Those who knows me knows that I’m very forgetful. Don’t be bothered if I ask for your name again the second time (or the third time, or fourth). I’ve forgotten paddles, life jackets, fishing poles, and much more; all things that forces me to return back home and contemplate returning or relocating to lakes/rivers closer to home. Because of this very reason, I’ve created a checklist to do the night before so I don’t rush myself the next morning before heading out. Since using this checklist, I’ve saved so much gas! All kidding aside, I would much rather be overprepared for a kayak fishing trip than underprepared.
Below is a simple list of gears and supplies I prepare the night before for my fishing trips. Most of my kayak fishing trips are 6+ hours long and I’ve been on enough trips to know exactly what’s needed based on water location, water condition, water terrain, weather condition, and time. It may seem like I’m being too excessive with my list, but these supplies fall under three categories that I keep in mind when packing: (1) recreational, (2) internal safety (safety of myself), and (3) external safety (safety of others).
|––||FOR THE KAYAK ––––––––––––––––––––––––––|
|❏||Paddle w/ leash|
|❏||Life jacket w/ whistle in pocket|
|❏||GoPro w/ cable charger|
|❏||2x external charging bank|
|❏||2x 64 gb micro sd|
|❏||Crate bag (lures, fish grip, scale, first aid, license)|
|❏||Towline (store in hull)|
|❏||Kayak cart (C-tug)|
|––||FOR MYSELF ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|
|❏||Spare clothes (store in hull)|
|❏||Eyeglass clip-on cord|
After viewing my kayak fishing checklist, what do you normally pack on your paddle craft fishing trip? I’d love to read about it! Comment below.
NOTE: I’m sharing my thoughts on life jackets with the kayak fishing/kayaking community. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment below this article!
The subject on life jackets and whether small craft anglers should wear it or not becomes a very sensitive topic in the kayak fishing/kayaking community. It’s not ignorance that refrains an angler from wearing their life jacket nor is it lack of experience that encourages an angler to wear their life jacket; it’s a matter of choice. In most states, it’s legal to not wear your life jacket, as long as it’s in your vessel and in a reachable distance in case of capsize/emergency. Of course, there are anglers who promote and advocate for kayak safety by encouraging others to wear their life jackets; but that’s all it is: encouragement. Nothing is being forced onto anyone as long as it’s within legal regulation.
I wear a life jacket not because I’m an inexperienced swimmer or fear capsizing. I can swim just fine and I know how to re-enter my kayak if I ever do capsize. I even have a kayak re-entering video for proof! Click Here. There are many reasons why I wear a life jacket, but here’s a few…
…Because anything can happen. The water is unpredictable and proactiveness is key in preventing accidents. Modern technology is great when it comes to predicting weather forecast the next day or even the next week, but there’s a reason why water forecast is not a thing… I’ve seen and have helped rescue groups from river floats on beautiful days. No matter how great of a swimmer you are, you cannot outswim a river current, also adding the factor that river sweepers, rocks, and fallen trees below the water surface can easily entrap an arm or leg. Wearing your life jacket will not change the water condition, but it will make you visible to rescuers if anything was to go wrong.
…Because life jacket floats and I don’t. I’ve heard excuses from larger individuals claiming PFDs will not work properly due to their physique. That is why there are so many life jackets in the watercraft business! If you haven’t purchased a life jacket beyond a Type II life jacket, then you may want to do more research. And if you don’t know what a Type II life jacket is, then definitely do research! There are tons of articles and sites sharing knowledge and information about what PFD to wear (I may potentially write one in the future). There is a life jacket for you; it’s a matter of going that extra mile to find it. Life jacket’s purpose is to make the wearer stay afloat. Eventually, a body will stay afloat, after they’ve drowned… If you are ever unsure if your life jacket will support you, test it out at the beach or pool.
