Category Archives: Fishing Tips, Tricks, Techniques, & Tactics

Kayak Fishing Tube and Worm DIY, How to make the easiest Kayak Fishing Lure

Kayak Fishing Tube and Worm DIY

Tube and Worm DIY
Tube and Worm DIY
Tube and Worm DIY Hardware
Tube and Worm DIY Hardware

For those that don’t already know, the Tube and Worm is the most effective Kayak Fishing lures for Striped Bass in the NorthEast. Trolling is a highly effective method for Kayak Fishing and the Tube and Worm is specifically designed for trolling.

Basically,  you can’t catch a fish unless your line is in the water and more water you cover paddling the better.

And how do you do that?     Trolling

What do Big Striped Bass love to eat?      Eels

How do you attract fish?     Live Bait, Tip the hook with a sand worm.

And what lure can do all that???  You gotta know by now…


Not all Tube and Worm lures are equal, and here are the must-have features.

Being able to replace the hooks.  Would you buy a car you could change the tires on?

Through-wire that will hold a shape.  This is where the Tube and Worm gets its action, by putting a half spiral bend into the Tube body it spirals in the water. From any perspective, this looks like the wave-like swimming profile of and eel or sea worm

Blue Fish Ready. Striped Bass aren’t the only fish in the Sea.  I’ve even caught fluke on a Tube and Worm.  A toothy yellow-eyed Blue Fish is going to go right for the body, you will feel the bump but will miss the tail hook.  The Tube need to be thick and chewy.

Fluke on TnW

So if you want it done right, you might as well DIY.


So lets build some Tube and Worm lures.

Tube and Worm Material List



Tube and Worm DIY

  1. Rig up your wire 14 ” – 16 “.  Swivel at one end, Tactical Angler Clip on the Other. 2  Vise Grips works well here.
  2. Cut You Tubing to length
  3. Lace Wire in Tube
  4. Wrap the Head in the pinch of the barrel swivel.  A Hog Ring would work great here. I just use the Lure Wire.
  5. Cut a little breather Hole at the top, so the tube will flood and sink.
  6. Clip on a Hook.
Tube and Worm DIY Hardware
Tube and Worm DIY Hardware
Tube and Worm Head Wrap
Tube and Worm Head Wrap
Tube and Worm Tail Wrap
Tube and Worm Tail Wrap
Tube and Worm Tubing
Tube and Worm Tubing
Tube and Worm DIY
Tube and Worm DIY


How to Fish the Tube and Worm.

This Kayak fishing lure is going to get some action.   I like to fish mine with Monofilament line,  trolling is no place for braided fishing line.   When the fish hits your going to need the line stretch or your going to get a lot of break-offs. Ball Bearing Swivels, Trolling Rudder or Weighted Keel is a must. The Tube and Worm is designed to spin. Unless you use Ball Bearing Swivels and a keel, you are going get line twist.  Using a Weight keel is also nice, you can change the weights out to get down low.   I’m working on DIY keel weight now and will link to this article once its completed.

    Low and Slow, that is where you want to be.

Once you feel it start tapping the bottom, give the fishing reel a crank to bring the lure just off the bottom, and you should be right in the zone. Good Luck with your custom Tube and Worm



If this is all too much to handle, you can always buy one.

Monofilament Fly Tying Thread Substitute 2-6lb Mono.

Monofilament Fly Tying Thread Substitute 2-6lb mono.

If you are a Fly Tyer like me you see materials everywhere.  Craft stores make your head spin, every aisle creates a flurry of ideas in your head.  I can never have enough materials, I have a junk material bin that has little samples of material ripped and snipped off anything that made me think of “Ooh I could use that as a ________ , when Fly Tying”  Wings, Legs, Eye’s, Bodies, the list goes on.

Here’s a substitute for those tiny spools of Mono Fly Trying thread.

Looking at the line dia.

Waspi UTC comes in 3 dia.




UNI Products UNI-Mono Clear Monofilament comes in 2, Fine and Med.




2lb – 6lb Monofilament line falls right in that dia.

Monofilament Fly Tying Thread Substitute

I scored this 3000 yard spool on clearance for $5, when a local sporting good big box store was closing their fishing section.  I’ve been tying teaser and larger saltwater patterns for a long time without any problems.  I just re-use the empty spools.

Hitting the monofilament line with a Sharpie marker makes changing colors real easy.  Just a few wraps of red adds a nice touch for a gill plate.

Referencing a Tippet Charts show almost same values in dia. and lb. test

Tippet – Dia. – lbs test
Tippet Size Tippet Diameter test
 8x .003 1.75
 7x .004 2.5
 6x  .005  3.5
 5x  .006  4.75
 4x  .007  6

So keep and eye out for light tackle line, they could perform double duty on tying flies or home made leaders.

Kayak Fishing Bait Snag Rig

How to catch live bait from a Kayak? This is when you need a Snag Rig

Kayak Fishing Bunker Snag Rig for live bait
Kayak Fishing Bunker Snag Rig

Catching live bait from a kayak can be tough.  There a blitz of bunker inside of casting range, but you can’t get a bump.  Schools of bunker dorsal fins are breaking the surface, splitting and circling.  It must be pure mayhem under the surface.
Casting a $20 Popper into the school of bunker is fruitless and is going to cost you a fishing lure in short order, you may snag some bait but line abrasion from the hundreds of bunker rubbing you line is going to ruin your day.

How to Tie a Kayak Fishing Snag Rig

  1.  An inline  egg sinker tied between 2 barrel swivels on 4-6″ of mono leader.
  2.  12” – 16” length of mono leader and 2 good sized Mustad Treble hooks(#5 or bigger).  Snell the leader to the TOP Treble and Tie off the BOTTOM Treble with a Palomar knot.


