Lowrance Ambassador 2017

I've just renewed my contract to continue as an Ambassador to Lowrance for 2017. I do consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to represent Lowrance, a well known electronics brand that I've been using now for many years. I originally started out with an Elite 4 DSI, progressing onto an Elite 7 HDI, an HDS7 and most recently onto an HDS9 Carbon.

How technology has advanced in such a short space of time!. It's amazing to be able to purchase a single unit that can encompass mapping and GPS as well as a several modes of sonar such as broadband, down imaging and side imaging. You can even get 3D imaging, though I've not ventured down that particular route.


Broadband, Down Imaging and 3D Sonar

There are anglers who consider such a plethora or features unnecessary and to be honest I did fall into that group many years ago. I recall people spending several hundred pounds on GPS/fish finders ten years ago. It seemed ludicrous to spend such a large sum on electronics, often close to what their kayak may have cost. However, my views have changed (literally!) and having used more advanced units I've realised the many benefits that they bring.

Detailed charts are invaluable for locating fish holding areas as well as having the ability to mark waypoints to enable easy return to fishing spots as well as navigating to new areas or simply getting home should that be required.


Navionics Charts

I clearly recall progressing from broadband sonar to down imaging. Structure that had previously appeared as a meaningless 'blob' suddenly took on recognisable shapes that could actually be interpreted , producing information was far more valuable.


Down Imaging and Broadband Sonar

Then there was the big jump to side imaging (Lowrance StructureScan). This was definitely one area that I was particularly dubious about. Firstly it was quite expensive to make that leap, secondly I thought that it was a bit of a gimmick if I'm being entirely honest. Gosh, how wrong I was!. Being able to see structure, features and fish either side of you, quite often when the standard sonar is showing nothing of interest below. Being able to navigate across to these features and catch fish that you'd normally have just paddled straight past... that is a superb ability and one that I'd be very reluctant to be without now.


StructureScan (Side Imaging)

The latest innovation is SonarChart Live, live sonar mapping!. There's been many occasions that I've ventured into an area where I've had zero or little mapping coverage. One option was to map/log the area and to upload that data after the trip, wait for the data to be processed, before downloading a map back to your unit ready for the next trip. Well that's ok, but what if you weren't planning on fishing that venue again, plus it would have been far nicer to have that chart when you were actually fishing on that first trip!.

SonarChart Live does just that, creating a live chart behind the kayak as you go, instantly.  The more an area is covered, the more detailed it becomes. Again, I was a little unsure of this latest innovation, though having used it a few times now I can honestly say that it's invaluable!


SonarChart Live

I've been working with Lowrance for over 5 years now. Some people look negatively towards sponsored anglers and trust me I can see why they may form those opinions. Though speaking for myself, I'll only accept sponsorship for a product that I truly believe in and actually would have chosen to use. It provides me with the opportunity to provide feedback to a company in order to improve a product, as well as helping users to tackle issues or improve their understanding of a product and its features.

I've always prided myself on my integrity, hence I'm happy to talk about both positives and negatives of a product and I believe that at times that may not always be the case with sponsored anglers, hence the perception that does exist at times towards sponsored reviews, etc.

Anyway, back to fishing, more specifically rigging!. I've a new kayak in the garage with a multitude of accessories that I need to fit before I venture back onto the water.

Watch this space for updates!


Porbeagle Shark from the kayak!

Firstly I haven't caught one yet, in fact I've yet to try to catch one. However, I'd love to address that sooner rather than later, though it does fill me with a rather large amount of trepidation!. Personally, I think you have to be somewhat mad to attempt to tackle such a large fish from a kayak, a large fish with with big teeth!.


That said my good friend Graham Smith has gone and done it again, catching yet another large Porbeagle Shark from his kayak. He's based in Ireland and has access to some superb fishing.

Check out his video below...

Thinking about rigging my new 2017 Outback.... what's actually needed?

