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Shopping for the ’yak fisher in your life
3:54PM 18th Nov 13

Inexpensive, but oh so important! (gift ideas for the long suffering family)

 All too often it’s easy to get carried away with talking about the latest technology or some of the shiny and expensive new toys we’ve purchased, and forget about the many small items we take for granted on almost every trip. Certainly I’m no better than anyone else, the “magpie effect” strikes and I have to chatter on about new rods, reels, lures (… oh the lures, you can never have enough!).

This month is about recognising some of the smaller items without the glamour of the latest tackle and techniques that can make such a difference to our enjoyment on the water. Some are very much taken for granted and rarely ever thought about, some are carried just in case (like the little compasses), but none are particularly expensive. All of them make can also make great gifts if you have partners or friends looking for ideas to throw inside the next bit of colourful wrapping paper.

 

Here are a few of the “little things” that make a difference to my own enjoyment on the water starting with my most important at the top:

 

On-board tackle boxes

This is has been a personal odyssey where I’ve explored everything from elaborate multi-compartment and guaranteed 100% waterproof options to the simple water resistant lunch boxes I now use for storing the bulk of my on-water fishing tackle. My biggest issue has always been trying to keep corrosion at bay and I’ve had to keep reminding myself the greatest source of salt water entering any of the tackle boxes I’ve used has been from damp fingers and hands.

The fact that wet hands on a kayak are unavoidable and towels to dry them on inconvenient quickly negates any advantages of totally waterproof seals, especially when tackle boxes are being accessed regularly. In turn these waterproof seals tend to lull us into a false sense of security and any box left closed and not opened to air out has the potential to destroy significant amounts of expensive fishing tackle.

 

With one exception my tackle box preference is now to use simple water resistant one or two compartment  lunchbox style containers easily stowed in the centre well or Tackle pod of my Viking kayak.  They’re simple to periodically run through the dishwasher to remove any salt build-up, and using small zip-lock plastic bags makes it uncomplicated to manage tackle selections for the day (on those kayaks where space is at a premium it’s easy to swap bagged tackle in and out of your container and only take what you need).

 The only tackle box I have on board that breaks the rule is the one I use for my slow jig/inchiku selection. Here I use a simple compartmented box with fixed dividers (having movable dividers makes salty tackle boxes a pain to clean and dry). Pure and simple I’ve found it impossible to keep the flexible skirts and razor sharp multiple hooks organised any other way. There’s little on the water more hilarious than watching a kayak angler frantically trying to untangle a mixed ball of rubber and Kevlar strands with hooks that imbed in everything as gannets pound the workup right beside the kayak!

  Zip-lock plastic bags and rubber bands

I’ve given these their own heading but they go hand-in-glove with the tackle boxes listed above. They are the tackle organisers key to making simple single or double compartment tackle boxes work so well. The small 75x100mm bags are inexpensive and big enough to fit all my commonly used rigs. It’s quick and easy to shuffle through them to see what needs stocking-up on board the kayak, and any bags with damp insides are obvious making it easy to spot contents needing a rinse and dry before re-bagging.

The rubber bands are key to keeping lures from ending up in a tangled ball snagging everything in sight. I use them on metal jigs to keep the assist rigs contained, on treble rigged hard bodies and blades to keep the hooks against the body of the lures, and also on trace spools to stop the line springing loose (I’ve found most line keepers on the small diameter spools unreliable).

 

 Black Magic clip swivels

 These robust clip swivels dramatically changed my attitude towards using clips on light tackle sport fishing rigs (under 15kg). Poor experiences as a land based angler using interlock snaps had given me a sour attitude towards anything other than coastlock or McMahon gamefishing clips, but experimenting with these little Black Magic beauties was a revelation! Years on I’m still using them, have yet to break one, and can’t recall ever losing a fish to an open clip despite having them dragged through heavy kelp and structure on numerous occasions.

