Hi, my name is Spencer and I am a beginner kayak angler. I have fished from the bank my entire life and I am taking a leap into the world of kayak fishing. After searching for resources to help me get started kayak fishing I couldn’t find one comprehensive resource that wasn’t filled with jargon and content that went straight over my head. So, I decided to share my learnings with you as I go in plain english. What you’ll find here is real, raw, and hard learned lessons as I begin my journey off the bank and into a kayak. Thanks for coming with me!
I am just an average guy who’s learning to fish out of a kayak.
I do not know everything about kayak fishing. In fact, quite the opposite. I am a complete newbie to kayak fishing. Gasp! “Then why the hell are you creating a guide about kayak fishing?” You might ask…
What’s this all about?
After fishing from the bank my entire life, I decided to get my first kayak and learn to fish from a kayak.
I spend a lot of time on the internet doing research and I have come to the conclusion that there should be more resources out there for anglers making this transition in a format that is real and approachable. Many of the resources that are out there are written by pros and gurus that go right over the head of the beginner. I am a beginner. So, I will be going through these challenges myself and therefore won’t go over anyone’s head, even if I tried. In an effort to help others through this transition, I will be sharing my entire experience here. I hope you find it useful, jargon free, and refreshing.
My (humble) fishing background
No, I am not a professional angler. I have not fished a single tournament in my life. I grew up fishing in the pacific northwest. Fishing was always a very casual past time. I fished on family camping trips, caught crappie off docks, and catfish off the bank of the Snake River. Now, I am lucky enough to have become friends with a few of the guys from the ANGLR crew.
These guys have gotten me completely addicted to the bass bite.
This is what has led me to this crux in my fishing journey.
I have a dream to slay bass from a self powered plastic vessel and I am going to bring you with me as I chase it.
Why kayak fishing?
As I make discoveries around the differences between bank and kayak fishing I’ll be sharing them. This is what this series will be all about. And I will try to cover the basics as I learn them, too. But, today, I can sum it up in one word — freedom.
Freedom from having to pay 20k or even 60k for a bass boat. Freedom from having to pay for gas for this said bass boat. Freedom from fighting over the best spots on the bank. Freedom from being limited to only spots I can fish from the bank. Freedom to be on the water and fish whenever I get the itch. Freedom to fish the most untouched and remote waters. Freedom from the hustle and bustle of work, technology, and city life. Freedom to get in some exercise without paying a gym membership.
Today, I believe there is no better way to be on the water.
We’ll see if this is still true this fall after I have selected a kayak and fished with it for a few months.
Who’s this for?
This series is for all who are also intrigued by these plastic fishing battleships and asking the same questions I am at this point in my fishing journey. I am interested in kayak fishing. I want to get into a kayak. But…
Where do you start? How much does it cost? What’s it really like to fish from a kayak? What are the real benefits? What should I know before I start? Is it really that cool/fun?
Excited to learn and share about the differences, advantages, and the challenges I face as I embark on this journey. I will share it with you in an effort to help you make the same transition and do it with confidence. I look forward to being your guinea pig for the next few months!
Chapter 2 - Selecting the Best Fishing Kayak For You
Wading through all the best fishing kayaks for beginners
In the introduction, I outlined a few of the reasons I made the decision that I wanted to get into a kayak.
Once I decided I wanted to get into kayak fishing, from there, the first and most obvious question to me was, which kayak should I get?
This page will outline some of the basic findings from my research and how I ultimately made my decision and identified the kayak that best fit my needs and ambitions.
Again, I had no idea about what was out there and what was important as I made my decision. Here’s a summary of what I found and how I ultimately made my decision to select the Feelfree Lure 11.5. My hope is that by sharing this process it will help you speed yours up and find the right kayak for your needs more quickly and make the process easier. Read more about how to select the right kayak for you on the ANGLR blog here and the best kayaks for beginners.
Lots of great options…LOTS
The kayak market has exploded in recent years. It’s by far the biggest movement happening in fishing right now (especially bass fishing).
Because of this there’s some good and there’s bad news.
The good news. There’s an overwhelming number of options that you have as a beginner entering this sport. Competition amongst manufacturers is fierce. This driving up the value while driving down prices. You can get an incredible kayak to meet pretty much any budget.
