A Beginners Guide to Kayak Fishing (2019)


The tradition of Kayak fishing can be dated back to over 4,000 years as a favorite method of survival for the indigenous peoples of the arctic. Today, it’s one of the most fun and exciting

activities for anglers all over the globe. Men and women all over, spend hundreds of hours preparing, learning, and exploring the unique and fun world of kayak fishing as a sport and hobby.

If you are reading this, I think it’s safe for me to assume that you are already interested in getting involved in kayak fishing. So there is no need for me to sell you on the excitement and rewards it can bring. Instead, I’ll assume that you, like many others, are someone who has thought long and hard about wanting to try out kayak fishing and need to be given some advice on where to start.

So in this article, I’ll take some time to explore the basics of what you will need to get started in kayak fishing, as well as some general knowledge and tips you should know.

Let’s start with the most obvious.

The Kayak

As with most things in life, the quality of your kayak is generally tied to the cost.

Kayaking isn’t a cheap hobby by any means. But if you play your cards right, you can get yourself a decent kayak that will last you for quite a few years, without taking out a second mortgage.

You will save a lot more money, in the long run, buying the best kayak you can afford now, rather than having to upgrade down the road. So when it comes to choosing your kayak, set a budget you are comfortable with spending, and try to maximize that budget and get the most from it.

Also, just like a car, you should always try before you buy. You can spend all the hours you want research and scouring the internet for lists of pros and cons. Unless you feel what that kayak is like, you’ll never be sure.

Your best bet here is to contact a local dealer. Most of them offer demos or special events that will allow you to try out the kayak before you buy it. If you have no dealers within reasonable travel distance, try looking for social media groups. Most fans of the hobby are more than happy to let newcomers take their kayaks out for a test run. You can get a bit more detailed information on what you should be looking for in a kayak here.

Your Paddle & Leash

When it comes to buying your paddle, the majority of the advice mentioned above still

applies. You get what you pay for here. However, keep in mind that you should be searching for a fishing paddle specifically. This is because they are specially designed for kayak fishers. They will come with features like measuring marks for your fish and hook retrieval systems installed in them that will make your life a whole lot easier.

You should also consider purchasing a paddle leash. There is nothing more devastating than losing your paddle. In the heat of the moment, while you have a fish on, you wouldn’t believe how easy it is to have your paddle go overboard and leave you in a sticky situation. A Paddle leash can most certainly be a lifeline.

Now that we have the kayak and paddle sorted. Let’s move on to the gear.

Fishing Gear

Here is where you have a lot of flexibility and room for creativity. As a general rule, you don’t need a lot to convert your kayak into a ‘fishing’ kayak. You could probably get away with merely grabbing a fishing rod, and getting on the water. It’s not like you are trying to catch Moby Dick here.

However, there are a lot of ways that you can make your fishing life a lot easier, and vastly more comfortable.

The best advice I can give is just to go out and fish. See what you find comfortable, and what you find challenging. Then try to adapt your equipment to address your personal needs. However, there are a few basics that will get you started in the right direction that almost every kayak fisher will be using.

1) A Personal Floatation Device.

You always, always, ALWAYS want a PFD when you are out kayaking. While you are not guaranteed to flip, or fall in, it is more likely when kayak fishing than almost any other type of fishing. Don’t let that scare you away, of course. It’s just water; you won’t melt. But safety should always come first, and a high-quality PFD will make sure that you are protected. Here you will want to invest in one that has plenty of room for movement, as kayaking requires a lot of that.

2) A Rod Holder.

While not necessary, a rod holder is still a critical advantage to a kayak fisher. You never want to find yourself in a situation where you lose the rod and reel. This can happen in the blink of an eye for even the most experienced kayak fisher if they aren’t careful. A rod holder is usually a plastic or metal device that bolts to the side of the kayak and holds it in place when not in your hands. There are several varieties for you to choose from in this area, and it will mostly boil down to personal preference and style. You can find a helpful list of different styles of rod holders to research on Amazon.

3) An Anchor

This is a fairly universal tool for any type of boat fishing. Once you find that ‘sweet spot.’

You don’t want to be taken away by the current. An anchor is going to be key to making sure you can maintain your location when you are having a lot of luck in one particular area of the water. Since you will be cramped as it is, I would say avoid any anchor that is over 3lbs. That’s a reasonably compact and lightweight option that will do the trick without taking up too much of your valuable and limited space.

Here you will have two options. A folding anchor, or a claw anchor. Each one offers its own sets of pros and cons and will ultimately come down to your personal preference.

4) A Knife

No, you don’t have to be Crocodile Dundee here. You don’t need to strap a machete to your kayak, in hopes of fending off a sea monster. This is simply a safety precaution that any fisherman should be familiar with. Having a knife will help if you need to cut your line or anchor quickly in case of an emergency, and they are stuck. You should choose a compact, foldable option that you can easily reach and store on your PFD or nearby on your kayak.

