Fishing in Kayaks for Beginners

Do you like to fish?

I love to fish and I have found that it is even more fun on a kayak!

We are going to break down some basics of fishing in kayaks for beginners in this article.

Choosing the Right Stuff

Now, this is a very broad subject. Stuff encompasses a huge amount of categories, but I am going to try to contain myself and keep it simple. I am sure you have seen the KISS metaphor. Keep It Simple Stupid! Well, let us relate this to kayak fishing.

First, what is the perfect kayak for fishing? I say the perfect kayak for fishing is the one you already have. With that being said, while you can fish off any kayak, ideally there a few things you are going to want to look for if you are shopping for the perfect kayak for fishing.

  1. Stability/stand ability – meaning your kayak is stable enough if you want to stand up and fish, and you won’t flip the first time you set a hook.
  2. Storage – you are going to want to have adequate storage for gear.
  3. Comfort – you want to be comfortable.

You can check out a couple of my previous posts for more about kayaks in general and the different types that are out there.

Second, where do you plan to go fishing? There are going to be distinct differences in what you need depending on what you are fishing for and where. For instance, the gear you take with you when fishing a river with trout will be different from what you take if you are fishing in saltwater.

Third, How are you getting there? Getting to the lake, river, bay or ocean. Transportation is important.

Fourth, What are you going to wear? Dressing for a fishing trip is going to be a little different from dressing for a recreational float trip downstream.

Fifth, Do you have your safety gear? Safety is always high on the priority list. We do not want to ruin a great fishing trip because we have been lax on safety. Check out my Kayak safety post and check off the safety boxes.

The basics of kayak fishing are essentially the same as the basics for any kind of kayaking. If this is your first experience with kayaking or fishing from a kayak, check out my posts on kayaking for beginners. Everything from choosing the right PFD to the right paddle for you.

OH, I almost forgot! Make sure you have the proper paperwork. Get your fishing license, and a rule booklet. All states and countries are going to be different and you don’t want to get in trouble.

The Basics of Outfitting Your Kayak

There are a ton of upgrades or modifications you can do to your kayak. Most kayaks come with at least one flush-mount pole holder. One trip to YouTube will show you a plethora of people modifying their kayaks to work better for them. Honestly, you don’t need to doing any upgrades to go fishing. There are some tho that will make your trip more pleasurable.

  1. A secure rod holder or at least a rod leash to secure your rod and reel to the boat out of the way.
  2. A paddle leash. You certainly do not want to have to worry about losing your paddle while fighting the big one.
  3. A fishing crate. This is a popular way to secure your tackle boxes and other gear to the kayak, out of your way while fishing.
  4. Some kind of wheel rack to get you kayak to the water from your vehicle.

While the top four options are handy and basic, there are so many things you can modify your kayak for and with. Everything from electronics (fish/depth finders, GPS), anchor systems, extra pole holders, etc.

It’s Not a Fashion Show

Dressing for a fishing trip is more about comfort and function rather than fashion.

Be prepared for weather conditions and changes in the weather. Be mindful of the hot sun reflecting off the water. Light-weight, long sleeve shirts, hat, sunglasses, face protection and loose, light-weight pants or shorts.

You will want to do likewise for colder weather. Use layers, that way you can shed them if needed. Have something that is waterproof to put on the outside layer.

Shoes are also a basic need. Summer, some kind of water shoe or kayak boot. Steer clear of flip-flops. Remember there will be fish and hooks in the boat.

I do not recommend wearing waders in the kayak. They could potentially turn into a giant sinker if you fall into deep water.

The Basics of Fishing

While fishing can be a very basic sport, it can also turn into a complicated passion of craziness. If you have ever stepped into a Bass Pro Shop, you know what I mean.

When I was a child fishing with my dad, I thought there was really only 1 or 2 types of rods and reels and there were worms, minnows and the black rubber worms my dad used. Now obviously, I now know that wasn’t true back then, nor is it true today.

You can get very overwhelmed, very quickly with all the shiny objects out there associated with fishing. For us here as beginners, put on the blinders and march on. All you need to get started is a fishing pole and reel, some kind of bait, and a will to catch a fish. Everything else will come with time and practice.

Now there are some other things that I would recommend, just to make your life easier and we will get into those. Here is a short list of things I carry for convenience.

  1. Small tackle box w/extra line, hooks, sinkers and a few lures of choice and bait.
  2. Some kind of measuring tool. Most places have length requirements on certain fish and a scale.
  3. Fish Net, this will help land those fish in the kayak
  4. Pliers or Fish grip to hold the fish or extract the hook
  5. Towel, to wipe my hands

This is just my basic list. You will find so much information that varies from one person to the other. It really comes down to preference and what you are comfortable with.

The Fishing Pole

This is going to be an item that is really specific to you. I will say that if you are someone with shorter arms, you may want to consider a shorter pole when fishing from a kayak.

There are an exuberant amount of different kinds of fishing poles and reels on the market. If you already fish, you probably already have 4 or 5 in the garage. You know they are like potato chips, you can’t have just one!

The poles come in various lengths and strengths. I personally have a 5′ Crappie Max rod with a spinning reel on it and love it. I also have a 7′ and a 6.5′ rod, and found that it can be hard to get fish off of with short arms and lack of coordination. LOL

Choose what works for you!

