Fishing On A Kayak: Techniques for Adventure

Team Cast & Conquer

kayak on a lake
kayak on a lake

If you make a purchase via our links, we may receive a commission at no additional cost to you.

In recent years, there's been a surge in the popularity of kayak fishing, and it's not difficult to understand why. This exciting blend of fishing and kayaking offers anglers a unique and immersive way to connect with nature while pursuing their passion. Let's review the world of kayak fishing, why it's gaining such momentum, and what you need to get started on your own kayak fishing adventure.

Choosing the Right Kayak
A. Sit-on-Top vs. Sit-inside Kayaks

When venturing into kayak fishing, one of your first decisions will be whether to opt for a sit-on-top or a sit-inside kayak. Sit-on-tops are known for their stability and ease of use, making them ideal for beginners. Sit-inside kayaks, on the other hand, provide more protection from the elements and are a great choice for colder waters. Consider your comfort and the type of fishing you plan to do when making this choice. I would encourage you to strongly consider the following pros & cons of sit-on-top and sit-inside kayaks prior to making such an investment:

Pros of Sit-On-Top Kayaks:

  1. Stability: Sit-on-top kayaks are known for their superior stability. This makes them ideal for beginners, as they are less likely to tip over in calm waters.

  2. Self-Draining: These kayaks have scupper holes that allow water to drain out, keeping you dry and preventing the kayak from sinking.

  3. Ease of Entry/Exit: Getting in and out of a sit-on-top kayak is effortless. You don't feel confined, making it accessible for people of all ages and abilities.

  4. Versatility: Sit-on-tops are versatile and can be used for various water activities like fishing, snorkeling, or just paddling for fun.

  5. Ample Storage: They typically have more storage space, with deck space and storage hatches, making them suitable for longer trips and fishing gear.

  6. Safety: In case of capsizing, it's easier to climb back onto a sit-on-top kayak since they don't fill with water.

Cons of Sit-On-Top Kayaks:

  1. Exposure to Elements: You are exposed to wind, sun, and splashes. This can be uncomfortable in adverse weather conditions or cold water.

  2. Speed: Sit-on-top kayaks are generally slower than sit-inside kayaks due to their wider design.

  3. Limited Performance in Rough Waters: They may not perform as well in rough or choppy waters as sit-inside kayaks, which offer better protection.

  4. Storage Accessibility: While they have storage space, it can be challenging to access gear while on the water, especially if it's stored in hatches.

  5. Tracking: Sit-on-tops may not track as well as sit-inside kayaks, meaning they require more effort to paddle in a straight line.

  6. Weight Capacity: They often have a lower weight capacity compared to sit-inside kayaks, limiting the amount of gear or passengers you can carry.

Pros of Sit-Inside Kayaks:

  1. Protection from Elements: Sit-inside kayaks offer better protection from wind, sun, and water splashes. This makes them more suitable for cold or inclement weather conditions.

  2. Faster Speed: They tend to be faster and have better tracking, making them a preferred choice for longer journeys or more efficient paddling.

  3. Stability: While not as stable as sit-on-top kayaks, they still provide decent stability, especially in calm waters.

  4. Gear Accessibility: Gear stored in hatches is well-protected and easily accessible, allowing you to bring more equipment for longer trips.

  5. Weight Capacity: Sit-inside kayaks often have a higher weight capacity, enabling you to carry more gear or accommodate a larger body size.

  6. Performance in Rough Waters: They handle rough waters and waves better than sit-on-top kayaks due to their enclosed design.

Cons of Sit-Inside Kayaks:

  1. Difficulty in Entry/Exit: Climbing in and out can be more challenging, especially for beginners. This can be a concern in case of capsizing.

  2. Capsizing Concerns: In the event of a capsize, water can fill the cockpit, requiring you to perform a wet exit. This necessitates proper training and practice.

  3. Limited Self-Draining: While some sit-inside kayaks have scupper holes, they are not as effective at self-draining as sit-on-top models.

  4. Less Deck Space: They offer less deck space for activities like fishing or sunbathing, as your legs are enclosed within the cockpit.

  5. Comfort: Prolonged periods of sitting with your legs extended inside the kayak can be less comfortable for some people, leading to stiffness or discomfort.

  6. Learning Curve: Due to their design, sit-inside kayaks may have a steeper learning curve, especially for beginners learning to handle capsizing situations and the Eskimo roll technique.

B. Kayak Length and Stability

Kayak length directly influences stability and speed. Longer kayaks tend to track straighter and move faster, making them suitable for larger bodies of water. Shorter kayaks offer better maneuverability and are perfect for navigating tight spots like narrow streams and estuaries. Strike a balance between stability and maneuverability based on your fishing environment.

C. Storage and Weight Capacity

When it comes to kayak fishing, storage is crucial. Look for kayaks equipped with ample storage options like hatches, compartments, and bungee cords for securing gear. Additionally, ensure your chosen kayak can handle your weight along with the weight of your gear and any potential catches. Overloading a kayak can compromise stability and safety.

