The Essential Kayak Fishing Guide

The Essential Kayak Fishing Guide Kayak fishing is one of the best ways to enjoy fishing. You can paddle out to where the fish are and away from the crowds of anglers on the bank, giving you far more opportunities to land bags of fish.

You’ve probably seen kayak anglers every time you head out and you notice that no matter how the day went, they always have a smile on their face when they get back to land. Even if you blank, being out on a kayak is great fun.

If you’re hooked on the idea and you’ve made the decision that you want to get into kayak fishing, how do you start?

In this guide, you will learn the essentials:

  • How to tell if kayak fishing is for you.
  • What you need to start kayak fishing.
  • How to properly rig your kayak for fishing.
  • Launching your kayak for the first time.

How to Tell if Kayak Fishing is for You?

Most anglers don’t start by purchasing a kayak and casting off with a boat full of tackle. They’ve spent time developing their love of fishing from the shore. But something has dug in at them to make them break free from the land.

Does that feeling sound familiar? Are you tired of being crowded on the shoreline after a few years of fishing the same dull banksides? Have you seen other people out on the water and notice how peaceful it looks to be surrounded by nothing but nature? Well, you might have noticed that kayak fishing is something that is pretty beneficial to a lot of seasoned anglers!

Whether you fish fresh or saltwater, large lakes or winding rivers, kayak fishing is a great way to get away from the crowds, hunt down schools of fish, and get some exercise all at the same time.

What do You Need to Start Kayak Fishing?

So, you’ve decided that you want to begin kayak fishing? Great! Now it’s time to begin gathering up your gear. If you’ve never gone out on the water in a kayak before, this might seem a bit daunting.

The kayak anglers you’ve seen all seem to have different setups, each with their own variety of supplies. Don’t be intimidated though. Remember that most of the anglers that have tons of gear have probably spent several years dialing in their set ups. If you strip away all the extra gear, everyone’s set up is going to have some pretty similar elements to it.
  • Kayak
  • Paddle
  • PFD (Personal Flotation Device aka life jacket)
  • Whistle
  • Visibility flag
  • Crate for tackle
  • Fishing tackle
  • Rod and reel

Getting Started with Fishing from a Kayak

Before you get too excited, make sure that you are fairly experienced with both fishing and kayaking independently. If you haven’t been fishing for more than a couple of seasons, you’ll want to keep developing your passion for the sport. Doing this will ensure you don’t spend heaps of money on a set up that you’ll never end up using.

If you’re the passionate angler that lives and breathes fishing, be sure you have spent some time paddling around and feel comfortable in a kayak before buying your own. Borrow or rent out a kayak a couple times first to get a sense of how to maneuver it around the water and to feel how your kayak reacts to different body positions. This way, when it comes time to get out on the water with rod and reel in hand, you’ll be able to concentrate more on the fishing and less on staying upright!

By feeling comfortable both fishing and kayaking, you’ll be much more prepared to combine these two activities to reap the benefits that fishing from a kayak brings.

How to Set Up Your Kayak for Fishing

Setting up your kayak is a critical step in going kayak fishing. Failing to prepare properly will result in you preparing to fail. Be sure to follow the following steps to get your kayak ready to go for your first time out on the water.


One of the most important parts of kayak fishing is to organize your gear meticulously. Remember that you don’t have as much space on your kayak as you would on the shore, which can make accessing gear a bit of a pain if you don’t organize it properly.

A great organizational tool can be as simple as a milk crate if you’re on a budget. You can strap it to your kayak where and it keeps all of your stuff in one easy to reach spot. If you have some more cash to spend, you will find kayak-specific tackle luggage that will serve the same purpose but in a more user-friendly way.

Another piece of gear that will be really helpful for organization is a fishing specific PFD. These are great because you’ll be able to benefit from wearing a great piece of gear for easy-to-reach tackle organization while also wearing an essential piece of safety equipment.

With a fishing kayak, you’ll have built in rod holders for rod and reel storage and trawling. If you’re kayak isn’t designed specifically for fishing, don’t worry, rod holders can be purchased and attached to any kayak. You can even make some out of PVC pipe. Rod holders are a must because they’ll prevent your rod from falling in the water while you’re paddling through choppy water. They can also be used for trawling, which can increase your chances of landing a fish by extending your reach over larger areas of water.

Packing Your Kayak

After you have figured out how you’re going to organize your gear, it’s time to load up your kayak. It might be tempting to toss all of your gear on the stern of the kayak, but it’s very important to properly balance all of your gear.

Spread out heavier items as best as you can so that you can achieve this balance. Spend some time on the water after you get your kayak and get a good feel for how your kayak reacts when loaded up with your tackle.

It should be stable and not feel like it’s about to tip over at any point of you moving around on it. If it does, take the time to move your gear around so that you produce the most stable platform to paddle and fish from.

If you have moved your gear around several times and notice that you haven’t improved the stability, check to make sure that you’re not going over the weight limit of your kayak. While you might be able to still float on an overloaded boat, you’ll likely experience severe instability which can be dangerous to fish from.

Essential Gear

After you have loaded your boat and organized all of your gear, be sure that you also have a few other pieces to complete your set up. These are smaller items but can be easily overlooked!
  • A net for landing fish with a cord attached to your kayak.
  • Rod holders.
  • Paddle holder.
  • Extra bait and lures.
  • Snacks for staying fueled while out on the water.
  • Plenty of fresh water to stay hydrated for as long as you plan on fishing.
  • Sunscreen for warm weather
  • Appropriate clothing for cool weather

Getting Out on the Water

Finding a place to unload your kayak from your vehicle that is near the water is best. Aim to unload at boat ramps or car-friendly beaches if you can as they provide direct access to the water.

If a boat ramp or drive-on beach isn’t available where you want to go fishing, be sure to bring along a kayak trolley as they will make your life much easier. You can easily load all of your gear on top of your kayak, set the kayak on top of the trolley, and wheel it to the bankside. If you plan on launching from sandy beaches, get a trolley with large wheels because they are much easier to pull through the sand.

Once you’re at the launch point, set the kayak in the water in a shallow spot as it’s much easier to climb on board your kayak from a standing. Get yourself comfortable and start paddling out to find some fish.

Start by looking around for features that may hold fish. Usually, they’ll hold up along rocky shorelines or visible features such as pads, reeds, weed, and bankside vegetation. In open water, look for underwater features such as changes in depth, gravel patches, and underwater structures. This can be done by using a marker float setup or better — a small sonar setup. Keep an eye out for bait fish as you paddle around. The predators won’t be far behind and usually lay in ambush close to schools of baitfish.

Conclusion: Fishing from Your Kayak

Kayak fishing is an awesome way to extend your reach from shore and get more opportunities to hook up more and better averages of fish.

Building a kayak set up takes time but it’s well worth it. Be sure to bring along the essential items and properly organize your kit before taking to the water.

Spend some time paddling around in your kayak before you begin incorporating fishing into it to ensure that you feel safe and competent with your paddling skills. Set up your kayak properly and launch your boat with the right techniques to ensure that you get maximum enjoyment out of each and every kayak fishing experience.

If you already fish from a kayak and have something to add, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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