Kayak anglers face many disadvantages. One of the biggest is fishing while seated. Fishing works better when you’re standing. Casting is easier and working the lure is more effective when the fishing rod is higher off the water. Standing also makes it easier to see into the water. But standing in a kayak ain’t easy. Getting up is the hardest part and, if you manage to find your feet, balancing all day on a moving surface will leave your legs rubbery. That’s if you don’t end up wet. We went to six of the top standup anglers in the sport for their sight fishing tips and tricks. Here’s what we learned.
6 Pro Anglers Share Their Sight Fishing Tips and Tricks
Titans of Tennessee
Angler: Bridgett Howard
Accolades: Jackson Kayak Pro staff
Location: Middle Tennessee
Target Species: Largemouth bass
Boat or Board: Howard chooses Jackson Kayak’s SUPerFISHal, a rotomolded standup paddleboard. “So much of the board is in the water,” Howard explains, “which improves stability.” The rotomolded plastic makes the board tough and easy to rig with rod holders, electronics and storage. Howard leaves the boxfins out. “I can go in less than two inches of water,” she says.
Rigging: For standup anglers, a cooler is more than just an icebox. The padded top makes it easy for Howard to stand on and fish. On a paddleboard, a cooler offers a place to add more accessories, like rod holders and tie-downs. Before standing on a cooler be sure it will hold your weight.
Standing Theory: Howard suggests standing with feet as wide as possible, one slightly in front of the other. Keep the knees bent to absorb wobbles and bobbles. “The cooler sits high off the deck, so it makes standing up and sitting down an easy transition.”
Tactics: “Working a Texas-rigged tube along a brush pile and seeing a bronze bullet flash out of the shadows is a surefire way to test your patience,” Howard admits. She suggests waiting for the fish to turn away before setting the hook. “The immediate reaction is to haul back hard,” she explains, “but that will just snatch the lure away from the fish.” Different lures and different fish require different tactics to set the hook. Treble hooks require a short pause and strong hook set. Single hooks find their mark with less force. If the fish charges, crank fast. If it runs, lower the rod tip and come tight. Fish behavior changes from day to day. Observe how the fish respond and adjust tactics.
Essential Goodies and Gadgets: For a better view, many anglers turn a cooler into a standing platform. Orion coolers have a padded lid for standing and sitting comfort. Gear tracks make it easy to attach accessories and integrated bottle openers are handy at the take-out.
Dress Right: A good fishing hat does more than look cool. Start with a hat that is wind and rain resistant. Add a long brim with dark underside. The Fishing Hat by 12wt uses a special felt black brim to absorb sunlight and protect the eyes.
New England Fish Chowder
Angler: Sean Callinan
Accolades: Yale University Fly Fishing Instructor
Location: Clinton, Connecticut
Target Species: Striped bass, bluefish, false albacore
Boat or Board: Pau Hana Big EZ Angler Ricochet has a rock hard shell that is ding and scratch resistant. Callinan believes a hard board is the most efficient paddling platform because the board doesn’t flex or bend. “At 36 inches wide, the Big EZ is plenty stable,” Callinan adds. The board is rigged with counter-sunk attachment points that accept accessories such as rod holders, tie-downs and camera mounts.
Rigging: “Keep rod holders and gear behind you when casting,” Callinan insists. He mounts vertical rod holders on either side of his cooler and standing platform. “I keep the rod holder on my casting side clear while I’m fishing,” he explains.
Standing Theory: To fish all day, Callinan says you must be relaxed. “Relax your feet and your legs,” he suggests. “Keep your knees soft.” Change positions and take breaks to relieve fatigue. When fly fishing on his feet, Callinan wears shoes with no laces. “I eliminate anything that could snag my line.” He suggests kneeling or sitting to fight a big fish. “Lowering my center of gravity gives me more leverage,” he explains.
Tactics: When he’s approaching fish, Callinan will kneel or sit on the SUP to stay out of the fish’s line of sight. “Always stay a cast away from bait pods,” he says. Mastering a long cast will allow the angler to pull more than one fish from a frenzy. Fish are most nervous when they are near the surface. Staying low and camouflaging your silhouette allows you to get closer to the fish.
