How To Stop A Fishing Kayak From Capsizing

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Hey there my fellow kayak fishing enthusiasts, today we are going to talk more about safety on the water with my post on how to stop a fishing kayak from capsizing. It is funny how things work in life, I was looking on one of the kayak fishing groups that I follow on Facebook recently and someone was asking what they needed to do to stop losing their rods etc. when they capsized their kayaks.

I admitted to having not ever done so myself and asked how it could be done. I did not expect the responses I got – of which there were a lot. And to be honest, it is easy to see how they all happened as well – especially as the very next day I had a close call myself when a boat sped by a little faster than it should have been and I wasn’t ready for it.

So, anyway, regardless of whether you have, almost have, or never have tipped your kayak, let’s check out how we can avoid the dreaded capsize in future…

What does it mean to capsize a kayak?

I know, this is a silly question however it is always good to get these things out the way early so we know we are all on the right track. So, to be clear, capsizing a kayak simply means that it turns upside down and you fall off (or out) into the water. This also means that unless you have everything attached via leashes or straps, then you are going to lose a lot of gear to the depths as well…

In my personal experience, this is not an easy accomplishment as most kayak, especially the sit on top models, are built with a wide beam and low seating position providing extra stability. The longer, narrower sit in varieties can tip a little easier however their lower seating positions can counteract this a little as well. So I guess then the first thing to look at when it comes to tipping a kayak over is to understand the reasons that this can happen.

Stop A Fishing Kayak From Capsizing - two men on tipped kayak

Reasons that kayaks capsize

They say in many areas that the best way to avoid something from happening is to understand the causes so that they can be identified and avoided. And as deep as that last sentence was (sorry about that) it is definitely something that can keep you upright whilst out on the water. So here are the most common reasons I have found that a fisherman can flip their kayak…

Standing whilst fishing

Many kayak fishers, especially those who fly fish or cast lures for Bass etc., like to stand whilst they do so. Standing on a kayak is a tricky business at the best of times – even if you have a vessel built for doing so – due to the fact that you have moved your centre of gravity to a higher point and hence reducing stability.

This is ok on its own – and I am certainly not going to tell you not to stand. However, as we go through some of the other reasons below – keep in mind that these can be more likely to cause a tip if you are standing. The same can also be said for sitting sideways on the vessel as well.

Oh, and bumping into a rock or tree will cause some out of balance dancing if you are standing too.

Catching fish

Yep, out of all the comments within that Facebook post, and within my research, the most common cause of a tipping kayak was in fact catching a fish. We have all done it – nothing is really happening and we get a bit uncomfortable so we move our legs one way or the other – and as such moving our weight to one side instead of in the middle.

Then it happens – BANG – the big one bites and as we overcompensate to get hold of our rod and balance – over we go. And whilst it is technically not a capsize, those standing have reported simply being pulled into the water in these instances as well.

Removing fish

If you have read any of my posts to do with suitable fishing rods for kayak fishing, you will note that I often mention keeping them at the shorter end of the spectrum at around the 6ft mark. Any longer and you have to either reach out to get your catch or put the main part of the rod behind you.

Both will cause you to reach one way or the other which again will throw your balance and possibly tip you over – especially if the fish ion the end is jumping around a lot!

Boat wash

Boat wash is what nearly caused me to come undone in that I watched the boat go past – I even waved at the guys in it – but didn’t look for the wash after they were gone. Boat wash can be quite violent and the trouble is that there is usually more than one wave, so if you are put off balance by the first one, then the second is on you before can regain your balance and over you go!


If you are on a lake then this is probably not going to affect you however for those of you in an estuary, river or stream, then another common capsizing cause is currents such as tidal movement, rapids or even surf if you are out on the ocean.

Stop A Fishing Kayak From Capsizing - tipping kayak in surf

How to stop your kayak capsizing

Ok, so let’s see what we can do to give ourselves the best chance of keeping our kayaks from capsizing whilst we are out and about on the water…

Know the waterway

This is a common safety consideration for kayaking at the best of times however as above, local waterway hazards such as currents and hazards can cause a capsize quickly for unsuspecting skippers. Other aspects to be aware of include:

  • Location of faster moving water
  • Tidal influences
  • Areas where boats move about
  • Other hazards such as rocks and structure than can cause extra issues for those standing

Without over stating the obvious, knowing where these hazards are can help make sure you are prepared and balanced prior to coming across them.

Balance your vessel

Regardless of the cause, capsizing occurs when a vessel is out of balance. We have mentioned above the things that can happen to put our bodies out of balance such as boat wash and the pull of a fish. These unbalances however can be greatly exacerbated if the extra gear we have on the kayak is also out of balance.

As you load the ‘yak up for a fishing trip, make sure that everything is loaded in the middle of the craft so as to keep it centred on the water. This is especially important for heavier items such as coolers, trolling motor batteries and so on. Oh, and make sure they are secured too as if they slide to one side as the kayak moves, it could be the final unbalancing straw and over you go…

Stop A Fishing Kayak From Capsizing - packed kayak

Use the right equipment

I mentioned above the issues around trying to retrieve a catch on a long rod. Hence, adjusting your gear to a shorter option is a start however if that is not possible, a good fishing net with an extendable handle will also assist in keeping you upright as you bring the fish in.

And of course if you are going to stand on your kayak, make sure the model you use has a good stable standing platform designed for such activities. Finally, and most importantly, wear a lifejacket as well.

Manage your movements

Another aspect of this is to keep your gear in reach to reduce the amount of moving and twisting you need to do whilst out on the water. This includes keeping commonly used stuff such as knives, tools and spare tackle within reach – such as within a dry hatch or storage well in front of you.

That way, you don’t have to be constantly turning around and reaching behind you – which will not only interrupt your balance, but also stop you from watching the water for sudden changes such current movement or boat wash etc.

Manage your paddle

When the kayak loses balance, the one tool that can often save you is your paddle. Keep it in a spot where you can quickly pick it up and use it to ‘steady ship’. On the opposite side of the fence however, you also need to keep it in a spot where it cannot fall or drag into the water. I didn’t mention this above, but lurching forward to grab a sliding or falling paddle is another common cause of capsizing in a kayak.


What is the best way to stop A kayak from capsizing

Keeping a kayak upright is all about balance. Make sure you are ahead of the game to start with by making sure that you have balanced your gear throughout the vessel and make sure nothing is hanging over the side. From there, watch for hazards such as other boats or string currents so that you are ready to handle them when they hit. Oh, and the wider the kayak, the more stable it will be.


And there they are – my suggestions for how to stop a fishing kayak from capsizing. 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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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.