The Kayak as a Fishing Machine


Photo: Everyday Adventures by Terry Tomalin

With prices at the pump bound to again start pushing ever upward, people powered paddle craft look ever more attractive. They have become the fishing platform of choice for many Sunshine State anglers. And apparently, the clear paddler’s preference is the kayak. Why kayaks and not canoes? Neil Taylor of Clearwater, one of a growing legion of kayak guides, sites the fact that, first and foremost, they are very affordable and convenient to use. He also notes that solo fishermen are able to easily maneuver and handle these light weight vessels, especially when dealing with winds and waves. Does it take much effort to paddle a kayak? “With the proper paddle stroke they glide easily and track well.”

Of great concern to all who fish, is diminishing water access. Ever more ramps and marinas disappear from our local landscape each year. But with a kayak, one can launch from virtually any available shoreline and start fishing.

As has been the case for many of today’s kayak aficionados, Taylor began as a shorebound wadefisher. “Nothing’s more frustrating than seeing fish feeding a hundred yards away and knowing that you’d practically drown trying to get to them,” He said. “I actually used to swim across certain areas to get to fish. But then when I got a kayak it opened up all those waters for me, plus some even further out than that.”

In the winter, when the tides are ultra low, one can get out of the kayak and portage (pick it up) to make it to those holes where the fish are all bunched up. It’s a sort of captive fish audience only available to those who can get there in a light weight, easily maneuverable craft.

According to Taylor, most ages –including seniors — are definitely capable. “But anyone who’s considering kayak fishing should take a paddle class before they get out there. There, they will learn proper techniques for paddling a kayak — which can prevent shoulder and elbow injuries. He said that a well taught paddle stroke results in a comfortable grip — about a shoulder-width apart. “Then you’re doing a little swivel with your body as you dip the paddle in and out. I personally think you should have a little bit of bend in your torso and a little bit of bounce to your arms.”

Some say kayaks are more of a wadefishing device than anything else. “For most kayakers, it’s the “transportation-mobile,” said Taylor. “50 percent of the time they’re fishing in their kayaks, and the other 50 percent, getting out and wading,”

Now if you’re one who does’nt like getting wet, you may not take too well to a kayak. For one thing, you’re literally inches from the water and the likelihood of getting what yakers call ‘swamp butt’ is very real. But Taylor suggests that you can stay relatively dry by paying attention to the waves and boat wakes. “Now if you’re not aware of these water disturbances, you will get soaked – and stay wet the rest of the day.”

Are some kayak designs wetter than others? “The driest are what I call ‘“the big man kayaks’ — like Malibu or Ocean kayaks,” said Taylor. “They’re all ‘sit-on-tops’ and are probably the driest. Now they are slower than the other kayaks but, because of their stability, you can literally sit on the edge of them and not sink it.”

Comfort and stability: Neil demonstrates sidesaddle casting.Casting from a kayak requires a different angle than from a power boat. “It would be like you’re fishing out of a power boat, sitting with your legs out in from of you the entire time. The other big difference is that working a lure is a little more effective doing it out of a kayak, because you’re right down next to the water.”

Another major advantage of kayak fishing is that, if one selects good launch sites and study the tides, they can get to their fishing spot with relative ease. “And then you can quietly glide into an area without the fish even knowing you’re there — until you hook one of them,” added Taylor.

Most paddle fishers often get out of the kayak to wade fish or just stretch their legs. Taylor anchors his kayak using an anchor trolley. “I can attach the two ropes, and then clip that to my belt. The rest of the line will just run up and catch on the pulleys that are on the other end. That’s a wade line. Now if I don’t want to have the kayak tethered to me, and wanna walk around a little bit , I jam a stakeout pole into the ground and the kayak just floats in place there. It’s not gonna go anywhere. Now if I want to keep walking, I have the rope clipped on to my belt, and the kayak just floats behind me as I walk.”

Taylor said that many kayaks have a deep seat “and recommends upgrading to a nice high back seat. “Surf to Summit” make a seat that is great, especially for anyone who’s gonna do a lot of paddle fishing. That’s probably your best investment for preventing back problems, and for your overall comfort.”

He rigs the craft with about three rod holders; a 3 lb claw anchor; and a standard paddle. “For people who go long distances, the more expensive, lighter paddle makes it somewhat easier and more comfortable to propel the kayak.”

Now there are available live wells for kayaks but, according to Taylor, very few yakers have them. “I personally just use the standard bait bucket whenever I fish with live bait. And then I take the extra time when I’m traveling to dip them down in the water.

What about dry storage? “For my cell phone and hand held GPS, I actually use your standard Zip-Loc freezer bag. Now more expensive dry storage packaging is available at most kayak shops – but the freezer bags work just fine for me.”

Right behind where one sits in a kayak there’s an area that’s indented called a tank well. It was named so by those who use kayaks to go diving. “Most kayaks have that tank compartment which I usually use as space for my milk crate where I store the extra rod holders and all my tackle. Some use that space for a cooler, but my preference that milk crate, which takes the place of expensive rod holders. With some PVC pipe cut into 12-inch sections and affixed to the crate, it’s a really cheap way to take multiple rod holders along with you.”

Taylor usually has at least three rods with him for most outings with a different kind of lure tied on to each outfit for various fishing situations.

How much would one have to spend for the typical kayak fishing machine? “Brand new, and fully equipped, it would be about a thousand dollars,” said Taylor. ”Typically, someone who might use their kayak for a while and decide it’s not for them can usually re-sell it for about six or seven hundred dollars.”

Neil Taylor runs his kayak charters all over the Tampa Bay area. For more information, call 727-692-6345, or visit his web site at