The last thing that you want to happen when you are precariously perched on a thin plastic plank floating in the middle of the water is to tumble overboard while being dragged down through the depths by a 100-pound fish. That would be, shall we say, less than ideal.
There is a big difference between hooking up a giant fish while comfortably strapped into a seat on a big boat, and hooking up a fish that weighs more than you do while you’re essentially sitting on a surfboard.
Of course, you want to catch the biggest fish you can – everybody does. But when you’re targeting big game from a fishing kayak, you better be prepared to deal with a monster.
With that in mind, try to remember these important tips the next time you load up the kayak and head off in pursuit of a true wall-hanger.
Set Your Drag
Set your drag appropriately before making your first cast. It should be tight enough to make it difficult for the fish to run, but loose enough to protect your line, leader, and rod from excessive loads.
This is especially important when the fish gets close to the boat – a quick twist or change of direction could tip you over, snap your line or break your rod. Properly adjusted drag will reduce the chances of these things happening.
Position the Fish
When the fish is fighting on or near the surface, keep him in front of the kayak.
It may be funny when a 2-pound bass flings himself into your kayak, but you won’t find a 100-pound marlin doing the same to be quite so humorous.
By keeping the fish out front, you retain the best control over him. Further, it is easy to back up if his flopping gyrations carry him too close for comfort.
Exhaust the Fish
Battle the fish for a while before bringing him alongside the boat.
While it is not wise, ethical or sporting to overly battle a fish you intend to release, it is safer to exhaust the fish you intend to keep by playing with them for some time.
Tow the Fish
Consider towing very large fish back while they are still in the water.
If you catch a fish with enough bulk to test the capacity of your kayak, it may be wiser to head for shore with the fish in tow. You may attract unwanted visitors, so keep safety in mind and be ready to jettison your catch, should an even larger predator emerge and steal your prize.
Secure Your Gear
Stow your gear as though you are positive that you’ll capsize.
Flipping your kayak is a stressful event in itself – you must collect your wits, re-connect with the craft, flip it back over and climb back in. It’s hardly a walk in the park. So the last thing you want to worry about in these situations is trying to catch valuable gear as it sinks to the bottom.
Leash anything you can, including your paddles, first-aid kit and any other essentials. You should also take advantage of any hatches present in the boat, and use them to contain small items.
Cut the Line in Case of Emergency
Nobody likes to re-rig their lines, and some lures cost a decent wad of cash. But it is always better to cut your line than be pulled overboard.
Not only is it safer to cut your line, but you’ll also likely dump a ton of gear into the water once you get pulled overboard. So, whenever things get a little squirrely, have a line-cutter, knife or pair of cutters handy to limit your losses.
Use Your Legs
After you’ve battled the fish and brought him alongside, use your legs to help lift his bulk while keeping your center of gravity over the center of the boat.
Slide your foot up under his body, arch your foot back behind his dorsal fin (watch out for sharp spines), and raise your leg up — pushing him into the boat (and hopefully on to your lap).
Center of Gravity
It seems simple, but as long as your center of gravity stays over the center of the kayak, you’ll stay upright. The hard part is keeping your center while battling a large fish.
While you’ll need to move and joust with the fish, try to keep your body as wide and low as possible. If you are standing up, it is advisable to sit down at the earliest opportunity. Avoid leaning strongly in either direction – if you need to stick your body out to the side, try to balance it by sticking another limb out in the opposite direction.