Some Kayak Fishing Tips for those just getting started in the sport

Jim and Client in La Jolla

While working as a kayak fishing guide over the past sixteen years, I’ve seen people make just about every mistake possible. And so this week, I’m going to give you some tips that will help you avoid those embarrassing moments when you’re learning to kayak fish.

One of the biggest problems with kayak anglers is that 99% of them are fisherman first, and kayakers a very distant second. Now, if you’re going to be bass fishing close to shore in a small, sheltered bay or pond, that’s fine. But you’ll still be amazed at how learning proper kayaking technique can help your fishing. You’ll be able to cover a bigger area because you’ll be paddling way more efficiently. You’ll also be able to get to the fish more quickly and more quietly, and you’ll be able to fight and land fish more effectively. Of course, you’ll also develop the confidence and skills you need to safely fish in more exposed conditions.

The bottom line, is that once you’ve decided you want to pursue kayak fishing (which you will want to do once you’ve tried it!), it’s a great idea to take a kayaking class; learn the strokes and learn how to self rescue in case you fall off your kayak. If you will be ventureing beyond the the surf zone it is also a very good idea to take a surf class, as the surf zone takes very specific skills and the cost of not knowing them can be high in lost gear and injury.

Punching out through the surf

Bracing in the surf

Now with that said, here are three tips that will help you avoid embarrassing moments when you’re starting out kayak fishing.

First off, Dress to swim and rig to flip, Dress to swim simply means that you should dress with the expectation of swimming. Of course, this means wearing your PFD, but it also means wearing clothes that still do their job when they’re wet.
In the San Diego area, this means wearing quick dry clothing like ExOfficio’s, rather than a cotton t-shirt and shorts, which will stay wet and uncomfortable. In other areas it could mean wearing waders or even a dry suit to keep you good and warm.

Dressed for the cold in Chesapeake Bay. PFD, Kokatat Waders, dry top and lots of layers underneath

Rigging to flip just means making sure everything you bring is either secured to the kayak, that it will float, and that anything that can’t get wet is secured in a drybag

The next rule is, where your head goes your body will follow: In other words, to stay upright, keep your head centered over your kayak. If do you this, your kayak can rock and roll under you while you stay comfortable and balanced on top.

I’ve seen more people fall in the water while reaching for a rod behind them because they simply lean off the side of the kayak to look around. The best way to get at gear behind you is to turn side saddle in your kayak.”

Matt Moyer sitting side sadle in the kayak

The third tip is this: Always give yourself a rods length of line:
I see more people fighting themselves and fighting their equipment because they wind in too much line. You’re then stuck doing the star fish because you have to reach all the way out in one direction with the reel, and all the way in the other direction to get at the fish, or weed that’s on your line. If you just leave yourself a rods length of line you can grab your fish or lure, and work with slack line.

A rods length of line when landing a fish

So there you have it… a few quick tips to ease your learning curve while just getting into the sport of kayak fishing.


  1. Thanks for some of the tips i am wanting to try Kayak fishing in some of the small lakes where i live. I usually fish with a belly boat but i am getting a little older a i find i just don’t have the power in my legs to paddle around the lakes. So i want to try a Kayak i have found one that is a pelican fishing Kayak . I have a friend that has a regular kayak a he is going to come out with me and give me some tips.

    I noticed that you had a fish finder on your kayak how did you mount it and was it a battered operated.

    Thank Kev

  2. Hi Kev

    Many kayaks that you are able to buy, especially the sit on top (SOT) kayaks has got places where you can mount a fish finder or compass. Most fishing kayakers create placeholders for their fish finders, if the kayaks doesn’t support it. You can visit a kayak shop and hear what the salesman has to say.

    Hi Jim

    Thanks for the article. The tips you listed here are the basics and if you get the basics right, the rest would not be a problem.

    Happy fishing

  3. Great tip and advices and not only for people new to kayak fishing.
    Taking at least some basic classes about how to use a kayak and about self rescue and re-entering a kayak in open water everyone new to this fascinating sport should do.
    What people will learn in those classes within a short period of time, might take them months to learn without guidance.
    Also I would recommend everyone new to kayak fishing to book one of the kayak fishing guides. What people can learn on those 4-6 hours trips might take them years to find out otherwise.

  4. Your articals are very informative and well described. We live in South Africa and kayak fishing has not realy started out big yet. I have finished building my house next to the river and plan to put a company together.I basicly want to concentrate on letting clients fish in the streams and from the islands. But some times as we all know a school off fish will be feeding on the sides of river what is the best methods to aproach these fish.As well as have you got any tips on marketing. Like I said this kayaking fishing Idea is new.

  5. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an very long comment but after
    I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.

    Anyhow, just wanted to say superb blog!

  6. Just desire to say your article is as astounding. The clarity in your post
    is just spectacular annd i could assume you’re an expert on this subject.
    Well with your permission let me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated with forthcoming post.

    Thanks a million and please keep up the gratifying work.

  7. Hello Mr Jim Simmons I am wanting to ask if one has not been in a kayak before yet I REALLY want to get into fishing this way….are there classes I need to look into? Thank you!

  8. In fact I would argue that kayak fishing is more enjoyable and effective than boat fishing. Obviously boats get the nod when it comes storing gear, bait and tackle as well covering territory, but to me the benefits of the kayak give a fisherman an unfair advantage.
    Thank you for your sharing this useful information

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