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Becoming a 10% Kayak Fisherman

Written by Tim on August 17th, 2015.      0 comments

Now you may be asking “why are reminding me of my shortcomings?” Well I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to remain a 90% kayak fisherman all your life. How do I know this? I know because I have been a 90% kayak fisherman but as I am rapidly learning, this isn’t a mould that we are forever cast in. 

Like most people, fishing was introduced to me at a young age by my father. I will never forget those early fishing trips. I hardly got a wink of sleep the night before and I actually enjoyed coming home stinking of Bonito. But looking back on it, we never really caught a great amount of fish. We always fished big hunks of bait anchored to even bigger hunks of lead and it isn’t really surprising that we didn’t do so well. In short, this is how I learnt to fish and sadly it has taken me a long time to figure out that there is a better way. Things started to change for me when I began to fish out of a kayak. I’m not suggesting that you have to ditch the boat, race out and buy a kayak, this is just how I’ve done it and I think that the lessons that I’ve learnt can apply to anyone. So what has changed for me? Well in essence I had to get smart about my fishing and this is what I’ll try and describe in the following few steps.
Tim Taylor with a snapper on his kayak Hapuka caught off Tim Taylor's kayak

Step 1: Tackle selection.
  Obviously the kayak has dictated the tackle that I take simply due to the lack of room and the fact that excess gear means excess weight (not desirable in a yak). The first massive change was from normal bait to softbaits. Like a lot of people, I had tried softbaits rigged crudely to a stray-lining rig and not surprisingly I hadn’t had much success. I had already dismissed them as just another fad. When on my kayak I instantly realised that normal bait was impractical as it wasn’t fun trying to cut up a dirty great bonito between my legs and the oily hands did me no favours when trying to use my paddle. Softbaits were the obvious answer and after some experimentation I quickly came to love them. I’m sure I don’t need to expound the virtues of this fishing revolution to you but to me softbaits were simple, effective, and they didn’t require a gigantic tackle box full of gear. In actual fact I now only have a small click-clack container for my limited selection of jig heads. If I chose to, I can now go out fishing with a tackle collection that would all fit comfortably into a lunchbox. My one rod, one small tackle box, and one pottle of softbaits is all I need. What’s even better is that I know this can take on almost any inshore fish found in NZ.
  Apart from softbaiting there are many other forms of fishing that have become popular over recent years. In my kayaking arsenal I now have setups for mechanical-jigging, slow-jigging, and top-water. Obviously these setups all require different techniques and tackle, but they all have a few things in common which make them the “smart man’s” fishing weapons. I’m talking about the small yet powerful reels, non-stretch superbraids, specialised rods, and even more specialised terminal tackle that specifically targets a desired fish. Yes they may cost a bit more than your stray-lining setup, but you will catch a damn sight more, have a mile more fun doing it, and you won’t have to lug around half a ton of lead anymore.       
Kayak fishing tackle kayak fishing tackle

Step 2: Location, location, location. 
   I am fortunate with my fitness that I can go almost anywhere a in a kayak that an average trailer boat can. There have been plenty of surprised boaties who have come across me many miles out to sea, and it has been more than once that I’ve paddled out to Mayor Island (22nm from Tauranga). But recently I thought “why?”  All that distance is a great workout but in reality it meant less time fishing and a long haul home at the end of a hard day. I’m sure that there are many of you boaties who are nodding your head in agreement as you think of those crippling fuel prices just for a feed of fish. So as I started to think smarter I started to examine what opportunities are closer to home.
  My first port of call was to my book shelf where I pulled out my copy of the ‘Fish a Plenty’ book. This little gem contained a great collection of local spots that are no secret to anyone but are often forgotten about in the rush to get to the next great spot. I plotted these all onto my charts and into my GPS. Straight away I had a collection of more than 50 spots in the Bay and by scanning old fishing mags that collection grew even further (I do this every time I pick up a fishing mag now). I put some of these spots to maximum effect on my next mission. I formulated a plan to target 3 reefs out from Papamoa which are all less than 5nm from shore. Bear in mind that this was in the middle of winter when snapper are typically thought to bugger off to warmer climates and the few that remain generally snub their noses at everything. It turns that fishing was hard at all of these spots and at best I only caught a feed for the cat. Not to be deterred, I again checked what options were available to me and found more of those spots in the direction of the paddle home. As I don’t believe in secrets I will openly say that these spots were where the depth contours do a big loop in towards the beach where in effect they create gutters that fish might sit in. In less than ½ and hour I filled the yak with my limit of solid snapper and I had an absolute ball.
  Back at home I once again checked my charts. I quickly discovered that there were places everywhere along the coast where deep gutters ran in towards shore. There were also small areas (knolls) that rose out of the depths which I thought might have a similar effect. These too were plotted on the GPS and have since proven to be magic. This is simple stuff and now that I am thinking smart about my fishing I know that location, location, location is critical to becoming a 10% kayak fisherman. 

