Kayak Fishing After a Long New England Winter

I have already taken my W300 fishing kayak out of mothballs, but I still just don’t have “anything to write home about”.

While not impressive, the attached shows a recent bass caught with an emmrod fishing pole.

Massachusetts kayak fisherman with bass

I was hoping to get some decent pics to send along, but I have not gone out for more than a few hours, as work is keeping me busy…

Because there was not much ice this Winter, I made a few outings when the air was in the 40′s and water in the 30′s in March. Dry launch and landing in a W fishing kayak make this possible.

Chris from Central Massachusetts

Kayak Fishing In Tandem – Is It Possible?…

Not an easy question to answer, since a kayak is essentially a solo boat, which doesn’t lend itself easily to tandem applications –
In principle, it’s possible, since many kayaks are big enough to take two passengers on board. But practically, having two anglers fishing out of a small vessel such as a kayak is problematic with regards to several aspects that command serious consideration:

The first problem is Safety – two passengers moving about in the cockpit or on the deck of a fishing kayak in an uncoordinated manner can easily destabilize it, with the result being one of them overreacting, and causing the kayak to capsize. Obviously, having fishing rods, lures and fish flying around in all direction in such a limited space isn’t the best a recipe for safety.

The second problem is Convenience – Every angler wants and needs to have an unlimited range of motion, in order to perform basic things such as casting, reeling, landing the fish, unhooking, etc. Angler also need to have a comfortable workspace for attaching lures and bait, and doing other technical work involving the manipulation of fishing gear, including sharp objects such as fishing hooks and knives.
The last thing you want when you’re fishing in tandem is to get your fishing lines entangled with those of your partner, or get poked in the eye by a misguided fishing hook, etc.. -The possibilities for a disaster are so numerous that it’s practically impossible to list them all in this article, but we assume the reader gets the point…

Unlike paddling a kayak in tandem, kayak fishing in tandem is more complicated, and more difficult, and as a rule of thumb we don’t recommend it, unless the crew is composed of one experienced adult kayak angler and one junior kayak angler, such as a child, who needs guidance and often even technical help with handling their fishing gear. In such case the obvious choice for a kayak is the W500 that features a 6 ft long cockpit, and a longitudinal seat that makes it possible for the two anglers to sit separated by a long span, but also to approach each other effortlessly and safely when they need to do something together, such as in case the experienced angler has to instruct the novice, or help them hands-on perform a fishing related task.

As far as standing up while kayak fishing in tandem, this is even more problematic, and should be practiced only after both anglers have practiced tandem kayak fishing before, as well as stand up kayak fishing. Needless to say that the kayak used for this type of fishing should be fit such such activities to begin with, and vendors’ claims about their kayaks’ stability should be taken with a good dose of caution, common sense, and sufficient skepticism. It’s good to remember that it’s you and fishing buddy that are going to be out there in the real world, and not some guys who get paid to demonstrate fishing kayaks in front of a camera…

Kayak fishing offshore in tandem is even more difficult, and hazardous, and we do not recommend it, unless both anglers are lightweight and very experienced fishing together out of small boats, such as dinghies and canoes. Fishing in tandem out of a kayak equipped with a powerful motor, such as an outboard gas engine adds yet another level of risk, and in such cases you may consider outfitting your kayak with a pair of large size outriggers, such as this South Korean couple is using on an offshore fishing trip:

Couple fishing in tandem in the ocean, in South Korea

How To Take Care Of Your Saltwater Fishing Tackle

Kayaks are king in saltwater flats fishing. You can get into places that even the finest flats boats have trouble accessing. You have no fuel expense and the maintenance on the kayak is far less than any motor powered craft. However, saltwater is not kind to equipment of any type, so unless your gear is properly cleaned up after every trip, it will wear out quickly and be ruined.

The process begins on the water in the way gear is handled. Lures should never be replaced in the tackle box directly after use. They need to be placed in a separate plastic container that is for used baits only. The small amounts of saltwater on the lure can be transferred into your tackle box as baits are changed out and that small amount ruins a box of lures in very short order.

Once you arrive home, the baits in the plastic container need to be cleaned. My own method for taking care of this is to add a squirt of baby shampoo to the container and fill it with tap water. A few shakes, a simple brush off with an old tooth brush to get the crud, a tap water rinse and the lures are finally hung to dry before replacing in the tackle box. The reason for the recommendation of baby shampoo is that it rinses fully in cooler water and it has no other substances in it other than simple soaps. It won’t harm your tackle and it’s inexpensive.

