How To Kayak Fish?

How To Kayak Fish?

Whether you’re familiar with recreational kayaking or you’re entirely new to the sport, there is a lot to think about when you’re making the transition from regular kayaking to kayak fishing.

Learning how to kayak fish isn’t overly complicated but it can take some time to perfect your technique and maximize your efficiency on the water.

Plus, there are some nuances that you might not even think to consider when you’re first dipping your toes into the sport of kayak fishing.

In the interest of giving you as many tools in your toolkit as possible before you climb in your kayak and set out, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to kayak fish.

We’ll cover tips and strategies that will help you become a successful kayak angler in a variety of scenarios.

At the end of this article, we’ll also highlight a few fishing kayaks that are great selections for beginners. But, if you’re interested in a more complete review of kayaks you can buy for fishing, check out our full article on the best fishing kayaks!

How To Kayak Fish?

The basics of kayak fishing involve maintaining your stability while casting, retrieving, and handling your catch.

These techniques don’t differ drastically from those that you’d use to fish from shore, but there are some key differences we’d like to highlight here.


One of the more important skills you can learn for kayak fishing is the one-handed cast. This casting technique will enable you to keep your off-hand free to paddle your kayak or direct the handle on your trolling motor.

Fishing from a kayak makes it difficult to execute the standard two-handed windup cast because of the minimal distance between your kayak seat and the surface of the water.

This means you’ll need to learn to execute a lower-angled cast with just one hand.

One way to make learning this technique easier is to choose a lighter combo and to carefully select your tackle.

Most kayak anglers prefer baitcasting or spinning tackle because they tend to require more finesse casting tactics that are easier to execute from a seated position.


Depending on the type of bait and/or tackle you’re using, you can actually strategize your retrievals to help steer your kayak. Usually, this is going to be more effective if you’re using heavier tackle like crankbait, spinnerbait, or chatterbait.

After you cast, you’ll probably notice that these heavier baits will cause the bow of your kayak to pivot in one direction as you’re retrieving it.

If you plan ahead, you can actually use this to your advantage to direct your kayak with your retrievals rather than having to use your paddle to change the direction of your kayak.

Depending on the depth of the water and the weight of your tackle, you may also have to adjust your rod to a higher angle to avoid snags when kayak fishing.

This is, again, largely because you’ll be sitting much closer to the water’s surface than you would be if you were fishing from shore or from a motorized watercraft.

One other tip for retrieving when kayak fishing is to make sure you keep the tip of your fishing rod on the same side of the kayak you cast towards.

It’s always best to avoid retrieving your line in such a way that causes it to run underneath your kayak, as this can result in snags that can be difficult and frustrating to correct.

Handling Your Catch

One of the difficulties of kayak fishing is being confined to a smaller space when you hook into a catch and bring it up onto your kayak.

The smaller surface area of a kayak (compared to the shoreline or a motorboat) means that you’ll have to be more careful and efficient when removing your tackle to either release or store your catch.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended that you leave at least one rod length’s worth of line out between the tip of your kayak and your catch.

This line length will give you the flexibility to lay your rod down or place it in one of your fishing rod holders while you use both hands to handle your catch.

One kayak fishing accessory that can really come in handy when you’re handling your catch is a quality set of kayak fishing gloves.

These gloves can help to protect your hands from the sharp fins of your catch or the sharp hooks on your tackle.

In addition to this, you’ll probably want to have a quality set of fishing snips readily accessible if you find yourself in the position of having to cut your line in order to successfully remove a hook from a fish’s mouth.

The good news about kayak fishing is that you should be wearing one of the best PFDs for kayak fishing and many of these will have a hook to which you can attach these snips so that they’re easy to grab and use at a moment’s notice.

If you think you’ll prefer to keep some of the fish you catch to bring them home, then you’ll also need to equip your vessel with a kayak cooler.

Securing that cooler in the stern storage compartment right behind your kayak seat will make it much easier to get your fish from the hook into your cooler without too much delay.

Choosing The Right Rod For Kayak Fishing

Selecting the right rod and reel combination for kayak fishing also differs from choosing a rod for shoreline fishing.

There are certain criteria that are unique to kayak fishing that will help you select a rod and reel that will be easy and effective to use when fishing from a kayak.


Choosing a rod that’s the correct length for your kayak fishing setup can require a delicate balance between having enough length to extend your pole past the bow of your kayak and having too much length that makes it difficult to cast and handle from a seated position.

