4 Tips for Fighting and Landing Large Gamefish

Your bait is getting nervous, as your slowly trolling around some live bait, and then it happens. "ZZZZZzzZZZZzzzz" - as your clicker sings that beautiful tune! What now?!

Hopefully, before the most exciting part of fishing happens, you've set yourself up for greater chances of success. Pre-setting your drag the night before, re-tying all knots and inspecting your line for any knicks or abrasions are all things you should do before fishing. But what happens once you've actually gotten a bite?

Below, are 5 tips that has helped me in fighting and landing many large gamefish out in the ocean!

1. Do not swing to set the hook!

This isn't bass fishing so no need for that Bill Dance hookset! Instead, and this is one of the most crucial parts of fishing live bait, is to wait at least 5 seconds before flipping your reel into gear. And that's it, no swinging to set the hook, rather allow the fish to hook itself while its running away. I know 5 seconds will feel like forever, but allow the bigger gamefish to eat the entire bait before setting the hook.

2. Mark your GPS

Most of my successes has come from understanding why the fish I'm chasing for bites. When you get bit, mark that spot on your GPS, and take mental notes as to the time of day, currents, presence of baitfish, any tidbit of information. All this will help you in seeing patterns for future bites. Additionally, circle around back and drag another bait right through the same area. You may be in for another surprise!

3. Clear the deck

Give your self some space and clear that clutter off your kayak. I like to place my paddle under the bungees on my Kraken, so I won't have to worry about it getting in the way or floating off into the distance. Clearing the deck will also help to prevent any tangles with other rods from happening.

4. Keep constant pressure

Often times, you don't even notice that you're doing it but you're rod tip is just too high and your line goes slack, and now you've lost your possible once-in-a-lifetime fish. Don't make that mistake, and keep that rod tip low and maintain constant pressure! This is where trusting your preset drags and knots come into play.

Hopefully, these 4 tips will help you in fighting and landing that next trophy gamefish!

L J Hot Bite, Late May

Work has been keeping me quite busy for April and May, but I was able to get out after things settled down. With word from a friend that the bite out in La Jolla was turning on, fellow Jackson Kayak team member Jarrod McGehee and couple of our friends headed out.

With some swells, and some wind, we made it out through the surf without a hitch. My Jackson Kayak Kraken handled easily through the surf, and we paddled out a couple miles to make some bait. After loading up my KKrate with some Pacific Greenback and Spanish Mackerel, we dropped in our lines in search of some pelagics.

Didn't take all too long as the yellowtail were stacked! I was able to hook into 9 that day, but lost 6 of those to a seal, some bad knots, and line breaks.

Went out another day with the crowds and hooked up a couple times, pulling in a BSB and a shark! Lost some others to bad knots and breaks...always learning! All in all, a very good weekend, but definitely a learning experience. Always check your lines and knots, and if you must, retie after hooking up!


Mission Bay Classic in the Kraken

The 2nd annual Mission Bay Classic, a Heroes on the Water fundraising event, was a huge success! With over 70 signed entries, the saltwater bass division was full of competition. Fellow Jackson Kayak Team Members Jarrod McGehee and Richard Penny were also in attendance.

Though the fishing was great, it was extremely tough being able to weigh fish, with having regulations set at 14" minimum. No matter the case, it was a great event helping out a great cause.

I took out my Jackson Kayak Kraken, for some easy Bay fishing. Having my Kraken plumbed with the KKrate as a livewell, made for easy catch and release with no fishes harmed (besides being hooked!).

Here's a quick video showcasing the Kraken out in San Diego's Mission Bay!

Early summer in Southern California!

With early indications pointing to an El Nino season, conditions were impeccable for this time of year. Sunny weather, 80+ degree weather, and near 70 degree water temps made for some awesome fishing! Here's a video of some yellowtail fishing down here in sunny Southern California! Enjoy!

Presidents day weekend (actually valentines day) yellow

So for the past few weeks i've been hearing that the yellows have been chewin' hard. red crabs, warm weather, clear viz, lots of yo-yo catches, all that. haven't really had the time to get out as much as I wanted to, but I got the chance on valentines day. now usually during this time of year, i'm packing light and only bringing my yo-yo setup. tho night before I figured with all the warm water, surface actions bound to be happen. so i tie together a light sliding egg rig, bring along my sabiki and bait tank with the yo-yo setup. arrive at the launch to 1ft "waves", and head out to make some quick bait. put together maybe a handful a nice candy bar greenies with one spanish. nose hook a greenie and we start to make our way out to some pots. stop at a few places to drop the yo-yo on some marks but nada for quite some time. flat calm water with no wind and seals abound. water temp slowly crept up to 66 degrees, fricken warm for this time of year. seals kept snatching my bait and I was down to my spanish. tied that on and let it down deep. made the slow troll back to some friends and hooked up to a beast! went straight down to 185' and fought it back up to meet my gaff.

30+lbs bled. nice fish for my 1st yellow of 2015!

Review: Bending Branches Angler Pro and New Navigator Wood Paddle

The most important tool in every kayak angler's toolbox is his paddle. The paddle is the engine of a kayak, and can either aide or hinder you while out fishing. As such, great care should be taken in choosing the right one. For those looking for a great kayak fishing paddle, look no further. Several great paddles coming out of Bending Branches provide anglers with some great features that are essential for a great experience on the water.

Below are the spechs of two great paddles I own:  The Bending Branches Angler Pro and New Navigator Wood paddles.

