Choosing a kayak paddle

Choosing a kayak paddle

Paddle selection is a critical decision, just as choosing the right fishing kayak, your needs are important.  Performance, comfort, durability and safety are good measures to go by.  Most of the equipment you select should be evaluated by these four measures to ensure you get exactly what you are looking for. The paddle is no exception.

  • Performance
  • Comfort
  • Durability
  • Safety

A paddle needs to be matched to both the kayak and the paddler.

Paddles come in various blade shapes and shaft lengths usually 210 through 250 cm.  Say you have decided on a kayak that is 14 feet in length and 26-inch beam (width). You are 6 feet tall and your knuckles do not drag on the ground. A 220 or 240 should be just right.

Kayak width and your height are main 2 factors for Paddle Length.

The blades of the paddle should enter the water without you hitting your knuckles on the kayak or you reaching for clearance.  Does it feel comfortable?

Paddle Blade design

Most paddles on the market have blades that are of asymmetrical plane form or shape.  A narrower blade is generally used for long distance or touring. They put less strain on your shoulders and back on the long haul.  A wider blade is useful for more powerful paddling or shorter kayaks.  Every Kayak will track and glide differently based on a lot of factors, hull design, rudder vs. no rudder, cargo etc.  Tracking – Is how straight the kayak will travel without a correction, Glide is how fast the kayak feels..  A general rule a longer kayaks track and glide better.  What type of performance are looking for?

Paddle construction & durability

Most blades are made of a strong, lightweight plastic. Some are wood, fiberglass, or fiber glass-carbon lay up. The plastic is more forgiving should you strike an oyster bed and are less prone to cracks or breakage.

Paddle shafts are made of aluminum, fiberglass, graphite carbon or wood.  Aluminum is generally the more durable of the lot but can make for a heavier. Fiberglass and graphite are lighter and plenty strong but may crack over time. I have seen this happen with some Kayakers that I have known but have not had it happen to me yet. I think it is more due to neglect than a material flaw.

Paddle Technique

When you paddle, you place the blade into the water near your foot and with a slight twist of the torso pull the paddle back behind you while pushing with your other hand against the paddle shaft. The other blade comes over on the other side and is placed at your other foot where you begin the next stroke. When placing the blade in front of you at your foot to begin the stroke. You should not have to lean forward or into the stroke. If you are finding that you have to do this or the paddle or shaft strikes the kayak a lot, then a longer paddle may be the ticket.

A whole day of paddling with the wrong paddle will make the going not as good as it should be. So a general rule of thumb– a narrow kayak- shorter paddle, wider kayak- longer paddle but fine tune it to your body make up (long torso, arms, legs etc) If you have never paddled before then have a professional instructor show you the ropes  Go for a long paddle with the kayak and the paddle to make sure that it performs comfortably for you.

The knowledgeable staff at any good paddle shop will listen to what you need and set you up with the kayak and paddle. Just like a kayak you should test/demo a paddle as well.  Once you get all this together, speed, maneuverability, comfort, and endurance will be all you can expect from you paddling experience.

Two Piece Paddles

If you purchase a two-piece paddle be sure that after every trip you take it apart and rinse with fresh water otherwise you will soon have a one piece.  Do this even if you paddle fresh water.  Do not add grease or any other type of lube as they will attract sand and dirt, just the thing to ruin it in short order.

Leash it or Loose it

Last. Be sure to get (or make) a leash. There is nothing worse than being up the creek without a paddle (literally!!!) A leash can also be purchased from the place you bought your kayak/ paddle. Most of them are either a coiled plastic (like a phone cord) or shock cord affair and work very well. Or you can simply make one from some spare small diameter rope with a hangman’s or barrel knot tied into it to form an adjustable loop to go around and tighten against the paddle shaft. Works very well for me. (Cheap too!)

 

List of Paddle Manufactures

Checkout  Cabelas Kayak Paddle Selection 


Bending Branches Angler Kayak Paddle

This glass-shaft paddle features a measuring tape built right on the shaft so you can measure your catch right on your boat. Includes drip rings. … more info.


Bending Branches Bounce Kayak Paddle – Bright yellow

For a paddle that gives years of reliable use, the Bending Branches Bounce Kayak Paddle was designed for the long haul. Bright yellow grip area on … more info.


Bending Branches Infusion Kayak Paddle (230 CM)

Bending Branches revolutionized the paddle industry by introducing composite tip canoe paddles. They have been designing and building some of the … more info.


Bending Branches Sunrise Fiberglass Kayak Paddle – Green

Made with a lightweight, durable fiberglass shaft, Bending Branches Sunrise Fiberglass Kayak Paddle keeps your joints from feeling achy, even after a … more info.


