Kayak Fishing Tips and Tricks 

After reading our last post on kayak fishing, you were inspired to give it a try. That said, you’re well aware that you’re in for quite a different fishing experience than the norm. What are some kayak fishing tips and tricks to know?

Here are our favorite kayak fishing tricks and tips:

  • Always wear a life jacket
  • Stay close to the shoreline
  • Keep your paddle lightweight
  • Anchoring is your friend
  • Use the eddies
  • Resistant baits help you steer
  • Learn to paddle-one handed
  • Let your feet be your rudders
  • Use a kayak leash

Do you want to become a better angler with this collection of tips? Make sure you keep reading, as we’ll provide plenty of useful information that will make kayak fishing more efficient and rewarding than it’s ever been! 

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1. Always Wear a Life Jacket

Even if you’re paddling in perfectly tranquil waters, you should never venture out in your kayak for fishing or any other activity without wearing a life vest. 

Life jackets save lives. That’s why the U.S. Coast Guard recommends them for so many aquatic activities and why we advise you to wear them as well. 

For kayaking, a Type III life jacket or Type IV throwable device that meets Coast Guard approval is best. 

A Type III life jacket or personal flotation device is inherently buoyant and intended for kayaking, canoeing, fishing, water skiing, racing dinghies, and sailing regattas. 

The life vest offers 15.5 pounds of buoyancy for adults but will not ensure protection in rough waters.

A Type IV is a throwable device such as a horseshoe or ring buoy for conscious people thrown overboard. Square buoys are common as well. 

The throwable device must be quickly accessible on your kayak so you can throw it someone as they need it. Time is of the essence to prevent drowning. 

When purchasing a life jacket, it must fit correctly to ensure its effectiveness. The jacket should fit close to your body but not be so tight that it constricts your full range of motion. 

If the jacket is too loose, then it might be able to fly right off of you when you capsize on your kayak, rendering it useless. 

Can’t swim? Check out our article, “Tips for Kayaking When you Can’t Swim.”

2. Stay Close to the Shoreline

When boating, you’ve probably been taught to keep your boat a fair distance from the shoreline, right? 

After all, you don’t want to get too close and collide with the rocks, sand, or stones underneath, nor do you want to find yourself accidentally stranded in a part of the water you shouldn’t be in. 

Well, it’s different when you’re kayaking. 

As you’ll recall from our last post about fishing in a kayak, the lower profile and narrower size of a kayak mean you can get into some areas that most fishing boats cannot.

Staying close to the shoreline is especially advisable when you’re in up-current waters or when the weather is especially windy. 

In both situations, you can expend nearly all the physical effort you have, putting it into paddling without getting very far. You’ll find fishing a struggle as well.

By heading to shallower areas nearer the shoreline in your kayak, you’ll find that the current decreases. 

Nearby vegetation prevents the waves from lapping too strongly and can also dampen the effects of the wind.

You’ll be able to paddle without wasting effort. When you get nearer to where you want to go, you can venture back out further from the shoreline. 

3. Keep Your Paddle Lightweight

There’s a difference between kayaking on its own and fishing in a kayak. 

For the latter activity especially, you need enough energy and physical ability to hold onto a fishing rod for hours and to reel in fish when that magic moment inevitably arrives.

If you’re so exhausted that you can barely hold onto your rod, then your reaction time will suffer. That can cause you to miss your next big catch.

Sore muscles might render you unable to pull in a powerful bite, which again means coming up disappointingly empty. 

The lighter your kayaking paddle, the more advantageous that paddling will be. 

Fiberglass is an optimal material for your kayaking paddle. It’s incredibly durable and weighs less than you might have thought. The SeaSense Xtreme fiberglass paddle is a great choice.

You’ll still be able to paddle to the same extent with a lighter paddle than a heavier one, but you won’t use as much effort. 

This may affect your calories burned, reducing the amount, but in the long run, it’s better to have more energy and burn fewer calories.  

For help determining what paddle length is right for you, click here.

4. Anchoring Is Your Friend

Kayaks are considered lighter boats than most fishing boats. 

Unless you’re fishing in completely still waters, then you will naturally drift throughout the day as the currents move your kayak. 

You might not even notice this until you’re several feet from where you started. 

On a day when the winds or currents are stronger, you can move at a much faster rate than you might anticipate, which will make fishing really hard. You can’t stay in one place for long, after all!

Anchoring your boat truly comes in handy in these situations. You needn’t a heavy boat anchor, only a claw anchor that weighs between two and four pounds.

Your anchor should be equipped with a quick-release clevis to assist you in getting the anchor out of the water.

In mild currents, anchoring is fine, but watch the current strength beyond that. 

In some cases, it’s possible for the anchor to push your kayak underwater, which would create more trouble than it’s worth. 

The Gradient Fitness Marine Anchor is currently amazons best seller and is compact and perfect for fishing.

5. Buy a Fishing Rod That’s About Six Feet, Six Inches

When fishing from a kayak, the question becomes what the right fishing rod length is. 