Cast this into a thick school of bait and you will sure to get all the live bait you need for the day.

How to fish live bait from a Kayak?

With a Kayak Fishing Live Bait Rig Kit

Kayak Fishing Live Bait Rig Kit
Kayak Fishing Live Bait Rig Kit


To take it up a notch, and have versatile kayak fishing tackle, before attaching a Mustad treble hook to the Egg sinker section, add a Tactical Angler clip(I use 125lb size).  Now you can change hooks on the fly.  For live lining your recently snagged bait, switch it over to a circle hook keeping the Egg Sinker.

Tactical Angler Clip 125lb
Tactical Angler Clip 125lb

Hook your live bait and let em’ sink with the lead.  Be patient the Big Fish are circling under the school of bait.

Make a few with different oz. Egg sinkers, something you can cast easily with your rod and reel combo’s


How To Use A Kayak Fishing Snag Rig.

As a best practice don’t cast directly in a school of bunker, cast around the edge. This will save you rigs in the long run.
Cast your hand tied rocket fishing rig out and admired the long distances you so easily have achieved.  Now start to reel it in at moderate pace with your rod tip down.  DON’T start jerking it like a mad man like the other cowboys down the line.
As the line gets tight you will know when you are in the right spot, it will start to feel bumpy, as the line drops through the bunker school.

Now with a long sweeping motion, sweep your fishing rod to the side.  If you miss just crank the reel a few times bringing you fishing rod back to your center and repeat.

Once you snag your bait, set the hook just a little,  and slowly reel in your fresh bait.


Don’t Second-Guess Your Fishing Instincts

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


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.

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.

Stealth 101: Sniper-Grade Kayak Casting

Stealth 101: Sniper-Grade Kayak Casting
Why The Marine Corps Will Not Let You Be A Sniper If You Have Tourette’s Syndrome

by H2Oz

Casting. Mention it, and the first thing that pops into almost everybody’s head is accuracy. Skinnywater sniping or under-the-mangrove sidearming alike, the guy who can put it on the button has a distinct edge over the guys who don’t understand how you get to Carnegie Hall.

But there’s another dimension to casting from a kayak — one of those things that few seem to notice, let alone make a conscious effort to improve upon — that can up a kayakfisherman’s hookup rate significantly, and that’s your ability to make any cast without broadcasting the fact that it is a cast.

A sniper-grade sightfishing cast — or any cast aimed at a specific, narrowly-defined potential holding spot — is pretty useless without a sniper-grade approach. The true craftsman is preternaturally patient and dead silent, and exploits things like the sun angle, background contrast, outline breakup, Snell’s Window, crinkle light and a hundred other factors. He doesn’t merely consider them, he actively exploits them whenever possible. He rigs for silent running, sculls up with a small hand or canoe paddle, draws his bead, and……. and then blows it.

Oh, nothing dramatic. He makes perfect lure placement, but for some odd reason, his target (worst-case) spooks (even though the lure shouldn’t have been close enough to cause such a spook), or at the very least simply refuses the take. The would-be craftsman forgot the final piece in the puzzle of skinnywater sniping skills — he didn’t pay attention to where his cast was coming from.

Try a little experiment. Paddle into some nice, sheltered, glassy water, with enough casting room around you that you don’t have to worry where even your longest cast is actually going. Make a cast directly forward of your boat (within a few degrees of straight over the bow), but don’t pay any attention to where the lure is going. Pay total attention to what your kayak is doing to the water. Now reel in and do the same thing, but this time cast directly abeam (that’s straight off to the side for you Chief Brody’s out there). Yeah. The look on your face is going to be priceless when you actually watch that totally-unnatural-frequency mini-tsunami you just created.

Forget the surface “wave”. By the time that reaches the spot over your fish, he’ll already be in the next county. In the military sniper analogy, imagine a world where the target is already nervous, and the muzzle blast gets to the target well before the bullet.

Underwater sound waves propagate (travel) at about 1500 metres per second (five times faster than in air) and at a lower attenuation at a given distance (reduction in the strength of signal). In plain English, that little “whoosh” from your rodtip firing (or any other sound you make above water) travels through the air to the spot above your fish five times slower and five times less loud than the disturbance caused by your hull. It’s not the displacement of water, it’s the energy imparted to the water. The water didn’t make a hull slap on your hull, your hull made a slap on the water. (Actually, more of a shove.) This frequency is totally unnatural, and the amplitude is totally unnatural, and whether a fish understands what made it is irrelevant. Its very nature says danger to any aquatic organism whose prime directive is “Eat — but don’t get eaten.”

At the risk of belaboring the sniper analogy one more time, you just spent three days crawling up on your intended recipient, got a good weld, and just before squeeeeeezing the trigger, jumped up and yelled “I’VE GOT YOU NOW, JACK!!” at the top of your lungs. Take a good look at that comparatively teeny-tiny disturbance from an over-the-bow cast again. Try a few other angles. Try a snap, try a lob.

And then, the next time you’ve got tails to port or starboard, take that little extra second to quietly scull that stern around. then be The Button Man, capische?

