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Kayak Country

While BIG boats blast off, there’s something special about the slower-paced kayak and the places it can take you. For speed, safety in rough waters, and lots of room, bigger boats have the edge, BUT in secluded spots, smaller bodies of shallow water, and waters restricted to “no big engine operation,” the kayak is equal or even holds an advantage! That being said, I know several people who own both types of watercraft.

Longer ago I discovered the kayak “forced” me to cover water more thoroughly. Relying on paddle power, I still used my intuitive approach to picking casting targets in search of bass, crappie, and other species. The kayak helped me get into spots that weren’t accessible to the bigger boats, even my previous flat bottom boats. Smaller rivers that got shallower in the summer gave me a chance to pull (I hate to say drag) my Big Rig into pools that held some surprising numbers and sizes of fish. My wife Debbie will pull up the propellers on her BITE FD and grab the paddle to position herself into the same spots.

Another plus is that rarely are the spots we kayak in receiving the same amount of fishing pressure as the big water bass. Living on a full-size lake we can still get access more remote areas on our home lake Woods Reservoir. The headwaters, the Elk River is a great spot for multi-species fishing. A narrow river lined with submerged stumps and many little backwater areas it’s ideal for a plastic boat adventures. Again, don’t fooled into think small waters equals small fish, Debbie’s personal best bass was pulled from a spot inaccessible to a bass boat. Gliding over boulder rock or pulling directly atop a submerged tree to “dip” tubes for crappie there is a decided advantage to the kayak.

Up to date electronics and other technological advances have allowed kayakers to outfit their boats with all the accessories enjoyed by the bigger brother boats. Options as to paddle, pedal or motorize comes with varying costs and the ability to go greater distances and cover more water. My style of fishing is centered around trying to catch bigger bass and larger of the other species. I, like many other played the numbers (how many can I catch) for years and have migrated to a preference of quality over quantity. (Coming this fall my latest book, STRICKTLY BIG BASS)

Regardless of water type the kayak does offer a super silent drift into almost any place fish inhabit. The weather conditions can pose a problem. Wind is not your friend and while there are anchor systems it goes against the grain of my philosophy of covering lots of water. I also have a healthy respect for fats moving water, you white water folks can have it. A certain degree of river current can be helpful in locating fish that are avoiding heavy flow and therefore in predictable downstream locations, small cuts and backwaters.

We are blessed in our home state to have well managed lakes and rivers by our Federal Agency the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Included in these are smaller lakes ranging from 22 acres up to 560 acres. These gems are stocked with multiple species including Florida stain bass, the ever-popular crappie, bluegill, catfish and even shad as a food source for the fish. Restricted to trolling motor only there’s room and a safe environment for canoes, kayaks and the bigger boats. With a little homework or Google searching you can find launch points and new water. Again, we have three major lakes and several rivers within less than an hour of our home base. Not to be discounted are ponds along with other small lakes, many are private but hold some great populations of fish including heavyweight bass. There might be a cost associated with some of the wilder waters such as a walk and pull through overgrown areas, the occasional snake but some of these places offer unspoiled, untested fishing opportunities.

Equipping yourself for safety, and comfort is still vital. A good life jacket worn 100% of the time regardless of water types, a paddle even if you pedal is beneficial and any other necessary items even some redundant equipment is highly recommended. Valuable items should be tethered or float and a small first aid kit, a dry box for keys and phones are advisable. As far as fishing equipment, it’s wide open. Blessed at having long time sponsors my rods, reels and lures are second to no one. Always on for the ride are a baitcasting outfit aka my “jig rod”, an open face spinning combo for light line and long casts invaluable in the dreaded wind, and another baitcaster primarily for crankbaiting, spinnerbaits and top water lures and finally another lightweight spinning rig for crappie, bluegill and medium size bass. As far as artificial lures; a small box of jigs mostly in crawfish patterns ranging from ¼ to 3/8ths ounces, a few squarebill crankbaits in basic colors (shad, crawfish and chartreuse/black back) minnow floater /divers in shad imitating colors and then the spinners. I modify many of my baits and generally carry a few willow / Colorado combinations that seem to work everywhere. Rarely am I without a single willow with a “glimmer” skirt that is a good match for the shad bass feed on. Buzzbaits and Texas rig components, soft plastics and a few leadheads round out my tackle boxes.

It can be as simple or detailed as you want but be assured you’re never too far from kayak country.