Whether you’re taking up kayak fishing or just kayaking in general your safety should be your top priority. Kayaks these days, particularly fishing kayaks, are very advanced and built for stability, but even the most stable kayaks and experienced kayakers can still have accidents that won’t come with much warning. Most accidents happen so quick and are typically not at the anglers’ fault but simply crazy circumstances that you probably aren’t planning for. Having your PFD on is not only required by most state laws but is highly recommended to ensure your safety and should be taken seriously. However, when you are fishing from a kayak, you’re performing tasks that require mobility and flexibility, so choosing the right PFD is essential to not only your success on the water but also your comfortability. Let’s walk through the different options.
Vest Style PFD
These styles of PFD’s have many benefits to them and depending on the brand are built to offer the angler storage capabilities in the form of zippered pouches and accessory attachment points. The design of these PFDs are also equipped with floatation material built into the vest itself, so upon entering the water you are immediately supported and will float back to the surface. The benefit of this is if you are unconscious or otherwise uncapable of managing yourself the vest needs nothing to do it’s job and keep you afloat until you are able to regain yourself back on your kayak or dry land. All vest style PFDs come with multiple adjustment points to suit your specific body size. A lot of anglers prefer these vests as well because of the storage opportunities. In the event you are tossed overboard you may lose contact with your boat, especially if you are in current, so having a pouch to store your phone could be critical in the event you need to call for help. Always consider that the worse thing possible could happen at any point in the blink of an eye and being prepared ahead of time could potentially be the difference maker in you regaining your safety. If you are a beginner kayaker or otherwise do not have much experience in water, I would highly recommend this style of vest for the benefits mentioned.
Astral Designs, NRS Chinook, Hobie Fish Thinback
The inflatable PFD is designed with an internal inflatable compartment that uses a c02 cartridge to fill it. To inflate the compartment, you have two options. Depending on the make and model you can set the PFD to auto inflate when water is detected, or you can utilize a draw chord to pull and engage the cartridge thus inflating the PFD. Right off the bat the inflatable PFD is noticeably leaner in its design than the vest style. They still offer multi point adjustments, but you lose the storage capabilities of its competitor. The appeal to these types of vests are mostly the lack of bulk resting on your chest and back. When fishing from a kayak you are performing tasks from the seated position mostly, so some anglers find that the inflatable PFD allow them more mobility to perform these tasks. As mentioned above when accidents occur, we unfortunately don’t get to choose the way these situations unfold and what they intel. Hazards that result in you falling overboard aren’t only due to your surrounding circumstances, they can come in the form of medical emergencies as well. Dehydration or unknown developing medical conditions can present themselves at unknown times and the time frame you are on the water is no exception. The auto inflate option is a nice feature and, in my opinion, should be utilized due to the added safety benefits it presents. If you are unconscious this feature can save your life.
Onyx AM/24, Hobie Inflatable, Mustang MIT 70 Manual and Automatic
Either route you go having a PFD on is making your safety your priority and that’s the most important take away here. It’s not a bad idea to have both on hand also. I will often times use the vest style in colder water conditions just to add a little extra warmth but also the initial shock of cold water can be very overwhelming so in that event your mind and body may be distracted with that shock vs. remembering to pull a chord. Determine what is best for you and your needs and always remember to have it on when you leave the bank. You never know when you may find yourself in the drink.
Article by - Justin Patrick
If I could do a quick search to see how many times this question has been asked on social media, I would assume the number would be astronomical. Are they bedding yet? Every fishing enthusiast from every corner of the country anticipates the day their local lakes fish flock to the shorelines. It’s exciting times and an awesome opportunity to hook into a fish of a lifetime.
Is It Go Time Yet
They aren’t necessarily cut and dry, and personally I think we as fisherman tend to rush the spawn before they are ready. What do I mean? Here in the southeast region of the country, we can have very sporadic weather.
Starting in late February and early March we will begin to have short spurts of warm weather, followed by longer waves of cold weather and often flooding rain. Moving into late March and early April we’ll see longer warm spells with cold snaps thrown in the mix. Then finally in mid to late April we begin to see warm weather settle in for good. But what does all this do for the water temps and the spawn?
If you think about it, the shallows are mostly affected by these weather transitions. Backs of pockets and flats will fluctuate in temps which are text book areas where the bass want to do their thing. So, an example, on Pickwick Lake in the back of Indian creek the water temps will rise into the low 60’s after a week of warm weather, then a 40-degree cold snap hits lowering the water temps back into the 50’s.
As anglers we’re prone to see the temps barely hit the 60’s and we start looking for bedding bass. It’s all in good fun it’s just what we live for. The bass however, may not be ready that quick.