You don’t want a rod that’s too short. 

You’re going to get wet when fishing from a kayak as it is. Leaning over the boat to accommodate for a shorter fishing rod is going to pretty much guarantee that. 

If your fishing rod is too long, then you might struggle too much with it on your narrow kayak. The rod can act as an impediment.

For most kayaks, the appropriate fishing rod length is six feet, six inches. That’s just long enough where you can fish comfortably but not too long. It’s the perfect sweet spot! 

You’ll find it easier to control the fish when using your rod at this length. 

6. Use the Eddies to Your Advantage

Eddies are circular water currents that can be quite beneficial for anglers who fish using a kayak. 

We know, we’ve been telling you to beware of currents throughout this guide, but some currents can be your friend. 

Although you couldn’t dream of fitting most fishing boats into an eddy, that’s not the case for a kayak. Its size makes these boats appropriate to settle into eddies. 

When you’re in the eddy, your kayak won’t move any further downstream. You’ll be held in one spot without an anchor. 

We recommend paddling a little further beyond your ideal fishing location and then finding an eddy behind you. 

Fish as much as you want until you’ve exhausted that eddy, then move on to another one if you wish. 

7. Resistant Baits Help You Steer

Kayak fishing requires the careful selection of bait.

It’s not only that you don’t have as much room in your tacklebox and thus have to be choosier about the bait choices you make.

Certain types of fishing bait are more resistant than others, including chatterbaits, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits

When you reel in your fishing rod using one of these bait types, the resistance created by the bait begins to pull the kayak in your casting direction. 

While this can be unsettling at first, once you get used to the force of the bait’s resistance, it can be of benefit to you. 

For instance, you can steer with the bait resistance, allowing the bait to guide you and saving you from expending manual effort in the process. How handy! 

8. Learn to Paddle (and Cast) One-Handed

Even with the techniques that we’ve presented to this point, you may not always stay in one secure location when fishing in a kayak.

That means that one hand will almost always be on the paddle, or very close to the paddle. Your other hand will be on the fishing rod.

You will feel like you’re impossibly multitasking at first, but like everything, practice makes perfect.

First, we recommend you get used to paddling one-handed. Go out to your local lake or river not with the intention of fishing, but with navigating your kayak with only one paddle. 

Here are some pointers that will make it easier. 

Keep the paddle shaft near your forearm. This positioning sort of makes the paddle like an anchor so you can paddle more like you would when commandeering a canoe than a kayak.

As for casting single-handedly, it’s doable as well but also requires practice. 

Use a spinning or baitcasting tackle to help you and keep your rig lighter. 

As you get started, you’ll just barely be able to cast with one hand, but over time, you’ll begin developing finesse for it.

Now that you’ve aced both skills separately, it’s time to put them together.

You will feel a bit clumsy the first few times you do this, but it will become second nature eventually. Just keep it up! 

9. Let Your Feet Be Your Rudders

How are your feet positioned in your kayak? This might seem like a random concern, but it’s anything but.

Your foot positioning is quite important!

In especially narrow kayaks, your feet come in handy as rudders as well as anchors.

For example, if you want to anchor with your foot when kayaking in shallow areas, take one foot and put it out to grip onto an obstacle such as a log. 

Keep it there for the duration of your fishing time and then tuck yourself back into the boat. 

Your feet can be rudders to help you avoid obstacles or control your speed, which is very useful. 

After all, when kayak fishing, your hands tend to get quite busy, so you need all the help you can get! 

10. Dress Appropriately

The design and layout of a kayak don’t offer much in the way of protection from water. Those who bought sit-on-top kayaks will stay drier but not completely.

Since you can expect to spend most of your day wet, you must dress for that. Waterproof layers are a must. 

Your clothes must also have moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties. 

It’s not fun to spend hours soaked to the skin waiting for the sun to dry you. You’ll be shaking and shivering and unable to reel in any catches.

Your shoes will inevitably get wet too, so make sure you invest in waterproof footwear. 

We should note that there’s a difference between water resistance and waterproofing.

A waterproof garment is stitched, sewn, or woven to prevent water penetration. Water-resistant garments have a coating that allows water to slough off.

However, the coating does not last forever. Once it wears off, you lose the water resistance for good. 

11. Use a Kayak Leash

In the frenzy of steering, maneuvering, fishing, and reeling in what you’ve caught, you can easily lose track of the other paddle that you’re not holding.

It was in your lap, but now where is it? In the water? More than likely!

A paddle leash solves this problem. 

The paddle leash will keep both paddles together. You won’t have to pay to replace your paddles nearly as often nor will you have to worry about the environmental effects of leaving your paddle at the bottom of a lake or river. 

You can attach the paddle leash to an eyelet or cleat so that even in the frenzy of fishing, both paddles stay above the water! 

Bottom Line 

There you have it, our best tips and tricks for kayak fishing. 

Even if you’ve never fished from a kayak before, if you follow the information in this guide, you will find it far easier to adjust to the rigors of this activity. Good luck and have fun out there! 

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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