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Mack's Kayak Angler Tips & Tactics:  Jim Davis

Mack's Kayak Angler Tips & Tactics: Jim Davis

JIM DAVIS - Mack's Pro-Staffer and Kayak Angling Expert
Jim Davis Kayak Angler

Jim is an award-winning fisherman and highly experienced kayak angler. He founded the Tricity Kayak Anglers and Bait and Banter podcast and is a regular contributor to several outdoor publications. Jim shares tips and tactics for getting the best experience when fishing from a kayak.

Kayak Angler Tips & Tactics

When I am in an area I know holds the fish species I'm after, but the bite is slow, I have to take a different approach to fishing. As a kayak angler, it's not practical for me to pick up and move miles to a new area. This introduces a rewarding way to fish. The only way for me to suceed is to slow down and meticulously examine very nook and cranny and put the puzzle together until I find the right combination that gets the fish to bite. 

Since I can't pack a ton of gear to experiment with when I'm out on the water in my kayak, I have developed a keen eye for identifying the most versatile and productive baits available. This is where the Sonic bait fish shines as a game-changer, especially when used as a vertical spoon. These days, there are not very many trips I go kayak fishing where I don't have a Sonic Bait Fish tied on my line. It has become one of my all-time favorites because this flashy little bait will catch pretty much any freshwater species and a wide range of saltwater species. It is a real workhorse, an asset for anyone keen on fishing from a kayak.

The secret to using this bait is to be "flexible" on how you fish it. I've had several days where I went from using it as a blade bait to using it as a spoon, and it made all the difference in the world. You will be surprised at how quickly this versatile bait can change your day from average to outstanding once you know the following ways to use it effectively. 

Here are some techniques I use when fishing the Sonic Bait Fish.

Blade Baiting the Sonic Bait Fish

I use the Sonic Bait Fish as a blade bait to achieve two things. First, the action of the lure sends out vibration waves the fish will feel through their lateral lines long before they can see them visually. This feature is important to keep in mind when fishing in stained or dirty water. Second, in clearer to stained water, the fish will see the bright flash the Sonic Bait Fish gives off as it moves through the water.        

When using the Sonic Bait Fish as a blade bait, connect your main line to the center of the bait. I like to add a second treble hook to the "nose" end of the bait when fishing it this way. The back end of the bait fish will already have a treble hook attached. To add even more visibility, you can swap the standard hook for a Mack's Lure Treble glow hook when fishing in low-light conditions. This is a great tip to remember for winter ice fishing, as it will increase the number of panfish and trout bites you get.

Many anglers using a blade bait like this will miss 25% to 30% of strikes because fish pick up the bait and spit it back out before it can be jerked back up and felt. Here is how you can avoid this from happening. Working this bait in "blade bait mode," make 8" to 12" semi-aggressive jerks to move the bait in the water. (Switch to 6" to 8" jerks when fishing through ice.) You will want to "follow" the bait with your rod tip when the bait drops back down. To accomplish this, drop the bait back down on a semi-slack line. This technique will let you feel that strike while the bait is falling and not miss the moment.  

Using the Sonic Bait Fish As a Spoon

Using the Sonic Bait Fish as a spoon has become my favorite way to fish this lure. It perfectly matches a crippled or dying bait fish, and it will catch anything from trout and walleye to salmon and rockfish. One of the things I like to do is to take the hook off the bottom of the bait and add "assist hooks" to the nose. Doing this does a couple of things.  

First, it helps with limiting snags. 
PRO TIP:  Rather than placing the treble hook on bottom where it is ready to hook whatever it touches, try using assist hooks, two single hooks attached to a solid ring with a lightweight cord. You connect the assist hooks with a snap ring to the nose of the bait. Connect your main line to the solid steel ring on the assist hooks and not to the snap ring. This is important because a fish can stretch the snap ring if you connect directly to it.  

Second, most fish will attack a bait fish head first. 
PRO TIP: You'll get better hook-up and retention rates with the assist hooks at the nose. I've even added a small Colorado blade to the bottom end of the Sonic bait fish when using it as a spoon and had great success. Other times, I will slightly bend the Sonic Bait Fish to get a little different action when I think it will better match the hatch. Thinking outside the box is a big part of what makes fishing fun.                

When using the Sonic Bait Fish as a spoon, you want to "lift" your bait, not jerk it. Again follow your bait back to the bottom, allowing enough slack so that the bait will flutter and give the illusion of a crippled or dying bait fish. You can also cast it out as if you were going to swim the bait. Instead of a steady retrieve, let the bait sink to the desired depth and then lift and reel, pause, lift and reel, and pause. (Pauses are only for a few seconds.) This method is absolutely deadly when fishing for rock fish such as schooling black and blue rock fish. I have caught salmon using this and jigging techniques.

Swimming the Sonic Bait Fish

When swimming the Sonic Bait Fish, I'll leave the treble hook on the bottom of the bait. I simply cast out, let it sink for the desired time, and begin my retrieve. Something I will do on occasion, when fishing smallmouth bass, is have the assist hooks on, take a spring twist lock, and connect it to the bottom of the Sonic Bait Fish.

PRO TIP: Try this: take your favorite paddle tail 2.8" or so, depending on the size of bait fish you are using, and twist the paddle tail on to the twist lock. Now cast this and retrieve for a very effective bait. 

The Sonic Bait Fish is a bait you can use all year round. It is very effective when chasing trout, burbot, and panfish through the ice.

Rod Considerations

PRO TIP:  I have found the type of rod I am using greatly affects the proficiency of the Sonic Bait Fish. In my experience, it works best with a med/fast action rod. I am a big fan of the 6'8" SJ682 jigging rod by Northwest Outdoorsmen Rod Series. The lightweight action and shorter butt of this rod will make jigging the Sonic bait fish in any fashion a breeze when fishing from the kayak. 


By methodically working the Sonic bait fish in a focused manner, it is possible to turn a seemingly average outing into an amazing one. Patience, precision, and the right technique can transform a challenging day into one to remember. 

I look forward to sharing many more of my favorite kayak fishing tips and tactics in the coming months. Keep your eye on the Mack Attack for more Kayak Angler Tips. Thanks for reading. 

Be sure to check out Jim's Facebook group at Tricity Kayak Anglers and his Bait and Banter Podcast.


Learn More About Rigging the Sonic Bait Fish

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