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Yakkin’ about bass
  |  First Published: March 2010



It seems more and more people are looking at kayaks as small, economical craft to explore their local waters.

While many simply want to paddle around and hopefully find a few fish or two in the process, there's a growing band of hard-core bassers dedicated to chasing these great native fish from well set-up kayaks.

Quite simply, there's no better craft to chase these terrific sport fish.

There's no doubt about it, a kayak is certainly a fun and effective way to target these fish and while there are many reasons these craft are proving so effective, the main two are stealth and mobility.

The ability to sneak around the quiet bass waters making virtually no noise makes these small craft ideal bass fishing weapons.

After playing around in larger fibreglass canoes, I finally I purchased my first kayak – a Perception Minnow – back in 1990.

The 3m Minnow is certainly a small, very agile kayak, but until the seat was redesigned some time after I bought mine, it wasn't the most comfortable vessel out there. And because it was so short, it was difficult to hold a straight course or attain any great speed.

My latest acquisition is an Old Town Loon 111. While only 30cm longer than the Minnow, the Loon is much more streamlined and cuts the water effortlessly with each paddle stroke. The seating is also very comfortable, making longer sessions far more enjoyable especially for someone with a back as dodgy as mine.

Exactly which kayak to buy will depend on the type of bass fishing you plan to do. For example, if you mainly target bass in larger tidal systems or impoundments, you will be better off with one of the larger kayaks.

While paddle power is usually the name of the game, the pedal-powered models like the Hobies, and even those with small electric motors, are very well suited for these bigger bass waterways.

A longer craft also offers the potential for more speed and better course holding.

On the small water, however, the idea is to keep every thing simple and light. Ideally, you want a kayak that's built tough and weighs very little, although it must be comfortable for a few hours’ fishing.

In most small bass water you will invariably be in and out of the kayak numerous times during the outing, often dragging it over mud, rocks and timber. Kayaks destined for a life of small water bass fishing will get well and truly used and abused!

SIT ON OR IN?

For many anglers the question is: Buy a sit-on or a sit-in kayak? There are pros and cons to each style so ultimately it will come down to personal choice.

Sit-on kayaks have certainly become very popular in recent years and in many situations they make good sense.

For bass fishing in small waterways the sit-on’s greatest advantage comes from the ease of access – getting in and out of the craft. If you're constantly hopping out to drag the kayak into the next small pool, you'll appreciate the ease of a sit-on 'yak.

Most of the sit-on models are also airtight, meaning they float like corks and won’t fill with water if you happen to take a spill on some rapids.

But like all things, there is a down side to sit-on kayaks, with lack of storage space being one of them. Quite simply, most have little or nowhere to put your gear.

Precious tackle boxes, camera, pliers, scissors, etc, are often precariously resting on deck. Some well-positioned tie-down straps would certainly improve the situation.

Sit-in kayaks offer anglers the ability to take extra gear, with tackle boxes and other goodies safely stowed below decks. It's a good feeling as you sweep down a rapid knowing your precious bass lure collection and camera are safely tucked away under the nose cone in a watertight bag.

Perhaps the only real down side to sit-ins is it's a little more difficult getting in and out frequently. For those fishing bigger waterways this won't be an issue, but for those like me who enjoy the tight, secluded stuff, getting in and out regularly can get a bit tiresome.

ELECTRIC YAKKIN'

Whilst kayaks are great fun to paddle on bass water, there's certainly nothing wrong with rigging one up with an electric motor.

You can pretty well rig any model to take an electric, it's all a matter of working out a good, strong bracket to mount the motor.

I rigged my Old Town Loon to take a 28 lb Watersnake. With a small, sealed 30-amp deep-cycle battery, I can cruise around for three hours or so before the battery loses its charge.

Often I simply use the electric to motor to back to the car at day’s end, although it certainly comes in handy for positioning as well.

‘On the bigger bass rivers, and especially those with tidal flow, the electric 'yak can be very handy indeed.

TRANSPORTING

Most of today's kayaks are fairly light, weighing in around 20kg or thereabouts. Some, like my old Minnow, are real featherweights, going 16kg dripping wet. And some of the bigger models are closer to 30kg.

This weight factor means several things and depending on how you plan to transport your kayak, you will need to consider the overall weight.

If you plan to slide the kayak on a trayback 4WD or ute, the weight of the heavier models won't be too much of an issue. But if you plan to put it on roof racks, the overall weight becomes more critical.

I guess it depends on how strong you are but for me, lifting anything over 20kg above my head starts to get a little difficult. And if there's much breeze about, the problem is magnified.

If you plan to transport your kayak on roof racks, you really need to look at the quality and strength of your racks.

While the kayak may weigh only around 20kg, at highway speeds it's going to exert some interesting forces on your racks and consequently the rest of the vehicle.

A decent set of builder’s-type racks, ideally made from alloy, will give you years of worry-free transportation.

Kayaks and bass fishing go hand in hand. And in my book they're pretty well essential for chasing bass in small to medium-sized creeks and rivers.

They offer unsurpassed stealth and mobility and are quite affordable and far easier to store than a boat.

While the more fancy the models are certainly more expensive, you have to remember these polyurethane kayaks will last a lifetime.

Twenty years on, I still have my little Minnow. It looks a little worse for wear, but it's just as functional as the day I bought it.

After the initial purchase price there's no extra running cost. No petrol, licences, no rego, just years of fun exploring all those magical bass creeks and streams up and down the coast.

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