Kayak Fishing For Beginners

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Christina Bishop


a kayak on a lake with trees in the background

In this post, we’ll cover 10 tips for kayak fishing for beginners!

If you are completely new to kayaking, be sure to check our blog for kayaking for beginners to learn the basics. Once you have learned the basics about recreational kayaking, you can have even more fun by combining another favorite pastime – fishing!

#1 Check The Weather


The weather will make a big difference in how well your first trip goes. I know, the fish usually bite more on cloudy or even rainy days and you are probably tempted to wait until then… Just remember that you are going to have to learn how to cast while keeping the kayak stable, so opt for a clear day!

If you do not have much experience paddling a kayak, wait until the windspeed is 10 knots. Or less until you gain more confidence.

I highly recommend a clear day on calm waters so you can practice casting while keeping your kayak stable.

#2 Safety First


I cannot stress this enough – always wear a personal flotation device aka life vest. Why is this so important? You will be moving around the kayak even more when casting and reeling in your big catch!

Once you lose your balance and capsize just one time, you will appreciate having a life jacket while trying to re-enter your kayak!

Fishing life vests are dual purpose because they come with special pockets. You can keep things in them like a multi-tool, pliers and more!

Also, check out our blog post entitled “kayaking must haves“. We cover all of the essential safety items you need before launching your kayak.

#3 Choose The Best Location

As they say, location, location location! First, you are going to need to figure out what type of fish you want to catch. This will help you narrow down what fishing gear you will take with you, including what bait to choose.

If you are an experienced angler, then everything you know still applies here. Just try not to take your whole tackle box like you would on the shore or a bass boat.

Most fishing kayaks have a limited amount of space for just 2 or 3 plano tackle containers.

For example, if you want to land a largemouth or smallmouth bass, plan to head over to your local lake only with fishing lures that will attract bass.

Crankbait, Chatterbait, topwater lures, silver spoons and live nightcrawler worms are all great options if the weather is still under 90 degrees.

Stick to the coves and shallow waters if you can, and look for structures like underwater logs and trees.

If it is summer and the weather is hot, then the bass will be in deeper water. Plan on taking nightcrawlers or artificial worms instead.

If you are planning to catch trout, you will need to find cold water and choose different bait. Many smaller ponds, rivers and streams are stocked full of trout.

We are fortunate enough to be in the North Georgia Mountains where we have some smaller stocked ponds and lakes that are cool enough to catch trout.

Trout will hit corn, salmon eggs and many types of artificial bait. Check your local department of natural resources to find out where the trout are stocked and how often.

Don’t forget that you will need a special trout fishing license in addition to your regular fishing license.

If you plan to fish in saltwater as a beginner, try to find a calm body of water like a bay or a sound.

#4 Secure Everything


When you are kayaking, anything can go overboard. Waves, heavy winds or your own wrong moves can cost you a lot of expensive fishing gear.

Thankfully, fishing kayaks already come ready to hold your fishing poles and help secure your gear. However, if you have a recreational kayak without the fishing enhancements, you can still secure everything with bungee cords, dry bags or a paddle leash.

Just remember that everything should either be tied to the kayak, in a dry bag that is tied to a kayak or in a secure compartment.

I recommend that you put your cell phone and/or VHF Marine transceiver in a waterproof plastic bag (zip log bags are fine) and put it inside your life vest.

You never know if you might need to call for help, and if you capsize your communications devices will not be where you can get to them if they are still in your kayak or at the bottom of the lake!

#5 Use One Hand

If you don’t have pedals or a motor, you are going to need that extra hand to paddle while you catch fish! Paddling with one hand is not easy, but if you are in calm waters you should be able to make fewer strokes in order to stay on course.

I highly recommend that you practice paddling one-handed before you go out there with a fishing pole.

Here’s a tip – If you are using your right hand for the forward stroke, you can use the left side of your torso (upper chest, shoulder, etc.) to support the paddle while you grip the shaft just above the blade with you right hand.

Here is a short video on how to do One Arm Paddling.

#6 Get An Anchor


If you are a recreational kayaker who has not yet had the thrill of fishing from a kayak, you probably haven’t thought about an anchor. Having a kayak anchor is a great way to help you focus on fishing without having to paddle or fight the drifting kayak.

There are some great options out there for fold-able anchors, drag chains and even drift socks.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to reel in your big catch with one hand and still have a free hand to snap a photo to prove it happened?

#7 Keep Fishing Tackle And Essentials Close


If you don’t keep your rigging close, things can get messy! Fish are messy enough already!

Once you get that bite and start reeling ’em in, you don’t want to be fumbling around for pliers or a net. You might lose the catch, or even worse, you may knock things over into the water while you are looking for what you really need!

Find a way to get your gear organized. Use Plano-style plastic containers for fishing lures if you can. If you have a fishing kayak, take advantage of those rod holders and storage compartments under the seat and in front of you. After all, you paid a premium for the convenience of a fishing kayak.

If you don’t have a rod holder, you can buy them, and they are worth it!

When you plan to go fishing from your kayak, less is more. I know you have probably seen those decked-out fishing kayaks with at least 5 fishing poles, tackle boxes, etc.

Just remember that you will have plenty of other essentials to take with you besides all that fishing tackle.

I know from experience how time-consuming it is to load and unload too much gear when you launch and land your kayak.

Remember to pack snacks or a sandwich, and keep those goodies close by too!

#8 Get A Fish Finder


I have to admit, I didn’t think I would need a fish finder in my fishing kayak. After all, I grew up learning how to fish from a bass boat and I could smell a fish a mile away!

That’s because my father taught me to look for structure or stay in the coves, and I thought that was enough to know.

Well, I am not fishing at the same lake I grew up going to, so things are a bit more challenging. I went out on my kayak rigged for fishing at least 5 different times hoping to catch something.

Did I catch anything? No! I started hanging around some other anglers who had fish finders, and I saw that they were catching fish!

Of course, I decided to get a fish finder, and now I am catching fish! One major advantage you have with a fish finder is you know the water depth.

You can also detect underwater structures and rapid changes in water depth that you cannot see, and that is where the fish like to hang out!

#9 Get Some Quality Sunglasses


Those drug store sunglasses may be great for driving, but they are not so great on the water. I highly recommend investing in a good pair of polarized, floatable sunglasses. You can see thru the water better, and if they fall in the water they will float!

If you insist on using your drug store sunglasses, you can a lanyard or some floating croakies.

I don’t know about you, but my eyes do not adjust well out on the water without sunglasses. That could be a big problem if you don’t protect them!

#10 Get A Landing Net And Measuring Device


It’s so much easier to land fish in the boat with a net! Sure, you can reel ’em in without one, but it is safer and easier with a landing net!

I recommend that you get one that is foldable and made of rubber. The reason for not using a mesh net made of cloth is that your treble hook lures may get stuck in them. I have had that happen many times, and I have spent hours untangling them!

While you are at it, get yourself a measuring device and/or a fish scale. A bump board is a popular choice because you can put the fish on it and tell the length and width right away.

A fish scale will tell you the weight. Then it’s up to you to tell everyone else how big it really was. You know, those stories about the monster fish that got away!

These are just a few tips to help you be safe, have fun and catch fish while you are out on the water. Let me know if you have any questions or comments!

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Christina Bishop, an ardent hiker and kayaker, distills years of outdoor adventures into expert guidance for fellow nature lovers. Her extensive experience is the foundation of trustworthy and professional advice on navigating the great outdoors. Christina’s dedication to the wilderness shines through her insightful tips, inspiring confidence and a deeper appreciation for nature’s wonders.