Tim's note: if you would like some GPS spots for the Bay of Plenty, please request a copy of my free Top 10 Fishing    Spots info sheet.  
Snapper caught off a kayak  Michael Orme with a snapper on his kayak

Step 3: Knowledge. 
  There’s a difference between thinking you’re smart and actually being a smart fisherman. The difference basically comes down to what you know and how you put it into action i.e. knowledge. This is possibly the hardest component to acquire when wishing to become a 10% kayak fisherman but in our modern world I’ve found that parts of it can be found, often quite easily.
  Think about how many fishing shows you have ever watched and the gems of info that they supply. Now think about how freely available those shows are...does mysky, TV on demand, or DVD’s sound familiar? All of those shows contain solid information that you can glean at your own leisure and in practice I’ve found that everyone loves to watch them no matter what their age or sex...yes this does count as family time! Then there is the internet. I don’t think I need to remind anyone about much crap can be found on it but there is also a huge amount of good stuff too. Simple things like local fishing reports, gear reviews, and hotspots can all be as easy as a ‘favourite’ button away. There are many sites but my favourite two are and as they are filled with good, reliable information and plenty of trip photos to get you excited for your next adventure.
  Technologies aside, one of my favourite sources of knowledge is books. Yes these are old- school but I find that they give more in-depth information and you can always find it again if you need to clarify something. Take softbaiting for example. Easily my favourite book lately has been ‘Gotcha’ by John Eichelsheim. It has a huge amount of info on technique, tackle and locations. I am able to regularly refer to it to reinforce something I’ve tried or to check something that I’m not quite sure about. A classic example is how to tie the correct knots in braid and fluorocarbon. I’ve already mentioned the Fish a Plenty book but another must have is the Spot X Fishing Guidebook. Normally less than $50, books are a cheap and easy way to improve your fishing and they make great items to put on your father’s day/Christmas/birthday wish list.
  My favourite source of knowledge is simply to talking to people. We often forget how to communicate properly in our modern world but by simply asking a few questions to the right people, you will be amazed to discover how much you can learn. A simple and straight forward question to ask is “next time you’re heading out, mind if I tag along?” My next question might then be “do you mind if I GPS your spots?” You will either get a yes or a no and really there is no harm in asking (don’t try and do it on the sly though as it’s never a good look if you get nabbed). Finally I’m going to point out something so obvious that most people never think about it. That is, just shut up for awhile and listen. Good fishermen tell good stories and good stories always stem from some basis of truth. My fishing mentor was yarning away just recently and he mentioned something along the lines of “people rely on their sounders too much these days, they often overlook places that don’t show any fish and are consequently missing out”. The very next time I was out, I was thinking about this exact statement. No fish were showing on my sounder but I had a hunch about an area and I was determined to put his theory to the test. As it turned out, every single cast pulled a good snapper...this was a pure gold piece of knowledge that my mate had imparted on me just because I took the time to listen and it has definitely made me a smarter fisherman. 

So as you can see, nothing that I’ve mentioned in the above steps is rocket science but nor is it the only way to do things. Basically I’m always asking myself “am I fishing smart and if not why not?” This question has helped me to improve my results significantly and it is why I’m proud to say that I’m a 10% kayak fisherman. 

Paddle hard everyone. Tim.
Tim Taylor with a kingfish off the kayak  Tim Taylor with kingfish and snapper caught off a kayak



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