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Getting the best shots from your fishing kayak

April 21, 2015
An action shot is always better than a grip and grin

An action shot is always better than a grip and grin

I wrote this article with Will Richardson several years ago. I had someone point me back to it recently and I figured I would update it with some more current info and insight.

For the past 9 years I have had the pleasure of working with some of the best videographers and photographers in the industry to make our show. Making a show about kayak fishing would seem to be no harder than making any other fishing show, but let me tell you, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

We have a few unique challenges that we face: We travel to a variety of countries and places, and each one has its own set of rules, power supplies (or lack of), and weather conditions. Kayaks are by nature always wet, which makes it almost impossible to keep gear dry, and finally, unlike on a big boat where the videographer can hover over the anglers shoulder to get the perfect shot. On a kayak, everyone gets spread out, and the person to hook up is always the guy farthest away from the camera. (hint) If you are going to focus on just shooting consider adding a Torqeedo motor to your kayak, truly hands free propulsion and allows you to hold your camera good and steady.

This month, I thought (with the help of our videographer and photographer Will Richardson) I would give you some tips to get great photos and video from your kayak, and in fact, a lot of these tricks will work from any boat.

The biggest issue you are going to face is waterproofing your gear. In 4 years we have lost a total of 4 cameras to the water. Water and cameras just don’t mix. For most people it is best to simply invest in a good waterproof point and shoot camera. These days the cost has really come down, and they will give you the freedom to stop worrying about keeping your camera in a watertight box, and just have it ready to take a shot.
Our pro photographers need better cameras, and as of yet they don’t make DSLR cameras in waterproof, though they are getting pretty close. Several of the photographers have employed an amazing dry bag from Watershed Dry Bags. The lining is padded to protect your camera from banging around in the kayak, and even after being flushed down a serious set of rapids and rolled in the surf, not a drop of water has gotten inside. If you are on a big boat and have the room, a waterproof and padded case from Pelican is a great way to go, but very impractical on a Kayak. The Watershed bag can easily stow away in the bow of the Kayak, center hatch on my Jackson Kayak.

If you have a few bucks to invest in gear, another handy piece of gear is a EWA Marine underwater soft plastic housing. They make them for almost any camera, and will allow you to take shallow underwater shots, as well as keep taking photos or video in very rough conditions with your high end cameras.

Most people don’t have to travel as much as I do, so this is not as large an issue. But if you are taking a trip to somewhere exotic to fish, you will want to take a lot of shots, and nothing is worse than catching the big fish, only to find you are out of power and can’t take home the proof. Sounds simple, but always remember to bring a spare battery and memory card, and always, research the type of power/plugs you are going to encounter in the host country.

If there will be no power on your trip, such as a back country or long distance camping trip, there are a few great power solutions. Huge leaps in the quality of solar power have allowed us to charge up big production cameras and even laptops while we are away from the juice for more than 6 days at a time. Goal Zero has ended most of our power issues when at remote locations with a variety of solar panel and backup battery options.

The last issue is how to capture the moment when the moment hits. One thing I know is that it can be very tough to predict when a fish is going to bite. It is almost impossible to be there to get the cool hook up shot, or to snap a pick of that topwater explosion. The only solution is to have a camera running all the time. This is pretty easy to do with your GoPro or other POV camera though you do need to be aware of battery life. I think often as fisherman we have a good feel for when the bite might turn on so it’s never a bad idea to just turn the camera on when you have that feeling and let it run for a while.

Another option for great stills and decent video on the water is your run of the mill iPhone…Now is when you say “But Jim! You are talking madness, I am not gonna bring my iPhone on my kayak!” Well I have great news for you, waterproof cases for the iPhone and Galaxy phones are now available from Lifeproof and Pelican . You can still use the whole phone, including the camera, in or out of the water. They also have a floating Lifejacket, which protects your phone when dropped and makes sure the iPhone will float if you drop it off your yak.

As far as how to get the best looking video or still shots of your fish… well here are a few secrets I can pass along from my photographer friends.

1) Still shots of you holding a limp fish and smiling are never as cool as one of you fighting, landing or dealing with a fish. Hand your camera off to a friend and get him to shoot the action, not just the results.

