Kayak fishing: how to start

Kayak fishing is one of the fastest growing sports in America, and for good reason. It’s an affordable, adaptable and sometimes sublime way to spend time on the water. The best part: getting started is easy! For your first kayak, you don’t need anything fancy.

Choosing a fishing kayak

Search the internet or ask your local dealers for advice. Popular brands include Old Town, Hobie, Jackson, Vibe and Wilderness Systems. Personally, I fish from two Old Town kayaks: a BigWater 132 PDL pedal boat and an AutoPilot 120 motorized kayak. In addition to a kayak, you just need a personal flotation device (PFD), a rod and some lures!

Rods And Reels

For rods and reels, use what you have: there’s usually nothing special about kayak combos!

Buy a new rod? Freshwater anglers should consider a smaller reel with an 8-10lb test line (consider the Berkley brand), while saltwater anglers should consider a 3000-4000 size reel instead (Daiwa and Shimano do good products) and a line in the test range of 15-20 lbs. .

I prefer the Daiwa line and bottom for all my saltwater fishing. Fishing flea markets, often advertised at local tackle stores and online fishing groups, are great places to buy used tackle, and as a bonus, you can keep and inspect the material before purchase, unlike an online marketplace.


When buying lures, start simple. For soft plastic freshwater worms, a few spinnerbaits or crankbaits and a surface popper will get you hooked! For saltwater, consider a simple poured and salvaged plug, surface popper, and pre-fitted soft plastic paddle tails. And don’t forget: your local tackle store is an invaluable source of information, so use their knowledge too!

Planning a Trip: Safety, Tides and Moon Phases

As a kayak angler, you have no choice but to place the utmost importance on safety. The alluring simplicity of kayak fishing is also what can make it dangerous if the proper precautions are not taken. A waterproof radio or walkie-talkie, properly fitted PFD, extra water and extra snacks are essential. Also, consider a UV-grade sun shirt with a hood and neck warmer for sun protection.

Also, always file a “float plan” if you’re fishing alone: ​​tell a trusted friend or family member where you’re going, for how long, and when to call the authorities if they don’t have a your news. This is especially important for large lakes or saltwater anglers, as conditions in these waters can deteriorate quickly.

If you’re new to kayak fishing, a simple rule is “your body goes where your head goes”. Keep your head centered on the kayak and your body will follow, maximizing stability. When fighting a large saltwater fish, keep the tip of your rod pointed towards the bow to maintain stability. Freshwater fish like largemouth bass aren’t big enough to rock a kayak, so don’t worry.

A man in a fishing kayak.
Hold your head in the center of the fishing kayak to stay balanced.

Many newcomers to the sport are afraid of tips. Kayaks don’t look that stable, but they are. Especially the new models of fishing kayaks, which even offer the possibility of standing up while fishing. Kayak hull designs maximize primary and secondary stability making it extremely hard to tip over.

When you prepare lures, bring as much material as you want. Kayaks can hold anything, especially fishing kayaks which offer weight capacities in the range of 500 lbs. Floating tackle boxes are available, but you’ll likely have to pay extra. Many anglers use rod ties attached to their gear so that when tipped they can keep their valuables from sinking.

In terms of weather, check the Farmers Almanac weather forecast to know what to expect. Sunny days are nice, but sometimes the best fishing is in windy or wet conditions, so an understanding of and respect for the weather and wind is crucial.

When it comes to the Moon and tides, fishing superstitions abound. Some say fishing is best during a full or new moon (or in the days just before or after those two phases). In salt water, you are guaranteed strong currents on a full moon.

I personally don’t have a particular love for full moon fishing, and in fact, I recently had a full moon “fish closing” moment. The same is true for tidal flow. Some anglers swear by an inbound or an outbound. For me, a moving tide is a good tide, whether it’s an ebb or a flood.

Transporting your fishing kayak

Transporting your kayak is easy, no matter what vehicle you have. Put it in the bed of a truck, strap it to roof racks, or strap it to the roof using foam pool noodles as padding! Here is a short video which gives some tips on loading and unloading a fishing kayak:

When and where to go kayak fishing

Use online tools like Navionics chart viewer to help identify hot spots.

In the fall, I balance the joys of dropping green crabs near rocks for tautog with the electric thrill of trying to spot, hunt and land false albacore, a fast pelagic (migratory, deep sea) which is only coastal for about a month. in the fall, usually in September or October.

Your local tackle store can outfit you with a simple rig: green crabs and a jig. For albies (yellowfin), try epoxy jigs and small metals, spooled at about twice your normal speed on a light line, about 12-15 lbs test. When you hook an albie… you’ll know it!

Fish tacos recipe

If you are lucky enough to catch black bass or tautog, these are excellent species to eat. Both provide hearty fillets without a heavy fishy taste. Try frying them in oil using a layer of flour, egg and breadcrumbs with a little Old Bay sprinkled on. My favorite secret weapon for a great fish taco is mango salsa with a hint of chipotle mayonnaise on top!

Try it and you will love it!

Kayak fishing is exploding in popularity in the United States. Affordability, accessibility and adaptability are a trio of features that have anglers in all 50 states jumping into small plastic boats and chasing fish. My best advice: if you haven’t done it yet, give it a try!

Be careful, you could become addicted!

Join the discussion!

Have you ever used a fishing kayak?

What are your favorite places to go fishing?

Let us know in the comments below!

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Matt Stone is a writer who is a trusted authority on the fishing category.

matte stone

Matt Stone is an accomplished writer and saltwater kayak fisherman based in southern Connecticut. It targets striped bass, tautog, false albacore and a variety of other species in Long Island Sound. Stone writes for many popular fishing publications: Angler’s Journal, Coastal Angler, Fish Talk and On The Water Magazines. He also recounts his experiences to OldTownCanoe.com, BlackHallOutfitters.comand on Instagram @sunrisekayakfishing.