Paddle boats offer no-hassle summer fishing, and this avid angler shares his tips for making the most of the quickly growing sport.
Jody Wood effortlessly paddled his camouflaged KC kayak into the brisk wind through a maze of shallow-water stumps before he turned the boat to face an open pocket just ahead.
He tossed a white spinnerbait across the opening and slow-rolled it past a little bed of dollar pads in a deeper hole.
“It’s a good one!” Wood said as he took turns reeling the bass toward the boat and letting the bass pull the kayak toward it. “Having a big bass drag you around in a kayak is awesome. It’s one of the most fun things you can do fishing.”
In short order, the angler was admiring the healthy largemouth from the back seat of the small boat. It was one in a growing number of fishing scenes that add credence to why kayak fishing is a growing trend in the Bayou State.
“It would have been hard to get to that spot in a bigger boat in this kind of water, especially in the wind,” Wood said. “Kayaks and other small boats are not only fun to fish out of but they can put you in spots to fish that other boats just can’t.”
His 8-year-old son Hudson agreed, but the youngster urged his father yo quit talking and move him back where he could cast toward the same spot for another keeper bass.
A whole new world of fishing
The elder Wood isn’t one to overlook fishing boats of any size. As co-owner of Wood Marine in Ruston, he deals with people’s boating needs on a daily basis — from 8-foot kayaks to 20-foot bass boats with 250-horsepower motors.
“Kayaks, canoes and smaller boats aren’t for everybody, but people who don’t give them a try are missing out on a lot of fishing fun and opportunities,” he said. “Paddling a boat also allows you to fish areas without having to worry about the noise of a trolling motor or getting hung up on stumps and logs.”
Across the lake, wife Jodi and their 5-year-old daughter Kate were fishing in another kayak, catching bunches of bluegills and seemingly having even more fun.
“That’s the neat thing about these boats, too: There’s nothing like taking your kids out in a kayak or canoe and teaching them to fish,” Jody Wood added. “It’s an easy, no-hassle way to get on the water.
“No boat ramps. No batteries to charge. Just you and the fish.”
He said the popularity of kayaks for fishing is partially because of the innovation of the boats.
“Boats like this KC12 are very stable, and that makes fishing out of them more comfortable,” Wood said. “And they are built to accommodate dozens of accessories for one or two people.
“Another thing is the great amount of information on where to go now available on handheld devices with Internet access. People can find out everything about smaller lakes like Lincoln Parish Lake near our hometown of Ruston or just about any small body of water anywhere in the state.”
Transporting made easier
He said current vehicle trends have encouraged more kayak fishing.
“I think the growth in popularity of SUVs has also helped make it easier to transport multiple kayaks, and take the whole family or friends and boats in one vehicle via trailer or car-top carriers,” Wood said.
Choosing a kayak for fishing does take some effort. You need to find out what you want in a boat and look for those options.
Once you have one, the main advantage of fishing a kayak will become obvious quickly.
“Fishing out of a kayak is just so peaceful,” Wood said. “Most of the time you are by yourself in the boat, and you can get back in some places other boats can’t. You never know what you might find around the next bend or at the back of the next cove.
“Being close to the water also puts you more in touch with the lake and conditions.”
Kayaking as a family
Larger kayaks also provide great opportunities for families to enjoy fishing together.
“We often go to the 16-acre lake at our camp, and I’m able to put a life vest on my son, give him the paddle and let him go fishing,” Wood said. “Of course, I’m close by, but it teaches him how to handle the boat and learn to fish.
“Then, when we want, we can change to the two-seat configuration and interact together for a very enjoyable time.”
Catching fish is important, too, but it isn’t on the top of the list for most kayakers.
“My favorite way to fish out of a kayak is with a spinnerbait or topwater,” Wood said. “That’s what I recommend. My favorite color is white, but that can vary with the color of the water. Chartreuse is good, also.
“It is important to be able to fish with baits that you can hit multiple points with fast and retrieve rather quickly. Even on still days, the kayak will be moving, and you have to allow for that.”
In the summer, he also goes to a worm or other soft-plastic bait, but it is hard to sit in one spot long enough to work it property unless you make short casts.
One thing kayak fishermen must do is plan ahead.
There is limited space, so if you are serious about fishing, you have to determine what species you are going after and make sure you carry the right gear — but not a lot of extra gear.
There just isn’t room.
Wood’s must-have list obviously starts with the boat. His preference for the KC12 goes to the basics: It’s 12 feet long, weighs only 60 pounds and is 34 inches wide.
When it comes to gear, he’s usually bass fishing so he carries one or two 7-foot Impulse rods with Lew’s Speed Spool reels spooled up with 10- to 12-pound Stren.
He doesn’t have a favorite brand, but Wood recommends a double-ended lightweight paddle. He uses a 96-inch model for fishing sitting down, but he recommends you look at longer paddles if you plan to stand and fish a lot.
A manual or self-inflating life jacket also is best because it doesn’t restrict your movements, is cooler in the summer and takes up less room in the boat when you aren’t wearing it.
“Although it doesn’t happen often, you obviously have a better chance of ending up in the water fishing in a kayak than in a big bass boat, so (a life jacket) is a critical piece of equipment,” Wood said.
Other key items can include a small anchor, a soft-sided ice chest, a stringer or small fish basket and even a portable depth finder.
“All that is up to the individual,” Wood said. “And if you don’t need all that, the best thing about kayak fishing is you can just grab a rod and a small tackle box and hit the water.
“You are ready to go.”