Bending Branches Whisper Paddles

Bending Branches Whisper Paddles deliver entry-level ease into kayaking with user-friendly features. Nearly silent blade shape (18L x 6.8W) enters … more info.


Cabela’s Premium Resin Tip Beaver Tail Paddle

Our paddles are made from hand-selected hardwoods and have various resin configurations on the blades to protect them during use and transport. All … more info.


Carlisle Magic Mystic Aluminum Paddle

With slightly curved asymmetrical blades, Carlisles Magic Mystic Aluminum Paddle is an excellent introductory paddle for recreational kayaking. … more info.


Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle – Black Cherry

Designed for efficiency, the Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle sports asymmetrical, slightly curved blades that produce smooth and powerful strokes. … more info.


Caviness CavPro Carbon Kayak Paddle – Yellow

Propel your boat quietly across the water with this lightweight CavPro Carbon Kayak Paddle by Caviness. This paddle features an improved takedown … more info.


Caviness CavPro Fiberglass Kayak Paddle – White

Propel your boat quietly across the water with this lightweight Caviness CavPro Fiberglass Kayak Paddle. This paddle features an improved takedown … more info.


Caviness CavPro KPA Series Curved Blade Kayak Paddles – Black

CavPro KPA Kayak Paddle features new and improved take-down ferrule that can be positioned at 60 degrees left, right, or inline for better control. … more info.


Caviness SUP Paddle

Designed for use by paddlers of different heights, the Caviness SUP Paddle easily adjusts from 70 to 84. Whale-tail blade design easily propels you … more info.

Check out the Paddle-Fishing forum

Ditch Bag, All you need and everything don’t

Please don’t be confused the Zombie Fish Doomsday scenario  is NOT coming on the next high tide,  this is a different type of Ditch Bag.   That being said If things where to go wrong, it’s would be nice to take solace in a Nature Valley moment watching the Pelagic Dead beach themselves at your feet.

That “Oh Crap” moment

Forgot to pack a lunch, Leaky Boat, Unexpected Squall, Equipment Malfunction, Navigation Error, Unwanted house guest. There are any number of reasons you plan’s for the day may change.

Having a well equipped Ditch Bag will enable you handle the situation.

Rule of 3

If you day turns into the worst-case scenario.   Here are some things to consider from the “Rule of 3” on your odds of Survival and what to include in your Kayak Fishing Ditch Bag

  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours without shelter
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food

You may be thinking when would the 1st one happen?  How many of these have you seen?

That last one I hope shouldn’t be an issue.  You are a kayak fisherman, and hopefully not a hermit so somebody is going to come looking for you.

So Let’s Make a Ditch Bag

Yes you need a Bag.  The technical term is Dry Bag and not all are created equally.

Not to be confused with a Compression Sack, even if it says waterproof I highly suggest look for the term Dry Bag.  They come in all shapes sizes and colors.  I like the Clear Dry Bags just a look and know if it’s in there.


Raiding the Medicine Cabinet and Junk Draw looking for extra’s and half rolls of tape, may sound like a good time….yea no it doesn’t. Do it right and buy a kit, these Survival Kits are design by professionals, weight close to nothing, take up little space, and include some hard to find items.  These will give a great base to start with, and now you can fill out your Ditch Bag with some other items from around the house.

Extra Clothes

 

Forget the cotton and wool, keep the Fleece.

Before the old Fleece goes the way of the rag bin, add it to your Ditch Bag.  I’ve been underdressed for the weather a few times wishing I had another layer to wear, and if I knew was going to spend the night I would have packed some extra clothes anyway.

Where’s  that free hat you got that you wouldn’t dare be seen wearing in public.  Sound like Ditch Bag Material To Me

 

Some Extra’s

 

        • Cheap Sunglasses …. oooh yeeah  – ZZ Top singalong

 

 

        • Crazy Glue

 

 

        • Zip Ties … real ones Thomas and Betts

 

 

        • Mult Tool

 

 

        • Mosquito Head Net

 

 

        • Paracord

 

 

        • Sunblock

 

 

        • Bug repellant

 

      Travel Size containers are good enough here.  You don’t need a Ditch Duffel Bag to carry when kayak fishing    

Got Bug’s

Bugs are a real problem, anybody that has beached a kayak to answer the call of nature while Kayak Fishing can probably attest.  Mosquito, Black Fly’s, Horse Fly’s, Gnats they can make an environment inhospitable.  If your kayak fishing in an area where you may encounter biting Fly’s I highly suggest getting a Mosquito Head net or maybe something bigger. Nobody knows your backyard like you do.

Field Repairs

Some Paracord, Zip Ties, and Crazy glue will go a long way.  My Multi tool a Leatherman Surge combined with Bits and extender gets almost daily use.  Sometimes all need is the right tool and you can get back to on your way. A good mult. tool can be worth its weight in gold.

