Category Archives: kayak fishing

Rod Holder for Easier Kayak Angling


Turn Your Rod Holder Around for Easier Kayak Angling
by YakGear President Bill Bragman
from The Fishing Wire

It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Through the combination of kayak fishing for most of my adult life and working in the paddlesports industry during this period of incredible growth, this old dog thought he knew most of the tricks.I was wrong.

Recently I had the pleasure of traveling to New Zealand to meet with our friends from RAILBLAZA. While the usual work, product development and distribution talks were very exciting, I was most excited for the opportunity to get out on the water with these kayak fishing experts!

With few to no inland waterways, most kayak fishing trips are done in 40 to 100 feet of water. My dependable 6-foot YakStick Mud Anchor wasn’t going to cut it. Jason Milne, better known in the industry as Paddle Guy, picked me up at 5:30 a.m. and we were off.We hauled our kayaks out to the water on C-Tugs and began to load up the kayaks for a surf launch.

Just as I have always done, I put the RAILBLAZA Rod Holder II in a StarPort facing the bow of the kayak. Jason laughed.“Sit down in the paddling position,” he told me. As I got comfortable, Jason used the slide-locking mechanism on the RAILBLAZA base to pop the rod holder out, turned it around and raised it to an almost vertical position.

The light bulb popped on inside my head before he even finished setting the rod holders into place. It was the first time I did not have to scoot forward to reach past my knees to grab my rod out of the front-mounted rod holder. The paradigm of a forward-facing rod holder was so embedded in my brain that I forgot to consider just how impractical the setup was!

The once impractical and time-consuming process of either scooting forward or stretching like a gymnast – because kayak anglers are super flexible, right? – was finally comfortable and quick!

The benefits of turning my rod holder around became clearer than the beautiful blue New Zealand water. Think about how different aspects of kayak fishing could be made much easier with this added quickness and comfort.

Changing Lures In the past, if I wanted to change my lure I would either have to scoot or stretch to get the rod and lay it in my lap. Leashes and all, having a rod unsecured in your lap is always risky. The more unsecured the rod is, the higher the chances of a mistake happening are. You never know when the rod will slip, you will lose balance or the hook will catch some unsuspecting piece of flesh.By having the rod holder mounted almost vertically and facing me, the lure literally dropped into my lap and I was able to easily apply my bait or change my lure.

Rod Retrieval In New Zealand, trolling is the way to go kayak fishing! Trolling with my rod holder turned around allowed me to easily see when I was getting action on my line. While shortening my reaction time to grabbing my rod is great, the real benefit comes from the how easy the rod is to retrieve. With one quick swoop of my rod, I was fighting the fish quicker than ever before because I eliminated the “scoot” to the front facing rod holder or the “turn and grab” to the rear-mounted rod holder.Think about the importance of a quick rod retrieval to sight casters! How much could simply turning the rod holder around help stalking a redfish in the flats? You’re quicker, more comfortable and thus quieter.

Landing a Fish As easy as it was to retrieve, mounting the rod back into the rod holder was equally easy. You don’t have to go much further than a search for kayak fishing on YouTube to see that, when folks get a fish close to the kayak, they lay their rod across their lap.Wouldn’t this rod be safer in the rod holder? Wouldn’t the process of landing a fish be much easier with two hands on the fish and none on the rod?

But it Looks Funny, Right? It may look funny to some people. You know, it’s not the classic “two back rod holders angled at 45 degrees and one front rod holder facing straight over the bow.” It looked funny to me at first. However, with all the benefits that turning your rod holder around provides, you won’t catch this dog on the water ever again without showing off the new trick he learned!
Turn your rod holder around for easier kayak fishing, even if it looks funny

Kayak Fishing

From Tarpon to Bass, Nothing is Off Limits when Kayak Fishing

Catch all species Kayak Fishing


Photo courtesy of Justin Ritchey
From the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission

Kayak fishing is a growing sport and it’s easy to see why. Kayaks are nimble, less expensive than most motorized boats and provide access to places even the best casts from land just can’t reach.

The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation confirms that kayaks are the most popular type of boat for Americans to own and that the number of people participating in kayak fishing has gone up in the past six years.

But those who love the sport say kayak fishing is more than just a quick and less expensive way to get on the water.

“You are more in tune with what is going on,” said avid kayak angler Tony Hart, who runs YakOutlaws.com, a website dedicated to all things kayak fishing and stand up paddleboard angling. “The slower approach gives you an opportunity to take in more. It’s almost as though you become a part of what’s around you.”

“Because you are so low in the water, there is this sense of vulnerability when you start fishing, but you also have this feeling of freedom and accomplishment, blood, sweat and tears,” said Justin Ritchey, who has been kayak fishing for 10-plus years and has competed across Florida and internationally, taking fourth place in the 2014 Hobie Fishing World Championship in Amsterdam. “I’m very passionate about it, it’s a huge part of my life.”

Interested in kayak fishing? Read on to learn more about why this sport is booming and how you can get in on the action.

Access for all

Like many kayak anglers, Hart and Ritchey got into kayak fishing for similar reasons: they loved fishing and didn’t have access to a boat.

Ritchey, a fishing manufacturer representative from Orlando, got his start in college renting a two-person kayak for the weekend and asking random classmates to foot the rental fee for time on the water. Ritchey would provide the car, fishing gear and knowledge.

Hart was fishing from a dock in Jacksonville when he noticed fish off a point too far for him to reach casting. “That’s when two young guys paddled by and I thought, that’s the smartest thing in world,” said Hart. “The next weekend I got two kayaks.”

What often gets people into kayak fishing is the ability to access places they just can’t reach from shore.

“You can go anywhere you want with no stress of a motor breaking down or electronic failure,” Ritchey said. “And because you are quiet, you can often get closer than boat anglers can get.” You also can often get in shallower waters than many motorized boats.

