Laydowns are visually evident, as they usually protrude from the water surface. This type of cover is sought after by fishermen, as we all know they hold bass regularly. This is the reason why they are usually overfished, and bass that reside there may be difficult to catch on traditional methods, because they have seen many different types of lures, particularly jigs and Texas rigs.
When fishing from a kayak, pitching a jig at close quarters is very complicated, unless you stand up. If you are not a kayak fisherman that likes to stand (like myself), you’ll have a hard time casting a lure with precision from a low seated position. This is why I looked for techniques that allowed me to fish these laydowns from close quarters effectively. I have found two particular rigs very effective for these situations. You could call them “power finesse” techniques.
The “Jika” Rig
The Jika Rig is basically an elongated or tear-drop shaped weight (commonly used for drop shotting), linked by one or two split rings to a wide gap hook. They are also marketed commercially as “jig rig” but I prefer to make my own. What the jika rig does is that it falls down in a straight line, as the weight moves downward during the fall and the hook moves upward. This lends itself to using the rig with small lures that have good movement in the form of flaps or pincers. I have tried different lures and I have settled on two, a small otter (a beaver-like creature with rounded appendages) for pressured conditions, and a larger chigger craw or rage tail craw for regular conditions. You can use any soft plastic with good movement. I prefer 3/16 oz weights for general jika rigs. I use either 1/0 or 3/0 light wire, high quality wide gap hooks depending on the size of the bait.
To fish the jika rig, I use a Kistler 6’9’’ to 7’1’’ spinning rod in Medium-Heavy power, paired with a 1000 to 2500-size reel spooled with 15lb or 20lb braid and a 15lb fluorocarbon leader approximately 10' long. I highly recommend sticking to spinning tackle, as the lure will fall down much better than if using a baitcast reel, which produces a pendulum fall.
I usually target the edges of the laydown, landing the lure just on the outside edge and letting it free fall to the bottom. Then I just lift the rod slowly to jump over the branches. When the lure is no longer in the laydown then I make another cast. The jika rig is very weedles,s so you will practically have no hangups if you just skin hook your bait.
Most of the time, the bite will take place on the fall. You have to watch your line to detect movement. A sensitive rod also makes all the difference, as you can feel the very subtle tick when the bass takes the bait. Set the hook with a long pull of your rod, and the hook will drive itself in the corner of the mouth.
The weedless tube
My other go-to bait for laydowns is a tube rigged on a weighted, spring-locked hook. There are different brands that offer this type of hooks, but my choice is Confidence Baits’ ¼ oz "Draggin’ Head". Because it has a flat and pointed weight, this hook is extremely weedless, it is also very sharp and made from light wire hook that is perfect for kayak fishing (where hooksets are not as solid as from a boat, and these finer hooks require less force to penetrate the fish’s mouth). For the hook’s spring to hold on to the tube, chew off a small section off a senko and insert it all the way to the head of the tube. You can use any tube that you like. My choice is Coffee Tubes; they have the perfect size for this technique, and I think the bass really like the scent of a strong espresso in the morning!
Rig the hook as shown, and the Draggin Head’s shape will produce a weedless tube with an exposed hook tip. It is very weedless but if you prefer you can also skin hook it for added assurance.
For the weedless tube I also prefer a Kistler spinning rod, in a 6’9 to 7’ length, in Medium Heavy or Heavy power. I use a 2500-sized spinning reel spooled with 20lb to 30lb braid and a 15lb fluorocarbon leader.
You can throw the weedless tube anywhere and it will almost always come out without hanging up. I usually target both the edges and the middle of the laydowns with this rig, working its way through the branches. As with the jika rig, bites will come when the lure is falling. Most of the times the bite will be very soft, and you will only notice that “mushy” feeling or the rod will load itself up. You can also use a strong pull of the rod to drive the tube home. Keep tension on the line at all times when a fish is hooked.
Many fishermen will always target laydowns. I particularly like isolated laydowns in long points, or multiple laydowns in deep water next to cliffs or along a sunken river channel. The jika rig lends itself to more vertical laydowns, as it will fall faster in a vertical fashion. The action will be imparted by the flapping of the lure’s appendages. The weedless tube will be better in shallower and denser laydowns; it will fall with a slower spiral or sliding motion.
So, next time you’re on the water, regardless of the lake, weather conditions or season, you can be sure that many bass will be positioned in laydowns. Approach them quietly and present them with an offering they have not seen before, and you will surely have some action. These two aces will definitely give you a lot of fun. So tie them on and see for yourself!
Alejandro Pérez-Arteaga is a Pro Staff Angler for Wilderness Systems Kayaks, Kistler Rods, Yak Attack, RAM Mounting Systems and HOOK1 Crew. He lives and fishes in central Mexico.