Kayak Fishing: The Expert Guide for Beginners and Experienced

Kayak fishing is one of the most relaxing, enjoyable, and popular pastimes ever created. It is a sport that is worth billions, which is enjoyed all over the globe. Now, when you think of fishing, you probably imagine a fisherman sat on the edge of a fishing lake in the countryside, perched on a small stool, rod in the water for hours, without a care in the world. Whilst lake fishing is arguably the most common type of fishing, it can get a little repetitive at times. This is why some people look for other options.

Kayak fishing is a very popular type of fishing, and it is kayak fishing which we’ll be looking at today. In this expert guide you will discover everything you need to know about kayak fishing, plus a little more. Whether you’re new to kayak fishing, or you’ve been at it for years, here is your expert guide to kayak fishing.


What is kayak fishing?

Kayak fishing is a form of fishing which is performed from a kayak. When kayak fishing, anglers will either sit in, or on, kayaks on open stretches of water and will fish from the vessel. Kayak fishing may be growing in popularity lately, but it is far from a new concept. Kayak fishing has been performed for many centuries.

The word ‘Kayak’ means ‘Hunter’s Boat’ in Inuit. The boats were originally created by Inuit people who inhabited regions of the Arctic. The boats were typically made from whale bones or driftwood and were used as transportation on lakes, rivers, oceans, and seas. The idea was that they allowed the hunters to silently stalk their prey from the water before quickly heading inland to make the kill.

These days, kayak fishing is done primarily on the water, with fish being the primary targets. Modern kayaks are made from durable materials, they’re very hard-wearing, and they’re very comfortable. They offer various seating options and plenty of internal storage space within the hull. This storage space is ideal for carrying your fishing gear, as well as bringing in your catch after a successful day on the water.

Choosing a fishing kayak

Choosing a fishing kayak is a lot harder than people tend to realize. Fishing kayaks vary hugely in terms of design, shape, size, functionality, and features. In this next section we’re going to look at a few things you’ll need to consider when choosing a kayak.

Inside or on top

When you shop for fishing kayaks you’ll find that you have the option to sit inside the boat, or on top of the boat. Most kayak anglers agree that sit on top kayaks are the best for fishing. This is because they’re stable and are much easier to get into/onto than sit inside kayaks. There’s more space and they’re that stable that you can stand up on them and fish from them. Because you sit on top of them in special chairs, you also have more storage space inside the hull. As they’re hollow, they are virtually unsinkable.

However, sit inside kayaks do still have their place in the fishing world. Sit inside kayaks are great for beginners who wish to feel safer and more secure on the water. They’re also useful in testing weather conditions because they offer a little more insulation and protection from the elements. These kayaks have a lower center of gravity as they’re closer to the water. This helps to keep them stable. As you sit inside the vessel, the main issue is storage space. This is another reason why they’re ideal for beginners who won’t have as much gear as experienced kayak anglers.



When talking about weight, we’re primarily referring to the weight of the kayak. Kayaks come in different shapes and sizes, and the materials used will determine how heavy it is. You don’t want a very heavy kayak unless you’re confident you have the strength to handle it. A heavy kayak will be harder to paddle in the water, and of course, you’ll have to carry it on dry land. Kayak shoulder straps prove useful here. Even so, only choose a kayak which is a weight that you’re confident you can handle.



The length of the kayak is another consideration for you to mull over. Kayaks come in various lengths, and normally the longer it is the quicker it will be in the water. If you want speed, make sure you consider a longer kayak. Not only that, but longer kayaks are also easier to keep straight and on course. The downside is that longer kayaks are tougher to turn and steer, plus they’re more awkward to carry on dry land. They normally weigh more as well, so remember what we said about weight.


Weight capacity

Before buying a kayak, make sure you carefully check its weight capacity. Remember, not only will it need to cope with your weight, it will also need to be able to handle the weight of your gear and equipment, plus the weight of whatever you catch. If you overload your kayak, it’ll sink, it’s as simple as that.



When you search for kayaks, you’ll find that they vary hugely in terms of price. This is largely due to the fact that different kayaks are made from different materials. Some kayaks are made from basic plastic materials, whereas more expensive kayaks may be made from fibreglass. Fibreglass kayaks are lighter and quicker, but plastic kayaks are easier to accessorize.


Color and design

Okay, when you’re on the water fishing, we know you’re not entering a kayak beauty contest. While some may argue that color and design isn’t important, we disagree. It’s your kayak, you need to enjoy the look of the kayak so find one that appeals to you. We do however, suggest bright colors like reds, oranges, and yellows, as these are easier to spot if you get into trouble. You can get camo kayaks to help you blend in, but fish are generally inquisitive and some anglers argue that bright kayaks actually help to attract the fish.



