#NSC20 – The Wrap Up

In what seemed like no time at all, NSC weekend rolled around again and the scramble began to pull everything together in time. After a tough Christmas fire season for the whole country knock-on effects were still being felt in terms of delivery services and it was looking like it would go down to the wire to have everything arrive on time. The last batch of NSC shirts arrived at midday on Friday allowing us to finish the welcome packs and pack the car to be on the road to Portland for briefing Friday evening. Last year’s sweltering heat was a thing of the past and conditions were looking reasonable for the weekend, we just had to hope the fish played ball. With 40 guys registered for the comp (8 for the first time) and a team making the trip over from South Australia we were set for a big weekend. With work commitments the way they are these days, I was looking forward to catching up with a bunch of blokes I don’t see on the water as often as I used to.

Day 1 – (Fishing 6.30am – 2pm)

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The morning launch saw mint conditions with light offshore winds and swell wasn’t an issue.  The safety crews hit the water and the girls hit the beach armed with clipboards to check off all the safety gear. The launch saw the field spread out quickly with a variety of tactics being tried with some opting to risk it out wider facing the threat of a long run home into the strengthening wind. We had three late launches (Shane making the trip back from interstate and a local Portland team that entered on the day) but by the time an hour had passed we had all vessels out on the water.

It was evident early that there were pinkies around with a number of anglers getting some early, the best of which went to Rob with a  48cm model.

There were whiting about too, and with Spider telling me stories of monster Portland whiting after NSC17, I had added them to the species list but had yet to see one of these unicorns entered in. That changed on Day 1 with Ben entering a solid 40cm model while Mal went one better with a 45cm model. Worth noting here that comp fish are measured in fork length so the ‘ting the boys entered were closer to 50cm overall than 40 and solid catches for the species.

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Peatop managed to find the slimies for livebait, but unfortunately only bronzies took a liking to them with two good sized sharks back to back towing him out behind the anchorage before the end of the session. After battling two sharks to the surface, an offer of a nudge a little closer to shore from the Coast Guard was gratefully accepted.

We had a few salmon hit the measuring table too the best of which was Mav’s 44cm model, but at the end of session one the talk moved to kings…

Ben was the first to throw his hat in the ring for the best catch comp with a rat king on the board, previous comp winner Lennon then added to his tally going slightly better with a 67cm (fork length) version but bragging rights for the day went to Tas with not one but both fish landed from a double hookup, the second on very light gear. As the session drew to a close Tas had a healthy lead in the individual comp but less than 20 points separated the teams. Tales of bust offs by kings abounded over pizza for lunch and right on cue there was a bust up out off the bluff allowing Ian to test his casting distance land based to no avail.

Day 2 (Fishing 6.30am – 11am)

Launch on day two saw calm conditions the wind had dropped during the night but was due to steadily increase throughout the morning. Day 2 saw the smaller fishing zone in operation but based on the previous few days fishing, you didn’t have to travel far to find the kings.

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The launch on Day 2 also saw the beginning of the Day 2 Dash with a pair of Mako polarised sunnies up for grabs for the first person to nab a legal whiting. The dash was won by Cheater with one of his trusty prawns nabbing the required King George.

There were still some smaller snapper around on day two that were happy to be hooked as well as a few more salmon, coming in giving most teams points on the board. The wind was making things a little bumpy out wide. As the 11am cut off drew nearer the field began the slog back to the beach.  This year’s tale of woe came from the Donkey Hunter team with Ian having a relaxing pedal back, pulling in on the beach beside a parked Stealth just before eleven only to find out that his beach didn’t have an admin tent or  even a caravan park and wasn’t the same as our beach. He then had to round the point and make the slog back to Henty into the wind.

