Once a kayak angler is on the water, any time not spent fishing is a distraction. We’re not talking about paddling around and enjoying nature and the beauty of Southwest Florida. The time spent relaxing and escaping the intensity of life ashore is essential to our physical and psychological health these days. It’s the time spent rigging and re-rigging terminal tackle that we try to minimize.
There are several riggings that are flexible and can save time as an angler moves from one area to another. Kayak fishermen are constantly moving from very shallow flats and oyster bars to deeper flats and channels. These different areas require different terminal tackle.
Bass tournament anglers avoid re-rigging time by hauling multiple (sometimes a dozen or more) rigged rods along on the front deck. Kayak fishermen are more limited on space and must make do with just a couple of rods that work for various scenarios.
One of the most versatile pieces of terminal tackle is the jig. If we are fishing really shallow stuff — less than 2 feet deep — we tie on a 1/16-ounce jighead to enable a slower retrieve, then thread on a soft plastic tail. To fish even slower, we sometimes shift to a weedless setup using a 1/16-ounce bullet head weight ahead of a wide-gap 2/0 hook.
The nearly limitless choices in tail colors, size and action make this an easy choice for kayak anglers to bring along because a bunch of these will fit in a small package. In addition, jigheads with their single hook are far safer in a kayak than lures with multiple treble hooks. We have probably mentioned this before.
For deeper flats, an 1/8-ounce jighead works better. It has a faster dive rate on the pause, which triggers strikes as your target fish pursues it into the grass. Of all the colors available, we tend to stay close to natural bait colors. DOA 3-inch plastic shad are our favorites, and the colors rainbow trout, greenback, stark naked, white and golden shiner all fit this category.
Should the need or opportunity to switch to a bait arise, jigheads do a good job of holding a shrimp or pinfish on the bottom and upright when chin hooked. Many a redfish has been taken by dragging a shrimp across a sandhole on a jighead. If you’re taking two rods along, start with one rigged with a jighead.
We like to have a few shrimp along for insurance, so we recommend a second rod rigged and ready for live bait. We usually set up this rod with a couple of feet of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader and a 1/0 or 2/0 live bait hook. This works great for drifting a shrimp behind the kayak while prospecting with lures ahead of the boat. A popping cork allows for controlled depth presentation and keeps the shrimp easy to find above the grassy bottom.
For weight we use a variety of splitshot sizes from tiny to huge. This avoids the need to use sliding weights and swivels. We often use a small splitshot to get the bait deeper and away from the birds that are always on the lookout for an easy meal. Because a splitshot on a leader won’t tangle up like a sliding sinker rig does, this is an additional time saver between casts. If you do use a sliding sinker rig, try giving it a good pull after it hits the water. This straightens out the rig as it sinks and prevents many tangles.
As kayak anglers, we want to do everything possible while hauling the minimum amount of stuff along. Time spent re-rigging is sometimes necessary, but we try to keep it to a minimum. These two basic rigging styles will save a lot of time for most anglers. Pack a few different jigheads, a baggie of soft plastics, a small spool of leader, a few hooks and splitshots all in a small plastic box, and you’ll be ready for most anything that comes along while kayak fishing in Southwest Florida.
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of the waterproof “Angler’s Guide to Shore Fishing Southwest Florida” and “Angler’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Southwest Florida,” contribute these columns to promote the excellent fishing available in Southwest Florida. Their books are available at most tackle shops in the area, AnglerPocketGuides.com, or Amazon as a download or hard copy.