Well the 'old' 2015 loan Hobie Outback is due to depart to a new owner on Saturday with my new replacement 2017 model due to arrive at the Hobie UK dealer the same day. However, I probably won't be able to collect it until later next week so that's provided me with time to consider how I'm going to rig it and what exactly I'm going to have to order. Hopefully it'll look just like this one below when I collect it.
This Outback will have to last many years, I'm not going to be in any rush to upgrade to the latest model, etc. Rigging is expensive and time consuming, plus every time I move onto a new kayak I end up losing quite a lot of money on items that can't be removed, items such as track systems, fixed mounts, anchor trolley, hatches, electrical looms, etc. It's also the time required to actually rig the kayak, giving it plenty of thought, as well a taking the time to produce a top notch final product,.. this all takes time. A considerable amount of time!

I considered fitting Hobie H-Rails plus the associated accessories, though it just starts to get more complex and more expensive. Plus I was concerned about re-entering the kayak after a capsize, etc. I justed to keep it clean and relatively simple.

I've rigged two Outbacks since 2012, some things have worked well, other modifications perhaps haven't been quite so successful. There are certain things that are 'must have' modifications, these will include:

1. An anchor trolley. I've previously made my own anchor trolleys on two of my previous kayaks. It's straight forward and not particularly expensive. However, this time I'm planning on fitting a YakAttack LeverLoc system, probably one on either side. It looks to be a well thought out, innovative, yet simplistic system, made from quality components, Time will tell, my YakAttack order is due to arrive shortly.



2. Rod holders (I'll stick with my trusted RAM tube setup for bait fishing). I've been using RAM RAP-119 rod holders for some time now. I've modified mine specifically for the Outback and they work well for most applications.


3. Rectangular hatch. Storage space is everything on the kayak for me and the standard round hatch just doesn't cut it. I'll also add the tackle insert as well as an integrated dry bag within the hull to provide a large amount of enclosed dry storage. I've done this previously and it works very well.


4. Combination fish finder/GPS. I've watched this technology improve exponentially since I started kayak fishing in 2007, starting out with a Humminbird 565 to my Prowler Big Game. I'm fortunate to be an Ambassador for Lowrance and my most recent setup is an HDS 9 Carbon with TotalScan, This should be a straightforward installation as Hobie kayaks are 'Lowrance ready'.


5. Accessory Mounts. Whether it be rod holders, fish finders, navigation lights, cameras, etc, they all need a way of being mounted to the kayak. I prefer a universal type of system and for this I've been using YakAttack's GearTrac from the beginning. These can accept a variety of fittings and are ideal for mounting a multitude of accessories. The latest 2nd Generation GearTrac is somewhat lighter and will be a new fit for myself.


6. An electrical system. To me this is vitally important, not just because it's require to power up the FF/GPS and navigation light, etc, but it also has be be extremely durable to survive many years in a saltwater environment without failing. This requires quality components as well as a methodical approach to ensure watertight integrity is maximised. For this I use Bulgin Standard marine connectors. They are very well sealed and feature stainless steel pins and sockets. Looms are covered with heat shrink tubing for durability and ssuitably sealed. This is not a cheap setup, however it's tremendously reliable.


7. Power supply. Over the years I've used SLA batteries to power up my electrics. In the early days I could get a couple of sessions out on a 7ah battery if needed. Though with today's large screen combination fish finder/GPS units the power requirements are far higher. With my latest Lowrance HDS 9 Carbon I was really struggling to get a decent fishing session out of a 12ah battery. Lead acid batteries are bulky and heavy so after much research I've recently moved away from SLA batteries and purchased an LiFePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) battery. Despite being 22ah in capacity, its lighter than a 12ah SLA battery and comparable in size. It's charge from flat to full capacity in 4 hours, that's seriously fast compared to a lead acid battery. This is stored in its own dry bag with a fully waterproof connector within the kayak.


That's the 'must have' items for the Outback, though there are other considerations as well.

As much as I never got to sail the 2015 Outback, I did sail my first Outback model on quite a few occasions and enjoyed it immensely. To that end I'll rig this new model for sailing from the outset. That'll require the crossbar for the Hobie Sidekicks to be fitted as well as some minor items of hardware towards the front hatch.



The tankwell area will be used for my drybox/ Hobie H-Crate or Hobie Livewell as required, nothing new there whatsover, it works, no need to re-invent the well.

