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Alright, let me know if this sounds familiar = You’re out kayak fishing at your fave spot, but the fish just aren’t biting and are nowhere to be found. After a while, you ask yourself the inevitable question every angler asks: "Why am I not catching any fish? Do I just suck?"
Every single angler asks themselves that question – from pro to newbie – and even the pro's sometimes forget to go back and analyze if they are doing all the 'basics' correctly.
So, here are the 10 main reasons why you probably aren’t catching any fish, and also some key tips and tricks that'll help make sure you don’t get skunked on your next kayak fishing trip.
1. You Are Fishing the Wrong Areas
Number one on the most common mistakes anglers make – kayak anglers or otherwise – of any and all skill levels is spending WAY too much time simply fishing in the wrong areas. 90% of the fish are in 10% of the water, but it's finding that sweet 10% that is the big trick. Pro's get much better at figuring out where that 10% is, but they sometimes forget to really take a look at the water – above and below the waterline – to determine where the fish are likely at.
One of the keys in fishing is to be constantly on the move until you can find fish. Once you find them, then you can slow down and take your time fishing that area, but don’t waste time fishing in spots that aren’t holding any fish.
If you aren’t catching any fish after 30-45 minutes of systemically hitting a likely holding area – underwater structure, or weeds, etc on the surface, and then trying varying depths of the "feeding column" – then it's time to move on and fish some new water.
If you haven't got an electronic 'fishfinder' and you plan on kayak fishing a decent amount, then buying one will definitely help you find fish. Here's a sweet video on how to install one
and here are some awesome fishfinder mounts Vibe carries to purchase.
2. Fishing With The Wrong Bait Or Lures
If you think you're fishing in the right areas and see other anglers catching fish, but you aren't getting any hook-ups, then the odds are that you're using the wrong type of lure or bait. Fishing can be a wacky sport – what worked yesterday or last week may not work today or tomorrow.
That’s why it’s super important to mix it up. If you’ve been fishing the same technique or lure for a while, don’t be afraid to switch it up until you can find something the fish will bite on.
It's very common for an angler to stick with the wrong lure or bait too long when they should've switched things up and caught fish. The fish will tell you what they like on any given day – all you have to do is present them with the right stuff.
To make sure you can always carry enough tackle boxes to store a variety of baits, here are some cool fishing crate storage options.
3. You’re Using The Wrong Size Lure (Too Small Or Too Big)
Another way too common reason why the fish aren't biting is that you might be using baits and lures that're either too small or too big.
While too many times we've all heard "big baits catch big fish", the truth is fishing an oversized lure can sometime be a big mistake. Sometimes big fish will key in on smaller food, so if your big bait or lure isn't performing like you think it should, then size-down your baits or lures. Smaller baits can sometimes outperform bigger and flashy style lures – it sometimes just depends on the day.
Having said that, if you're after bigger fish and you've tried going down in size, but aren't getting bites, then try sizing up. Bigger fish are sometimes lazy and prefer a larger, slower meal that won’t cause them to expend a ton of energy. Try throwing big, and retrieving slower.
4. You’re Using The Wrong Colors
Every successful kayak angler knows that color may seem like a minor thing, but it can have a big impact on your how many fish you bag. If the fish aren’t biting on the color you’re using, then try switching it up with something different. It might not be the type of lure or bait that you're using that's wrong, or the size, but rather the color.
Fish are finicky. "Matching the hatch" is a term in fishing that just means using lures and baits that closely resemble what the fish are feeding on – and that means color, too. If you're not catching anything on a particular color, try switching to a different color – preferably in stark contrast with what you were fishing with before.
Some tried-and-true colors you should always have in your tackle box are green pumpkin, black or brown, and bright yellow. In clear waters, fish natural colors such as greens and browns. In stained or murky waters, try bright and also dark colors.
5. Fishing At The Wrong Time Of Day
If you’re not having any luck, you may simply be fishing during the wrong time of day. Certain times of the day all fish are more active and you’ll have a way better chance of catching fish.