Some might be thinking, kayaks are great for seatrout and redfish, but what if I want to catch a monster tarpon or a sailfish?

While what you catch within paddling distance will vary according to where in Florida you are fishing, if you can catch it, your kayak can take it.

“Being able to catch every species from a kayak is personal goal of mine,” said Ritchey, who has personally caught sailfish, blackfin tuna, mutton snapper, kingfish and tarpon from his kayak. “In a boat, when a fish takes a lot of line, you have less control. In a kayak, you might be getting towed, but you are never too far away from the fish, which allows you to get the fish in much faster.”

Ready to get your line wet? Check out these expert tips.

Buying a ‘yak

Don’t be afraid to spend more for quality, safety and access. Ritchey says most kayaks will hold their value, so if you decide kayak fishing is not for you, you should at least be able to get some of your money back.

Safety is key. Invest in a personal floatation device you will actually wear, carry a whistle or other sound-making device, and establish a float plan or let someone know where you are going and when you will be back. “Buy a life jacket that fits and is comfortable,” said Hart. “To me that is the biggest thing. Spend the money. Get a PFD that’s going to take care of you.” Inflatable lifejackets are very comfortable and are gaining popularity as well.

Try one out. “A lot of outfitters offer demo days,” said Hart, who suggests getting a feel for different types of kayaks before making a purchase.

With any luck, your paddling hands will be busy reeling in a big one, so look for a kayak with foot propulsion pedals.

Start with a sit-on-top, which is easier for ocean going trips (and dealing with Florida’s hot summers).

Accessorize: kayak fishing may have started with nothing more than a pole and boat, but these days anglers can customize for whatever preference or need they have, and we are not just talking cup holders. One of Ritchey’s three kayaks has a livewell, depth finder and a downrigger. Consider having more than one kayak for different types of fishing.

Where to start

Learn from others. Attend seminars about kayak fishing, find others who kayak fish and ask lots of questions.

Get started in saltwater by sight-fishing in shallower water, two feet or less, or try bass fishing at a local pond or lake. The key is to look for places without a ton of current to contend with until you get used to the feel.

Concerned about tipping? Try to keep the fish off the front of your kayak, which is the best and most comfortable way to fight a fish.

Make it a lifetime sport

Have kayak, will travel. Florida is bountiful when it comes to different fishing experiences. Strap that kayak securely to the roof of your vehicle and take it with you. You never know what you might catch next.

Catch a Florida Memory. Add fish to your Saltwater Fish Life List, conquer a Grand Slam or land that Reel Big Fish, all while earning prizes and supporting marine fisheries conservation. Submit catches on com.

Bring the family. Kayaks come in all kinds of sizes and make for a great family outing. Take out those kayaks and build fishing memories that will last a lifetime. “My fondest memories are when my wife, kids and I all go out together,” Hart said, referring to his two young sons.

Need more inspiration? Check out these videos by Justin Ritchey:

Tarpon off the Beach (Cape Canaveral) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSE4WzoVmIo Adventure Fishing World Championship https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xqCe4PDYYw
The quarterly Gone Coastal column is one of many ways that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Division of Marine Fisheries Management is helping recreational anglers understand complex saltwater regulations and learn more about saltwater fishing opportunities and issues in Florida. We are also available to answer questions by phone or email anytime, and we would love the opportunity to share information through in-person presentations with recreational or commercial fishing organizations. To contact the FWC’s Regulatory Outreach subsection, call 850-487-0554 or email Saltwater@MyFWC.com.

Saltwater Kayak

How to Pick a Saltwater Kayak
By Kyle Manak
from The Fishing Wire

Choose the right saltwater kayak


When choosing a good saltwater kayak, there are many things that come to mind. First and foremost, consider what your intentions are regarding that saltwater kayak.

Where Will You Be Using Your Kayak?

Your personal fishing habits will come into play when choosing a kayak. After all, not all kayaks are made the same. Will you be fishing? Will you be in marshy waters or bays, or will you venture offshore? Marshes call for a kayak that does well in “skinny” water. Do you choose a paddling kayak or a pedal style? In waters eight inches deep or less, for instance, although your kayak will float, your pedal drive might not be usable. Knowing that you can paddle your kayak is still important. Pedal drives are great options for deeper waters of 14 inches or more, and of course, they keep your hands free when going distances or trolling. A paddle kayak can be used in all waters, but are you comfortable paddling three to six hours or more? Additionally, are you using your saltwater kayak for recreational fishing or tournament fishing? A you just searching for a good kayak you can be in all day? Make sure to ask yourself these questions while you’re shopping around.

What Size Kayak is Best for You?

This goes back to where you will be using your saltwater kayak. Most anglers like a kayak that is 12 feet or longer. This is because the longer the kayak is, the easier it is to keep on a straight path, with or without a rudder. Will you be standing for some of your fishing, or always sitting? Offshore, of course, you will be sitting, while you may decide to stand inshore sometimes. Having a kayak measuring 14 feet or longer, and with a seat in the lowest possible position, is a wise choice for offshore ventures. It allows you to breach the waves in launching or your return through the surf. YakGear’s Sting Ray and Manta Ray seats are both great options for a comfortable low, four-point seat. For occasional standing, you may want to look for a kayak measuring 36 inches wide or wider, and which has a pontoon-style keel, rather than a single sharper keel. This creates more stability, but it is not foolproof. You must always be careful. Longer and narrower kayaks are typically faster and less susceptible to cross winds. Sitting higher in a wider kayak will catch more wind, and you will have to put in a lot more effort. If you do choose to stand aboard your kayak, consider adding a YakGear StandNCast Bar to aid in balance.

Should You Sit Inside or on Top?

