The Ultimate Kayak Fishing Tips

There are few experiences that rival the sense of stealthily gliding across the water to some hidden spot few others frequent, as you watch for any disturbance on the surface to hint at the presence of big fish. Scenes like this are what have made kayak fishing a popular pursuit. For seasoned anglers, and beginners alike, the ability to access places motorboats cannot, matched with the affordability of kayaking, and the pairing of multiple aspects of outdoor recreation are huge draws. At first the wide variety of gear choices and initial learning curve of kayaking can seem a bit daunting, but once you hop in, you’ll see it is truly one of the most accessible activities out there. Here are 10 essential kayak fishing tips to help you get started.



The best fishing kayak is the one you own. With that being said, in recent years the technology and design of boats being built specifically for kayak fishing have come a long way. Finding a boat rigged to fish will provide you with a more enjoyable experience and provide limitless potential for your new obsession.

Old Town’s Topwater series is a solid example of many of the key design features. The Topwater is a sit-on-top design, meaning you are not enclosed inside the boat at all, and any water that enters will drain out. This style, accompanied by the wide and stable DoubleU ™  hull design, which can also be referred to as a pontoon shape, make for a great beginner fishing kayak. These are aspects sought after by expert kayak anglers, meaning you have a vessel you’ll never grow out of.

Here are a few other features to look for in a fishing kayak that will be beneficial out on the water:

  • Elevated seat position for increased field of vision and all-day comfort
  • Multiple rod holders
  • Paddle holder
  • Enclosed storage, also referred to as a dry hatch
  • Deck storage with bungee to keep items secure
  • GPS/fish finder mount for when you decide to add some gadgetry
  • Retractable pedal power propeller (optional hands-free propulsion available on some fishing kayaks)


Choosing the proper paddle is nearly as integral as choosing your kayak. When looking at paddles, you want an overall length that allows you to reach the water comfortably but not so long as to be unwieldy. The recommended length is based on a formula of your height, boat width, and paddling style, but a good starting place for most people is around 250 centimeters (or approximately 8’ 2”).


Kayak fishing is an activity on, near, and perhaps, if things don’t go according to plan, in the water. You should always wear a personal floatation device (PFD), more commonly known as a life jacket.  However, there are benefits to them other than keeping you afloat. PFDs designed for kayak fishing like Old Town’s Lure Angler jacket are sewn with roomy compartments that perfectly fit small tackle boxes for your go to lures, hooks, and leaders. Reducing the need to pull to shore, unstrap, and comb through a bulky tackle box.


One of the most alluring parts of kayak fishing is how close it brings you to the elements. This exposure also means you need to be mindful of dressing appropriately.

If you are fishing in wide open areas exposed to sun and heat, consider wearing a lightweight long-sleeve shirt, hat, and sunglasses to minimize exposure to harsh rays. You can also find lightweight shell pants, neck gaiters, and gloves to increase protection. Dipping any of your items in the water and putting them back on is another great way to keep cool. Don’t forget to pack water and sunscreen.

It isn’t a day in the tropics for everyone. Many of us are out roaming in cold water and/or air temperatures. Even if the outside temp is mild, an extended plunge in cold water can lead to hypothermia. A wetsuit is an affordable and durable option to keep you warm and could also be paired with a shell jacket for increased wind protection. At the very minimum, wear proper layers such as wool or a synthetic material like polypropylene, along with a water-repellent shell.



Bass are one of the most popular species for kayak fishing. To target bass, you will want to put together a tackle box equipped with lures they cannot resist. Start with a handful of lures that will provide you different presentations and allow you to reach different water sections. Have a top water lure to skitter along the surface; spinner or crank baits to pull across your desired water column;  and a bag of wormlike soft baits that you can rig in a variety of ways, from diving, to jigging, and even just suspending. Learn how to use your different types of lures and add to your toolbox from there.


It can be difficult to know what the bass are up to each day. Rather than eating up time changing your lures back and forth, have a couple of rods rigged up and ready to fly. Rods in the seven-foot range work well for kayak fishing. If you are new to the sport, a spinning reel will be quicker to get the hang of compared to a bait casting reel.


A fishing kayak provides the distinct advantage to go just about anywhere on the water. You can hug banks, slide between tree stumps, or cruise through lily pads. You will greatly increase your success by using this advantage and understanding where the bass will most likely be. Changes in depth, land that pinches the water body, partially submerged objects, and the edges of aquatic vegetation, are all great places to start.

man using a kayak fish finder



Your first time casting from a kayak will probably feel a little awkward. The boat is going to wobble around which might have you believe it is unstable and ready to flip. It might sound easier said than done, but you have to remember to relax and trust your boat for what it was built for.

Your kayak design has what is called initial and secondary stability. Initial stability is the boat sitting flat in the water as you paddle around. Secondary stability occurs when the boat leans, such as when you make a dramatic movement. This is the stability you have to trust.

When we say relax, we mean loosen up the lower half of your body and let the boat roll side to side below your waist. Ease up on your casts while you are getting comfortable with this. Make nice easy lobs. Practice staying loose in the boat and getting your lure to land softly in the water.

If your fishing kayak has a wide platform design, like the Topwater we mentioned earlier, you may one day feel confident to make standing casts, which is a great way to increase your line of sight and casting distance. If you try this, remember to stand with feet wide apart, bend your knees, and stay loose below your waist for the same reasons as above.


Paddling is half the fun (and challenge) of kayak fishing. Proper strokes will help you move effectively toward your intended destinations, especially when facing strong wind or current. Correct paddle strokes also save you energy for the fight on the end of your line.

The forward stroke is the stroke you will use more than any other. It provides the motor to take you where you want to go. Here are a few tips on the forward stroke:

  • Look where you want go.
  • Place paddle blade in the water near your toes, or as far as comfortable without over-extending yourself.
  • Allow the blade to submerged in the water before pulling back on it.
  • When pulling the paddle blade through the water, use your large muscle groups in your torso rather than your smaller muscle groups in your arms. You can accomplish this by twisting your torso to move the blade. Think about the way you would twist to pull the starting cord on a lawn mower.
  • Unless you will also use a stroke to steer, you should slice the blade out of the water around your hip to avoid carrying it too far.  


It’s a rewarding feeling when a sporty fish bears down on your lure and your line sizzles off the reel as it takes off. With skill and some luck, the inevitable moment comes when you are ready to land your fish. That’s usually when you realize this last part is a little tricky in a kayak. We’ve all been there.

Reel until you have an arm span or less of line out from the tip of your rod to the fish. Put the rod in your hand furthest from the fish. While keeping tension on the line, draw the rod across your body, away, and slightly up from the fish. Your free hand should now be able to net or cradle the fish in the appropriate manner. Congratulations, on your catch!

angler in fishing kayak catching fish


Remember, kayak fishing is a lifelong pursuit, and personal experience will have the most lessons to teach. The community is also a welcoming one, and many experienced paddling anglers would be happy to share their knowledge. In other words, get out there and fish!

All credit for these awesome tips goes to Old Town Canoe.

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