Primarily striper fishing from my kayak, I’ve customized every inch of it to achieve my dark purposes. Within every community sub-communities exist, often seemingly at odds with each other and disputing ideals that the general public finds insignificant. The debates continue in perpetuity until something diverts their attention. While targeting striped bass on the Chesapeake Bay I’ve never shied away from pushing the envelope, becoming an early adopter of kayak technology that’s made me the ‘cheater’ I am today. Many years ago, before the big boom in kayak fishing, I was a cheater because I utilized a pedal-driven kayak, which were rare at the time. “But that’s not a kayak!” they’d cry, trying to ban them from tournaments. “The advantage is too great!” I didn’t care what they said then, nor do I care now – if you want average results, do what everyone else does.

big striper caught on kayak
If you want to catch stripers like this on your kayak, listen to the author's advice!

Fast forward another decade and now the naysayers are really up in arms. I’ve added a Torqeedo motor that tips the scales at a meager 16 pounds including the battery, which can propel my kayak all day. Adding range to stealth, physical limitations no longer dictate the amount of time spent on the water. Even with a pedal drive, trolling consistently requires some physical prowess. Once again the critics bemoan, “but…but…but… that’s not a kayak!” as if the word “kayak” holds some mysterious power.

No “kayak” is complete without electronics, but pedestrian electronics won’t do. I use a Humminbird top-of-the-line Mega Imaging unit that can see the fins on the fish. If that’s not enough, an additional 360 Imaging transducer spots fish like radar. This is definitely more cheating, right? The fish can’t even hide. I can see the rock they’re hiding behind, where the school congregates, and the direction the fish are looking. All I have to do is put a lure in front of them.

Not so fast. Hand me a top of the line mechanic’s tool set, and I still can’t fix your car. The best tools quickly improve the skills of an average angler and are absolutely deadly in the hands of an experienced angler. However, for an angler with no experience, they still need to spend quality time on the water because he or she doesn’t know what to do with the information that the tools provide.

Part of the skill in angling is knowing what’s needed to improve your game, and that skill deepens with experience. It didn’t take me long to discover that my success on the water increases with the range I’m able to achieve. I remember looking off into the distance at some of my favorite hot spots, unwilling to go because I feared not having enough energy to get home. The Torqeedo solved this problem, and with the advent of their new higher capacity battery, I no longer worry about range. This incredible technology solved a problem, and while it may not solve everyone’s problems, it has solved one of mine.

If you’ve read my books, specifically my first book “Light Tackle Kayak Trolling the Chesapeake Bay,” you understand that I teach a process described as “Trolling for Home Field Advantage.” It’s a deliberate process for breaking down large bodies of water into small, more manageable sections to find hotspots. These hotspots change from season to season, but this process has allowed me to consistently find and catch fish during any day of the year. This process does not require high dollar electronics. In fact, I developed this process with lower-end units with the minimum requirement of having GPS and the ability to track depth. Most modern fishfinders can accommodate these requirements. However, Humminbird’s Solix model provides the best images I’ve ever seen. If they were any clearer, they’ll be photographs of what lay beneath the water. This alone does not make me a better angler – but utilizing it to acquire important information that compliments my fishing process does indeed make me a better angler.

Because standard sonar in shallow water seldom shows fish, I benefit incredibly by using Side Imaging in the Mega Frequency. Using this tool, I know where the fish congregate without having to catch them. Each congregation draws another waypoint on my chart. I always mark my GPS where I catch fish, but with this tool I don’t need to catch them. I simply mark the GPS from a distance, shortening the time needed to compile waypoints. Using those waypoints, productive regions and features are uncovered, creating more hotspots. Mega Imaging can also show the direction the fish are facing. The lay person may overlook this subtlety, but the experienced angler knows that success significantly increases by pulling a lure towards a fish rather than from behind. These observations combined with a well refined process improve your skills, not create them. All the intelligence in the world won’t cause the fish to jump into the kayak by itself.

All of these tools merely improve efficiency. Jumping from hotspot to hotspot requires time and energy. Add a motor, problem solved. Gone are the rest periods between stops. Once at a hotspot I no longer need to use an exhaustive search method to find if fish are in the area because my electronics tell me by looking at the screen. I make three passes and have seen 500 feet of what’s below the surface, not just 10 feet using a standard sonar. You better believe that saves a lot of time. If there’s nothing around, move on to the next hot spot. All of these tools make a difference in improving catch rates, if you know how to use them. That’s the key.

So, am I cheating? Nah, I’m just sharpening my pencil, acquiring the right pieces of technology to do the job I need. I encourage you to get what you need – and can afford – to maximize your enjoyment on the water. I have a growing family now and can’t spend all day on the water. I want to spend three hours and be home before everyone has finished breakfast. Efficiency is what I need, and how I’ve customized my kayak. Is what I have still a “kayak?” Who cares?! It’s like comparing today’s Tesla with an old Model T. Let the internet debate that, while you’re spending your precious time enjoying the fishing.

- By Alan Battista