Many years ago, sit-inside kayaks were the only option out there. In the last 15 to 20 years, however, sit-on-top kayaks have become more popular for saltwater. A sit-inside kayak does not allow you the flexibility of standing, and if you want to get out and do a little wade fishing, it is much harder in a sit-inside than a sit-on-top.

What Should the Capacity of Your Kayak Be?

Your own size and the gear you will bring with you plays an important role in kayak selection, as well. If a kayak has a weight capacity of 300 pounds, that is the amount of weight it will hold while still allowing it to float. If you weigh 200 pounds, for example, and bring 50 pounds of gear, you are using more than 80% of the weight capacity, which will reflect in the kayak’s speed and maneuverability. Kayak Angler Magazine’s Chris Payne notes that a good rule of thumb is not to exceed 75% of your saltwater kayak’s weight capacity.

How Will You Transport Your Kayak?

Speaking of weight, make sure the size and weight of your saltwater kayak fits your transportation. Will you be hauling your kayak on top of your car? In the bed of your truck? In a trailer? All important things to keep in mind when deciding on a kayak. Also, when you get close to your launch spot, how will you get your kayak down to the water? The C-Tug cart offers two helpful options — a hard wheel for asphalt and such, and the newer Sandtrakz wheels for beach sands and other all-terrain scenarios.

I asked myself these questions and more before purchasing my kayak. A wide kayak will offer stability and comfort, but the tracking ability is diminished a bit. A longer, narrower kayak will increase your speed and tracking, but you might lose some stability. One way to pick a good saltwater kayak is to test out several options. Go to kayak demo days hosted by retailers across the United States, and test as many out as possible. Maybe borrow a friend’s kayak or rent one for the day. I promise you will know the minute you get in if it feels right. Until then, happy kayak hunting and tight lines.

About the Author:

YakGear Brand Ambassador Kyle Manak learned most of his fishing techniques — and developed a love of the water — in his hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas. Although he enjoyed boat fishing, bank fishing and wade fishing through the years, it was when Kyle ventured into kayak fishing that he found his stride and never looked back. For him, the simplicity and beauty of being on a kayak and catching a fish was something special. He was hooked by the beauty and peacefulness he experienced out on the water.

Kyle has been kayak fishing for many years now, and has extended his passion to social media. A few years ago, he created Kayak Fishing Texas, an online community which started small but today has more than 6,700 members who share the same passion. He continues to spread his passion for fishing to his own children and other children whenever he can.

Tips for More Efficient Kayak Paddling

Tips for More Efficient Kayak Paddling
from The Fishing Wire

Tips for More Efficient Kayak Paddling


Whether kayak fishing or out for a quiet day on the water, proper and efficient kayak paddling will help increase speed and momentum so you can travel farther with less fatigue. YakGear provides a few general tips for new and seasoned paddlers to make the most of their day on the water.

Proper Posture

Efficient paddling begins with proper sitting posture. An upright sitting position is key to getting the most from your paddle blades and allows for easier dipping and removal of the blade from the water. Paddlers should be sitting upright or slightly forward and not lean on the backrest. Feet should be anchored to the footrests or foot molds with knees slightly bent.

Proper Hand Grip

To determine the optimal grip placement, position the middle of the paddle on your head and grab the shaft with elbows at 90 degrees. This will be the ideal gripping spot for each hand. Most paddlers will tend to over grip the paddle. A light grip will prevent hands from growing tired and give you a better feeling for the balance of the paddle. Using paddle grips, such as HOLDFast Kayak Paddle Grips, will help keep hands fresh and provide a consistent, tactile point of contact.

Paddle Stroke

A smooth and consistent paddle stroke is perhaps the most important aspect of efficient paddling. Most new paddlers hold the paddle too close to their bodies with their elbows bent – more commonly known as paddle hugging. Instead, keep the paddle as far in front of your chest as possible, with elbows slightly bent. This will allow you to reach farther forward when you begin your stroke.

Begin the stroke by reaching forward and inserting the blade into the water, vertically in line with your feet or ankles. If the stroke is on the right side, the right hand serves as a fulcrum point while the left hand pushes forward while your torso rotates to the right. The blade should come out of the water as it passes the hip. Keeping the blade in after the hip does not help propel but actually creates drag. Leaving the blade in the water past your hip also promotes the paddle blade to spoon or bring up water, which will drip down the shaft when that blade is up and out.

Using the Correct Length of Paddle

The general rule of thumb for finding the correct length of paddle is to stand straight and position the paddle vertically alongside your body. If you can reach up and just hook your first finger joint over the blade, it will be the correct length. For kayaks wider than 30 inches, you will need to add those extra inches to the overall paddle length. Paddles are measured in centimeters instead of inches, so a conversion will be needed. One inch equals 2.54 centimeters. For most kayaks and adults, a 230 cm or 240 cm paddle will do the trick.

For kayakers that straddle standard paddle lengths or may have several different sizes of kayaks, the Backwater Assassin Carbon Fiber Hybrid Paddle provides added versatility with an extra 10 centimeters of adjustment to fill the gap. The kayak paddle is available in lengths of 230-240 cm and 250-260 cm.

Efficient paddling is achieved through extensive practice. Spending time on the water in a kayak is quality time that is best shared with family or friends. YakRule No. 15 says it all – “Never Go it Alone.”

See the latest kayaking products and get more tips at www.yakgear.com.

Kayak Safety Tips

Top 5 Kayak Safety Tips For Kayaking Alone
from The Fishing Wire

Fish safe from a kayak


Kayak safety is at the forefront of many discussions in the kayak community this year. While the 2018 American Canoe Association statistics have not been released yet, 2017 had a total of 149 documented paddle sport fatalities, which consisted of 94 kayak, 44 canoe and 11 paddleboard deaths. One fact that highlights the growth of kayaking as a sport is that canoe fatalities accounted for most deaths in the United States until 2010, when kayaking took over the leading category – and ever since, kayaking has not relinquished the title of deadliest paddle sport in the United States.