The bad news. There’s an overwhelming number of options that you have to choose from. When I began my research, I quickly realized that the decision was going to be tougher than I originally thought. There are just tons of options, so knowing where to start was daunting.
Here’s how I made my decision in June of 2019…
Considerations for selecting the right kayak
Here’s a few key considerations that I took in account while trying to select the right kayak for my needs. You can find hundreds of articles on this topic, and guess what, they all say pretty much the same thing. I am not saying mine are the only considerations or the right ones, I am just going to tell you how I made my decision.I hope they will help you as well and get you started down the right path. Here’s my basic criteria. Everyone will have their own restrictions and preferences here. I am sharing mine to help you understand my decision process.
Here’s the criteria I was using and some other key considerations I’d recommend.
Value: Bang for buck. Dollar for dollar, what I saw as the best value kayaks. Under $1500: This was the budget I wanted to stay under and what most who are entering a new sport will be constrained by as well. Sit-on-top: Having had some experience with sit-in style kayaks and after doing some basic research, I knew that I wanted a sit-on-top style fishing kayak for the extra storage and accessibility to gear and comfort. Sit on kayaks are much more comfortable for long days on the water and make your gear much more accessible and provide more convenient gear management options. Growth potential: Want to add pedal drive in the future? Want to add additional accessories and mounts on track systems? Want to upgrade storage options? Add a rudder? Add an anchor? All of these things should be considered as you look at your first kayak. I tried my best to anticipate what I would most likely want to upgrade in the future and wanted to make sure the kayak I selected would be able to accommodate these upgrades and grow with me as my needs also grow.
Now, each of the kayaks I list had to qualify for these four criteria that I set personally. Additionally, I looked at the following:
Gear and Storage Considerations How much gear do you plan to fish with? What are the storage options? Do the storage options conform to the style of storage accessories you’re planning to use? Will the storage options allow you to upgrade and invest in storage options in the future? You’ll want to consider these questions as you shop for your kayak. I am not the guy that brings every piece of tackle he owns every time he goes fishing. I tend to pack light, so storage wasn’t my top concern as I shopped. BUT I did want the option to throw a cooler in the stern of the boat and maybe some camping gear if I ever had the desire.
Stability Do you plan to stand and fish? I knew I wanted to stand and fish. There are three things to think about here.
Width of the kayak: Generally, I found that wider kayaks are better for standing. But, if you go too wide you give up speed in the water and maneuverability.
Hull design for stability: There are lots of different designs out there. Lots of companies touting the best. I am not going to pretend I know the science behind all of them. I just read reviews to learn which hulls other kayaks claimed to be stable for standing and which weren’t.
Deck design and layout: Is the platform good for standing? Is it open and can you easily transition from sit to stand positions? You’ll want to ask yourself these questions for each boat if this is important to you.
Where and How You’ll Be Fishing
Where will you be fishing? This should be a primary decision driver when it comes to picking the right boat for you. During my research I found that any given kayak will typically fit into one of two main categories based on where you plan to fish with it.
Rivers, ponds and small lakes? You do not typically need the longer hull designs that are designed to be stable in big water conditions for these bodies of water. Instead, you look for nimble and maneuverable boats with shorter hulls in general that still “track” well. Tracking is how well the boat holds a line in the water.
“Big water” like large lakes or the ocean. Efficient, longer hulls with great tracking. If you’re going to be paddling long distances and need a boat that can handle waves etc. This is something to consider.
I knew I was mostly going to be fishing in the Snake River and in other various ponds, reservoirs, and rivers near my house in Kuna, Idaho.
Your Body Size Yep, how big and tall you are will also come into play. In general, the average Joe I found can fish comfortably on kayaks between 9-12 feet long pretty comfortably. If you’re over 250 pounds or extra tall, you might want to consider 12ft and longer size boats to make sure you’re comfortable and stable on the water. I am right under 6ft and weigh about 185lb.
Transportation Considerations What are your options for transportation? If you’re primarily going to be transporting your kayak via the top of your small car, you’ll want to consider this and not select a kayak that is 14 feet long and 500 pounds. If you’re planning on trailering your kayak, you can be a little more lax with size and weight etc. I knew I was going to car top my kayak, so I needed my kayak to be light enough to manage loading it this way by myself.