Food & Water

Remember that Nature Valley moment comment? Stale or Fresh who can tell the difference with Granola Bar, 3 or 4 prepacked pairs should hold you over. Water should be the 1st item you bring on any kayak fishing trip. If you don’t normally pack a lunch or always carry your fishing gear. Emergency food rations maybe a good idea for your ditch bag.

Scotty Fishing Gear, Kayak Rigging done right

Scotty Fishing Gear they have it all.

When trying to  choose a Kayak Fishing rod holder or any Kayak Fishing Hardware you need something designed to hold up to the saltwater and rough handling.  Constructed from Heavy Duty Plastic and Stainless steel hardware, with fully adjustable mounting adapters, Scotty has the solution to your kayak fishing problem. With a universal mount, you can change accessories for what ever the fishing situation calls for.

The Scotty Rocket Launcher is perfect for trolling while kayak fishing, fully adjustable two fishing rods can trolled at once, angled away from each other.  Both a spinning rod or casting rod can be used in this fishing rod holder.

Scotty Rod Holder set for Trolling
Scotty Rod Holder set for Trolling
Pair of Scotty Rocket Launchers
Pair of Scotty Rocket Launchers
Scotty Flush Mount Kayak Rigging
Scotty Flush Mount for Kayak Rigging
Scotty Fly & Baitcaster Rod Holder Kayak Rigging
Scotty Fly & Baitcaster Rod Holder Kayak Rigging
Scotty Fly Rod Holder
Scotty Fly Rod Holder

I used some of the competition only to frustrated by the bulkiness, parts slipping, and just not performing as designed.  Scotty I can honestly say has great products that gets the job done. Take look at this list of what kayak fishing accessories they offer.

Even a cup holder! and the list goes on….

Don’t Second-Guess Your Fishing Instincts

This probably sounds obvious, but it’s worth mentioning, especially since I’ve struggled with it lately…

lemmings-350x220

Follow your instincts and ignore what “everyone else” is doing!

Case in point: I recently fished our local kayak fishing club’s bass tournament and came in with a photo of a single, 4″ bass.  Out of the 30+ anglers, only 10 caught something.  The water temperature was around 85F degrees, so we could have picked a better week.

When we first got out there, my first thought was “They’ll be scattered, suspended deep.”  My fish finder was echoing that.  But as I looked around, most of the field spread out and headed straight towards the shallow weed lines.  Since I wasn’t from the area, my “they must know something I don’t” voices started yelling.  So, shallow I went and on went the Texas-rigged worm.  The fishing, not surprisingly, sucked.

The morning’s winner?  A kid, not old enough to drive, that most likely laughed at all the old dudes and did his own thing.  How’d he win?  Trolling deep-diving cranks right where I initially marked fish.

The obvious lesson I shouldn’t have to keep teaching myself?  Just like anything in life, trust your instincts, be willing to be different, and stop simply emulating the herd.  Odds are, they’re wrong.

The Importance of Regional Kayak Fishing Clubs

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of simplicity in kayak fishing.  “…fishing, enjoying the outdoors, relaxing, and camaraderie…guys/gals that simply wanted to enjoy the sport and each other’s company”.  Although I enjoy kayak fishing on the face of it, I’d argue that the latter point has been what I value the most.  And it does the most for the sport in general.

Local and regional kayak fishing clubs tend to be purely for that camaraderie and (typically) devoid of bull***t.  I have met an incredible, diverse group of folks that I keep in close contact with frequently, both on and off the water.    In the decade I fished from a boat, that never happened.  It’s hard to describe — the mentalities are so, so different.  Kayak anglers simply seem to be more friendly, more open, and more focused on the good stuff.  The groups I’m a part of organize random fishing trips for fun, openly mentor each other, share tips, and hold friendly tournaments (either for the hell of it or for a charity).  And that’s it.

If you’re just getting started fishing from a kayak or canoe, I can’t stress strongly enough how much benefit you’ll gain from a local group.  And there are a ton of them!  See our “Organizations” list for ideas.  Obviously, that’s not exhaustive by any means (let us know if we should add one), so hit Google for your specific area as well!

Kayak Fishing Milk Crates: Ultimate Hacking Guide

A milkcrate is the Swiss Army Knife of onboard kayakfishing gear and tackle storage. The tradition originates with the longboard fishermen, precursors of the SOT-yakkers, who bungeed milkcrates to their surfboards and deep-water fished with handlines (and you thought you were crazy!). Many kayakfishing purists have a “thing” about not drilling any unnecessary extra holes in their boats, and a properly-rigged milkcrate can help get around this.

