8 Kayak Fishing Tips For Beginners

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Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts and welcome to my post outlining my 8 kayak fishing tips for beginners. I am just back from another fishing adventure on the ole kayak and whilst it was not a real success fishing wise (cheese sandwiches for lunch for me I am afraid), I did have the pleasure of watching my friend Steve on his maiden voyage.

And whilst I am certainly not here to make fun of him – mainly as he will be eating fish for lunch – it did remind me of all the things I have learned in my kayak driven travels. These are the things that many don’t think about or mention when it comes to learning the ropes here. Mostly we talk about water conditions, rod and reel types, correct bait and so on.

So let’s check out my 8 tips below…

1. Space is precious

I have mentioned this in a few of my kayak related posts here and it is probably more something to keep in mind as you read through the rest of my tips below but when it comes to fishing in a kayak, there really is not a lot of space. There are generally only so many rod holders, storage compartments and other spaces to store your ‘stuff’ as you paddle around your chosen fishing area.

This means that you can’t rock up with large tackle boxes, 4 rods, a cooler box etc. and expect to be able to fish comfortably. Sure, some of the larger kayaks have the capacity for all of these items but in general, keep the following in mind:

  • Choose 1 or 2 kayak suitable rods that will work in a number of situations.
  • Leave the large tackle box at home – put a couple of ‘rig sets’ into a small container that will fit in one of the storage sections.
  • If your kayak is not built to take it – leave it at home. For example, Steve had a cooler box with ice and water (we call them eskies) on the back – not only was it bulky – but also heavy.

Check out these: Kayak Fishing rods

2. Tackle accessibility

This is a follow on from the first tip above in that one mistake I used to make was to put my tackle box in the netted storage area behind me. I thought this was a good idea as it was out the way and secure under then netting. This was until I needed to replace my rig after a snag.

Trust me, on a 10ft kayak, trying to turn around and pull a tackle box out from under the netting, open it and find the required hook, swivel and sinker is not as easy as I thought it should be. So, in order to make things a little easier, I recommend the following:

1. Get yourself a small tackle box (I use a small tupperware container myself).

2. Add only the tackle that you will need specific to the fishing you are doing – In mine I include a small packet of hooks, swivels and 4 sinkers as well as a spare soft plastic lure and a pair of scissors (as below).

kayak fishing tips - tackle box

3. Place this little box in the front dry storage section of the kayak. This way it is easily accessible and suitable to the fishing your are doing at the time.

4. Leave the rest at home.

Check out these: Tackle boxes for the kayak

3. Catching fish

Now, I mean this with all the love in the world, but watching Steve trying to get the fish he caught into the kayak and remove it from the hook was quite a sight to behold. Think about it from another point of view – when you catch a fish on land or in a boat, what do you do with the rod whilst you remove the fish from the hook? My guess is that it goes on the floor or ground.

You can’t do this in a kayak meaning that Steve was trying to hold the rod with one hand and remove the fish with the other. The rod was also bending on itself as well which only served to place extra pressure on the line as he tried to get the fish off the hook. He managed it in the long run but it did look way harder than it had to be (and at least he caught a fish unlike yours truly).

To be honest, I actually did some research on this after struggling with this problem in my early days – especially as one species we catch (Flathead) is well-known to drop the hook as soon as you try and pull it from the water.

So, here is what I learned to do:

  1. Once the fish has been brought to the side of the kayak, leave at least a rod length of line out – I.e. do not reel the line all the way in.
  2. Place the rod on the rod holder that best suits your kayak (I use the one on the side right in front of me).
  3. Either net or pull the fish into the kayak.

By following this method you will have two hands to manage the fish without having to either deal with the rod, or worse, have it pull over on itself as there is not enough line to deal with the fish.

kayak fishing tips - catch fish

4. Keeping Fish

Again, trust me when I say that there is nothing worse than catching a nice big fish on the kayak and then having no idea what you are going to do with it once you get it on board and off the hook. There is no keeper tank like in a boat (unless you are one a massive ocean kayak maybe) and a bucket will just get in the way (remember real estate is a factor here) so what do you do?

My advice is to get yourself a mesh keeper bag and either:

1. Place the fish in it, tie it to your kayak and hang it over the side. This keeps the fish alive (and fresh) until you are able to get it to shore.

2. Humanely kill the fish, place it in a bag and store it on board. I do this as there are small sharks in the estuary where we fish so I am not real keen to have a fish just hanging over the side. I place the fish in a soft cooler bag that has an ice brick in it and put that in the foot well.

Either of these techniques will allow you to keep the fish fresh and ready to eat once you get back to shore – especially if the weather is warm or the hot sun is shining.