Visually this new 2017 Outback will look very similar to my current setup, though it'll be mine and that just feels better for a variety of reasons.

I think that should do it. It'll take me a good couple of days to get it rigged just how I want it. Time to order up some items so I can crack on with the rigging in a week or so, hopefully the YakAttack items will arrive in good time. I want it to be fishing ready within a fortnight, bring on the fishing!

I’m buying a new kayak!

I’m currently using a 2015 Hobie Outback for my main fishing duties as well as a 2015 Hobie Adventure Island for both sailing and fishing. The AI is mine, though the Outback has been on loan from the Hobiecat Centre in Poole, Dorset. As much as this has been a great arrangement, I’ve decided to go back to private ownership for a few reasons, nothing sinister I hasten to add.
The choice was simple, another Outback (Red of course)!. I did briefly consider the other Hobie options, no other brands interested me as I’m now a pedal convert. The Outback is still the obvious choice of Hobie kayak for fishing duties due to its stability, roominess, rigging options and ease of sailing.

Are there any difference from my current 2015 model?. There’s only one thing really, though it’s a big thing!… the Mirage 180 drive. It’s offers full power in both directions, yup, I will be able to select reverse!!. For open sea fishing that may be somewhat limited in its use, though for freshwater in rivers and lakes it’s going to be extremely useful.


As for rigging, well it’s going to be more of the same, though I’m going to rig it up with YakAttack’s LeverLoc anchor trolley and their 2nd generation GearTrac. I’ll be swapping over my Lowrance Carbon 9 combo fish finder/GPS, outriggers (Hobie Sidekicks), etc. I’m not going to rush into rigging for a couple of weeks, this kayak will be with me now for many years so I want to get it right first time.

Rigging articles to follow shortly.

Underwater video

Underwater video is not really something that I've tried as such, though I do enjoying watching some of the video clips that have been produced over the past year or so. Daniel van der Post has produced some excellent freshwater lure fishing video clips and Graham Smith has produced some really interesting saltwater footage covering several methods.

Here's his latest clip of a Thornback Ray taking a bait. Just superb!

Savage Gear Pro Landing net - modifying for kayak use

I purchased a Savage Gear Pro XL landing net the other week. I've been using a rubberised landing net (50cm) that I bought from Bass Pro a few year ago, though it's too far small for large Pike, etc. When it arrived (Ebay purchase) is seemed horrendously large. Even with the extendable handle collapsed, the handle was excessively long and too unwieldy for kayak use. I was actually that put off that I left it at home for my last trip, the trip where I hooked a PB Pike and lost it due to the lack of a large landing net!!. 

I did take it along for the next trip, though the one time that I tried to use it it was a complete pain in the butt, taking way too long to unfold the net and extend the handle. What I needed was the net already unfolded , though without a one metre handle (minimum) attached to the net.
I finally got around to having a look this weekend. Below is a photo of the net unfolded with the handle extended. Obviously I'd not have the net configured this way for kayak use, but it gives you an idea of it's size. Handle length varies from 1.0m to 1.8m.

 The handle needed to go!. It is locked into position using two push pins, disengaging them both at once is a tad fiddly in itself. The extendable handle is locked to the desired length using a screw fitting, this same fitting can me unscrewed fully in order to remove the inner extendable section.

 With the handle split, the larger diameter section is all that's required. It is removed by depressing both locking pins and orientating it such that the handle can be slid out from the net itself. This can then be cut down to whatever length suits the user best. My rod holders are about 12" deep on average, so I chose to have a usable handle length of approximately 13". It was a simple case of hack sawing the handle to length and fitting a rubber end cap (I had one handy).

 With the cap fitted it was simple a case of re-fitting the handle. I also took the opportunity to fit a '4lb' float to  that I purchased a few years ago in Florida to the base of the net, close to the handle. I may also fit a simple leash in due course, though for the moment the aim had been achieved.