Essential Goodies and Gadgets: The right paddle will propel a standup paddleboard into current and wind. Look for the lightest blade with the stiffest shaft. A reinforced edge on the blade will suffer the abuse of fishing shallow water over rough bottom. Some paddles have an adjustable shaft to fit any size paddler. Check out Bending Branches AMP SUP paddle with a modern carbon shaft and traditional wood blade.
Dress Right: The only thing connecting a standup angler to his kayak is the bottom of his feet. Wearing the right shoes goes a long way to keeping the angler comfortable and upright. Soles should drain water and uppers must dry quickly. The best shoes, like Keen’s Uneek, will have a thin foot bed to lower the angler’s center of gravity and improve boat-feel.
Diablo in the Details
Angler: Grant Braudrick
Accolades: Diablo Paddlesports Pro staff
Location: North Central Texas
Target Species: Largemouth Bass
Boat or Board: Diablo’s The Adios is a rotomolded hybrid between a standup paddleboard and sit-on-top kayak. This makes the boat or board tough enough to bounce around rocks and light enough to carry. “It’s the best of both worlds,” Braudrick says.
Rigging: An anchor makes it easy to stop the kayak and sight fish. Braudrick rigs an anchor trolley on each side of his boat. “That gives me ultimate control,” he says, “so I can position the boat how I want.” Braudrick insists that the anchor trolley lines must not bang against the hull. “That could spook the fish,” he explains.
Standing Theory: Make sure the deck is clear of anything that might interfere with standing. Move electronics, rod holders and accessories out of the way. Look for a flat deck with closed-cell foam padding for comfort and grip.
Tactics: Practice making accurate casts between fishing trips. Set up targets in an open space and practice underhand and overhand casts. Be sure to practise with different size and weight lures under a variety of weather conditions. Remember to lead a moving fish by several feet. If you miss, let the lure drop before retrieving. Sometimes the fish will hear the splash and turn to investigate. When sight casting, the fish may only give you one chance so be sure you can hit the mark when it counts.
Essential Goodies and Gadgets: To anchor from a SUP or kayak, use an anchor trolley to run the line to the bow or stern. The downside: the rope and rigging can snag lines and lures. YakAttack’s new Stealth pulley keeps the ropes close to the boat and reduces sharp edges that could snag. The low friction pulley won’t corrode or squeak.
Dress Right: Sight casting requires full sun, and that calls for full-body coverage. The only way to prevent skin damage is to cover the skin. Long pants and long sleeve shirts are mandatory. Light materials actually stay cooler than exposed skin baking in the sun. Stio’s CFS Board Pant is made of stretchy material that dries fast. The pant-cuffs are weighted so they won’t ride up and they tie at the waist with low-profile board short strings.
Angler: Tim Perkins
Accolades: Wilderness Systems Tournament Pro
Location: Heflin, Alabama
Target Species: Alabama, shoal, largemouth, smallmouth bass
Boat or Board: At six feet tall and more than 50 years of age, Tim Perkins likes the sturdy platform of a sit-inside hybrid for stand-up fishing. “I’m looking for a pontoon-style hull that moves most of the volume away from the keel,” he explains. “Standing lower in the boat increases stability.” Perkins’ Wilderness Systems Commander features the open cockpit of a canoe with an elevated seat best powered by a double-blade paddle.
Standing Theory: During long days on the water, Perkins looks for any advantage. He chooses a boat that allows him to lean or change his position. “In the Commander I can lean my calves against the gunwale for extra support,” he says. Other kayaks offer a leaning bar to hold. A leaning bar also offers a point to mount rod holders and a paddle holder. Make it easier to stand up or sit down with a stand-assist strap attached to the front of the cockpit.
Tactics: “Standing offers an advantage when fishing heavy structure,” Perkins says. Keeping the rod tip low makes it easier to skip a bait under an overhang. “And I can make precise casts into the structure for a better presentation.” Standing also improves the hook-set. Bringing the rod higher will drive the hook into the fish’s mouth. If the fish is on the surface, setting the hook with the rod tip low will prevent you from ripping the fish out of the water. Perkins puts it this way: “Fishing just works better while standing.”
Essential Goodies and Gadgets: For the dedicated standup angler, a stand-assist bar will improve balance and provide for quicker fishing. The best bars attach to the deck with a gear track. Fold the bar down to paddle and lift up to fish. Attach a paddle holder and a rod holder so you don’t have to lean over to go from fishing to paddling.
