Kayak Fishing 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started

Jeff A Aug 26, 2023
15 People Read
Logo: A Crimson Arrow - Explore the Great Outdoors
Table of Contents
  1. Kayak Fishing Advantages Over Bank Fishing
  2. Accessibility of Kayak Fishing
  3. Affordability of Kayak Fishing
  4. Sit-on-top or Sit-in Fishing Kayak?
  5. Fishing Kayak Fit to Size
  6. Fishing Kayak On-Board Features
  7. Fishing Kayak Seating
  8. Fishing Kayak Storage
  9. Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
  10. Weather Conditions
  11. Inform Others
  12. Maintain Balance and Stability
  13. Anchor Systems
  14. Hydration
  15. Sun Protection
  16. Kayak Fishing Information
  17. Kayaks and Kayak Equipment
  18. Fishing Equipment
  19. US Laws and Regulations

First Published on 06/19/2023

Imagine going on a fishing adventure and being able to always cast in the exact spot that you want, that spot right where the elusive “big one” is lying in wait. Imagine never (or very rarely) losing your favorite lure from an accidental cast into a tree limb or snag below the water. Welcome to the freedom of kayak fishing! Unlike bank fishing, kayak fishing offers more freedom and tactical advantages that will take your angling to new heights - or rather, new depths. Kayaking will allow you to move right into the secluded and difficult-to-reach spots, placing you right where the fish are. Let’s dive into a world of kayak fishing and discover how you can unlock a new world of possibilities and a truly rewarding fishing experience.

Sunset over kayak on a lake

Why Choose Kayak Fishing?

Kayak Fishing Advantages Over Bank Fishing

Kayak fishing has many advantages over fishing from the bank. Not least of which, a kayak allows you to reach fish in areas inaccessible from the shore. Whether it is navigating narrow waterways or obstacle-rich areas, accessing remote backwaters or brushy shorelines, a kayak can take you to where the fish are.

Accessibility of Kayak Fishing

Another advantage of kayak fishing is its accessibility. Compared to larger fishing boats which can only be launched from a boat ramp or marina, a kayak can be launched in pretty much any fishing hole of choice. Rivers, lakes, ponds, and even the ocean are accessible as long as you can move your kayak to the shoreline (kayak carts can make this even easier).

Affordability of Kayak Fishing

Kayak fishing is a budget-friendly alternative to owning a fishing boat. While the cost of ownership and maintenance of a fishing boat can be a barrier to entry for many anglers, a fishing kayak offers a very affordable entry point. A high-quality fishing kayak packed with features and accessories can be purchased for a fraction of the price of a fishing boat. Rewarding fishing experiences can be had without breaking the bank.

Selecting the Right Fishing Kayak

Selecting the right kayak is a balancing act of many different factors. Should you go with a sit-in or sit-on-top kayak? Is it better to have more storage or better maneuverability? What features and accessories do you need? How comfortable is the seating and is there enough storage for all of your gear?

Sit-on-top or Sit-in Fishing Kayak?

There are two main categories when choosing a fishing kayak: sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks. Sit-on-top kayaks are very popular for fishing due to their open design, easy entry and exit, greater stability, and the convenience of fishing from a standing position (having the ability to stand while fishing greatly improves the experience for some, but it inevitably comes down to comfort and personal preference). Sit-in kayaks, on the other hand, provide a more enclosed cockpit (sits lower, closer to the water level). They offer more protection from the elements and tend to have a drier ride in rough water. Choosing between a sit-on-top and sit-in kayak ultimately comes down to personal preference, fishing style, and the conditions that you are likely to encounter. 

5 Advantages and Disadvantages: Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayaks

Fishing Kayak Fit to Size

Selecting a kayak with appropriate dimensions for your body size, weight, and amount of gear is crucial for your comfort and performance on the water. Kayak length and width directly impact stability, maneuverability, and storage capacity. Longer kayaks tend to cut through the water better, have enhanced tracking, and are usually faster. Shorter kayaks trade off potential storage space for greater maneuverability in tight spaces. Wider kayaks offer greater stability at the expense of responsiveness. On top of these factors, also consider the effort required to move the kayak from storage to the water and back.

