How To Fish In A Kayak

Image of a person fishing in a Kayak

Gliding over the water stealthily, reaching a hidden spot where a big fish is hiding can be an amazing experience. With the help of kayaks, you can access places where motorboats can’t go, and shoreline fishing isn’t possible. Moreover, the affordability and ease of use of kayaks are huge draws!

If you are new to kayaking, the huge variety of gear choices as well as learning how to kayak can seems quite daunting. However, once you get to know the ropes, you would learn how easy and beneficial kayaking is especially for fishing. In this article we’re going to help you figure out the ins and outs of fishing in a kayak from essential gear and casting from a kayak!

Let’s get fishing!

Advantages of Fishing from a Kayak

If you’re on the fence about getting a Kayak for fishing or just want some more detail into why experienced anglers are opting to use a Kayak instead of a boat? Let’s take a look at some advantages that kayaks have over motorboats and hope that this will help you come to a decision!

1. Maneuverability

With a kayak, you can go almost anywhere on the water. You can slide through tree stumps, hug banks, cruise through various lily pads, and go anywhere you think the bass fish might be lurking. Places, where there are sudden changes in depth, submerged objects such as tree stumps, aquatic vegetation, etc., are all places where the bass hide and you can easily go there on your kayak as compared to a large and bulky motorboat. They’re able to turn and adjust much quicker and easier than compared to a boat.

2. Stealth

When compared to a boat, there is no question that a kayak is less noticeable and a lot quieter. Since kayaks don’t have a trolling motor, the only real sound a kayak will make in the water is when you’re padding. The bow of a motorboat will create ripples even when the trolling motor isn’t being used while a kayak will slip into the water without the fish even noticing that you are there. This enables a good angler to constantly change spots and not have to worry about disturbing the fish.

3. Better Casting Angles

If you are fishing from a boat, the majority of your casts are most likely going to be perpendicular to the shore, and the lure tends to swim from the shallow water towards the deep water. When you fish from a kayak, you can adjust everything to get the exact casting angle you need for the specific spot. For example, you can place the kayak directly along the edge of some marshy grass so you will retrieve the lure along the grass and you aren’t trying to cast over it or into it. Doing this keeps the bait in the red zone for a longer period of time. Bass fish tend to hide under marshy and weedy patches in the lakes. This increases the number of strikes you get and the fish you catch!

4. More Action

When you are catching fish in a kayak, it gives you an incredible feeling as you watch the fish circle your boat and then finally catch the lure. Moreover, with the modern and comfortable seats that kayaks have on them nowadays, it feels as if you are fishing while sitting on your couch. The challenge of landing in a fish is also a bit different than how you’d do it in a boat, so you have to be swift and agile with your net and paddle for everything to go smoothly!

Kayak Fishing Setup - The Essentials

The first thing that you would need to fish in a kayak is a kayak itself. In recent years, the design and technology used to build kayaks solely for the purpose of fishing has seen many changes. When you are out searching for a kayak to fish in, there are a few essential things you need outside of the kayak and your fishing rod / tackle.

  • Paddle
  • Rod Holders
  • Paddle Holders
  • Dry Hatch or Dry Bag for storage
  • GPS
  • Personal Flotation Device

If you have the proper kayak fishing setup, it will ensure you spend all your time fishing and not fiddling around with your kayak and gear. Thus, it is very important to select the correct fishing gear and setup you kayak correctly. Let’s take a brief look at the things that are going to help you fish better in a kayak.

1. Choosing The Right Fishing Technique

The conditions you are going to fish in are going to change especially if you’re on a lake or river you aren’t familiar with so you don’t know the spot you’ll be fishing in. Sometimes you will have to fish on open lakes, while at times, you might want to maneuver your kayak through a narrow ford in a river. Instead of wasting time to rig your fishing rod according to a particular technique, one way is to keep a few rods ready to fly and all rigged up. This might be having one rod rigged up using a top water lure and another rod ready to go with a drop shot rig. This makes it so you won’t be fooling around changing rigs on the kayak. Seven-foot long rods are great for kayak fishing. If you are a newbie, then you should get a spinning reel instead of a baitcasting one as it will be a lot easier to use.