Go now, and sin no more. ^o^

“The Gradually-Accreting Compendium of Arcane Rigging Brain Seizures for
the Modern Kayakfisherman and Other Self-Propelled Aquatic Sociopaths”,
U. Phemism & N. DePlume, Journal of How Not to Move In with Davey Jones,
Vol. 1 No. 1, 1947, p. 328

Tarpon: Beach Patrol, Kayak Style

By: Bill “Heywood” Howard

Its 4 am, and throughout the west coast of Florida a dedicated group of anglers awake with eager anticipation of the day to come. They have thought of nothing else all winter. Obsessed with only one thing, big fish off the beach, they drag themselves out of bed, grab some coffee, the kayak and gear and head out the door. Its Tarpon season. Every year these magnificent game fish make their northerly migration from points south up along the beaches of Florida’s Gulf coast, and every year this dedicated group of kayak anglers awake early so as to be on the water at dawn to greet them. Some choose live bait, others are strictly artificial lure anglers, but there is one thing they all can agree on, fishing out of a kayak for Tarpon, is very addictive.

So what do you need to know in order to become a successful tarpon angler? I sat down with anglers ranging in experience from first year rookies to seasoned anglers and asked them to share their experiences stalking the beaches for these silver brutes.

The Rookies

To call these guys “Rookies”is really unfair. They have years of fishing under their belts, but for some of them, this was their first year chasing Tarpon off the beach. For “first timers” they did really well. The key to their success this year was due to several things, lots of home work and questions. But the number one key was time on the water. Ask any old timer and they will tell you, the more time spent on the water, the shorter the learning curve.

Steve “Manning” Manning

How long have you been at it?

I went several times in 2010, but 2011 was really my first full season.

How many hook-ups vs landed in 2011?

I really did not count. I went tarpon fishing 2 or 3 times a week starting in the middle of May. I only landed 3 fish, but I think I averaged about 1 hook-up per trip. So I estimate that I was somewhere between 20 to 30 hook-ups vs. 3 landed.

On your first trip tarpon fishing, what did you do? Did you observe others or go right in?

I really did not fish much on that first trip. We were sight fishing with artificial lures and I really did not know what I was looking for. I did more observing than fishing. That is how it went for my first couple trips. I was lucky enough to get to assist on catches by Dave and Bill, which taught me a lot.

What was your first hookup like?

My first hook-up came in 2010. It was a short, but amazing experience. We were throwing artificial lures. I saw the fish coming and made a cast. I think I was in shock when the fish took the lure and jumped. I don’t think I even remembered to set the hook. After one or two jumps the fish went on a big run. I was amazed at how fast the line was stripping off the reel. There is actually a photo of me in the tarpon gallery where I am reaching down and tightening the drag on the reel. Shortly after that it came unbuttoned.

Live bait or arties?

I started the 2011 season throwing artificial lures. As noted above, I had lots of exciting hook-ups, but zero landed. In late June I switched over to bait. I caught all three of the fish on bait. For me the bait works best.

What type of gear do you use?

I am using a 7000 series Penn Sargus reel on an 8ft. St. Croix tidemaster that is heavy power, fast action with a line rating of 17 to 40 lbs. The reel has 50 lb Power Pro and I am using an 80 lb fluorocarbon leader. I have been using Mustad 8/0 circle hooks. I have been using a swivel between the line and leader to help line warps at the bobber. I used uni knots for line and leader connection to the swivel and the hook.

One tip that you would pass along?

If you are the new guy in the group take your first opportunity to assist someone else with more experience with their catch. When they whoop it up, pull in your line and go help out. You will learn tons by watching what actually happens during the fight. Stay out of the way, watch, listen and offer to help with a tow to revive the fish.

Joe “ZeroSix”

Joe’s last name has been omitted for security reasons. Joe is active duty Army and serves in hostile locations. Thank you for your service Joe!!

How long have you been at it?

One season

How many hook-ups vs landed in 2011?

14 solid hooks with at least one jump, two fish to the boat and countless unidentified hits.
On your first trip tarpon fishing, what did you do? Did you observe others or go right in?
As a Search/Rescue Helo Pilot who grew up fishing off the North Carolina shore I have adopted a philosophy of researching a topic well before jumping into to something head first, especially something that could prove dangerous. I spent several weeks reading every article I find and querying those who had experience. I was taken under the wing of two seasoned kayak tarpon hunters who checked over my gear, gave me the basics to get started with and kept a close eye on me.

What was your first hookup like?

My first hook up was on my second trip out on Mother’s Day. I felt guilty at first because my two mentors had been at it religiously each week for a couple of months and neither of them had jumped a fish. That occupied the first nano-second of the battle and then the “Shock and Awe” of the sheer power of these marvelous beasts took over. I could not stop smiling. This fish was amazing! She must have jumped a half dozen times completely clearing the water.

What type of gear do you use?

I am a Hobie loyalist with respect to their Mirage Drive system – it does have some slight limitations in shallow water, but I will take it over a regular kayak any day.  As for my rods, I have two twin Shimano Teramars, 8 foot in length and extra fast/extra heavy. With the 8’ length they allow you to work the fish around the bow without issues and the ability to cast even the smallest of live and swim baits with ease. The Teramars are paired up with twin Shimano Bait Runner 6500s. The Bait-Runner feature comes in extremely handy when fishing two baits at once. When I have a fish take a bait, I let him run without engaging the reel for the first few seconds which gives me time to retrieve my second bait out of harm’s way. My main line of choice is Ohero’s 40 braid and I use their 60# fluorocarbon for the first part of the season when the fish appear more skittish and then switch to 80# later in the season.

Live bait or arties?

I began my tarpon fishing thought process as a staunch naturalist and then quickly came to the conclusion that in order to stand a chance in an area where the fish are not predictable, live bait was the way to go. I always did carry a spare road with a DOA Bait-Buster on it but honestly only got about a half dozen casts off during the entire season because my hands were always full. I would offer that you should decide what you want to fish with and stick to it.