Budget The kayak market can be divided into below $1k or above $1k when it comes to budget. Below $1k, you will find good value focused kayak that come with lots of premium features and good all around boats for beginners. If you’re open to spending more than $1k you will be able to explore more premium hulls, brands, and features. I was looking for the best bang for the buck under $1500.
Growth Selecting a kayak that can grow with you as you grow your experience and knowledge. This means your skills and ambitions won’t outgrow your kayak after your first season. Oftentimes new kayakers just grab a $200-$300 Walmart special and are disappointed when they realize they love kayak fishing, but their boat is holding them back. I wanted a kayak that would not hold me back after the first season of learning.
My Top 10 List of Fishing Kayaks Under $1500
Remember, these are all kayaks that met my four beginning criteria and then scored well on the above considerations. There are so many awesome choices out there. In an effort to save you time and provide value from all of the research and learning I’ve spend hours and hours completing during this process, I am going to keep my listings here to a minimum and show you only the best boats I’ve found for given situations.
Top pick for: The Budget conscious. This is a great value kayak that is very affordable but still provides a nice and stable hull with all the basics you need to grow as a new kayak angler. The seat is the biggest knock against this affordable option.
Top pick for: This was my top all-around pick based on my criteria of under $1500, value, sit-on-top, and growth potential. See my full review here. It’s a great boat for the money. I will go into more detail as this guide unfolds but the short list is; the most comfortable and easily adjustable seat in this price range, open and comfortable deck design, flexibility with front and rear tracking for accessories, tons of storage, and low profile but stable hull for standing as well as fishing in windy conditions. Oh, and the wheel in the keel is icing on the cake so I don’t have to purchase a cart or aftermarket wheels for transport. I chose the 11.5 length for a little more stability.
A pic from the day my Feelfree Lure 11.5 arrived at my house. Oh, what a joyous day it was!
Chapter 3 - Gear, Accessories, and Safety for Kayak Fishing
Alright, you finally pulled the trigger and you’re the proud new owner of a fishing kayak. Congrats. This has been one of the most fun and enjoyable learning experiences of my life and I am not even three full months into it. I chose to fish out of the Feelfree Lure 11.5. You can read my full review of this kayak on the ANGLR blog post here.
This section covers the critical gear necessary to have a safe and enjoyable day on your new kayak.
When you enter the world of kayak fishing, the opportunity to go gear crazy abounds. There are more accessories, gizmos, and gadgets than you can shake a PowerPole at. But, there are only five things that I would consider absolute necessities after spending a few months on my new Feelfree Lure 11.5 fishing kayak…
Five Must-have Pieces of Gear to Get Started Kayak Fishing
This one is pretty straightforward. It’s how you will propel yourself and the kayak through the water, steer, and maneuver. You can get pretty deep into the weeds when talking paddles. As I performed my research for the right paddle I found that find a durable, lightweight paddle that is the right length are the three most important elements to consider. There are lots of length/sizing guides out there if you do a quick good search. I used this one and selected the Feelfree Camo Angler Paddle to match my kayak. It’s a durable fiberglass, stiff, and lightweight paddle in a two piece design that comes with a measurement bar for measuring your fishing. If there is one piece of gear to not go super cheap on, I’d recommend not going cheap on this one. It’s your most used and abused piece of gear. I’d recommend checking out Bending Branches and Werner for great quality paddles as well.
2. Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
Buy a PFD. Where your PDF. Always. It’s that simple. Kayak fishing is a dangerous sport, and it’s absolutely critical you buy and wear a PFD. I’ve already gone in the water once in the past three months. I was wearing my PDF and it could have saved my life. It’s not a matter of if, its when you go in the water, you’ll be glad you had it on. There are tons of affordable options in the $30-$75 range. Checkout amazon or your local sportsman store. I opted to use a lifejacket I already had from my Jet Skis. Recommended reading: Kayak Fishing PFD | The Best 3 Options for Kayak Fishing PFD’s
You can’t fish without a rod and reel. All you need is one to get started. I recommend an affordable medium heavy 7ft, medium/fast action baitcasting rod, with a 7:1 reel. Shop for a combo that fits your budget to get started. You’ll learn from this first rod what you like and don’t like and can invest in more as you progress. I actually started with a very affordable Pflueger President spinning combo rod and reel. It’s gotten the job done, but I wish I would have invested in a baitcaster combo first. After doing lots of research the combo I described above is definitely the best way to go for an all-around versatile rod to begin your kayak fishing with. It’s going to be efficient and effective.