All equipment from the day should be cleaned up as soon as you get home. The boat is easy: some people just spray it off and put it up. I take a few extra minutes with mine and use a soapy water wash down with one of the all-in-one car wash products. My paddles, net, anchor, and other on board gear is done at the same time and allowed to dry before being stored. Stainless rigging such as on my anchor trolley will rust in time with continued saltwater use if I don’t clean it each time. Washing off saltwater from the deck gear
Rod and reel are ruined if they are not thoroughly cleaned after saltwater use. There are different ideas for this process, but the one I use has kept my gear in working order for years. I have rods and reels pushing 40 years old that are still fine, work great and I owe it to my cleanup methods. I start by clipping the line and removing the leaders. The line is then secured to the spool clips or, in the case of bait casters, to the reel frame. Reels are removed from the rods before cleaning. The rods are wet down and washed off using the car wash cleaner and mesh scrubby. It’s light cleaning not a harsh scrub and will not damage the guides or wraps on the rods. Once rinsed, the rods are put aside to dry.

The reels are washed off using the baby shampoo on a wet wash cloth. The idea is to just wash the reel off, not soak it. Rinsing is done with another wash cloth and tap water. Do not spray off the reel – it forces salty material into the reel and destroys it from the inside. Once the reel is rinsed off it gets a spray of furniture polish. It won’t hurt anything (including the line.) After the spray down of furniture polish it is wiped clean. At this point, lubrication of the parts (like the level wind worm gear on the bait casting reel) can be done before storage.

Take care of your gear after every trip and it will last for years. Put it up without cleaning and you’ll be the tackle store’s best customer.

Jeff McGovern is a life long angler and fishing equipment expert, a professional consultant in the fishing and kayaking industry., and a distributor of Emmrod fishing rods.

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How To Choose A Spinning Outfit

By Jeff McGovern

When you visit any place that sells tackle, your choices of a rod and reel combos are huge.  You are faced with dozens of selections for many different species of fish.  For the person just starting out (or someone that just wants to buy an all around outfit), it can be hard to focus on just one and know that you made the right choice.  Thankfully, rod and reel manufacturers rate their equipment for different sizes of line and weights of lures. This helps to narrow down the selection and makes picking the right outfit a bit easier.
Picking an all around outfit is fairly simple.  You want something that will work in a variety of situations and in a manner that makes fishing enjoyable. The 8lb spinning outfit is light enough to be fun catching smaller fish, yet it still handles the big ones when they bite.  This means the outfit is rated for 8lb line in the middle of its range.  Look at the side of the rod.   The label should read 4lb to 10lb line or 6lb to 12lb line.  The rod rating (action) should be either medium light or medium.  There will be slight differences from rod company to rod company, but the ranges mentioned above are the ones to look for. Rod length is the next consideration.  A six to seven foot rod is a good all around size to start with.

Spinning reel proper grip

Photo: Jeff McGovern

A two piece rod is easy to transport.  The handle material can be cork or foam but, in either case, you want a reel seat that tightens down with some type of secure fastening method.
Choose a rod from a recognized tackle manufacturer or supplier so that you are purchasing a product that will be supported, if a problem develops.  You can buy them via the Internet, phone, or by visiting one of their retail stores.  Both firms employ product specialists that can help guide you in picking the right rod for the fish you are trying to catch.  These firms have excellent customer support– just be sure to save the receipt, in case there is a problem.
Once you have a rod, the next piece of gear is the reel.  Look for a spinning reel weighing between 8 and 12 oz.  A lighter reel makes for a much easier fishing day.  Try the reel on the rod before buying and see how it fits your hand.  Your index finger should be able to reach the spool in a standard casting grip.  The reel stem is fitted between the middle fingers with the reel fastened under the rod.  The index finger should be able to touch the edge of the spool with as little shifting of the grip as possible.  This allows you much better control while casting since you’ll be able to feather the line with your finger tip for more accuracy.  The wire arm (bail wire) should be closed by hand, since that will help prevent line twist and keep uncontrolled loops from forming on the spool.
If you have never spooled line onto a reel before, you might be better served having the tackle store do it for you.  They use a line spooling machine that does the job quickly and properly.  It also saves a little money, since you are charged only for the line that fits on the reel.  If your reel comes with a spare spool, have that filled as well.  Swapping a spool out while fishing is faster than refilling the spool on the reel.  I’ve had spools of line trashed after a long fight with a big fish, so having a spare saved the day.
No single rod and reel can handle all fishing situations, but a light 8lb spinning outfit comes close.  It’s fun-so go out and give one a try!

