5 Tips To Better Salmon Fishing From A Kayak

Rob Wendel giving his seminar on salmon fishing.
     Last spring I decided I'd finally had enough and it was time to get serious about trying to catch a salmon from my kayak.  I figured that the best way to shorten the learning curve would be to learn from somebody that already knew what they were doing.  I drove to Illinois and sat through a great presentation on kayak salmon fishing put on by Hobie Pro-staffer Rob Wendel.  He covered everything and I took almost three pages of notes by the time the event at Lake Michigan Angler was over.  Unfortunately by the time salmon season came back around this fall I had all but forgotten about those notes.  So I decided to just do some of the things that I remembered and then just "Guess" on the rest of it.  As you can see from the photo below, I was doing it wrong.
That's me in the front doing it all wrong.  At least I was out on the water giving it a go.  Photo Credit: Colin Belle
     Although the kayak and rod and reel were setup to go trolling, they were not setup correctly.  I also failed to put some of the mechanics into place while I was out on the water.  Since that time I've been out on some subsequent trips.  I've lost a couple more fish and have learned a lot about trolling for salmon.  

Here's 5 tips to help you catch more salmon:

     First thing you have to do is get your rod placement right.  I was running my rods behind the seat on my Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 13.  This caused issues with my ability to grab the rod quickly.  If you can't get your rod into your hands fast enough to set the hook then what's the point of fishing anyways.  So I recently started using Ram Mount Tubes mounted to the seat rails of my kayak.  This has resulted in a few more broken off fish.  I know that doesn't sound impressive, but at least I got the hook set!

     Second tip is get your rod tips level with the water.  It doesn't seem like a big deal, but it has some advantages.  With your rod tips level with the waters surface you don't need as much line out to get your lure to the right depth.  This is huge because the less line you have out the better the chance you have of getting the fish reeled in before it can get off the hook.  Also having the rod tips low makes it easier for you to see the rod tips vibrating.  This will tell you if your lure is running free or if it's caught up in some weeds.  So keep the rod tips low, trust me on this one.

     Third piece of advice is to run a swivel between your mainline and the leader.  The amount of line twist you get from trolling with a spinning reel is INSANE.  All line twist is good for is tangles and knots.  Both of which will piss you off when you're trying to get your lines set.  

     Fourth thing to keep in mind is your speed.  This as I've learned in my last few attempts is a huge deal.  Go to fast and the fish won't chase.  Move to slow and your Flicker Shad won't wiggle properly.  Ideally you want to be between 1.8 and 2.2ish mph.  It's brain numbingly boring, but really important.  Keep a constant eye on your GPS and make sure you adjust the speed accordingly.

     Fifth and final thing is to make sure you upgrade the hooks on your lures.  It doesn't mater if you're trolling with a Reef Runner, an Echotail, or a Flicker Shad change your hooks!  Rob recommends going with a hook with a 4x shank.  I'd do what he says because those fish fight hard and will open up any treble hook that isn't up to the challenge.

     Since integrating these tips from other anglers I've finally started to hook up with a few fish.  Trolling for Great Lakes salmon is definitely a process that comes with a bit of a learning curve.  Using these tips should help you move through the curve a lot quicker than I have.  If you need anymore advice make sure you give Lake Michigan Angler a call at (224) 789-7627.  I'm sure they'll be happy to get you setup to catch your first Great Lakes King Salmon.
Adam Howarth with a nice Lake Michigan King Salmon.   Photo Credit: Randall Moe
     Tight Lines.

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