Kayak Salmon Fishing Tips With Jason Tanagon

Kayak Salmon Fishing Tips With Jason Tanagon

jason tanagon with limits of salmon while kayak fishing

The Master Has Spoken

My buddy and local salty slayer Jason Tanagon has been destroying salmon off his kayak for years. As someone who doesn’t own a kayak (FOR NOW), I thought it’d be better to let him do the talking instead. After perusing his Facebook and Instagram pages and getting extremely jealous, I finally had to hit him up for some tips. Get ready to go in-depth with the Salmon Sensei aka Salmon Slayer aka Salmon S… you get the point.

jason tanagon with salmon limits on his hobie outback kayakHow long have you been kayak fishing for?

I have been kayak fishing for 6 years and guiding for the past 2 years.

How did you get into kayak fishing and how did you get into California Canoe & Kayak?

I used to fish a lot on the docks of Shadow Cliffs and banks of Quarry Lakes for trout and catfish. I was getting tired of looking at the water and wanted to get on the water instead for peace and relaxation. I started with a small inflatable boat then shortly upgraded to a kayak to fish both salt and freshwater.

I just fished hard and shared my experiences on social media (Instagram @str8fishin) until a friend asked me if I was interested in guiding for CCK. I joined the CCK Fishing Team in 2015 then the Hobie Fishing Team shortly after.  

a fully rigged hobie outback pedal drive kayakWhat kayak do you own and what features do you like the most? Especially when it comes to salmon?

I have a Hobie Outback which is a pedal-driven kayak. Having your hands free makes it so much easier to troll for salmon and being able to move while fighting a fish is key.

What indicators do you look for on your graph?

I’m looking for large concentrations of bait rather than the salmon themselves. You’ll usually see whales, dolphins and birds feeding in that same area as well. I’ve caught a lot of salmon from my kayak and not once did I mark salmon on my graph, only bait.

What’s your rod & reel setup and why do you prefer it personally?

My favorite rod to use is a 8’ Medium Heavy Shimano Teramar. I pair the rod with a Shimano Torium 16 spooled with 65lb braided line. The light tip on the Teramar helps keep pressure on the fish and I like a high speed reel to pick up slack line when the salmon comes swimming full speed towards me.

What are a few of your salmon trolling rigs?

For shallow water I prefer using a Deep Six to get my rigs down to depth. For deeper water, I use a Scotty Laketroller Downrigger with a 6lb lead ball or a sinker release with a 2lb lead ball if you don’t have a downrigger.

My favorite rigs are Krippled Anchovies, Apex’s, and FBR’s. I use 3/0-5/0 barbless octopus hooks and recently started using Big River or Grabber hooks for better hookups.

How do you know which rig to use in each situation? For example, an FBR over an Apex, flasher or no flasher, etc.

I just cycle through my favorite rigs until I hook up. My network of fishing friends usually share depths and rigs over the radio. I rarely use flashers or dodgers but when I do the green, red, UV and watermelon are my favorite choices.

What # leader line do you use? Do you believe fluorocarbon over mono makes a huge difference?

I use 30# mono because salmon aren’t line shy like some anglers believe.

Fighting salmon on a kayak is definitely harder than from a boat especially with barbless hooks. Any tips for landing fish more successfully?

When I’m trolling and get a hookup, I pedal/paddle as fast as I can and just let the rod load itself for a few seconds. This allows the salmon to tire itself a bit before I pull the rod out of the holder to fight it. I position the kayak away from the fish so that I can continue to pedal away and maintain pressure as I reel quickly.

Make sure to set your drag a bit lower as well. Many anglers make the mistake of buttoning down their drags in hopes of maintaining line pressure but they end up losing more fish instead. A lighter drag setting lets the fish pull away from you while keeping crucial pressure throughout the fight. Usually I’ll keep reeling even if the fish is taking line so I can catch up every last bit of tension.

Any other personal tips for kayak salmon fishing?

I like to troll with the rod holder holding the rod across my body and not in the way of my pedaling. My reel is right hand retrieve and I like to troll on my right side (starboard).

When I get the fish onboard, I like to bonk it on the head to prevent losing it, cut the gills and work it back and forth in the water to get all the blood out. Put your fish in a game bag with ice. Do not hang your salmon off your kayak, especially inside the harbor – sea lions really love salmon and they will hesitate to steal from you.

Thanks for the tips, Jason! When I get a Hobie in the near future I’ll be sure to get out there with you. In the meantime all you kayak anglers feel free to hit him up for guide trips! Shoot him a message on Facebook & Instagram for more info on how you can catch some chrome for yourself. Tight lines, everyone!