Hard to beat a good action shot

Hard to beat a good action shot

2) Fill the frame! People want to see the fish, not a ton of water, fill the picture with you, the fish, the kayak and get as close to the action as possible.

Nothing wrong with the Grip and Grin when it looks like this

Nothing wrong with the Grip and Grin when it looks like this

3) Prepare for the action! The ultimate fighting shot has both the angler and the fish in it. Either shoot over the anglers shoulder, get in front of the fight so you can hopefully get a shot of the fish jumping in front of the angler, or shoot very wide so that the angler and the potential fish are both in your frame.

4) Shoot lots! With modern digital cards, you can just delete the junk later, the more shots you take the better chance you have at a winner. With video, never stop shooting, and keep your focus on the fishing (best jump shots are always lost because the camera man gets distracted and looks away)

5) When you do have jumping fish or good topwater action put your camera on rapid fire, this eliminates some of the digital lag and ensure you get the shot of the fish in the air not just the splash.

6) Play with different shooting angles, low angle shots looking up at the angler make for an interesting shot.

7) Have multiple camera mounts on your kayak; If you are shooting with GoPro or other POV cameras having a variety of mounts allows you to get many different angles of the same fish. With Yakattack and Ram mounts making so many different camera mount accessories you can put your camera anywhere. Drew Gregory is the master of this, take a look at one of his one fish many GoPro videos

8) Get the underwater shot, these shots can add so much to the interest of your video and with the waterproof housings available there is not excuse not to dunk that camera. Be sure you have the attached leash or float if you do this, we learned the hard way years ago, GoPros sink.

9) Avoid the crotch shot!!! I don’t know about you but I am just not into looking at someone’s groin while they are grunting away on a fish, yet we seem to see this shot all to often in peoples Youtube kayak fishing videos. So if you are shooting video from a rear facing camera, think of getting the camera up off the deck of the kayak a bit and angle the camera up a bit higher, I and the other viewers of your videos with thank you.

10) Avoid the death metal music. This music may appeal to you but In know that it doesn’t appeal to most and for someone perhaps watching a video while in an office , clicking on a video and having blasting head banger music is usually not a good thing and will get them to click off your video very fast.

11) Invest in secondary cameras. If you want to take your videos to the next level invest in another camera other than a POV. There are a couple guys that are making videos that are 100% POV that are top quality but not many. The quality of the video and audio on other cameras will really up your game. Add a lav mic if you really want to do much dialog in your videos, the audio is so much better than you will get from the camera mic.

12) Try to tell a story in your videos. Even a three minute video can tell a story and if you tell a good story people are more likely to watch and share.

GoPro has rather cornered the market on POV cameras over the past few years but there are many options out there, many of which have some incredible features or will get you into on the water shooting for a bit less money. So take a look at some of these options. I know a camera we are excited about taking a look at is the Flir FX, this camera has a lot of uses and some pretty interesting features that we are looking forward to putting to the test.

To finish off, a bit of light editing on your video and your pictures will go a long way to making the best impact when you show them off. You want to keep those YouTube videos short. (unless it is a big marlin or Tarpon with nonstop action) Chop em down and focus on the best action from the fight, YouTube viewers don’t seem to stick around for the long videos. I love watching fishing videos but a ten minute video of you just pumping and winding gets boring real quick. If you can get the hook up, some of the fighting and then the landing, unless the fish is a real jumper or thrashing on the surface, all of this should make for a video of three minutes or less.
Though this is a promotional video for one of our sponsors it is a pretty good example of the length that most people are willing to watch.

For Photos, delete any and all shots that are out of focus, or badly framed right off top. It will make it easier to pull out the best shot later. I usually do very little editing after the fact, just find one that is in great focus that shows the fishing action the best, then maybe pump up the saturation and brighten up the shadows a little if it was a really sunny day.

I hope this helps you get the next cover shot or million view YouTube video. I would love to see them. You can always post your catches at our Facebook page for the Kayak Fishing Show. You can view some of our videos on our YouTube Channel Kayak Fishing Tales

Kayak Fishing for Tarpon with Seaguar

April 10, 2015

I consider myself to be a very lucky person. Not only am I lucky because I get to travel around the world  Kayak fishing but I get to work with some amazingly talented people at Heliconia​. Because of their talents I think our show gets better every year.
Here is a sample of some of their fantastic work, a little promo piece for Seaguar Fluorocarbon​ and Braid.
Great Job Kelsey Thompson, Will Richardson, and Ken Whiting, working together to make our shows what they are.

