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After more than 50 years of fishing I’m still working to get it right. Constantly Continuously Improving my Kayak Bass Fishing Skills. Thousands of fish have taught me lessons but each trip out either teaches me a new lesson or reinforces a previous one. Here a few lessons learned:

  • Don’t Give Up. I’ve fished from every kind of water craft there is and walked the bank, waded in some close to home places as well as some distant exotic locations but the back story is initially I caught zero fish. For months as a kid I went “fish free.” So I WAS learning, yep learning what DIDN’T work and what NOT to do. Persistence pays off. Learning the waters and applying your knowledge consistently eventually leads to patterns and techniques that will produce.
  • Tackling the Issue of Tackle. Jigs come in weights from a diminutive 1/16th finesse ounce model to over an ounce used to punch matted vegetation. Pick a color and there’s a bait to match it. Spinners come in safety pin styles, in-line versions, again weights from lightweight to mega metal. Blade configurations in the thousands, willow leaf, Colorado, Indiana, turtle shell and more. Then there’s crankbaits, purported to dive more than 20 feet and the super shallow models, Square bill, oval bill, no bill, rattling, silent and size from micro to magnum. You don’t have to one in every size, color and technique specific type. Start slow with basic baits and build.

  • The Right Rods. Who has at least six?…. (raise your hand, you know you do). After realizing you can only use one at a time I began to collect lengths, actions and technique specific poles. At last count between spinning, baitcasting, fly, flipping, pitching, cranking and all-purpose rods I count a few over 100 resting in various spots in my home. When I launch my kayak normally I have four or five rods accompanying me. For panfish and lightweight lures a spinning combo is almost always on board. Artificial offerings in the 1/16th ounce to ¼ ounce range are used to catch bluegill, crappie and even bass. In the windy conditions (the bane of the kayak angler) a larger set spinning set up is handy for small spinners, minnow plugs, soft plastics and mini crankbaits. Two bait casters sit close by one heavier for pitching jigs / soft plastics and the other used to work spinners and crankbaits. That leaves roof for a specialty rod, maybe a flyrod or a favorite topwater pole. Its’ the person behind the rid more than the rod itself.
  • Gearheads Versus Team Low-tech. If you fish farm ponds and small creeks and have a “Superduper XR 3900 spilt screen 35000 megawatt fish-o-matic” depth finder you might want to rethink your goals and check your bank balance. In my world the addition of any extra equipment creates the possibility of failure. *disclaimer I absolutely love low-tech super simple in all forms of life. If the latest and greatest enhances you experience by all mean go for it. My constant concern is that people allow themselves to be separated from their senses in technology overload. While I canoed through the Canadian wilderness I didn’t use a birch bark canoe but I proudly minimized the gear I carried and used a lot of common sense, a paper map, a healthy dose of respect for the environment and understanding my own limitations. My interests lie in the water temperature (taken with a $6.00 pool thermometer) depth is determined by lowering line until it reaches the bottom and then measuring against the rod. If it’s battery operated or mechanical have a redundant solution or a backup plan.
  • Fishing Conventionally Catches Convention Fish – (read that again) whatever is being touted as the next “game changer” isn’t always the best choice. Old standby lures and techniques don’t quit working people quit employing them. My tackle boxes are peppered with “golden oldies” baits that have been around and caught fish for over 50 years. For example when night fishing a black “Jitterbug” from the Arbogast bait company has probably caught millions of bass. Because it longer is viewed as “sexy” people quit using them. If everyone is throwing the same thing in the same waters it’s my belief fish get conditioned to the sight and sound of that artificial lure. This is why live bait rarely fails and is illegal in bass tournaments. Blend a little new with some of the old and experiment until you’re convinced….either way.

  • Ramp Up Your Observation Skills. Try being in tune with falling, rising water levels. Make note of the moon phases. Are there water birds feeding? They go where the food supply lives. Study the effect of current on the fish, it dictates where they stage. Know the surface water temperature. Spawning, feeding and migration all are direct results of water temperatures.
  • Pick Up on Patterns. Simply stated: the first fish is luck, the second we call a clue, the third is a pattern. Are the fish schooled in eight feet of water? Are they on the shady side of cover, downstream side of fallen trees? Are there a school of crappie in a submerged tree and are they hitting a vertical presentation as opposed to a horizontal retrieve? Look for repeatable results based off the pattern and understand patterns can change with the rising sun, change of wind and certain times of day. Be cerebral and flexible in your approach.

Once you pick up your paddle or begin your pedal be aware of the lessons offered to you each time out and you will be on your own journey of continuous improvement.