Will they fit your kayak? Real (commercial-grade) milkcrates come in two basic shapes/sizes: the square or four-gallon crate (nominal OD 13W x 13L x 11H and nominal ID 12W x 12L x 10H), and the rectangular or six-gallon crate (nominal OD 13W x 18-1/2 x 11H and nominal ID 12W x 18L x 10H). But bear in mind that many kayaks have a tankwell with slightly sloped sides, so make sure you’re looking at the dimensions of the bottom of your tankwell. The depth of your tankwell may place serious restrictions on where you
can externally mount accessories to your crate, too.

Your crate (or bucket system, or cooler hybrid, if you so prefer) is you, partner. You can hack it and tweak it and customize it to death. You can have different crates for different types of trips (freshwater or saltwater sportfishing, crabbing, shrimping, scalloping, frogging, etc.), and just slap on what you need and go. As you become more experienced at kayakfishing, you may find yourself becoming a true minimalist — but for now, go ahead and get it out of your system. Spend many maniacally happy hours tinkering with that PVC milkcrate-mounted radar antenna, that crankbait-launching mortar, that bimini top, that tuna tower, that hand-cranked daggerboard windlass…..Who knows? You might even invent a totally new and really useful kayakfishing accessory.

Milkcrate Ethics

Those milkcrates cost somebody some serious money. The real problem isn’t people like us, it’s the professional rustlers who steal large quantities and the recyclers who turn a blind eye. Visit your local grocery and/or convenience stores and ask. Many places will cheerfully part with one or two. (Also, you should be advised that milkcrates as we know them may not be around much longer — major retailers are now experimenting with cheaper alternative systems, so you hardcore craters may want to start tucking a few extras away.)

If you have to (or feel obliged to) pay for milkcrates, you can order commercial-grade crates — and special liners and dividers — in different sizes and colors. A Google search will turn up a cornucopia of information. And don’t forget our rigging forums!


Many traditionalists, however, insist that liberating a poor milkcrate, otherwise condemned to a life of alternately being rained upon and shivering in some heartless dairy cooler, and leading that unfortunate container to a life of gliding over sparkling water in the company of true sportsmen, is an act of heroic rescue not unlike pulling a helpless child from a burning building. Only you can decide.

Working With Plastics

Like woods and metals, different plastics are suitable for different applications. Most commercial milkcrates are high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Complete properties charts for most plastic materials are readily available on the internet, so there’s no excuse for not knowing exactly how your materials will perform in a given environment. You don’t really need power tools to do complex work with most plastic materials. As an old-time trim carpenter, I can tell you that your best longterm investment for this stuff would be a good-quality coping saw (a wide variety of blades are available) and a small hand drill or brace with a good variety of bits (including paddle bits and a cheap holesaw set). The difference with hand tools is a lot like the difference between a kayak and a stinkboat. Quiet, low-cost, low-maintenance, minimal fuss, as green as it gets, and infinitely more satisfying at some primal level. A few plastic spring clamps, a decent work surface at a comfortable height and a selection of sandpaper grits should give you everything you’ll need for basic work. Safetywise, obviously, breathing any dust or vapor is highly likely to be not good for you, so take simple, common sense precautions. If you’re working outside or in, say, an open carport, get the wind at your back when you cut or sand. Indoors, you should probably wear a paper filter mask.

Nylon Bolts, Nuts and Washers

When you see most rigging projects involving crates, buckets, coolers, etc., you’re most likely to see any attachments made with either stainless steel hardware or the ubiquitous zip-tie. Why use any more metal (stainless or otherwise) in your crate than is absolutely necessary? Modern hardware stores can provide you with super-tough connecting hardware made entirely from nylon — lightweight, super-strong, non-corrosive and non-conductive. The superior tensile strength of stainless steel really isn’t relevant in most crate/bucket/cooler applications, since any force able to shear a short, properly-fitted nylon bolt is most likely going to tear your crate right out of the boat anyway (and probably trebuchet you all the way to Cancun). “Plastic fasteners” may be made from a variety of materials. Nylon 6/6 — widely available and fairly cheap — is almost always your best bet for most kayak-crate applications, being inert to fungus or mold; resistant to petroleum products and alkalis, etc.; and self-extinguishing to UL 94V2. ALWAYS use Nylon 6/6. Do NOT use acetal copolymer, polycarbonate, PPS, polypropylene, HDPE, LLDPE or any of the other materials that plastic fasteners are sometimes available in. You can save a lot of money down the road by simply bulk-buying one all-purpose longer-length/size of bolt, and trim them to length (a coping saw works great, or you can snip them off with a nipper) inside the crate after snugging them down. To minimize the possibility of items stored in the crate snagging on the nut, just “round them off” with a dab of hot-melt glue and a (very) wet finger. With the availability of nylon parts ranging through standard/specialty screws, bolts and rivets, retaining/finishing washers, spacers, bushings, nuts/wingnuts/acorns, clips, hose/cable clamps & ties, vent plugs… well, the odds are good that you can find ANY weird parts you might need. Additional Tips: Always use washers. The weak link in bolting together any two thin and/or fairly weak materials is in the materials, not the fasteners. Washers increase the area that pushing/pulling forces are being exerted upon. If your application requires spacers, simply get a small piece of stiff nylon tubing with an ID closest to your bolt’s diameter, and snip off whatever length spacer/collar you need. Available in virtually any hardware store. Nylon fasteners are your best bet for attaching accessories (rodholders, whatever) through the sides of hardshell coolers, too. If you use metallic bolts (e.g., stainless), you have essentially equipped your cooler with “heat pipes”, which will significantly increase your loss of cold. Use nylon hardware, gloop the bolt with some slow epoxy, shove it through and washer-and-nut it before the epoxy sets up (and wipe off any excess). Do not use nylon fasteners for through-the-hull connections (padeyes, handles and so on).