This is one that you don’t see listed on top lists nearly enough. After taking my kayak out two times, I immediately realized the need for an anchor. If you’re in any type of current or wind, managing your kayak can get extremely frustrating while trying to fish. You can do it without an anchor. But, an anchor makes it much easier to learn the ropes and really breakdown a spot while dealing with wind or current. I recommend starting very simple with about 20-30 feet of nylon rope and a 10lb mushroom style weighted anchor. It has worked very well for me using a simple zig zag cleat I mounted to my kayak’s track system.
I am talking about the basics here. How to get it from where you store the kayak to where you want to fish. Then, once you’re at the body of water, how you get the kayak into the water. This typically involves an aftermarket kayak cart or taxi. My Freelfree Lure came with the built-in wheel in the keel. I LOVE this feature and not having to worry about this after getting my kayak. But, this is a very important accessory if you don’t have it built-in like the Feelfree kayaks do.
These five things are really all you NEED in order to have a safe and enjoyable day on the water on your new kayak.
Here’s the other most important pieces of gear and accessories I have found make my days more enjoyable, productive, and safe after spending three months fishing during the months of July – September.
Other Kayak Fishing Accessories
Line snips. I fish with only one rod. This is one of the pieces of gear I use the most while constantly tying on new rigs. Check out Line Cutterz for some awesome solutions in this area.
Pliers. I fish a lot of topwater lures and these are very helpful in getting the fish safely loose from the treble hooks.
Tackle box/Storage. I use small themed boxes that I can quickly grab and go according to the technique I am currently fishing. ie. Finesse box, ned box, cranking box, topwater box, frog box, river box etc.
The ol’ Milk Crate. I simply grabbed one from my local market. I use this to stash my tackle boxes and other random gear that I want accessible during the say. It fits great and straps nicely to my Lure with the built-in straps. Yeah, you can buy a $200 cooler or special “box,” but I thought free sounded pretty good and it works just fine.
Leashes. Rod leashes or floats have already come in handy. Especially on rivers, I have found my rod leash save my rod a couple times as I have gone under branches and overhangs that pull the rod out from the rod holders. The built-in Feelfree leashes have worked great for me but if you don’t have them built-in, grab some aftermarket.
Anchor management. I plan to buy an anchor wizard to make my anchoring even easier and more convenient. There are also rope management and many other anchoring accessories available. I chose to buy a simple zig zag cleat off of Amazon and I have really liked how simple and useful it is.
Rod management/holders. If you’re going to use multiple rods during your trips, you’ll definitely want to invest in rod management. There are TONS of options here. The Feelfree Lure had two built in rod holders that have worked great for my needs. Most kayaks on the market have some basic rod holders stock.
Cup holder. I feel this is pretty much a necessity There are many great options out there according to what type of beverage you typically bring. I chose one that has some nice slots for lure management and quick tool access as well.
Phone holder and power source. My phone serves as my on-board electronics as I fish from my kayak. Having a place to quickly mount it and access the phone was important to me. I chose a Ram Mount X-grip for my phone mount and put it right on the top of my center pod of my kayak. Then, I run a lightning cable down into pod to plug into an ANGLR power bank.
Polarized Sunglasses. A pair of polarized sunglasses will help you see deeper into the water and reduce glare. Seeing fish is a real advantage.
Hat. Important for sun protection.
FaceBuff. I used to think these were so dumb. Then I fished in the sun, wind, and relentless bugs. Now, I think it’s one of my most important pieces of gear. I love face buffs.
Flipflops. I am not a crocs guy. I love my good ol’ flip flops. They keep things super simple. I can get them wet and I just slip them off after I get on the water and stow them away. I like to fish barefoot.