5) Clothing

In addition to all of these pieces of equipment, you should never neglect your clothing.

Make sure that when you go out on the water, you are taking measures to ensure that you are adequately insulated according to the weather. It never hurts to have some high visibility and weather appropriate clothing when venturing out on the water for hours on end.

Alright! We have your kayak, we have your kayak adequately outfitted, and now it’s time to move on to the actual fishing!

Getting on the Water

In many ways, kayak fishing is the same as fishing in general. You will still have to have basic knowledge of how fishing works to succeed. I am going to assume here that you already know the basics of fishing. Instead, I will focus on things you should know and prepare for while kayak fishing. Which, while similar to other types of fishing in many ways, is also strikingly different in others.

1) Prepare for the long haul.

In the case of motorboat fishing or merely fishing off a pier, breaks can be a tad bit easier to accomplish. When it comes to getting back to shore, and taking a break, things are a bit simpler than when kayak fishing. Not to mention, kayak fishing can be very addictive! Most of us end up out on the water for hours on end. So preparing for a long day on the water is essential.

You won’t be able to head to McDonalds and fuel up. You should always have an ice chest on hand with snacks, drinks, and other nutrition essentials. And don’t forget the sunscreen!

2) Launch your boat carefully.

If you are an experienced kayaker, who is just now showing interest in kayak fishing, you may get an unwelcome surprise here. Even newcomers to kayaking, in general, can be caught off guard by how challenging and delicate the launching process can be. Understand that launching a fishing kayak should be done with care, as the kayak is loaded down with far more gear than a typical kayak would be. Always put the majority of your weight at the center of your kayak.

Also, don’t be scared if it seems like the boat sinks lower into the water than expected. This is natural with the added load.

3) Try to be quiet.

For many kayak fishers, the act of kayak fishing is quite a calming and therapeutic endeavor. But the silence and serenity of the water aren’t necessarily just for your mental health benefits. Smacking your gear and paddle around on the side of the boat will scare away any fish underneath your boat.

You will want to try and be as quiet as possible when out on the water. Just like when you tap a fish tank, and the vibrations send the little fishy fleeing. The waves from your paddle or anchor smacking your boat will have a similar effect.

4) Casting on a kayak.

This is always a bit awkward for newcomers. The stability of a motorboat or the solid ground doesn’t exist on a kayak. A kayak will move and tip side to side at the slightest motion.

That can cause quite a bit of unease at first. You will want to take some time practicing using as much of your arms as possible and minimizing your body movement. Keeping your head centered above the midline of the kayak is essential to prevent any accidental flipping from happening.

So, now you’re on the water, and things are going swimmingly! (No pun intended). What do you do now? What happens when you start catching fish? Let’s talk about that.

Fishing in a Kayak

Catching, and reeling in a fish isn’t exactly as easy on a kayak as it might be on a motorboat or land. First, you should note that things are going to move around a lot on a kayak. This is normal, and you shouldn’t panic. You should remain calm and collected. It’s easy to get excited and let things get crazy. You should first raise the rod above your head, to keep the line tight. Then you should try to direct the fishing-line away from the anchor line; otherwise, things will get tangled and messy.

Once you land the fish, you should try to keep things as contained as possible. If you are going to be releasing the fish, take care not to handle the fish too roughly. They can be easily injured and die if not handled with care. If you intend on keeping the fish, make sure you have an ice bucket on hand to store it in so it won’t spoil and will remain fresh for dinner!

It’s essential to keep in mind that you aren’t always going to have a lot of luck. Part of the fun of kayak fishing is the overall experience out on the water. Don’t allow yourself to become discouraged and give up if your first trip out doesn’t result in a catch. Fishing is just like hunting, and you aren’t always guaranteed to come home with a haul.

Final Thoughts

There is a reason why kayak fishing is such a popular method of fishing among anglers around the world. It’s fun, addicting, and rewarding all at the same time. There are few things in life that offer the same sense of thrill and accomplishment as taking off in your own kayak, and bring in your first catch.

However, kayak fishing can be dangerous and should be treated with the respect it deserves. You should always take the time to research the correct way to do things, and still be prepared. The kayak fishing community is a very kind and generous one. Kayak fishers absolutely love to meet and talk with other kayak fishers. That includes newcomers.

You should try to connect with other people in the hobby, and make friends. Go out fishing together, and learn the way they do things and get some real-world experience out on the boat. At the end of the day, it’s all about having fun and enjoying nature. So go out and do it!

Ken Masterson

My name is Ken Masterson. Growing up in Louisiana, I have been fishing since I was 7 years old. I am happy to share my knowledge with the readers here. Feel free to give me feedback in comments or even reach out at kenny@fishjoy.com

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