…Because it reinforces positive PFD wear rate. Take the time to view the following article by the JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc. on the life jacket wear rate from 1999-2017 and analyze the trend of paddle craft PFD wear rate: http://uscgboating.org/library/national-live-jacket-wear-study/2017-Life-Jacket-Wear-Rate-Observation-Study-Report.pdf. I have also attached two tables from the article below this paragraph. It’s interesting to see the differences between adult PFD wear rate versus youth PFD wear rate. It’s clear that youth are wearing PFD more than adults, but does the title “Adult” push individuals away from wearing life jackets? If you’ve read the article, you’ll see that within Figure G under the kayak section, the wear rate is actually lower than what’s shown below (which is the average for all paddle craft); same goes to canoers. Youth PFD wear rate has increased in the past six years, but why have adults’ PFD wear rate still relatively the same since 1999? I’d like to hear your thoughts on this…
…Because I may save a life. If wearing my life jacket encourages others to wear theirs as well, I will continue to do so. All the photos and videos that I post on social media will show me wearing a life jacket on the water (if you do see a photo of me without one on, scold me!). I’d like to model positive life jacket wear and the best way to influence action is if I do so. I’m not calling myself an influencer, but an advocate for life jacket wear. I would hate to hear a victim of drowning on a paddle craft say, “I did not wear my life jacket because so-and-so didn’t wear theirs either.” I’ve been kayaking for six years [and counting] and have capsized on my kayak; I know the struggle of re-entering a kayak while simultaneously trying to gather all my personal belonging; it never goes as planned, because you never plan to capsize in the first place. Now, add to that struggle trying to reach for your life jacket in your kayak as you try to shuffle all your personal belonging on and below the water surface. Your life should always be your top priority; wearing your life jacket will reduce that negative mindset because you’ll know that you’ll stay afloat. Others need to see that as well; that wearing a life jacket can reduce the foreshadowing of capsizing.
Just know there’s no harm in wearing your life jacket. Wear it like a clothing attire. If it’s uncomfortable, purchase a more comfortable one. I wear mine so often (every time I’m out) that it’s now part of my kayak fishing routine. If I don’t wear it, I don’t venture out onto the waterways.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on life jackets. Do you usually wear yours? Vote below!
I seldom encounter fallen trees when river floating as I’m usually proactive by overlooking ahead. This footage occurred while paddling down a small river in central WI that my camera caught throughout maneuvering through the obstacle. Do watch and always remember to stay calm during these situations.
Tips & Tricks from video TEXT:
NOTE: This accident was unintentional as I underestimated the river current. Water level during this stretch was 1-2′. I could’ve easily gotten off, but decided to demonstrate the process of escaping an entrenchment.
Grab any gear extending vertically from your vessel and lay them as low as possible from branches.
Maintain self-control of your vessel.
Add weight towards the branches to maintain a balanced vessel. DO NOT lean towards the current.
Ensure all gears are untangled from branches. Check both the front and back of vessel.
Slowly inch forward, maintaining balance while being aware of current and surrounding.
Maneuver through the obstacle by utilizing branches for balance. Now is not the time to be afraid of creepy crawlies.
Double-check your vessel to make sure all items are recovered. The aforementioned procedure on checking your gear is to assure that you won’t have to paddle upstream to retrieve them.
When it comes to predicaments like this, it is best to refrain from negative thoughts. Be proactive and ready to escape any situations coming your way.
Remember, never underestimate the current and depth of water. What may seem shallow now may have a steep drop-off in a couple feet. Utilize your surrounding to escape soundly.
Thanks for watching and paddle on!
There’s no doubt that kayaking is becoming a more adopted water sport in the U.S. This, however, means that the community needs to be proactive in recognizing their surroundings and environment before heading out. The United States Coast Guard USCG’s annual boating fatality report states an annual increased kayak [and other boating] fatality in the U.S., which has nearly tripled in the past decade. Kayak fatalities should not be increasing with its popularity as shown throughout the years and there are preventable actions. Majority of kayak fatalities are due to drowning where kayaks capsize or paddlers fall off their vessel. Even with a life jacket, paddlers can drown if unconscious and faced downward. What it ultimately comes down to is being competent about kayaking and knowing before going.
