Presented from Issue 95
These days fishing techniques and fishing tackle just keep making more advances and becoming much more technical. I know I have fallen into that trap myself. I’ve just added a GPS to my arsenal, so that I can mark waypoints for hotspots. I also have a fish finder installed. Some kayakers even have high end fish finders with dual beam, side imaging, big colour screens and inbuilt GPS. The same kind of set up you’d see on a well laid out bream or trout boat.
Getting back to basics, one of the simplest forms of catching a fish from a kayak is to troll a lure. Most fish which will take a lure of any description will also take one when trolling, including some favourites such as trout, Aussie salmon, flathead, bream and even squid.
Your old school rod and reel spooled up with monofilament will be capable of doing the job. But ideally a modern lightweight graphite rod teamed with a reel with a decent drag and spooled up with braided line is going to improve your chances immensely. The improvements provided by this kind of combo are that you will be able to monitor the swim action of your lure much better with a lightweight graphite rod and braided line. The braid conveys the movement of the lure to the rod tip perfectly, and a light tipped graphite rod will respond accordingly with very noticeable bouncing to the rhythm of the lure. So when the rod stops bouncing this is an indication that your lure has hooked some weed and is no longer swaying to and fro in a seductive manner. It’s time to wind up and clean that lure.
The next most important thing to complete the set-up is a forward mounted rod holder. Kayaks designed for fishing mostly come with moulded rod holders set behind the seat. This is okay for storing your rods when not in use. But when trolling it is much more useful to have them up in front where you can watch the action of the lure conveyed via the rod tip and also see a strike on the lure straight away. It needs to be close enough to reach easily to grab your rod and fight the fish. But it needs to be far enough on a paddle yak so that it doesn’t get in the way of paddle strokes. For these reasons an adjustable arm style of rod holder is the best option. Scotty and RAM mounts both make adjustable arm rod holders that can be adjusted to just about any angle and moved out of the way when required.
When you get a take on the rod but you have a paddle in your hand it is best to resist the urge to put down the paddle and pick up the rod. I learnt this the hard way through too many lost fish early on. The fish gets a good opportunity to shake free of the hooks on the slack line when you stop paddling and then pull you rod out of its holder. The better method is to put in a couple of power strokes to drive the hooks in and then reach for the rod. With the Hobie Mirage drive kayaks this isn’t such an issue since you can pick up the rod and strike while still maintaining pressure by continuing peddling. You can also troll while holding the rod, making strikes quick and easy.
If you hook up while trolling along snaggy territory such as drowned timber it pays to head straight out into deeper water for a few meters before grabbing the rod and fighting the fish.
My three main trolling targets are trout, Aussie salmon and flathead.
For trout I like to use rapala or similar bibbed style minnows. I usually go with natural colours such as rainbow or brown trout or anything that looks green/brown like our natural white bait, galaxia and sandies. When trolling in estuaries for sea runners such as the Huon or Derwent I concentrate my efforts on the edges by trolling as close as possible. Utilising an extended arm rod holder I have my rod at ninety degrees to the kayak to get the lure right in close to the bank. On lakes I search out a few different areas, utilising my sounder to find the suitable areas. Preferred spots include along deep edges, weed beds and around sunken timber.
For the salmon I usually go bright and flashy metal slices. If there are no visible signs of salmon such as surface boils or diving birds then I just troll along the back of beaches and around rocky headlands and varying the depth by zigging in closer to shore and then zagging back again. When you do hook up try to remember exactly where the fish got hooked up so that you can fan out some casts after you land that first one. The action can get thick and fast if you can keep a track of where the school of salmon is. If you lose them, then just troll around in a circle around the area to see if you can find them again.
When trolling up a feed of flathead I start out with a large deep diving hard body around 8 to 10cm. Big lures with big hooks equals less undersize flatties and more keeper size flatchaps over 40cm. If I find a good patch of them I swap to a second rod rigged with a soft plastic. With that rod I’ll do some drift spinning and also some slow trolling. Good soft plastics for trolling are curl tail grubs such as Squidgy Wrigglers and paddle tail fish such as Squidgy Fish. The flathead don’t tend to be too fussy about colours. I have caught them from everything from bright flouro green and pink to natural browns. Though, if they don’t respond to the brighter lures it does pay to go with natural colours.
The second rod
When trolling for these or any other species it pays to have a second rod rigged with another lure. For me that second rod is usually rigged with a soft plastic. The second rod comes out when something exciting happens such as you see a whole bunch of salmon bust up the baitfish or a trout takes something off the surface. I also discovered last season that metal blade lures are great for slow trolling for flathead and also great on the second rod when trolling a bibbed minnow. The flathead seem to find the vibration of the blades irresistible. Trolling is a great way to enjoy your kayak fishing if you really enjoy the kayaking side as much as the fishing. You get to cover a bit of ground, see some lovely scenery and wildlife, get a bit of exercise and as a bonus there are fish to be caught along the way.