Articles for April 2014

Stalking Reds: A Sensory Experience – Learn to catch redfish through using your 5 senses

I’ve had a few special trips this year and a few opportunities to show others how to stalk redfish.  It’s often called “sight fishing” or “sight casting” but the truth is there is, all of your senses are involved.  So here’s a primer on stalking redfish by using your sense of sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste:

First of all, I have to say that the secret to stalking successfully is a willingness to make mistakes.  If you stalk redfish, you are going to: paddle right up on top of some, miss casts, and you are going to make a noise at the wrong moment.  It’s all ok – enjoy the whole experience, not just the moment of landing the fish which is only one part of the whole.

That being said, let’s hit the big sense first.


  1. Sight

There are four key elements of sight when stalking Redfish.

  • You can see redfish if you do a few things right.  First of all you, you need the right color sunglasses.  These must be polarized and I prefer copper/brown lenses.  Some like red, but I’m happiest with copper.  The other is getting tall.  You’ve got to be able to stand in your boat.  If your boat isn’t stable enough, then paddle the bow or stern into the grass for stability and then stand up.  But if you can learn to look through the water, you will begin to see fish.
  • Looking at the “hydrology” of the environment.  What are you seeing in the water?  Broken up clams, grass mats, channels in the mud, any pattern might reveal something you need to know.  Predator 101: bait is lazy and drifts with the water flow.  Predators of lazy bait will find an obstruction near that water flow so they can ambush the bait.  Paying attention to the visual clues in the water can pay off big time.
  • Surface action.  Ripples, ripples everywhere!  But, which one is a fish?  It’s so hard to talk about this, when you just have to see it.  ,a few things you can build on:  Small darting wakes are almost certainly mullet.  Bigger wakes that zig zag a lot are most likely sheep’s head.  Large straight line runs – just might be a redfish.  But some of those little stirs on the surface… if you can imagine a big tail gently drifting back and forth underneath it – that just might be a redfish.  Keep trying, keep watching, log in the information.  You WILL get better.
  • The whole environment.  What’s the bank look like?  Is there deep water right up to the bank?  Fish closer to shore.  If the water has a slow sloping bank or even a “mud flat” fish further out.  Look for the fish where they will be.


*** bonus tip – OK, no science here, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught redfish right next to a stingray.  You see a stingray – get your head on a swivel.


Do not underrate how important listening is to stalking reds.  Keep your ears open.  Short quick plopping noises are almost certainly a mullet.  Small slurping noises are likely sheep’s head grabbing snails off the grass.  But big crashing noises?   Either a bird just flew over baitfish (I look up first) or a big red just smashed something on the bank.  Next, look for bubbles around the bank – “there he is, go get him”.  Really loud slurping noises?  Look for that red again.  Don’t be afraid to chase around a point to find out what you just heard.  I’ve had some very successful days fishing by ear.

Also if you really pay attention, you will learn why reds are in the drum family.  Reds make a drumming noise.  Just one and you may be able to catch them.  It’s sort of a “What’s up?” I’ve heard it often and looked up to see a red slowly swimming away.  Not really upset,  I give him a few seconds before I throw a bait.  And sometimes they’ll still hit.

Two or more drums?  That’s usually when you get to look up in time to see them swim away.  But maybe there are some that didn’t spook yet – get ready to fish!


3. Smell

Really?  Yes, really.  Late to midsummer, the grass starts to die off – it stinks.  But that doesn’t bother the reds.  The more it stinks, the closer you are getting to the reds.  I’m telling you, it’s come into play.

Also keep that line smelling right.  Use a reel oil that doesn’t smell adverse to fish (reel magic is one).   Don’t mess up your baits with contaminants.  Keep the bug spray away.  Remember these fish hunt by smell too.  When times are tough use an attractant but don’t expect miracles.

4. Touch

Touch on the line is incredibly important.  Use braided line with a fluorocarbon leader.  Learn to know the difference between bumping shells, pulling up grass,  and running into mullet so you know the feel of a redfish grabbing your line.  They’ll miss several times on some attacks so you have to keep calm and fish on. Only time can develop this skill.  Be patient, you will get it.

