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Flathead and salmon kayak style
  |  First Published: December 2011



Summer means barbecues, beers and fresh flathead fillets in flour, egg and breadcrumbs. If you own a kayak this is the time to use it to the max.

A few sure-fire techniques will maximise your chances of catching a feed of flatties from your kayak.

Here are some of the things that have worked for me and improved my catch rate and there are also a couple of additions you can make to your ’yak to give you some advantage when chasing flatties.

Rod holders

My first suggestion would be to install a front-mounted rod holder for trolling.

A great way to find a concentration of flathead is to paddle along at a gentle pace, trolling a lure through different depths. A front-mounted rod holder allows you to see exactly what the lure is doing by the movement you can see in the rod tip.

Before installing front-mounted holders on my kayaks, I used to troll with the rods in the inbuilt holders behind the seat. The problem with using those is that you can’t see if your lure is still vibrating with its inbuilt action or if it has picked up weed – unless you give yourself a neck ache and keep turning your head to check it regularly.

Occasionally I’d hook up to a smaller fish and would have no idea until I turned back to check the rod and found that there was a bend in it. The bigger fish would have enough weight to send a vibration through the rod to kayak and you’d feel it in the seat.

I installed front mounted holders and now it is easy to tell that your lure is moving along nicely – you can see the action of a bibbed minnow as it works correctly on a quality light graphite rod.

On my paddle yak I have the rod holder far enough forward that it doesn’t get in the way of my paddle on a standard, cruising speed, paddle stroke.

When there is a strike, however, it is a fair reach forward to get to the rod. I have learnt that the best way to secure a good hook-up is to use a couple of power strokes to drive the hooks in, rather than reach forward to grab the rod and then try to set the hooks.

In my pedal ’yak I have the rod holders set closer to me, where I can easily grab.

When the bite is hot when trolling in the Hobie I’ll just hold the rod instead of putting it in the holder. When you find a patch of fish it can be a hook up each time the lure gets down to the zone after a few metres of pedal-trolling a deep-diving bibbed minnow.

For flathead I’ll use a very large bibbed minnow to start with. In water about 2m deep you want something that will dive all the way to the bottom.

If the bottom is sandy it’s good to have the lure bouncing down into the sand occasionally. If it is weedy you want it to dive to just above the weed line.

A biger lure, around 8cm to 10cm, stops the flathead engulfing the lure and also tends to promote only the big ‘keeper’ fish attacking the lure.

Once I’ve caught a few on the big minnow I’ll stop trolling and change to a second rod with a large soft plastic. The larger plastics tend to guarantee fewer unwanted tiddlers and more big keepers.

Cast into the water you’re about to drift over or if there is no wind then fan out the casts all around the kayak.

Some of the biggest flathead often come from very shallow water, especially early in the morning on a high tide.

Controlling drift

The second big improvement you can do for your flathead fishing is to install an anchor trolley and use a sea anchor. This will allow you to drift at much slower speeds when the wind picks up, enabling your lure to get down to the bottom and stay in the zone longer.

Also it will allow you to spend more time casting to feeding fish once you have found a patch of flathead. Once you stop getting bites, pull in the sea anchor and paddle back up wind above the patch and start the drift again.

I also highly recommend adding a fish finder to show you bottom structure and water depth. You don’t need a high-end model, an inexpensive grey-scale unit will give you the basics to see depth and structure.

However, a GPS combo would be a real bonus for marking spots such as reefs, weed beds and other fish feeding grounds that have produced the goods. Then you can easily get back to those spots again.

Your next issue is efficiently land, de hook and release or despatch and store your catch. I have found landing nets with rubber mesh ideal for landing fish in the kayak.

Keep some tools at hand for controlling the flailing flathead and quickly despatching it. Then pop it in an esky with some ice and saltwater and you’re on the way to a delicious meal of fish and chips.

The forward rod holders should be set forward so that the paddling stroke isn’t interfered with.

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