Jeff McGovern is a life long angler and fishing equipment expert, a professional consultant in the fishing and kayaking industry., and a distributor of Emmrod fishing rods.

Visit Jeff’s kayak fishing blog >>

How To Choose A Bait Caster

By Jeff McGovern

Bait casting is a powerful, accurate fishing system—but, without practice, the pursuit is frustrating.  The first thing to do is to decide which rig to purchase.  Bombarded with ads from every direction, making the right choice can be difficult.   I’ll try and give you a place to start.
First, do not be swayed by all the hype you see on TV and in the magazines.  There is no magic reel that will never backlash or add huge distances to a cast.  Those things are the result of how you develop your angling skills and how well you set up your individual reel.  The key is to start with a proven reel design that fits your hand and match it to a good rod you can handle easily.  It really is all about the fit and how the outfit feels to you.
There are two basic types of bait casting reels: low profile and round.   Low profile reels are sleek and racy looking.  Good examples are Shimano, ABU, and Daiwa.  The round reels are taller and have round frames.  The same reel companies previously mentioned have reels in that class as well.
The prices range from 60 dollars to over 500 dollars.  Now we need to address the confusion of deciding how much you need to spend to have something that works.  I have some simple suggestions, based on my own experience, to make this easier.  I normally recommend for a beginner a basic reel in the 60 to 140 dollar range.  Good examples are the ABU round reels, such as the C3 series with the 4500 or 5500 reels. These are found at most sporting goods stores and will cost you 60 to 80 dollars. Make no mistake about reels in this price range– they work.  You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to get a nice reel.  I use them regularly and have no problem catching fish.  The basic design has been around for decades and proven to catch fish anywhere in the world.  Mine have been around a long time, cared for properly and some are now approaching 40 years old.
One last important reel issue is which hand you will use to cast.  Most casting reels have their handle on the right side.  The standard casting method is to cast right handed, then switch the outfit to the left hand to reel in.  It sounds complicated at first, but becomes natural within a short time with practice.   More and more reels are now becoming available with left hand retrieve, so you don’t have to switch hands.  If you are just learning to cast, practicing with using either hand can be a real advantage.
Now that you’ve found your reel, you’ll need a rod to match.  Again, the same price range of 60 to 140 dollars will get things started.  Don’t go overboard on heavy actions and big long handles.  A great starting point is medium action, rear handle of no more than eight inches or so, and a total rod length of 5’6” to 7’.  Get the size you are most comfortable with.  You don’t need a long rod to cast far.  The longer rods are harder to transport and somehow manage to find car doors and tree limbs very easily.  Try out the rod on the reel at the store and check the feel.  There are many rod companies to pick from–just be sure it’s a known brand so, if there is a problem, you aren’t stuck with a lemon.  Your tackle store can help you with the brands best suited in your area.  You can also check out the catalogs from Bass Pro Shops and Cabelas.   These firms have additional in-house rod brands that are superb and well covered with guarantees.
Line is the next consideration for you new bait casting rig. Look for a line rating of 10 to 20 lb test.  The best line weight for beginning bait casting is 12lb test. Start with a premium mono line. Don’t buy cheap line.  Use well known brands: Berkley, Stren, Sufix, or YoZuri.  There are others, but these are nationally distributed and easy to find.  A solid basic product that is universally available is Berkley Big Game 12lb test.  I use this line and have been happy with it for years.  For teaching purposes, I use a version called Solar that has a fluorescent green color.  It’s easy to see and manage while learning, and relatively inexpensive.
Now you have gotten the rig together, spooled on the line.  Time for casting practice to begin.  The best place is not on the water, but on the lawn.  Buy some of the plastic practice plugs and try a little “lawn bassin”.  It’s a great way to learn and helps you practice the casting part instead of the fishing part.  I do this daily at home just to keep my casting eye in shape and it pays big dividends on the water.  Start with a ½ ounce practice plug and tie it on your line with the canoe man’s loop knot.  (Check the archives for my previous article on knots.)
Casting is a learned process.  Become familiar with the instructions that came with your reel on how to use the casting brakes and spool controls.  Start with easy tosses and progress as you get comfortable.  Don’t go for distance–go for accuracy.  A small plastic bucket is a great target to begin with.  Keep at it and learn to control the outgoing line with your thumb.  In no time you’ll be casting like pro and hitting right where you need to catch the big ones.

Jeff McGovern is a life long angler and fishing equipment expert, a professional consultant in the fishing and kayaking industry., and a distributor of Emmrod fishing rods.

Visit Jeff’s kayak fishing blog >>