Knife. This is the oh sh*t button. Line stuck in current? Anchor won’t come up and you’re about to flip or get pinned? Cut it. I have already learned a valuable lesson about these situations in my three months on the water. Don’t even risk it. Cut it.
Bugspray. Because… bugs.
Water. I’ve heard it’s good for you.
Firstaid. You never know what will happen on the water. Like a whopper plopper getting caught in your anchor line as you feed it through your hand and you bury it into your palm. It’s smart to have a first aid.
Sunprotection. Because… the sun.
Chapter 4 - Storing and Transporting Your Fishing Kayak
So, here’s the thing — if you can’t get your kayak to where you want to fish, you can’t fish with it. This is important.
You’ll need to consider how you’ll get your kayak from point A to point B. I knew I had a Ford Explorer and would need to put it on top with some racks. There’s really only three main categories of transportation for kayaks.
Three Ways to Transport Your Kayak
1. Throw it in your pickup bed. I wish I had a pickup. This seems like the ultimate way to quickly throw your rig in the bed of a truck and take off. Maybe I am wrong, you tell me. But, this seems pretty simple. It’s closer to the ground. Just put the nose of your kayak in the bed of your truck and go lift from the back and slide your kayak into the truck. I have seen countless pics of this setup. Seems to work well. Quick. Simple. Easy.
2. Put it on the top of your car. This is how I transport my kayak from A to B. I bought a cheap pair of Malone roof racks for my Ford Explorer and I was ready to roll. I had two ratchet tie-downs already and I used these to secure the kayak to the racks. It took me a couple times to figure out the best way to route the straps, position the kayak, load and un-load etc. But, at this point I have it down. I can get my Lure on and off my Explorer in less than 5 minutes solo and I am ready to ride. I did watch these helpful videos from Flukemaster and Chad Hoover to learn how to best complete this feat.
3. Trailer it. This seems like a very important option if your kayak is pretty heavy and loaded with accessories that can’t be easily removed. I considered trying to find a jet ski trailer or other small utility and converting, but in the end it was much simpler to load on top of my car. I think this would be a great option if you are loading and unloading more than one fishing kayak. But, it wasn’t necessary for me.
Three Ways to Store Your Kayak
1. Stand It. This was the simplest and easiest way for me to store my kayak. After experimenting with a few different locations in my garage I found a way to stand my kayak on its side and rest it against the wall of my garage where I park. It does slightly limit the usable space in my garage near me car when it is parked by about two or two and a half feet, but it’s really not bad. See the pic below to see how I currently store my Lure. I read that sometimes kayaks can morph if you rest them the wrong way but it also takes some heat to make this happen. Inside my insulated garage I experienced no morphing whatsoever this summer. Maybe that’s just a testament to Feelfree build quality, but that’s what I’ve experienced.
2. Rack It. This required more handy work than I was willing to put up with. I researched thoroughly and it seemed to be pretty affordable and a great way to save space. But, I wasn’t willing to put in the time and effort. I wasn’t that limited on space in my garage so I chose to just stand it instead. However, this can be a great option if you’re limited on space and are up for putting some holes in your walls.
3. Hang It. This also seems like a very crafty and cool way to save space while storing your kayak. Again, way too much work for me. I just wasn’t desperate enough for the space. There are some very cool single person lift kits that allow you to hoist your kayak and store it inside a garage, shed, or shop, but I just didn’t need the space badly enough to put the effort or money into this.
The first time I pushed off the bank in my new kayak from into the Snake River current, I had an overwhelming feeling that my fishing life was about to change. I had a whole new set of advantages to leverage as I pursued my new obsession of catching giant bass.
Now, after spending a few months fishing from this kayak on rivers, ponds, and reservoirs in Idaho, I can tell you that the feeling was real.
Fishing from a kayak opened up a whole new world of advantages over fishing from the bank.
I just needed to try and learn how to leverage these and adapt to the challenges as well.
This section will outline some of the basic lessons I’ve learned along the way.
My Kayak Fishing Tips for Beginners
Fish with a plan.
I could now cover miles when I could previously only cover maybe a 1/4 mile on the bank. This completely changed how I needed to plan and manage me fishing trips. From where you put in and take out to where you spend your time casting. This was a steep learning curve. From my very first float down a river I immediately realized the importance of planning your trips when fishing from a kayak.
