Everyone seems to be ditching their motorboat for a kayak for fishing. Who wouldn’t want to access some of the best hidden honey holes?
Kayak angling, though relatively easy, can be challenging when starting out. If you are a beginner, here are some essential kayak fishing tips to make sure you don’t go back home empty-handed.
1. Get the Right Kayak
Picking out a fishing kayak is one of the most important decisions you will make. If you haven’t bought a kayak yet, you have a chance to get something that will serve you well as an angler. Most manufacturers make kayaks specifically for fishing. They come with rod holders, comfortable seats, trolling motor fittings, storage areas, and much more. You just have to choose the one that has the best features.
Compare different models and pick whatever is suitable for you. It is always advisable to go with a sit-on-top kayak.
2. Buy a Good Paddle
The ideal paddle should be lightweight, not too short or long, and with a big-enough blade.
Its weight will be determined by the materials used to make it. Plastic paddles are light and inexpensive. But their durability can be questionable. The best in terms of being lightweight is a carbon-fiber paddle. But be prepared to pay a little more.
The length will depend on your height. If you are short, try 230 cm to 240 cm. Those that fall somewhere in the middle should try 240 cm to 250 cm. And for the tall paddlers, go for 250 cm to 260cm. Don’t forget to factor in other things such as the width of your kayak.
Play around with different paddle lengths to find what works for you.
If you spend $100 more on a paddle to save 5 ounces and paddle for four hours. In those four hours you will do about 15000 paddle strokes. Those five ounces over four hours is well over four tons you didn’t have to lift.According to a user on Reddit
3. Buy a Comfortable PFD
It is easy to think that you know all about the water and every condition that may arise. But despite your confidence, wearing a kayak fishing PFD is a must.
According to the American Canoe Association, 83% of victims in canoe-related deaths did not have a PFD on when the accident occurred. How many of those deaths could have been prevented by wearing a life jacket?
Don’t be a statistic. Also, it is required by law in most states.
When buying a PFD, go all out. This is something that could save your life. There are great kayaking life jackets that are comfortable enough to wear all day.
4. Check Out Local Laws
Ignorance is no defense. You can find pretty much anything on the internet nowadays. And that includes the kayak fishing laws of every state.
In some states, you won’t need to acquire a license while pedaling or paddling your boat. But if you decide to add a trolling motor, the regulations may change. Take time to go through the state regulations and get the required licenses.
5. Become an Excellent Kayaker
Knowing how to fish is one thing, knowing how to paddle a kayak is another. You need to be good at both of these things and you should learn each one separately.
There is nothing hard about paddling. Anyone can make a stroke—even though they have never held a paddle before in their life. But making the stroke correctly requires a lot of practice and patience.
Poor paddling may slow you down and wear you out quickly. In some instances, it could result in injuries.
6. Make a List of Essentials
“I’m not a kid, I’m sure I’ll remember to bring everything.” You probably won’t. People who have been kayak fishing for years can get away with this. They may even have a bag or two packed, ready to go anytime.
But you, a newbie kayak angler, will need a list. It could be on a piece of paper or your phone. The excitement and sometimes nervousness might lead you to forget vital things. For the complete beginners, take a look at this checklist by Austin Kayak.
7. Organize Your Kayak
If you were used to boat fishing, being organized may not have been that important. But a kayak is small. Everything that you will need while out in the water should be well within reach. Things that you have to grab frequently like water should be very close.
This takes us back to PFDs. It would be wise of you to get a kayak fishing-specific life vest. They come with tons of pockets and you can carry a lot of stuff with them. This helps keep the kayak neat.
8. Come Up with a Route
Almost all things in life require you to have a plan. And kayak fishing is no exception. A kayak gives you the freedom to go where you want. And you can’t just decide to “see where the water takes you”. At the end of the day, you will have done a lot of paddling and minimal fishing, if any.
Picking a location involves research. See what the weather will be like and prepare accordingly. Also, have a return plan.
