Leashes and anchor trolleys are such a standard expectation for any kayaker to be carrying but often are overlooked… A reliable anchor system goes without saying, the anchor trolley system that Stephen Tapp developed many moons ago still to this day is by far the best choice. Leashes.. I should not need to say much more than leash it or lose it.
(Leashes are most essential, I think we have all experienced the pain of losing some gear overboard (usually more expensive gear) which could have been avoided by using an affordable leash By yours HERE)
Paddle Clothing – Stay comfortable and safe
Being comfortable equates to being relaxed and being relaxed means you’re having a good time and the equals success in anyone’s books. But seriously the right clothing makes all the difference to a good experience and a bad experience on the water… spend the money and get a good clothing system one that can handle all weather and high vis. For me staying warm is as important as being visible and staying protected from the sun. For my core layer I wear Pinnacle Lava core leggings, socks and top. for my outer layer I wear level 6 paddle pants & spray top. On my head I wear a Buff for face and head plus my FCS bucket hat for further sun protection.
Primarily you should carry a VHF. We use them to communicate among one another but primarily this is our main safety device should things go wrong… Carrying a VHF gives you greater confidence knowing you will always have a way to contact help. Where this can help for successful fishing is when talking to one another, often in sessions like this you can be only 10-20 meters apart with one of you right on the fish and the other landing nothing but too far apart to communicate clearly.. A quick radio call to advise Fish On! And you both can share the same success… just remember to use some other code word if you’re talking on a busy channel or fishing a comp as you might find things get a little crowded 😉
Kayak trolley –
Lets not forget the C-Tug trolley… so often not in the limelight due to the action being on the water…but the little C-Tug trolley and its hard work at the begging and end of or journeys makes it oe of the most useful accessories you can invest in. The C-Tug is so robust and reliable, we simply load everything from the car on to the kayak then walk to the water loaded and ready to go…often at locations you cannot park at or close to the water. This is where the C-Tug becomes your best friend. Check out the C-Tug Trolley HERE
That’s all from me for this session, I hope that has helped some of you to identify what we are using and why..I have put a list of links to other blog posts relavant to this post, thanks for reading and I would really appreciate your feedback..just leave a comment.
(here is a pic of what my rig looks like when prepared the night before, I am definitely not a particularly tidy person but with the load and go pod system of the Profish kayaks my set up time is so much quicker and more organised when I can pretty much rig up the night before. This kind of pre-packing also limits the risk of forgetting something.)