While not all accidents are preventable, there are a few kayak safety practices that you can work on to minimze the amount of risk you take on each individual trip. Here are some not-so-commonly mentioned kayak safety tips to help you maximize your chances of survival if you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation.

1. Understand the differences in PFD (Personal Flotation Device) types

·Type I PFD – provides the most flotation of any PFD, suitiable for rough water or stormy situations. The only PFD that will keep most unconscious victims face up and out of the water.

·Type II PFD – suitable for most water conditions and provides great flotation in calmer water, but may require the individual to tread water to remain face up in rough water.

·Type III PFD – designed for calm water or where rescue would be very quickly accomplished. Type III devices are not designed for extended survival situations and will not turn individuals face up.

·Type IV – throwable devices made for overboard situations or to keep someone afloat long enough to direct the watercraft into a rescue position.

·Type V – special use. This is a very broad category that encompasses most inflatable life vests, special purpose life vests and jackets, as well as white water vests. They must be worn to meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements for vessel flotation devices. Automatic inflatable life vests are included in this category and provide the most comfort and user mobility during use.

Each category of life vest has different uses and provides different levels of protection during survival situations. Understanding what your life vest will do in these situations is critical to making the right decision for your equipment and survival gear.

2. Dress appropriately and for the worst-case scenario.

It’s a common kayak safety mistake to plan to go out on the water for a few hours and not bring the right gear for an extended period of time. For example, if it’s a chilly morning below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s convenient to wear a hoodie and some thick pants and call it good for a few hours. But what happens when the wind is higher than you expected or you get wetter than you planned? Having the gear and protective clothing for the worst conditions puts you in a position to remove items rather than wishing you had them. I often sweat a little during my winter fishing trips because for me, if I’m anything but cozy, I have put myself at a disadvantage and have a higher risk of an incident if my situation goes south. Always try to carry extra gear as a precaution, even if it seems inconvenient.

3. Prepare to be rescued.

Nobody likes to picture themselves in a life-threating situation, but planning for these types of things can be the difference between life and death. Flares are exremely useful for helping you be seen and located by other boaters or authorities. If you’re out of range of a whistle to another boater, a flare or a good VHF radio might be your only shot at being noticed right away. Many search and rescue cases would have different outcomes if distress signals or messages were relayed at the time of the incident, but many searches don’t even start until that person is far overdue and reported missing by a friend or loved one. Those first hours can make all the difference in the outcome of a search. Even if you only fish freshwater lakes and rivers, flares and/or a radio can save your life.

4. Always have your safety equipment within reach of both arms.

Imagine you’re fishing in windy, choppy conditions and have a hook become imbedded in your dominant hand or arm. Could you handle lifting the weight of that fish and putting that much pressure on your wound to reach your gear? Personally, I have a pair of heavy-duty diagonal cutting pliers to cut the hooks away from whatever is connected to it, whether it’s a fish or debris, to at least regain full use of that limb. I can reach these pliers with both hands no matter what awkward position I’m in when this happens, if it ever happens. It looks goofy, but my big diagonal cutters in the center of my life vest are a huge risk mitigator if I ever get hooked while the line or lure is attached to an object. The point is to think about these situations and be able to plan for these things to happen so they don’t catch you by surprise. If you ever want to see an example of this, check out Chris Castro’s leg gear on Next Level Fishing TV. He always has some emergency tools and survival gear on his leg for unexpected situations.

5. Is your kayak rigged to flip?

This can be a contradicting kayak safety question at first glance. Is your kayak rigged to flip to save your gear, or save yourself? Tethers, line, trolleys and gear are valuable, but they can also create a tangle hazard when you’re flipped and in proximity to them underwater. I use every gear leash I have when I am actively fishing, but when I’m in a situation where I think flipping my kayak could happen, I disconnect everything, lay the gear down and use bungees that do not move and will not create tangle hazards for me if I flip with my kayak. Another important point on flipping a kayak is to always stay upswell of the kayak. If you’re on the side of the kayak facing the wave direction, a wave can throw the kayak into your body or head, which risks serious injury to you and in turn can impact your ability to swim and tread water. With kayak seats getting higher and higher, high winds can really increase your chances of flipping in rough conditions.

While these kayak safety tips may seem like planning for the worst-case scenario, there is a reason for it. Writer Alan Lakein once said, “Planning is bringing the future into the present, so you can do something about it now.” I plan because I spent eight years of my life in the United States Coast Guard observing and responding to situations that every single person I helped never planned or dreamed they would be in. Take these tips into consideration, and always keep in mind that it could happen to you.

About the Author

YakGear Brand Ambassador Holton Walker now lives in Tyler, Texas. After serving our country in the Coast Guard for eight years, Holton brought his family of four back home to Texas to work for McCoy’s Building Supply. Holton is an avid angler, having grown up fishing the Laguna Madre in Corpus Christi, Texas. Now, Holton spends his time fishing freshwater lakes and occasionally comes down to fish his home waters on the Texas coast. Don’t be surprised if you see Holton at your next kayak fishing tournament.

Fishing Kentucky’s Drakes Creek

Floating and Fishing Kentucky’s Drakes Creek
From the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
from the Fishing Wire

Map of Drake Creek

Trammel Fork and Middle Fork of Drakes Creek rise in the northern Highland Rim area along the Tennessee border in Allen County. The two forks flow into Warren County where they meet the main stem of Drakes Creek that drains into Barren River near Bowling Green.