If you’re ever having a tough day catching fish remember to look for bait. You can typically find some feeding bass nearby. I use this same approach when I start gauging the phase of the spawn. Shad will start migrating into the backs of pockets and right behind them are the bass. It’s the mobile food market. They are going to follow them. When I see bass busting shad on the flats that tells me they are feeding up before heading in to do their thing. This is a great time to catch a trophy fish also. They are feeding up and getting fat. Sometimes you may only see shad flickering around on the surface. That’s sometimes a sign that predators are underneath.
I would also suggest that when it’s getting closer to time you will begin to catch fish more related to cover. Bass will use the creek channels to move to the shallows. If you are still catching bass relating to the drop offs associated with the channels, then more than likely they aren’t ready yet or a cold front has pushed them back out. Once you start catching them on wood or other submerged cover that can be a good indication it’s on their radar.
When you are covering water don’t over look fan casting in random open water also. Use bait’s like lipless cranks, spinnerbaits, and bladed jigs to locate fish. Often, I find that burning and killing a lipless can be very productive.
Water Level/ Air Temps
This is where mother nature can speed up or slow down the bass' transition to spawn. Water levels and air temperatures need to stay at least somewhat consistent and not fluctuate drastically. Now bass aren’t like humans and will schedule a delivery date ahead of time to make sure they are comfortable. In my opinion when their body says its time it’s just time regardless of what the conditions are. Of course, moon phases and other circumstances can have influences on this as well. What you want to see is consistency though. When you start seeing morning water temps in the 60s coupled with consistent warmer days that's a good indication to start looking for bedding fish. If you are faced with a cold front some bass may still stay up shallow and others may back off a bit. You just have to get out there and look around to get a good gage on how frontal conditions have shaken things up. One of the biggest tale tale signs I like to look for are bass chasing off bait fish up near the bank. When you see that you can be rest assured those fish are up there guarding there beds.
Let’s Do This Already
So, all the stars and planets have aligned, and the spawn is in full swing. Now it becomes a game of having some good polarized sun glasses and pulling out the sight fishing rigs. I’m not the biggest advocate for catching fish off beds but it can be a very exciting experience. Try bright colored soft plastics for your own visibility and I would recommend a Power Pole to keep you anchored while you work on getting those fish to bite. Bass don’t spawn all at once so remember to check those transition areas as well for pre spawners or post spawners moving back out. Most importantly have fun. See you out there!
Article by - Justin Patrick
Over the last 6 years of competing in kayak tournaments both club level and national I can tell you I have probably spent more hours preparing for events than fishing them. To be fair I’m probably a little more OCD than others, but in my opinion, preparation requires a lot of attention, and how prepared you are can have a direct effect on your success. This is a topic I’ve been asked about before, so in this article I’m going to walk you through my process and a sort of guideline I follow to be as prepared as I can before setting out for an event.
Now, I break preparation down into 3 categories (lake study, travel organization, gear prep). It’s not all about making sure you have fresh line on and tying on your favorite baits. Honestly, I have gotten to a point where I won’t even tie on a single lure until I get out on the water sometimes. I’ll discuss my reasonings for that later, but the high-level gist of preparation is to gather as much information as you can to be as efficient as you can be on the water.
It’s Never Too Early to Start
Time. It’s the one thing some have more of than others, but the one absolute truth is time is ticking. The sooner you can start your prep the better off you’ll be and the less likely you are to forget a crucial component of your preparation.
Step 1 – Lake Study
Alright, I don’t want you guys to think that I always follow these steps in order of 1, 2, 3, but for all intents and purposes of this article we’ll break it down as such. Lake study, for me, is a combination of understanding the lay of the lake and all that is has to offer, as well as, gathering intel on what the seasonal pattern should be and discovering areas that offer the most opportunities for that specific pattern. I want you guys to understand 1 important thing though before we move forward. Every bit of information you gather in your prep should be used as just basic starting points. They should not be the “thing” that you’re going to do regardless. Remember, bass don’t follow rules, and they don’t care what the last tournament was won doing. Always gather your information with an open mind. You can really mess yourself up by listening to too much dock talk.
I like to start by getting on google earth and getting a good feel for the body of water and what kind of opportunities it presents. Keeping in mind what I think the seasonal pattern may be is going to be my guideline for what I’m looking for. In conjunction with this I’m going to be making mental notes of access points. I don’t want to get too excited about an area if there is no access point in proximity. More on access points later. In this step I’m not necessarily looking for where I’m going to fish, but more so how areas will set up for different weather behaviors. Decision making is a critical component of tournament fishing, and the first decision of the day is where you’re going to start. We’ve all had those conversations at night in the rental house with your travel partners about where your fishing the next day. It can literally stress you out but learning as much about the different areas of the lake and how they set up will make that decision not only easier but more educated.