As for what bait works best – in all honesty… whatever baits you can get. It appeared that there was no real preference from one day to the next. If I had to choose one for an entire season it would be a 3” pinfish, no kidding. I learned early on that “elephants eat peanuts” with respect to big baits verses small ones as my tarpon mentors constantly reminded me.
One tip that you would pass along?

If you are fishing baits under floats with braid as your main line – you are going to get tangles and bird’s nests from time to time around the float. It is just going to happen. The best method that I have found to mitigate this is to maintain positive contact with your float.

Meaning: do not just cast out your bait, open the bail and let it run. This will only exacerbate any condition out there that will tangle your line in the first place. On days with current or wind taking your bait away from you, it is easy to maintain that direct contact with your float. Once your float hits the water, control the amount of line you let out. Once you are where you want to be, engage the reel and you’re in business. Check the line’s tautness often to ensure the wind or tides have not changed. On days when there is a slack tide or no wind, it is tougher but still doable. Again, actively fish, do not “set it and forget it” as George Foreman says.

Walt “EZYLYF” Ruda

How long have you been at it?

Been fishing for Tarpon from a kayak for 3 seasons.

How many hook-ups vs landed?

8 landed for 16 jumps in 2011.

On your first trip tarpon fishing, what did you do?  Did you observe others or go right in?

I have fished for tarpon through the years from a boat so I basically went right in from the kayak.

What was your first hookup like?

Exciting for sure but have been pulled around by sharks in the kayak before actually catching a tarpon so I was used to the pull.  One thing for sure that I have found out is, all the hookups seem to be as exciting as the first and there is always something different to look forward to as every tarpon fights different, so it’s very unpredictable on the fight which keeps the excitement in this type of fishing.

What type of gear do you use?

Kayak  –  Malibu Stealth 14 ( in my opinion there is not a better kayak out there for fighting tarpon )

Rod  –   8ft    30 – 40 pound  — 8ft length to be able to reach out in front of the kayak when fish changes directions.

Reel  –   Conventional – Grouper size

Line  –    50 – 65 pound braid

Leader  –   60 pound flourocarbon

Hooks   –    6/0  circle  3 or 4x

Live bait or arties?

Live bait  –  90% of my hookups are with pinfish.  Greenbacks, Threadfins, Grunts and Pumpkinseeds also have worked.

Arties   –   Tsunami swim baits

One tip that you would pass along?

Definitely gear up for these fish, find out the best ways through fishermen that have experience. You want the experience to be great for you and as easy on the fish as possible. So gear up so you can get the fish to the kayak in a reasonable time. You can spend hours on the water sitting in the saddle before the hookup comes and you don’t want to have failure due to wrong gear, weak knots, etc….

The Pros

If you called the following anglers “Pro’s” to their face, they would quickly dismiss it. They have been at this for some time and while they are very accomplished, they prefer the “low key” approach to fishing. Not quick to call attention to themselves, on the water every morning they can, seeking their own personal challenges. I’m extremely thankful to them for taking time to help with this article.

Thomas “Uncle Tommy” Coffey

How long have you been at it?

8 Seasons

How many hook-ups vs landed in 2011?

17 Jumped fish. 3 to the boat.

On your first trip tarpon fishing, what did you do? Did you observe others or go right in?

I served as photogragher. Later that Season, I started jumping fish. Didn’t take one to the boat until Season 2.

What was your first hookup like?

Utter Chaos. Sudden. Thrilling. Frightening. Beautiful. Over too soon. Couldn’t get my hand to stop shaking. Bottle that feeling and sell it to the masses.

What type of gear do you use?

My first Season, I paddled a WS Tarpon 160 until I hooked a big girl at my 7 o’clock and fought her for 7 jumps over my left shoulder because the boat wouldn’t turn. Since then I paddle a Tarpon 120 which turns on a dime.

My new favorite rod is a Star Deluxe DLX30 paired with a Stradic 5000. For live bait, I like a Baitrunner 6500. Both spooled with 30# PP. I use a Bimini twist to double the line and an Albright to the leader (60# fluorocarbon). I use either a loop knot for the hook or I snell it. I like Gamakatsu circle hooks 6/0 -8/0 4x strong.

Live bait or arties?

For live bait I like Pumpkinseeds, Pinfish, Greenbacks, and Grunts (in that order). I used to throw DOA Baitbusters, but have made the switch to 5′ or 6′ Tsunami swim baits. The cast a mile, do not helicopter, and have a good stout hook which is sharp right out of the package.

One tip that you would pass along? In my experience Tarpon Fishing success is directly proportional to time in the saddle. We see a lot of guys out there just a few days a Season. We refer to them as “trout fishermen”.

Rik Llewellyn

How long have you been at it?

Ten years.

How many hook-ups vs landed in 2011?

I spent the first month or so throwing artificial lures at them with absolutely no success. Not even a bump. After hearing of the success of the northern guys using bait, I changed tactics. Once I put on bait at the end of June, I started getting hook-ups almost immediately. This year I got 2 to the kayak, broke off 4 using lighter leader, gave a rod and reel to one and lost 3 to straighten hooks/bad hook sets/unintentional broken line. Once I went to bait, I hooked up on almost every outing.

On your first trip tarpon fishing, what did you do? Did you observe others or go right in?

A few of my friends and I talked about it one day ten years ago. There wasn’t the buzz about kayak tarpon fishing that there is today so there wasn’t the opportunity to go out with experienced guys. We’d seen the old pictures of guys in canoes catching tarpon down in Boca Grande so we knew that big fish from small boats wasn’t new. Plus, there were a couple guys fishing them from canoes off the Sarasota beaches already so we knew it wasn’t crazy. Just adventurous.

