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A Beginners Guide to Picking Out Gear for Kayak Fishing

by Tommy Wong May 23, 2016

A Beginners Guide to Picking Out Gear for Kayak Fishing

For the beginner kayak fisherman, the amount of information out there regarding what kayak and accessories to buy can be mind boggling. Here are some ideas to consider before making your first purchase of your fishing kayak.

    The first consideration to make is where you plan on fishing:

    The Hobie Outback is a very versatile fishing kayak

    • In-shore:
      In shore (1-3 miles out) equals big water! It also means big fish. The best kayaks for in shore fishing are generally longer more efficient boats with good stability and plenty of room for gear. As a general rule of thumb, you want a kayak over 12 ft, that is self bailing and has plenty of room for storage and fish. Rapidly changing conditions such as wind and swells make kayaks 10 ft or less unsuitable for in shore use. Since you generally won't come back to shore until the end of your outing, you'll also need to make sure that your kayak has enough storage for tackle, food, safety items as well as any fish you may be keeping. 
    • Harbor:
      The protected area in a harbor really opens it up to a wide range of kayaks. Both sit-on and sit-in kayaks work well in a harbor. Since you may be fishing near a lot of docks and moored boats, you want a kayak that is maneuverable yet efficient enough for long days on the water. If you enjoy using certain techniques such as pitching baits under docks, you may also consider using a kayak you can stand on.

    Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 Fishing Kayak

    • Reservoirs:
      Often windy and choppy in the afternoon, large reservoirs can get as rough as it is off shore. Most reservoirs also prohibit sit-on-top kayaks, so many fishermen have switched over to sit-inside kayaks. 
    • Small Lake:
      Small lakes are often full of cold water. The added protection in a sit-in kayak really shines in this environment. If you are on a sit on top kayak, wearing the appropriate gear is very important if you want to have a good time on the water. These can also get extremely windy in the afternoon. A longer, more efficient kayak will be of great help in such conditions. 

    Pro Angler 14 stability

    • River/Streams:
      Often fishermen using kayaks in rivers and streams are using the boat as a means of getting to an area to fish. This calls for a maneuverable kayak with secure storage areas and easy access in and out of the boat. Depending on the species you are going after, you may also require a kayak that can float in shallow waters 8 inches or less in depth. The ability to stand can also be nice if you like to cast from a higher position.
    How you fish will determine how you set up your kayak:

    Rod holders for kayak fishing

    • Rod Holders:
       Rod holders are an important part of any fishing kayak. There are different rod holders for different sizes of rods/reels. Also be sure that your rod holder is properly mounted. A heavy set up demands a suitably sturdy rod holder and rod holder mount. Also consider whether you want a RAM Ball style rod holder or a locking rod holder such as a Scotty.

    Rod leashes for kayak fishing

    • Leashes:
      If you use nice fishing rods, rod leashes may be the most important accessories you can have on your kayak. Losing an expensive Shimano reel due to a capsize will ruin every fisherman's day.
    • Bait-tanks/Live-wells:
      Whether you are making bait or looking for somewhere to keep your catch, a bait tank is a necessary piece of equipment to have. Many bait tanks also have rod holders for additional storage.

    Fish finders for kayaks

    • Fish finders/GPS:
       A nice fish finder is a great addition to any fishing kayak. Fish finders allow you to read important markers such as depth, water temperature, structure readings and bait activity. A fish finder with a GPS allows you to mark fishing spots as well as navigate in foggy conditions. When selecting a fish finder unit, take into account how easily you can access its features on the water. Your kayak may have limited space for instance, making the purchase of a console size fish finder impractical. If having a fish finder is of crucial importance to you, consider a kayak that has built in fish finder transducer integration such as those made by Hobie or Wilderness Systems.
    • Compass:
       A GPS unit on your fish finder is great for marking your favorite fishing spot, but having a compass for knowing where home is could be critical when you encounter poor visibility. 

    Fish grippers for kayak fishing

    • Nets, Grippers, Gaffs & Other Cool Tools:
      On your kayak you'll need all the tools you would normally need on a boat, but ones that fold, telescope and float are even better. It's also a good idea to leash these items, or at least have a float buoy attached to them. 

    Gone fishin kayak seat high back

    • Seats & Seat-Pads:
      Nothing can kill a day on the water faster than an uncomfortable seat. If your kayak does not have a comfortable seat, consider replacing it, or attaching additional padding onto it. Look here for different seats and padding.
    Select appropriate clothing depending on your paddling conditions

    Eyewear for kayak fishing

    • Head Wear:
       Make sure to wear a hat out on the water. Some anglers will wear face and neck guards as well. Also invest in a good pair of sunglasses. Sunburn can be extremely damaging out on the water, so invest in good head wear.

    Spray tops for kayak fisherman

    • Spray Tops:
       If you are going out in cold conditions, or in the morning, consider investing in a spray top. These will keep you warm and can also easily be rolled up and stowed away.

    Spray pants for kayak fishing

    • Pants:
       Board shorts are suitable for warm days on the water, although you can still get cold once the wind picks up and you are wet. For colder conditions, splash pants and even dry pants are a great investment. These will protect you from the wind and spray, yet are easily stow-able.
    Footwear for kayak fishing


    • Footwear:
       Do not wear tennis shoes as these will get wet and ruined. Flip flops are also not ideal as they can fall off and be lost. The best shoes to wear are either neoprene booties, sandals or even crocs. You want something that is comfortable, yet will afford you warmth and protection. 

    Tommy Wong
    Tommy Wong


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