 The overall weight of the net has been lightened considerably and its usability can been dramatically increased. The long handle has now gone, with a short lightweight item in its place. The net can remain fully deployed, either in a rear rod holder or draped over the front hatch. It's just far better. As I had the float and handle grip lying in my box of spares, the modification cost me nothing whatsoever. It may seem a little odd taking a hacksaw to a brand new £50 landing net, but it's changed it from a somewhat impractical item to something that is very usable. 






Another trip to the Wraysbury Lakes complex

It's been three weeks since I posted a report covering my fishing trip to Wraysbury Lake. When the opportunity arose for another trip I grabbed it, quite eager to try my luck at catching another large Pike, perhaps even the elusive Perch. I say that the Perch are elusive, though it's probably more down to the fact that bar a couple of tiddlers that I'd caught previously, I'd not actually seen a Perch of note in the flesh so to speak.

The plan had been to meet up with Ian Harris and David Morris to fish both days over the weekend. The weather forecast wasn't exactly favourable, though the margins are generally quite heavily wooded so there's  generally always shelter to be found. I was already fairly organised, or was it more a case that I'd not really unpacked from my previous trip?


It was also an opportunity to test out my new LiFePo4 (lithium iron phosphate) battery, a whopping 23ah that I deemed necessary to power my Lowrance HDS9 Carbon combo FF/GPS unit. Though my HDS7 Gen 3 was also killing off my 12ah SLA battery in any session over 6 hours. These big display units are actually very nice to own, though there is one big cost.... current draw!. However, I'll look more at batteries in a later article.

The alarm went off at 0600 and by 0745 I'd hit the road having already loaded the kayak and consumed a large coffee. It's an hours drive to the Wraysbury complex for me, quite a pleasurable one at that time of the morning. It was a different lake to what I'd previously fished and it certainly looked interesting, what with numerous islands and a few backwaters, there was plenty to fish or just to explore!. I'm not sure what time we launched, probably by 0900, though how I'd love to slip into the water there at 0630.

I'd had a look on the Insight Genesis webpage to check if the lake had been previously mapped. Sadly there was nothing, so I planned to map as much as the lake as reasonably possibly during the session. I had actually hoped to utilise Navionic's SonarChart Live, though it transpired that my Navionics Gold card didn't offer that facility. I do have a more up to date card in the post, however, using this feature will have to wait until at least my next trip. Creating your own charts on the go?, that has to be a good thing... watch this space.

I do like fishing alone at times, just enjoying a venue, the time of the morning, etc. Once launched I headed around the corner into quite a large bay. I trolled the margins a couple of times and then covered the remainder of the bay casting methodically. Third cast saw me hook up into a fish!. It was a 'jack' pike of 3-4 lbs, no complaints as it meant that at least I wasn't going to blank!

I did try to get a decent photograph of my first fish of the day, though it didn't want to wait about...

I caught three fish in quick succession, all a very similar size. All were taken on a Fox Rage Pro shad mated to both 10g and 15g jig heads. I find the 15g ideals for trolling in depths of up to 5m with the 10g ok for casting, perhaps even a 7g would work just as well. Though they are quite prone to damage and the two I had with me became somewhat unusable within a couple of hours.

I'm sponsored by Lowrance so I'm somewhat spoilt when it comes to electronics. This day I had the latest HDS9 Carbon fitted. It has a 9" screen and this enables me to split the screen into three sections with ease. As I was mapping the lake I chose to have a map overview displayed along with Broadband sonar and StructureScan . As much as I didn't have a usable chart loaded, it enabled me to see what areas of the lake I'd covered. Helpful both in mapping and ensuring that I'd potentially covered all fish holding areas (note the left section of the display below).

What there is as this venue is an abundance of wildlife, I spend probably too much time listening to the variety of bird calls and try to locate the various species in the tree tops. Am I a closet 'twitcher' ?.. perhaps. Though I did enjoy watching a pair of Red Kites for almost an hour, very graceful birds.
I left the bay and headed along a narrow stretch of water. I was regularly getting brief hits to my lure, the number of failed hook-ups was numerous to say the least. Small Perch or Pike no doubt, both frustrating and entertaining at the same time.

The fish kept on coming, though they were generally quite small in size, feisty though!. Like most anglers I do at times lose a little too much tackle. I can go weeks without losing something, then lose 7-8 lures in a session!. It's always nice to get a little payback, so when I spotted a lure in a nearly tree I couldn't let it remain there.