When it comes to kayak fishing, the most popular species of fish to go after are bass. In order to target bass, you should pack a tackle box with a number of lures that bass can’t resist. Use various types of lures that allow you to fish in different water sections and using different techniques. Topwater lures are great to fish along the surface in shallow water while crankbaits or spinners can go to your desired depth. Soft baits such as worms can be used in various movements and situations like jigging, diving, suspending, etc

2. Size and Weight of the Kayak

Usually, anglers get kayaks that are 12 feet in length. However, the general rule is that thin and long kayaks are used if you are looking for fast speeds. Wide and short kayaks are not that fast, but they have greater stability which is normally what you want when you’re using the kayak mainly for fishing. You don’t want to carry a heavy kayak when you are tired from fishing all day or if you need to trek a long distance through rough terrain. You want to look for a kayak that is light in weight, but not so light you sacrifice the strength of the kayak. Since you’ll be going to the hard to reach places, you’re more likely to scrap bottom and bump into rocks so you want a durable kayak. 

3. Paddle Selection

Choosing the right paddle is as important as choosing the kayak itself, but is typically overlooked. When you are looking at different styles of paddles, one of the most important things to consider is the length. The length of the paddle should be such that it reaches the water comfortably, but it shouldn’t be very long so that it becomes uncomfortable or difficult to maneuver. The length depends on your height, paddling style, and the width of your boat. However, a paddle that is approximately 8 ft. in length would work fine for most people. 

Some anglers also prefer to get paddles that are collapsable for easier transportation and so you can tuck them away in the kayak when they aren’t needed. This makes it easy to just stick in a backpack while you’re carrying your kayak and its just one less piece of gear you need to worry about.

4. Kayak Rod Holders

There are various rod holders with several features and functionalities available in the market. Some are a little bulkier and give you better strength if you’re catching bigger fish while other rod holders provide you with a quick release movement at the time when the fish is biting. Rod holders are important in your kayak fishing setup especially if you want to fish to lines at once. They give you the ability to paddle and maneuver your kayak while your line is in the water so you don’t have to reel in every time you want to make a small adjustment with your kayak.

5. Fish Finder / GPS / Sonar

Depending on your budget, you’ll want a fish finder / GPS combo or just a Sonar if you’re looking to save a bit of cash. These go a long way in figuring out what depth you’re at and mapping your route so you don’t get lost trying to get home. The fish finder is particularly useful if you’re at a new lake and want to figure out exactly where the fish are to get that immediate success. These are not required for your kayak fishing setup, but are definitely in the nice to have category as they’ll make your fishing life quite a bit easier.

Kayak Fishing Tips for Beginners

When you are fishing from a kayak, there are a few things you should keep in mind, such as how to paddle, how to cast, and how to land a fish in a kayak. Let’s take a brief look at them so that you can learn how to do them on your own easily.

1. Casting From a Kayak

When you cast from a kayak for the very first time, it is going to be slightly awkward and there is really no getting around that. The kayak will wobble around for a bit, and you might get worried that it will flip. But you have to relax and trust that the kayak will do the job it was meant to do, plus kayaks are much harder to tip than you might think!

A kayak is designed with initial stability and secondary stability. Initial stability allows a boat to sit flat in the water when you are paddling around. Secondary stability keeps the kayak safe when you make a sudden movement, and the boat leans. You have to trust this stability of the kayak but it may take a few times out on the water to get completely comfortable with.

When we tell you to relax, we mean to say that you have to let the lower half of your body stay loose and let the boat roll slowly. Try to get comfortable with this motion and ease up on your casting. Practice staying relaxed and loose inside the boat. Then try to land a lure in the water while staying at ease.

If you are not comfortable standing up and casting, you can cast while you are sitting. This will hinder the casting distance and reduce your line of sight, but you don’t have to worry about balance or the stability of the kayak as much. If you are standing, remember that you have to bend your knees and keep your feet apart so you’re as sturdy as possible in the kayak. Make sure that you keep your legs relaxed and at ease, and try to hold your core as steady as possible when you’re casting the lure!

2. Paddling in a Kayak

Paddling on a kayak is fun as well as challenging. Proper strokes with your paddle will help you get your kayak to the destination easily and quickly, especially when you are going against the current or there is a strong wind. Moreover, paddling in the correct way will help you conserve your energy for when you are trying to reel in the fish.
On a kayak, you will mostly use the forward stroke. Here are a few tips that will help you when you are using forward stroke:

  • Keep looking towards your destination
  • Keep the blade of the paddle near your toes while it is in the water. You don’t have to exert yourself over though. If you can’t place it near your toes, then place it as far as you can comfortably
  • Submerge the blade completely in the water, then pull it back.
  • When you pull the blade in the water, you shouldn’t use the smaller muscles in your arms. Try to use the torso muscles for applying the force. This way, you will be able to paddle for quite some time before getting tired.