Oversized Plastic “Washers” and/or Backing Plates

Sometimes you need to really rigidly secure (e.g., bolt) something to an area of the crate that is either all “diamonds” or solid but non-reinforced, and a cable-tie setup simply won’t do. For round shapes, use a hole-saw bit with your drill (you can get a nested set of umpteen different sizes for two bucks from a junk-Chinese-tools dealer at most flea markets), and go to town on a variety of cheapo plastic items (e.g., dollar-store plastic cutting boards, the flat-thin- plastic sections of spare crates, 5-gallon bucket lids, etc.). A hole-saw bit cuts the disc and the center (pilot) hole in one quick operation. Sets usually have 7 to 9 stepped sizes from around 1″ to 2-1/2″. Thicker plastic melts if you get it too hot, so drill through thicker stuff in small increments or at lower speeds. Square, rectangular, trianglar or really odd shapes can be cut with a jigsaw or coping saw, again from crate or bucket scrap, or one of the potential sources mentioned above.

Lids & Compartments, Shelves and Dividers

Since milkcrates are designed for vertical nesting, you can saw off one crate’s bottom and turn it into a lid for another crate. Cutting off the bottom third just above the reinforcing rib will make an open “lid” a few inches deep, and if you have three crates available, you can make a really nifty combo. Just remember that, in the latter example, you will be able to anchor items like rodholders only to the front and sides of the main (bottom) crate, in order for the lid(s) to open — and vertically-protruding fixtures secured to the back or hinged side (e.g., a light pole) will require a standoff of several inches for the lid(s) to open fully. A broad range of cheap shelf/divider material is available in the dollar stores, from plastic cutting boards (many with built-in handles, handy for clamping or tying things to) to a wide variety of plastic containers(of varying sturdiness). Anything you can take out of the Great Wastestream is a win-win.

Miscellaneous Parts & Connectors

Don’t overlook the possibilities of PVC conduit clamps for securing tubular fixtures (flag and sternlight poles, etc.). They’re cheap, light, strong and readily available in a broad variety of sizes. These provide much better attachment than, say, bolting directly through holes drilled through PVC pipe. And, properly fitted, can even be used to allow things like light poles to slide in and out. Sometimes you need little spacers, standoff blocks, “I-beams” or “L-brackets”, or God knows what else, to properly mount certain additions to your crate. Once again, crate or bucket scrap can come to the rescue, especially the ribbed or reinforced sections. All you need is a saw and a little sandpaper.

Other Milkcrate Storage Options

On many of my crates, I’ve used mil-grade first aid pouches (with the Alice clips removed and replaced with zip-ties). You can secure a “line” of these around the inside of your milk-crate, anchored through the “diamonds”, or fill a few otherwise blank areas on the outside front of a crate for fast and easy access to small but potentially critical items. All of my crates have a pair of these on the outside front wall; between the two, they contain a highly-compact but pretty comprehensive med kit, including one field dressing, one tampon (very effective for deep and broad puncture wounds), a tourniquet, a suture set, and a small selection of disinfectants and critical short-term meds. Other pouch-mountable items might include a small but high-quality monocular or pair of mini-binoculars; that factory belt-pouch that comes with many headlamps; small tubes of bug juice and sunscreen; a disposable space blanket and/or poncho, or… well, you get the drift. Just remember that you can literally wind up “going overboard” with this stuff. Think “vertical center of gravity” and “weight penalty”. If you use a fish billy (I’m 100% catch-and-release, but I habitually tote a red oak tireknocker), you can secure it to clips or sheath it in a bottom-capped vertical PVC tube on the outside (or inside) of your crate. (But make sure to include a small drainage hole for any tubed storage.)