5. Kayak carts/carriers

This was a big lesson for me and a simple tip. If your kayak does not come with some sort of trolley/carrier then get one, get one now! These are those little two wheeled contraptions that kayaks sit on as you pull them across the ground to your launch point.

Think of it this way, you get your kayak off the car, place your rods, paddle, net and anything else you are taking with you in and on it and then try and lift it to where you want to go, or worse, carry a cumbersome and bulky kayak over and then come back for everything else. Kayak wheels just make it easier to manage… period!

I use the type with the two little poles that insert into the draining holes on my sit on top kayak however there are carriers suitable for all types.

Check out these: Kayak trolleys

kayak fishing tips - kayak carrier

6. Manage your paddle

There was Steve, fishing away and getting bites. Little did he know, that in his excitement his paddle had slipped of the side of his kayak and was floating downstream in the current. We’ve all done it and at times, to be honest, the paddle is just a pain in the backside getting in the way of your fishing exploits.

If your kayak had a paddle holder, usually an elastic band and hook on the side of the vessel (see below) then make sure you use it if you are drifting or getting a lot of bites. Otherwise, play around until you find a good spot for it where it will be out of the way but will not fall off with any movement on the craft. I always found that beside me between my thigh and the inner side of the seat well worked well however all kayaks are different so again, have a play.

I have also seen where some have used the clip in c-cups on shortened poles (these can be purchased online) that they sit in a spare rod holder too so if you are a bit handy, then you may be able to make something for yourself as well.

kayak fishing tips - kayak rod holder

7. Be safe

This one is obvious but often overlooked. Either on you, or with you, you will need:

  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Water (I take a small insulated drink bottle which clips onto my kayak just behind me
  • Life Jacket

Life Jackets: In some countries it is not a legal requirement to wear a life jacket whilst in a kayak. In others (such as In NSW, Australia where I live) they are mandatory on all waters whereas other states here only regulate them for open waters (I.e. the ocean) or after dark. Regardless, it is recommended that a life jacket or Personal Flotation Device (PFD) be worn at all times when fishing on a kayak.

Many choose not to due to the fact that they get in the way however inflatable PFD’s are becoming more and more popular (and cheaper) as they can be worn without all that cumbersome foam or padding. And also before you purchase a PFD, make sure it is the correct ‘level’ or standard for both use on a kayak and the body of water (open or closed) in which you will be fishing.

Check out these: Kayak life jackets

8. Oh, you can stop or anchor

This last one is directly from my own personal experience. You see there is a spot in the estuary/river that we fish in called the Jew Hole (after the prevalence of Jew Fish that live there). I was complaining to another local once about how it was hard to cast to the right spot as by the time I did so I would drift past and miss it. He said:

“Why don’t you get out and cast from the shore?”

Ding ding ding ding… of course.

Just because you travel somewhere in a kayak doesn’t mean you can’t get out and fish from the shore or even anchor (if you have a small kayak anchor). Don’t think you have to stay in the kayak to fish.

Same goes for sitting sideways – many a time I will spin around with my feet in the water to either slow down the drift or even move my feet around to steer a little. just make sure you don’t lose your balance and fall in…


And there it is – my 8 kayak fishing tips for beginners. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences or any other tips you may have.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time

Have fun


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8 thoughts on “8 Kayak Fishing Tips For Beginners”

  1. Kayak fishing is very exciting. I have started fishing on my new kayak but I know I need to learn so much. Your advice concerning how to keep the fish we catch was very useful. I agree with you that our best option is to humanely kill the fish, place it in a bag and store it on board. Your first suggestion of hanging the fish over the side of the kayak and the presence of small sharks reminded me of Ernest Hemingway’s book “The Old Man and the Sea”.

  2. I do not know much about Kayak Fishing. But I have heard about it before. Well, reading this article has been a way for me to get to know one or two about Kayak fishing. From what I have read, it sounds interesting. This has created the desire in me to want to go kayak fishing while making use of the tips you have shared.

  3. I never thought that it is a possibility to be able to fish in a kayak. I thought that the sport was specifically for the waves and just got fun too. Seems like something if like to try although I have only gone on a kayak ride once in a resort.  It’s something I’d like to do again. Thanks for the tips for a beginner.

  4. I got into kayak fishing in 2013 and have absolutely loved it since. I started out with the Ascend FS10 sit-inside then switched to the Jackson Coosa HD sit-on-top in 2015. I love my kayak and use it often in the high mountain lakes in Sierras here in California. One of the first things I attempted in both of my kayaks on my first trip out was to push the limits to see how far I could tilt before it would flip. Another tip is learn how to get back in the kayak from in the water, you never know when this may come in handy. I recommend doing this in shallow and warm waters.

    This is a great post with a lot of good fundamental information for a beginner with kayak fishing.

    Thanks for sharing,


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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.