Kelp Paddy Fishing Setups

Searching for fish and signs of life in the vast Pacific Ocean can be discouraging at times when all that is visible on the horizon is the boundless blue water. That is until you spot out of your binoculars an orangish brown cluster of seaweed floating in the middle of the ocean, otherwise known as a kelp paddy. Kelp paddies are comprised of the same kelp that grows along the coastline of California which detach from the ocean floor and become floating habitats for fish. Kelp paddy fishing is a unique style of fishing to California and is done during the warmer months of the year when pelagic fish have moved into the offshore scene. Desirable fish such as Yellowtail, Dorado, and Tuna can all be caught off of kelp paddies, making kelp paddy fishing a crowd favorite. In this article we will outline a few ideal rod and reel setups when fishing kelp paddies.  

The dream kelp. Finding a paddy like this while offshore is sure to get the heart pumping as it could easily become a day maker, holding schools of yellowtail and dorado

Fishing rods and reels have come a long way as manufacturers are continuously improving on their designs and performance of their products. With fishing rods becoming lighter and reels smaller in size, all while providing the necessary amount of pulling power and drag capabilities, anglers are able to get away with fishing lighter setups. Since a good amount of my fishing time in the summer and fall is spent running offshore fishing kelp paddies, I like to have a few dedicated lighter rod and reel setups for this style of fishing. Here are a few go to setups I like to bring on the boat when fishing live bait or casting lures for fish on kelp paddies.  

Left to Right: Avet SX w/ Seeker 270-8’, Avet MXJ w/ Seeker PHLM9, Tranx 300 w/ Cousins Raze RSWB755T 

My first go to setup is an Avet SX (small single speed lever drag reel) that is paired with a Seeker Black Steel 270-8’ (8-foot composite live bait rod) rated 15-25lb and is easily my favorite and most utilized setup for fishing kelp paddies. The Avet SX is loaded with 50lb braid and topped off with a few feet of fluorocarbon anywhere between 15 and 25lb depending on circumstances. This combo is a perfect live bait setup for fishing school sized yellowtail, dorado, or even smaller tuna. The smaller sized lever drag Avet SX reel is lightweight and provides plenty of drag and line capacity for paddy fishing. While the composite Seeker 270-8’ provides a strong rod with its graphite bottom section and gives it the ability to easily cast a sardine with its soft E-glass upper section. This combo is the first one that is grabbed from the rod holders when stopped on a kelp paddy and has caught numerous fish.   

A typical Southern California kelp Yellowtail

The second setup I like to bring offshore is an Avet MXJ Star Drag reel mounted on a Seeker PH LM9 (9-foot e-glass rod) rated 20-40lb. The Avet MXJ is loaded with 65lb braid and a top shot of either 30lb or 40lb mono. This combo is mainly utilized for casting surface irons and other jigs but can also be used as a heavier live bait setup. The star drag reel provides ease of casting while the longer 9-foot flexible e-glass rod gives excellent loading of jigs and length to get distance on the cast. This setup is a little heavier than the previous one mentioned but can come in handy when larger fish are patrolling the kelp paddy.  

A final setup that leaves the house with me for fishing kelp paddies is a smaller baitcasting setup which includes a Shimano Tranx 300 paired with a Cousins Raze RSWB 755T (7’6” casting rod) rated 12-25lb. This combo is more of a bass rod and reel setup but can be a lot of fun casting lighter lures for those smaller school size grade dorado and yellowtail. Over this past summer we had a blast using this setup to cast for dorado on kelps and was able to handle those fish in the 8-12lb range. It can be challenging fishing a light combo like this with longer fight times and more frequent causalities, but is very rewarding and a lot of fun. 

These are just a few of my go to setups to bring offshore when fishing kelps in the warmer months of summer and fall. There are many different brands and types of rods and reels that will get the job done with this unique style of fishing and choosing the right setup for you is most crucial. Next time you’re planning to head offshore to fish kelp paddies be sure to have a couple dedicated setups ready to go and don’t be afraid to fish the lighter gear, as the new advancements in fishing rod and reel technology makes this possible for anglers.   

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