Keith Combs is one of the best crankbait fishermen of all-time. In recent years, he has also welcomed a new challenge of fishing from a kayak. From boat control to limited tackle to just landing the fish without taking a treble hook in the hand, cranking from a kayak presents several unique challenges. So we sat down with Combs to discuss what he’s learned so far.
How do you maintain boat control against the pull of a big crankbait or a fish?
“I’ve done well cranking from a kayak. But it’s a totally different deal. I think I can position my kayak as well as I can position my bass boat, but I just have to stay on top of it. The more you fish out of one, the easier it gets. The first time I got in one, I was very discouraged by how much the wind was blowing it around and the way the fish was pulling me around. Then, over time, you learn how to operate the rudder and back-pedal to play the wind, and then it just kind of becomes second nature — just doing it naturally.
“I fish from an Old Town Predator PDL (pedal drive), which is 13 feet, 2 inches long, and just a heavier boat compared to others on the market. I think that makes some difference when it comes to boat control. But I’ve only fished out of a Topwater PDL 120 (12-feet) for two days. That boat is really stable, but it’s a little bit flatter where the Predator has a little bite deeper keel. I think that makes a little bit of difference. You do the same thing with the Topwater, you just would have to do a little more of it.
“Say I plan to pull in and crank a little corner. I’d pedal straight towards it and when I get within casting range, say 60 to 80 feet, I’d either kick the rudder sideways so I’d be pulling against the boat, or more times than not I’d just back-pedal two revolutions, which would stop the boat and actually start backing me up just a little bit. That way your cast doesn't move you from your position. And I always carry a buoy marker with me, because it is easy to get turned around. Then if I catch one, I’ll throw it out.
“You will have to position yourself in a kayak a little bit more often than you might in a bass boat. But nine times out of 10, if you have a good group of fish, you’ll catch more of them from a kayak than you would from a bass boat, because they're just not onto you. They don’t notice that boat, they just don’t.”
Do you need an anchor for cranking?
“Probably would be a good idea if you’re in a paddle kayak. But with my pedal-drive system, my hands being free are a big deal. I’m positioning the boat with my feet while I’m fishing, and I’m not even thinking about it. It’s a whole other world when you get a kayak with a rudder and pedals. It just lets you fight the fish a lot better. You don’t need an anchor as much or anything like that, because you can back-pedal.”