Fishing mangroves and docks requires being able to cast your presentation underneath overhanging structure using a method called the skipcast. Fish stage under the structure to attack current-swept prey. Plus, they stay cooler in the moderate waters during the midday sun and are protected from larger predators.
It’s vital that you get your lure or bait to them.
Many boat fishermen are familiar with the technique–casting low and parallel to the water’s surface, allowing the bait to skip along top until it reaches its destination. It requires a strong arm motion to keep the water from “gobbling up” the bait too early. Aim your bait to initially hit the water’s surface just outside the overhang, allowing the bait to skip or tumble end-over-end into the strike zone. If you cast too hard, grab the top of the reel and stop the line.
One quick bounce or a “rolling” along the surface are both different outcomes to a skipcast. They both work, too. Consider that your angle of trajectory may vary depending on your rod length and how close you are to the structure. Too drastic of an angle and your bait splashes into the water loudly near the boat; not enough angle and your bait may never touch the water’s surface.
A few quick tips for skipcasting:
1) Shy away from skipcasting with a baitcaster unless you are experienced with these types of reels. Tournament bass fishermen will tell you that they have more control with their baitcasters than spinners–but they tend to be the exception. Most saltwater inshore anglers use spinners when fan-casting or live-baiting: stick with it when skipcasting.
2) A 6-foot spinning rod is not a bad option when skipcasting. The shorter length allows for pinpoint casts. Longer rods generally mean longer casts, which are not necessary when skipcasting near structure.
3) If spinfishing and right-handed, leave room along your right side to make casts. Left-handed fishermen should leave room on their left side. It’s amazing how quickly skipcasting becomes frustrating when casting from your non-dominant side.
4) Use soft baits that are weedless, or at least single-hooked. Live baits work well too. When skipcasting, a light bodied soft bait skips best across the water’s surface. Plus, if you accidentally hit the structure–and you will catch the overhang–a weedless bait should pop right out (and may even fall into the strike zone). Treble hooks get caught and don’t come out.
A kayak skipcast is a different animal altogether
Plenty of flats and bayboat fishermen have enough trouble with the skipcast as it is…and they have the advantage of standing. Because kayakers sit much closer to the water, their cast should be angled more like a baseball swing and less like a boat fisherman’s golf swing.
Treat the lure like it’s a flat-sided rock and you want to skip it across a lake. Cast so your rod is parallel to the H20 surface, and your bait is just inches from the surface. Don’t have more than one foot of leader hanging from the rod tip when preparing for a cast. You have to get that bait low and keep it low. If the structure has an overhang that extends far over the water, give the cast a bit more power–that first bounce off the water’s surface always slows down the lure’s speed significantly.
As with most things in life, practice makes perfect. Don’t expect to master kayak skipcasting on the the first trip out, but once you do, snook and redfish will know you by your first name. Below, Captain Rich Jones demonstrates the proper way to skipcast while standing from a Native Watercraft.
By Sam Hudson