As a general rule, most kayak anglers choose a rod length that’s at least 6’6” long. But, on the other end of the spectrum, most anglers tend to avoid rods that are more than eight feet long because they make it more difficult to cast effectively from a seated position.

In addition, some kayak anglers prefer rods that can break down into multiple parts when they’re not using them. These rods can be more easily stored on a smaller kayak than something that remains at its full length all the time.


Most kayak anglers prefer to use a lighter rod and reel combination than you would typically use to fish from shore. Part of the reason for this is that it can be harder to engage your core and lower body in the casting motion than it would be if you were standing.

But it’s also because standard overhead casting is virtually impossible when you’re sitting down in a kayak.

So a lighter rod and reel combination can help anglers get more distance on their casts when they’re forced to use the kind of low-angled casting technique that’s required of kayak fishing.

When you’re looking for a fishing rod with a lighter weight, one of the more popular rod materials to look for is graphite.

Graphite rods can be more expensive than their fiberglass counterparts, but they’re much lighter and they also tend to be more durable in the long-term.

Rod Action

Rod action is the amount of curvature a rod can sustain when it is under tension (i.e. you have a fish on). Generally speaking, anglers choose rods with less flexibility when they’re fishing for larger species and more flexibility when fishing for smaller species.

A rod with less flexibility will make it easier to reel in a world-record tuna, but it will also make the rod tip less sensitive to nibbles or bites from smaller fish.

On the other hand, rods with more flexibility tend to be more sensitive for fishing smaller species, but they can make it more difficult to fight a larger fish if you hook into one.

Because it can be difficult to handle very large fish when you’re seated in a kayak, most kayak anglers tend to choose rods with moderate to slow action. But, this choice can also vary depending on your preference.

Of course, if you’re in need of a rod and reel for saltwater kayak fishing, there’s going to be a higher likelihood of catching something larger that requires a stiffer rod.

If this is how you plan to kayak fish, be sure to check out our selections for the best rod and reel for saltwater kayak fishing.

Reel Selection

There are actually a lot of criteria to consider when you’re choosing a reel for kayak fishing. But, because of the importance of one-handed casting, the first major decision you’ll need to make is whether you want a left-handed or right-handed reel.

From there, you’ll need to consider drag, bails, bearings, and the quality of the materials used in the construction of the reel.

All of this can vary based on where you plan to do most of your kayak fishing and the types of species that live in your favorite fishing holes.

One of the most important things to remember when choosing a reel for kayak fishing is that a reel made entirely with rust-resistant components will generally last longer than a reel that isn’t.

But, if you’re looking for more tips on this topic, check out our full article on how to select the right rod and reel for kayak fishing.

Tips For Stand Up Kayak Fishing

Once you gain some comfort with the basic techniques for kayak fishing, you might begin to consider the benefits of fishing from a standing position in your kayak.

But, before you go ahead and try to stand in your kayak, consider these tips for stand up kayak fishing.

Choose A Wider Kayak

As you’d probably imagine, standing up in your kayak requires having a more stable base than if you remain sitting the entire time.

There are definitely benefits of standing up in your kayak to fish, but before you do so, you should make sure you have a wider kayak to give you more stability.

As a general recommendation, try to choose a kayak with a minimum width of 34 inches. Of course, larger individuals should probably opt for a wider kayak if you can find it while shorter kayak anglers may be able to get away with balancing just fine on a narrower kayak.

Anchor Your Kayak

Anchoring your kayak is a great way to keep your kayak more stable when standing up to fish.

And it will also allow you to focus all of your attention on fishing instead of worrying about whether or not you’re drifting dangerously far from your original launching location.

If you’re struggling to get your anchor to set when you drop it over the side of your kayak, check out this video on effective kayak anchoring techniques!

Stick To The Shoreline

Especially when you’re just starting to explore how it feels to stand up in your kayak for a higher fishing angle, it’s a good idea to stick close to the shoreline.

Not only will this help you avoid getting your kayak into swifter currents that make it harder to balance, but it will also allow you to get to an area where you can stand more quickly if you do happen to fall in!

Because kayak anglers tend to have more gear and accessories on their kayaks than other kayakers, getting back into a kayak in deep water can be a bigger challenge.

So staying close to the shoreline can also be a good general recommendation for new kayak anglers, regardless of whether you’re sitting or standing!

How To Cover More Ground When Kayak Fishing

As you gain experience and comfort fishing from your kayak, it’s natural to want to spend more time exploring the lakes, rivers, ponds, and/or coastal waterways in your area.

So, many anglers find themselves exploring ways to cover more ground in a shorter amount of time when kayak fishing.

