Must Have Gear for the River Kayak Angler
I spend the majority of my time chasing smallmouth bass on the New River in West Virginia. Many kayak anglers share the same passion for moving water, but river fishing can be rigorous. If you are on a moving body of water, there may be some obstacles that are not as easily avoidable as if you were on a still body of water. All those obstructions must be dealt with as you're maneuvering the fast flowing waterway. Rivers should never be underestimated or taken lightly. The New River for one is known for its world class whitewater rapids, but also provides outstanding angling opportunities for the kayak angler. In order to combat formidable rivers, I always bring along the gear to help my day progress smoothly. Safety is first and foremost anytime on the water, regardless the type of drink you're paddling. I stress that, in order to start with my initial must have gear for the river angler.
1. The Personal Floatation Device (PFD): Paddle sport companies have manufactured comfortable, lightweight, marine approved PFD’s for every type of paddler. Specifically companies like NRS, ASTRAL, and STOHLQUIST have developed distinct life vests just for the kayak angling community. In my opinion wearing your PFD is not an option, it is a necessity. The difference could be life, serious injury, or death. Your family and the fishing community do not want to see the subsequent consequences that can be avoided by wearing a PFD. We as a group should always lead by example for the future generations of kayak anglers. I’m not preaching, but only encouraging the use of a PFD at all times. I myself, once had a close call on the river and eventually it happens to all of us. Don't get caught in a situation when you need something the most.
2. The Multitool: The Multitool is an essential piece of equipment. I prefer the Leatherman Wave manufactured with the fishermen is mind. It transcends perfectly with the kayak angler. The Leatherman Wave sports 15 plus tools in one. Including pliers, screwdriver, hook file, knife, just to name a few. We all know how important space is when fishing from a kayak, so the multitool gives you tremendous benefits in a small package. I like to keep mine in the front pocket of my PFD for easy access. It can also find a home in the dry box or your day hatch. I always like to keep a smaller, inexpensive back up in my tackle bag just in case I would forget the Wave. The uses are endless and range from removing those pesky treble hooks, sharpening dull jig heads, or tightening the screws on you spinning reel. Absolutely indispensable gear for any kayak angler.
3. The Backwater Assault Paddle: The assault is a small hand paddle modeled with a hook and tooth design. The paddle itself is used for small navigating corrections when you may have stowed away your kayak paddle. It is also a simple way to stalk small eddies or backwater cuts with stealth. The tangible reason why I love the assault is for the tactical advantages. The hook on the end is great for grabbing a hold of a fallen tree in order to gain position in a certain area. You may need to hold on the bank for a moment while you retie a lure and the hand paddle works great for that. On the other end you may need to do the exact opposite. The teeth are there for pushing off. We have all been too close to something that we needed to get away from quickly. Use the assault to push off nearby obstacles that may otherwise hinder your path. Push off the bank or push off a low water rock. It also saves the life of your regular paddle from wear and tear. It takes some time to get used to and even remember that you have it, but it has a place in my kayak.
4. The Net: Finally getting down to the fishing. Everyone has experienced that gut wrenching, vomit inducing heartbreak! You know what I'm talking about? I’m talking about losing the big one. I’m talking about the one that got away. Yes, I know exactly what it feels like, I have been there. We as anglers have to minimize the variables that are associated with angling. You tie the perfect knot, and play the fish with precision only to lose the fish 3 feet from the kayak. I know, I know, we have to buy new lures and line. Breakdown and buy a net, because it will pay for itself in the long run. A good tip to try if you have the cloth netting on your net is plasti-dip. You can spray your net creating a plastic barrier to avoid snagging or destroying your net with unwarranted hooks. I also tightly bungee the net with a floating pool noodle in case it finds itself overboard. Save yourself the agony and pain. Nobody wants to say “I LOST HER AT THE BOAT”
5. The Fish Grip: Last but not least and my most used, most critical tool of all. The fish grip is a very affordable plastic locking grip to hold your fish as you would with your thumb and index finger. I speak for the majority if not all kayak bass fishermen when I say “Catch. Photo. Release.” is something we live by. Ensuring the bass that just gave you the fight of a lifetime deserves the same respect. All kayak anglers should own the fish grip or a grip of sorts. I use the fish grip to allow the fish to gain some dexterity while I'm preparing my camera and hawg trough. After being landed I immediately put the fish on the grip that is attached to the side of the boat. T-Reign makes an exceptional retractable leash that gives the fish some leeway or just attach a bungee. This way the fish is back in his element and can start to relax while you get ready for that hero shot or grip and grin. As a tournament angler there is no other way to do it in my opinion. The fish is safe and secure while you are getting ready to attempt the sometimes dreaded hawg trough pose. At the end of it all you know you were able to handle the fish with minimal strain and certainty of survival. Get A GRIP!!!!
This is my insight from my experiences. I hope it may shed some light for any new or seasoned kayak angler. Thanks for your time and always tight lines.
- FishOn ProStaff