By identifying the feel of grass, you can learn to wriggle your bait through without snagging and float your lure over the top of a matt of grass  The key, is to keep that bait moving and not jerking it out of the strike zone by over reacting to every little thing.

5.  Taste

Nah I have no secrets here.  Just the sweet taste of success and a perfectly cooked fish!

Nothing can replace time on the water, but I hope I’ve given you a few things to concentrate on.  I wish I could run video through my eyes.  The things I’ve seen on the water are just amazing.  Just this week I had one red on the line and watched as two other redfish repeatedly tried to take my black spoon out of his mouth!  I was really worried they would wind up breaking my lure.  Simply amazing.

Immerse yourself in the experience of your environment for success fishing for Reds.

Article by Reverend Bill Crawford of Team Backpacker and Wilderness Systems Fishing Team Ambassador.

What’s it like to hook on to a Redfish?

BCKFC Paddlepalooza XI (11) Kayak Fishing Tournament is coming! from Geargut Productions on Vimeo.

Ready to take the next step?  Try a fishing kayak out for yourself at a FREE Backpacker On water demo! 

Rigging the Wilderness Systems Ride 115x kayak for fishing- Part 2

Article by Reverend Bill Crawford of Team Backpacker and a Wilderness Systems Fishing Team Ambassador.

So we’ve mounted the new front rod holders on the Wilderness Systems Ride 115x, now it’s time for the rest of the essentials.

The rear “flush mount” rod holders.  These are for trolling, storing your pole, and with new ideas on the market you can stick lights in them, or even your camera mount!  Flush mounts are a  “real jack of all trades”.  Here’s the basics:

First match your hole saw to the size of the flush mount. Harmony’s come with instructions and a template (nice).
none of the manufacturers mention this, but the flush mounts are angled. So their actual footprint is oval. Easiest fix is to just file the two sides until the mount slides in smoothly.
Next seal the deal. Surround the base and fill the holes with marine goop.
Add your rivets and wipe off the excess and you are good to go.

I had to get creative and cut the edge of the rod holder due to the anchor storage.

 After that comes the anchor trolley.  I used the one by Harmony.  This time I couldn’t follow the instructions, however, I worked off of these by Wilderness Pro Chad Hoover:

I just simplified a few steps like tying my own knots, and with the bungee I just slipped each end through the pad eyes and tied them off.

A few zip ties to lay down the loose ends and I’m good to go.

Next time I’ll add the “non” essentials as I’m still working through some of those but they include Lowrance installation (easy peasy), paddle solutions, net, paddle leash, and I might thrown in a picture of the milk crate of doom!

With these additions your yak is ready to ride!  Have fun on the water.

“Never Give Up!’ A Story of Loss and Redemption While Fishing the Redfish Rumble Kayak Fishing Tourament” by Hobie Fishing Team Member Clayton Shilling


Never give up …..

Had the pleasure of fishing the Redfish Rumble kayak tourney this past Saturday 3/22/2014. We were looking for 5 slot reds and one bass, and if ya caught all 6 fish ya get a bonus pound. We picked a spot on the map that was far enough north to have sufficient fresh water as well as it looked like it had some good redfish ponds. We (Steve Lessard) and I  got to the launch with still plenty of darkness and lots of gator eyes to throw the spotlight on. We decided to wait till day break to launch, so to kill some time I broke off a Rosa cane, swished it in the water, and sure enough a little 3 foot gator couldn’t help but come and see what the commotion was all about.  He even decided to try a bite but decided that taste wasn’t for him.

Finally, day break came and we slid the Hobie Outbacks from the rocky muddy bank into the calm water, made a short 80 yard paddle and commenced to fan casting the grass beds that line the canal. We were throwing buzz baits/ lunker lures and it wasn’t long before the calm was interrupted by the adrenaline jolting strike of a large mouth bass!  He hooked up… and then, he got off.   I repeated that scenario 2 more times and decided try another approach.