Know your kayak. Whether you’re paddling a sit-in or sit-on kayak, these two types are used for different types of activities. Sit-ins are used more for recreational paddling and shallow waters where land access isn’t too far in case of emergency. Sit-ons are used more for guided activities, such as fishing and hunting, and should be used in deeper water where you don’t necessarily need to be on land to get back into your kayak. Of course, re-entering your kayak does take practice, which should be implemented. It is recommended to re-enter getting into your kayak at least twice a year so you’re comfortable with your kayak and know how to maneuver in and out of it. The following link is a video of me and another kayak angler re-entering our sit-on top kayaks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TU_D7rJi04.
Know your life jacket. There are five types of PFD that are defined by the DNR that you can view on their boating regulations per state. Life jackets are a preventative measure to drowning; although it is not 100% drown-proof, it significantly decreases the chance of any fatal incidents. The United States Coast Guard website recorded statistics on 2016 recreational boating and confirmed that a total of 701 deaths occurred during boating activities where 80% drowned; of the 80% that drowned, 83% were not wearing life jackets. Another study by the 2016 National Observational Life Jacket Wear Rate Study at the JSI Research and Training Institute concluded that 45% of adults wore PFDs when on a paddle craft in 2016, a decline from 51% in 2015. Whether life jackets should or should not be worn is a hot topic in the paddle craft community; however, this does not mean you should refrain from wearing life jackets. It means you need to know your life jacket so it’s accessible and can be easily equipped in dire situations.
Know the water. The National Center for Cold Water Safety describes it best on their site, http://www.coldwatersafety.org/WhatIsCold.html, but in general, water temperature below 60°F should be taken with precaution. A dry suit is never a bad idea under 60°F water temperature. As kayak anglers, we fish in all water conditions. Always be prepared for the worst-case scenario and a [contingency] plan if tragedy does occur. Aside from water temperature, also be cautious of your surrounding from fast-wake waves that are caused by winds or boats, and even riptides.
Know the weather. Always be proactive when planning a fishing trip. Of course, this may be difficult for tournaments and in this case, dress appropriately. I’ve fished in rain, snow, hail, and high winds; it’s about knowing how to counter the weather to be able to paddle and fish in these extreme events. Check your forecast on a daily basis to see if weather pattern changes. I am always checking the weather to be readily prepared when I do go out. A common saying that many paddlers say is “rain or shine,” meaning they’ll fish in all weather conditions. If this is the case, be sure to bring extra clothing, a communicated device, and a reminder to someone that you’ll be out and return by ##:## o’ clock. As with awareness to the water conditions, always be cautious of your surrounding from the climate above sea level.
In general, I think we can all agree that kayak fishing is a widespread water sport that’ll continue to rise with its exposure. If you’re inexperienced, be sure to buddy up or fish in smaller, local waters where access to shore is simple. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with your kayak, boating regulations, and the environment, it’s a matter of enjoying the outdoors and sharing memorable stories to others. Be safe out there and fish on!
References & Additional Reads
Mangione, T. W., Imre, M., Chow, W., Lisinski, H. E., Heitz, E., Millock, R. (2017). 2017 life jacket wear rate observation study. JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., 1-59. Retrieved from http://uscgboating.org/library/national-live-jacket-wear-study/2016-Life-Jacket-Wear-Rate-Observation-Study-Report.pdf.
Quistberg, D. A., Bennett, E., Quan, L., Ebel, B. E. (2014). Low life jacket use among adult recreational boaters: A quantitative study of risk perception and behavioral factors. Elsevier, 62, 276-284. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2013.10.015.
Stallman, R. K., Moran, K., Quan, L., Langendorfer, S. (2017). From swimming skill to water competence: Towards a more inclusive drowning prevention future. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 10(2), 1-37. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.bgsu.edu/ijare/vol10/iss2/3/?utm_source=scholarworks.bgsu.edu%2Fijare%2Fvol10%2Fiss2%2F3&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages.