I have to admit that today did not result in many notable photographs. I caught a nice double figure Pike and it gave quite a memorable fight. It was eventually netted and quickly unhooked, ready for its photo call...  it had other ideas (again!).

So I can catch fish, just not photograph them apparently. It seems that it's safer to photograph them in the net first... here's a Pike in the net :)

The fish just kept on coming, here's another one...

I'm often asked about using Side Scan sonar (Lowrance StructureScan), is it worth it?. Well traditional broadband sonar, even down imaging, covers only a small area of the water beneath the kayak. Yes, the deeper the water the greater the coverage, though in reality that area is still very small. Being able to look 15-25 metres either side of the kayak with ease?, well that's somewhat priceless. It's possible to pass directly over a featureless bottom whilst being totally ignorant to both fish and structure that may exist either side of the kayak. Look at the screenshot below:

The traditional broadband sonar (top right) is showing a rather featureless bottom, increasing in depth over time. Though look at the StructureScan directly below. To the left are several raised areas of terrain though to the right it's somewhat bland. Well how does this help?, turning around and heading back a few metres off to the left will put you onto potentially fish holding structure. I cant see any fish on that particular screen shot though it doesn't mean that there are none there. I used this method many times throughout the day and it provided me with hook-ups on several occasions.

How do fish appear on the StructureScan?. Well that depends on various factors including fish size, water depth as well as there's position relative to the sonar (i.e beneath or off to one side). Below are a couple of images of what I'm talking about. The first picture below shows a shoal of Carp pretty much directly beneath the kayak. They are clearly visible to the left of the display on the Broadband sonar as large 'fish arches'.

Though on the StructureScan display to the right (above) they are clearly visible towards the bottom of the water column (even Carp shaped!) as well as some shadows off to the right created by fish. Shadows?, sonar like light will create shadows due to being unable to pass through an object. It's not terribly clear on the image above, though how about this image below?

There are clearly two fish (white marks) about 9 metres to the left of the kayak, now several metres behind the kayak. As they are off the bottom they are casting a 'sonar shadow' immediately to their left and can therefore be confirmed as fish. This shadow can be used to provide an idea of the depth of the fish. Also, note the methodical mapping track. Parallel tracks to ensure total coverage. It also helps to cover all possible fish holding areas to a good degree.

I actually targeted those fish above by tapping on the display on the HDS9 Carbon and selecting the 'GOTO' option. I was steered directly back towards these fish as can be seen below to the left of the screen. Out of interest you can also see another large fish on the broadband sonar below (top right) lying hard on the bottom at around 4 metres, seen whilst navigating back towards the two fish I highlighted on the StructureScan... fish everywhere!

That fish above that's lying hard against the bottom was most likely a Pike. With the water temperature so cold these fish are lying deep in the water, a clue being the leeches that are attached to pectoral fins of the fish that are caught during the colder months, this can be seen below.

These end up littering the kayak after a few fish, it's become pastime to locate them and ditch them overboard during those quieter moments.

With my two fox lures destroyed it was time to try out my new collection of Westin lures.
I'd previously had some great success with the Westin Shad Teez (below), not doubt very effective due to its famous rolling action. Sadly my only 'Crazy Deal' colour Shad Teez had been chewed up beyond recognition so I decided to try another Westin lure from my box.

Out of the box came my one and only Hypo Teez, well in this particular colour scheme (below).

I mainly trolled this lure and it was smashed in the first 10 seconds!, trust me, that builds your confidence in a lure VERY quickly!. It took many Pike during the session and it showed very little wear considering the abuse it took. It doesn't possess the rolling action of the Shad Teez, though the paddle tail creates very effective movement. I'll certainly be adding several to my collection, though I'll also use them with 7-10g jig heads for casting purposes, especially into shallower water.

As mentioned, the Hypo Teez was killing the Pike out in the lake (not literally!). Below is what became a common occurrence... an 'inhaled' Hypo Teez. At times unhooking required forceps. Note the lure clip!!!!. I'd had problems with the clip on the previous fish. False economy for sure. Next time a lure clip shows signs of damage it gets changed. Last thing you want to do is lose a great fish or leave your lure in the mouth of a fish.. best avoided wherever possible.