The big question that remained however was whether or not anyone would come to the weigh in with kings. That question was answered soon after when Aussie Dave hit the beach with not one, but two of his own. Gear was packed up and the group moved to the BBQ area to see if Dave had done enough to topple Tas at the top of the leader board…

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The Results

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Early Bird Draw:

Winner: Tristan Davies (Henty Accommodation Voucher)

Day 2 Dash:

Target Species: Whiting

Winner: Stephen Kent (Mako Polarised Sunnies, Drystore Drybag, Lowrance Buff)

Masters (Entrants born in 1970 or earlier):

Winner: Tas Russos 205.5pts (Soft Plastic and jig head prize pack)

Team Challenge:

Team Team Average
1 Shane & Tas 138
2 The Mud Brothers 92.75
3 30 Fathoms 91.75
4 Portland Pescadores 91.25
5 Donkey Hunters 57.25
6 Grassy Whiting 50.75
7 FG Not 46.25
Stealth Fishas 46.25
9 Cheaters 40.5
10 Port Jacksons 39.5
11 Toadies 38.5
12 His Way 20.75
13 Banjos 20.5
14 Miller’s Militia 15.75
15 The Woodies 15.5
16 The Wrasse 7.75
17 JillyMacca 0
18 Hookt On 0

Individual Competition:

Angler Points
1 Tas Roussos 205.5
2 David Fealy 169.5
3 Ben Pinniger 132.5
4 Stephen Kent 110
5 Lennon Doherty 82.5
6 Mal Donaldson 75.5
7 Shane Esmore 70.5
8 Christopher Dick 62.5
9 Rob Gloutnay 62
10 Paul Coghill 61.5

A massive thank you once again to all of the entrants that made the trip down the coast  to support our comp, it was a great weekend away with a top bunch of blokes. To the offshore first timers, well done on surviving the wind, I hope you gained some useful experience and built up your confidence to keep giving it a crack. Thanks again to all of our event sponsors, please keep them in mind when making your purchases.

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Sea Sherpa

#NSC19 – The Wrap Up

Last year’s weather certainly made offshore fishing difficult, but as NSC19 weekend drew closer and the long range forecast began to settle in, it started to look like Saturday’s weather might not be just good, but mint for the first session.  Friday saw Melbourne swelter and messages rolled in from entrant on how best to get their kayaks and skis to Portland without melting as the mercury reached 47°C. Luckily by the time we arrived down the coast the cool change had already hit and unloading the trailer was a much easier affair.

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The cool change hitting Portland on Friday afternoon

7pm saw the briefing take place up on the bluff with members of Coast Guard Portland in attendance to outline the use of smoke flares in an emergency situation out on the water. Welcome packs were distributed and this year saw the inclusion of boat number stickers to make admin and emergency procedures much more streamlined as well as making it easier for Cheater to find where he left his kayak.

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Day 1 – (Fishing Window 6.30am – 2pm)

The morning launch saw mint conditions and a fishing window until 2pm gave entrants time to cover plenty of ground in search of pelagics. Early Yippahs over the radio from team Berleypro suggested that the kings had been located with a video coming through moments later showing Shane Elverd’s knots being tested by a solid king while the surrounding yaks couldn’t land any from that school. Rumours that the paddling within 10m of Marto has a similar effect on kings as a shark shield on noahs has yet to be proven, but there is certainly a strong case for it.

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Shane Elverd with a cracking king

There had been a number of reports of kings out of Nunn’s beach on our arrival on Friday and a portion of the field had headed that way from the start. Mozz was glad he wasn’t relying on his bait tube from South West Rocks when he started pulling in 55cm slimies on his Jack Sayoris hard body. The first two were sent back out as livies for a double hookup soon after. The first rod was handed off to his team mate while he battled and landed the first king only for the second, larger model to bust him off once the rod was returned.

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Jayme Morris with the first king to hit the beach on Saturday

The rest of the field were left to sort through undersized pinkies and rat kings in search of legal models in order to get some points on the board. As the session drew to a close at 2pm anglers had a steady following sea sending them back to the beach at Henty with Cheater’s GPS reading 16kph on the Profisha ‘without much effort’. The weigh in had twenty pinkie snapper entered to see thirteen anglers on the board after session one with 7 ½ points separating the top two anglers going into session two.

