Why are we losing so many kayak fisherman?

 

 

Kayak safety is no longer a topic I can address once a year.  Every week I read numerous articles about kayak fisherman dying while pursuing this sport we all love. before I dig too deep into this topic let me tell you who I am and what I do for a living to give this article better context. BE WARNED- beyond this point I am very straight and to the point, I don’t want to sound insensitive but we need to address this issue at its root cause, the “it won’t happen to me ” attitude.

 

My Name is Holton Walker, I have been serving in the US Coast Guard for almost 8 years now, and over half of that has been on C-130J Long range search and rescue aircraft. I am stationed in Elizabeth City, NC. I’ve conducted operations from Reykivik, Iceland to the Pacific Ocean. On numerous occasions, I get launched on Missions searching for Missing kayak fisherman all over the east coast and Great Lakes regions. It breaks my heart every time I get the details for our search plan and they paint a picture of a kayaker who wasn’t even prepared for the weather conditions, let alone a survival situation in those conditions. With that out of the way let’s get into the issues that are killing our friends.

 

The biggest killer in survival situations is hypothermia

 

The cooling of the body below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.  a common misconception is that it only occurs in cold water. If the water is below 95 degrees you can expect hypothermia like symptoms even though it may take longer to affect you. Here are some hypothermia survival statistics with no protective water gear.

 

Water temperature

 

40-50 degrees you lose dexterity in 5 minutes, are unconscious in less than an hour and maximum survival time before death is 3 hours.

 

50-60 degrees you are unconscious in 1 to 2 hours with maximum survival at 6 hours before death.

 

60-70 degrees you lose consciousness in 2-7 hours and death around 2-40 hours depending on age.

 

The second biggest danger is not having a clear float plan.

 

A US Coast Guard float plan is form you leave with a family member or friend that includes where your launching from and where you intend to fish and when you expect to be back. it has section on what survival equipment you have on board and gear etc. This information is crucial to authorities estimating your survival time. A proper form can extend a search if we think you could survive past the normal expectations. There is a link on the menu bar of my site with a blank Float plan available for download for free.

 

Safety and survival equipment-

 

Here’s the average rundown of a search and rescue case for a missing kayaker. A friend or family members usually reports the fisherman missing by dusk depending on the time they were supposed to be back. The time it takes authorities to contact the US Coast Guard, then we are airborne within 20-30 minutes of the alarm going off.  The initial search is normally started after dark by the time we get on scene. The most important piece of gear is a PFD to keep you afloat until a search starts, at that point the most important device is something to signal the aircraft or boats searching for you. One of the best and cheapest devices is a chem-light or glow stick. You take the glow-stick and tie a 12-inch line to it and spin it in a circle. On night vision goggles and the naked eye alone it’s a very effective signal at night. My best signal device is more expensive, it would be an aerial flare or strobe light.  If a US Coast guard aircraft is searching for you at night, the pilots are wearing NVG’s and any light source waving will be very visible to them.

 

Radios and or GPS devices-

 

A handheld VHF radio is a critical tool to be rescued, every US Coast Guard aircraft that is flying is monitoring VHF Ch 16, 156.8 MHZ at all times. There are also many different GPS based devices like the Spot GPS device where you can send distress signals. E-Pirbs are more expensive but are the top of the line satellite distress beacons.

 

Protective clothing-

 

Staying warm is a huge deal when the air temps start falling. Hypothermia can set in quickly and you can start losing your decision-making abilities and start making bad judgement calls due to it. Always have the gear to not only fish when you plan but to survive the night if you get stuck or stranded.  However, when you go in the drink the only things that will dramatically affect your survival time is immersion suits or wet suits.  Dry suits are the most effective of anything on the market but are costly, the lesser effective mustang suits will keep you alive but you will be in contact with the colder water.

 

Conclusion-

 

At the end of the day, the most important tool is your brain, if the weather is bad or foretasted to get bad and you absolutely must fish, do what I do and instead of open water fish a backwater creek that is protected from wind and waves. I personally wear a life jacket not just for survival gear but so if god forbid I have a heart attack, get bit by a snake a go into shock, or hit my head on something they search can find my body for my family. It’s a morbid thought but it’s an honest one. There is nothing worse than closing a search and rescue case without recovering a body for the family.  I hope this article helps shines some light on some of the lesser discussed topics in the kayak community. Stay Safe and come back next week for some Fall bass fishing tips and techniques to catch some monsters with the falling temperatures.

