kayak fishing with Jim Sammons

Release The Kraken, again!

My first fishing session off the new Kraken 13.5

My first fishing session off the new Kraken 13.5

Though I tend to prefer the longer kayaks, hence the 15’7″ length of the Original Kraken, now called the Kraken 15.5. I also know there are a lot of people that want those same features that the original Kraken brought to the table but in a smaller package. That is why Tony Lee and the rest of the Jackson Kayak design crew worked hard to bring you the new Kraken 13.5.

The 13.5 next to the 15.5

The 13.5 next to the 15.5

Though I helped on the design of this boat I just recently had the chance to get it out on the water for its first fishing shake down cruise. Once again I think Jackson hit it out of the park on this one. As mentioned above the Kraken 13.5 has all the great features included in its big brother but in a lighter more nimble package.

I had the 13.5 out in some pretty sloppy conditions, high winds and chop, and it handled these conditions as would be expected of an offshore fishing kayak. It handled the slop both punching into and running down swell with ease. The guys I was fishing with were both in the 15.5 and though I was a bit slower it was barely noticeable. I am sure if I had a rudder, as the other two boats did, it would have been an even closer race. Though I normally don’t use rudders in these high wind conditions it would have really helped out in the tracking. While fishing in the more sheltered areas no rudder was needed and the kayak paddled like a dream. Of course like the 15.5 the 13.5 is prerigged for a rudder so adding one is a breeze.

Taking on the slop

Taking on the slop

Here is what they have to say about the Kraken 13.5 on the Jackson kayak site.
“The Kraken 13.5 is an all-new option for paddlers looking to tackle big water. Based on The Kraken 15.5 platform, the 13.5 sheds some length for more maneuverability but with all the punch of its big brother. This kayak, just like the original, is designed for the most challenging paddling environments in the world and intended for the offshore and big lake kayak angler. A natural follow up to the first collaborative design between legendary kayak angler, Jim Sammons and Jackson Kayak’s design team led by Tony Lee. The new Kraken 13.5 is a boat shaped and built to accommodate those hitting the open water, in a nimble, smaller footprint, but still capable of big water management. It’s designed for punching through surf, handling rough offshore currents, swells, beach landings and those who desire ultimate performance and maneuverability while chasing big fish.”

Being 13’3″ the new version of the Kraken is just over two feet shorter than the original and would be suited for anyone looking for good performance in a smaller package. Being 230 pounds myself, with a full bait tank which would add another fifty plus pounds and an awful lot of gear. I still felt the kayak carried the weight well and could have handled a few big fish in the hull with ease.

One addition to the 13.5 that you will not see in the 15.5, that should really appeal to those stalking the flats, is the addition of a high seat position. Doubtful I will be using this position while fishing offshore but in the calm waters of the flats it is a welcome addition to aid in locating fish.

Carrying a full load with ease

Carrying a full load with ease

New this year with the Krakens you have some rigging options, in the 13.5 you can get the base model or the elite package and with the 15.5 you can get the base, Elite or the fully loaded Pro model. Basically giving you the option to buy a stripped down boat ready for your rigging or get one that is dialed in and ready to conquer any fish in the sea.

 All Krakens are transducer ready

All Krakens are transducer ready

 Bait pump ready and come with the new Sealine waterproof pouch on the seat

And Bait pump ready

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The Elite comes with the floor padding, and KKrate and more.

The Elite comes with the floor padding, and KKrate and more.

To get a full list of the features and extras available on the Kraken make sure to visit the Jackson Kayak website.

Though you will likely still see me spending most of my time in the long boat, I think the 13.5 will be quite at home in the big offshore waters, bays or lakes. A great boat for anyone that wants a true paddlers kayak but doesn’t want to deal with the size of the 15.5. Vist your local Jackson dealer and get one our for a test paddle, I am sure you will like it.

Of course we still have the cool Kraken logo

Of course we still have the cool Kraken logo

Rod holders? Yeah we have plenty and room for the Kkrate and a tackle box.

Rod holders? Yeah we have plenty and room for the Kkrate and a tackle box.

The Elite comes with the floor padding, and KKrate and more.

The Elite comes with the floor padding, and KKrate and more.

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San Diego Kayak Fishing part 2

On the hunt in La Jolla

On the hunt in La Jolla

As I mentioned in my previous post, this year in Southern Califonia has been one for the records. Tuna, Dorado and countless yellowtail have been caught this year with high expectations that many more will be caught before this year is over. Because of this we decided to shoot a couple of episodes of my show here in San Diego. As seen in the previous post we first attended the JAL memorial kayak fishing tournament and saw some great catches of big White Seabass and Yellowtail.