The Bending Branches "Angler Pro" paddle, has won "Paddle of the Year" in's Kayak Anger's Choice Awards for 2-years in a row. It's safe to say that a paddle designed by kayak anglers, is preferred by kayak anglers. 

The Bending Branches new "Navigator Wood" paddle boasts a new slick look from from its predecessor. The blade is now made out of rich-looking red adler and roasted basswood, compared to the previous black willow wood. Aside from the blade material, the spechs remain and gives the same smooth pull through the water.

Looking at the spechs, you can see that both paddles provide many of the same great features. 

Drip Rings:  They both provide the same heavy-duty black drip rings that help to prevent water from dripping down onto ones arms and lap, keeping you nice and dry.

Shaft:  Another great feature for both is the straight shaft made from T-700 Carbon fiber material, giving this paddle a nice solid and light-weight feel with a nice smooth look.

Ferrule:  Both paddles come with the option of a snap-button ferrule, that provides 0° and 60° left or right ferrule angles. An even better option that I highly recommend getting the paddles with is the PLUS or telescoping feature.
The PLUS ferrules gives the ability to extend the paddle within a range of 15 cm. For those with kayaks that have different seat heights, this gives the added benefit of changing the paddle lengths, instead of using a different paddle. Additionally, the PLUS ferrule can lock into place in any angle you want, with a simple twist-locking feature. Just make sure to not go beyond the recommended telescoping length, or damage could occur.

Aside from the similarities above, there are some differences between both of these paddles, that make the experience of paddling quite different from each other.

Blade:  The Angler Pro has a blade surface area of about 104 sq in, while the Navigator comes in around 96 sq in. With the extra surface area, the Angler Pro can push much more water, helping anglers out when digging deep to punch through surf, or paddle through some rough and choppy waters. Though, bigger blades don't necessarily mean greater efficiency. Even though both paddles are great for long paddles, without much fatigue on shoulders, I've found the Navigator to be a better paddle when it comes to longer distances. 
Both paddle blades' are rigid, that can move quite a bit of water, but the Navigator felt much better at slicing through the water and gave a much more efficient feel than the Angler Pro. You can see that the Angler Pro has a much wider and scooped blade while the Navigator has a more narrow and flat blade. For paddlers with a more mid to high stroke, the Angler Pro is exceptional at everyday use, while the Navigator shines for longer paddling excursions.

Weight:  Weighing in at only 30 oz, the Angler Pro paddle is very light. Having a light-weight paddle helps reduce fatigue while paddling, and can make or break longer fishing sessions. The Navigator only weighs 28 oz, and being only a 2 oz variance, I couldn't really tell that much of a difference while paddling. However, some may find that 2 oz difference advantageous for longer distance paddling.

Rockgard®:  One great feature that comes with the Navigator is Bending Branches proprietary technology Rockgard, which has been applied to the paddle to help protect the blades edges from any nicks, cracks, or chips that could occur when using the paddle as a push-pole while in "skinny water". For those that sight fish in shallow waters, your paddle can be used as an extension of your arm to slowly move yourself through the shallows. The Rockgard helps to protect your blade edges from hard bottoms such as rocks or oyster beds, and can help to extend the life of the blades. 

Final Conclusions
The Angler Pro and the New Navigator Wood paddle are exceptional paddles from Bending Branches that provide many unique features that more than fit the bill for every kayakers needs. I personally have enjoyed using both, but they each have their strengths and weaknesses in certain situations. I highly recommend getting the Navigator if you're looking for a paddle that gives you that edge in longer paddles. For a more every day use kind of paddle, you can't go wrong with the Angler Pro. And definitely as a must, the PLUS ferrule is a great option to take your paddling experience to the next level. Though these are my opinions, a must for everyone is to demo demo demo any paddle before you purchase. These paddles come out at MSRP $299.95 (Navigator w/o PLUS) and $329.95 (Angler Pro w/o PLUS), so they're definitely on the higher-end spectrum of paddles, but your paddle should be thought of as an investment. Besides your kayak, your paddle plays a very important role while kayaking, so why not get the best?

Kayak Fishing Adventure in La Jolla, San Diego, CA

Down in sunny Southern California, just off the coast of San Diego lies one of the top fisheries with great access for Kayak Fisherman. Within close proximity after launching from the beach, one can paddle half a mile direct to the kelp beds that hold many aquatic game life such as Calico Bass, California Sheepshead, Barred Sand Bass, California Halibut, California Yellowtail, and White Seabass. With also direct access to much deeper water (a deep underwater canyon flows right through the area) one can also fish for an assortment of Rockfish and Lingcod.

As a kayak fisherman, La Jolla has a lot to offer. It seems that the quietness and stealth of being on a kayak, allows for us kayak fisherman to sneak up on fish much easier than boats that begrudgingly motor around spooking everything in its way.

So with my Jackson Kayak Cuda 14 in tow, I can launch through the surf in hopes of catching the many different species of fish the ocean has to offer. The surf can be tricky at times, but having a boat that can punch through the surf is a great tool to have! With just a short paddle to some prime fishing spots, kayak fishing never looked so easy.

If you're looking for bigger game, most fisherman jig for live bait, usually picking up Pacific or Jack Mackerel. These are usually fished on a "fly-line" and towed behind your boat as you slowly troll around hoping for a bite. If live bait is not your choice, surface iron's or jigs are used to entice these big game to bite some metal!

While some say El Nino is here, or on its way, the water is warm and the fishing is hot! I've been able to pick up my first California Yellowtail, that gave up quite a fight! When the conditions are right, La Jolla may just be your next fishing adventure!