 

Preparation beats Talent

Fishing tournaments can be intimidating, especially when your going up against anglers with a “home lake” advantage. However any and all advantage that experience on that body of water can be eliminated with proper preparation and commitment. Here are my four steps to preparing to fish a tournament on an unfamiliar body of water. 
Step one- Have a thorough understanding of the behavioral patterns of bass.
Everybody knows bass go deep with colder water and shallow with warm. But a thorough understand of the seasonal patterns and understand how weather changes can impact the progression can pay huge dividends when it comes to locating bass. 
Step two- Study, Study, Study..
Bury your face in the navionics charts and depth count outs and circle/mark spots that stand out to you. A big advantage a new set of eyes has on fishing techniques is that you don’t have the bad habits built up by fishing that body of water in the past. All of us our guilty of the thought of “I’ve never really caught bass there before”, or I’ve only caught a few from that ledge in the past. In a tournament one fish can make or break you, if there is one good fish on a ledge it’s worth a significant amount of time in regards to your efficiency in a cast per fish evaluation. 
Step three- Stick to the basics



With all the advances in lure technology, Alabama rigs, whopper ploppers, swimbaits bigger than most bass… it’s very easy to over think situations. You throw too much at them when all you need is a square bill 1.5 to wear them out. Practice fishing with three lures and adjust those retrieves and our targeting methods to master the basics. Advances gear can be deadly to bass when used properly and just as deadly to your results when used improperly. 
Step four- Get solid pre fishing days before the tournament 



Use your pre fishing time wisely, I spend more time looking at my sonar for water temp, depth and schools of fish than I do fishing. I make sure I have a good understanding of where the fish are consistently holding and then I try to see what the are hitting. The locations are more important than strikes because of weather changes the day before you have a good idea on where they are and can adjust tactics accordingly, if you just focused on what lures to throw you can be left starting at square one once the clock starts. 
I hope you enjoyed this quick post and I look forward to detailing pre tournament planning as I prepare for the 2017 Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship. Thanks again for swinging by and don’t forget to let you thoughts be heard by way of comments. Stay safe and God bless. 

Mid-summer Topwater Bass Fishing

When you think about top water bass fishing, most of us think about the aggressive fast moving baits with explosive strikes that make every other type of fishing feel less exciting. But I was doing something wrong for a long time without even realizing it, most of us are guilty of neglecting the slow side of top water fishing. The river’s I fish get a lot of surface debris called duck weed. It makes almost every top water lure ineffective expect for weedless frogs. I was experimenting with some spook style lures and decided to try my single hook spooks in the duck weed. To my amazement it has been the most productive approach and style of fishing I have ever found.

 

Did you say fish a top water lure slow?

Yes, I have been trying every retrieve I can think of and the most productive involves me giving 4-6 walking motions and then a 5-10 second pause in between the bursts of motion. 90% of my strikes have been coming on the pauses and the biggest fish caught in the last 2 months was when my dad was adjusting something in his kayak, his zara spook had been motionless for 30 seconds before the 6lb bass decided to strike it.

Why does a slow method produce better than a fast retrieve?

This time of year when the water gets hot and holds less oxygen the fish get somewhat lazy, a fish would much rather attack a slow moving dying fish than a fast moving energetic fish that would take much more energy to eat. The long pauses in the retrieves simulate a wounded fish getting exhausted and having to rest in between swimming bursts.

Where do I target my fish with top waters?

80% of the fish I am catching right now are within 5 feet or less of the shoreline or structure I am targeting, however the larger fish I have been catching have been in more open water in the ledges 15-20 feet from the bank. The larger fish will stage on the ledges because once again they are all about conserving energy this time of year and it gives them quick access to shallow feeding flats, and the cooler deeper water.

What lures have been the most productive this month?

Top water walk-the-dog baits have been my number one lure right now. I am actually only fishing for about 2 hours a trip either at first light or leading up to dusk.

Shallow running crankbaits such as the shallow rap, and 1.0 square bills have been productive but not as much as the top water bite.

Fineness plastics such as drop shot worms and Carolina rigged trick worms will be the big transition after the top water bite, look for structure and primary points and ledges near the flats to target the big fish.

As always i hope this posts helps you guys catch a few more fish and remember to always be safe, wear a lifejacket at all times and fill out a US Coast Guard float plan with a friend or family member. a link on the menu bar of this site gives you access to a blank form .

 

 

Hot to target the big Pre-Spawning Females

A common theme when fishing pre spawning bass is going out, catching 20 bass, but having them all range from 12-15 inches. The majority of these bass are the males who venture into the shallows ahead of the females. This year where I live the temperatures have been changing so drastically i feel like the males have been going back and forth from drop offs to the shallows for 2 weeks now.  But the near future forecast should have the bass completely on the beds within the week or two.

Targeting the bigger females should consist of the first and second drop offs just behind the spawning areas. Primary and secondary points will still be good targets as well but in this river the first drop off is where the majority of the larger females are hanging around.

The lures i throw in the river I fish , for the larger  bass, are baitfish colored crank baits, spinner baits, and occasionally a chatter bait depending on the water clarity/ structure I am fishing. For lakes a carolina rig magnum worm or lizard can be deadly this time of year. especially when the bass are actively spawning and defending their beds from intruders.

Now remember once the bass get on the beds your tactics should change from targeting feeding bass to triggering aggression strikes form the defensive minded bass. Hope these quick tips help you out over the next two weeks fishing for pre spawning bass. Here is a video from this weekends action using the techniques listed above.