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Thankful for the points on the board

Tales of bust offs by kings abounded over pizza and beers for lunch while Bill had caught the most unusual catch of the day – a cuttlefish on a smash squid soft plastic lure, that was after a king took a liking to the small soft plastic he was throwing around on a six kilo rod for snapper, which had a more predictable ending than the Titanic movie.

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Day 2 (Fishing window 6.30am – 11am)

Launch on day two saw calm conditions but the wind had swung offshore and was due to steadily increase throughout the morning along with the swell, while the period was dropping. The shorter fishing window on Day 2 meant that Julia Reef was not fished, which was just as well as reports from the guys that had fished it on Day 1 said their sounder would have had similar screens sitting on the beach.

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Day 2 Launch

The launch on Day 2 also saw the beginning of the Day 2 Dash with bonus prize packs for the first two people back to the beach with a snapper.First prize went to Nev Pollock with his Evolution proving it still has some mojo left. Tristan Davies was next to land a snapper but opted to fish on, figuring someone else would hit the beach first for second place as his was already out wide. That someone else arrived on the beach a few minutes later with Wayne Jensz taking out the second spot.

The cool weather on Saturday and rain overnight coupled with a drop in water temperature did not bode well for kings on Day 2. Sure enough the kings were proving hard to find Shane Esmore located a few but struggled to find the size he was after while William Filliponi also managed to tempt one in the 50’s.

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Live update from William during the comp!

There were still some smaller snapper around that were happy to be hooked and Tas Russos managed to tempt a solid salmon, the only one entered in the comp but overall the fishing on day two was tough and the wind was making things a little bumpy out wide. As the 11am cut off drew nearer the field began the slog back to the beach.  The measuring table saw very few wipes with only a couple of snapper upgrades coming in and many a tale of woe.

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The Results

Early Bird Draw:

Winner: Peter Eaton (BerleyPro Orb Light)

Day 2 Dash:

Target Species: Snapper

Winner: Neville Pollock ($200 Dinga Voucher, AO Cooler, Buff, Dinga Shirt & Cap)

Runner Up: Wayne Jensz (Catch Fishing Lure Pack)

Masters (Entrants born in 1969 or earlier):

Winner: Tas Russos 41pts (Buff, Dinga Cap, Set of Easy2Hook Knotless hooks)

Team Challenge:

Team Points
1 Long Zebra 77
2 The Mega Powers 73.5
3 The Fishas 69.75
4 Shane Plus 1 33
5 FG Not 20.5
6 Cheater & The Apprentice 18.25
7 Jolly Rogers 15
8 GT South 14.5
Glass is Class 14.5
10 Go Fish 14
Team BerleyPro 14
12 The Mud Brothers 0
The Westies 0
The Portlanders 0

Individual Competition:

Angler Points
1 Shane Elverd 139.5
2 Jayme Morris 132
3 Tas Roussos 41
4 Nathan Wooldridge 36.5
5 Shane Esmore 34.5
6 Peter Ritchie 31.5
7 William Filliponi 31
8 Tristan Davies 30
9 Neville Pollock 29
Jeremie Steedan 29

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A massive thank you once again to all of the entrants that made the trip down the coast in the sweltering heat to support our comp, it was a great weekend away with a top bunch of blokes. To the offshore first timers, well done on surviving the weekend, I hope you gained some useful experience and built up your confidence to keep giving it a crack. Thanks again to all of our event sponsors, please keep them in mind when making your purchases.

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See you all at #NSC20!

Sea Sherpa

Victorian Kayak Snapper for beginners

They say there is a reason why the footy finishes in September… and in yards all over Victoria, the frustration of teams getting knocked out of finals is taken out on kayaks and boats as winter tarps are lifted and pressure washers are put to good use. Richmond yaks are usually cleaned in August, but this year the dust gathers a little longer…

As with most things, every yak fisho will have a preferred technique, bait, lure, spot etc for chasing snapper, and there are plenty more seasoned snapper whisperers out there than myself, but this might give kayak fishos chasing reds for the first time a starting point for the upcoming season. The main run of reds occurs when the waster temperature in the bays reaches parity with the water temperature offshore. This generally occurs in October, but can vary depending on the weather conditions. You can get an updated version of the graph below, here. As you can see, currently the bays are still a little cold so the big influx has not yet occurred and fish being caught this time of year will most likely be fish resident to bay that can be caught right through the winter.