The gravel substrate of Trammel Fork, Middle Fork and Drakes Creek allows floodwaters to carve holes of varying depths, reminiscent of the world famous blue ribbon smallmouth streams of the Arkansas and Missouri Ozarks. The Drakes Creek system is vastly different water than smallmouth streams flowing through the limestone sections of Kentucky where the water is rarely over an adult’s head. Trammel Fork, Middle Fork and Drakes Creek also hold largemouth bass, spotted bass, rock bass, bluegill and a few muskellunge.

Fisheries personnel with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources routinely see smallmouth bass from 15 to 18 inches long in this system. Trammel Fork, Middle Fork and Drakes Creek also have many riffles that make the paddling interesting, but are easy enough for beginners and families.

Western Kentucky University has a helpful website for paddlers on the Drakes Creek system called the Warren County Blueways at www.wku.edu/blueways. The website features an interactive and printable map with GPS coordinates, locations of put-in and take-out locations, floating mileages and other important information along with links to participating partners. This map corresponds with brown metal markers at the put-in and take-out locations on the river to avoid confusion and also on the map that accompanies this article.

In its journey from its spring-laden headwaters to its confluence with Drakes Creek, Trammel Fork has deep holes, gravelly shoals and riffles that make ideal habitat for smallmouth bass.

The first float on Trammel Fork of Drakes Creek begins near the Warren and Allen County line at the KY 240 Bridge on Woodburn – Allen Springs Road and ends two miles downstream at Boyce – Fairview Road Bridge in Warren County. Limited parking exists at the put-in at the KY 240 Bridge.

Trammel Fork in this section has many long, moderately deep holes interspersed with gravel bars and braided stream drops. This float makes an excellent half-day float for anglers pursuing black bass, rock bass or sunfish.

The second float begins at the Boyce – Fairview Road Bridge and ends five and one-half miles downstream at Romanza Johnson Park on Mt. Lebanon Road in Warren County. This float makes an excellent full-day float for those who plan to fish and half-day float on a straight paddle.

Boaters may put in at the KY 240 Bridge and paddle to Romanza Johnson Park on Mt. Lebanon Road for a seven and one-half mile float. Those who plan to fish should put in early in the morning and plan to take out at dusk on this stretch.

Fly rod anglers interested in smallmouth bass should try the Middle Fork of Drakes Creek. The Middle Fork is much smaller and intimate compared to Trammel Fork and offers excellent opportunity for fly casters to present black deer hair poppers and larger chartreuse cork poppers to woody cover in the flowing shoals and above and below riffles. The top-water bite grows stronger as the days shorten and water cools in September.

Kayak fishing on Drake Creek


Kayaks provide access to miles of good fishing on the forks of Drakes Creek near Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Due to its small stature, deadfalls blocking the stream can be a problem on the Middle Fork and may require some portaging, especially after high flow periods.

The put-in for this float is on Goodrum Road in Warren County for a nearly four-mile paddle to the KY 240 Bridge on Woodburn – Allen Springs Road near the community of Drake. Parking for several vehicles and an easy carry down at the Goodrum Road access awaits boaters. However, the KY 240 Bridge access has limited parking and presents a long carry over private property that requires landowner permission. Paddlers can shorten this float to about three miles by putting in at the ford on Duncan Road, also known as White’s Chapel Road.

The next float is on the main stem of Drakes Creek. It begins at the KY 240 Bridge near Drake and concludes roughly five miles later at Romanza Johnson Park. Boaters need to paddle a short distance up Trammel Fork to the park which enters Drakes Creek on the right.

This section of Drakes Creek has many sharp turns that create flowing outside bends that hold smallmouth bass. Target these areas with a 4-inch black double-tailed skirted grub on a 3/16-ounce standup leadhead. Larger smallmouth bass prefer this presentation.

This stretch also features many sandbars slightly under water. Swim a 3-inch green pumpkin-colored curly-tailed grub just over bottom in these areas for smallmouths. Grubs really shine on hot days during low flow periods.

The next float begins at Romanza Johnson Park and ends about six miles downstream at Phil Moore Park in U.S. 231 near Bowling Green. This stretch is perfect for paddlers who want to spend a day on the water without worrying about time or difficulty of paddling. Both of these parks close at dusk.

Drakes Creek widens and deepens in this stretch and the same outside bends hold smallmouth bass, but anglers should also work the woody cover in the slower holes for spotted and largemouth bass. A pearl-colored weightless soft plastic jerkbait draws strikes when slowly worked alongside the submerged wood. A four-inch black finesse worm rigged on a 1/16-ounce leadhead and allowed to slowly fall beside this cover is also a deadly tactic for these fish.

Two take-outs await paddlers at Phil Moore Park. One is on the left just upstream of the U.S. 231 Bridge. Warren County Parks and Recreation installed a concrete pad for paddlers to land boats and gain their footing in current before ascending the steps to the parking area. The other take-out is about one mile downstream around a bend to the left. Look for a small set of concrete steps.

The last float on Drakes Creek begins at Phil Moore Park and ends about five miles downstream at the KY 2629 Bridge on Old Scottsville Road. The KY 2629 Bridge access has extremely limited parking and a long carry. Do not block the farm gates while parking vehicles here.

This section flows much more river-like and holds good numbers of largemouth and spotted bass. Anglers should also target sunken brush and tree tops for surprisingly large bluegill.

This section also holds some large muskellunge that migrate upstream from Barren River. Fish flooded timber with a large black and gold minnow-shaped crankbait for muskellunge.

Paddlers should consult the Drakes Creek near Alvaton, Kentucky gauge on the Kentucky Streamflow page at the U.S. Geological Survey’s website at www.waterdata.gov. For Trammel Fork and Drakes Creek, flows of at least 100 cubic feet per second (cfs) are best for minimal dragging with a 150 cfs minimum for the Middle Fork. Anglers can float these at lower flows, but expect to drag.

