08. Shark Bait Deployment
Fishing poles should be spaced a minimum of ten yards apart within the campsite, twenty yards is better. Baits should be dropped towards the current. If the current is running right to left, drop your baits out at about a 45 degree angle right of your position. As your bait is kayaked out, the line will form a significant “belly” due to water resistance. If there is little or no current, you can run your lines out in a fan pattern.
As a rule of thumb we try to run lines out to drop baits in 10 foot or deeper water. All beaches vary, with some beaches having a steep slope requiring less distance to get to deeper water. Some beaches are shallow requiring lines to be run 400 yards out to get to a depth of 10 feet deep. If you can get your bait out to 12 to 20 foot deep water, that is even better.
Here in Texas, I prefer to run one or two rods from the beach with baits placed 300 to 500 yards out. The direction of the current determines which direction I run my rods. We always angle our baits into the current. With very strong current we will angle our baits 45 degrees into the current. I like to run two rods out with a drop 300 yards out and another bait 400 yards out. To get a bait out 300 yards from the beach, you are going to have to paddle 400 yards due to the angle of the line. To get a bait out 400 yards from the beach, you are going to have to paddle over 500 yards out. Generally deep baits get far more pickups than shallow baits, by a multiple of two or three. Sometimes there are sharks in between the second and third sandbar, and you can have some luck dropping short.
On days when the surf is high and hard to kayak through, I will drop both baits between the second and third sandbar. On days when the surf is very rough, dropping the bait over the first bar into the first gut will get you fishing when the tube roller waves are intimidating to kayak through.
Generally speaking, on days when the surf is rough, the sharks will move in closer. On days when it is calm, sharks will feed deeper. Sharks also move in closer on high tides and cloudy days and feed farther out when the water is very clear, the sun is bright, or the tide is low. Sharks feed closer during the mornings and sunset and further out during the day. Of all bait placements for Texas Beaches, baits run out 400+ yards have the highest pickup rate. Sometimes we run lines 500 yards out where the water is 15 to 20 feet deep.
Now all of this is relative to your location. If you can hit 20 foot deep water 100 yards off your beach, that is where you want to drop your bait.
How many rods should we fish?
When you fish with your crew, you want to run enough lines out to cover the area in front of you, but not so many that the water in front of you is cluttered. A campsite with 6 rods run out 175 to 500 yards is very busy. Each rod you fish with requires energy to maintain and keep a good bait on. Most baits for medium sized sharks need to be checked every couple of hours. Some people run a bait out at sunrise and come noon, they still think there is something out there. If you deployed a mullet or skipjack, the crabs have probably picked it apart in two hours. It is better to focus on working one rod all day long with fresh bait, rather than deploy several rods which you do not check all day.
If someone does not want to watch their rod, or go to sleep, they should have the courtesy to reel their rigs in and let someone else fish the spot. This is especially true if seaweed is present. If one person starts to get weed on their line, and does not clean it off, their line will eventually tangle with other lines and knock other lines out. This is the primary reason that you will see many experienced anglers showing reluctance to fishing with new anglers. Just keep this in mind and manage the rods your are fishing with.
Bait Deployment Options
The kayak is the number one method of getting your bait in front of the sharks. Kayaks are relatively cheap compared to Zodiacs and Jetski’s and much more reliable. The two kayaks I recommend are the little 9’ Frenzy ($349) made by Ocean Kayak and the best is the 12′ Scrambler XT ($425) made by Ocean Kayak. The extra $75 makes the difference as the Scrambler XT can handle higher waves than the Frenzy. Both kayaks surf well on the way back in. Whatever you buy, find someone who already has the model you are interested in, and try it out in advance in the surf before spending your money. Most people end up purchasing a kayak when getting into this sport since it requires a relatively small investment and requires little maintenance.
