Launch, Troll, Land – Bryan Tena

BTB (Beyond the Breakers)

When some people think of kayak fishing, they often do not consider the potential for going offshore and chasing large fish species. Many folks still relate kayak fishing to an inshore, lake and small pond, or river venture. There is a growing subsect of kayak anglers, however, who beg to differ. In this short article I would like to take a moment and give you a breakdown of what basic skills and understanding an angler who is looking to venture offshore in a plastic boat should master. Offshore fishing for many is one of the most rewarding experiences– it is the epitome of freedom, you are on your own craft, and you are your own captain with no reliance on machines or other forms of propulsion, other than your own two arms or legs. 

The Launch

The start of any day offshore is launching from the beach. This can be tricky due to the surf; the extent of the trickiness depends heavily on your location, time of day, and wave size. Some of the ways to mitigate the difficulty of a successful kayak launch is know your water, know the weather and winds (as these will play a huge roll in your launch), and know what your kayak can handle. Knowing how to pick and choose sets is also a valuable tool when it comes to this type of kayak fishing. Before going out, check out sites like SwellInfo, Magicseaweed and Windfinder to get a general idea of the wave size and weather for your area to avoid wasting a trip. If it is too rough or the weather is not cooperating, put the trip off you – will be better off waiting. However if the weather is looks good and the surf report looks manageable, you are good to go! Follow these steps, they will help you have an easier time at offshore kayak fishing.

Watch the Surf

Watching the surf is one key aspect of getting offshore. Learning what to look for can be very valuable. Above, we noted to check apps and websites for wave heights, however these sites can offer information that is not completely accurate to our areas. That is why just watching the surf is the best way to judge any launch.

Sets

Learning sets, or the swell pattern, is a key skill that should be practiced by all offshore kayak anglers. These sets of waves begin off shore often brought up by storms or strong winds that reside offshore, and can travel miles, known as swells or “rollers”. Knowing how to pick apart these patterns can be the difference in getting off the beach on the first try or getting off the second or third try. A set usually begins with smaller waves coming in first and ending with the largest wave thus completing the set. These sets can last 1 minute or 15 – 20 minutes. Launching after the largest wave crashes is the best time to go. With all things kayak fishing, the timing and knowledge takes time and patience. One thing you will see way too often is guys getting to the beach and being in such a rush, they attempt to launch without taking the time to pay attention to this vital information. This usually leads to a rolled kayak and bruises.

GO!

Launching can be challenging especially in rougher surf. After picking your set, wait for that last large wave to crash. Once it has toppled over, hit the water. Wade to knee or thigh-deep water, or whatever depth makes it easiest to jump on your kayak. While holding your kayak with its bow into the waves, try to time your jump between waves (when the kayak is at the lowest point), jump in your kayak, grab your paddle and dig deep with long powerful strokes which are required to break past the current. Always keep your bow straight into the oncoming waves, always keep a paddle in the water, while in the launch phase this will act as a balance point and will help greatly with stability after breaking the surf. Looking awesome, you will be offshore in no time at safely beyond the crashing surf.

Note

Very important – if you miss your set or you miss your jump and the new set starts rolling in, do not let the waves push your kayak sideways with your body between the beach and kayak. This can be very dangerous – you do not want to be between your kayak and the shore when a wave picks it up. In this type of situation, you have two options – you can hold on tight to your kayak and lift the bow up as much as you can to help your kayak over the waves and try to keep the bow pointed into the breakers and if you lose your grip, be ready to chase your 150lb beast all the way to the shore and hope you had everything leashed up (this is from personal experience). Or while staying in the same relative position, attempt to spin your kayak, always keeping your body on the offshore side. Once spun around, lay back on your life vest and use your body as a drag and let the waves wash your kayak back to shore. You can do this with the bow facing the breakers, but I have found it’s easier from the stern.

Bait Tip: Most offshore bait; at least in the areas I fish, can be found in less than 20 feet of water in the early morning time. I will cover this topic more in a future article… Stay Tuned!

The Troll

Trolling live bait is one of the most productive ways to fish offshore. Controlling the speed and direction of your kayak is one of the first things a person should learn. Learning how bait swims under different speeds, how to keep it from spinning, how to make it look as natural as possible, and so on can maximize your day on the water.

Speed

While trolling, try to keep your speed between 2-3 mph, as this will give your bait the proper action. Because you do not have a 300hp motor pushing your kayak, this is the best speed. You can go slower if it is choppy or speed up if it’s flat, although it can be difficult to maintain a faster speed. One reason you might adjust your speed to a slower troll is choppy water, which can often jerk and twitch your bait unnaturally. While trolling rougher water, I will also let out more line than normal to add a buffer between my bait and my kayak. In calmer water, I troll slower, saving energy for longer trips offshore while still giving my bait the best natural presentation.

Don’ts and Do’s

Don’t troll up current. Trolling up current wastes energy, time, and does not produce near as well as a natural down-current troll. It is very common for newer guys and gals to just pick a direction and go – this can waste time as predators do not waste energy going against the current and neither does bait. Predators are not dumb or at least the bigger ones are not. Fish like king fish will hit almost any bait but will avoid a bait going against the current.

Do troll with the current if at all possible. Just keep in mind that if the current does not turn, you will be returning into a current. To mitigate this, I will troll diagonally across the current in a zig-zag pattern often covering a half a mile to 2 miles between zig and zag. This method assists with covering large areas and maximizing bait exposure or better put “more distance means more chances at more fish”.

Land – “the fun part”

Some guys surf it in, some folks paddle it in, some even bail and swim it to shore. This part of the trip is often classified “do what works best for you”. While surfing it in is fun and exciting, it often ends badly if you are not experienced in the art of surfing a kayak. Backing in is, in my opinion, the simplest and easiest way to land your kayak.

Backing In

This method, while not as glamorous as some of the other ways, is simple, effective, and safer. Begin sitting outside the break zone. Watch the sets (take what you read above and apply the same logic and skill here). The surf may have changed since you launched, so be aware. After spending some time securing gear and watching the surf, face your bow toward the oncoming waves and let them push you backwards always making sure your bow is facing into them. Once you are in the break zone, paddle into the wave when it breaks, once it has crashed, back paddle using the force of the backside of the wave to pull you in. You can also paddle backwards between waves if you are in a hurry, but for the most part, the waves will get you back to shore on their own. Repeat until you are safely on the beach. Be sure to show off your catch to any tourists… They love it.

While offshore fishing is exciting and a true rush, I cannot emphasize safety enough. Some of the things I suggest would be always to wear your PFD, have a VHF radio on hand, ensure loved ones know where you are fishing for the day, and exercise the buddy rule especially when it is your first time offshore. The kayak community is full of great guys and gals who have been there and done that who are a well of knowledge and almost always willing to share their knowledge with the newer folks to our epic sport. Like I stated above, this is just a snippet, I will be covering these topics more individually. I look forward with sharing my knowledge and experiences with each, and every one of you. Tight lines and I hope to see ya’ll on the water someday.


Bio:

Kayak: Jackson Kayak Cuda 14

Years Experience: freshwater: 2 and a half years, Saltwater: almost 2 years

Favorite Technique: Speed Jigging