- Repetition – Setup your kayak the same way, every time. Before dropping your boat in the water, make sure that it is setup properly to land a fish, unhook, take a picture (if needed), and release. This means putting your gear in the same spot every time. In the middle of a big fight and go to reach for your net and it’s not there? Why not? This could mean landing that tournament winning fish, or not! Need to take out that treble hook quickly when a good bite is happening? Where are your pliers? They should be in the same spot every time so you know where to grab them without even looking! This could save the fish’s life, your hand, or other things from getting snagged. Once you catch your fish it only takes a minute to replace your gear where it should be, get in the habit.
- Buy waterproof, floating items – I had landed a 5th place founder out of 300+ kayakers once in a tournament, which would have rewarded me with not only a nice finish but also some prize money! I already took the needed picture with my waterproof camera, but when reaching for it to hand it off to my buddy to get a hero shot, it fell out of my pocket and into the murky water… Needless to say it didn’t float. You can attach an inexpensive piece of floating material (pool noodle at minimum) to it to hopefully decrease the chances of it in the future – visit your local kayak shop to see many options. Other floating items include pliers, fish grips, camera and key flotation, nets, floating rod wraps incase they go overboard as well, and more.
- Practice making the hard casts – I remember when I first got introduced to “skip casting” near mangroves or docks and would constantly get stuck, having to paddle over and unhook, or even have to balance on my kayak and jump up on a dock to get my lure free. Fish like structure. The only way you’re going to get to some of these fish is by making the hard cast. You’re going to get hung up…but practice, practice, practice. Head out in the open water, try practicing your skip casting, accuracy shots, etc. It will pay off big time, and you’ll make less trips over to that dock to detach your lure from an errand cast. A DOA Shrimp is a great bait to learn how to skip cast - they do not hang up on branches easily and will bounce off of docks.
- Get comfortable – Some people are afraid to push their limits in a kayak, always worrying that they’ll fall out. Get a stable kayak that you feel comfortable in and practice standing up in it. There are numerous products on the market now to aid you in standing: H-bars, ropes, stabilizers, etc. Standing up allows you to see in the water more. This can help you navigate the waters, check out the bottom for “fishabililty”, or to simply stretch your legs in the middle of a long day.
- Be prepared – bring a cooler with water and snacks. Bring sunscreen. Bring toilet paper and bug spray. Wear appropriate gear to make your day comfortable. The last thing you want is to pick up sun poisoning, keeping you off the water for several days, possibly sick, or being hungry and not enjoy the experience.