You don’t need an expensive boat and a large fuel bill to enjoy productive Chesapeake Bay fishing. Small vessels like kayaks bring lots of shallow water areas into play and can be very productive. Most of my fishing is done from a kayak in water depths less than six feet, frequently trolling with light tackle looking for stripers and other species.

a striper caught kayak trolling
Kayak anglers can score big, trolling the shallows of the Chesapeake Bay.

Features to look for include grass beds in depths of three to five feet and spots with vertical structure that rises off the bottom. The vertical structure can be rock piles, stumps, oyster shells, old building foundations, or other objects. One of my favorite May fishing locations has both, with grass beds near shorelines in various spots and some points that jut out into the current. What is more unique about this location is an area several acres in size with numerous vertical mounds in only four to five feet of depth. Those mounds rise several feet off the bottom and create a marvelous habitat.

Although I had been fishing on other portions of this site for several years, I first discovered this area of shallow structure in the spring of 2021. My electronics helped me find the otherwise unmarked boundaries of the mound area, with sonar and/or downscan showing the individual mounds. As I paddled back and forth across the area, my GPS marked trails on the screen showing everywhere I had been. Whenever I caught a fish, I marked a waypoint. After a few trips, I had a good pattern of waypoints that showed me where the mounds were and where the fish were likely to be. You can do the same at any location, as long as you do two critical things:

  • Make sure you have trails activated on your GPS.
  • Make sure to take the time to save waypoints, immediately, every time you hook up.

One day last May I finished with 41 stripers up to 23-inches trolling these mounds — and paddling around while catching fish like that certainly beats going to the gym for a workout. Now that I have them in my GPS I’ll be able to return to the spot and try the same trolling pattern to bring my lures close to the structure this May.

trolling pattern on kayak fishing electronics
You can see the kayak trolling pattern, and fish caught, on the electronics.

Tackle for shallow water, light tackle trolling includes six-foot, six-inch spinning rods with medium light or medium power, and 2500 or 3000 series reels. Ten-pound braid matches up well, with a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader. Jigheads trolled in water this shallow can be from an eighth to a quarter of an ounce with three- to five-inch paddletails; white and chartreuse often work well.

- By John Veil, excerpted from John’s latest book, “The Way I Like to Fish - A Kayak Angler’s Guide to Shallow Water, Light Tackle Fishing.” John’s books are available via Amazon or by emailing the author at [email protected].