December 02, 2021 9 min read

Tips for Kayak Fishing

Kayak fishing has become a popular sport because of the ability to reach secluded spots that other boats cannot. Purchasing a kayak is more affordable than a traditional fishing boat, and has the added benefit of being able to be used for other outdoor recreational activities. Learning the ropes of kayak fishing is fairly simple, and following these kayak fishing tips will help you on your way to landing fish in even the remotest of areas.

Man fishing on his white kayak

Benefits of Kayak Fishing

  1. Accessibility - Kayaks are much smaller than regular boats, giving you the ability to reach remote fishing spots that other anglers can’t access. This could ultimately result in more fish, less competition, and a more enjoyable experience. 
  2. Price - As mentioned before, kayaks are typically more affordable than other fishing boats, meaning a larger group of people can enjoy the sport.
  3. Convenience - Compared to boats, a kayak is far easier to transport and store. A hardshell kayak can be secured to the top of a car, whereas an inflatable kayak can fit into a small duffel bag, making it easy to carry down to the water. 
  4. Environmental Impact - Kayaks are man-powered and don’t leave a negative impact on the environment during use. The speed you’ll be able to travel at is relatively slow and won’t affect the shore, wildlife, and vegetation surrounding you.
  5. Health Benefits - Hard work goes into paddling a kayak, so not only do you get an enjoyable fishing trip, but you also achieve your 30 minutes of daily exercise. 

Choosing the Right Kayak for Fishing

Different kinds of kayaks

Kayaks come in all shapes, sizes, and price points. First, identifying where and how you’ll be using your kayak will help you narrow down the options. Then, you will need to decide between a sit-on-top or sit-inside kayak.

Sit-on-top kayaks are the most user-friendly for fishing. They’re self-bailing, so water that gets inside drains through holes. They’re very stable and easy to get in and out of. If you fall into the water for any reason, getting back onto a sit-on-top kayak is much easier than a sit-in. One downside is that during paddling, you’re guaranteed to get wet.

Sit-inside kayaks give the advantage of staying dry while paddling and are faster moving, a great option for cold water conditions. Getting back into a sit-in kayak, however, can be a struggle. 

The length of your kayak is also something you need to take into consideration. Long, narrow kayaks will be faster, but short wider kayaks give you more stability. 

Short kayaks suit fly-fishing and sight casting because the stability allows you to stand. They are, however, slower and aren’t the best for long distance paddling. If you want to paddle out faster and further, a longer kayak would be more efficient. 

Once you’ve considered these factors, finding a kayak with the best features and comfortability for the type of fishing you wish to do will help you decide on the kayak you should purchase. 

Choosing the Right Paddle

Choosing the right paddle is also a crucial step in kayak fishing. You need to find a paddle that reaches the water comfortably but isn’t unmanageable. Your paddle length relies on three things, your paddling style, your height, and the width of your kayak. 

Kayak paddles are designed for either high angle or low angle paddling. A low-angle blade will have less surface area and be thinner. A high-angle blade has more surface area and will be taller. 

If you want to travel over long distances, open water lakes, and rivers, or for leisurely touring, then a low-angle paddle would be perfect. Low angle paddles allow you to paddle further without getting tired. 

If the waters you’re fishing in are fast flowing or whitewater where you need control, a high-angle paddle would best suit.

The main weight of a paddle comprises the paddle shaft most commonly made of aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon fiber. The lighter the weight of the paddle, the higher the price point. 

Aluminum shafts are the most affordable paddles and are extremely durable. They are, however, the heaviest paddle and harder to use. 

Fiberglass shafts are light and also durable, but slightly more expensive than aluminum paddles. 

If you plan on spending a lot of time in the water, a carbon shaft paddle could be an excellent investment. Having a light paddle will help you with speed and overall performance. 

Wear a Life Jacket and Bright Clothes

Man fishing on kayak while wearing life jackets

No matter what water activity you’re doing, wearing a life jacket - aka a personal flotation divide (PFD) is essential. If you could end up in the water, you need to wear a life jacket. 

Anglers’ life jackets are a fantastic way to keep your gear on hand, especially if you have a smaller boat or kayak, and they also keep you safe in case of an emergency. Check out our article on the best fishing life jackets

Completely optional, but wearing bright clothing and a bright PFD can also help spot you if you get in any danger out in the water. 

Anchoring

An anchor is a handy fishing tool, especially in windy lakes or rivers, when you want to stay in one particular area. A small anchor typically weighs between 2-4 pounds, like the GILI Folding Grapnel Anchor, and is easy to store, making your life a lot easier when trying to catch a fish. 

Take extra care when anchoring in a current, as it can push the whole boat underwater. 

Tips for Kayak Fishing

Tip #1: Learn How to Cast One-Handed

Casting gili anchor

When you’re fishing from a kayak, you’re very close to the water so the way you cast will differ from that on a bank or stable boat deck. Even on a stable kayak, you won’t have much space between where you are sitting and where the water hits, so casting with two hands can be challenging. Experienced kayak anglers cast one-handed, mostly with bait casting or spinning tackle. 

A standard two-hand windup cast won't be sufficient in a kayak, as there are many instances where you will use a hand to paddle and attempt to catch fish. It’s best to practice your one hand cast before getting out on the water. You can do this in your backyard or a large open space. 

Tip #2: Learn How to Paddle One-Handed

Learning how to paddle one-handed goes together with one-handed casting. To be an efficient kayak angler requires the skill of handling your paddle with just one hand, you can cast and fish with the other. If you’re in waters with heavy currents, your kayak is likely to drift, and paddling one-handed can be extremely challenging. 

