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Kayak Fish Like a Hunter: Sharpening Your Gear, Skills & Mindset

Kayak Fish Like a Hunter: Sharpening Your Gear, Skills & Mindset

Learning from Community Member Bentonreds: Upping your approach on the water

Many of our blogs focus on how to improve your experience on the water. Whether that be building out your kayak with useful accessories, helping you decide which hull type best suits you, or general fishing tips, we want to help you enjoy your fishing kayak.

For us, it is easy to talk about how great fishing kayaks are. Their utility, continued perforamnce upgrades, low maintenance and customizability offer a truly unique, personal experience while on the water. We also recognize words from a business vs. honest real-life experiences from customers mean less.

For this reason, we created the Kayak Anglers Resource. It is a community discussion board generated entirely by its members. One of those members is Bentonreds. With a passion for kayak angling and helping others hone their skills, Bentonreds has offers a unique perspective of how to become a hunter on the water. Using precise gear setups, hunter-like stalking techniques & mental preparation, Bentonreds uses discipline and experience to increase his success on the water.

Bent on reds group photo

Getting to Know Bentonreds

Hi y'all, Jason here. I've been a serious kayak fisherman now going on over 3 years. Fishing mainly intercoastal in the Panhandle of Florida. Passionate about site fishing for redfish- "Bent on Reds" and anything that swims and bites. Love fishing inland rivers, bayous and bays. Occasionally offshore when the weather is right.

Looking forward to meeting new folks. I'm thinking about starting a guiding and outfitting business focusing specifically on kayak fishing in the FL Panhandle - not sure about the demand, but so many areas to explore. I love getting on the water and introducing folks to how affective kayak fishing can be and exploring all the wildlife this area has to offer. Looking forward to it!

Bent on reds catch

In my younger days growing up surfing on the Florida east coast we had a saying - "If you don't surf, don't start". Mainly because newbies, not only didn't know how to surf the board, but reading the water and surf conditions was half the battle out there. Some big, rough days(usually in the winter) would eat inexperienced guys up. In later years, having the opportunity to surf in Hawaii on a visit with my wife(Kauai), I spent several days just studying particular reef breaks, as going out at the wrong time could get you killed.

Now that I'm older, slightly mellowed out and into all things kayaking - lakes and bays are one thing, but the ocean is a whole other ball game. You had better be prepped and experienced as weather and sea conditions - wind, waves, storms and currents can get you caught out, and in trouble in a hurry.

Let's get into it!

Clean, Efficient Fishing Gear Setups for Your Kayak

I think one thing to keep in mind is that the basic kayak itself, such a beautiful thing, especially if you've ever paddled a custom built paddler, is a reflection of yourself as a paddler or fisherman. So the 30K view is, that whatever works for you, is best. What's interesting is the journey to discover this personally and practically if you want to keep doing it in the future."

I myself am a total gear guy. I am constantly shopping for better lures, better reels/rods, miscellaneous gear etc. Spices for cooking is high on my list, although not technically gear, till I put it in with my other gear. This I utilize for what I call my "shore lunch", after a hard morning of catching redfish - my redfish blackened fish sandwich. Fresh filleted and seared in a small cast iron skillet over a natural wood fire/or single burner gas cooker. All I need is my blackened spice, a few pats of butter(easily stored in my lunch cooler), my fillet knife, small vintage cast iron skillet, and a heat source - fire preferred, but a small backpacking, single burner packs light/compact and works great. All of this fits in my front hatch, in a small dry bag - NP. All this and kick back with a beer and a cigar on the right sandy beach in the middle of no-where, I can't think of a better ending to a morning flats session."

Bent on reds kayak build

"The key is prepping your gear for that day's trip - so many factors to consider. Dial this in for that location and that days weather conditions, the fish you are targeting, what your fishing approach and tactics are, etc., etc."

"It's simple, I break gear down into two categories:"

Bare Necessities

  • Transport
  • Paddle/drive system
  • Safety/emergency/survival
  • Hydration/food/shelter
  • Tools

Preferred & Favorite Items

  • Rod/reel combos
  • Lures, line, terminal tackle
  • Comfort items
Bent on reds kid photo

"Work at whittling down the best gear for each category/sub-category. Be prepared to change what you bring on any given outing, depending on the typical factors/variables, etc. Then figure out how all the pieces fit with your boat setup/rig, and you're on your way to being a less-encumbered fisherman and more efficient with your excursions."

Thinking Like a Hunter for Stealthier Attacks & Better Catch Rates

A couple of things come to mind when talking about deadening the sound of the kayak...

