Story & Photos by Tim Huffman
A tricked-out kayak ready for slow trolling can offer an alternative way to fish for crappie.
Crappie fishermen are happy in a 14-foot johnboat, a high-performance 21-foot fiberglass boat, and everything in between. They have simple fishing boats all the way up to pimped-out, expensive luxury rigs with huge motors. However, it’s rare we see a crappie chaser in a canoe or kayak.
The lack of popularity is easy to understand. First, it is something different. If something is different we don’t have the information we need to know its advantages. We hesitate to try something new especially if we don’t know how much it will help us. Besides, our buddies may think it’s not cool.
Small boats are not for big, rough waters. Safety is an issue and fishing will be difficult at best.
The comfort factor of a kayak isn’t the same as a boat. You can’t easily get up, stretch and move around. There is limited space so equipment is limited. It also takes effort and energy to get from one place to another.
So why an article about kayak fishing for crappie? Maybe the biggest advantage of a kayak is it’s low cost. In today’s economy, buying a molded boat that doesn’t require a motor is a practical option. Not only is the initial investment small, there are no constant battery, fuel, and maintenance costs.
Fishing can be great from a kayak. You can get into places not accessible with a big boat. You can launch almost anywhere and no launch ramp is required. Ponds, river backouts, and creeks are just a few places where a kayak offers great opportunities. Anytime fish are in shallower waters it’s a good time for a kayak.
Today’s kayaks are more enticing because the ‘fishing’ models are wider so they are difficult to flip over. Some models allow standing up for easier casting.
Hobie Kayaks have foot pedals. The foot pedals connect to underside paddles. These add speed, let you use stronger leg muscles and leave your hands free for fishing. Many special features make them fisherman-friendly.
Note that kayaks are great in warmer water situations but they are only semi-dry. You need to dress appropriately if air or water temperatures are cool. If fishing in the summer months, you might want to take occasional dips in the water…easy from a kayak.
Set-Up & Tips
Second generation Driftmaster guru, David Baynard, has many years of experience fishing from kayaks. “I like a two-person, 16-foot kayak because it is so stable, but a shorter one would be easier to transport. Also, with one person in a two-person boat, it gives plenty of room for all my tackle and ‘stuff’.”
He says the set-on-top models are popular but he has a little trouble getting on and off. The set-in model allows him to get in like a boat.
One difference you see in Baynard’s kayak is the tools of his trade including rod holders. “The advantage of a kayak is that you can fish small waters, they are easy to maneuver, and they are quiet making them easier to use without spooking the fish, no matter which species you are fishing for. You can take them where big boats can’t go. So why not spider rig from a kayak? It works.”
“We make a simple trolling rack that incorporates big boat ideas into a smaller scale. I want to keep them low so paddling is easier.”
So with all the different kayak types, does one size accessories fit all? Baynard says, “Not really. It’s best to call me. I’ve been experimenting on the holders and a base for my locator. I keep improving things through use, testing and feedback on everything. If I know your needs it will be easier to make sure you get exactly what you want if we talk.”
Baynard says that holders and special brackets are not new. However, most are made of light plastic and he prefers products that will last and be rugged. If a person is serious about fishing, he wants a product he can count on. So that’s Baynard’s niche in the kayak market.
Top fishing times for shallower waters is spring, fall, any time there is high water, and a warm spell during the winter. Backouts and similar areas can be fished year round. The kayak can be used to fish open water but holding in one spot can be a problem. However, you can rig up to anchor no matter what depth water you’re in.
Casting is an easy way to fish and maybe the most compatible with the boat. Keep your outfit a medium length for most applications. Switch to a short rod in brushy areas or where overhanging tree limbs are common. You can go to a longer rod when fishing open areas.
Vertical jigging is possible. The easiest would be laydowns that you could tie to while fishing.
Search for areas not often fished by others. Ponds, the shallow ends of reservoir creeks, small rivers and big creeks all offer fishing potential and less fishing pressure.
Tips You Should Know
Hobie’s Morgan Promnitz is a great teacher of kayak techniques and handling. In addition to that, he is a good fisherman. We met at Chautauqua, NY, for some fishing and work. Here are a few of his top tips for kayaks.
-1. “The number one thing is picking the right kayak so you don’t have a bad experience. Visit a dealer and try out different ones. Or better yet, take a guided trip for fishing with a guide who uses kayaks.”
-2. “For fishing, you need a comfortable seat and a mix of stability and utility. Typically, longer narrower boats are great for speed. A stubby 7-footer is less stable but mobile. A 12- or 14-footer is good for fishing.
-3. “Start out simple when learning. Stick with one rod and a bag of baits. Few accessories. Don’t be overwhelmed. Once you figure it out you can start adding things one at a time.”
-4. “The most important thing is safety. Always wear a quality life jacket. If possible, go with a buddy so you can help each other if needed. Let someone know where you will be and when you will return.”
-5. “After buying, go with someone experienced. They can teach you in one day what it might take a year to learn on your own.”
-6. “Specific to Hobie is our Mirage Drive (foot peddles). It’s the difference-maker that lets you keep your hands free so you can fish. Fins lay flat when not in use so the boat can still go through shallow water. Hobie is high quality and made in the USA.”
Different lengths and rigging lets you customize your kayak. These Hobies are made wide for stability. Two have grab bars for stand-up fishing and easier in and out.
A brush grabber/gripper is good for holding to the brush.
Mud sticks with a tether allow you to manually anchor in a soft bottom.
Yak.com offers a variety of accessories. So does Hobie.
Tether your rod/reel combo, and other things you don’t want to lose.
You can use the same casting outfits as you use from the bank or a boat. Don’t switch to wimpy, short poles. Jigging poles might need to be restricted to 8-footers.
Setting the hook can be a little more difficult so fluorocarbon or braid is a good choice.
Landing a fish is different because you are at water level with the fish. Make sure you don’t let the fish get in the boat with you especially if using something with treble hooks on it. A small trout net will work.
A single paddle will get you less wet.
Always go into the wind so when you get tired you know you can make it back.
And here’s an interesting tip from David Baynard. “Don’t use a white-bottomed kayak in alligator country. I learned this the hard way.”