Kayak Fishing Tips: Our Best Tips for New Kayak Anglers

We would love to welcome you to kayak fishing!

Kayaks are my favorite fishing platform. I’ve been able to sneak my kayak into places that no powerboat can reach, landing huge bass and reds.

I have learned many things over the years, sometimes the hard way. For new kayak anglers, here are a few of my top kayak fishing tips.

Kayak fishing tips

After you feel safe, it is time to focus your attention on the fish.

These are my top tips to help beginners kayak anglers.

Drift to your Advantage

I spent many an afternoon and morning on the upper James River in Virginia, catching smallmouth after tiny mouth in areas that powerboats couldn’t.

You can find pockets of calm water where you could wait for your meal, thanks to the rocks, the islands, the downed trees, and the changes in the bank’s structure.

There was always the current, but I quickly learned how it could be my advantage.

To launch from the same spot as my day’s end, I would paddle upriver several miles. As dawn broke, I would drift downstream using my paddle to position myself alongside an eddy, or pool.

I let the current take me by, casting as I went. If the calm water was large enough, I could get in the current’s lee and just sit still while I worked the water.

You’ll quickly learn the hard way that fishing on a river is not a good idea. It will be hard work, even if you manage to do it stealthily, it won’t last long.

Instead, do the work you are currently doing.

Keep your Paddle in your Lap

It’s a good idea to keep your paddle in the water.

He knows that he will need the paddle immediately, but it is out of his way as he fights.

Your paddle will be needed constantly on small water, such as creeks and rivers. You’ll use it so much that even strapping it down is not an option.

It worked for me to tuck my paddle against my abdomen. It won’t move if it is held in place by your thighs. I have never had to worry about it going overboard.

It was out of my way for casting and fighting. If I needed to, it could be dropped on the deck during the final stages of a catch.

Our guide to the best kayak fishing paddles

The Sidearm Cast is a must-have

Your ‘yak will keep you near the water, which can be a good thing.

It will kill underarm pitching unless you can stand up, but it can also be a blessing in disguise.

You can master the side-arm casting and skip small lures up under trees and docks to find fish hiding from predators and the sun.

Because of this, I have been able to find bass in thicker covers than other anglers.

Find out what your Yak can do and what you can do with it!

Kayaks can be classified as either primary or secondary.

Primary stability is how difficult it is for your ‘yak to get up on its “edge.” It is essentially a matter of how easy it can get your kayak rocking.

At this point secondary stability is at its best, answering the question “How difficult is it to flip your boat at that point?”

Sit-on-top kayaks are known for having poor primary stability but great secondary stability. This is something that you can learn to do.

Choose a sunny day and be open to swimming.

Get your PFD on, put your ‘yak in water, and you will be amazed at what you can do. This is a great time to learn self-rescue!

You can work your way up to the front hatch or grab the handle. You will eventually grab it with a triple hook. This maneuver is well-practiced!

You can also stand and cast. Kayaks can be used for sight-fishing and fly casting.

You’ll soon be able to maneuver your kayak with ease after some practice.

Find out more about your location

Kayaking fishing is not something that an experienced swimmer can do well in. It takes extensive research to find the ideal spot, the landscape, and the fish.

It’s not just about where you will catch the best fish, but also about your safety. Every kayak fisherman should be aware of the risks involved in catching too many fish in their boat. Certain waters are more hazardous than others, and the weather can change daily.

Be sure to check the conditions before you leave for your destination. Heavy rain or wind can make even the most idyllic body of water dangerous. Check for any dams or other obstacles if you’re going down a river to ensure you don’t get lost. A fish finder will help you identify the type of terrain below and the water depth.

Know what you’re fishing for

Many beginners overlook the crucial step of knowing what you are looking for. If you don’t have any idea about the destination, your research will be useless. While each species of fish requires a different method to catch and source them, there are some common rules. To help you choose the right species, check out our fishing guides and tips.

You can often find more fish by gliding in your kayak. Kayak fishing is ideal for stealth as it allows you to glide through the water with minimal disruption. Be sure to control your direction and stay clear of the shore.

It is worth spending the time to learn about the species and to build your confidence. A big fish can tow your kayak around if you don’t handle it properly. Knowing what you want will make you safer, more competent, and catch more fish.

Get the Right Kit

Although you’re a competent kayaker with a map, a dream, and a plan, you should make sure you have your kit. Most fishermen already own a kayak fishing rod, bucket, and live bait. To succeed, you will also need a personal flotation device, anchor, rod holder, and navigation light.

Even the most skilled fisherman will have trouble making (and keeping!) a catch without the right tools. Even a great fisherman will struggle to catch and keep their catch. You will need a helmet if the weather turns sour. Kayak fishing is a constant part of the sport. If you haven’t experienced kayak fishing yet, you aren’t doing it enough. Protect yourself from sharp rocks below by wearing a helmet.

Sunscreen and protective clothing can help reduce sun exposure

You’ll be worried about the long-term UV exposure that can cause damage to basic equipment like a kayak and personal floatation devices.

Most people don’t think about the same effects on their skin.

Have fun in the sun! Only with the right protection

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer rates have increased dramatically since the 1970s. They have even increased by up to 263% for potentially deadly cancers like squamous cell carcinoma.

You may be tempted to think that your dark skin or tan protects you.

Skin cancer is most common in light-skinned individuals with blue, green, or gray eyes. However, anyone can be diagnosed with it regardless of skin color. A darker skin tone can provide more protection, but it can also delay the diagnosis, making possible cancers more deadly.

Bob Marley died from melanoma at the age of 36.

Avoiding sun exposure, regardless of skin color, is an important step towards staying healthy.

Skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in the US, is predicted to affect 1 out 5 Americans. This number is even higher for anglers, as well as other sportsmen. Therefore, it is important to prevent cancer when you are planning your next fishing trip on your ‘yak.

Our first tip is to limit sun exposure. Sun-protective clothing for anglers is not only a good idea, but it’s an essential piece of gear. Essential doesn’t even begin covering the sun on a kayak.

You can protect your eyes against UV damage with a durable pair of sunglasses. With options as affordable and accessible as KastKing’s Skidaway, anyone can get effective, glare-reducing protection.

A good hat is essential. We’ve discussed this before and I love the Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero. It’s lightweight, comfortable, and cool so you can stay active longer.

Don’t forget to pack a lightweight shirt, long sleeves, gloves, and a neck gaiter. These are all popular ways to reduce sun exposure.

This KastKing neck gaiter is cool and stylish.

HUK’s Current Camo Double Header from HUK offers protection of SPF 30+ while being lightweight and comfortable, even in extreme heat. The Sol Armis Neck Gaiter by KastKing protects your neck and face from UV damage as well as DNA-wrecking UV rays. It’s a must-have for any angler. KastKing’s matching gloves provide additional protection for your hands. This is a great idea if you want to continue angling for many years.

Don’t forget your feet! HUK’s Rogue Wave Mid boot will keep your feet covered. It’s a bad idea to sunburn your feet. I’ve done it.

Sunscreen should be applied generously and repeatedly to all exposed skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with at least 30 SPF. Apply every two hours, after swimming or sweating, or whenever you feel the need.

Sprays are easier to use, which is why I love Coppertone Sport SPF 50.

Neutrogena Beach Defense, which has an SPF rating of 70, is another great option.

Ask Bassmaster pros Mark Davis, Kelly Jordon, or SaltStrong’s Joe Simonds if you don’t believe this is important.

Hydration is important!

Kayak fishing can be very physically demanding. The first time you face a strong tide or paddle to your honey hole, you will feel it.

I would never bring less than 2 liters of water or sports drinks.

You’ll feel dehydrated by the time your thirst becomes severe. This will reduce your peak performance and make it harder to paddle. And when the summer heat is really hot, it can even be dangerous.

There are two common hydration strategies: water bottles or a hydration packet.

Mubasel Gear’s Insulated Hydration Backpack is a great product that can make a big difference. In the heat, two liters of water are not to be sniffed at.

Water bottles are something I prefer to carry around since I don’t like carrying a hydration bag on hot days. I will instead keep a few 32-ounce Nalgene containers filled with partially frozen Gatorade.

They are easy to clean and use and very durable.

Safety gear essential

Safety is the main theme. Basic emergency equipment is essential.

In low light conditions, a good light can help you stay safe.

While no one can plan for an accident, you should be prepared to react to one. You should be prepared for anything, from sudden storms to inattentive powerboats, especially when you are on open water.

Personal floatation devices are a lifesaver. You shouldn’t even consider not wearing one.

It’s important to find a good fit. If it doesn’t hold when you get in the water, it’s useless!

Durability and comfort are also important, but it is essential to choose a PFD with US Coast Guard approval.

Our buying guide and top recommendations will help you find the best kayak fishing gear.

Stohlquist’s PFDs are excellent and designed for anglers. They offer plenty of space to cast and paddle, as well as storage for gear.

Saltwater anglers in particular should have other concerns.

You’re probably familiar with the fear of paddling your ‘yak into open water and having fog fall like a blanket blocking your view of the shore. The long ride that tarpon and grouper can give you can leave you far from where you want to be.

Even if you aren’t in pain, getting hurt can be quite traumatic.

A hand-held VHF radio can make the difference between rescue and tragedy in situations like these. Uniden’s MHS335BT, which is small, lightweight, and easy to use, has DSC and GPS. This allows for immediate rescue and they will know where you are.

You don’t need a VHF radio, do you? You might be wrong!

Your ‘yak can be difficult to see for powered vessels in low light. Large vessels won’t see you, while smaller boats aren’t interested in low-profile, slow-moving kayaks.

A combination of a flag and a raised light like YakAttack VISIpole II is the best option.

This article by paddling.com and this video will show you why this is not a concern.

Bugs, Bugs, and More Bugs

I have fished places where only the flies I was casting were available. But I have also fished in salt marshes, where the mosquitoes and no-see-ums made me pale from my blood loss. Worse, my honey holes fluctuate between these extremes depending upon the weather.

You don’t realize how horrible it can be to be surrounded by angry insects, especially if you have never experienced it. I have seen people driven from a great spot in the woods by no-see-ums until they had to retreat to their boat launch.

Do you think you will need it? Always carry strong bug repellant.

Avon SKIN SO-SOFT Bug Guardian PLUS is a legend along the Gulf Coast. I have also used gallons upon gallons of OFF! Deep Woods is my favorite product for fishing. I use them both when the bugs bite.

Take a buddy and share a paddle plan

Fishing is not only more fun with friends, but it’s also safer.

This angler is wearing protective clothing and a PFD. If you pay attention, you will see her light/flag combination pole.

A friend is the best way to keep safe while on an adventure. If your kayak is damaged or lost, a fellow kayaker can help you find it. And, of course, there’ll be someone to tell the tale later.

The buddy system is a great idea, especially when it’s combined with a shared paddling plan. Tell someone you trust where you are going, when you’re leaving and when you plan on returning.

You’ll find people looking for you much sooner if you have additional insurance.

Last Thoughts

Keep safe, have fun on the water and be careful!

We would love to hear your comments, so please drop a comment below.

Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.