learn to kayak fish

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.

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