Big Fish and Structure

Just to make things clear, I am no expert on the subject, but there have been some things I’ve learned over the years. Also, you should know I’m speaking in terms of casting vs vertical jigging. Kayak fishing is quite different than fishing from a boat or from shore. Once you hook a fish, they have much more influence on you and where you go. Even a fish around 5lbs can pull a kayak or change your direction pretty easily. So, once you get into double digit fish, things tend to get interesting!

 

There’s a couple different fish that have humbled me quite a few times in the kayak. The first one is the Grouper.  Usually, once or twice a year, I head down to Baja with friends and family. And when fishing down there I enjoy targeting the inshore grouper that are prevalent along the rocky shores. These fish stick close to structure and when hooked, instantly head for the closest hole in the rocks or reef. I run a heavy set up with a locked drag to throw my plugs and swimbaits. Even with the locked drag, the fish are able just to pull the kayak and make it into the structure, breaking me off. What I’ve found is that reading the structure, both what I can see on the surface and what my fishfinder shows, is critical to my success. Now, obviously I can’t always know what is underneath the surface of the water, but I can usually have a good idea of how the structure lies and how the fish may be relating to it. My success typically comes down to how I set myself up. I try to make my casts perpendicular to how I think the structure is in the water, so that means most of the time I’m making casts parallel to shore. I’ve found that when I’ve hooked fish inline with the structure, they just pull me right back where they came from. If I’m perpendicular, I have an easier time keeping them away from the reef. Now, that does change a little if you are in a peddle drive kayak. The times I was inline and casting towards structure, I would use the Flex Drive in my Coosa FD to its advantage. After I cast, before I start reeling in my lure, I’ll start slowly back pedaling. The idea being similar to how a boater will use the motor to pull fish away from structure. But in a kayak you really got to be on top of your game if you’re going to do this! And no guarantees it will work for big fish. It took some hard learned lessons to finally become “fairly” successful at landing these fish.

 

The other main species that has given me some difficulties is the Striped Bass. I target these guys pretty frequently in my local rivers, which adds some new challenges to landing them. As far as structure goes, downed trees are one of the main issues, being the Stripers will try to run into them. If they do that, sometimes patience and free-spooling your reel will save you from losing the fish. But that seems to require a lot of luck, waiting for them to hopefully come back out of the trees. So again, kayak position can be critical. The other thing to take into account is the current, which can play a huge part in your success. Ideally, I try to use it to my advantage to try and keep the fish away from structure. The fish will have a much harder time pulling the kayak against the current, than it will with the current. In the case that you can’t use the current to your advantage to fish a particular spot, you may need to utilize an anchor or tie off to the shoreline. Just make sure you have a proper anchor set-up, including a quick release for safety, and do the research so you know how to properly use an anchor in current.

 

These are just a few tips and lessons learned from mistakes I’ve made. Just making a few adjustments to the way you fish and preparing yourself for certain situations will greatly increase your success rate when it comes to casting for big fish!

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