I find clip swivels key to being able to multitask rod and reel combo’s on board kayaks (especially for anglers with only a single rod to work with, or one light and one heavy rig each serving many purposes). Clip swivels give switched on anglers the ability to rapidly re-task rod and reels combo’s as conditions and circumstances change without having to tie knots in pressured circumstances:

  • Swapping from baits to lures and back again on the one outfit
  • Running radically different lure systems from a single rod and reel
  • Instantly re-tasking another outfit after the one you’ve been using has been busted off
  • When stray-lining taking advantage of unclipping the trace end loop to swap sinker sizes and vary sink rates (so much faster than tying knots)
  • And most importantly make it easy to de-rig outfits for surf transitions so there’s nothing sharp attached to lines in the event of a turtle in the crash zone!

A factor that’s never ceased to amaze me is how strong these swivel and clip combinations are. In fact I now ignore the rating Black Magic puts on their packets and happily fish the 4-8kg clip swivels on line classes up to and including 15kg. I also use the 2-3kg clip swivels when lure fishing on line classes up to 10kg, and the only reason I don’t use them for bait fishing is they are so small they regularly end up wedged INSIDE the holes in my ball sinkers!

 Rigging puller

This is an incredibly cheap piece of indispensable kit I made myself out of a piece of 1.2mm stainless TIG welding wire (there are also nicely made commercial ones with plastic handles available for a few dollars from most tackle stores). Nothing more than a stainless hook with a handle that fits nicely in your fingers, the rigging puller lives up to its name by making it easy to properly pull terminal knots tight when tying to hooks, swivels, and lures. It also makes forming end loops in mono and fluorocarbon a breeze.

SHARP braid scissors

Like most of the bits of kit mentioned here, braid scissors sounds so mundane they’re hardly worthy of mention – everyone has a pair right? What I’m talking about is owning at least two SHARP pairs of scissors (one for the tackle box at home and one to go out on board the kayak). The idea is these should actually be able to cut the lines you’re using without trying to maul and mangle your way through. Good quality braid scissors are inexpensive and there’s no excuse for trying to persevere with a pair no longer up to the task. I shudder at the number of times I see kayak anglers on the water waving their bait or rescue knife around trying to trim a line as close as possible without actually cutting themselves!

 

At less than $15 a pair I have scissors on my rigging bench, a pair in my large tackle box, and a pair to take out on the water with me. Actually, I have another spare pair in the side pocket of my Hilux’s driver’s door just in case my kayak scissors get eaten by the salt or someone I’m paddling with forgets theirs (I really do hate seeing knives used to cut lines when hands and fingers play such an important role in paddling you home!).

Compass

This is an interesting item to put under the topic of “little things that count”, especially as I consider a compass an essential part of any kayakers kit, but I encounter so many paddlers without even the most basic way of telling which way is east or west I had to mention it. Personally, just as with every tip I do into the hills and mountains, every kayaking trip sees at least a little plastic compass in a pocket or hanging off the front of my PFD (Personal Flotation Device) – in fact I now feel somewhat naked if it’s not there.

Far too many paddlers believe they can ALWAYS tell which way to go to hit the coast, and most are ignoring they will usually end up paddling in circles in heavy fog or similar “whiteout” conditions if seas and winds are calm. I’ve personally rescued one paddler caught in a rain squall so heavy it created flat conditions and visibility of less than 20m – in a rush to get back he ended up paddling the wrong way! When he finally realised his mistake he was far offshore and beyond his capabilities to return unaided. Even the most basic of compasses would have told him which way the coast was and kept him on a relatively straight course there.

Given it isn’t prudent to rely solely on your electronics for navigation, especially in a wet kayaking environment, carrying a basic compass makes sense. At around $15 for a good quality Silva unit to clip out of the way on the front of your PFD there’s little excuse for not carrying one. In fact they are so good I think these simple navigation aids make the best Christmas or birthday gift for any kayak angler.

this article was written by Stephen Tapp for the Dec 2012 issue of NZ Fishing News magazing.