Essential Gear for Kayak Fishing
A. Fishing Rods and Reels

Selecting the right fishing gear is paramount. My choice is a medium-heavy fishing rod that can handle various species of fish. Pair it with a reliable reel, considering both baitcasting and spinning options based on your preference. Kayak fishing often involves casting in tight spaces, so choose gear that allows for accurate and controlled casting.

  • Best Kayak Fishing Casting Rod: St. Croix Bass Mojo - This is my favorite baitcasting rod. It has the strength to handle strong fish and it just feels comfortable to cast all day long. It's a medium-heavy action baitcasting rod.

  • Best Kayak Fishing Spinning Rod: PENN Carnage III - A beast of a spinning rod. It's a lot like the Bass Mojo, strong and comfortable to cast all day. Medium-heavy action spinning rod.

  • Best Kayak Fishing Baitcast Reel: Diawa Steez - The perfect baitcast reel to pair with the St. Croix Bass Mojo Fishing Rod. The Diawa Steez is light for its size and durable.

  • Best Kayak Fishing Spinning Reel: Shimano Thunnus CI4 - This is a buttery-smooth spinning reel. It pairs well with the PENN Carnage III spinning rod. A lightweight reel with a 4.8:1 gear ratio.

B. Tackle and Bait

Pack a variety of tackle, including different types of lures and bait to adapt to changing fishing conditions. Organize your tackle efficiently to access it easily while on the water. Kayak fishing can sometimes mean limited space, so being organized is key to a successful trip. Personally, I typically only use two lures when kayak fishing:

  • Heddon Super Spook Jr.: Topwater lures are great for finding fish quickly. Fish topwater lures in low-light conditions like early morning or late afternoon. The Super Spook has fantastic movement which fish find difficult to resist.

  • Slam Shady 2.0 Paddletail: I love these things because of their versatility. Whether you're in clear or muddy water, shallow or deep water, it doesn't matter. Use a lightweight jig head for the shallows and a heavier jig head for deeper water. Just like the Super Spook, the movement of the Slam Shady is just too much for fish to resist.

C. Safety Equipment

Safety should always be a top priority. Ensure you have essential safety gear such as a personal flotation device (PFD), a whistle, and a first-aid kit. Invest in a quality PFD designed for kayaking, as it will provide both safety and comfort during your excursions.

D. Kayak Accessories

Consider accessories like rod holders, fish finders, and anchor systems to enhance your kayak fishing experience. Rod holders keep your rods secure and within reach, while fish finders help you locate fish hotspots. An anchor system is essential for maintaining position while fishing or dealing with challenging currents.

Techniques for Successful Kayak Fishing
A. Paddle vs. Pedal Propulsion

Kayak anglers have the option of paddling or using pedal propulsion systems. Paddling provides a quiet and traditional approach, while pedal systems allow for hands-free fishing. Experiment with both methods to find what suits your style and fishing conditions best.

  • Best Paddle Kayak: Perception Pescador Pro 12: A sit-on-top kayak that offers tons of storage, 375 pound weight capacity, gear tracks, and even a fish finder console.

  • Best Pedal Kayak: Old Town Topwater Angler Fishing Kayak: A sit-on-top kayak with plenty of storage, 500 pound weight capacity, fish finder mount, and a breathable, padded seat for comfort.

B. Anchoring and Drifting

Learn to anchor your kayak effectively to stay in one spot, especially when you find a productive fishing location. Conversely, drifting can cover a lot of ground and help you explore different areas. Mastering both techniques will significantly improve your catch rate.

C. Casting and Retrieving

Kayak fishing demands precision in casting and retrieving. Practice your casting techniques to avoid tangled lines and lost lures. Remember that the close quarters of a kayak require a more controlled and deliberate approach to casting.

D. Reading Water and Locating Fish

Understanding the behavior of fish and how they relate to water conditions is essential. Learn to read the water, identify underwater structures, and recognize signs of fish activity such as ripples or surface disturbances. Patience and observation can lead you to the best fishing spots.

Tips for a Safe and Enjoyable Kayak Fishing Trip
A. Weather and Water Conditions

Always check the weather forecast and water conditions before heading out. Wind, waves, and changing weather can pose challenges on the water. Be prepared for sudden weather shifts and have a plan for seeking shelter if necessary.

B. Navigation and Planning

Plan your trips carefully, considering launch and landing points, potential fishing spots, and escape routes in case of emergencies. Carry a map or GPS device to aid navigation (your trusty cell phone), and always tell someone where you're headed just in case.

Fishing on a kayak is an exhilarating and rewarding pursuit that allows you to explore the water in a unique way. By choosing the right kayak, gearing up properly, mastering essential techniques, and prioritizing safety and environmental responsibility, you can embark on memorable kayak fishing adventures that connect you with nature and the thrill of the catch. So, grab your paddle or pedals, set your course, and prepare to cast your line into the world of kayak fishing.