The upper stretch of Trammel Fork at the Concord Church Road Bridge and Blankenship Road Bridge in Allen County offers excellent wade fishing for trout at these two Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Voluntary Public Access Sites. Springs feeding Trammel Fork drop the water temperature low enough for trout to survive year-round.

Scottsville and Allen County offer plenty of antiquing for visitors to accompany paddling the Drakes Creek system. Both Allen and Warren counties’ strategic location on the main transportation routes from Louisville to the interior of the South provided much Civil War action in the area.

Scottsville/Allen County Chamber of Commerce:
www.scottsvilleky.info

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Sub-Zero Bass by Kayak

‘The Perfect Drift’: Sub-Zero Bass by Kayak

photo by Jason Arnold


How one globe-trotting angler taps winter smallmouth in the Gopher State

By Jim Edlund
from The Fishing Wire

The vast majority of northern bass anglers hang up their open-water gear for the winter. With most lakes under inches (if not feet) of ice by January, most fishing involves an eight-inch hole in the ice.

“You have to look hard in the northern states, but there are places to fish bass during the winter in open water,” says Minnesota-based kayak angler Paul Hansen.

Funny thing about Hansen, he has plenty of access to open-water fish during the worst of Minnesota’s winters. As a commercial airline pilot, he’s often free to explore waters during layovers in southern climes – something he’s been doing in one form or another for almost two decades. In fact, he reluctantly admits fishing was the impetus to learn how to fly.

“After working long hours in fishing retail, I knew there had to be a better way. If I could make it through pilot’s training and build up hours and experience, I could eventually create a business to fly adventure anglers into really cool destinations, which selfishly appealed to me,” says Hansen.

Turns out Hansen took to flying as naturally as he did to fly casting, and in the year 2000, he and legendary fly angler/travel partner Trapper Rudd started an exploratory kayak fishing program.

“We put kayaks on an airplane and brought them to Mexico. We had fished all the popular destinations and set out to find untouched snook, tarpon, and bonefish by kayak. We found some epic fisheries that wouldn’t have been accessible without kayaks. This led to years of great adventures, like the stuff I read about in magazines as a kid,” says Hansen.

These days, Hansen flies fewer angling expeditions into remote locations, having opted for the stability of a commercial airline job. “My kids are involved in a lot of school activities and sports, so naturally, I want to be there for them. I don’t necessarily turn down opportunities, but let’s just say my priorities have changed.”

Still, as a competitive kayak angler who frequently competes in both the Kayak Bass Series (KBS) and Kayak Bass Fishing circuit (KBF) tournaments, there are times when Hansen gets antsy during long Minnesota winters. Having qualified for the KBS Nationals on Lake Guntersville, Alabama, this past September, Hansen says he feels the need to stay at the top of his game despite Minnesota’s harsh winter weather.

“There are warm-water effluent areas throughout the frozen north that offer an open-water alternative to ice fishing. And some of the smallmouth bass fishing is pretty phenomenal,” says Hansen.

Just minutes from his Twin Cities, Minnesota home, the warm-water discharge from power plants on the St. Croix River and Mississippi River offer some legendary winter smallmouth bass fishing opportunities.

“I ran drift boat fly fishing trips on the Mississippi River for over 20 years, so I know the water like the back of my hand. But I always felt like the drift boat had to go away at some point—and I reached that point. It was far more convenient for me to drive over, drop in the my kayak, and hit the areas that I really liked. Some spots I can fish from the kayak, other areas I get out and walk and wade.”

One particular stretch of river—the Mississippi River between St. Cloud to Elk River, Minnesota—is high on Hansen’s list for winter smallmouth. “Although I had fished this stretch for years out of my drift boat, when I started fishing it from the kayak it was like brand-new water to me. Areas I would normally bypass with the drift boat were now fishable. I could get right up onto a sand bar, into the run-outs of an island or small creek, between boulders, or right next to an island and stake out—or get out and walk and wade. It really opened up an entirely new world to me. The kayak allowed me to re-learn my water.”

Depending on the conditions, Hansen employs the use of two specific fishing kayaks, both designed and manufactured in the USA by Maine’s Old Town Canoes & Kayaks, a company with over 100 years in the watercraft business.

“I like the 12-foot Old Town Predator MX because it’s nice and short with a stable 34-inch beam. At 82 pounds, I can grab it and go—and drag it through just about anything to my access points, including deep snow. Now, if I have access to a good landing, then the Predator PDL is my choice, because I then have more boat control on the river via the PDL Drive, which allows me forward and reverse with my feet and one-handed rudder control. With the MX, I’m drifting—and trying to fish on a float—and control the boat at the same time, which can be challenging on some waters. With the Predator PDL, I can back-pedal, I can slow my drift, and I can really fine tune boat control while fishing hands free.”

Despite the frigid air temperature, Hansen says he actually prefers kayak fishing smallmouth bass during the winter. “The fish tend to pod up and the kayak allows you excellent access to them. Winter is the best time to do this, more so than when they’re scattered the rest of the year.”

But Hansen admits that sometimes finding smallmouth pods can be a challenge. And even when you find them, it all comes down to just the right presentation.

Winter Smallmouth Location

The first thing Hansen looks for are areas that retain heat. As cold-blooded creatures, smallmouth bass will only expend as much energy as the water temperature allows. The biological imperative is to conserve energy; when water temperatures are low, bass will move less. As water temperatures climb, bass activity increases.

“Smallies will congregate in sandy areas, which retain heat. They may pull off and feed, but their metabolism has slowed down and they’re going to spend a lot more time just hanging out, less time actively chasing. So, I’m looking for sand, a log, or a tree that has fallen into the river, all which retain heat. Same with bottom substrate. Anything that’s dark will pick up heat from the sun and attract smallmouth bass—dark rocks and boulders, even mud at times. Same thing for cover that sticks up out of the water.”