Milkcrate Flotation

Although potentially a real space-killer, sections of pool noodles can be zip-tied to the inside or outside of crates. Bear in mind that 1 foot of standard noodle provides about 2-1/2 pounds of flotation. You might also want to do a little research into denser closed-cell foams; some are available in flat sheet form, and might be used to line crate bottoms or sides with a little less space penalty.

The Crate-to-Kayak Connection

Yes, you want your crate tied securely to your kayak. No, you do not want it tied so securely that it won’t break away under a fairly massive amount of stress. Something — anything, hell, I don’t know, a tree limb, a suicidal billfish, anything — that can snag your crate, can potentially flip your kayak or even drag it under. The generic term for such an object is a “deadman”. Can you guess why? There are umpteen billion possibilities involving bungee cords (or cordage and “cam caps”) that will work just fine. Yes, your gear is precious to you. So is your kayak, but you don’t strap yourself to it with a seatbelt… er, do you???

Yeah, But Can You Get To It??

OK, you’ve finally managed to design The Ultimate Milkcrate — on paper, anyway. It wasn’t easy. Those constant visits from the police about the maniacal laughter emerging from your workshop, the neighbors sadly shaking their heads as you tested that chum-catapult prototype on the front lawn, the endless paperwork securing that permit for your stakeout pole shoulder holster, those suspicious looks from the staff at the plumbing supply store as you asked them if they carried any 11-1/2 degree 5-way elbows… but now it’s showtime, right? Wrong. Before you start assembling all the parts, invest in a bag of reusable zip ties. Hang the fixtures where you think they should go. Sit down on the floor, place your milk-crate the appropriate distance behind you, and practice! Unsecure and open the lid, extract a particular item, close and secure the lid. Repeat, stowing the item away. Learn to do it with either hand. From either side. Without moving the milk-crate. In the dark. Good. Now you can start doing permanent attachments. And when you get done, go test the whole rig in your kayak, on the water.

“Fish Pigs” by Yack Sabbath

“Fish Pigs” by Yack Sabbath

Let’s face it, life would be a lot better if everybody everywhere had his own theme music. I mean, if some big movie or TV hero just gets into his car and drives somewhere, a whole symphony orchestra suddenly cranks up with blasting trumpets and pounding drums and such, and you KNOW that some heavy stuff is about to come down!

And, deep in your heart, you know — know, mind you! — that because you are a real person and not some fictional character, because you are the hero of your life… well, my friends, in any truly just universe, you would deserve something like that.

I mean, who among us, while hurtling down the highway toward some ramp or launch site, hasn’t psyched himself up with some favorite tunes blasting out of the dashboard, right?
But, always, there’s that inevitable letdown when a little voice in some tiny corner of your brain reminds you: “Yeah, but it’ll never be perfect, because it’s not about kayak fishing, it’s just some rock song! I want some kayak fishing music!!”

Well, ladies and gentlemen, today is the day that we all take one tiny step forward toward a great sea-change in American culture — the birth of kayak fishing Rock n’ Roll! Sure, it won’t catch on all at once. Cultural paradigm shifts take time. Maybe the next step will happen in some sleazy dockside dive, when a totally hammered old kayak fishing guide who got skunked that day decides to change Karaoke Night forever. Maybe some late-night DJ at a 50-watt teakettle in Steinhatchee gets some bad ‘shrooms and goes “all kayak fishin’ music, all the time!” But I submit to you that, at last, our long national nightmare will soon be over.

And so, complete with italicized mouth-guitar pseudo-sounds for your further enjoyment, here are the complete lyrics to…..

“Fish Pigs” by Yack Sabbath

DUH-duh!
Fishes gathered in their masses
DUH-duh!
Spotted trout and channel basses
DUH-duh!
Some use fangs for bait destruction
DUH-duh!
Some use grinding teeth and suction
DUH-duh!
On the flats the baitball’s churning
DUH-duh!
As the spinning reels keep turning… Oh, Lord yeah!

DUH-duh… da-duh-duh-DUUUUH-DUUUUH
DUH-duh… da-duh-duh-DUUUUH-DUUUUH

(Fiddler crabs just hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out and get devoured
When they can dig into the shore?)

DUH-duh!
Now at sunrise tide starts turning
DUH-duh!
Mud clouds where the rays are churning
DUH-duh!
No more redfish have the power
DUH-duh!
Walk-the-Dog has struck the hour
DUH-duh!
Day of Judgment, drags are squawling
DUH-duh!
Dorsals up and redfish hauling
DUH-duh!
Begging mercy for their sins
DUH-duh!
Kayakfisherman laughs and grins… Oh, Lord yeah!