3. Landing a Fishing in a Kayak

The gulp as the fish strikes when using a topwater lure or the bending of your rod as the bass bite down on a chatterbait under the surface of the water makes the heart of angler race. It is gratifying when a fish bites down on your lure, and your line starts to sizzle. With a balance of luck and skills, the moment arrives when you are ready to land a nice big bass. That’s when you realize that it is quite tricky to land a fish in a kayak. Worry not, we have all been through this.

If you know what to do, it’s a pretty easy task. Keep reeling until you have approximately one foot of the line away from the tip of your fishing rod to the bass. Keep your fishing rod in the hand which is farthest from the fish. Keep the tension on the fishing line, and draw the fishing rod slightly up and away from the fish, across your body. With your free hand, you’ll want to use a fishing net to land in a kayak so its not flopping around on top or around your feet!

Kayak Safety Essentials

Nothing is more important than your personal safety. When you are out fishing on a kayak, you need to be sure that you are following all the safety protocols, as there is nothing cool about being unsafe. One tip is to never anchor the kayak in a swift current. There is a high risk of your kayak flipping if it turns the wrong way. Attach a float to one end of the fishing line when you anchor. Let’s take a brief look at the things you should do in order to ensure that you will stay safe and sound while fishing on a kayak.

1. Getting A Personal Flotation Device

A personal flotation device such as a life jacket is very necessary when you are using a kayak, and really anytime you are out on the water. Sometimes you may want to get in the water while you are using fishing out of your kayak, so it is better that you have a PFD. Some PFDs have small pockets that are perfect for keeping small packets of lures, hooks, etc.
No matter how well you swim, you should always wear a life jacket. You should get a PFD that is specific to kayaking. The PFDs, which are specifically are made for kayak fishing, have a thin back for more comfort. Moreover, they are breathable.

2. Dress for the weather

When you are out kayaking, you will be fully exposed to natural elements. This means that you need to be dressed accordingly and you should look at the weather forecast before going kayak fishing. If you are fishing in areas with a lot of heat and sun, you should wear a hat, long-sleeves shirt, and sunglasses in order to minimize the exposure to the sun rays. They will beat down on you from above and reflect off the water so this is a big thing to remember.

Shell pants, gloves as well as neck gaiters are used in order to get more protection. You should not forget to pack sunscreen and drinking water. Most of the time, the water temperatures are low so if you get wet landing a fish or you decide to get in the water and do a bit of shore casting from a nice secluded spot this can cool you right down. Getting hypothermia while fishing in a kayak is a long shot unless you flip, but it is important to consider regardless. 


3. Keep a Knife on you

You should have a straight knife with you, and every experienced angler wouldn’t fish without a knife nearby. Keep it in your PFD or on your seat. If your fishing line or your anchor gets caught in something, it will be very crucial to have a straight blade handy. Look for a blade that has a blunt tip and can be used quickly where you don’t have to worry about poking yourself with the sharp end. 

4. Always Bring a Compass as Backup

You should always keep a compass with you in case your GPS stops working for whatever reason. You should never head out without knowing which direction you came from and you can’t always rely on your phone as a backup in case it dies or gets wet.

A few other things you should keep with you for safety but aren’t truly essential are:

  • Waterproof torch
  • Strobe light
  • Flares
  • First aid kit
  • Spare batteries

Wrapping Up How To Fish In A Kayak

If you fish smartly, it will help you catch more fish with less work. Kayaks are super versatile and they allow you to fish anywhere you want. After you try out a kayak for fishing you’ll see that the kind of access to water that is not possible with motorboats seems to end up in you catching more fish. You can paddle quietly and catch the fish without them even being aware of your presence.

In this article, we have explained to you how fishing in a kayak has advantages over fishing in a boat, things you need to do while fishing in a kayak, the safety measures you need to take while you are fishing in a kayak, and a lot more. We hope that after reading this article, you will be equipped with knowledge that helps you when you are out there fishing in a kayak.

Happy Fishing and Paddling Folks!