Huge thanks to all of our great sponsors for keeping this show rolling. We begin shooting for our seventh season on the air next month.

Jackson Kayak​ Raymarine​ DeLorme​ Werner Paddles​ Kokatat Watersports Wear​ YakAttack​ RAM Mounting Systems​ Maui Jim​ Release Reels​ Mountain Khakis​

Some Yellowtail action on the Kraken

April 6, 2015
A nice father and daughter double hookup in La Jolla

A nice father and daughter double hookup in La Jolla

I got out on the water in La Jolla with my daughter Kirstin last week looking for Yellowtail.
We both hooked up at the same time so I didn’t get a lot of the action on video but I did get a cool underwater shot and the landing of her fish.
This was her first yellow so I was super stoked for her. These were decent sized yellows and she really put the hammer to it. We launched in the morning at 7:00 am and were off the water by 9:30 not a bad morning at all.
Not the best video but a great memory for sure.

A couple quick and dirty mods to my Kraken Kayak

March 23, 2015
The Kraken is a fishing machine but can always be made better

The Kraken is a fishing machine but can always be made better

You know that no matter how great a kayak is there are always things you want to tweak to get them just how you want them.

Today I broke out the saw, drill and a few parts to do a couple mods to my Kraken kayak, to get it ready for a long fishing season.

We do at times here in San Diego get into some pretty big fish, my biggest  white seabass for instance was 62 pounds. I have an insulated game bag that fits inside my hull with ice packs that I keep my catch in for those time that I do keep fish. Just to make getting the bag, as well big fish, into the hull a bit easier I cut away the inner lip inside the center hatch. This gave me close to an inch of extra width and length. This easy mod has no affect on the integrity of the kayak or the water tight seal of the hatch.

Like I said quick and dirty, I actually did this with an angle grinder.

Like I said quick and dirty, I actually did this with an angle grinder.

The next thing I did was grab a small hack saw and cut out the back side of my battery tray. I have been using small Nocqua lithium ion waterproof batteries, I love these things but on a real long day I do need to swap them out. By cutting out the back of the battery tray I can still get my batteries up off the floor of the kayak but have a bit easier access to them if I need to swap them out.

Cutting away the back of the battery tray

Cutting away the back of the battery tray

Now I have access to the batteries from the front and back.

Now I have access to the batteries from the front and back.

The last thing I did was swap out the plastic gear track that the boat came with for the aluminum gear track with back plates. The reason I did this was to make the center hatch much more rigid so no flex when punching surf. Also I like to use a small down rigger at times and with the combined stronger tracks and the plates I got from Yakattack for attaching my finder and rigger my hatch is super solid.

New aluminum gear track

New aluminum gear track

additional backing plates

additional backing plates

This is the mounting plate for my A78 Raymarine. I will use a similar plate for my downrigger once I get it.

This is the mounting plate for my A78 Raymarine. I will use a similar plate for my downrigger once I get it.

You can see how it mounts to the gear track in this shot.

You can see how it mounts to the gear track in this shot.

You can see in the above photo how the plate attaches to the two tracks. SUPER solid

Always tinkering with the yaks. I hope this gives you some inspiration to cut into your boat.
Maybe do it a little cleaner than I did.

Making the best of it in Panama

March 18, 2015
Putting in the miles in Panama

Putting in the miles in Panama

I have said many times that Panama is right at the top of places I love to visit and go fishing. I have also said many times that if you have to have good fishing to have a good time you will be disappointed a lot. Fishing is fishing and even at the most remote, little fished areas you can at time hit a cold spell where the fish just don’t want to bite, and this was kind of the case in my most recent trip down south.

