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Kayak Sounder Success
  |  First Published: November 2015



Whatever the application, from locating bait, structure, thermoclines and schooled fish, to selecting an appropriate lure for the depth you’re fishing, working a drop off or navigating safely to and from your fishing spot, there’s no doubt that sounders have made fishing more productive and water travel safer.

I have been running the Dragonfly-5 PRO Sounder/GPS for a few months now and have been impressed with the quality of the unit, the simplicity of operation, and the number of high tech features packed into this navigation and fish finding powerhouse.

When I fitted this sounder I started with the ‘bloke test’. The bloke test involves unpacking the unit, fitting it to the kayak and then spending a day on the water fishing – all without opening the instruction book. I don’t recommend doing this, but at the same time I know that many will and I’m happy to say that there aren’t a million tiny confusing parts to somehow build together! The assembling and mounting was quick, easy and made sense, and once on the water the menu system was intuitive and in no time I was switching between sonar, GPS, and DownVision, or a combination of these via a split screen. I could also adjust the depth range, zoom, mark waypoints and save screen shots to the micro SD mapping card housed securely in the rear of the unit.

Recently I’ve spent the majority of my time fishing the edge for flathead without a sounder, on the last few hours of the run out tide. This is an extremely effective way to make the most of available time, catch fish and bring a couple home for a feed. However, there were some days when the flathead weren’t schooling in the area I was fishing. Whether this was due to moon phases, rainfall, tides, or one of the many mysteries of fishing, I suddenly had a couple of fishless sessions. After I mounted the Dragonfly to the kayak I was excited to see how useful it would be when the flathead weren’t playing the game.

None of it is rocket science, but the detail of what is below the kayak, that the Dragonfly provides, has seen me change things up and while I still fish the edges for flathead, I now have the ability to locate fish, bait and structure, while also using the sounder to make adjustments in jighead weight that have seen me catch more fish. There are many benefits to fishing from a kayak, however the inability to just start the motor and travel long distances to our next spot means that we need to make the most of the area that we are fishing and use the sounder to assist us wherever possible.

Structure

In an earlier issue I wrote about secondary structure, specifically that by keeping an eye out for structure on the sounder, while working the edge for flathead, you can catch more fish. I now seek out structure when travelling to my fishing spot, moving between spots and exploring new water. By taking the time to position the kayak down current and casting soft plastics back over this structure I have caught more fish and a wider variety of fish species.

Bait

Never underestimate the importance of bait. Often when there is no bait on the sounder, there is little fish activity in the area. Find the bait – find the fish. When travelling, drifting, fishing the edge or exploring new water, bait is at the top of the list of things to look for.

If I find a drain, flat, pinnacle, drop off or any other section of water that is loaded with bait then I will give it some more time. On the other hand, if I am not seeing bait on the sounder then I will run and gun through the area. I still cover those areas with casts but won’t give them any additional attention. When fishing my local river there are a few sections that I travel through, including a rocky patch and a deep hole, and if the bait is there I am confident that I will land a few bream on 2.5” curl tail or paddle tail plastics. Likewise there are a series of drains along a mangrove edge, look for the drains that are holding the bait as they are the ones that produce the fish.

Fish

While chasing flathead I have a few areas that commonly hold schools of bream and grunter. If I see the fish on the sounder, then I’m pretty confident that I will catch them on plastics or at least get a few rattles. If I don’t see fish, or at least plenty of bait on the sounder, then I continue through these spots and onto the next.

On other occasions I have located schools of fish on the sounder and after persistence, have been rewarded with yellowtail pike, school mulloway, trevally and a variety of other species. After numerous successes I trust that if the Dragonfly says there are fish under you, there are and it’s worth spending some time changing up soft plastic sizes, colours and styles, along with retrieves, until you are convinced that they simply aren’t eating.

Soft Plastics

On the topic of changing things up until you find what works, my experiments with the Dragonfly have seen me changing from two rods in the yak, rigged with 1/4oz jigheads and 3” paddle tails in different colours, to three rods rigged with three different jighead and plastic combinations; a 1/6oz 1/0 jighead with a 2.5” paddle tail, a 1/4oz 3/0 with a 3” paddle tail and a 3/8oz 3/0 with a 3” paddle tail or 4” curl tail.

This combination allows me to adapt to what I see on the sounder. I still sit a cast distance from the edge of the bank, but if the area is shallow I swim the lighter weighted, smaller plastic, producing a more natural presentation, and increasing the number of bream, whiting and other smaller mouthed species that I catch. If it’s between a 1-2.5m deep, which is common in the areas that I fish, then I will run my favourite 1/4oz 3/0 and 3” paddle tail. The third rod comes into play along sections of bank that drop away to 3-4m below the kayak, where previously I would move quickly through the area, fish the first couple of metres of edge or spend more time fishing the lighter jighead slowly down the drop. The 3/8oz head allows me to fish these deeper drop offs quicker and more effectively, especially if there is bait or fish showing on the sounder.

This three rod setup also allows me to mix up my presentations when fish, bait or structure is located on the sounder and more effectively fish the visible fish, bait and structure in a wider range of water depths.

If you’re looking at fitting a sounder to your kayak, check out the Raymarine Dragonfly-5 PRO Sounder / GPS and then spend some time getting to know your sounder and learning to trust it by turning what you are seeing on the screen into bent rods, happy snaps and a fresh feed of fish. Keep the checklist of fish, bait and structure in mind when monitoring your sounder and have a few different soft plastics rigged and ready for action! See you on the water…

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