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In less than a decade kayak fishing has become internationally popular. From saltwater coastlines to inland lakes and streams, anglers are catching a wide range of sport fish from kayaks. If you’re new to kayak fishing, the following tips will help you paddle your way to great rod-bending action.

Kayak Benefits

Anglers who use a kayak’s strengths to their advantage will experience good fishing. Matt Kitchen, Mitchell Brand Manager and experienced kayak angler, likes the portability and easy launch characteristics for reaching less pressured waterways.

“A kayak gives you a lot more access to water that you traditionally don’t have with a power boat,” Kitchen said. “You really only need an open piece of land with access to the water to be able to get in.”

Stealth is another strength. Paddling is quiet and being low to the water helps sneak-up on fish. A kayak draws very little water, too. These traits make a kayak perfect for stalking skittish fish, especially in shallow water.

Kitchen prefers a sit-on-top (SOT) kayak for fishing in temperate climates. SOTs are more fishing friendly. Many are stable enough to stand on, which is better than being seated for sight-fishing and underhand casting tactics. SOTs are also easier to rig with fishing accessories compared to most sit-in kayaks.

Customize Your Kayak

Rigging a kayak for fishing will make you a more efficient angler.

  • Keep tackle, pliers, a landing net, water and other important items within easy reach. Kitchen secures tools with lanyards to prevent losing them overboard.
  • Mount rod holders on a kayak for trolling and carrying spare combos.
  • Install a sonar/GPS unit. It helps locates fish and improves navigation. Waypoint the launch site.
  • Use boat control accessories to stay on biting fish. A shallow-water stake, anchor trolley combined with an anchor or drift sock, as well as a rudder are popular items.
  • Install a mini downrigger for precision trolling for suspending fish, like trout. Kitchen made his own from a rod holder, fly reel and kite rod.

Fishing Strategies

A kayak can’t move as quickly or cover as much water as a power boat. Successful kayak anglers tailor tactics accordingly.

  • Use versatile, easy-to-fish lures. This reduces retying and re-rigging, which means you make more casts in the day and catch more fish because of it.
  • Locate fish using search baits, like spinnerbaits, swimbaits, and crankbaits. After catching active fish, backtrack with a small jig, drop-shot or other finesse bait to coax more bites from less active ones.
  • Change tactics to target different species before leaving an area. Kitchen carries three to five rod and reel combos for fast change-ups between species.
  • Troll from a kayak to cover water or as an alternative to casting.

Other Tips

  • Except for tight-to-cover tactics, Kitchen recommends a 6’6″ or longer rod. The extra length helps control a fish and maneuver it around the kayak and other tangle hazards, like an anchor rope.
  • Consider using single-hook baits whenever possible and pinching down barbs for speedy hook removal.
  • For comfort, invest in a light paddle. Tether it to the kayak using a leash.
  • Check local and state regulations for required safety and boating equipment.
  • Carry a whistle or other sounding device for alerting power boats of your location.
  • Always wear a life vest.

Kayak fishing is a fun, relaxing way to wet a line. If you haven’t already, give it a try.


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