Most anglers fall in between the categories of beginner and expert, but no one wants to stay there. If you want to land at the top of the leaderboard in your next tournament, or just start catching fish every single time you hit the water, this article is for you. We tapped five kayak fishing experts for their best tips to help weekend warriors level up. Try these techniques to take your skills to the next level, so you can consider yourself an expert too.

5 Expert Tips for Every Weekend Warrior

1 Spend Time on the Water (Different Water)

One of the biggest differences between being an average angler and a pro is simply the amount of time spent on the water. However, you shouldn’t spend that time just doing the same thing over and over again. That is the definition of insanity! (Well, I guess some would call kayak fishing insane anyway.)

weekend warrior stands up and casts in cold weather while kayaking fishing
Seeking new challenges is key for weekend warriors to improve their kayak fishing skills. | Feature photo: Ben Duchesney

It is important to challenge yourself to not always go to the same spot or throw the same lures every time. If you fish freshwater, try saltwater, or vice versa. If you have confidence fishing structure and shorelines, then try to fish deep structure or open water. Try skinny water, big water, and try things maybe someone hasn’t even tried before!

— Joe Gugino, CEO & founding partner of Why Knot Fishing and Conservation & Community Partnerships Manager at Costa.

2 Learn from Your Mistakes

My advice to the tournament angler who is looking to step up their game would be to stay after it and keep a fishing log. You can’t place in every event, but you can take away knowledge that can help you at the next one. Don’t get discouraged.

A positive outlook when tournament fishing can make the difference between giving up and catching that winning fish at the last minute. Keep practicing because nothing beats time on the water when it comes to learning the behavior of the species you are targeting.

— Benton Parrott, 2016 Hobie Fishing Top Gun, guide and back-to-back IFA Kayak Fishing Tour Champion. 

3 Keep a Fishing Journal

My early fishing journals were little more than a photo in one of those old school plastic sheet photo albums with a few notes on river level and water temperature. Before long, I had developed a blank template with information on water clarity, top producing baits and their retrieval speed, wind speed and direction, cloud cover, barometer and so on. Not every piece of information you can possibly gather is important, but by gathering as much as you can for a year or two, you’ll understand which factors are most important for that particular fishery.

an angler's fishing log collects information over time
Keep a fishing log to track patterns and see fish behavior over time that you wouldn’t be able to notice otherwise. | Photo: Jeff Little

For instance, on river smallmouth fisheries, the river level and trend (rising, steady or falling) is paramount. For tidal bass, the tide is everything, but must be paired with the right structure or cover. On reservoirs, wind speed and direction is a huge deal. In keeping detailed records, you will be able to look back year after year to know which patterns are about to emerge.

— Jeff Little, Sales Manager at Torqeedo, Wilderness Systems Regional Pro Staff Director and Producer of The Little Stuff.

4 Find an Expert Mentor

Spend time on the water with a skilled angler in a purposeful way. Don’t just fish with them, observe what they do and ask questions. Most excellent anglers are more than happy to share their expertise on how they locate and catch fish. I tell kayak anglers who attend my seminars and classes that they can ask me any questions they want about how I pattern and catch fish.

I’m happy to share details. I have no secrets in that regard. In the next breath, though, I tell them not to ask about my secret fishing spots. That’s one tidbit of info I have a hard time giving up.

— Juan Veruete, Licensed Fishing Guide, ACA-certified Kayak Instructor, Wilderness Systems and Adventure Technology Pro Staffer.

5 Do Your Research

First off, know there are just days that you will not catch fish or it will be real slow. If it happens often then some advice is obviously needed while targeting that particular fishery. The best place to find out how to step up your game is the internet. Search for the particular body of water you are going to target. Look for reports that coincide with the same time of year you are fishing. See what was working then and there is a good chance in the same conditions you will have similar results.

an angler conducts internet research for his next fishing trip
The internet is the best place to find out how to step up your fishing game. | Photo: Djordje Petrovic/Pexels

Bottom line is time on the water. There are thousands of weekend warriors out there who see someone catching fish consistently and wonder why it happens. The person wondering fishes maybe one to two times a month, versus the consistent angler who is on the water two to four days a week or more. By going out all the time you learn what it takes to catch fish in different conditions. This can also translate to other bodies of water, where a consistent angler has a better idea how to adapt to new conditions.

Remember: the top pros didn’t start out at the top, they too were once beginners. The average fisherman needs to get serious about fishing and spend the time required to learn, or they will always be average. Even still, average is not bad if you are having fun.

— Rob KnolesWilderness Systems Pro Staffer, Tournament Angler and Nor-Cal Inland Heroes on the Water Coordinator.

Seeking new challenges is key for weekend warriors to improve their kayak fishing skills. | Feature photo: Ben Duchesney



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