Create and stick to a float plan for every trip.
This is especially important when on a river. But, when fishing .a lake with even a slight wind, it’s also very important. Also, look at the areas that you plan to fish in relation to where you put your kayak into the water. I found that I preferred to paddles upstream or upwind during the first half of my time on a body of water. This allowed me to reserve the easier paddle back to the launch location for the 2nd half of my trip and take my time on the return after I had spent time paddling and breaking down spots on the way. As you paddle upstream or upwind keep an eye on any points, vegetation, structure, current breaks, bait locations, or holes you’d like to re-visit on your way back. A couple times I just allowed nature to have its way and push me downstream or downwind as I mindlessly fished. I would find myself miles away from launch and frustrated as I tried to paddle my way back while passing up great spots because of poor time management. Leverage weather apps, USGS data in apps like Anglr, or any other tools to better plan your trips. I like the ANGLR app because it allows me to drop waypoints as I breakdown water on my phone before a trip so I can see these waypoints as I fish the following day.
I had to learn some hard lessons when it came to fishing rivers.
I learned how to read the current and use it to navigate to more efficiently spend energy while accessing water that I want to fish. Take your time. Before moving from a location or pulling up anchor, plan where you are going to and where you will go after that to properly use the current and your energy. Thinking of your next moves will help you to avoid situations where you have to spend extra energy to get yourself out of danger etc.
Use Current and Wind
Once you create your float plans you can use the wind and current to your advantage. After paddling upstream or upwind from spots you’d like to fish, you can casually float past these locations while stopping at locations using an anchor. One of my favorite techniques was to go upwind from a shoreline of vegetation I wanted to fish and allow the wind to push me along the line of shore at a perfect speed to cover the whole stretch while not having to touch my paddle. This took me a while to learn and to perfect, but once I understood how much wind and current plays a role in kayak fishing it was huge. You can use it to your advantage.
If you’re fighting something in a kayak, stop and think how you can use that thing you’re fighting to your advantage.
Once I realized I could flip the situation to my advantage I started having much more enjoyable days on the water.
Utilize Eddies For Kayak Fishing
Current can be a nightmare to fish in a kayak. But you can also use it to your advantage. Kayaks can actually sit entirely in an eddy, preventing the boat from moving downstream. Sit in eddies to give yourself plenty of time to thoroughly fish the current seam right next to you. Get used to floating past the spot you want to fish, then tuck into the eddy behind it, and fish until your heart’s content – without even having to paddle. If you’re going to be fishing rivers often like I am, this one is a very great tactic to learn.
The Shoreline is Your Friend
The shore is your friend when on a kayak. It makes everything better. When you’re paddling against wind or current, it can completely zap you of energy, and that’s not even including the fishing part. Kayaks don’t have a lot of draft. You can use this to your advantage by hugging shorelines. Instead of paddling right down the middle of the river or lake, get as shallow as you can. The current is much weaker in skinny water. Wind and waves are also mitigated by shoreline vegetation and structure. Save more energy for after you get to your honey hole.
While learning to bass fish I had gone a few times with friends on bass boats. They would constantly move around with trolling motors from spot to spot if they didn’t catch fish on the first few casts.
Similar to bank fishing, you’re going to have to be patient when it comes to how you approach fishing your spots. You can’t just constantly make runs like you can in a bass boat. This forces you to systematically breakdown locations you’re in, get creative, and find fish any way you can.
Similarly, enjoy the learning process. You’re out on the water. Look around. Soak it in. Don’t stress about becoming a bassmaster and captain of the plastic navy your first few months. It definitely took me some time to get comfortable with the basics of paddling, maneuvering, learning new water, and finding fish. Slow down. Enjoy the process.
You know what I love about kayak fishing? It is so simple.
I get off work, see a couple hours before sunset, and I can load up and head out at the drop of a hat.
I encourage you to keep it as simple as possible as you begin kayak fishing. This is one of the most enjoyable and awesome things about fishing from a kayak. It’s flexible. It’s easy. It’s inexpensive to go. Don’t overcomplicate it. Plan when you can. If you can’t keep your rig and your tackle simple and enjoy your time on the water. Catching fish is a bonus.