Master The One-Handed Paddle

Once you’ve mastered the art of one-handed casting, your other hand will be free to perform other tasks that are essential to kayak fishing. And one of those tasks is maneuvering your kayak with your off-hand.

Your choice of which hand to use for casting and which to leave free for paddling is ultimately going to be up to you.

Some anglers actually prefer to keep their strong hand free to maneuver their kayak while their off-hand handles their fishing rod, but others like to keep their dominant hand on their rod at all times.

The one-handed kayak paddle requires practice, but it’s an essential skill to help you correct the course of your kayak when you’re moving downstream.

Even if you’re fishing on a lake or pond, it can help you reposition your kayak to minimize draft and keep your boat from drifting too far in a direction you don’t want to go.

The best method for using one hand to steer your kayak is to position your paddle parallel to your forearm and then lock the shaft of your paddle against your forearm.

This essentially anchors your kayak against your arm and allows you to use one paddle much like you would a canoe paddle.

Aside from that technique, you can also place your hand directly in the center of your paddle shaft and rotate your wrist to dip one blade of your paddle in at a time (as pictured below).

This will provide gentle locomotion for your kayak in your preferred direction, but it’s not a very efficient technique for covering any sort of distance.

Interestingly enough, they also make one-handed kayak paddles that are specifically designed for fishing applications.

So, if you’re having trouble mastering the one-handed paddling technique with a traditional kayak paddle, you can check these one-handed kayak paddles out online!

Choose A Pedal-Powered Kayak

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of mastering that awkward-looking one-handed paddling technique, you can always choose one of the best pedal fishing kayaks.

This will allow you to use your feet and legs to maneuver your kayak while your hands are free to fish.

A pedal-powered kayak can also allow you to drop multiple lines in the water at once. You’ll be able to set up one rod for trolling purposes while keeping another rod in your preferred hand for active casting and retrieving.

But, you’ll still need to master that one-handed casting technique because most of these kayaks require regular adjustments to a rudder or skeg to keep your kayak pointed in your desired direction.

These adjustments are usually made by hand rather than using the kinds of foot pedals you’d find in some of the best touring kayaks.

Install a Trolling Motor

If you really want to cover some extra ground while minimizing the amount of effort you have to expend to maneuver your kayak, you can install a trolling motor at the stern of your fishing kayak.

These motors require a large 12-volt battery that must also be installed towards the stern of your kayak to provide power to the motor itself.

But they come with a wide variety of shaft lengths and they can be installed either on the bow, stern, or gunwales of most fishing kayaks.

If you plan to operate your trolling motor by hand, you’ll probably want to choose a side-mounted option so that it’s easy to reach the steering handle from your seated position.

But if you choose a higher-end trolling motor that comes with remote operation, you can install it directly at the bow or stern and then use the remote to control it from your kayak seat.

The important thing to know about installing a trolling motor is that not all kayaks are compatible with all types of trolling motors.

So, if you’re interested in going this route to cover more ground when kayak fishing, we’d recommend checking out our full article on how to put a trolling motor on a kayak.

Get A Fishing Partner

Another great way to cover more ground when you’re kayak fishing is to find a trusted kayak fishing partner.

This technique has the added benefit of giving you someone to verify that record-breaking catch rather than you having to awkwardly try to snap a photo of it while your hands are full with your paddle, fishing rod, and the fish itself.

Fishing with a partner will allow you to take turns maneuvering or propelling your kayak forward while the other person is actively fishing.

Plus, you’ll also have more ”˜human power’ to relocate your kayak if both of you want to put your fishing rods down and start paddling to move up a river or to a different part of the lake’s shoreline.

Final Thoughts

When all is said and done, kayak anglers can enjoy access to more remote fishing locations that simply aren’t accessible from shore or even using a motorized watercraft. This is one of the best reasons to learn how to kayak fish if you’re tired of the monotony of fishing from shore.

If you’re just getting into kayak fishing, we recommend looking for a course or class in your area that you can join to learn the basics from an expert.

But you can also check out this awesome video on the top three fishing techniques that every kayak angler should know!

We hope you have a much better idea of how kayak fishing differs from other types of fishing and how you can begin to practice this sport without hassle or stress. As always, we wish you the best of luck on all of your future kayak fishing adventures!


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Peter Salisbury

Pete is the Owner of Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him skiing in the mountains, reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.

Welcome! I’m so glad you are here :-) I’m Pete. I am the owner of I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When I am not out on the water, you can find me skiing in the mountains, reading my favorite books, and spending time with my family.