The hunt for Pike continued and there was no shortage of them. I stopped keeping count at fifteen, though I caught a few after that as well. Despite the sheer number of fish my best had topped out at around double figures. However, the was eventually to change as I hooked up into the 'beast'.
This fish stayed deep for some time before I managed to lift it off the bottom and bring it up towards the kayak. It still had plenty of life remaining  even then, stripping line from the reel as it so wished.

Point to note - Two days earlier I'd taken deliver of a new XL Savage Gear folding landing net. It seemed huge compared to my Bass Pro scoop net which is 50cm long so I made the decision to leave it at home.

The fish surfaced and it was far bigger than I'd expected. I knew it was a decent fish, but no, this was a very big fish. I could see that it was very lightly hooked (in the cheek) so I didn't want to put excessive pressure onto it by bringing it next to the kayak to hand lift out. Despite knowing the net was too small I had a plan. Get its head into the net and somehow grab its tail and bring it aboard. Well that was the plan......

Below is a video of the result.

​Yup, it was very painful. I did regret leaving that nice new big Savage Gear landing net at home... several dozen times in fact. That said, its handle is way too long and I don't want to have to pull out the handle each time, it needs modifying for kayak use.

Though that decision did cost me what was probably my biggest ever Pike.... what could have been.

I wont lie, I was feeling rather glum for at least 10 minutes. A packet of Jaffa Cakes later and moral was mostly restored. Ok, I'm lying, I was gutted for several hours.

I continued to map and fish the lake. It proved to be fairly featureless in the deeper areas, bar the odd bank and depression here and there. Though I did pick up a large area of rough ground several metres off to one side (thank you StructureScan) so I cast a lure in that direction. After allowing it time to sink i started a slow retrieve. Literally 3-4 seconds into the retrieve it was smashed and it didn't feel particularly 'Pike-like' .... and it wasn't!.

It turned out to be a cracking Perch which slipped very nicely into my 50cm Bass Pro net!. I don't think it was my biggest Perch (currently 46cm), though as I didn't take a measuring board I'll never know.  It was back in the water within a minute, quickly unhooked, a flurry of photos before watching it plunge back down into the muddy depths.

Catching that Perch certainly eased the pain of having lost that big Pike an hour earlier and it was a really great way to wrap up a cracking session afloat. Ok, I said that I'd stopped counting at 15 Pike, 18 was the final count, plus a nice big fat Perch!

The LiFePo4 23ah battery was still holding 60% of its charge after the 6+ hour session. That's well on target to it's expected 13-15 hour life that I'm expecting for the HDS9 Carbon FF/GPS or over 25 hours for the Elite 7 Ti. That's pretty awesome, I could use the Elite 7 Ti for a long weekend away on one charge. That said, a full charge only takes 4 hours, that's super quick by SLA standards.

If you'd like the chance to kayak fish at the famous Wraysbury Lake complex why not come and join me and many other kayak anglers at the London International Kayak Fishing Festival. At £40 for the 3 day lure only predator competition, including camping, it's going to be a very special event.
Put the dates in your diary: June 9-11th 2017

Here's the promotional video below.
 

There's been a collaboration with a new page to view !

I've been posting to my website since 2007, where has that time gone?.

I can vividly recall checking the website stats in the first few weeks, feeling quite pleased when the daily view count rose into double figures!. I've watched it's popularity grow and views have regularly topped 500 per day. It was all new and exciting back then and since the first post I've published another 320 or so posts which has attracted well of 400,00 visitors.  So why did I do it?, well I truly believe that it's good to share. I've spent many hundreds of hours trawling websites, looking, using and developing other peoples ideas as well as creating many of my own. It only seemed right share my own thoughts and experiences in order to add to the plethora of information that's available across the internet.

Last year was a very quiet year for me, due largely in part to new house purchase during the previous year. Gosh, how a new house swallows up the cash and the reality was hard felt in 2016 when I found myself lacking in fishing funds. I've recently taken on a new job that has topped up the fishing funds very nicely so normal service can resume for 2017.

