Having a Game Plan: Simple Stupid Success
I remember when I got into kayak fishing back in 2003. The sport was growing at a feverish pace and everywhere you looked there were little plastic boats strapped to car tops going somewhere in search of fish. Fast forward to today. Kayak fishing is at the top of its game! There are tournaments everywhere, clubs forming to widen the reach of the sport, and even "National Championships" where the Country's top anglers go to compete every year. Many of these anglers prepare for weeks, perhaps months, carefully planning and preparing for these events in pursuit of big payouts and hopefully being crowned as "National Champion"! I have the privilege of knowing many of these anglers who compete, and I am honored to have some of them as dear friends. They are a special breed of angler... and then there is me!
I am more of a "Casual Angler". If I go fishing and catch a few dink Bass, it is a successful day. I personally enjoy the serenity that comes with kayak fishing. Now this is not to put any negative light on the serious competitive angler, what they do is nothing short of pure dedication and determination and I admire that. I have come to the realization that I am not at that level and that is OK. I am just someone who prefers to stick closer to home. Sure, I love fishing the annual YakAttack Tournament each year in Virginia, but I fish tournaments for a different reason. I do it for the comradery, the change of scenery, and to see longtime friends. If I catch fish, mission accomplished! If I place… well that is just a bonus. My method of preparation is simple, it might not win me a "National Championship", but, will it help me on a local level? It just might. Let me explain...
I usually compete in a few local tournaments here and there, and my approach is a three-step process I call: Top, Middle, Deeper. Back in September 2015, I competed in my first Kayak Fishing Tournament which was held on the outer rim canal of the infamous Lake Okeechobee. I had never fished there, but I did what I usually do for any Florida base tournament. I tied on a Topwater Frog, a Search Bait, and a Texas Rigged Soft Plastic bait. The result of that tournament? I not only won it, but also won "Biggest Bass". I took home almost $600 in winnings, two great trophies, and a bunch of really cool prizes, all from my simple approach. I caught "Bookend" Bass that measured 22.75" and 21.25" on a Scumfrog Pro Series, and then the remaining Bass were all caught on a Premier League Lures Spinnerbait in Houdini color.
I saw a lot of surface commotion throughout the day, especially within cuts in the weed beds so the weedless Scumfrog helped me get to the Bass. As they fed on baitfish in the shallower areas of the canal, the Spinnerbait allowed me to catch the remaining 3 Bass to complete my limit.
Fast forward to March 10th, 2018. I competed in the 2nd Annual Tenoroc Kayak Fishing with Friends Tournament which was held in Lakeland, Florida at the beautiful Tenoroc Fish Management Area. I had never fished there but did what I usually do for any Florida tournament. I tied on a Topwater Frog, a Search bait, and a Texas Rigged Soft Plastic bait... sound familiar? The result of that tournament? I placed 6th out of 40 anglers and also caught the 2nd "Biggest Bass" of the day. What did I win? Nothing but a huge smile, which was just as good as winning prizes. This is what I always hope for from a tournament. I fished a beautiful area, I used methods that caught Bass, and I got to spend time with friends.
The largest Bass, just like the "Bookends" caught at Lake Okeechobee, were feeding in cuts within the weed beds
My second Bass, 18.50", was caught on a LiveTarget Yearling Baitball Lipless Crankbait that I worked past a point with a drop-off. The third Bass needed to complete my limit was caught on a Bass Addiction GEAR Finsenko which was worked around sunken brush piles. There is a method to my madness, which may be limited to fishing the waters here in my home state of Florida, but you can apply this concept with baits you have confidence in on your own local body of water. I always have a Topwater Bait tied on and based any shallow water cover (i.e. Lily pads, Brush Piles, Water Grass, etc.) that will determine if I use an exposed hook or weedless Topwater Bait. Secondly, I always have a "Search Bait" tied on, whether it be a Spinnerbait or Lipess Crankbait. These baits can help cover a lot of water quickly and each are effectively deadly, with the Lipless being more useful in depths 8' and deeper. Thirdly, I keep a soft plastic on. When there are steep drop-offs or just a general deep bottom, I will go to a soft plastic and will change up the weight of the hook or add a Tru-Tungsten weight to help get the bait lower if needed. This same application can be used when a slower finesse technique is needed to get finicky fish to strike. These techniques are effective on a variety of species and every now and again, you'll be surprised on how well it can work on the unexpected.
As I mentioned, I don't think this technique will win me any Nation Championships, but if you are new to the sport or simply prefer a simpler method of fishing, try this simple three bait technique to help identify where the fish are, how deep they are, and you just may be surprised of the outcome.
- FishOn ProStaff