You’re on the water. You’re enjoying nature. Don’t be overthink it.
Don’t bring every piece of tackle you own. This is also related to good planning. Know the conditions, get an idea of where the fish will be and what they’ll be eating. Bring only what you know you’ll use. Don’t bring too much with you. Keep your kayak light. Stay flexible. That’s the joy of kayak fishing. It is the ability to just grab it and go when you get a couple spare hours.
I have spent the last few months fishing with one rod. It’s not even the 7 foot medium heavy bait caster that you see recommended everywhere you read about kayak fishing tips. It is a light power Pflueger President spinning combo that I got for 80 bucks. Best all around rod? Nope. Have I caught fish? Yep. Dozens of them. Some over four pounds. My point is that you don’t need to have all the rods, all the baits, and all the accessories. Just fish with what you have and enjoy your time on the water. The fish aren’t nearly as pretentious as humans.
After fishing with just this rod for one season and researching this topic a lot. I am planning to use a four rod system that will keep a minimum number of rods on my kayak while being able to fish pretty much any lure effectively. Here’s how it works:
The Four Rod System
Here is my recommended system after watching hours of videos and reading tons of articles on this topic. You really only need four rods…
Multi-Purpose. This is your standard 7ft. medium heavy fast action baitcaster you see recommended as the one rod you should get for kayak fishing and bass fishing. It’s flexible and you can get by fishing pretty much anything on it. Equip this with 20lb test line and use for texas rigs, jigs, chatterbaits, spinnerbaits, deep cranking, and many other techniques with medium sized lures and mild resistance. Treble Hook. This would ideally be a 6ft 8inch medium power moderate action glass or composite baitcaster rod with 12lb test line for any lures that utilize treble hooks or where you need to allow the fish to “take” the bait more before setting the hook with less force. Think topwater, crank baits, lighter spinnerbaits, lipless crank baits, square bills, etc. Finesse. This is the only spinning rod I’d utilize. I would go with a 7ft medium power fast action spinning rod with 8lb test. This would be your go-to rod for the finesse tactics like weightless worms or creatures, drop shots, jerk baits, small jigs, and tubes. MeatStick. A 7ft 6 inch heavy fast action weapon of a baitcaster. Throw some braid on this thing for launching frogs and flipping and pitching. Think big hook sets, heavier weighted lures (could often be over 1oz) and horsing fish through heavy cover.
Learn to Adapt
You’re going to run into unexpected weather. Fish won’t be where you thought they would be. You’ll lose that one lure you were planning your whole trip around. Kayak fishing is all about being connected to your surroundings and going with the flow. Constantly be thinking about how you might need to adapt and change what you’re doing to stay a step ahead. Don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.
Learn to Properly Paddle
This will save you wasted energy and allow you to better maneuver while on the water. This page provides a good overview of the basics.
Master The One Handed Paddle
If you’re just paddling your kayak like me without a food pedal system, you’ll want to learn how to paddle with one hand. This will allow you to be more efficient while continuing to hold a rod in the other hand. What do you do when you’re fighting a fish with one hand, and you’ve got to steer your boat back upstream to avoid an obstacle or even a dangerous hazard? Lock the shaft of your paddle along your forearm. This will anchor it along your arm and allow you to use it more like a canoe paddle. It takes some practice but it’s one of the most useful skills I use on the water frequently. You can also learn to pinch your paddle in between your and side and use your hip as a hinge point to paddle as well for another method of one-handed paddling.
Use Your Feet
Your feet are actually your most effective anchoring system. I’ve found this to be particularly true while river fishing. The more I spend time on the water, the more I understand how to better use my feet as a tool. You can even use your feet as rudders to steer your drift on rivers. Simply stick a foot out and hold on to a log or rock or whatever structure is near your boat until you’re done fishing the hole. Then, no anchor line, no stake to pull up, just put your foot back in and paddle off. Feet are also great for re-directing the boat from obstacles while you’re busy fighting a fish.
Cast To Steer
Baits that offer resistance like crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and chatterbaits can actually be used to help steer your kayak. The simple resistance of reeling in the bait will actually pull your boat in the direction you’re casting and you can learn to use this to your advantage. Make casts in specific directions to subtly adjust your boat’s position as you float down a river or manage wind. Very handy trick to learn for less paddling and more fishing.
