Kayak Fishing: The Basics of Getting Started

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Kayak Fishing: A Viable Alternative

Like many anglers out there, you may spend your time fishing from the bank or fishing piers because that is your only means of fishing you know or is available to you.

If so, it might be time for you to look into kayak fishing.

Kayak fishing is a widely popular and increasingly growing recreational sport enjoyed by millions of people. In this article, I will share with you what I have learned over my years of being out on the water kayak fishing.

There are alternate ways to get out on the water without having to spend tens of thousands of dollars on fishing boats. Kayak fishing is a great and  fairly inexpensive option when it comes to getting out on the water and opening up your ability to find more fish.

Not only will it give you a broader area to fish, it is also a great form of exercise whether you are pedaling or paddling. To take it a step further, it’s something almost anyone can do and a great way to spend quality time with family and friends while creating lifelong memories.

Over my years of kayaking, I have made many great friends and have been blessed to have experienced some amazing waters and fisheries! 

Getting Started: Choosing the Right Kayak for You

Kayak Fishing_How to Get Started
Photo via Derek Brazauskas

Getting started, you first want to figure out what type of fishing you will be doing and what types of waters you will be on the majority of the time. This will help you in deciding the best kayak for what you are doing.

There are two basic types of kayaks: sit-in and sit-on-top. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Sit-in kayaks are typically lighter and easier to get into small places and also easier to transport. The cons (for sit-in kayaks) would be that they are less stable and not likely easy to stand up in. They are more maneuverable and also less susceptible to wind.

While sit-on-tops are my person preferred type of kayak, they tend to be heavier and harder to car top or transport. They offer better stability and a higher point of view while fishing, though, which can be a huge advantage when it come to sight fishing. Along with the added stability, you will have more storage space in a sit-on-top typically.

The best way to figure out what will be best for you is to research local kayak dealers in your area. Most dealers will have what they call “demo days” at a local body of water a few times a year (or even quarterly) where you can try out their line-up of different kayaks from all the manufacturers they carry.

This will also make choosing a paddle easier as well as you can imagine there are all types of sizes and styles of paddles. Choosing the right one will enhance your kayaking experience tremendously. 

How to Stay Safe While Kayak Fishing

Once you have chosen the type of kayak the will best fit you, it is now time for the most important part of fishing from a kayak: safety.

Safety is number one when it comes to kayaking, so here are a few things that are a must while heading out on the water.

First, it’s important to check your local laws and regulations before heading out onto the water. The single most important thing is to make sure you return home safely and without hefty fines from your local game warden.

Here in Texas, it’s the law to have a PFD (personal flotation device) and a whistle or signaling device. If you plan on being out after dark, you will need a 360 light.

The golden rule of kayak fishing is: never go out without your PFD! This is the most important piece of equipment you have on your vessel, and having one is the law in most, if not all, states.

You can ask any response or rescue teams, and they will all say they have never pulled a body out of the water that was wearing a PFD. I can’t stress enough the importance of this piece of gear. While it may not be required to wear while kayaking, I highly recommend wearing it even if you’re an experienced swimmer.

It’s also a good idea to check your local weather forecast before venturing out as well. High winds and/or thunderstorms can put you in a serious predicament quickly. My personal rule is never going out when there is a thunderstorm imminent or if winds are going to get above 15mph.

Getting Comfortable on the Water

Once you know all the safety laws and regulations and have checked weather conditions, it is a good idea to take your kayak out to a local spot and first get familiar with your vessel before loading it up with all your fishing gear.

Bring a friend or family member with you and take your empty kayak out onto an area that isn’t too deep. Get a feel for the stability, lean to the side, stand up if applicable, paddle hard, and just get an overall feel for the kayak.

Once you do that, you will know so much more about what you can and can’t do on your kayak.

Once you have a feel for your vessel, go ahead and purposely flip it.

Yes, you read that right purposely — flip you kayak over!

This will allow you to practice deep water re-entry. It’s very important to learn, and in the unfortunate event that you turtle (flip) your kayak over out in the middle of a lake, this skill will make life so much easier and possibly be a lifesaver.

Depending on the kayak, this can be very difficult to learn, so it is important to get comfortable with this technique.

Equipping Your Fishing Kayak

Kayak Fishing_Equipping Your Kayak
Photo via Derek Brazauskas

Now that we are caught up on the safety of kayaking, we can now go into what you’ll need to fish.

This is mostly subjective, and should be geared towards your target species and style of fishing. I personally fish for largemouth bass 90% of the time.

At a minimum, you will want to take tackle, net, and a rod with a rod float on it. It’s important to make sure you secure your gear as much as possible — I personally have hundreds of dollars worth of fishing gear and cell phones sitting on the bottom of Texas lakes. 

Like I stated above, this is bare minimum type stuff needed just to get you out and enjoying the benefits of kayak fishing. Once you get out and start to fall in love with it, as most people do after trying kayak fishing, you will then start to be able to dial in your needs.

In future articles, I will go into detail about different gear and all the other things you can do to your kayak to turn it into a fishing machine that will compete with even the most expensive bass boats.

I hope this article encourages you and gives you some basic knowledge about getting started in kayaking. It gets more involved as you go, and you will learn a lot about your kayak quickly with time on the water.

Like I stated above, look for more articles in the future about different things you can do to maximize your kayaking experience and also to help put you on the fish. I hope to see you on the water — until then, stay safe and tight lines.. 

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