I was once asked how many fishing rods I owned. My tentative reply was, “over one hundred." I proceeded to defend a certain amount for different size and weight lures and for specific techniques.
Having an extreme number of rods is not necessary for the kayak angler (or any type of angler for that matter), but having the correct length and action is vital. For example if your target is a trophy bass, a five foot ultra-light rod should not be in your boat.
Eric Jackson, founder of Jackson Kayak, explains his view of bass fishing equipment, “Fishing with four rods has helped me catch more big bass than anything. I like a minnow near the surface, a crawfish mid-depth or on the bottom, a spinner mid-depth, and a worm on the bottom. I am often surprised at which lure the big bass nails that day. What I don't do, however, is to throw Hail Mary’s to the middle and just hope to find structure, the right depth, and big fish."
When choosing a fishing rod, consider what I teach as the four functions of the fishing rod:
- First, you should be able to cast reasonably accurately, come on, let’s at least keep it in the correct zip code.
- Two, you should be able to feel everything that’s happening at the end of your line.
- Next the rod should effectively help you set the hook.
- Finally the rod is critical to you playing / landing your catch.
Length, action, material, number of rod guides, handle material and more all make for a sensitive, accurate and strong “pole.” When deciding on the length, think about the areas you fish. Is there vast amounts of open water and heavy cover? Do you stand and cast, how about setting the hook? The rod length affects each of these factors.
In big waters or the ocean a two-handed cast is facilitated by a longer handle and rod. Long casts and stronger hook set and even playing the biggest bass is easier when there is additional length. The extra inches load and launch the lures, the longer rod picks up line faster for hook setting chores and the fish works harder against the rod that bends toward the fish and recovers when the pressure is decreased.
Take a Q-tip and run it inside the rod guides. Any cracks or rough spots are revealed by the presence of cotton stands. Repair or replace the guide before it costs you a monster bass. One other little trick when battling big, strong bass is to keep the rod tip and line down in in the water. Now the bass is working against water pressure instead of air.
Keeping it Reel
Spinning or baitcasting?
I prefer the power of baitcasting. But when the wind howls or lighter lures are called for, open-faced spinning gets the nod.
In choosing a baitcaster for comfort of all day angling, a low profile reel is best. A moderate retrieve ratio is best for all-around casting and reeling-in your bait and bass. 6:0:1 is a logical choice for all around bass activity. To slow down for crankbaiting, a 5:3:1 retrieve ratio is good. And for burning lipless crankbaits or topwater buzzbaits, 7:0:1 works well.
Consider weight of the reel (frequently a mere 7 or 8-ounce) and line capacity (120 yards of 12-pound test is common). The drags, in my opinion, are superior on baitcasters. Spinning has it place but for most big bass techniques baitcasters are highly desirable.
A small amount of maintenance goes along way on reels. Some spray lubricant and a Q-tip keeps them operational. Become acquainted with the adjustment settings; any knobs in the sides of the reel for changing the spool tension. Make small adjustments.
When the thumb bar is depressed your bait should drop slowly. The best insurance against the feared backlash is an educated thumb. Keep a small amount of thumb pressure on the pool at all times. Simply stated, a backlash occurs when the spool is turning faster than the bait is traveling outward.
Low Down on Lines
For many applications, monofilament is the best all-around bet. Rods in the past have been designed for mono. Monofilament has a high degree of stretch and aggravating coiling memory but also has great knot strength, often measured at up to 95%. The stretch makes hook setting more difficult and is the reason this line is less sensitive.
For fans of low visibility and sensitivity, fluorocarbon is popular. Many anglers employ fluorocarbon for leader because of it’s previously mention qualities. Because it's heavier, it's not a good choice for the topwater enthusiast.
For the ultimate in strength and sensitivity, braided lines are used by serious bass anglers. Zero stretch and extreme sensitivity braid is the logical choice. For those who prefer fishing the category of bass baits we refer to as “feel” baits, braid is the ticket.
Jigs, worms and all soft plastic lures are ideal when coupled with a reel spooled with braided lines. The downside, braid knots can slip easily. To counter this simply tie double knots. I opt for a Palomar with an improved clinch knot snugged up behind the first knot. Problem solved.
The Lure of Lures
An entire book could be written on bass fishing lures. In future posts I will go into more detail on lures.
To fully understand why bass hit artificial baits it’s important to present the premise for fooling bass of any size into striking pieces of metal, chunks of soft plastic, plugs of wood and other materials. Fire up the mental highlighter.
All lures have two categories: attracting and triggering qualities.
Attracting qualities catch the attention of the fish, are large sizes, bright colors, noise-making capabilities and mechanical swimming movements. For example a lipless, chartreuse rattling one ounce crankbait is a perfect sample of a bait full of attracting qualities.
Triggering qualities are easily swallowed shapes, neutral colors, and natural swimming motions, maybe a 7 inch, green pumpkin plastic worm. These characteristics get the bass to actually bite. Bass, being inquisitive creatures, will look and even follow objects out of sheer curiosity (Attracting). To seal the deal, baits heavily loaded with triggering qualities are the ticket to a trophy (triggering).
This is the most vital consideration when buying or tying on bass baits. Color choices can be overwhelming. Consider crankbaits. If you’re a “Crankenstein” it’s easy to get caught up in having a hundred fish-catching colors as touted in catalogs and infomercial videos.
The best three colors match the weather and water conditions. The formula is simple:
- Clear water, light or no breeze and bright skies—white, or lighter shades such as shad colors, with slightly stained water, some wind and cloudy sky a crawfish pattern is ideal.
- For muddy water, windy weather and dark skies, firetiger is perfect.
When bass are hitting the “search” baits like spinnerbaits or crankbaits and stop hitting one of them, switch to the other bait that matches in size. The crankbait should be the same size as the blade on the spinner or vice versa. You have the size figured out—now just change the look