When purshasing a kayak, it helps to also add a back support and a nice paddle with a tether. Ocean Kayak sells a back support that can also double as a kidney belt for fighting a shark. This provides excellent support for your lower back and abs. A good paddle will also make a difference in your performance.
When you buy a kayak, do not listen to the sales rep who tries to push you off on bay kayaks. Bay kayaks are not that stable, and unless the rep is a shark fisherman that has run bait out, take anything they say with a grain of salt. Many retailers do not accept return on kayak sales. There are also less expensive kayaks like the yakboard. Stay way from these.
The Scrambler XT is 12 feet long and fairy narrow, making this an idea fast kayak for carrying baits out deep for 400 to 500 yard drops. If you are 225 lbs or less, this is an outstanding kayak for bait running. Using the same energy to run a bait at as the Frenzy, it is easy to get a deployment 100 yards deeper on the Scrambler XT with the same amount of effort. You cannot underestimate how important this is when you move up to fishing for larger sharks in the future. Dropping baits 400 to 500 yards out makes a very large difference on Gulf Coast Beaches, compared to runnig baits 150 to 300 yards.
People that are over 250 lbs, should try out several kayaks before acquiring one. There are other models like the Malibu Two and the Drifter with the cababilty to carry 350-400 lb. payloads. Keep in mind the larger kayaks take more energy to paddle than the narrow ones.
Kayaks are easy to master. As you are getting into the sport, practice in the surf within the first 100 yards of the beach making trips in and out across the first sandbar. Learn how your kayak handles as you head out and surf back in. Learn how to get in and out of your kayak. Always keep safety in mind.
The Zodiac style inflatable and the jet ski are excellent vehicles to deploy baits in the surf. Both will require extensive maintenance each trip when exposed to salt water. Some people that are mechanically inclined like to pick up a used jet ski for less than a thousand dollars. The jet ski can handle some incredibly rough surf. You can run a lot of bait quickly with a jet ski. The Zodiac is a higher maintenance vehicle which has the utility of being used as an coastal fishing vessel, allowing you to target kings, jacks, tarpon, and other game fish from a quick surf launch. Depending on where you live, your beach may or may not have shallow water oil platforms. The Zodiac allows you to run out one to three miles quickly and target these rigs. The better Zodiacs, able to handle rougher surf, are 12 feet long with 10+ horsepower engines. Zodiacs are dangerous and will flip. This is a very nice craft to have, but you will have to take some time to master the Zodiac in all conditions.
Kayaking A Bait
First thing to do is get that life jacket on, no kayaking without a life jacket. Many anglers carry the bait in the kayak by attaching the bait behind the seat and running the prongs of the weight behind the attachment straps. If something happens during the trip out, the bait will usually fall out of the kayak. For new anglers we recommend they run circle hooks for safety reasons. Another method is to attach the weight to the seat cleat as see in the picture above.
As you paddle through the surf, you will encounter waves. The waves peak over each sandbar. Big waves will be only swells between the bars. As you paddle through a wave, point the kayak into the wave. Many people hold the paddle in the air over their heads while going through a wave. Wrong! As you moved into a wave, you need to gain momentum to punch through the wave by paddling as hard as you can.
A surfer once told me the secret of mastering the waves is understanding that waves come in cycles of ten to fifteen waves. Big waves come through in sets of four or five, followed by smaller waves. If you are kayaking on a rough day, you may need to time the waves, and wait for larger waves to pass before you see the opening you want. Sometimes I have sat one or two minutes to just in front of the third bar waiting for an opening to paddle through. Always move quickly over the bars where the water is rough and take your time where the water is calm to conserve energy.
After dropping your bait and turning around, it is time to head back in. I like to paddle back briskly through the surf. If you are running your baits out at an angle towards the wind, you will have the wind at your back and the trip in should be easy. To surf a wave, wait until big curler wave comes in behind you, start paddling rapidly before the wave arrives and lean back in the kayak as the wave picks you up and carries you on a short ride. It is quite a blast.