United States Coast Guard Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety (2017, May 22). 2016 recreational boating statistics. Retrieved from http://www.uscgboating.org/library/accident-statistics/Recreational-Boating-Statistics-2016.pdf.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (2017, November 17). Wisconsin boating fatality summary – 2017 season. Retrieved from http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/boat/fatalitySummary/boatCurrent.html.
Zellmer, R. (2016, January 22). The handbook! Of Wisconsin boating laws and responsibilities. Retrieved from http://dnr.wi.gov/files/pdf/pubs/le/le0301.pdf.
Hollow-body frogs, soft-plastic frogs, spooks, jitterbugs, torpedoes, buzzbaits, poppers; these are a few lures that brings in the thrill and exhilaration of topwater fishing. Many are oblivious to this fishing technique and question its legitimacy. From my many years of ongoing addiction to topwater fishing, it has definitely become a pattern of interest. Once the water temperature hits 60 degrees, the swimbaits, spinnerbaits, jigs, and crankbaits are stored indefinitely and out emerges the topwater lures. Traditional fishing underwater does not beat witnessing the smack down a bass (or pike) unleashes onto the lure, and actually seeing the action! Of course, I love catching fish, but I also love the adrenaline of a topwater hit.
Where should I cast a topwater lure?
I mainly cast a topwater lure near shorelines, where water depth is below 5′ to ensure the fish will see the lure, hear the noise, and/or feel the vibration (although I have uncommonly caught suspending bass and pikes in 10+ feet of water). Great areas to use topwater lures include grass mats, lilypads, under trees, above shallow rocks, and alongside docks. Of course, different habitat will require different types of topwater lures; for example, I use frogs, or weedless topwater lures, on grass mats and lilypads, while I use wakebaits or treble-hooked topwater lures in shallow, open water, such as rivers or rocky shorelines. What I usually do is cast as close to the shoreline as possible; since frogs are weedless, I’d toss them right onto dry land and drag them into the water, acting as a real frog. Casting as close to the shoreline as possible and reeling it towards you mimics the realism of a prey falling from a nearby tree into the water, or an injured prey panicking for survival. Bass (as well as pikes) are opportunist predators and will munch on anything that moves and fits in their mouth. If, by chance, your lure gets hung up by a tree while casting at the shoreline, then you could jig the topwater lure slightly, surfacing the water regularly to create a wake, which will interest the predatory fish and increase its curiosity. Topwater lure allows you to reach into tight spaces that a suspending lure would not be able to do as it would get stuck on rocks or logs. It is suitable in almost all waterways: lakes, rivers, ponds, sloughs, and creaks.
What about rods? Reels? Lines?
When it comes to the rod, I’m pretty flexible with my options. All my rods are 7′ and are usually medium fast, which can feel about anything the lure touches and retracts to the pole. When it comes to the reel’s gear ratio, I usually go with a 6:1 or 7:1 retrieval speed to really eliminate the slack on a lure. When topwater fishing, I’m always engaged with the reel, either twitching, slowly retrieving, or walking the lure. The high gear ratio ensures that, when I set the hook, I’m actually hooking the fish and not setting the hook on the slack. My lines are usually about 40+ lb braid. Braid line floats and topwater lures float, which makes sense as one compliments the other. Also, with braided lines, it does not stretch, so pulling a fish from grass mats or lilypads is simpler and does not allow the fish to tangle itself and escape. The type of brand purchased for braid varies from angler to angler, all costing relatively the same (for the quality brands).
Perceptibly, these topwater techniques are from my experience when topwater kayak fishing and varies from one kayak angler to the next. I’ve been fortunate enough in the past few years to have met avid topwater anglers who’ve shared secrets with me and vice versa. Topwater fishing is literally all I do (unless I’m extremely desperate for a fish, then I’ll fish extremely slow with plastics in rare occasions). I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of topwater fishing; it’s a great way to produce video content and also satisfying when a topwater hit occurs.
Stay tuned for Topwater Kayak Fishing, Part II later this season! In the meantime, check out a few topwater footages here at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzdaAcV103k.