What was your first hook-up like?

One day we gave it a try off a Siesta Key Beach. I had in my mind that a nice 60 pound fish would be just fine for the first one but you really don’t get the chance to choose your target. When I hooked up with my first ever tarpon from my kayak, 120 pounds of silver fish went to the sky, and as I looked back at it over my left shoulder, all I could think was “Oh no, I don’t want one that big!”. We didn’t know how to do it the right way back then so I was dragged around for an hour and eventually ended up 2 miles offshore.

One of the guys in the canoe, Mike, went with me. As I got the tarpon alongside my kayak, my rod exploded into many pieces and the line parted. I was left with the rod butt to just about 4 inches of rod above the reel and several 4 – 6 inch pieces of rod in my kayak. Like I said, it exploded, it didn’t just snap in half.

I’d had the benefit of having caught many tarpon from a skiff before I tried it from a kayak. Even knowing the power of these fish, it was still a whole new experience. I’d would highly suggest that someone wanting to go after tarpon from a kayak catch one first from a skiff. They are amazingly powerful fish. Catching one first from a boat gives you some understanding of what you’ll be in for in a kayak.

What type of gear do you use?

Until this year, I used a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 16. This year I used a Native Ultimate 14.5. I did take the Tarpon 16 out one day this year when I expected it to be rough. They have different characteristics once you’re hooked up. The Native turns quicker making it easier to keep your bow pointed generally towards the fish. The Tarpon 16 glides faster making for a much nicer sleigh ride. If I had to choose between the two, I’d pick the Native and just not go out on choppy days when waves are breaking at the beach. I filled the Native to the brim on one ill fated launch and never want to deal with that again. They are pretty darn heavy when filled with sea water!

For most of the season I used a St. Croix Tidemaster rod (TIS80HF, 8′, Heavy, 17-40 pound test line), Quantum Cabo 60 reel, 50 pound Power Pro line, 60 pound flouro leader and Owner Mutu Circle hooks (6/0). I’m now using a Shimano Terramar rod and Penn Slammer 560 reel.

Live Bait or arties?

Until this year, I was 100% arties with the DOA Baitbuster, in silver belly with a green or black back, being the first choice. This year I went to bait for a couple reasons. First, they just weren’t hitting artificial lures. Have no idea why but no one was having much success with them. Second, the fish, while we started seeing them early (April) and often, never really stayed up on the surface. We didn’t get the slow, meandering schools of fish. They didn’t stop and mill around or daisy chain. They were all peek-a-boo schools and fast moving. Peek-a-boo is when they come up 100 yards away, you paddle hard to get in line and then you never see them again until the pop up 100 yards away in the other direction.

We all knew the fish were there, we just weren’t seeing them. In previous years you’d see a school of 50 fish mill around a quarter acre area popping up, slapping their tails, taking big breaths. These are easy targets for arties.

As to bait, I used whatever came up on the sabiki rig. Squirrel fish, Grunts and Pinfish all caught tarpon this year.

I also use a fish finder. He is furry and weighs about 9 pounds. Loves to chew on extra bait while waiting for tarpon to show up.

One tip that you would pass along?

There are several tips I’ll pass along

1. Cut your gear way back. Keep it very simple. You want a clear cockpit and not much to deal with once you hook up. A lot happens in the first few minutes of a tarpon hook up and all of it is powerful and fast. You want 100% of your attention on the fish for your own safety and, best of all, to watch the fruits of your fishing pursuit. Looking up at a 100 pound tarpon is a pure thrill. Yes, the fish will be higher up in the air than your head. You don’t want to miss that because you are messing around trying to clear things from the cockpit.

2. Be prepared for the hook up before you hook up. Have your bait rod secured. Have your drift chute out and attached so all you have to do is toss it over. Have the pliers you’ll need secured in front of you, not back somewhere in the crate behind you. If you are using an anchor, have it attached with a simple clip with a big float on the line so you can unhook it in a second without having to look at it.

3. Know who your buddies are. Tarpon fishing from a kayak really isn’t a solo pursuit. Yes, some go out alone but, IMO, they should be using light leader to pop them off after they’ve had the jumps and sleigh ride. There are inherent dangers in trying to land a 100+ pound fish alone. Until you’ve landed many, I wouldn’t suggest trying to do it without some help even if it is just someone shadowing you for the ‘just in case’ moment. Also, understand that when your buddy hooks up, you need to reel up and follow. He’ll do it for you, you do it for him. That’s what buddies are for.

4. Pay attention to your drag. It can be a costly mistake. I always turn the drag off a bit to compensate for the power of the initial hook-up and explosion from the fish. Once the first 60 seconds of madness is done, I crank back in some drag. Forgetting where you are in the crank off/crank in cycle doesn’t end well. Trust me on that…….

5. Once you have a tarpon on the line, fight it. Fight it hard the entire time. If you rest, the fish rests. Constantly change directions of the line pull. It isn’t all just pulling up. Pull sideways to try and drag the fish backwards. These fish have a lot of will power and, IMO, pulling them backwards breaks that will power. If you are hitting the 45 minute mark, you aren’t fighting hard enough. As a buddy, part of your job is to keep reminding the guy with the fish to keep fighting hard. He may look at you like a wife looks at her husband telling her to breath in the delivery room but he’ll thank you later. This season everyone was getting their tarpon to the kayak in around 15 minutes.