However I wanted more. I've felt that this website was becoming a little stale despite some great placings in the Kayak Anglers Choice Awards over the past 3-4 years, I even sneaked into first place in 2014. The question was what could I do to improve the website?... bring in more content, more variety?. After much deliberation I decided that I really fancied collaborating with another kayak angler and putting together a new website.

But who?

Well that was an easy choice and that angler is Graham Smith, an exceptional kayak angler from Donegal in Ireland. He's somewhat crazy, if you don't believe me you'll have to read up on his antics. What he does bring is a totally different angle to kayak fishing, big water fishing, BIG fish and some very original rigging ideas. He's right up my street and I reckon that we'll make a great team!

We've put together a completely new website at www.mad4yak.com


We've lifted a few posts over to get us started though it's still  a work in progress so please bear with us!. There are links to our legacy websites on our new Mad4Yak website, so please bookmark our new webpage and watch out for new posts throughout the year.

Wraysbury Lake - Predator fishing

Yesterday I fished Wraysbury Lake for the second time in the past 6 months. The previous visit had proved rather hard on the fishing front with only a single Pike towards double figures coming to the net. Though at the time it didn't really matter as the venue is most picturesque with a great variety of wildlife. I was quite content to just cruise the margins in order to watch the numerous species of waterbirds as well as the odd flock of parakeets creating a rumpus in the treetops.

Wraysbury Lake has evolved over the decades, though it became of note during the 70's as a Carp fishing venue. The following twenty years saw many  Carp caught between 20-40lbs. There's also some large Tench and a some Perch to be caught, it's a great venue. Recent modernisation has witnessed the creation of a stunning lodge and easy access to the water.


I had planned to pack on Friday evening though the heavy rain refused to ease throughout the evening. I was somewhat disappointed so I drowned my sorrows in a bottle of wine, it could have been a lot worse. I was awakened at 0500 on Saturday morning, greeted by the sound of rain lashing against the bedroom window. This wasn't what I'd wanted to hear. Despite another fifteen minutes of hiding beneath the duvet the rain had not eased in the slightest.

Fifteen minutes later I was lashing the kayak to the car roof, getting rather damper by the minute. With the car packed there was time for a quick coffee before I hit the road for the one hour trip to Wraysbury. I wasn't first there and the numbers soon increased over a short period. I think we hit the water at around 0900, though I'd had loved to have launched at 0700. There's something special about those really early sessions.


There was quite the collection of Hobie kayaks with Outbacks, Revolutions and Pro Anglers all to be seen, with a lone i11s making up the numbers.

I visited Lowrance UK HQ the other day and was unexpectedly given the latest HDS 9 Carbon and Elite 7 Ti to test out. I'm currently using the HDS 7 Gen3 and to be honest I had been wondering if the 9" was going to be just a little too big for my kayak. I was also a little concerned about battery life as I'm already restricted to 6-8 hours with my HDS 7 with a 12ah SLA battery. I've been looking to address battery life for some time now and I'm expecting to upgrade to a larger capacity Lithium Polymer power pack to improve things a little (hopefully a lot in fact).

A week ago I received a delivery of Westin lures from Barry Lynch. Westin have created a great reputation for themselves and my friend Daniel van der Post swears by them. Check out the large selection of lures that Barry Lynch sells at The Lure Box.


So I decided to give them a whirl so I started the day with a large ShadTeez, the 'Crazy Deal', mated to a 15g jig head. I actually forgot my new Westin lure box...  thankfully Barry was on scene to help me out.


Tactics for the day?. Well I planned to troll the margins early on and switch over to casting within an hour or so in order to target some of the smaller bays and numerous areas of sunken trees.
I didn't actually have to wait too long at all and within twenty minutes I found myself hooked up into quite a strong fish. Once at the surface it proved to be a very clean fish with quite a large tail!


It was a nice fish nudging double  figures. It was the usual routine of a quick unhooking and a photo before being released back into the water. Rather worryingly this particular fish went rather limp almost immediately and I found myself taking quite some time to revive it back to strength before it punched back down into the gloom. What I did have after those ten minutes was an ice cold hand!! I've not experienced that with a Pike before, they're normally quite resilient.