The best time to go fishing for most species during the year is going to be in the morning, evening or during overcast conditions. If you live in a hot part of the country, then most fish will not be biting during mid-day or afternoon in particular. Wait until the temperature falls and then you'll see your hook-ups rise.
Since currents and waves can vary from morning to the afternoon and into the evening, a simple kayak anchor makes sure your kayak doesn't drift from the spot where you've found fish, and every kayak angler definitely needs a kayak anchor such as this one.
6. Fishing At the Wrong Retrieval Speed
If you're struggling to find and catch fish, don’t overlook your retrieval speed – which is very easy to forget. Your retrieval speed, cadence, and the way you work your lure or bait can be key to catching.
Fishing too fast won’t allow your targeted fish to get a good enough look at your lure, which prevents them from striking. However, fishing too slow won’t allow you to cover enough water or properly imitate the speed at which bait species are moving .
Slow Down = When fish are extra finicky and sluggish. A lot of fish species will become sluggish and not as active during the winter months or at a hotter time of day and will prefer a slower presentation.
Speed Up = When water temperatures are moderate and the fish are more active. Having a faster retrieval speed will not only allow you to fish more water, but will often trigger a "reaction instinct" with more aggressive fish.
Note that if you are fishing with live bait or PowerBait this tip won’t apply in your situation.
7. Water Temperature Is Key To Catching
Water temperatures can play a big role with fishing success. All species of freshwater fish are cold blooded, meaning they take on the temperature of their surroundings. This means that their activity level, and when they eat, and how much they eat will change depending on the water temperatures. Warm water species also have different temperatures they prefer to eat at and can tolerate.
It’s important to keep this in mind when you are fishing for a particular species. Once the water temperature gets too hot or cold fish tend to shut down. You may just need to slow your presentation and cast directly on them so that it doesn’t take a lot of energy for them to grab your lure.
Also, temperatures of water will vary with the different vertical areas of the "feeding column" – the different zones of water from the warmer surface of the water down to the very bottom, and the different areas in between.
Which leads us to...
8. You're Not Fishing At The Correct Water Depth
Another reason why you aren’t getting any fish to bite is that you are fishing at the wrong depths. Most fish will prefer different depths and this can be influenced by the season, time of the day, and the weather patterns.
For example, largemouth bass can typically be found in shallow water throughout the spring and fall months. However, when it gets too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer they will head deeper.
Understanding and knowing what depth the fish will be at a certain time can play a huge factor in being able to catch fish.
If you aren’t sure if they are shallow or deep, move around until you can find a fish or two and try and find areas that replicate the same spot where you caught some fish. One you have a nice pattern down you’ll be able to catch a ton of fish.
9. You’re Being Too Loud
The ninth reason that you aren’t catching fish is that you are just being too loud – which is something every single kayak angler has a big problem with, because most kayaks (unless it's a Vibe Cubera) aren't inherently stealthy. Having the right paddle can be very important so that the paddle blade cuts the water smoothly and decreases noise – and the Evolve Paddle is one of the best options out there.
Fishing is just like hunting in the sense that if a fish sees or hears you coming, then they will most likely be scared off very quickly. Sound travels far underwater, so being quiet with your paddle and your approach WAY before you get to your fishing spot is incredibly important.
Fish can feel movement, vibrations, and noises that will cause them to spook. Once this happens the only thing you can do is just move on and come back later.
10. Fishing At the Wrong Location
Not all fishing locations are created equal, and not every lake, river, pond, stream or bay is going to have the structure or flora or rocks or whatever to create the hiding places that most fish seek out, and which make your ability to find them and target them easier.
If you aren’t not having any luck at your location, then try fishing somewhere else the next time you decide to go kayak fishing. Don't simply hope that a location will get better if you've tried over and over and failed to catch the number you want.
Each state has a fishing website with fishing reports that you can go on and find quality places to fish, and by trying new places you may just find a new fave honey-hole.
Let's face it – the reason most people fish is to catch, and if you aren't catching then it's likely one of the ten reasons listed above. These fishing tips will either remind you of the basics, or teach you why fish aren’t biting and flip-the-switch to start bagging the big ones again.