6. Don’t let it gulp air. As the tarpon tires, it will come to the surface and take a big gulp of invigorating and fight prolonging air. Don’t let the tarpon do that. Stick your rod tip in the water and force it back down. There’s a saying that every gulp of air adds 5 minutes to the fight. As the fight goes on, those 5 minute gulps start feeling like 10+ minutes.

7. Have a plan to resuscitate the fish before you catch them. If you just unhook the fish and let it go after the battle, it will sink to the bottom and become shark food. We all carry a tow line that we attach to the kayak of the guy who caught the fish. He holds onto the fish and the other paddles. And paddles. And paddles. Sometimes it is quick, sometimes it takes a while. The shorter the fight, the shorter the tow required to resuscitate. That’s part of the reason the buddy is constantly telling you to fight harder. There are ways to do it yourself (none of them easy) but, since you’ll always be fishing with a buddy, towing is the best option.

Bill “Shamus” Ambrose

How long have you been at it?

I’ve been Tarpon fishing from a kayak since 2004.

How many hook-ups vs landed in 2010?

2010 was a tough year due to self imposed house projects. I didn’t put my normal amount of time on the water. I had 7 hookups, one leader touch but never out my hands on one. If something could go wrong it did.

On your first trip tarpon fishing, what did you do? Did you observe others or go right in?

I jumped right in. Now I had caught 20 or so from boats (I planned Tarpon trips in Isamorada every year) I also had been kayak fishing Long Island Sound for 7 years before I moved to Sarasota.

What was your first hook-up like?

The first time I hooked up was just like skydiving. A ton of “Oh shoot what have I got myself into.” The sleigh ride was thrilling. I had Dave shouting directions the entire time, you know how pleasant he can be! That first fish never jumped; just pulled an bull dogged me the entire time. So mine wasn’t the glamour fish but a prizefight the entire time. The thing that comes to mind is that most people don’t realize how much leg strength you use to fight a big fish, in a kayak. It’s all stomach and upper body. It kicks your ass!

What type of gear do you use?

Shimano Terramar rod 8′ ,Van Stall 150 reel , Power pro 40lb line , Seagar 60 lb leader, owner 5/0 hooks uni to uni between line and leader. Cinch knot on hook.

Live Bait or arties?

I’ll use anything to catch a tarpon. When I throw arties which is in the early part of the season, it will be DOA Bait Busters,  sliver with either green or black back. Live bait is usually crabs but this season I used pinfish. Tarpon eat anything as long as it’s in front of their face.

One tip that you would pass along?

Several tips. Most important NEVER GO ALONE !! We aren’t fishing for trout here and things could go wrong real quick! Also when it’s slow you can sit there with a good cigar and coffee and solve the world’s problems. Rik and I resolve that little Debt Limit thing in 20 minutes. Drift chute, Mexico is a long paddle back. Use the best gear you can afford, Tarpon have a bad habit of reducing good gear into garbage. Don’t make it more than what it is. I see many guys who are pissed because they didn’t hook up that particular day. I remind them that they watched the world wake up on some of the most beautiful stretches of beach there are. There are Turtles and dolphins to watch, enjoy it all.

Look for more installments of this in the weeks to come.  Again, thanks to those that have taken time out of their schedules to take part in this article.

About the Author:

Bill has lived and fished the South shore of Tampa Bay since 1972. An aspiring photographer and writer, he has had several of his pictures published in several local fishing publications and was selected to write for an Australian Kayak Fishing Journal called “Blade”. He is on the Pro Staff for the kayak fishing websites, Yakangler and, sharing his travels around the state as well as product reviews. In 2008 he completed a 129 mile, 17 day trip around Tampa Bay. The event called “Paddle Around the Bay” raised nearly $4000 dollars for the American Heart Association. He also volunteered his time and served on the Hillsborough County Sea Grass Task Force. Charged with developing plans to protect the fragile sea grass in Tampa Bay, the committee made recommendations directly to the county commissioners that when put into place will greatly improve the health of the sea grass in the bay.

As a member of the Malibu Kayaks Pro Team, Bill is active in the local and state tournament scene. He has won numerous Catch, Photo and Release tournaments as well as several online tournaments. He has also helped organize demonstration days and seminars covering such topics as safety as well as fishing the flats.

Along with Todd and Rik Llewellyn, he has helped form a local chapter of Hero’s on the Water. This group is tasked with taking injured and recovering veterans out fishing in kayaks. Paddle. Fish. Heal is their motto.

Bill is married to his high school sweet heart, Vicki. They have two children and one grandchild.

Winter Redfish: Down Size Your Lures

Winter Redfish: Down Size Your Lures

Well, Winter is finally here in Florida. The water has cooled down and gotten crystal clear. For me this means one thing, time to downsize. With a water temp on the flats of Tampa Bay at a brisk 54 degrees, our big three inshore species, Snook, Redfish and Trout slow down and change their forage habits. For the purpose of this article I will be concentrating my efforts on Redfish, as they are by far my favorite inshore species to target.

During a recent quick trip out to the local flats, I took time out to look at the bottom as I glided by.  The grass had thinned out, the water was crystal clear and I thought to myself how different a few months make in fishing conditions.  Top waters and large jerk baits were the ticket not long ago, but now that winter has finally arrived, it is time to down size your lures. Redfish key in on crustaceans such as crabs, small clams and small bait fish, so you need to match the hatch. Sound familiar??

My go to Redfish  lure this time of year is a D.O.A. Shad Tail, #416 Golden Bream on a Slayer Inc Predator weedless jig head or a Mirrolure Lil John scented bait on the same jig head.

Redfish Jig heads
Redfish Jig heads

There are plenty of good jig heads out there, I prefer the Slayer Inc Jigs, but D.O.A. and Mission Fishin are good as well. What they don’t offer that Slayer Inc does, is different sizes of hooks. Anywhere from a 3/0 to 5/0.