DUH-duh… da-duh-duh-DUUUUH-DUUUUH
DUH-duh… da-duh-duh-DUUUUH-DUUUUH

(DISCLAIMER: Only a few dozen beers were harmed during the production of this head-tune.)

Check Your Six

Your Annual Obligatory General Risk-Reduction Warning and Ever-So-Subtle Reminder of Your (ahem) Mortality

from the desk of

T. G. Reaper, Superintendent
Department of Collections

Dear Humans,

You guys are really cards. I love to hang around and listen in (when I’m “off-duty”, so to speak, or as I like to refer to it, “between clients”).

See, you’ve never understood how I work. Hell, I don’t even own a scythe or a hooded cloak. I’m not walking around with some moldy old parchment book with your name and an appointment time in it. God doesn’t send Mandy Patinkin a post-it note at the Waffle House to collect your sorry butt at 4:17 PM. Agent Smith doesn’t put a Lady In Red into the Matrix. No, I just hang out and wait for YOU to put enough “requests” in the hopper at the same time.

I work on a system called the Simultaneous Request Score. The brittle steel and the iceberg alone couldn’t have called me to the Newfoundland Bank in 1912, it was all those White Star officials telling the reporters how “unsinkable” their new ship was. “Ice warnings? Bah! Full speed ahead, we’ve got investors to impress!” Children use the marvelous gesture of holding their thumb to their nose and wiggling their upright fingers while musically yelling, “Nyaaaah-nyah-nyah-nyaaaah-nyah.” When children do it, it’s both cute and highly visible. When you do it, it’s neither — so I come running, stand very near you, and wait for your Simultaneous Request Score to hit a certain critical limit.

You’ve already loaded your “SRS meter” with brilliant thoughts like “Nah, It’s flat out there today, I can just stow my PFD!” or “Hey, it’s not THAT cold, cotton’ll do just fine!” or “Spare paddle? Nah!”. Sissy crap like a float plan? No-o-o-o-o, not for a rugged he-man like you, bub. But the best part — the part that keeps us rolling on the floor down here in the Collection Department — is that your “nyah-nyah” — the thing that is going to kick YOUR Simultaneous Request Score into the red zone — is almost certain to be ……. (Darwinian drum roll, please) ……. plain old I-N-A-T-T-E-N-T-I-O-N.

I’ve heard a lot of fishing-related close-call stories over the years, and the most glaring common denominator — in the ones that didn’t involve alcohol, anyway — is that they usually began with something like, “Wow, they were really biting and I got distracted and wasn’t really paying attention to my surroundings….” (or to the weather, or to nearby watercraft, or to whatever). Well, I’m sorry, but what I hear there is: “I’m a total nimrod and have no business whatsoever being in a potentially lethal outdoor environment anywhere on the planet. Please come and pick me up just as soon as possible. Please! Kill me now!”

Well…….if you absolutely insist…….

You have voluntarily placed your absolutely and unequivocally mortal keister into the rotomolded equivalent of a stretched-out bathtub, and paddled out on top of a one-molecule-thin barrier that separates you from an environment in which you cannot possibly breathe, and where Gravity still applies, and which is populated by a variety of organisms which will cheerfully and enthusiastically feast upon your flesh! Your head needs to be swiveling like a turret at all times. Your eyes need to be on articulated stalks. And you need to be in the habit of staying that way — because, yes, I am out there actually stalking you —yes, you — and I’m not carrying a scythe or wearing a hooded cloak. I may not be that psycho trying to make an airboat actually fly. I often wear much subtler little disguises: that sick, yellow-green look the sunlight gets before the bolts come; those short little intermittent “puffs” of humid breeze that disturb the dead morning air before I make my devastating landfall; the utter silence as my massive, sunken limbs tumble downcurrent toward your improperly-trolleyed anchor rope; that knife that’s just a teensy-weensy smidge too far away from an easy reach; those batteries you didn’t rotate.

Yeah, I’m there all the time. And your meter is already in the red zone. And all I’m waiting for……. is for you to not notice, comprende?

Better check six, pal.

Sincerely,

The Grim Reaper
Yourspot, Yourstatehere 98765-4321

No, You Don’t Know the Sex of that Largemouth

“Fishing Lore” vs. Hard Science

All too often, as taxpaying fishermen, we’re guilty — yeah, me, too — of griping that we’re not getting enough fisheries-improving bang for our bucks. But if those improvements are made, and we fail to use them — or, worse, fail to even make any effort to find out where and what they are — then we’re being both hypocritical and willfully ignorant.