Kayak fishing is done on the water, but what kind of water? Remember, different fish thrive in different environments, so choose your location carefully. Do you plan on fishing on lakes, rivers, streams, or at sea? Different kayaks are made for different settings. If you’re on narrow stretches of water such as streams or rivers, a shorter kayak will be better. This is because they’re easier to steer. If you’re on open water like huge lakes or the sea, you may prefer a longer kayak.



Now we’re teaching you the technical language. The tankwell on a fishing kayak is the large space located at the stern (back) of a sit on top kayak. This is where you store any gear that won’t fit into the cockpit. If you have a lot of gear and equipment, be sure to choose a kayak with a large tankwell.


Paddle, pedal, or motor

Once in the water, you need to get your kayak from A to B. Now you need to decide whether you want a pedal kayak, a paddle kayak, or a motor driven kayak. Paddle kayaks require you to propel yourself through the water with a paddle. The downside here is that sometimes the paddle can get in the way, especially if you have a lot of gear.

Pedal kayaks use foot pedals, like you’d find on a bicycle, to propel the kayak through the water. The pedals power a propeller or fins so that you can keep your hands free to fish. A motor driven kayak is the most expensive. It’s like a kayak/motorboat hybrid. These use a motor to propel themselves, so your hands and legs remain free. The downside is that they are expensive, and they are very heavy too.



Now the part that none of us want to acknowledge. The price. Before you start looking for your dream kayak, first take the time to do some basic research in terms of price and set a budget. Once you have a budget in mind, take a look and see what you can find that fits within your price range.


How to Prepare for a Kayak Fishing Trip

In this next section we’re going to share a few tips with you on what you can do to prepare for a kayak fishing trip.


Check the Weather Forecast

First and foremost, you need to make sure you check the weather forecast before kayak fishing. No matter where you choose to go fishing, it’s vital to check the weather. Ideally you want a relatively calm day with good light and warm sunshine. If extreme weather has been forecast, leave it for another day. Bad weather will not only make the experience less enjoyable, it may also put your life at risk. Check the weather forecast at least 24 hours in advance and keep checking right up until you’re due to leave.


Pay Attention to Local Fishing Reports

While some kayak anglers like to go to quieter spots and see what’s biting, others prefer popular spots where there’s a greater chance of getting a bite. Fishing reports will give you an idea of what may be in the area, how conditions are, and when may be the best time to hit the water.


Pack Your Kayak Fishing Gear

When kayak fishing it’s essential to have the right gear and equipment. We’ll be giving this topic it’s own section a little later on. For now, what we will say is that it’s important to pack your gear the night before. This is to help make sure that you don’t forget anything. As well as fishing gear and equipment, you’ll also need safety gear as well.


Check your Kayak

It might sound a little extreme, but checking your kayak before hitting the water is certainly well worth doing. Kayaks can become damaged as time goes by, and if your kayak is damaged, it could potentially split and let water in. Once the hull is breached and water starts seeping in, it could sink. The day before you’re due to fish, examine your kayak and look for any signs of damage and general wear and tear.


Don’t Forget Food and Drink

Most kayak fishing trips are not over quickly. They can take a very long time. As you’ll be on the water for a long time, you’ll need food and drink to get you through the day. Water is especially important on hot days, as the last thing you want is to dehydrate. The night before you’re due to fish, prepare some food for your trip and don’t forget the water. A cooler bag or box will work particularly well. Best of all is that you can store your cooler in your kayak so you can have a little picnic on the water.


Charge Your Phone and Keep it Dry

Whether you’re fishing on a quiet lake in the countryside, or on rough seas by the coast, a mobile phone is vital. Your phone is your lifeline in the unlikely event of you running into trouble. We know that phones and water generally don’t mix, so be sure to keep your phone dry, unless it’s a waterproof model. You can also purchase waterproof cases. Make sure your phone is charged before you head out fishing.


Don’t Forget a Change of Clothes

Another very important thing to consider before a kayak fishing trip is a change of clothes. When fishing you’ll be on the water, you’ll get wet, you may smell, and you could get muddy. Nobody wants to be walking around wet, stinky, and muddy so pack a change of clean dry clothes to slip into once you’ve finished fishing.


Kayak Fishing Gear and Equipment

Now we’re going to look at what kind of gear and equipment you’ll need to purchase and pack before a fishing trip.