The first would be to sound proof as much as possible any hard surfaces that you or gear regularly come into contact with. You can get EVA foam marine decking by the roll in various colors and cut-n-apply directly to your flat surfaces, like the hull floor and where you might store tackles trays(under seat) and rear tank wells. Also along edges or where other gear could bang against, mainly for abrasion resistance (protect rods/reels) and also to deaden noise.

Second, start thinking like a hunter. Fish use their lateral lines to detect movement and vibrations in the water as well as their eyesight, mainly to catch prey and avoid danger from bigger fish. Sound makes vibrations in the water. Thuds and bangs coming from your kayak will spook fish in the nearby vicinity, especially if water conditions are favorable - i.e. clearer water, calm, and shallow or near shore areas (where the sound tends to bounce and reverberate underwater).

So start fishing like you are hunting. Keep all movements slow and deliberate. Make body shifts and gear grabs quietly and gently. Even your breathing and any vocalizations, try and keep to a minimum. Practice getting "in the zone" with your casting rhythms and focus on where you will be casting, envisioning where the fish will be and how they will take your lure and it's presentation. This is the beauty of fishing from a kayak - I get closer to fish and wildlife in general, just by moving stealthily and blending into the environment on my kayak.

My son wonders why I out fish him 5:1 most of the time, and a majority of his error is the regular racquet he makes just operating normally from his kayak. I'm constantly thanking him for spooking the fish over in my direction. Most people don't realize just how noisy they are doing typical things. Fishing is no exception.

Other Useful Tips from Bentonreds

Don't Overload Your Kayak with Non-essential Gear

I'm all for however anyone wants to rig their boat, but I think a lot of folks get way too overloaded with non-essential gear and detract from what a kayak is really good for. They're great for being able to drop in anywhere you can get down to the water's edge, and navigating waters under human power(addle or peddle), where typical boats can't go. And it makes for a more intimate water experience than any boat can afford. It takes a season or two to figure it out, but start whittling your gear and rods down to what you need for that location specific - less is more. in fact, less, is best!

Loading, Launching & Transporting Your Fishing Kayak

Load the boat first without gear, and then have your gear sorted(in your vehicle) to load the boat in or near the water pre shove-off. This is how my son and I load when we hit the water. Rods are typically the last thing we load, as we have them already rigged to fish as soon as we're on the water.

Once you get organized and reduce your gear down to the essentials, you'll find that you can load in a variety of different landings with ease for both put-in and take-out. I would say that most landings aren't suitable for dropping a boat off a trailer. But the trailer is great for transport.

We don't pre-load our boats and go down the road due to potential damage to gear in transport. Wind at 60+mph going down the road can do a number on gear. We do pre-load our main hatches, but not with anything heavy. We trailer our boats, but stripped down so we can lift and carry them to the water(occasionally we use a cart when we have to go down trails, etc).

Navigating Big Waves

Big waves can be fun and scary at the same time. First off is safety - pfds, radio/talkies and everything leashed or lose it. Growing up surfing and sailing in the ocean up and down Florida coast and in the FL Keyes, I can tell you one basic principle - Always keep your boat bow oriented into the waves!

Big rollers (5ft+) can roll you quickly if you get too sideways to them (even smaller 2-4 footers can get you if not careful especially in hi winds). It's how you navigate the boat that makes all the difference.

When it gets sketchy is when you have to nav a heading that is cross wave or down wave. I don't recommend it unless you are really experienced and have Jeremiah Jones nerves of steel. Good paddling/pedal stamina, technique and rudder control are essential. Use caution if conditions are bad and be safe or stay in.

Never Underestimate the Power of Water

Let me recall a day in mid-August, in the Florida Panhandle, afternoon 1 of a 4 day camping/kayak trip. Heading out into a double, red-flag flying on the beach that day with my 13 year old son in tow(in hindsight, a real dumb move on my part - still had my surfer mindset). The breakers didn't look so bad going out, although waves were 3-4ft.

Punching out with the peddle drive, one good wave washed over the bow and sucked my paddle right off the boat(don't ask me why it wasn't leashed in that day - ugggh!). So we make it to the outside(I am now minus a paddle, just my peddle drive for power) and it's a good 4-5 foot wave action going on as we proceed to troll and head for a nearby shallow reef to fish.

Well, the conditions worsened over the course of an hour where we now had 5-7 foot rollers. My biggest concern, that had started to turn more to dread(that ole sinking feeling, pardon the pun) was what our re-entry to shore was going to look like - not good for sure.

Finish Bentonreds' story here.

Meet Jason (Bentonreds) & Share Your Experiences

Check out Jason's Kayak Anglers Resource profile.

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