Whenever I teach a fishing seminar, I can predict with a fair degree of certainty the topics that will arise from the audience. Braid or mono. Live bait versus lures. Favorite lures and retrieve techniques. Terminal rigging. Knots. Rod length preference. Boxers, briefs or commando. Okay, just checking to see if you’re paying attention.
Rods, reels, line and lures are obvious fishing necessities. In addition to those essential tools, someone always asks what accessories they need to catch fish and rig the kayak.
When I got rid of my center console boat years ago, a desire for simplicity factored significantly into the decision. I discovered that the few items I truly needed to catch fish fit very nicely into a kayak, and I became a real minimalist. There is, however, a short list of items that I’d hate to kayak fish without.
While I occasionally venture offshore in search of snapper, tarpon, sailfish or other pelagics, the vast majority of my fishing is done in less than two feet of water. The one vital accessory — actually a necessity — is a good pair of polarized sunglasses. To the uninitiated observer, it may appear that I make a thousand random casts every day. In reality, I try to have a reason for each cast I make. Without polarized glasses, the water’s surface effectively hides most of what I want to target: nervous water, a subtle bar extending off a point, a sand hole in an otherwise homogeneous grassflat, a clump of oysters, the dark line signaling a shoreline trough, perhaps the fish itself. Those anomalies are virtually impossible to pick out without the aid of polarized sunglasses, particularly from the low position afforded from a kayak seat. In addition to exponentially enhancing my view beneath the surface, they provide vital protection from UV rays. Most anglers prefer brown lenses for inshore use, by the way.
The next three items, while not vital, just make kayak fishing more efficient and enjoyable.
Boomerang Snips, for my purposes, are the greatest fishing innovation of the last decade. Weighing in at a mere ounce, the compact tool slices through braid, mono and fluorocarbon, creating flush knots quickly and cleanly. Attach the Snips’ spring-loaded lanyard to a carabiner, hang it from a fishing shirt, out of the way, yet precisely where it’s needed. I don’t have to worry about dropping it overboard, and it stays with me if I get out to wade-fish. Rinse the salt off at the end of the day, and they last for years. Truly a bargain for around 10 bucks.
I don’t haul what I would consider a lot of excessive gear; every pound of stuff slows the kayak. More importantly, rods, anchor, tackle boxes, PFD, bug spray, reel oil, sunscreen, drink, camera, lip gripper and hook remover (okay, it sounds like a lot of stuff when you list it) can quickly clutter a kayak’s limited deck space, making it tougher to find what I need in a hurry. Hobie’s H-Crate organizes and compacts gear out of the way but within easy reach. Load the box with all those items before leaving the house, and the H-Crate decreases launching and loading time and effort at the water. I just toss it in the tankwell when fishing inshore, but it also allows me to safely lock down my rods if heading out through rough surf.
Kayakers are going to get wet, intentionally or otherwise. My devoted convection boot dryer has operated silently and continuously behind the door in my office for over a decade, circulating warm air inside damp wading shoes, boots, hip and chest waders, waterproof socks and gloves — whatever the season calls for. Slipping into toasty wading boots is way better than a cup of hot coffee on a cold morning, and infinitely preferable to sliding feet into damp, cold and stinky boots. Should I somehow manage to fill waders with saltwater, I simply hose them out, slip them over the dryer, and they’re magically warm and dry by morning. The boot dryer eliminates odors, mildew and other cooties, as well as extending the life of the boots by preventing rot. They’re sold under a variety of names, but most originate from long-time manufacturer Peet. Even though it may not help me catch more fish, at $30 the dryer is perhaps the best – and certainly most maintenance-free – outdoor accessory I’ve ever invested in.
I fish hard suspending twitchbaits and topwater plugs most of the time. I switch out at least one treble hook — generally both when the water warms up — for singles on all my hard baits. Single hooks damage fish less, and make releases quicker and safer for me. Singles are also much stronger than factory trebles, so I don’t have to worry about big fish crushing or bending hooks. Performing that switch requires a simple but specialized tool — split ring pliers. The little tool spreads the split ring wire, making hook exchanges easy.
Another trip to the dermatologist tells me I should have made more use of this accessory — fishing gloves. Fishing gloves fall under two categories — protection from the sun and protection from fish teeth and bills. Lightweight Fish Monkey sun gloves provide 50 UV protection without inadvertently adding odor to lures or baits. They’re available in a variety of wrist and finger lengths. For anyone who’s ever lipped a big tarpon bare-handed or grabbed the raspy bill of a sailfish, no explanation required for including a pair of Gripper Series gloves in your offshore gear box.