Top Kayak Fishing Tips for Beginners
Buying Your Kayak
Like anything else, you get what you pay for. A higher price usually means more features and nicer materials. Here are some things to think about:
- It’s cheaper to spend a little extra money on a kayak now vs. upgrading later. Buy the best one your budget allows now, and you will enjoy have it for years.
- Try before you buy—like everything else, there are MANY strong opinions on the “best” fishing kayak when you ask on the internet. Reviews and experiences are helpful, but you won’t know what’s right for you until you try various fishing kayaks. Contact groups, clubs etc. or try local locations and launch ramps. They; kayak fisherman are a friendly bunch, might offer demos where you can try various kayaks before you buy.
- If you don’t have dealers locally; remember dealers usually carry a limited manufacture line, check online for local kayak fishing groups. They’re usually more than happy to meet you on the water to take their kayaks for a test paddle.
Typical key buying factors for a fishing kayak are:
- Price (you get what you pay for, but likely will have a budget)
- Company reputation for customer service.
- Features; Rod holders, rails, portability, stability, sonar/GPS mounting options, seat comfort, drive types ( pedal vs paddle) etc.
Buying Your Paddle
- Here again, I always recommend buying the best paddle you can afford. A higher price generally means lighter weight, which significantly helps during long fishing trips. Be careful though you can spend several hundred dollars on a paddle, just to find out it not right for you ( size, strength, arm length, water approach angle). Generally I recommend getting a good basic paddle until you figure out what is best for you and your style of use, see our post on proper paddle strokes. The lighter paddles are worth the extra money for long days on the water.
- Fishing paddles are specific to anglers. They have a longer shaft for wider fishing kayaks. They have bigger blades to propel the larger, weighted-down kayaks. And they have angler features like a tape measure on the shaft and hook retrieval in the blade. And don’t forget the cool fish decals!
- Typical key buying factors for a fishing paddle are:
- Price (determined by the materials and weight)
- Company reputation for customer service
- Adjustable vs snap ferrule
- Measuring lines, hook retriever and other fishing features
Rigging Your Kayak
- DIY and purchased rigging options provide endless possibilities. Take your new kayak out with minimal rigging (possibly just a milk crate), use it and determine what you still need before spending the time and money to rig everything up front.
- The pros for Do-It-Yourself rigging: It’s usually cheaper, and it’s fun! It’s rewarding for a job well done.
- The Cons: It’s time-consuming, and often seems to be a never-ending task. It can be frustrating when something doesn't work out
- Purchased rigging:
- Pros: You get proven tools and rigging products from companies who engineer and test the products, along with warranties. The rigging is adaptable/compatible with a wide range of kayaks and similar products.
- The Cons: It can get costly depending on the rigging products used.
- ALWAYS wear your PFD. It doesn’t matter how well you can swim—an unexpected flip into the water can be fatal for anybody. Buy a paddle-specific PFD. They have a higher or thinner back for more comfort in a kayak seat. They’re vented for breathability. Most companies make a kayak fishing PFD with additional storage for tools and tackle.
- Never anchor in swift current. If your kayak turns the wrong way it could take on water and flip! When you anchor, attach a float to the end of the line so you can retrieve it should it need to be cut off.
- Always have a straight blade nearby (a knife without an opening mechanism) on your PFD or seat. It’s a critical safety device should your anchor line or fishing line get caught on something—it allows you to cut it free quickly. Paddling safety companies often make specific straight blades with quick access holders and a blunt tip.
- Be visible—Kayaks come in various colors, including many highly visible ones. (The color doesn’t change your fishing productivity. Kayaks are stealthy and often will bump into fish before they notice it.) Paddles also come in various high-vis colors. Reflective tape can be used to increase visibility. Other visibility options: colorful or reflective PFD and clothing, bright flags and lights, and a safety whistle or air horn.
Learning “The Ropes”
- Kayak fishing is much different than fishing from a motor boat, canoe or the shore. Make an effort to connect with experienced people through local clubs or social media groups. They’re usually happy to help or meet a new fishing buddy!
- Hire a guide; tell them you are new to the sport. They can help with paddling, boat positioning, rigging, safety, and how to fish from a kayak in general. Contact your local dealer to see if they offer any training or know of any experienced kayak anglers to help you get started
- Finally, reach out! The kayak fishing community is a friendly and helpful one—we’re happy to help you out!