I thought it might be appropriate to tell you what to expect on a typical BarHopp'R kayak trip. Those of you that have been on many guided trips, have probably experienced everything from the good to the bad, and know pretty much what to expect on a good guided trip. Those of you who have never been on a guided trip, or haven't been on a guided kayak trip doing our light tackle, shallow water, big fish kind of fishing for snook, redfish, trout, and others, may be in for a big surprise, and a lot of fun!
My experience has been that many of you have never caught fish that can rip line from your reel, or had to cast any further than across a small stream or pond, or short flip to the bank. Most folks who come here to fish the flats, unless they're experienced flats anglers, are in for a real surprise. This is not easy fishing, but once you get the hang of it, sure is fun!
And that's where I come in! Typically, I have only one 6 or 8 hour trip to teach you kayaking basics, to put you on the fish, then teach you, if needed, how to get them to the boat. Well, sometimes it's get the boat to them! Unfortunately, many folks incorrectly measure the success of a trip by how many fish are put into the boat, instead of by the quality of the total experience. Consequently, most of my BarHopp'R trips are seminars on the water. So, think of me not only as your guide, but as your teacher and coach.
Most come here to our style of fishing with many bad habits. I don't mean that in a negative way. In your fishing environment what may be normal for you to do can be an absolute disaster to do here. Classic examples of this are reeling against the drag and reeling your fish in to close to the rod tip. I have four boat rules, that I strictly enforce, and will nag you about until you do it my way.
First, never anchor or stake out your kayak sideways to wind and chop. On a sit on top (SOT) kayak the water that splashes up on the boat will run through the scuppers, no problem. But, the best fishing kayaks today are hybrids like the Native Ultimates I use, and do not have scuppers. If they take on water, it has to be bailed out. Chances are that if you were taking on water you wouldn't even be aware of it until it was too late, and you were swamped. Don't worry. They have floation, and won't disappear into the deep. In most of the areas we fish, all you'd have to do is stand up in waist deep water. I have installed bilge pumps in my Ultimates which will automatically sense any water and pump it out. There is a brand new Whale pump on the market that has a very low profile, and lays on its side. It's only about 2 inches around. I have installed one in each side of the catamaran hull of the Ultimates. They run from the trolling motor batteries. Now that these pumps are in place there won't be much concern for water taken over the side in a strange situation. Still, don't invite trouble. Always move your anchor pulley to the stern or the bow so that the boat is positioned straight down the wind or straight up the wind.
Second, you only strike a tight line. I mean tight, tight, tight! This is the land of light lines and long casts. You must feel the fish pulling through the rod pointed at him before you strike. Believe it or not, this is really difficult for most people to do. Adrenaline and the excitement of the moment is a terrible thing! You must be patient, and wait on a tight line. This concept is pretty easy when fishing lures because there is weight on the end of your line and very little in the way of slack. Live bait fishing is totally different, and you must have a tight line before striking. The companion rule to this is never strike what you see! If you see a fish blow up your bait on the top of the water, or even in the water, DO NOT STRIKE! Keep working your bait until you feel the weight of the fish on the end of your line. Then strike. Sometimes a fish like a redfish can strike a topwater bait four or five times before connecting. If you yank on the first strike.......it's over.
Third, you must never reel against a running fish and a screaming drag with a spinning reel. You have to get a handle on your excitement, think about what you're doing, and pump and reel the fish to the boat, or if you're not anchored, the boat to the fish, never reeling when the fish is pulling line from the reel, or if the handle is hard to turn. Reeling against the drag will quickly render the line on the reel useless for the rest of the day because it will become so twisted and kinked, you can't even cast it! Worse, if I allow you to continue to winch a fish in with the reel instead of the rod, you will destroy the gears in my very expensive reels. They're not made for that. You beat the fish with the rod, not the reel!
Fourth, NEVER lay one of my rods and reels with a fish on the line, in the cockpit of your kayak. Always place it in a rod holder, or firmly under your armpit, so that you have both hands to handle the fish. For years I've used only top quality equipment from Shimano (Stellas), G Loomis (Greenwater) and St. Croix (Legend Series). Fishing gear rarely gets damaged, scratched, bent, or broken anywhere other than the trunk of your car, by grabbing the rod in the bend with a fish on the end, or by going out of the kayak. I'm no longer using Stellas and Greenwater rods. It's just too much money to loose if one goes out of the boat, or is submerged while someone is trying to remove a fish that is reeled up to the tip of the rod. I have retooled with Shimano reels and Bass Pro rods appropriate for kayak fishing (much shorter rods), so that if you loose a fish, it's because of something you did, or failed to do, instead of faulty or cheap equipment. The only way I can keep that equipment working and looking good, is for you to keep it in the rod holder and out of the salt water. If you need to put it down, gently put it in a rod holder, or better yet, put the rod under your armpit, so that it's not in the cockpit, and you have both hands to handle your fish, bait, or whatever. Please show the proper respect for my equipment. If it goes in the water, you own it. No exceptions. A reel that has been submerged in saltwater is ruined. And, remember! When you bring a fish to your kayak, never reel it closer to the end of your rod than the length of your rod. Translation? If you have a 6 ft. rod, leave the fish at least 6 ft. from the end of the rod. Then you will never be forced to touch the rod to land your fish. Never, ever, never ever, ever, never ever, touch the rod anywhere but the handle! If you break it, you own it. Now, having said all that, after loosing the first expensive rig out of a kayak I had to rethink putting such expensive gear in a kayak. That's why I have gone to much less expensive Shimano and Daiwa reals and Bass Pro 6 and 6.5 ft. rods so that if something bad does happen it doesn't break your bank. The rules are the same, though. ;^)
Now, that's not so bad, is it? Also, remember! You're welcome to bring your favorite reels with you. I wouldn't go to the trouble to bring rods unless you have travel rods you like. We can mount your favorite reels to my rods, and then you won't have to worry about ruining one of my reels! ;^)
Finally, I don't expect anyone to come here an expert to our kind of kayak fishing. What I do expect is for you to have an open mind, set aside your ego for a day, and be willing to learn. I have learned in my years of guiding that old habits die hard. The only way that I can break your old bad habits is to nag you until you get the idea that this really is important. Bare with me. I will teach you MORE about fishing in a day, if you'll only let me, than you'd learn in ten years on your own. Yes, I can be a tough taskmaster, when need be! Yes, I expect you to follow my coaching instructions. They are proven to work, and are the key to your success! But, at the end of your trip, you will realize that not only have you had a great day of fishing, but that you have improved your angling skills many-fold. If you doubt this, please go to the testimonials section, and see what many of my customers have had to say. The proof is in the puddin', folks.
One Last Thing! There is a certain amount of risk in everything we do. You are much more likely to be injured in your car coming to fish with me, than you ever will be fishing with me. However, having said that, you are in your own boat, and you bear the final responsibility for your own safety by not doing something dangerous or stupid that I can't prevent because I'm not in the boat with you. For that reason, you are required to sign a "Liability Release Form", or we can't fish together. It's a short, uncomplicated form. Please sign and print it here, and send it with your deposit. Please do one form for each angler in your party.And, finally. I have compiled a series of short video clips that show you how to handle the different tools of kayak fishing, like the stake-out pole and anchor pulley, the radio, the lip gripper tool, the Sampo stringer, the trolling motor, and so on. You can view these clips here. Anyone booking a trip to kayak fish will be required to watch each clip, and then check and sign off on a form that you have watched each clip at least once. I think you'll find them interesting and helpful, and that you will already feel familiar with the systems when it's your day to fish.
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