Talk to local anglers and learn a few things—don’t expect them to give up their honey holes. But they could give you a few useful pointers.
9. Learn to Use One Hand
You only have two hands and sometimes you will need to hold the line and paddle at the same time. Unless you learn to do each with one hand simultaneously, you will lose.
In all honesty, this is one of the most difficult skills you have to master. Imagine trying to fight a current and fish all at once. The dominant hand will do an okay job but the non-dominant hand may let you down terribly. Don’t forget that you also have to focus your mind on two things.
The only way to master this is to practice. The YouTube video below helps you get the idea. But being in the water and knowing your weakness will show you what you need to improve.
10. Maybe Use a Motor
Not everyone will be excited about paddling while fishing.
You fish better when both hands are free, no doubt. Besides, who doesn’t want to get to their fishing spot faster?
There is no shame in using a kayak trolling motor (don’t listen to people who say otherwise). It will come in handy when there is a strong current. Or when you don’t want to get too tired.
While it would be nice to have one, there are downsides. Sneaking up on fish will be harder—which takes away the main benefit of fishing with a kayak. You could also get used to it.
11. Be Prepared to Flip
You may or may not flip while kayak fishing. This is not the situation to be optimistic. A kayak angler should always go into the water ready to flip. It doesn’t matter that you are experienced, or that you will be paddling in a calm lake, assume that you will flip. And prepare for that.
If you have any valuables like your phone, keep them in a waterproof bag. In short, for anything that can get damaged by water, have waterproof storage. Get a leash for your paddle. Floats (more on that below) will prove to be useful as well. Don’t be like this Redditor who got too comfortable and lost gear worth $300.
12. You Will Need Rod Floaters
As you interact with other kayak anglers, intermediate and pros alike, you will realize that most of them have one thing in common. They have lost fishing rods in the water at some point. It happens more often than people care to admit. And you rarely lose a cheap rod—it’s always the fancy ones.
That event is what drives many kayak fishermen to look for rod floaters. Be smart and learn from their mistakes. Instead of waiting to lose a rod, go ahead and get yourself a floater in advance. For a lot of anglers, the rod floaters are cumbersome and not fun to use. But it is a small price to pay if it means you will go home with your rods. Others prefer rod leashes.
13. Get an Anchor Trolley System
Kayaks are lightweight. It is something you appreciate when transporting it but not when it keeps moving while you’re fishing. If you are new to kayaking, have someone teach you to anchor properly. Incorrect anchoring is one of the leading causes of boating accidents.
Kayak anchors are a fantastic invention. They are usually light and easy to bring with you. To make an anchor more efficient (and safer), you will need an anchor trolley system. It is not as complicated as it sounds. It is a small simple system that gives you options and a sense of control when anchored. Learn all about it here.
14. Pack Light
You can only carry so much on your kayak. Bringing everything you think you need will only make you uncomfortable. As they say, “less is more.” It’s not like you’ll be gone for days. Your first few kayak fishing trips will be short. Bring necessary items only. Since you won’t be going far initially, you can experiment to know what is necessary for you and what isn’t.
15. Start Small
It has been mentioned above that in the beginning, your trips will be short—as they should be. Curb your enthusiasm and don’t do anything extreme.
Going out in the ocean on your own, for instance, is a bad idea. You are better off finding a small, calm body of water to start. And even though you feel energetic, cover short distances and don’t go far from other water users. You can get too exhausted and dehydrated.
16. Learn to Self-Rescue
Do you remember the point about being prepared to flip? Well, there’s more to worry about than keeping your stuff dry and safe. You have to find a way to get back onto your boat. If it capsizes, the task will be trickier.
Never go kayak fishing if you haven’t mastered this technique. A lot of times, kayak anglers have to go out alone and you should be able to get yourself out of trouble. Luckily, it is easy to learn, as long as you have a good teacher.
