How to Win Big Fish Battles From Your Kayak

Catching big game fish can be thrilling, but there are definitely some things you can learn before going out there and trying to tackle them.  Learning from your own experience is valuable, but it’s also valuable to learn from experts that have gone before.

For example, one angler, who didn’t have a line cutting tool handy soon had two bull sharks chomping on his tarpon that weighed more than his kayak!  He was close to getting pulled out into the water with two blood-frenzied sharks.  After this harrowing experience,  he is sure to keep sizable fish out in front of him and away from the boat.  By listening to what kayak pros are saying on this subject, a lot of headache and hassle can be saved.

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Brian Nelli, a Hobie pro staffer based out of Palm Beach, Florida uses on rod as a flat line and the other rod goes deep.  He keeps two live bait-rods that are equipped with stinger rigs and keeps one jigging rod.  By deciding on what species of fish to hunt, it allows a kayaker to focus on gear that ranges from 20 to 100 pound tackle. Don’t be like this unlucky guy who had to fight hammerhead shark in California.

Battling a big fish in a plastic boat the size of a bobsled isn’t easy.  Always keep the fish off the bow and away from the kayak, if it’s fighting near the surface. Sailfish, tarpon, marlin, dorado and even sharks could leap right into your lap!  If a kayaker has caught a big fish and it’s straight up and down, he’s got to apply pressure to bring the fish up.  Be careful here, because with too much drag pressure coupled with a rod held out amidships and a pulled hook, could easily topple the angler overboard.

Nelli sums up mistakes that most kayakers make:  They often fight the fish for way too long and then they have a problem reviving their catch.  The trick is to tire the fish out enough before bringing it too close to the boat.  Have good grip gloves for hand protection and to allow you to get a solid grip on the mouth or tail of your catch.

When lugging the fish above water for a photograph or to pull it in, the kayaker must shift his weight to the other side of the boat to avoid capsizing or letting water fill the cockpit.

Ocean Kayaks pro staffer, Rob Wong Yuen often fishes Hawaii’s offshore waters whenever he gets a chance – which is most days.  Here’s here to tell you that a 100 pound yellowfin tuna is harder to pull in  than a 150 pound black marlin from his kayak.  From tuna, to marlin, to wahoo, Wong Yuen consistently pulls in big fish from his kayak.

He keeps most of his fish, so when they get close enough, he’ll hit em with a Hawaiian spear gaff to the brain.  Then using a traditional gaff, he pulls the dead fish into his kayak.  This sounds easy, but the extra weight of a heavy fish can be tricky while on a kayak.

Yuen can slide any fish under 90 pounds onto the kayak’s deck, but bigger fish get tied with a rope.  Prepare for the extra weight on your kayak, and be sure to adjust your weight accordingly as you heft the fish aboard.

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Once Wong Yuen has caught a big fish, he heads to shore immediately to preserve the meat.  He warns to make sure the deck is completely clear before hauling the fish aboard.  Dead fish can twitch, sending your gear flying into the ocean.  If he’s more than 5 miles out he’ll bag the fish, otherwise he’ll just toss a wet shirt on top of the fish and paddle back to shore.

It’s good to know what modern kayak manufacturers are going for.  They’re building kayaks today with a lot more stability, extreme durability and the ability to handle substantial weight.  There is a big possibility that landing a big fish can capsize your little kayak and manufacturers are building kayaks to handle this predicament.  Many brands tote the ability to stand up and fish…which means extreme stability.  If you can stand up and cast a line, you can pull in a 90 pound fish without worrying about tipping.

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If you’re ever dumped, make sure you have your gear lashed to your kayak and know ahead of time how to re-enter your capsized kayak.  The most likely time that you’ll get dumped is at surf launch and re-entry.  This is assuming of course that you’re fishing in the ocean.   Place gear inside hatches and tie down any other  gear.  You don’t want to end up on shore with your stuff smeared all over the beach. Check out our other article on kayaks here.

If launching from a beach, be sure to watch the wave patterns.  Look for rip currents, sandbars and wave-set frequencies.  You may be able to spot a better place to launch up or down the beach if you’re willing to take a walk for a bit.

When launching from a beach, always hit the swells head on.  Keep your kayak straight and cut through the waves.  This causes the least friction and allows you to get beyond them in the most expedient way.  When coming back into shore, time it with the wave set and keep your hull straight.  Some pro kayakers actually paddle in reverse when coming into shore.  This allows them to hit the incoming waves head-on and paddle in reverse between them, which makes for an easier, calmer landing.

Kayaks on the beach
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You must prepare for safety ahead of time.  Always carry along plenty of water and snacks like fruit, granola or protein bars.  At the minimum, bring a personal locater beacon, personal flotation device, VHF radio (to keep in touch with brother boats), GPS unit and a loud whistle.

Rob Alderman, from Wilderness Systems claims that his most important gear on kayaking sojourns are his knife and hand-held flares.  He keeps his knife strapped to his left leg in case he gets caught up in line and he believes flares are the best choice for signaling for help – as cellphone reception can be spotty.

Brightly colored kayaks are obviously advantageous if you need help.  To inform others that you’re in need of help, wave your paddle over your head.  This is often more advantageous than using your whistle, as sound can get lost on the open sea.

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