A couple great fish from the tournament including the biggest yellowtail

A couple great fish from the tournament including the biggest yellowtail

The day following the tournament we took the day off the water to shoot some B roll around my wonderful city and catch up on some other work. Preferring to do that work on the weekend and do our fishing on the week days.

Of course as our luck would have it when we decided to fish, the weather turned and the fishing dropped off. On Monday I met up with my good friends Paul Lebowitz and Chris, one of the old time LJ kayak anglers. This day started off very nice but with very tough hunting for live bait. With a lot of work we loaded the bait tanks and got to work. We lost many bait to Bonita, which though fun were not what we were looking for. Other than that we mainly fought with Sealions to keep out bait.

Paddling out to point La Jolla before the storms hit

Paddling out to point La Jolla before the storms hit

Paul in his custom Jackson Kayak Kraken JAL edition.

Paul in his custom Jackson Kayak Kraken JAL edition.

On day two of the trip I had gotten some intel of some fish in an area not often fished that is generally sealion free. John Jackson from Ram Mounts was going to be joining me for the next three days of fishing so getting him on some fish was my goal. It was a long paddle but once in the area things really started to look fishy. It was a drizzly morning with a bit of wind, predicted to get no more than 12mph. Well predictions were wrong and it seemed the minute we got to the area the wind started to built slowly. We both hooked up a couple times to bonita then I hooked into a big fish. This thing spun me around and towed me into the now 15-20 mph wind with very little effort, I was flying across the water. Thinking I had this fish in the bag, I was pretty stoked, unfortunately I suddenly pulled the hook on the him. It wasn’t long after that the wind started to push over 30 mph combined with a driving rain. Impossible to shoot let alone fish in these conditions we ran for home. Once at the boat launch it was high tide with a flood of water coming from the storm drain which made landing my little tinny camera boat a real challenge. Needless to say not much in the way of photos or video from that day due to the driving rain. I gotta say I was pretty happy I had brought along my Kokatat paddling jacket and even more so my SeaO2 PFD, because it got more than a little sketchy out there.

Day three of the trip we arrived at the beach while it was still dark and were greeted by more wind. Not horrible but worse than we really wanted to deal with. Standing on the beach for about an hour weighing different options for the day we finally decided to just go for it. We had brought along our Torqeedo motors so we knew we would have no issues getting back if the weather went to hell.

Mounting up the Torqeedo motors.

Mounting up the Torqeedo motors.


These Torqeedo motors are awesome but will also make you a bit lazy.

These Torqeedo motors are awesome but will also make you a bit lazy.

Lucky for us something happened that never happens and that is the weather got better. We loaded up on live bait at the kelp beds and got to trolling. It didn’t take long before John landed his first ever yellowtail, it was pretty small but he was stoked about it. This little guy was released to fight again.

Johns first yellowtail

Johns first yellowtail

We were in the right zone because we landed three more fish in that area but they were all in that smaller size so released. The biggest issue this day was that we were the only guys out on the water, no other kayakers or boaters to spread out the sealions. Once they got on us they wouldn’t leave so we stopped fishing for over an hour. At this point I did a little sneak move to get away. We paddled through the kelp beds for about a mile and popped out in another spot. With the coast clear we put baits back out and began to troll. This time we had a double hook up with John landing a nice bonita and I got a twenty four pound Yellowtail. Thankfully I was using a kelp cutter rig because my fish wrapped up in the bull kelp and with the combination of Seaguar Threadlock hollow core braid and Seaguar fluorocarbon I was able to work the fish out. This fish came home with us and went into my Big Chief smoker the next day.

Our one keeper yellowtail from the trip

Our one keeper yellowtail from the trip


Filleted up and ready for the smoker

Filleted up and ready for the smoker


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Nothing like a Ballast Point Sculpin to go with that smoked fish

Nothing like a Ballast Point Sculpin to go with that smoked fish

Unfortunately after landing that yellow the sealions found us again and pretty much put an end to our fishing day.

We had some other highlights to the trip like flybys from a good sized hammerhead and watching a humpback whale breaching over and over again.

Though the trip was not what I had hoped, due to the weather, it was still a good trip and La Jolla will always be my home on the water.

Getting the best shots from your fishing kayak

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

Making the best of it in Panama

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.
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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.

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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.
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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.

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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

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.

Join me on Cedros Island in Baja this fall

If you are looking for a great fall adventure kayak fishing trip, you should join me on Cedros Island in Baja October 1-5.

We handle all the details from driving from San Diego to Ensenada to flying from Ensenada to Cedros Island. You can read all about our last trip to Cedros island on my previous blog about the trip. Cedros Trip Blog

If you want a shot a great yellowtail fishing and the best calico bass fishing you can find you need to join us on this trip.

Visit my site for more information about the trip.

If you would like more information or would like to sign up please give me a call. (619) 461-7172

Calico Bass at Cedros Island