Because we had to canceled some trips late in our shooting season, due to weather, we were down a few episodes for the upcoming airing season. I approached our friend Hennie Marias from Paddle Panama to see if he could squeeze us in for a week of fishing at his place in Jaque Panama and he very nicely obliged. Of course because it was a last minute thing we had very little flexability on when we would be able to make the trip and just picked the dates that worked for all of us.  I am not one to generally make excuses for not catching fish but this area was just too pristine and perfect habitat to not catch fish unless there were extenuating circumstances, so here goes, here is my excuse. It was about as bright a full moon as you will find without a cloud in the sky each night. When I am planning trips I generally try to avoid the full moon periods of the month and this trip just proved why.

Now just because we had tough fishing doesn’t mean we didn’t catch fish, it just wasn’t up to the standard I have come to expect in Panama. We worked hard every day to get on fish and when not out fishing had a wonderful time at this amazing location. Heck even if we were not down there to fish this is just an incredible place to paddle and explore. This place is an absolutely beautiful location and it is filled with friendly people.

To start off the trip we flew into Panama city and stayed the night at a small hostel, just a quick nights sleep and we were back at the regional airport for our hop to Jaque,

Heading to Jaque

Heading to Jaque

Joining me on this trip was Andy Gilbert from Raymarine, he was a great guy to fish with and also gave us some good tutorials on how to fine tune our fish finders.

Hennie’s house in Jaque is right on the beach and made the perfect base of operations, perfect for launching for our fishing days, perfect for our nightly surf sessions and perfect for just hanging out and rigging up gear.

Hennies Place

Hennies Place

Jim Rigging up his new FOX travel rods

Jim Rigging up his new FOX travel rods

Andy getting ready for his first run at kayak fishing.

Andy getting ready for his first run at kayak fishing.

AS you can see we did catch a few fish.





Nothing huge on this trip but we did get some decent fish

Nothing huge on this trip but we did get some decent fish

As mentioned we did a bit of kayak and body surfing each night out in front of the house, which in that heat brought welcome relief and was just a whole lot of fun.



kayak surfing is fun.

kayak surfing is fun.

Here is a little video I put together of the surf in front of the house.

If you are just looking for an awesome place to paddle you would have a hard time finding a cooler place.







Jaque is the closest village in Panama to Columbia and because of this we had to check in with the local military each day when we left to go fishing and when we got back. This was rather interesting to me but they were always very friendly about it so other than the few minutes it took out of our day it was no bother.

One of our daily checkpoints.

One of our daily checkpoints.

I think all of us on the trip agreed that the highlight of the trip for us was a visit to a small Indian Village about an hour upriver from Jaque. This was not a tourist destination and the people live a very simple life. They were so warm and welcoming to us on our visit and we had an entourage of from ten to twenty kids with us the entire visit.








Good fishing or bad fishing I don’t think you would ever regret making a trip to Panama with Paddle Panama, it will truly be an experience you will never forget.

A huge thanks to our host Hennie Marais for helping us make this trip happen on such short notice. This really was a trip to remember.

Hennie from Paddle Panama

Hennie from Paddle Panama

Interview with Jim Sammons

March 13, 2015

Have a half hour to stare at your computer screen? Here is a fun little interview I did with Mark Melnyk for his Outdoor Atlas pod cast. I think it gives you a good idea of why I love the many aspects of this sport and also why I am so passionate about keeping people safe while doing it. I hope you enjoy it.

Fully loaded Kraken Kayak up for auction for a great cause.

March 9, 2015

Please help us keep James name alive.

Please help us keep James name alive.

Recently one of our own, our good friend Paul Lebowitz lost his son very suddenly to a brain aneurism. Through a very tough time the Lebowitz family made a courageous decision to donate their son James’s organs, in hopes of helping others. To this point five lives have been saved and many more people helped. In order to keep their sons name alive they have started a scholarship fund at Cal Poly Pomona, the school he was attending when he passed.

Thanks to the support of some of our friends and sponsors we have put together an amazing kayak fishing package that is now up for Auction on Ebay, with all funds going to the scholarship fund. Please read about this great package below and if in the market for a new fishing kayak please consider bidding on it.

This is the link to the Ebay Auction.

See just one of the ways that James was able to help someone else, in this video.

Brand New 2015 Jackson Kayak Kraken
Fishing package loaded with gear.

This is the actual kayak you will win, complete with James's signature

This is the actual kayak you will win, complete with James’s signature

(Item listed as local pickup only but may be shipped for an additional fee depending on location. Arrangements for shipping handled between OEX kayaks and buyer.)