Over the few years that I’ve lived here in Midwestern WI, I’ve had the opportunity to meet fellow kayakers, anglers, and kayak anglers. Someone whom I’ve met not long ago is a fellow kayak angler named Tyler Thiede. He and I have both shared fishing lures, techniques, and stories that have built our friendship. Starting off 2017, Tyler’s passion drove him to become licensed in kayak guiding service, who soon established Small Craft Outfitters with his wife, Stacy Thiede. I was fortunate enough to be joining him in kayaking and kayak fishing guide as the service rolls along. Specializing in Feelfree fishing and recreational kayaks, Tyler provides some of the most reliable kayak brand in the market along with other brands in the market of kayaking gear, fishing lure, rods and reels, and scent (see all the partnered products HERE). Experienced in recreational kayak and kayak fishing, Tyler offers some of the best kayaking and fishing tips for beginners and novice learners as well as introduction to relevant products. Do visit his site for more information if interested in booking a kayak fishing trip with him, or us. Safe fishing!
2016. My kayak and I moved into a small town, awaiting to explore what the many lakes and rivers will bring to us. I was new to Midwestern Wisconsin and was unfamiliar with the bodies of water in this area. However, I met many professional anglers that introduced me to many lakes and rivers as well as what techniques to use in different seasons. I became more aware of the bass fishing pattern from spawning season to feeding season, which made fishing for them easier as to use jigs, topwater, or chase-bait.
The start of the fishing season began early for me in in the beginning of March. Because bass season hasn’t opened yet and I was eager to fish, I headed to a local dam to see what was out there. Surprisingly, I caught a few brooke trout off a crank bait. A couple weeks after this and I started the kayak season with a great kayak angler, Tyler Thiede, as we went after crappies on a local lakes with other eager fishermen. As bass season approached, I began to plan out what I wanted to do for the rest of the season while I was in this small town; granted, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by multiple bodies of water in all directions of where I was living within a 30-min radius. My first official kayak trip was on a local river that extended to approximately 5 miles. We, Tyler, another fishing buddy, and I, didn’t have enough luck and I ended up losing a rod that I have just purchased a month ago. Although this was a rough start to the fishing season, I stayed optimistic and continued heading out every weekend as often as I could.
Although I was a full-time student and part-time employee finishing college, I did not stop nor hesitated to stop doing what I was most passionate about: kayak fishing. As I promised myself, I went out almost every weekend to enjoy the outdoor as well as catch some bass or pikes. Some of the main highlights that I found achieving was self-teaching myself to kayak fly fish for bluegills, bass, trout, and lake whitefish. Kayak fly fishing was difficult especially because I had a sit-in kayak, which made giving slack to the fly rod 2x harder. Furthermore, I started to become more connected with social media by starting this blog website as well as starting an Instagram and a Facebook page for cxfishing. As 2017 slowly approached, I hope to be more active on social media for my viewers as well as a side hobby to do on my free time.
Lastly, my 2016 kayak journey ends with a great thank you and acknowledgment to Tyler Thiede, a blogger and an amazing kayak angler whom I was fortunate to meet. Tyler introduced me to many lakes where I’ve had huge success at and offered me great fishing techniques to use when topwater is slow. Tyler has also introduced me to many great opportunities with the fishing community, such as kayak bass tournaments on Tourneyx.com, Ardent Reels (where I’ve been accepted to be a part of Team Ardent), and the Feelfree Lure fishing kayak. 2016 would have been a pretty lonely fishing season had Tyler not been around; his presence have made 2016 kayak fishing a huge success. As 2017 rolls along, I’ve got many plans that I hope to put into action, which involves new gear, more social media activity, and more fishing!