Fishing Kayak On-Board Features

Prioritize fishing-specific features that best align with your desired fishing experience such as built-in rod holders, paddle holders, anchor systems, and mounting options. You can use existing rails and mounts to add other accessories like fish finders or GPS units. Finding a kayak with the right features from the start can be a significant time-saving and long-term cost advantage over manually adding them later.

Exploring 6 Essential On-Board Features for Fishing Kayaks

Fishing Kayak Seating

Never overlook the importance of selecting a kayak with comfortable seating. Fishing trips can last several hours and you will be less likely to enjoy or repeat the experience if you are uncomfortable, achy, and sore afterward. Find a kayak with an adjustable, padded seat that provides adequate back support. Some models have high-backed seats and seats specifically designed for anglers. Sit-on-top kayaks can somewhat alleviate poor seating due to the freedom to move around, stretch, and stand up.

Fishing Kayak Storage

Lastly, pay attention to the storage capacity when selecting a kayak. It is essential to have dedicated areas to secure your tackle, gear, and other items while fishing. Some kayaks offer a dry well to keep essentials and personal items secure within the hull of the craft. It is important to consider the amount of gear that you plan to have on hand and ensure that you select a kayak that will meet your requirements. Remember, increasing storage space usually negatively impacts the maneuverability of the kayak.

Essential Gear for Kayak Fishing

Now that you’ve selected the right fishing kayak, you’ll want to put together the essential gear for your first outing. Instead of researching the absolute best gear and spending time and money on items that sound enticing, take only the bare essentials on your first trip. You will quickly learn on your first kayak fishing trip the additional gear that you will need for your desired experience, then add in the additional gear over time. For the bare essentials, it is recommended that you take the following minimum gear on every kayak fishing trip:

  • fishing tackle

  • fishing rod and reel (up to 1 per available rod holder)

  • personal flotation device (PFD), sized and fit appropriately

  • safety equipment (first aid kit)

  • communication device

  • drinking water

Must-Have Kayak Fishing Setup: Beginner’s Guide

Must-Have Kayak Fishing Upgrades: Beginner's Guide

Kayak Fishing Safety Tips

When venturing out on a fishing kayak, safety is of paramount importance. It is recommended that you follow the suggestions below to ensure a safe and enjoyable fishing trip.

Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

Always wear a properly fitting PFD, regardless of how strong of a swimmer you are. It can save your life in unexpected situations. Check with your local authorities for PFD laws and regulations (see resources below).

Weather Conditions

Always check local weather conditions and forecasts so that you can avoid inclement weather. Be aware of changing conditions; sudden storms and strong winds can lead to treacherous waters.

Inform Others

Let others know your planned fishing location and return times. Better yet, find a friend to go kayak fishing with you.

Maintain Balance and Stability

Always maintain proper balance in your kayak. Be especially mindful while casting and landing fish. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the stability of your kayak in a safe area to properly understand your and your kayak’s limits.

Anchor Systems

Learn how to properly deploy and retrieve an anchor to avoid uncontrollable drifting. Also, consider an anchor quick-disconnect to easily detach from the anchor in dangerous situations.

Hydration

Stay hydrated and be sure to pack more than enough fluids for the trip duration.

Sun Protection

Be sure to use sunscreen to protect from skin damage and sunburn.

7 Best Kayak Fishing Tips

Kayak Fishing Links and Resources:

Kayak Fishing Information

Kayaks and Kayak Equipment

Fishing Equipment

US Laws and Regulations

Table of Contents
  1. Kayak Fishing Advantages Over Bank Fishing
  2. Accessibility of Kayak Fishing
  3. Affordability of Kayak Fishing
  4. Sit-on-top or Sit-in Fishing Kayak?
  5. Fishing Kayak Fit to Size
  6. Fishing Kayak On-Board Features
  7. Fishing Kayak Seating
  8. Fishing Kayak Storage
  9. Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
  10. Weather Conditions
  11. Inform Others
  12. Maintain Balance and Stability
  13. Anchor Systems
  14. Hydration
  15. Sun Protection
  16. Kayak Fishing Information
  17. Kayaks and Kayak Equipment
  18. Fishing Equipment
  19. US Laws and Regulations