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The Kayak Instinctive Angler

Electronic devices continue to evolve and be improved for every facet of life. The introduction of “live scope” and other electronic eyes below the surface of the water has created a following of fishing gamers. Searching for fish and then laying a bait within centimeters of fish ultimately getting them to inhale a lure too close to pass up is becoming a common phenomenon. Crappie, bass, and other game fish can be readily identified, and the search time is minimized. Other indicators include water temperature, bottom contours, depth determination, and GPS waypoints that pop up on a screen. Essentially there is now a legion of people playing a highly effective live fishing video game. The Inuit are credited with the first kayaks. They were custom-made to fit the paddle/hunter, yep, the first kayaks were designed for hunting ocean prey. The early models are a far cry from today’s kayaks and accessories.
Being “old school” (okay ancient school) I have always embraced the challenge of finding fish through instinct and as you age, recollecting experiences that lead you to the best bass hideouts.

Low Tech / No Tech

With a history of fishing small waters as a young man (I had no access to a watercraft) I had to work with minimal tackle and no specific knowledge of an approach. There was very little information available other than Saturday morning TV shows and a few outdoor periodicals. There is no internet, no YouTube, and limited chances to get solid information, hence a trial and (mostly) error approach. You learn to depend on visual clues and add a layer of experience on each trip. Larger lakes offered bank-style fishing, but deeper water was unreachable. This all leads to the assumption that that’s where the BIG ones hang out. Gathering information based on infrequent catches would eventually build a mental database from which to work. Seasonal observations, noting watercolor and estimating depth, and amassing memories that at least allowed for a starting point. Then…. Success due to repeated attempts started to create some confidence in recognizing what different species did, what time of the year, and even at night. Just when you think you have it figured out you begin, at least I did, to assume that loading up a large tackle box was the key to becoming better at this fishing thing. Several years and many dollars later I saw the error in my ways.

Search Baits

Bass was often the target and generally an antique spincast (push button) reel was my normal outfit, no backlash, not much need for a drag system if you’re not fighting much fish, and a budget that didn’t allow for a room full of rods. As I gained confidence at catching a few more fish I happened on a small flat bottom boat that could be easily transported, powered by paddle, and got to places previously out of range. Now I had the chance to open some of my bass baits and probe deeper waters. A new world to test and conquer. My theory is the more water you can cover positions you to catch a few more fish but more importantly a big fish. Having said that I still maintain the quiet, stealthy approach is best. Trolling motors and some would argue pedals send out unnatural sounds to your prospective target fish. My records bear out the fact that silent soft plastic lures produce more truly big fish than any other category. At times, to find fish I rely on “search baits”, lures that allow more coverage because they are the “cast and crank” variety, spinnerbaits, cranking lures, and baits moved predominately with your reel. Once a school of fish is located revert to swimming, crawling, darting soft plastics.

The Instinctive Kayak Angler

Optical Conclusions

My style relies heavily on scanning the water for visual clues and testing the depth with a line-lowering test. I spot a possible fish holding spot, glide in slowly and often lower my line until it curls indicating a touch down on the bottom, lift and measure against the rod length and you have a fairly accurate idea of the depth you are in. The places I choose are not limited to this list but do include irregular shoreline features, submerged trees, inflowing creeks, sloping banks, boat docks, bridge pilings, any kind of aquatic vegetation, and isolated offshore objects. A case can be made that more accurate views and details can be drawn from electronic aids. I agree…to a point. When anglers allow electronics to separate them from their natural senses, they lose out on the ability to ignore technology and apply common sense. Water color, wind direction, moon phases, bottom composition, current flow, and the reaction of the fish to weather-related occurrences are a few of the aspects that can be lost in the pixels of electronic gadgetry.

The Instinctive Kayak Angler

Other Factors

Cost can be a limiting factor. Not everyone can or is willing to invest in thousands of dollars in electronics. Being battery-operated means that a power outage means you’re lost if your sole sense is the connectedness to technology. Proper installation and maintaining your gear are another layer of concern. And as it is with most electronics, you’re never more than a few months away from the newest updated and improved technology. If you’re tied to tournament competition you can feel left behind. My choice is the purest form of competition, me against the fish and the elements. Like everything else in life, it’s about options and personal preference. I derive a great deal of pleasure from figuring out the puzzle utilizing my old-school skills. For me, and just my preference I like the title “instinctive angler.”