I tied on an antique wooden popper I bought at a trash to treasure sale and caught 2  +2 lb bass within 5 min.  They looked like twins!

Now that I had my bass it was time to chase some reds so I continued down the canal to where it opens to the first redfish pond.  The entrance to the pond was guarded by two bay boats who were chucking live bait cork rigs as far as they could, but not much was happening.   The water was way way low and the pond in the deepest spots was maybe 2′ but most areas were holding about 10″ to 18″ of water and thick with grass … I went as close to the bank as I could paddle to get around the boats and into the pond and they just kinda gave me a look like “where is he going? that’s not fair!”  I just waved and said ” any luck ? ” and they just gave that familiar no head shake that I knew well.

The wind was at my back so I popped my Hobie Mirage drive out and stood up, and let the breeze ease me into the pond. Sure enough, maybe 40 yards away I see a tail in the area like a welcome flag saying “were here!  Come and get us!” From that point on it was non stop action!  I must have caught 20+ reds in about a 4 hr period all on spinner bait. It. Was. AWESOME!  All different sizes from 18″rs to one just over 27″.  I knew I had a chance at being in the money.

As it was nearing time to go, I made the paddle back to the pickup truck and started packing up.  Before we decided to pull out, I wanted to take a good look at my catch. So, I laid the bass on the tailgate of my truck and proceeded to lay the 5 redfish next to him …. 1,2,3,4,? Wait what the heck ? I literally dove back into my ice bag scouring the icy bottom with my fingers.  To my astonishment, I only found icy nothing. Suddenly, I went from a chance to win this thing to complete despair.  I had thrown back too many fish.  “Are you freakin kidding me?” I paced around aimlessly looking like the team that just lost the Super Bowl and finally digested what just happened and brought myself to just load up and drive.

As I drove, I looked at the clock.  We were making pretty good time and should get to Sweetwater marina with about 25 min before cut off time. So, as the wheels of the truck turned, so did my mind.  “Would I have time to launch my yak and catch a keeper red with in such a short time?  Would I risk not making the weigh in at all?”

Then, the phrase that I have used so many times spoke inside of me ” never give up!”

The plan was hatched that we would pull in to the marina right to the boat launch, I’d unload like a Nascar pit crew on speed, and see what happens . And that’s what I did. So, I’m on the water scanning for anything that looked fishy, and I see a grassy bank just across the main channel.  It took me about 2 min to get across and as I round the corner the flat was laden with little 1′ to 2′ grass patches.  I pulled my sword from its sheath…. and let the spinner bait fly!  I weave it through the grass patches like a high performance street bike on a curvy mountain road just flirting with the grassy edges … But no luck.  Again I cast, but nadda.  Then I see a swirl, that familiar swirl of a good sized red.  I cast 10 yards behind it and pulled through the strike zone. THUMP!  “No way is this really happening.”  I set the hook and drag, started peeling, and then I saw that oh so beautiful tail! I fought her cautiously, but anxiously and in a blur she was in my net. I called Steve and exclaimed “I got her , I freakin got her!” . He hadn’t even found a spot to park the truck, yet and I had my fish in the net. A beautiful fish, a GLORIOUS fish, a fish of redemption! I literally walked across the road with the wiggling fish in my net. It was surreal.  Did that just happen?!.

photo6 photo2

So in the end, I placed third in the Redfish Rumble, which put me in good position for the Angler of the Year Series and my buddy Steve Lessard captured 1st place.  That’s three tourneys in a row for him.  He caught a really nice bass that put him over the top. If you have a competitive spirit and love to kayak fish and have not tried tournament fishing yet , do yourself a favor and give it a go. It’s a blast!
Hope you enjoyed the read , and hope to see you at Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club’s Paddlepalooza XI April 12th.

Until then, may your lines be tight.


Clayton Shilling has been a member The Backpacker Hobie Fishing Team for 3 years, is currently Tournament Director for the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club and has posted multiple 1st place wins at regional fishing tournaments.  Clayton fishes from a Hobie Mirage Outback.