Gearing Up:

I have two sets of snapper gear – one for each bay, mainly because in Western Port the tides run harder and snapper use them to their advantage but also because in Port Philip Bay I normally use plastics and hard bodies, whereas in Western Port I usually bait fish due to the water clarity in the top end.

Port Phillip (plastics) – 4-6kg Graphite rod, 12lb braid mainline, 2500 to 4000 size reel

Western Port (bait) – 6-10kg Glass rod, 20lb mono mainline, Penn 460 Slammer

You can run braid on your bait set-up too if you like, especially for deeper water as it will lessen the bow in the line up through the water column, but when using braided lines its really important to back your drag off as the fish nears the kayak. If they go for that last ditch run to the deep you can often pull hooks as the braid has no stretch and loose your fish yakside. In the braid vs mono debate, I think braid has a better hook up rate and is my preferred for Port Phillip Bay, for Western Port however I prefer mono because for the fact that most of the places I fish for snapper there have a good chance of a gummy or a big ray as by-catch, both of which will collect all of your lines causing you to bust off leaders on your other braided line. The resultant tangle is also easier to undo with mono, getting your lines back in the water and fishing quicker.

Lures:

Soft Plastics – There are three types of plastics I tend to use on snapper, but I’m sure others will work just as well when there is a hot bite.

  1. Worms – check out Munroe’s caramel eclair or Gulp turtlebacks in camo
  2. Jerk shads – smelt or nuke chicken or motor oil Zman’s are good starting points
  3. Squid types – check out zip- zits if you can find them (hard to get these days), I’ll be checking out the new smash squid this season as a replacement.

In terms of jig heads, go as light as possible to get your plastic to waft down through the bite zone. Snapper are more likely to take it on the drop than dragging along the bottom like a flattie would. Most of the yak spots are not that deep – 15m or less and without much current you can get away with a 1/8 or 1/6 jig head and then match the hook size to the size of the plastic.

Hard Bodies- These range in size and therefore in the size fish they can handle, the Frenzies (after the humble Tassie devil) have to be one of the best bang for buck lures around.  They generally attract pinkies rather than monsters, which is just aw well as a monster would chew through one, but are a handy lure to have in the tackle box for trolling on the way out to a mark. I’ve listed the red head below but the silver with red belly models are good too. Make sure you upgrade your hooks on them a) because trebles on a yak hook everything once you bring a fish on board and b) I think singles do a better job of penetrating the hard snapper mouths.

For a heavier fish  you’ll probably need to run a slightly larger lure, like a Sebille Koolie Minnow or a classic Rapala taildancer.

  1. Frenzy – QANTAS red head (trebles swapped out for better quality singles)
  2. Koolie Minnow – 76mm in BRB
  3. Rapala Taildancer (~10m of water)
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Koolie Minnow

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Berkley Redhead

Rigs:

When the snapper enter the bays at the start of the season, they have quite sharp teeth that get worn back as a result of gorging on the shellfish the bays provide. As a result early in the season I tend to run slightly heavier leaders, dropping down as the season progresses. You can also have finicky biters early on so I start the season with thin gauge 4/0 or 5/0 suicide hooks, switching to circles when the season is in full swing in late October and the snapper tend to hit the bait and run. I run a standard running sinker rig in Western Port with and Ezy-rig with a 20- 30cm dropper to the sinker. If you are chasing the bigger models, a twin hook set-up on 30 or 40lb leader will do the job you can match the spacing of the hooks to the size baits you want to use. For Port Phillip Bay however, I try to use the least amount of lead possible if any at all. I use the same two hook rig but instead of the ezi-rig, I just use a small pea sinker running to the hook with a lumo bead to protect the knot or at the top of the bay just some splitshot. This YouTube video by SpedzaGoFishTv outlines how to make a twin hook rig pretty similar to how I do it.