Don’t forget to follow me on my social media sites to continue staying active with all the fishing stories:
Over this weekend, I had the chance to demo one of the best fishing kayaks in the market: a FeelFree Lure 11.5′ kayak. As a sit-in kayak angler, this was a rather new transition from one kayak to another. Sadly, compared to the sit-in kayak that I own now, the FeelFree was heavier and slower. However, these problems didn’t bother me one bit because the FeelFree was way more stable, comfortable seat, customizable, more storage and room to move around (literally), and getting in and off. Overall, the FeelFree Lure was more reliable and safe. I took the kayak out onto the middle of Lake Wissota, in midwestern WI, and had no hesitation in flipping or falling over. I was even confident enough to stand and test the stability of the kayak above the hyperthermic water, which is probably one of the most significant feature I search for in a kayak. After enclosing myself in a sit-in and not being able to stand and fish for years, being able to do this on a FeelFree Lure made kayak fishing way more enjoyable. I do enjoy a sit-in when fishing, but there were many limitations that I found that were totally disregarded on a FeelFree Lure. It will be hard to get back into a sit-in kayak, but I think I’m convinced in getting a FeelFree Lure for next year. A great thank you to Tyler Thiede, a FeelFree Lure kayak angler and blogger @ www.smallcraftfisherman.com, for allowing me to demo one of the FeelFree Lure kayak.
Although the Summer season has come to a halt, the Fall season has been doing wonders for me. My fishing technique has changed from topwater to underwater, but that doesn’t stop the action from below the surface. I was introduced to spinnerbait by Tyler Thiede, a great fishing buddy of mine. (You can check out his awesome blog at www.smallcraftfisherman.com) I do not get the seem thrill and excitement as watching a bass/pike strike a lure above the water, but that does not compare to the size of the bass during this fall season. It is feeding time for these predatory bass and pikes and they will go crazy over a tasty lure. With about one and a half month left for bass season this year, I’ll definitely be targeting these fat bass and hopefully end the year with a new personal best. Good luck to the rest of you!
Every angler has their own preferred fishing technique that they use when fishing for bass, pikes, muskies, panfishes, and more. I have used multiple fishing method from jigging, worms, spinner, and crank, but my favorite technique thus far, as seen from my catches, is topwater fishing. Whether I’m using a frog, spook, wakebait, or buzzbait, the action above the water when the fish slams it is extremely breathtaking and stunning. Although I do get sore from the constant reeling and twitching of the rod, I can’t be complaining when the result of topwater is being able to see the bass or pike slam the lure. Throughout the years of using topwater, there are a couple rules that you should follow to fully understand the use of topwater:
Topwater fishing is a great obsession of mine that I’ve convinced myself to love and be passionate doing. As the season comes to a close with colder water and heavy rainfall, the start of next year will be a great opportunity to grow on the knowledge of topwater fishing.
On a new lake, it’s always a mystery to what you’ll be catching. Although you may be targeting bass, there may be occasions where a pike will covertly stalk your lure and pounce when you least expect it. Pikes share similar environment as bass, whether in rivers or lakes. They are more aggressive and more willing to strike on a lure more than once. As a pike victim myself, I’ve hooked enough of them to know whether I’ve hooked a bass or pike. As stated earlier, pikes are more aggressive and will pull drag, especially a decent sized pike. Although not as aggressive as musky, pikes do fight for a fairly long time and even flailing when you least expect them to. With their sharp, pointy, sandpaper teeth, it is highly recommended to have a gripper and pliers to extract the lure.
Pikes are great for a casual day fishing especially with topwater as the blowups are insane. During tournament day, they may be a bugger as they are capable to easily snap lines. Pikes are native to WI and I’ve learned to be cautious when fishing for them. They’re extremely competent and show no mercy against other predatory and prey fish.
Off a Persuader Three Blade Buzzbait, this approximately 20.5″ largemouth slams the lure with so much strength that, for a few seconds, my rod bent down, rocking my kayak back and forth. Feeling a burst of acceleration after seeing the monster surface and wrestle the water, I carefully fought the hog and slowly reeled it in. At first glance, I thought the bass was a carp due to its football-shaped body, but was soon shaken with excitement after seeing the whole image. A scale wasn’t present at the time, but this bass was eating well; its mouth could have literally fit my hand and everything about it was beautiful. After a quick photo, I released the hog back into the lake to fight another day. ‘Twas a great catch due to an incoming storm, causing me to retreat home. Was it worth the 30-minute drive to fish for 20 minutes? Definitely.