Angler: AJ Morton
Accolades: FeelFree Pro Team
Location: Potomac River, Maryland
Boat or Board: A wide and sturdy boat is essential for fishing the weed-choked rivers and ponds that snakehead call home. Morton uses the FeelFree Lure 11.5 that is stable and short enough to bushwhack after hiding snakes. The flat deck with minimal accessories gives Morton room to move around.
Rigging: Ironically, the most important rigging for stand-up anglers is the seat. A high-low seat gives the option of paddling in the more stable low position, and then fishing with better visibility in the high position. The high position also makes it easier to stand and sit. The best seats will even fold away to give the angler more deck space where the boat is most stable. “Look for a seat that easily goes from high to low positions,” Morton stresses. “I can raise or lower the seat while I’m still sitting in it.”
Standing Theory: “Test the limits of the boat by leaning hard to left and right,” Morton says. Moving forward makes the kayak more stable and the boat is most stable when the paddle is in the water. Drag the paddle blade to stay upright or drop the paddle blade in the water if the boat gets tippy.
Tactics: Morton invests in the best polarized sunglasses. “It improves my success more than anything else,” he says. That’s because he needs to see into breaks in the heavy summer grass that hide snakeheads. “I can see the fish, too,” he adds. For inshore water, pros recommend amber colored lenses. Offshore anglers fishing clear blue water will see most with grey colored lenses. Look for frames that block out any sun. Fit the sunglasses so they won’t constantly slide down. Wearing a neck gator and a dark-brimmed hat will also cut glare and protect the eyes.
Dress Right: Weather plays a big part in sight casting success. Sunny, clear days are best. Even high humidity can create glare on the water. Wind will ruffle the water making it harder to see below. However, when the target is swimming just below the surface, wind chop can make it easier to spot them. Plan your day to keep the sun behind you. High quality shades, feature a vented frame to prevent fogging and rubber pads that keep the glasses in place. Costa del Mar’s frames are made of renewable plant-based bio-resin that performs better than plastic.
Angler: Raf Vargas
Accolades: Hobie pro angler
Target Species: Dolphin, wahoo, tuna, billfish
Boat or Board: Vargas spends long days offshore covering miles of bluewater. Hobie’s Pro Angler 14 has high gear capacity while remaining seaworthy and stable. Despite the boat’s size and weight, the MirageDrive system provides plenty of power.
Standing Theory: “Be confident,” is Vargas’ advice for standup fishing on open water. “If you are intimidated by big swells,” he explains, “you will overcompensate and possibly fall out.” Instead, Vargas suggests a standing angler anticipate the swell and move with it. He says big ocean waves and chop will “play games with your mind” and suggests staying low and keeping knees bent to absorb the ocean’s rise and fall. “Try it and you’ll be surprised that standing in the ocean isn’t as hard as it looks.”
Tactics: Vargas puts it like this: “See more fish, hook more fish, catch more fish.” In the clear blue water off Guam, he can see 100 feet down and a hundred yards out. Search the water all the way to the horizon. Look for fish swimming in the swells. Most people look for fish swimming close by, but under the right conditions an angler can see fish swimming more than 100 yards away. The farther out you see the fish, the longer you have to set up your attack.
Dress Right: Selfies from successful sight fishermen usually feature a hat pulled low, dark sunglasses and a neck gator. The neck gator isn’t just fashion, it protects the angler’s face from sun and wind. Wear a darker gator to absorb the glare. In fact, the darker your surroundings, the better you can see into the water. Some anglers go as far as spray painting the deck of their kayak a dark color to absorb glare. Avoid bright-colored accessories and keep the fishfinder screen pointed down.
Essential Goodies and Gadgets: Fish storage is a constant concern and offshore anglers have big fish to store. A soft-sided cooler like Hobie’s Catch Bag that attaches to the bow or stern via D-rings is the best solution. Freeze the cooler before fishing to keep ice and fish cold longer. Fold the soft-sided cooler down to save space. A dark-colored cooler on the bow will reduce glare while a brighter cooler reflects heat from the sun.
Feature photo: Joey Monteleone