Look for areas that offer back up plans. I will make my educated guess as to what the fish might be doing but I also don’t want to limit myself or lock myself into one thing. Depending on the body of water I will write off an area almost instantly if the area has only 1 thing going for it. While I have google earth pulled up looking at what lies on the surface I will also have my Garmin Active Captain app pulled up checking contour definition so I can see what also lies beneath the surface. I’m looking at everything and gaining an understanding of what all is going on with an area. Where the points are, the creek channels, the underwater humps, laydowns, visible vegetation, etc. I like to have a full understanding of where everything is so I can make quick adjustments while I’m out on the water. Everything you do before you get to the lake should be done in a way so that your more efficient out on the water. 8 hours in a tournament goes by quick so you don’t want to spend any of that precious time sitting still staring at your electronics looking for this or that. You want to know where it all is so you can just go straight to it.
Sometimes your practice may indicate that you need to make 1 or multiple moves from one ramp to another in a days time. In this case you really need to have a full understanding of where everything is in those different areas. Loading up and moving takes a lot of time so knowing where your going once you get there will give you a few more casts throughout your day.
Step 2 – Travel Organization
Ever found yourself sitting at the ramp frantically searching for another ramp close by but your cell service keeps cutting out? Or how about its Friday night and your practice was terrible and now you’re lying in bed scrambling trying to find new ramp options for the morning when you could be benefiting from extra rest. This step is so easy, and it doesn’t take much time to do but will save you a world of headache in the long run. Throughout your research on google earth have your navigation app pulled up. I use google maps, so I just log into my google account. When I see a ramp on google earth, I go over to my google maps, find the location, and mark it under my favorites. This saves that location with a symbol you can see and just click on and your ready to navigate to it. No more wasted time at the ramp pulling up directions. Another thing you can do is save directions from one spot to another. This will give you saved directions you can still use even if you don’t have service. I would highly suggest doing this on those lakes that are out in the middle of nowhere by themselves.
Of course here lately tournament directors have had to operate under strict guidelines to adhere to Covid 19 protocols within various states, however, in a traditional setting the anglers usually are required to meet back at a certain location for check in by a certain time and have their fish submitted by a certain time. Sounds easy enough but I've heard of a few bad stories where anglers didn't have service and couldn't find there way back in enough time or also anglers didn't have service and couldn't upload their fish by cut off time. Staying organized with your travel and knowing where the closest towns are will give you back up options when situations arise that require immediate decisions. Spend some time getting to know the surrounding areas and where you may be able to go if you need cell service to upload. A big tip I can give you, and one your director most likely encourages as well, is to save your fish in your live well so you can quickly upload them later. Sometimes you catch enough service on the top of a hill and need to pull off real quick to upload. Having those fish in your virtual live well could be the difference maker in getting your fish submitted on time.
Step 3 - Gear Prep
Now, much of gear prep is conditional and circumstantial to the anglers style and load bearing desires. Some anglers take a small tackle box and a couple rods, while others may bring their entire tackle collection and every rod they own. Regardless of which style of angler you are there are a few important aspects of gear prep that will make your time on the water more efficient. Keep up with your equipment maintenance. Do a regular maintenance check on your gear. Check the guides on your rods to make sure they are all in tact and no inserts have come loose. I'll usually take a hose to my rods and reels after every other trip to wash the dirt and grime off. About 3 to 4 times a year I'll also re oil my reels to keep them running smoothly. The idea is to just stay on top of it throughout the year so you can eliminate the possibility of gear failure as much as possible. Another thing I like to do is go through my tackle boxes and make sure everything is organized. I usually do this at the start of the year. How you organize is up to you but it will save you a lot of time out on the water.
I mentioned this a little earlier but don't always feel like you have to have all your rods rigged up with baits. If your familiar with the body of water or have put in recent time on the lake then of course have your rods rigged up, but if not then sometimes it can benefit you to wait till you get to the lake and see the conditions yourself before you make your lure and color choices. I speak about myself as well with this notion, but I think anglers are just as much tackle addicts as we are fishing enthusiasts. Our tackle rooms are our sanctuaries and our lures are our toys we like to rig up. I say that to say this. Pre conceived notions are the worst form of mind games that we play on ourselves. Tying on your favorite bait without knowing the conditions can hurt you. What happens is you get our there with your favorite bait and you just start throwing it without even taking into consideration if it's the best bait for the job. Get out to the lake and see what the conditions are then rig. Your choices will then be based on relevant info vs favorite selection.
I feel like in this game you have to love everything about it. The entire grind. If you over look your preparation you are potentially setting yourself up for failure out on the water. The best anglers in the world don't become the best by just showing up and going fishing. They put in hours and hours into their preparation for each event. You don't have to do things my way, there's more than one way to skin a cat, but if you can find a way to better prepared for a tournament you may just find yourself cashing more checks. Hope these tips help and good luck out there.
Article by - Justin Patrick