Ah, April. Turkeys are gobbling, flowers are blooming and bass are bedding. Continuing our series of how to rig for and target one species each month, the good news is there really isn’t any special rigging necessary to fish for black bass. Unlike crappie, stripers or catfish, bass fishing is a one-pole affair — or at least one at a time.
If you are an aspiring bass fishermen, getting started in a kayak has plenty of advantages over the bass-boat crowd. On the other hand, if you’ve grown tired of the running and gunning behind 200 horses, bass fishing from a kayak is a great way to enjoy the sport while dropping a lot of the baggage. Let’s take a look at some of the ways bass fishing from a kayak holds advantage over fishing from bigger, traditional bass boats.
• You can go where the crowds can’t. Farm ponds, natural lakes, cut-offs, canals and state parks are just a few places where a car-top or truck-bed boat gets full access. Probably the best thing about bass fishing is that bass live literally everywhere, but everywhere isn’t always accessible to conventional power boats.
An entire book could be written about bass fishing in rock-strewn rivers that would eat an outboard motor alive but allow plenty of access and big fish to kayak anglers.
This time of year, kayaks still have an accessibility advantage, even on large, public impoundments with access for all types of boats. With bass seeking the densest cover to spawn, many of these areas are in the furthest reaches of creeks and coves where heavier boats bottom out.
• Learn to fish slowly and thoroughly. Professional bass anglers make their livings based on the amount of water they can cover and fish on tournament days. Without the ability to run up the lake, make a cast, run down the lake, make a cast, then repeat repeatedly, fishing from a kayak makes you fish an area thoroughly and often, if you are paying attention, you can figure out a pattern that can be repeated several times on every point, cut or dock in sight.
While bass are only sometime schooling fish, with larger specimens being more solitary, bass are not as pelagic as some anglers would have you believe. A good sonar unit that can find the seam where a spawning flat meets a creek channel might be all it takes to score a limit of fish in just a few strokes of the paddle.
• Drop the expense. A $1,500 or even $2,500 kayak might seem absurdly expensive but compare that to the $30,000 to $60,000 alternatives for a luxury bass boat, and kayak bass fishing suddenly becomes a bargain. Let’s not forget to add in the cost of fuel, oil, maintenance, batteries, and repairs.
Today’s fishing kayaks have air-ride seats, power poles, storage compartments and gear and tackle trays right at your fingertips. These luxuries might not be a luxurious as the high-dollar toys, but it does allow the paddling angler to get back to the essence of fishing and enjoy the “less-is-more” side of the sport.
• Tournaments online. Kayak fishing tournaments are a reality for those who not only want to fish, but to compete against other anglers. Local club tournaments may only be for bragging rights, but organizations like KBF and Hunt Fish Paddle have handed out first-place checks with commas and five digits to the left of the decimal mark.
If you’re not a weekend tournament guy, organizations like Kayak Wars offer online bass tournaments where anglers don’t have to have a weighmaster to compete. Like all kayak fishing tournaments, there’s no space for a livewell, so bass are measured by length and documented by photographing catches on approved rulers and submitting photos online.
• Adjust to the lifestyle. From a practical standpoint, adjusting to a kayak fishing lifestyle means you won’t have 14 rods rigged and on the deck at your feet. It does mean that if you want 14 rigged rods, you need to have 14 vertical rod tubes mounted somewhere — preferably around the rear tank well where they can be easily reached. Of course, having rods stored vertically within arm’s distance means you’ll be doing more sidearm casting than roundhouse casting with line spray drifting off into the rising sun. That is pretty dang cool, but the bass-boat crowd has the patent on that.
Standing and fishing from a paddle boat is not out of the question, as many manufacturers have designed speedy hulls with enough width to provide stability for anglers to paddle into position, then stand and target that big female bucketmouth hanging on the backside of that stump.
Finally, there is a camaraderie among kayak bass anglers. For the most part, the playing field is pretty level, and anglers are undeniably cordial. Having different flights of boats at tournaments is rarely, if ever, necessary. Nobody gets upset at being washed out when the next angler over decides it’s time to move to the next spot, and no angler in a kayak has ever run headlong into a bridge piling, the shoreline or another kayak going 80 miles per hour —at least not on the water.