All funds from this auction will be
going to the James Lebowitz memorial scholarship fund at Cal Poly Pomona

Jackson Kayak has donated a custom
Kraken kayak for the fund raiser, with the Cal Poly colors and James Lebowitz
signature molded into the plastic.

Watch the making of this custom kayak here. 


Included in this awesome package.

  • New Kokatat Bahia PFD (Blue)
  • New Werner Hooked series Camano Paddle 240cm
  • NEW Raymarine Dragonfly 7 Fishfinder
  • Fishfinder professionally installed
  • New Full functioning live bait system professionally
  • Battery and Battery box from OEX Kayak Fishing
  • Additional rigging package from RAM and Yakattack.. (Camera mounts, Light pole, transducer mount, phone/gps mount…….)

Package valued at over $3600.00

More information on the Kraken

kayak is designed for some of the most challenging paddling environments in the
world and meant to be for the offshore and big lake kayak angler.

This kayak marks the first
collaborative design between legendary kayak angler, Jim Sammons and Jackson
Kayak’s design team led by Tony Lee.  The end result is a boat shaped and
built to accommodate those hitting the open water, those looking for speed,
comfort, perfect trim and big water management.  It’s a paddlers fishing
kayak!  It’s designed for punching surf, handling rough off shore
currents, swells, beach landings and those wanting ultimate performance when
putting in long distances to get on fish.

Other items included with this boat.

  • Eight rod holders
  • Plano ammo can style tackle box.
  • Nine sections of gear track.
  • Elite Seat
  • Nalgene water bottle
  • JKrate which will be turned into a bait tank

You can read more about this great
kayak and other gear at

The first photo of the Yellow and
Green kayak is the actual kayak you will receive.

Item listed as local pickup only but may be shipped for an additional fee depending on location. Arrangements for shipping handled between OEX kayaks and buyer.

The kayak will be on displayed and shipped from OEX in San Diego. If you would like to discuss shipping options or get a shipping estimate please contact Brent. Santa Clara Point Recreation Center, 1010 Santa Clara Pl, Mission Bay, CA 92106
(619) 758-9531

More information on the Scholarship fund:


The James Lebowitz Memorial Cal Poly Scholarship

James Andrew Lebowitz, 18, was a successful freshman computer science major at Cal Poly Pomona when a brain aneurysm cut short his journey. Always a giver, James offered the gift of life to many in desperate need.

His strong heart went to a fellow California 18-year-old. One kidney saved the life of San Diegan George Martinez, a substance abuse counselor credited with rescuing a family friend who’d watched James fight and win his own battle. The other rescued a child. His lungs give breath to an educator; his liver saved another life, the fifth in all. Two people received the priceless gift of sight.

James was one of one of only 120 students admitted to Cal Poly Pomona’s Computer Science Program in 2014 – a signal achievement for a young man who had to overcome many difficulties posed by an autism spectrum diagnosis. James loved the campus community, and was loved in return. He’d found his place. He was never happier.

In the midst of the worst tragedy any  family could possibly endure, Paul Lebowitz and his wife, Susan, sought to serve the Cal Poly student community by establishing a scholarship in James’ name. The James Lebowitz Memorial Cal Poly Scholarship will be awarded annually to a computer science major, in perpetuity. “Helping other young people much like James is a fitting honor for our son. Long after we’re gone, his name and story will live on at Cal Poly,” Paul Lebowitz says.

You can save lives, too. Please register as an organ and tissue donor today by visiting the Donate Life California Celebrating James webpage (   

Read about James’ lifesaving organ and tissue donations in the Union Tribune ( and Western Outdoor News (

We want to thank all of the sponsors of this auction for all of their support during this tough time. Please help us make James name live on!!

To make a tax deductible donation directly to Cal Poly Pomona, visit Please be sure to write “For the James Lebowitz Memorial Scholarship Fund” in the Additional Information portion of the online form.

JAL Memorial Sticker Sale
YakAttack, Yak Gear, Native Watercraft, and Wilderness Systems are working together to raise money for a scholarship fund at Cal Poly Pomona in honor of James Lebowitz. Stickers are $5.99, with an optional $10 add-on for a raffle entry.


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