Tackle Box/Fishing Crate

This is what will determine if you are minimalist or a crazy, obsessed angler that gets sucked into shiny objects, LOL.

I say as a beginner, keep it small and just the basics, until you know what you need or what works for you. Don’t take everything you own. Mostly because you are going to be limited by space and you don’t want to lose it all if you happen to knock it into the water.

Extra line, hooks, sinkers, some reliable lures that you like to use, a pair of pliers or fish grips. Just the basics to get you started. It will also depend on the type of fish you are fishing for. Crappie will not necessarily hit on the same thing as Bass.

Make sure you have your measuring tool. There are some cool measuring things out there. Even some paddles have measuring tools on them. You might also want a scale of some kind, for those fish stories.

Are you keeping your fish or releasing them? You will need a means to keep them if you are. A stringer, basket, cooler, or a bag. There are options, but depending on where you are, put some thought into it. Don’t set yourself up to be bait for larger prey (alligators, sharks, etc.).

Fishing Net

Again, there are options. Everything from folding, collapsing, long handles, short handles, neoprene, and rope or string nets. You just want one that is going to be easy for you to handle while sitting in your kayak. This tool can be a huge help when landing a fish or a hindrance if it is not suited to you.

Fishing Skills and Techniques

Your skills and techniques are going to vary wildly in a kayak. Everything from your basic balance, paddling, using your kayak and fishing equipment and how easily you can access and handle everything.

Casting from a Kayak

While you could be the absolute best at casting your rod and reel on the bank, casting from a kayak is going to be quite different. I found that the first time I cast my pole from the kayak that it felt a little wobbly. Now, after relaxing into it a bit, I found it to not be too hard.

Practice, practice and practice. Learn to have confidence in your boat. You are not going to tip your kayak over with a simple cast. It may feel like it, but if you took your kayak out before attempting to fish from it, you would realize how stable it really is. You will surely improve and get more comfortable the more you do it.

You may have to adjust the way you cast. I found that while I cast over my head with some power from the shore, I tend to cast from the side more at an angle with not as much power from the kayak. You have to adjust to the terrain you are in as well. You will find your sweet spot.

Now, you are going to see folks standing in their kayaks fishing. I am sure it is much easier to cast that way. Although, I can tell you that, that is a learned skill. If you are used to skate boarding or paddle boarding, should be no problem, as long as your kayak is set up for it. Again, practice, a lot!

Boat Position

Learning to position your kayak can be a challenge. Even more challenging is keeping it in position. You should practice working your paddle with one hand while holding your rod in the other. There are a couple natural conditions that are going to affect your position. Watch the current and the wind will play heck with you.

The first time I went out, I found that I spent more time correcting my position, than actually fishing.

You can use an anchor set-up to help with this, or if you are in an area where there is some weeds touching the surface with no real current, try docking yourself on it for a bit.

Drifting

I see kayakers doing this a lot on the river. They start at the at a point and let the river carry them along while they cast or troll for the fish. If the current isn’t super fast you will not have to correct your kayak too much. Minor corrections will keep you path. This method can be very effective though.

Catching Fish!

This is the moment we have all been waiting for!

We are now set up to go out and catch some fish. Now we have to think about how we are going to land those fish in the kayak.

One of the things you need to consider is the fact that when you set the hook on even a small to medium fish, you are not anchored to a mass that is larger than the power of the fish. Even a 5-6 pound fish can and will tow your boat around if given the chance. Just be prepared.

Your kayak will act as a secondary drag system to your fishing pole. This just means that you could potentially be fighting a fish longer and breaking less line. You could also potentially go for a ride depending on the size of the fish. While this could be very exciting, it could also turn scary very quickly in the wrong situation.

Once you get the fish close to the boat, remember to use your net, and to keep your body centered in the kayak. You do not want to go swimming at this point. Place your pole into the hand that is farthest away from the fish and use the closer hand to net it or grab the fish.

Another thing to keep in mind. Depending on the fish, you really don’t want to place anything in the kayak between your legs that has teeth or spikes. Just saying! Keep your pliers or fish grabbers handy.

Don’t forget about Safety

Even though we are out there to have fun, please do not forget to be safe. Check out my “Kakaking for Beginners-Kayak Safety” post for the basics in kayak safety.

There are few more safety things you need to be aware of when fishing.

  • Make sure you have enough water and snacks to get you through the day. Inevitably you will be out longer than predicted.
  • Watch out for flying hooks or spilled hooks. Accidents happen and some fish can be ornery.
  • If you are fishing in the South or in open waters like the ocean, watch out for critters that may want to eat your fish or you. There are other concerns with wildlife. Watch out for low hanging limbs in dense areas and for snakes. They have been known to drop into boats. Don’t Panic and remove them as quickly as possible.
  • Weather can always be a concern. Wind, lightening, rough waters. Be weather aware.
  • Finally, other boats speeding around on the water. Probably the most dangerous animal out there are other humans racing around in the fancy boats.

Let’s Get Out There!

So, we now have the basics to get us out on the water with our fishing poles. The best way to get better at fishing from our kayaks is to just get out there and do it. Like I said earlier, Practice!

I’m going to leave you here and hope that you found this post helpful. I hope I was able to get you educated and excited about getting out there and catching some fish.

Please, add and comments below about your experiences. Meet me over on Facebook and share some pics with me of the fish you have caught or the stories of the ones that got away.

Until Next Time!