As you can see the Weston ShadTeez did the business, the slow rolling action of the darker lure working a treat in the crystal clear waters of Wraysbury Lake. 


The ShadTeez did sustain a little tear, though this wasn't a huge concern as it was bitten clean in half fifteen minutes later!. Sadly that was my only one so I switch over to an alternative from my crammed lure boxes. Despite a couple of missed hits it all went rather quiet to be honest. Though as mentioned earlier that isn't of great concern at this particular venue as there's so much to look at around the margins. There's dozens of Coot, many Swans and a few Goosander to name but a few birds. It was mating season for the Swans and they were quite busy!


I switched over to casting for an hour or two, nosing around the multitude of small bays that exist around the lake. I wasn't having any luck whatsoever despite trying 2-3 different lures. It's a little weedy in places, though correct lure selection or a suitable retrieve rate minimises the disruption to the fishing. 

I snagged an object close the the bank so I cruised in to retrieve the lure before moving along the margins, enjoying the view in the shallow water. I passed almost directly over a large Pike lying deep in about four feet of water. It didn't flinch and neither did I. I cruised on for another twenty metres or so before swinging around ninety degrees. I really didn't want to screw this up and the first cast was almost perfect at a metre or so beyond where I recalled seeing the fish. The hook up was instant and it was a very lively fish!.

It headed straight into deeper water, staying deep for quite some time. When I finally saw the fish near the surface I realised that forgetting my landing net had really been a serious failing (I forgot a few things yesterday). I maneuvered the fish a little distance around the corner (the joys of a pedal powered kayak) until I saw an angler to ask for some assistance. The fish was finally netted and lying in the kayak. The images just don't really do this fish justice. It was deep, wide and full of spawn. I put it in the high teens, though Amos who had kindly passed me his next placed it at perhaps just over 20lb. Either way it was a lovely fish. Here's some video below, thank you Amos for this footage.



It must have been my PB Pike for sure, definitely very pleased!


I returned to trolling for a while, if for no other reason just to explore the lake a little more. I missed another hit, though I didn't really matter. 

The HDS 9 Carbon is a new unit from Lowrance and is larger than my current 7" unit. I had been concerned that is was going to be too big for the kayak, though to be honest I had to keep reminding myself that it was the bigger unit, I just really didn't notice. That said, the extra size was noticeable when using the split screen options, it really did come into its own then. It's also faster to react to menu inputs, the higher processing power making its presence felt. The screen clarity and brightness was also considerably improved over my HDS Gen3. Lowrance are introducing live mapping very soon and I can't wait to try it out.


It's interesting to see just how effective modern sonar technology has become. When using StructureScan (side imaging) I often use it in split screen mode alongside the traditional broadband sonar that's been available to kayak fishers for many years. Structure appeared as blobs on earlier sonar, though with the development of Down Imaging and Side Imaging the detail of structure has been taken to a totally new level.

Below is a screenshot I took whilst passing over a rather small vehicle (toy car?) and the comparison of Broadband on the left and StructureScan on the right is quite mind blowing. StructureScan would of course picked up that structure if well off to either side of the kayak,  whereas the traditional Broadband sonar would only pick it up when approximately beneath the kayak.


I managed to pick up my third Pike of the session, a small fish of 3-4lbs. I was a little disappointed that I'd not managed to locate any Perch, I didn't even spot a potential shoal worthy of note. Though there were plenty of Carp on the fish finder and these could be visually confirmed in the shallower areas before the sun rose higher into the sky making visibility more difficult.

That pretty much wrapped up my session for the day. There'd been quite a few Pike caught throughout the day with Martin taking at least three to dead bait that I know of. I'd really like to learn more about dead baiting for Pike, it's something that I have very little experience doing. Most of the anglers caught a Pike, so as a group it'd been a very successful session.  


So where to next?, well there's still a chance of Cod so I'm hoping that I can squeeze a trip in down onto the Bristol Channel before it's too late.. watch this space.