Most anglers agree that the most effective way to consistently put fish in the kayak is to fish sub surface. I love to fish top water and enjoy the explosive strikes as much as anyone, but I catch the majority of my fish below the surface.
When fishing the bays and inshore flats, I like to have a combination of lures that I can present throughout the water column. I target redfish, speckled trout, flounder, jack crevalle and many other species using this “top to bottom” approach. My sub-surface arsenal consists mainly of four types of lures; the suspending jerk bait, suspending twitch bait, crank bait and swim bait jig combo.
My favorite way to search, find and catch fish sub-surface is with suspending jerk baits. Depending on the lure, I fish an erratic-fast-retrieve to a twitch-pause-rise cadence and everything in between. These types of lures allow you to fish from just below the surface all the way to or near the bottom. The length of its bill determines how deep the bait will run. Jerk baits can entice powerful reaction strikes as well as lure in wary fish that may not be actively feeding. Some of my go-to jerk baits are the Rapala Shadow Rap Shad, standard and deep diver, the LiveTarget Glass Minnow, Yearling and Shiner Jerkbaits and the Lucky Craft Pointer Minnow.
Suspending twitch baits offer a more subtle approach. Like jerk baits, these lures can also be fished just below the surface all the way to the bottom. The weight of the lure will determine what depth you can effectively fish it. I use my twitch baits when the water is really clear or under calm conditions. These lures are typically fished with a slower retrieve. The strikes often come on the pause when your line is slack. Having new sharp hooks is imperative. I upgrade all my jerk bait and twitch bait hooks to Owner 2X stinger trebles. In my twitch tackle box you will find the MirrOlure MR17 MirrOdine, Catch 5 and Catch 2000 as well as the Paul Brown Original, Fat Boy and Soft-Dine lures. The Rapala Twitchin’ Minnow and Twitchin’ Mullet both cast great and work well on all retrieves. They also come stock with inline J hooks, which help when fishing with floating grass.
With both Jerk and Twitch baits, it’s all about the cadence. I switch up my twitch and pause combinations as well as the speed of retrieve and length of pauses. When you get a strike, repeat that cadence.
When needing to cover a large amount of water, I tie on a lipless crankbait the appropriate weight to work the water depth I am fishing. Some crank baits come in hard and soft versions. These lures make plenty of noise and work great on a steady retrieve. A rip-pause retrieve will often result in violent reaction strikes. In deeper water a yo-yo or vertical jigging style can precisely pick apart the entire water column. The LiveTarget Pinfish and Sebile Flatt Shad both come in three different sizes and great colors and are staples in my tackle box.
And finally, I always have a soft plastic paddle tail swimbait jig combo. This versatile bait allows me to cover the entire water column with many different presentations. I carry jigs from 1/16 ounce all the way up to 2 ounces and swim baits 2 to 14 inches long. I jig, swim, hop, drag and dead stick these lures depending on the situation. For my smaller swim baits, I use the Slayer Inc. SST XL and SSB. The Hogy Lures 6.5 and 9 inch Pro Tails are pre-rigged swim baits molded around weighted VMC Barbarian Jig Hooks and are hard to beat when casting to big game inshore species. Hogy also has the HDUV (heavy duty ultra violet) Jiggin’ Eels and Paddle Tails in 7- to 9-inch offerings which can be rigged on Barbarian Jigs.
I use these four bait types to effectively cover the water column and consistently put fish in my Hobie kayak on saltwater flats, and in bays and passes. These lures and techniques can be utilized in any body of water, fresh or salt from coast to coast with success. Using the “top to bottom” approach to cover the water column sub surface will help you find where the fish are & hopefully get the strike you are looking for.
Check back weekly for new videos and stories by the Hobie Fishing Top Guns.