Don’t Be Afraid To Anchor
An anchor was the very first accessory I added to my kayak. I believe they are not nearly talked about enough on kayak fishing how-to blogs and resources. They can be cumbersome, but anchors definitely have a place in the kayak fishing arsenal. If wind or current is present while fishing, learning to use an anchor will save your tons of energy and make your time on the water much more enjoyable. For most kayak models, a 2-4 pound claw anchor is more than sufficient. I currently use a very basic setup with a 15lb mushroom weight, anchor line, and a zig zag cleat. I simple throw the anchor over the side of my boat while feeding line through hands until it contacts the bottom. Then, I can quickly secure in the cleat. I plan to invest in an anchor system that drops the anchor at the bow of my boat vs. the side and more effectively manages my anchor line. Something like the anchor wizard would be great.
Never give up and never stop learning
So many times I have been about to call it after getting skunked and I switch something up and catch something. Keep trying new things. I have experienced some very tough days on the water during these first few months where I just couldn’t figure out the bite. I have continued to study bass behavior, speak with more experienced anglers, talk to local shops, and slowly figure things out from time on the water. Every body of water is different, bass move, and every day is unique on the water. There’s no silver bullets. Just enjoy the hunt and keep trying to get that rod bent.
Chapter 6 - Kayak Upgrades and Modifications to Consider
This one is something I have thought more about as the weather has cooled off here in Idaho and the fishing are moving out deeper and into open water more. I would like to have a graph to better locate fish and reference contour maps of bodies of water I am on while fishing to locate ledges, points, etc. The Lure has a built in removable pod that is designed to house a battery, mount a unit, and put a transducer in the water under your boat quickly and easily. I haven’t looked a ton at the options out there yet for electronics, but I plan to do this next season before fall/winter. There are tons of great multi-function units on the market today.
Feelfree and most kayak manufacturers today offer a pedal drive system you can drop into the kayak with pretty minimal effort which allows you to use a pedal drive system to propel the kayak instead of paddling. This also requires a rudder or other steering system as well.
To be honest, I am torn on this one. On one hand I feel like fishing with a pedal drive looks nice for being able to do more handsfree maneuvering and have to put down the rod a little less while on the water. I have also learned from research that you can cover a lot more water since pedaling a kayak takes less energy and you can move more quickly through the water.
On the other hand, I am not sure I will upgrade to pedal drive because I have really fallen in love with paddling. It’s part of the experience of kayak fishing that I have grown to love. There’s something about feeling that paddle cut through the water and learning how to provide the perfect touch and silently and efficiently move your kayak through the water. Plus, I need the exercise these days since I am usually sitting on my butt in front of a computer all day.
All things considered, I do think pedal drives are very convenient and I will definitely at least consider this upgrade in the future. Learn more about the Feelfree overdrive system here.
As I mentioned a few times already in this guide, I’ve found an anchor to be a necessity. My current system is very crude. I plan to upgrade to a more convenient system like one of these in this blog post.
I’d like to upgrade to the four rod system I outlined above. To make sure I can effectively store rods while not using them I would need to do some upgrades related to rod storage and mounts. There are a ton of options out there for this. I could simply slap a cheap rod holder onto my current milk crate setup, or get more fancy and do something like a Feelfree camo crate bags with rod holders, a blackpak, or one of the many other great options out there that would also include better gear storage ability.
After watching guys like Greg Blanchard and NDYakAngler land countless fish for hours on YouTube, it has made me realize how nice it is to have a good landing net system. I plan to grab a simple net and keep it on the bow of my boat over the front hatch with a Yakattack rotogrip to secure it while making it quick and easy to grab. Here’s a great blog about kayak fishing nets from ANGLR.
It’s been a fantastic first season learning on the Feelfree Lure 11.5. I have fallen fast and hard for kayak fishing. I hope this beginners guide has helped you identify the right kayak for you, get a good idea about the gear you need, and how you can better enjoy your time on the water safely.I will leave you with a few of my favorite moments on the water from this first season as a kayak angler.