If you are chasing pinkies, then you can use a simple paternoster rig over the shallow reefs, similar to what you would use chasing whiting just a little heavier (~15lb). If you are snagging up a lot you are probably anchored right on the reef. You can anchor just behind the reef edge and draw the fish to you with the berley or try a lighter line class to attach the sinker,  which will break in the event of a snag. You could also use an enviroweight attached with an elastic band. Also make sure your anchor has a break-away cable tie fitted, to prevent it getting stuck in the reef, more info here.

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Image credit: jazclass

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A pair of pan-size pinkies; perfect size for cooking whole.

Baits:

When it comes to bait, you’ll often hear the saying that fresh is best, but sometimes the snapper are just fussy and will take a three time defrosted old pilchard over a fresh squid head, so it’s probably better to say a range is best. I also try to offer up things that are local to the area on the rods if possible and will have frozen stuff as a backup. If I have time in advance I’ll try to do a bait collecting session prior to my trip to give me un-frozen bait. In WP it can be easy to do some bait collecting in the time leading up to the tide change to have fresh baits out at the right time. You can bait up a small hook rig to nab a small salmon to cut up into strip baits. You can also go crab hunting before you launch in some areas. In Port Phillip I try to squid hunt the day before allowing me to save time on the day and get lines and a berley trail going well before the sun comes up. I’ll normally run two or three bait rods on the yak – a combination of pilchard, squid, salmon, crab, pipi or saurie. I used to use banana prawn too but unfortunately outbreaks of white spot disease have now made this unsuitable for use as bait to prevent contamination of our waterways.

Berley:

My berley making is an all year job, which involves having a small bait freezer in the shed. If you are lucky enough to have this set-up you can keep your fish carcasses, off-cuts and old thawed bait in the freezer until you have built up enough stock to make a batch of berley. This ensures nothing goes to waste while helping your catch rate in snapper season.

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The first thing you’ll need to do is pick yourself up an old-school meat grinder. You can get them at op-shops or on eBay for not much cash – it is probably best to have one dedicated for the job!  To make a berley mix I grind up the carcassases, offcuts and bait that has got freezer burn, or have been thawed and re-frozen too many times. To this I add something that will expand in the water and slow down the berley flow rate. You can use the crushed up Weetbix from the bottom of the box, stale bread, or chook pellets. To finish up add some tuna oil – enough to make the mixture wet enough to mould, but dry enough to stay in a ball once formed. Freeze it down in sandwich bags and you are good to go.

Fishing Spots:

Port Phillip Bay Pinkies – Depending on your level of experience there are plenty of spots in PPB to chase some fish. If you are chasing pinkies, you can get them most of the year at Altona in the West, or Half Moon Bay on the East side. At Altona,  the parking is free at Miller’s Rd launch and you only have to paddle a short distance. You can anchor up behind the shallow reef (line up with the Pier and the rock groyne) and use squid or pipi on the paternoster rig. You’ll feed a lot of hungry piranhas to get the size models, but you’ll have lots of fun. Over at Half Moon Bay there are a number of good spots within 2km of launching at Blackrock ramp. The Anonyma Shoal and the 15m contour are within easy paddling distance for suitable bay craft.

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Chasing Bigger Reds – The snapper or pinkie debate depends on the angler, for me its fish above the half meter mark qualify as snapper. In Port Phillip Bay, catching bigger fish is about timing. You need to be up early. They raid the reefs under cover and once the sun comes up they move out to deeper waters. If you are launching at first light onto a shallow reef like Altona, you have already missed the boat. I prefer the deeper water off Willamstown or out behind the Cardinal at Altona. Get out on the water at 3am and have your berley trail going and baits in the water long before the sun is thinking of coming up.