Current also plays a big part in locating winter smallmouth bass. Winter smallmouth bass are typically found adjacent to current areas, only moving into fast water to feed when absolutely necessary. More often the case, winter smallmouths relate to slack-water areas just off current seams and eddies. Anywhere that current naturally pushes food is a sure bet. Such areas are visible to the naked eye.

There are areas along the river bottom, too, where current is slower. “You can often find groups of fish in troughs—and sometimes a really small area, stacked up like cordwood. Troughs or channels offer reduced current, warmer water temperature, and provide cover. The areas behind boulders provide something similar. Again, smallmouth avoid exerting too much energy in the winter, reserving it for feeding.”

Presentations

Left to his druthers, Hansen typically reaches for a fly rod, but has found better odds with unique, hybrid techniques that merge his experience with fly and conventional angling.

“Fly fishing works great for many situations — including winter smallmouth — but you don’t have the success rate because any time you build up slack or drag, you’re creating an unnatural presentation. This fish are going to blow it off and eat something that looks more natural. Thing is, there’s probably more food in the river at any given time during the winter than any other time of year. Very few things are physically hatching and flying away. The bottom is often littered with nymphs, leeches, and baitfish are of a size that pack a lot of calories.”

Conventional spinning tactics like a jig and minnow also introduce drag. Go too heavy in jig weight to reduce drag and you’ve got the hassle of snagging in the crevices of river rock.

“A centerpin outfit gives me the perfect drift. Due to the rod length and the entire system, the drift is longer, slower, and more precise. It allows a very natural presentation. You want split-shot placement that’s appropriate for the current and allows the minnow to float along so it slowly rolls in front of the fish and they can’t resist,” says Hansen.

To that end, Hansen uses a St. Croix Avid 13’ ML power, moderate action center-pin rod with a Raven centerpin reel loaded with 10-pound braid. He attaches an 8 lb. Seaguar fluorocarbon leader to the main line, places small split-shots evenly below a steelhead float, and uses a small circle hook to prevent gut-hooking.

In terms of bait, Hansen’s had the best success with small-to-medium sized suckers or creek chubs. “For winter bass fishing, live bait simply produces more fish. Circle hooks make it low impact, with the hook penetrating the corner of the mouth for an easy release.”

Artificial Ways

There are times when Hansen goes artificial-only—like during the classic January thaw when temperatures can rise well above the 32-degree mark.

“Bass activity will definitely spike when the mercury jumps. That’s when tube jigs fished on a slow bottom crawl will keep up with live bait. It might take a few casts to get the right weight tube jig figured out so you’re not snagging or drifting, but once you do, they’re easy to fish. Wacky worms like Z-Man Zinkerz work in winter, too. Same for Fluke-style baits. Even hardbaits like the LIVETARGET Emerald Shiner Baitball jerkbait, twitched with super-long pauses. Just remember to work any baits slower than you would other times of the year.”

For situations like this, Hansen leaves the centerpin rig in the rod holder, and throws baits on a versatile 7’1” medium-power, fast-action St. Croix Legend Bass Tournament spinning rod and Daiwa spinning reel spooled with 8- to 10-pound Seaguar InvisX fluorocarbon.

Winter Bass Safety

Any time you’re fishing in winter—whether on the ice or open water—safety should be your first priority. Navigating rivers in winter can be dangerous. Ice floes are not uncommon, even in areas with warm-water effluent. Shouldn’t impact with an ice floe knock you out of your kayak, a PFD and spare clothes can save you from drowning and hypothermia.

“Because it’s one dump and game over, I always wear a PFD, and keep a dry bag filled with another pair of long underwear, socks, a top, another jacket, hat, gloves, etc. in my Old Town Predator’s bow hatch. I wear Gore-Tex waders, wading boots, a base layer, and fleece pants underneath. The big thing is staying warm and comfortable without too much clothing. You don’t want excessive sweating; neither do you want so much bulk that entering the kayak becomes difficult. I also keep my cell phone in a dry bag, and waterproof matches to start a fire on shore if need be to warm up and change clothing. I’ve yet for something like this to happen. Honestly, part of that is my choice in kayak. You wouldn’t want to fish rivers in winter with a Wal-Mart special. Old Town Predators are incredibly stable kayaks designed to resist tipping and allow anglers to even stand up and fish.”

End Note

Stuck with cabin fever or mid-season ice fishing burnout? In need of an open-water bass adventure? Hansen encourages anglers to investigate local rivers. Find warm-water discharge from a power plant, water treatment facility, or other industry, and you’re in business. Employ a kayak to get beyond the bank, learn to execute a perfect drift, experiment with live and artificial baits, and you might just be amazed by the hot bass bites possible in the dead of winter.

Guatemala Sailfish by Kayak

Guatemala Sailfish by Kayak
from The Fishing Wire

Anglers fish “Billfish Capital of the World” in Old Town Predator PDL kayaks

Old Town, ME – Angler David Hadden’s eyes light up when asked about kayak fishing Guatemala’s Pacific Coast, what many consider “The Billfish Capital of the World.”

If big game fishing in world-renowned billfish waters wasn’t enough, Old Town’s David Hadden and Sport Fishing editor Doug Olander took it one step further, hauling Old Town Predator PDL kayaks some 40 miles offshore, “mothership fishing” from one of Casa Vieja’s charter boats under the expert direction of Captain Chris Sheeder.

“It was a life-changing experience,” says Hadden. “For anglers, it’s the zenith of the sport. You get out there in the blue with big fish and it’s heaven. The first day Captain Chris took us right to a ledge, we dropped the kayaks in the water, and within 30 minutes we were doubled up.”

