Jeff would be reluctant to say he is an expert angler, but those who know him would say otherwise.
Those who turn the pages of the PA Angler & Boater will note that Jeff Woleslagle’s byline is often found focusing on how to fish from a kayak.
Straight and to the point, Jeff’s articles serve as a catalyst introducing anglers to kayaks as a platform to effectively catch fish. Simply put, this guy is extremely good at what he does and is willing to share his knowledge. While spending time with this accomplished angler, Jeff shared a number of his tips and techniques that have made him successful.
The kayak provides a close to ideal platform from which to fish. Jeff said, “My kayak is a basic flat bottom and a very stable vessel measuring 11 feet long, which is just right for my height and weight. The only add-ons are ‘paddle keepers’ that I installed on both sides of the hull along with a hookup for cords for my fishing net and rod holders.
“The kayak provides stealth and flexibility. In many cases my kayak will allow me to fish waters that could not be accessed from shore. An added advantage is that a kayak can navigate ‘skinny water’ that is either too shallow or narrow for other types of boats to navigate.”
Kayaks are available in a number of sizes and price ranges. In Jeff’s case he prefers to keep things simple. The model he purchased new cost less than $400. His personal flotation device and paddle, along with a few additional items, were extra.
Like his kayak, Jeff keeps his fishing gear simple as well. “You sit closer to the water in a kayak, so for this type of fishing I prefer 7 foot rods.
“For bass the rod is a medium/heavy action. The other is a medium/light action which is almost an ultra-light used for pan fish, perch, and rock bass. The heavier action rod is spooled with 10-12 pound test line and the other is set up with 4-pound test line.”
While Woleslagle has a ton of lures to choose from, he only carries what he needs. He said, “The lures selected for a given outing are placed in the cockpit between my legs. Also hemostats are situated on both sides of the kayak for quick access. A full water bottle is kept on board. Everything is stowed at arm’s reach providing quick and easy access.”
As Jeff began discussing lures you could see he likes fishing with top water lures. Jeff said with a smile, “When using top water lures, it’s explosive to see a fish in a boil of water taking the lure. As a surge of adrenalin begins to take hold, it’s easy to lose the fish. But there are ways to improve your chances of setting the hook.”
Jeff went on to say, “Wait until you feel the fish on the line, wait a second or two then set the hook. It takes practice and is easier said than done.”
Jeff also noted that nearly all frog lures will work in practically any color. But his favorite color when fishing frogs is black.
Imitation frogs are one of Jeff’s favorites. To improve the lures’ effectiveness he pointed out, “When this lure comes out of the package, the hook is tight against the body of the frog. The fix is simple. Use needle nose pliers and bend the hook out a little. The lure will remain weed less and your chances will increase your hookup percentage.”
Jeff shared a great tip. He said, “If you miss a bass don’t change your position. Now take a soft plastic stick worm. Rig the lure “wacky style” using a size 6 octopus style hook. The color of the lure that works best for me is watermelon with red flake or watermelon with purple flake, or bubblegum.
“In the area where the bass hit last, allow the lure to fall down to the bottom. If the fish does not strike, bounce the lure off the bottom several times. If there is not a hit, retrieve the lure and go on. However a good percentage of the time this little trick works.”
There are times when weather conditions can help anglers catch fish.
Woleslagle said that when fishing an impoundment on a windy day, conditions may be just right to catch bass.
Jeff pointed out, “If there is a slight breeze, fishing at the breast of a dam can be the place to go. The reason is that often bass will lay facing the wind.”
“Under these conditions soft plastic’s work great. When they quit hitting the plastic, change over to a crank bait. Retrieve the lure and allow it to bang off submerged rock and timber. The abnormal movement seems to trigger the fish to hit the bait.”
Plastic stick baits can are extremely effective when working weed lines, holes in weed beds, over wood cover, and rocky areas. This also provides the angler who uses a kayak with the ability to fish these areas. When fishing areas such as these Jeff recommends allowing the lure to fall. Be sure to watch your line. If the line moves in any direction, the fish has taken the lure. And 9 out of 10 times the bait will be taken as the lure falls.
Creature bait works great. Jeff said, “I really believe if you can show a bass something different, it goes a long way to having it strike your lure.”
Jeff went on to say, “My ‘go to’ lure in this category is a 1/8-ounce jig head in a color that matches the body of the lure. To use the lure, cast it out and retrieve it in a ‘hopping manner’. When it works it’s exciting as you feel the fish take the lure.”
Pan fish are fun to fish kayak style. Jeff uses a couple meal worms placed on the hook using a floater 18 to 20 inches above the setup. As Jeff says, “Meal worms are neat, clean, and easy to use.”
Kayaks can help provide the access you need to be able to catch more and a wider variety of fish. Give it a try, and trust me the experience will speak for itself.
Charlie Burchfield is an active member and past president of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association, an active member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers. Gateway Outdoors e-mail is GWOutdoors@comcast.net.