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How To Fish From Your Kayak

Updated on October 24, 2012
MagicMan007 profile image

Bill Watson has authored 3 books and many articles online and for print publications such as Sports Afield, Income Opportunties and more.

How Awkward Is It?

Every time I've seen photos of people fishing from a kayak I've thought, "Wow, that looks nearly impossible!" but finally decided to try it anyhow.

Why was I skeptical?

  • From previous paddling experience I knew there was not a lot of maneuvering room in a kayak.

  • It's difficult to turn around backwards once seated in a kayak, yet that's typically where I'd seen fishing gear stored

  • If you hook a big fish what happens? How do you get it in the boat without tipping over?

  • Kayaks don't have anchors like fishing boats do. How do you stay in a good fishing spot?

    Fishing from a kayak? It just looked like a big pain in the back muscles!

Well, I must say it was not difficult at all. Managing both a paddle and a pole was not a big deal. Baiting the hook and casting was no more difficult than on any boat. In fact, I much appreciated the fact that in a one-man kayak you don't have to worry about accidentally hooking a fellow fisherman in the forehead while casting, and there's no one to possibly hook you either!


What Do You Need To Take?

Gear, Sunscreen, Bait And Stuff

You don't need a fancy fishing kayak, any kayak will work fine although fishing kayaks do have features that improve the experience..

My advice is to travel light. A kayak is no place for your 4' by 2' tackle box and its 278 individual compartments stocked with about every lure known to modern man. Take only what you think you'll actually need or use:

  • Bait- we chose nightcrawlers for this trip

  • Poles- We took along normal length rods but opted to use mini-rods

  • Lifejackets....ALWAYS!

  • Sunscreen- good to have with but apply prior and wash hands to avoid tainting the bait

  • Bobbers

  • Hooks

  • Sinkers (optional- we didn't use any)

  • Beverages, especially water, and a snack

  • Net to scoop fish after the catch (unless only panfish are on the agenda)

  • A combo fishing vest/life vest might make things easier and let you carry a few favorite lures and tools

  • Kayak & paddles- if you forget these it will make fishing from a kayak a whole lot more difficult and all your other stuff will probably sink or float away ; )

You are required by law to have a fishing license and a signaling device, such as a whistle or air horn.

type= Here's what you're looking for!
type= Here's what you're looking for!

Choosing A Place To Fish

Some spots are better than others

Brush, blown down trees, docks and things of that nature attract fish.

Think about it: If you were a little fish would you prefer swimming out in the open or hanging out near something you can run to and hide in if a big fish comes prowling for a meal?

And where would a big fish prowl? Where the little fish hang!

The day this pic was taken my partner, Cindy, and I were fishing on a lake that definitely had a slight current and a bit of wind. We spotted this brush in the water on the downstream side of an island. By positioning there the island blocked the wind and current and we remained relatively stationary while casting toward the structure. Payoff! Cindy caught a bluegill and I had two very strong a...well, by a huge bass...uh, yeah, that's it, it was a record-breaking monster bass that got away!


Making Things Easier by Customizing

Things you can add to your kayak to increase your fishing enjoyment

  • Rod Holders

  • Paddle Clips

  • Dry Bag (to keep your wallet and cellphone)

  • Anchor (yes they do make 'em for kayaks after all)

  • Lights (required by law for either pre-dawn or night fishing)

  • Stringer

  • Bait bucket (if using live bait)

  • Net- to help land the big ones

Rod Holders

The first step to customizing your kayak for fishing is to add one of these


Cindy's First Panfish Caught From A Kayak

Cynthia simply tied a hook on the line, put a bobber about 18 inches above the hook, baited up with a nightcrawler and tossed it out there, keeping watch on the bobber as fish played with the worm dangling below.

When a fish pulled hard enough to pull the bobber underwater, she knew it was time to pull back quickly on the pole to "set" the hook (jerk it back just enough to firmly hook the fish). Maybe it helped a bit to have a crazy man in a nearby kayak yelling, "Pull it, jerk it now!" Or maybe not...

So far this lens has been all about "how" to fish from a kayak; she then discovered quickly the "why" you might want to try it. Once a fish is hooked the fight is on and it's far more exciting than landing a fish from a large, stable boat or from land. After a bit of a struggle this bluegill was hers.

Use ultra light tackle and that 8 ounce perch you're fighting will feel like you've tied into a 1.300 lb. Marlin. Try it, you'll love it!


What About Landing A Bigger Fish?

Wow, this is truly FUN!

I caught this catfish by a blown down tree near the middle of the lake (don't ask me how the tree got there) as dusk was setting in. I was using the same hook/bobber/worm/no-sinker setup we had been using on the three panfish I'd already caught, just fishing in deeper waters with the hook floating a few inches further down. This boy put up a struggle but my kayak remained stable throughout the glorious fight to land him. One thing is crystal clear: to get anything bigger than a panfish into your kayak gracefully, you'll need a net.


That Largemouth Bass?

Finally got him too...No Problem!

Make your fishing trip even better with these items

Advanced Elements Canoe and Kayak Anchor System
Advanced Elements Canoe and Kayak Anchor System

They DO make anchors for kayaks after all!


Instead of customizing... - ...maybe buy a fishing kayak!


Happy Fishing!


Stand Up And Fish - Yes, From Your Kayak

Take a look at the pic of the man in the link to the Lifetime Sport Kayak below. He's standing on his kayak, fishing.

This is one thing I've never done. Does it improve the experience? Is it even a good idea? Comments?

Comments On Kayak Fishing?

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    • DawnRae64 profile image

      Dawn 3 years ago from Maryland, USA

      Provided I don't forget the worms... tomorrow is going to be my first attempt at fishing from my new kayak. I can't wait!! Thank you for sharing your stories! You brought up and addressed many of my concerns. I hope I have as good as luck as you!

    • DieselJoe profile image

      DieselJoe 3 years ago

      I love it. I have a still-water lake next to my house that is perfect for kayak fishing. It doesn't have a lot of structure, but I'm in discovery mode looking for the best hiding spots for the fish.

    • profile image

      bassrumors 5 years ago

      We have many members at our Bass Fishing Forum that are using kayaks.

    • Writingmystory1 profile image

      Writingmystory1 6 years ago

      Fun! Another advantage to fishing from a one man kayak is that you are not stuck fishing in the exact spot your partner is fishing in, although I think close enough to communicate is best for safety and to keep from becoming lost.