Practice by locking the shaft of your paddle along the forearm you aren’t fishing with. Doing this allows you to use it like a canoe paddle. 

Tip #3: Do Your Research

Before embarking on your fishing trip, research the waters you want to fish in. You should figure out the exact location of where you want to be so you aren’t wasting time paddling out to find fish. Find a launch site with easy access and calculate how long it will take you to travel from this site to your target location. 

You also need to research the fish that live in the water. Migratory fish patterns may affect river fishing and the type of bait you will need at different times of the year. 

Tip #4: Landing a Fish

Woman on a yellow kayak caught a fish

Landing a fish in a kayak is more challenging than a regular boat and you are most likely going to get wet in the process. Learning how to land a fish can be vital in ensuring your kayak doesn’t capsize. Using a net and rod holders can be extremely helpful, but it can also take up room, so it’s a personal preference in the tools used to land your fish. Like casting and paddling one-handed, landing a fish takes practice, especially for beginners. 

Tip #5: Navigation

In windy conditions or waters with strong currents, staying close to the shoreline makes it much easier for you to navigate your kayak. 

Casting to steer with baits that offer resistance like spinner baits, chatter baits, and crank baits can save you excess work as the simple resistance of reeling in the bait will pull the kayak into the direction of which you’re casting. 

Tip #6: Check the Weather

Checking the weather is important before setting out on fishing trips. Kayaking in fast-forming storms, wind, and fog can cause you to lose your position on the water and end your trip short. The weather will also affect the supplies you pack, you may need extra rain jackets, SPF, and water. 

Tip #7: Be Efficient in Lure Changing

Practicing changing lures could be the difference between catching a fish or not. Efficiency is knowing the correct area for changing the lure with the correct intensity. Practicing changing your lure quickly and quietly would highly benefit you when you’re out on the water. 

Tip #8: Use Your Feet

Your feet can stabilize you while you’re fishing. If you’re fishing from a narrow boat, you can use them as rudders to steer, as anchors near the shore and in shallow waters, or hold on to a log or rock until you’re finished fishing.

Man fishing on inflatable kayak

Tip #9: Be Aware of Other Vessels

Mostly aimed at kayak sea fishing, but a good general rule to remember, is to be aware of other vessels out on the water. Other boats can travel at high speeds and reach you faster than you would think. Ships can create large waves as they pass by, so you would need to take extra precautions to ensure you don’t flip. 

Make sure you have a good idea of how long it would take you to cross a length of water before you start your journey.

Tip #10: Always Pack Essentials

Packing the essentials you would need before embarking on your fishing trip is vital. You will be out on the water for long periods without direct access to anything unless you’ve packed it on your boat. 

You need to think about safety, essentials, and general fishing gear. Safety equipment is one of the most important things to take with you in case of an accident. General fishing items differ from angler to angler so some things can be left out. 

Pack the following: 

  • First aid kit
  • Headlamp or torch (even if you don’t plan on being out at night)
  • A whistle 
  • Flares
  • Emergency kayak repair kit
  • Food and water
  • Change of clothing
  • A lifejacket (PFD)

General fishing gear may include:

A fishing rod or rods, fish handling gloves, pliers, a net, a box or dry bag for your phone or other important items, lures, a tackle box, fishing line, line cutters, a paddle leash, and an anchor. 

Kayak fishing can be fun, relaxing, and enjoyable, depending on how prepared you are and the way you approach it. Take the time to do your research, check local resources for fishing information, and equip your kayak with everything you would need.

FAQ’S

🏆 Do fishing kayaks flip easily?

Kayaks designed for fishing are flat-bottomed and wider than a normal kayak, making them less likely to flip. Although they are less likely to flip, there is still a possibility that they can, so make sure you’re wearing a lifejacket and have adequate safety equipment. 


👍 Why is kayak fishing so popular?

Kayak fishing has become popular in recent years thanks to the production of kayaks designed for the sport. Compared to traditional fishing boats, these boats are more affordable, give you access to remote locations, are easily stored and transported, and are better for the environment. 


🏝️ Is fishing from a kayak better than a boat?

There are many reasons kayak anglers prefer kayak fishing to regular boat fishing. A kayak is substantially quieter, giving you the advantage of being able to sneak up on fish. 

As well as fishing, kayaks are fun. You can use your kayak for recreational purposes and as a form of exercise. 

Kayak fishing and kayaks, in general, are relatively cheaper, making them a perfect entryway into fishing for beginners. 

Remote locations are easily accessed and you can carry your kayak to places a regular boat cannot reach. 

Kayak chairs are also more comfortable these days,  giving you the option to spend hours fishing. 


❓ What kind of kayak is better for fishing?

Kayak anglers usually prefer sit-on-top kayaks, as they are the most user friendly and easy to get in and out of. Self-bailing holes allow any water that has gotten into the kayak to escape through the bottom and if you fall in, it’s easier to get back on. A wider kayak is more steady and can support a larger weight capacity, which is beneficial in kayak fishing where you carry extra gear. 

Pedal kayaks have become very popular recently because they free up your hands, giving you the ability to pedal and hold your fishing rod at the same time. 


📦 Is kayak fishing difficult?

Kayak fishing can be difficult to start with, as you need to learn different fishing techniques and adapt to doing most things one-handed. With that being said, the more you practice, the better you will become, and the easier kayak fishing will be. Learning new things takes time, so it’s best to research kayak angling tips before heading out on your trip. 

It’s also important to note the extra safety precautions you need to take whilst kayaking compared to regular fishing.

Megan Bryant
Megan Bryant

Based in Bali, her favorite SUP spot is the GILI Islands themselves. Travel is another passion of hers - she dreams to see the entire world one day.


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