In terms of conditions, you can put in lots of hours trying to get your first big red, and while they can be caught randomly in all sorts of conditions, researching the weather will see you spend your time more productively. You’ll hear plenty about barometer readings, wind direction and tides making it hard to know when to go. Obviously, spending more hours on the water will result in more fish, you can’t catch them sitting on the couch, but if you are limited on time here’s what I look for: I reckon the bigger snapper prefer bumpy water so chasing them in PPB you’ll need a kayak and experience suitable for these conditions. I like fishing the day after a big southerly blow as it stirs up the food supply and brings the fish in. Ideally I want a high tide change. If you get a tide change at first light, rising barometer and a southerly the day before that’s when you take a sickie at work! Look for combinations of the above when deciding whether or not to use your leave pass.

Western Port is a bit easier in that the murky waters give snapper more confidence and good fish can be caught throughout the day. In Western Port the tide changes still play an important role in both the fish biting and the conditions you will be fishing in. Try to fish around the tide changes and starting out its best to fish in all-tide launches like Coronet Bay to give an extra margin of safety. Lang Lang and the top end can see some great fish too but you need to know how the tide effects the area to avoid the mud. Its best to fish these areas with someone with local knowledge the first time. Down the bottom of Western Port sees great fish come from the Corals but the tide down here runs hard. You need to understand the 50/90 rule and gain experience anchoring in tide flows to fish these areas. It is also recommended to have quick release anchor setups to avoid getting side-on to current and potentially capsizing.

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Spots to try:

Williamstown – Launch from the Angling Club ramp (with permisson) or from the rock circles at the bottom of Coles street and paddle out to the left in front of the footy oval. Sound around for arches before anchoring and setting up your trail.

Altona – Launch from the end of Miller’s Road and paddle out to behind the Cardinal. There will inevitably be boats in the area already so sound around and try to find a spot to yourself. If the fish are on and word is out it will be a carpark but good fish come through the area.

Rickett’s – is probably one of the best known snapper spots in Melbourne and often one of the busiest. Paddle out behind the marine park (marked with buoys or use the Can I fish here? feature of the Vic fishing app if you are not sure)

Lang Lang/Jam Jerrup – Fishing the banks over a high tide is the safest move for beginners, you’ll need at least 1m of water in the tide curve for Jam Jerrup to have enough water to launch and retrieve safely. You can use the tide charts to find out your fishing window, but leave some leeway as they are not always accurate.

Tide Curve

Willyweather Tide Curve

You can also fish the forks in the channels over a low as the fish will retreat into the channels as the water drops. You can easily pickup flake as a by-catch through here which isn’t a bad consolation prize!

Coronet Bay – This area is essentially a large grazing ground that all sorts of fish come through. There are no real set ‘marks’ its more a case of paddling out a bit and setting up your offering and settling in to see what comes by. The friendlier water is closer to the launch, the tide rips over at Elizabeth Island and the area between Pelican Island and Snapper Rock is not recommended for beginners – its known as the washing machine for good reason!

Lighting:

One last thing you’ll need to sort out to chase snapper is a proper light. It is a legal requirement (Under the Colregs) to be able to display a white lantern in sufficient time to prevent an accident when underway in a non-powered vessel. For snapper fishing, it is best to aim for being as visible as possible on the water. A headlight generally won’t cut it. There is a lot more boat traffic on the water this time of year, a portion of which are once-a-year boaters that only fish a couple of trips during snapper season. Another consideration is that kayaks are comparatively, very low to the water and a larger boat up on a plane while moving between spots simply won’t see your kayak but has a chance of seeing a light up higher.

In terms of rigging your light, I’d recommend mounting it behind your seat and high enough to be seen over your head. Keeping the light behind you helps prevent it blinding you and makes it easier to paddle along. You can buy suitable lights lights like the BerleyPro Orb or Railbalza navilight ready made, or if you are handy with a soldering iron, you can make your own using LED strips wrapped around PVC pipe. All will do the job better than none and help stop you becoming a speed bump out on the water!

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BerleyPro Orb

I’m sure there is plenty more that could be added, but that’s probably enough to get you started. I’ll add some more photos of my tied rigs during the week.

Tight lines!

Sea Sherpa