Top to Bottom – Mission Fishin, D.O.A., Slayer Inc.

Redfish Jig heads
Redfish Jig heads

Dark colors such as the D.O.A. Shad Tail Rootbeer/Gold Glitter (top) and Gold Rush, as well as the Mirrolure Lil John in Golden Bream  are all great colors for the winter time.  Another great lure is the D.O.A. Paddle Tail (bottom) in Rootbeer. These lures are incredibly durable and last all day long. The color of the jig head probably doesn’t matter all that much, I prefer the Chartreuse color.  I’m more confident using that color, it’s worked well, so I stick with it.

Redfish Jigs
Redfish Jigs

Downsizing also applies to your leader as well as your lures.

Normally I will use 25 to 30 lb fluorocarbon leader.  Fishing on the flats like I do, this might seem a bit much during the warmer months,  but you never know when you’re going to run into that big snook, so I like to be ready.  But during the winter, when the water is crystal clear, I’ll down size my leader to 20 lb, sometimes even 15 lbs.  Something I’ve noticed with fluorocarbon, it will kind of dull out if used to long, so I’m quick to change it between trips. No fancy knots, a uni-to-uni for my line to leader, and a simple loop knot on my lure. I use 8 or 10 lb braid all year long, 8 lb if I can get it.  I can cast further with the liter line, and it’s still plenty strong for most fish I run into.

Winter Redfish
Winter Redfish

So now you’ve down sized, how should you work these combos?  Ssssllllloooowwww.  If you think it’s slow, slow it down even more. This is by far the best time to sight fish for redfish, if you have a good pair of sun glasses, you can possible see the redfish cruising by. What to look for are shadows moving in the sand, or most times they are just sitting there. Even if you’re not sure it’s a redfish, cast to it. Look for deeper sand holes, they don’t have to be super deep, just a few feet deeper than the surrounding water. The water will have a slightly darker look to it, you might still be able to see the bottom, but it will just look deeper than the surrounding area.  Cast into those spots and just drag your lure across the bottom, maybe every once in a while pop it off the bottom.  The bite will be real subtle, almost like a pinfish picking at it. I sometimes wait until I feel some weight on the line before setting the hook.  But once they are hooked, you’ll know it.  Something about winter time redfish, they fight completely different than they do in the summer. It’s also a great time to downsize your rod and reel combo and break out an ultra-lite combo. You will not do any harm fighting a fish a bit longer in this cooler water, it has plenty of oxygen in it and the cooler temps don’t stress them out like the warmer water does. I hope these tips help you increase you’re catches this winter.

Winter time, it’s the time to down size your gear and catch em up.

Lure Choice: The Differences are the Same

Lure Choice: The Differences are the Same

By: Bill “Heywood” Howard

A while ago I came upon a hook and jig manufacture based out of Jacksonville called Slayer Inc.  I took a look at their website and liked what I saw, weedless jerk bait hooks.  As a big user of soft plastics like Mister Twister Exudes and D.O.A.’s, I’m always on the lookout for these types of hooks.  I was really impressed with their service and order response time.  But that’s not what I’m writing about this week, on their website they had several different types of in-line spinner baits.  After talking with the owner about these lures, I decided to do a informal survey of different kayak fishing sites around the gulf coast.  When I talked with Chris at Slayer I told him that those types of lures were not very popular here in the Tampa Bay  area and he agreed.  We both felt that our fish here are way to spooky for these lures.  So, I thought I would ask different fisherman what their “Go To” redfish lure would be.  I expected to see some big differences based on location, but man was I surprised.

Starting with the Texas Kayak Fisherman, I was really surprised at some of the selections as well as some of the comments.   The top choice by far was some type of spoon, either gold or silver.  Tied for second was either some type of Gulp or a Heddon Spook Jr in non other than Bone color.  The choice of top water was very interesting.   I never consider a top water lure when targeting redfish, more often I will use it as a locater or search lure, using it to locate them and then use some sort of plastic to catch them.  Another lure that seems popular is flats minnow made by the Texas Tackle Factory.  A search of their website uncovered some very interesting choices and color combinations.  Check them out.  One of the comments made by more than one forum member was that they don’t really target redfish.  “Don’t target redfish?”  “Why the heck not?” I asked.  Well, it seems they have really big trout in Texas, kind of like our snook, so that’s the preferred species.

Moving over to Louisiana, gold spoons or inline spinner baits were the dominate lure of choice.  Other than that, I didn’t get much information from those boys.  They must be to busy out catching all those big redfish I see on TV.  Shoot, they swim right up to the boat sometimes.  Must be nice to not have the fishing pressure we do here.  I know one thing about the area, they do not practice Catch and Release.  They are meat fisherman.  Their bag limits are outrageous.

Moving over to Florida, I concentrated my research to the Tampa Bay area.  I do know up in places like Jacksonville that those in-line spinners are very popular.  The water clarity up there is not like what we have here, its very stained and tannic,  so those lures work really well.  A poll on revealed choices very similar to the Texas fisherman.  An over whelming favorite was some sort of spoon, in gold or silver.  I cant find a fault with this choice one bit.  A Johnson Gold Spoon is one of the first lures I learned to use.  Pretty fool proof once you learn the correct way to retrieve it.  A spoon should wobble, not spin when you retrieve it.  Once you get the hang of it, it’s a great lure for redfish.  Tied for second were Gulps Mister Twister Exudes or some type of jig and soft plastic.  Not as many top waters as the Texas folks.