Although Hadden’s no stranger to big fish like tarpon and tuna, his first Pacific Sailfish pushed the limits of what he’d accomplished from an Old Town Predator PDL kayak.

“I fought that first sail like I’d fight any big fish from a kayak, and it took me all of twenty minutes. The first couple runs a sailfish makes are part sleigh ride, part acrobatics display, but after five to eight minutes, the combination of warm water temperature and lactic acid buildup run down the fish. Captain Chris pushed me to lock down the reel and get it done. With a single swipe of the tail they can go 10 feet in any direction, but you don’t want to completely exhaust the fish.”

Drag tightened and a quick fight routine dialed in, sailfish releases from the Old Town Predator PDL jibed well with Casa de Vieja’s catch and release conservation program.

“Casa Vieja takes the ‘The Billfish Capital of the World’ designation seriously, protecting all billfish to fight another day. That was the beauty of Predator PDL kayaks; we could hold the bill with one hand and pedal and revive the fish after the fight. That might have been the most satisfying part,” says Hadden.

And many successful releases there were. Hadden, Olander, and two other kayak anglers fished for three days, doubling up on countless occasions, with double-digit fish totals some days. “I was able to fight, land, and release every fish that bit. At the end of the three days, I went seven for seven. But I had to work for them. We pedaled up to 10 miles a day in 90-degree temperatures with high humidity while deploying baits, re-rigging, fighting fish… It was very physical and very rewarding. We always kept the mothership within range and Captain Chris and crew kept a close eye on us.”

Along the way, Hadden and crew planted their flag in some new angling territories, including being the first anglers to fish sailfish from pedal-driven kayaks 40 miles off Guatemala’s Pacific coast. And on the last day, they pioneered a unique play that merged charter boat outrigger teaser bait tactics with precise kayak angler boat control and bait placement.

Sailfish anglers will often use long outrigger poles when trolling to place baits high in the water column off both sides of the boat. When a sailfish is teased up on an outrigger bait—essentially used as a decoy—they’ll quickly pull in the outrigger and line and use a rod to flip a bait to the fish.

“On Day 3, Captain Chris yells from the charter boat to me, ‘Get right next to me!’ So I pedaled to stay right with the moving boat, and sure enough, he yells ‘Behind you! Behind you!’ and a sailfish had emerged right behind the boat to the outrigger bait. At the last minute Captain Chris swings the outrigger off and tells me to swing the kayak in with my bait. As I came off the wake and into the spread, the fish surfaced right behind my bait! It was so close, but the fish didn’t eat. Still, it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”

Hadden eventually caught the lingering sailfish, but catching the fish on the fly in a seamless choreography is his future goal. “That moment when you’re pedaling and then slip the kayak over the wake and into the spread right next to a high-rising sailfish is pretty magical. Those fish are fired up and ready to attack. I know Captain Chris and I could get the same scenario to work on the fly.”

Familiar with the latest in kayak fishing tactics, techniques, and trends, Hadden believes he and Captain Chris were the first to attempt precise pedal-driven kayak boat and bait placement in tandem with a trolling charter boat on an outrigger-teased sailfish.

GEAR

While Johnson Outdoors Watercraft manufactures numerous kayak models suitable for saltwater big game fishing, the Old Town Predator PDL has quickly become a favorite with anglers.

“It all comes down to the hands-free fishing experience the rugged and efficient Old Town PDL Drive provides. Especially with fighting any kind of big billfish species, having forward and reverse right at your feet is a huge asset for controlling the fish. Trolling and deploying baits is also made that much easier than having to work a paddle. Of course, the PDL Drive itself is built for saltwater use and the 10.3:1 gear ratio allows speeds up to 5.5 mph for reaching and returning from distant spots quickly and efficiently,” says Hadden.

In terms of tackle, Hadden and company fished live blue runners on circle hooks with 80-pound Seaguar braid main line and an 80-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon leader.

“Live bait was definitely the way to go for multiple fish days. I paired Accurate reels with St. Croix Mojo Salt rods, which had plenty of backbone to put the wood to fish after I locked up the drag. I held the rod and line in my hands so I could feel the take and drop back. A couple guys were just free-trolling. My thing was having a rod that was sensitive to feel when the bait got nervous—the calm before the storm.”

TRAVEL & LODGING

Logistically speaking, Hadden says the trip to Guatemala’s Casa Vieja Lodge couldn’t have been easier. “I flew from Portland, Maine to Atlanta, right into Guatemala City. The whole trip took about six hours. I was greeted at the airport by Casa Vieja staff and we were bused right to the gated lodge. Seamless, safe, and super professional.”

Once to the lodge, Hadden and crew were met with first-class accommodations. “The lodge was as nice as anything in the Bahamas. Fine cuisine and a great beer, scotch, and rum selection. Five-star all around, but what really impressed me was their staff.

From the servers to the guides, I can’t imagine a better operation. Every morning they came to your room with coffee, a really nice touch. And Casa Vieja guides are as good as they get. Captain Chris Sheeder is the best blue-water guide I’ve ever fished with. It was an honor to learn from one of a handful of anglers who’ve released 20,000 billfish.”

To learn more about Guatemala’s legendary billfish angling, visit www.casaviejalodge.com.

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About Old Town:

JOHNSON OUTDOORS is a leading global outdoor recreation company that inspires more people to experience the awe of the great outdoors with innovative, top-quality products. The company designs, manufactures and markets a portfolio of winning, consumer-preferred brands across four categories: Watercraft Recreation, Fishing, Diving and Camping.

JOHNSON OUTDOORS WATERCRAFT RECREATION includes Old Town canoes and kayaks, Ocean Kayak, Necky kayaks, Carlisle paddles and Extrasport personal flotation devices. Old Town canoes and kayaks have created genuine watercraft with innovative designs for over 100 years.

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