17. Find a Buddy
Kayakers love to interact with each other. You will find many forums online and groups on social media for kayakers. They like to share tips, go fishing together, and talk about all things kayaking.
Solo trips are peaceful and awesome. But having a friend would be nice. You will love having someone to talk to about the newest gear, your biggest catch, and things like that. So get out there and interact with your fellow anglers.
18. Be Careful When Reeling in Fish
Nothing compares to the excitement of catching your first (big) fish. When that happens, ignore your thumping heart for a moment and relax. After everything you have endured, you don’t want to lose your fish and fall in the water.
Reel it in calmly and keep your head upright and in the kayak. You should have a long fishing rod (6’6 minimum) because it gives you control over your fish. You can get it around obstacles with ease.
For big fish, align the tip of your rod with the bow, as opposed to the side. It will be harder for you to take an unexpected swim.
19. Stay Visible
Every water user near you should be able to see you from a distance. Most kayaking PFDs come with a reflective strip that improves visibility. In addition to that, find a brightly-colored hat or clothes.
If you like, you can go a step further and get a kayak or paddle with bright colors.
It is also important to be aware of other water users. You need to see them too. Large vessels approaching at high speed can be bad news. They create huge waves that may cause your boat to capsize. If something like this catches you unaware, paddle towards the wave and meet it. Don’t let it hit you from the side.
20. Think About Handling Fish
So what happens when you finally catch that largemouth bass?
Fish have a lot of parts that can seriously hurt you such as the fins and gill plates. Different types of fish have different sharp parts. Understand what you have in your hands and how to hold it.
Ensure that you bring equipment for that purpose too. Don’t forget your net, gloves, pliers, line cutter, etc.
21. Document Everything
Your spouse won’t believe all your awesome stories, neither will your Instagram followers. Take amazing photos and show them. Make use of your camera mount.
Other than proving to people that you had fun, photos capture moments beautifully. If you love to fish with your family or friends, one day those pictures will mean so much.
22. Be Patient and Consistent
First, never rush your trip. If you have something else to do, deal with it then go kayak fishing. An excellent angler, like a hunter, is patient. You have no idea how long it will take for you to get lucky. Be willing to wait. The more you stay in the water, the higher your chances of catching fish.
Consistency. You can’t take out your yak once a year and expect to be a pro. It takes time. You can watch all the tutorial videos and read all the guides, but practicing is the best way to learn. You will know what methods and equipment work for you. Your confidence also grows as you become more comfortable in a kayak.
23. Utilize Technology
You use it in every other area of your life; why not in kayak fishing? Don’t be afraid to buy a fish finder or a fish tracker. There are also apps such as the FishSmart app which helps you plan fishing trips.
Before you start getting all the gadgets and apps, make sure you are an excellent kayaker and angler. In many situations, your experience is more useful than technology.
24. Prioritize Safety
As kayaking continues to grow in popularity, more accidents are being reported. The sad part is that most of them can be prevented. People are choosing to go kayaking while under the influence and/or without PFDs. To be specific, alcohol use is the top cause of deaths in boating.
Other causes include operator inexperience, overloading, inattention, among others. Be responsible. Do what you are required to do to kayak safely. Let people know where you are at all times. When you notice that the wind is getting powerful, paddle along the shore.
25. There Is No Failure in Kayak Fishing
You can feel defeated when you don’t catch anything or when your catches are not worth keeping (or Instagramming). But that does not qualify as a failure. Every trip is a lesson. There will be bad days and good ones. Each one of them will teach you something. Learn to see the bright side. You went out, enjoyed the scenery, exercised your muscles, and maybe met with friends. That is a win.
Once you start kayak fishing, you will never go back. It is an exhilarating experience. The benefits are too many to mention. You cannot understand why anglers are crazy about the sport until you try it. In your adventure, don’t forget to use the tips above. They are tried and tested; you will find them quite useful.
Do you have a kayak fishing tip you’d like to share?