Kayakers are initially concerned with making their kayak go. No doubt about it, paddling is a skill best learned on the water. Kayak anglers, though, often find themselves needing to slow down or even stop to fish a spot for a while. Just like a boat, there are no brakes. Reverse thrust works for an outboard engine — but it’s just one of the ways to stop in a kayak. First, let’s look at the basics of how to make your kayak go before we look at how to stop it:
• Make sure you are holding the paddle right side up.
• Put the entire blade of the paddle in the water. This gets the most thrust and is a lot quieter.
• For cruising, be sure to push with the high hand while pulling with the low hand.
• For turning, extend the pusher paddle outward for turning leverage.
• Use a reverse stroke to turn corners in tight places (and to avoid spider webs!).
• Take advantage of the glide when pacing your strokes.
• Use the angle settings on your paddle when going into the wind; this lowers your wind resistance.
That’s about it, except for lots of finesse points that will get you where you’re going with enough energy left to fish. Now, let’s bring that kayak off plane and slow down to fish a good spot. Why slow down? Because you just saw a redfish tail ahead of you, a snook chasing bait in a mangrove pocket, or maybe just some sweet habitat.
The obvious reverse paddle stroke will both slow and turn you, so use short strokes on both sides to maintain your heading and try to avoid hitting the side of your kayak with the paddle. While this works, it’s a noisy way to tap the brakes.
If you’re just slowing down, coasting to a stop works but will happen quicker if you put your feet over the side. For course corrections while slowing down, just use one foot or the other. This is also a good way to steer your drift across a flat.
The best investment a kayak angler can make is a drift anchor or drift sock. This parachute type accessory is attached to a kayak without the rope extension. It can be quietly deployed to slow a drift and can even direct the drift by switching sides.
Anchors are essential equipment for kayak anglers. We use the smallest folding anchors available and deploy them from the back of our kayaks. Trolleys are useful to deploy the anchor from the bow or stern, or anywhere in between. Dropping anchor from the stern works best when drifting downwind. We like to cast downwind to the target for distance, and anchoring from the stern automatically positions you facing downwind toward the feeding fish. For anchoring in a current or wading away from the kayak, we carry a larger folding anchor.
Stake-out poles are popular and effective over a shallow, soft bottom. They don’t work on shell or hard sand. Spots like that require an anchor to hold. Graphite poles are available if you can afford them. We made our poles out of used fiberglass shuffleboard cues by removing the fork end and epoxying metal point in place.
Attaching the stake-out pole to the kayak with a bungee cord eliminates the shock load that can dislodge the pole. Attach the bungee to your pole at water level for maximum hold. This will require a sliding, adjustable attachment.
Finally, what we call a mangrove anchor or clip anchor is a handy addition to a kayak angler’s equipment. We use a medium-sized spring clamp with about 10 feet of parachute cord for this. You can clip to a mangrove branch or PVC pipe sticking out of the water, loop it around a piling, or even use it to tow your kayak. It’s a handy way to quickly attach the kayak to almost anything.
So, even though you have no brakes, there are many ways to slow or stop a kayak. Kayak anglers can’t explore endless miles of water looking for a hot bite. It’s better for us to go silently into places fish feel secure and cover each area slowly and thoroughly using the various techniques above. Slow down and fish every little spot. You’ll catch more fish with less paddling.
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of the waterproof “Angler’s Guide to Shore Fishing” 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 or at AnglerPocketGuides.com as a download or waterproof hard copy.