 

Pre-spawn fishing report 4-2-16

The KayakTournaments.com April tournament for North Carolina kicked off this weekend and I had the opportunity to fish about 6 hours over the first two days. A cold front was moving through the area both days and you will see the weather in my videos go from cloudy on Friday afternoon, to Raining on Saturday morning to clear skies Saturday evening. The fishing was slow on Friday with 5 bass total averaging around 12 inches, Saturday really picked up with the weather moving in. I landed 15-20 bass averaging 13-14 inches and lost one bass that was probably 16 inches. Water temperature was averaging 66 degrees but will drop slightly over this week.

The bass were chasing bait fish on the surface but they still aren’t quite aggressive enough to hit a fast moving topwater bait. The odd thing was they would hit my swimbaits that I was reeling in as close to the surface as I could, but wouldn’t touch an actual topwater lure.

The bass are starting to make their beds here in NC but all of the ones I have caught shallow are under 14 inches, meaning the large females are still holding on the ledges and points waiting for some warmer temperatures. I think another  week of 60-70 degree air temps will bring the females up to their spawning areas and really kick this spawning season off with a bang.

While I won’t give all my secrets away for what I am throwing color wise I will tell you flukes have been producing very well as shallow as I can throw them. I have hooked two quality fish on ledges and drop offs but lost both of them due to a faulty reel drag. The key to catching bass right now is to focus on the color selection (match the water color when possible) and also remember that bigger lures don’t always mean bigger fish, here in the last week the Jr. flukes have been destroying the super flukes in terms of hook ups and landed fish. I did catch one fish on a small Rapala original jerk-bait but like I have said the soft plastics up shallow have been the winning ticket.

All in all the first two days of this month’s tournament landed a 5 fish total of 67 inches. Five fish are on the board but I really need to increase the length to an average of 18 inches to have a good shot at a top 3 finish. Below is a video of the action this week and don’t forget to come back next Sunday for Next week’s fishing report.

Pre-Spawn Tactics

Hey everyone, thanks for checking out this weeks blog post. Pre-Spawn can range from february to april depending on where you live in the country. Texas bass are already on beds, here in North Carolina where I’m stationed for now. I have seen smaller bass on beds but the larger females are still staging on the drop offs. Keep in mind these are my top 3 baits for the area that I fish. This river is very dark and your area might have different baits that will blow mine out of the water. But in this river these are king.

Bass will be staging on drop ifs and water 3-8 feet deep with quick access to shallow water. Its good to fish these drop offs and small channels that lead into the small back section of creeks.

The 3 Best Pre Spawn Lures-

#1 Soft Jerk Baits aka Flukes, Small swim baits etc..

Flukes
Watermelon Red Flukes

My number one bait every trip this time of year is soft plastic jerk baits. Watermelon Red is my main color however i am experimenting with a Clear Bream sick fish bait and it has really impressed me.

Sick Fish
Berkley Havoc Sick Fish

#2 Hard Jerk Baits- Working the drop offs and ledges to locate the staging bass can be long and tiring. Jerk baits let you work those suspended bass, and still cover water more quickly than you could with a texas or carolina rig.

Jerkbaits
I prefer smaller Jerk baits than the larger ones

#3 – Lizards- On the bass start hugging the ledges and structure closer to their beds lizards can be a great way to stir up a bite. Bass are very aggressive in this stage and love taking their anger out on a magnum lizard.

IMG_0990
I like to throw oversized Worms and Lizards this time of year

Thanks for checking out our blog and come by on monday for my first full episode on youtube covering fishing the pre spawn cold snaps.

Here is a video form a trip this week. Thanks you guys and be safe out there.

Braid to Mono Leaders

Braided line has revolutionized fishing in the last 15 years, Now you can have a 20-30 lb line on your reel, with a 8-10lb mono equivalent diameter and twice the yardage of line on your reel. But braided line can’t do everything, It is stronger and more durable, but it also stands out dramatically in stained and clear water. One way to get rid of this problem is by tying a mono leader to the end of your line. The mono leader not only gets rid of line visibility near your lures, it provides a shock leader and some level of stretch for the larger fish you catch.

One trick I do is that when I tie a leader a tie a 4-5 foot section of leader, this eliminates the need for me to re-tie leaders after I switch lure and cut into it as often on the water, and provides a larger section of line not as visible to the fish. This saves time in my kayak and therefore gives me more time to target the fish.

Here are the two easiest and in my opinion best  knots that you can tie to go form a braided line to a mono leader.

#1 Double Uni Knot- By far the easiest and best Braid to Mono Knot

uni_to_uni_knot-ask_a_captain-the_online_fisherman.jpg
Courtesy of The onlineisherman.com

 

#2 The Blood Knot- A more difficult knot to tie but a stronger knot than the double uni.

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Courtesy of FlyFisherman.com
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