A lot of our fishing-related taxes and fees go into hard scientific research. A lot of sharp, hardworking academics have been toiling for a lot of years at trying to make us smarter fishermen. And, for the most part, we’ve been ignoring them. If we need to know whether, say, there is a correlation between lure size and color and the average size of fish caught in a given body of water, we’ll log into some forum and let a bunch of people share their (often extensive) anecdotal experiences. Absolutely nothing wrong with that whatsoever. You might actually learn something. I certainly have.

The problem is that we often use either the plausibility of a statement to determine its validity — or, worse, its degree of acceptance by others. We “old pros” often blithely pass along our hard-won “knowledge”, and sometimes — sometimes, mind you — we’re dead wrong. Let me give you an example.

You’ve seen it done a thousand times by fishing-TV-show hosts. They lip a largemouth, hold it up and announce that it is a male or a female (usually based on a cursory visual examination of one or more of its gross physiological characteristics — girth, gut shape, yada-yada-yada). I used to do this. Maybe your buddies do this. Maybe you do it.

“Mmmm. Nice little male.”

“Ooooo-EEE! Lookit THIS ol’ gal! She’s jist BULGIN’ with babies!”

If so, please stop. You are merely perpetuating yet another useless piece of “wisdom-of-the-crowd” fishing “lore” that is absolute 100% unadulterated horse manure.

FACT: Nobody — not even a biologist — can accurately tell the sex of a given bass at a glance!

There are only three relatively simple and practical field methods of determining the sex of a largemouth bass, and two of them, depending upon the season, may provide about the same accuracy as flipping a coin:

1. Determining the presence or absence of a swollen, reddish genital papilla — and while this method can be up to 89% accurate in the spring, it is only 48% accurate in the fall;

2. Examining the shape of the scaleless area surrounding the urogenital opening — and this method is only 53% accurate at any time;

3. Measuring the depth and angle of probe penetration into the urogenital opening — and this method only offers a relatively high probability of accuracy (90-98%) if you do both, and with the proper instrument.

So the next time some “old pro” just holds up a bass, looks at it and says, “This one’s a male!” or “This one’s a female!”, you should tell them precisely where they need to stick it — and exactly how deep.

Source: Practical Field Methods of Sexing Largemouth Bass, G.W. Benz and R.P. Jacobs, The Progressive Fish-Culturist (1986;48:221-225)

Take Your Tide Charts With a Dose of Salt

A common complaint that you’ll hear from newbies on fishing forums is basically, “Man, the tide charts for ___ were all wrong yesterday!” Every time I read one of these, I am reminded of Steve Gibson’s funny story about being an invited speaker at a fishing club. The members wanted to pick the best day to hold a tournament, so they pulled out their tide charts. Steve asked them what the tide chart showed for right now (“high”, they said), and invited them to look out the window at the dead-low bay beyond.

There’s an old engineering joke that the formula to compute the speed of a moving cow only applies to perfectly spherical cows in a vacuum. Unfortunately for you, the same thing applies to the formulae used to generate “tide charts”.

The important thing to remember about tide charts is this: they’re basically just a very specialized type of map. And, in that sense, the same rule applies to inshore kayakfishermen that grizzled old sergeants and grizzled old guides alike have tried to warn “cherries, newbies, tyros and nuggets” about for endless years:

Not knowing the difference between the map and the territory is what will get your butt kicked.

Bay tides are meteorologically driven. Unlike ocean tides — which are astronomically driven — bay tides are highly subject to wind forcing (and to other factors that affect both, such as barometric pressure). You can pull out your genuine-official-super-accurate modern tide chart that says the tide in a given bay (or a fractured archipelago, like Oz) should be at flood right now… and look out across a bay that is essentially one gigantic low-slack mudflat. OR vice-versa. All it takes is a fairly moderate amount of wind from the right quarter, and all that water (or lack of it) that you thought you’d be seeing is, in fact, somewhere else.

This confusion occurs because you can read, but the tide can’t. It can’t read a map, a clock, a “Cold Beer” sign or a tide chart. Your “map” is NOT (necessarily) the territory.

Something else for the recent paddlefishing convert to consider: If you’re planning on paddling back against a given wind, you’re not *necessarily* JUST fighting the wind. That “incoming tide” you’re counting on to help you may, in fact, be in the process of being windblown OUT.

And here’s another consideration: Given a morning high tide with an offshore wind and an evening low with an onshore wind, you could very well wind up fishing all day in water that isn’t moving much at all.

And as for the best tides to fish? My personal “bottom line” take on tides is just this: the best tide is a moving tide. Moving water doesn’t just move water. It moves pleuston, plankton, small nekton (mollusks, crustaceans and baitfish) and large nekton (predators) — and that makes everybody hungry.

Keep Your Paddle In the Water