One thing I did find very interesting was the number of lures I had never heard of before. Cotton Cordell Jointed lure, Manns Baby Minus 1, Wahoo Redfish Key were just some of the lures mentioned by anglers as their favorites.  No old school lures though.  Growing up fishing with my dad, we had a long time Tampa Bay fisherman show us one of his tricks one day.  He pulled out a bag of twin tail bass worms.  Pinching off the front half and rigging it on a red jig head, we proceeded to slay the redfish.  Casting into the sand holes this lure was deadly and still is to this day.  Heck, I know a guy that has used yellow shoe laces to catch redfish.

So what can you take away from this survey?  I don’t know.  The outcome of my research was way different than what I was expecting.  I guess it comes down to this, redfish are pretty much the same all over, they will hit just about anything.  Use what you have confidence in, that’s most important.  If you have confidence in a lure you will use it longer and by doing that, you increase your chances of hooking that redfish your looking for.

Kayak Fishing for Tailing Redfish

Kayak Fishing for Tailing Redfish

By: Bill “Heywood” Howard

Redfish Tailing
Tailing Redfish

What is it about a redfish wagging its tail out of the water that will bring a fisherman to crouch down, lower his voice to a whisper and cause his hands to shake and his heart to skip a beat?  Just the mere thought of tailing redfish keeps me up at night, it’s like an addiction and I can’t get enough of it.  Growing up here in Tampa Bay I never gave it that much of a thought, it wasn’t until I was older and more experienced that I felt the need to chase these tempting fish around on the flats.  My first attempt at catching these elusive fish was a trip to Pine Island sound.  Expectations were high as we made a 2 mile paddle to a protected flat that held promise.  Well it wasn’t long before we were rewarded for our hard work, as the tide dropped we started seeing tails just lazily flop back and forth amongst the grass.  I did manage to catch one that day and since then it has been a continuing learning process.

I always thought that redfish really didn’t tail that much here in Tampa Bay.  Maybe it was due to the fishing pressure or the different types of grass, but man was I wrong.  I have caught them throughout Tampa Bay and it seems to me they tail a little differently in each part of the bay that I have caught them.  Up in the Northern part of the bay you can find them out on the mud flats in the colder months.  Here the tailing action is more aggressive.  The redfish seem as if they are driving themselves down into the mud to catch small crabs or worms.  Down South, they tail more leisurely in the sparse grass left over in the winter months and the lush grass flats of the summer.  Catching them can be a whole different story.

Being a primarily artificial lure user, I like to use a variety of lures depending on the conditions.  In winter time, yes redfish will tail in winter, I like to use a 1/16 or 1/8oz jig with some type of paddle tail body, I like to use a color that matches what the redfish might be eating in that particular location.  What of my old favorites is a lure we used to use when I was a kid, if you can find a bass worm that has a split tail on the end, pinch off all but the last few inches and rig that on a red headed jig.  This was a deadly lure on redfish.  In heavier grass I like to go weedless.   Using a heavy 2/0 through 4/0 wide gap worm hook rig up your favorite jerk bait.  To get some extra distance on your cast’s trying pinching a small split shot on the hook.  There are many weighted weedless hooks on the market now that also work great when combined with some of the scented baits that are available.  I like to use the lightest leader that I can get away with, usually 20 pound fluorocarbon.  Most of the time you will encounter these redfish out on the flats, so a heavy leader is not always required.  Check and re-check your leader and knots before heading out, you don’t want to lose the fish of a lifetime due to a knot failing or leader breaking.

Well, now that you are rigged up, the next step is to find them.  So where and when do you find these redfish.  Over the years I have developed log books so I pretty much know when and where I can expect to see them.  Look to the areas that you usually catch your redfish, nice plush grass flats or dark muddy bottoms.  I like the bottom half of the outgoing and the first part of the incoming tide.  The lower the tides the better.  As the tide drops, the reds have to come out of the backcountry spots and will feed along the flats until the water gets too low.  Once the tide turns and starts coming back in, start looking for them.  Time of day does not seem to matter that much as I have seen them tail during mid-day in the middle of the summer.  When it’s time to eat, they eat, but I do think early morning and late evenings are the best times, especially if the wind is not blowing.  If the wind picks up too much they don’t seem to tail as much.  Another thing I do when looking for tailing reds is to keep the sun behind me if possible.  It makes seeing them a lot easier, you might just only catch a reflection of their tail from a distance, but that could be the difference between going home empty handed or not.

The biggest hurdle to overcome when fishing for tailing redfish is stealth.  You have to be very quite.

These fish are already spooky and when they get into shallow water their senses go into over drive.  Just the slightest noise can send them to the far side of the flats in a heart beat.  I think the most productive method for getting close is to wade.  Just be very careful when doing this, the flats are loaded with hidden obstacles such as string rays and cat fish.  Sometimes it’s like walking in a mine field.  On a recent trip this past July I stepped on two sting rays, luckily for me I didn’t get stuck.  So, you’ve spotted some tailers, what do you do next?  Well after getting close enough to cast, which can be difficult in its own right, you have to determine which way they are heading.  Get your cast out in front of the direction of travel and wait until they are almost right on top of it.  Remember, these fish are feeding, so if something takes off in front of them they will almost always strike out of reaction.  If you are using some of the new scented baits, you can cast it out in front of the fish and let them find it.  Don’t cast to close as this well most assuredly spook them.

On that same trip this past July, I fished the same flat four days in a row.  In those four days I must have seen over a hundred redfish, each one more exciting than the previous.  With a little homework and patience you too can join the ranks of those who are addicted to tailing redfish.


Check out the Forum for more Redfish activity