Water shoes

When kayak fishing, water shoes are worth their weight in gold. Water shoes are absolutely essential before any kayak fishing trip. Water shoes are basically special shoes which are designed to be worn in water. Not only do they help to keep your feet drier than regular shoes, they are also grippy. They offer superior grip to help prevent slippages. This, combined with the closed toe design, means that your feet are better protected in the water and you’re less likely to slip. Water shoes are also very comfortable and are designed to prevent blisters.



Obviously, you will need to invest in a kayak if you intend on taking part in kayak fishing trips. As we mentioned, kayaks can vary hugely in terms of price, design, shape, and size. Decide on where you intend on fishing and use the info listed above to choose your ideal kayak. Don’t forget what we said about weight and length.



Suitable clothing for kayak fishing is vital. When fishing, particularly at sea, temperatures can be much lower than in built up areas. This is where warmer clothing is recommended. You can purchase a complete Drysuit, or if you don’t mind getting in and out of the water, a wetsuit would be better. Just remember that hypothermia can kill, so be sure to wear plenty of protective layers. Never wear cotton clothing as this can stick to your skin and it does not wick water away. If the weather is very hot, a wetsuit with a Dry Top may be best.


Kayak fishing Gear

We can’t tell you what fishing gear to take with you because it depends where you plan on fishing and what you’re looking to catch. What you will of course need however, is a fishing rod, along with bait, tackle box, and all the usual fishing equipment. You may also wish to invest in a GPS unit to pinpoint exactly where you are and where you’re heading.


Emergency Flares

No, we don’t mean flared trousers from the 70s, we mean emergency flares that you use in an emergency. If you find yourself trapped at sea, you can send up an emergency red or orange flare. This is to let people know you’re in distress, and it’s to help them trace your location. If you fish in shore, flares are probably not needed. If you fish at sea however, we recommend purchasing some emergency flares.


Airhorn and Whistle

As well as flares, a whistle and/or airhorn will also prove very useful for alerting people to your location if you’re in trouble. Basically, the noise will let people know you’re in distress and will help people to trace your location quickly.



Even in the winter you can potentially get sunburn, which is why sunscreen is essential all year round. If the sun is shining, be sure to pack some sunscreen and apply it liberally before setting off. As you’ll be in the water, water-resistant cream is always strongly recommended.


First Aid Kit

Another important item you’ll need to pack during a kayak fishing trip is a first aid kit. First aid kits will contain all of the basic necessities for dealing with injury whilst out and about. Whether you need to dress a wound to stop it getting infected, or perhaps treat an injury to stop it bleeding, a first aid kit should always be found tucked away inside your kayak.



Thought that anchors were simply used by huge cruise ships docking at ports? Think again. Anchors are just as important to kayak anglers as they are to cruise ships. Folding anchors are popular amongst kayak anglers. These folding anchors weigh anything from 1.5lbs to 5lbs in weight. They’re small so they’re easy to carry, and not too heavy. You may even wish to use a stake out pole. This is basically a large pole which is designed to be stuck into the muddy riverbed during flats fishing.



Even though your fishing will primarily be performed during the day, you never know when a torch will come in handy. Not only will a torch help you to see in poor visibility, it may also make it easier to examine your kayak if you need to check for damage perhaps?


Kayak Fishing Tips

Fisherman on a kayak

We’re now going to finish this handy guide off by looking at a few kayak fishing tips for you to follow.


Speak to a kayak fishing Expert

If you’re new to the world of kayak fishing, the first thing you need to do is speak to a kayak fishing expert. These experts will be able to tell you everything you need to know about kayak fishing. They’ll teach you how to cast off, how to choose the right kayak, what to purchase, what to pack, and much more.


Master Sight Fishing

A true kayak angler must have mastered the art of sight fishing. Sight fishing is basically where you look into the water to spot fish with your eyes. Polarized sunglasses work especially well in this instance. They help reduce glare from the water and the sunlight and will help you to spot fish under the water. Be patient, as this process can take time.


Accessorize your Kayak

Once you have your ideal kayak, next it will be time to customize it. Basically, you will attach and store everything you need for fishing in/on your vessel. This means you’ll need somewhere to secure your fishing rod holder, your tackle box, and any other miscellaneous gear you may be bringing with you. Just remember not to overload your kayak otherwise it will become too heavy.


Never Tether Your Anchor from the Side

When tethering your kayak’s anchor, you need to make sure that you always tether it from the bow or the stern (front or back) of your kayak. The reason for this is that if you tether it from the side, your kayak could very well capsize. This is obviously the last thing you want to happen.


Create a kayak fishing Checklist

When packing and preparing for a kayak fishing trip, always plan in advance. Take the time to create a checklist and check off every item once complete. This way you’ll be less likely to forget anything important.