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Over the past half century I’ve caught fish from every conceivable water craft with the exception of a jet ski. Jon boats, canoes, bass boats, pontoons, homemade boats and essentially anything that floats. About six seasons ago I climbed into a kayak, my only previous experience was a short kayaking trip in the ocean off the Florida coast. I was chastised by a member of the kayaking community when I posted a blog about why I like to stand while I fish. The basis of his criticism was I had only been in a kayak for one year. A few lessons were repeats of my previous trips others were directly related to kayaks. Not new to fishing but new to paddling the kayak I learned lots of lessons. Here are my lessons learned from a kayak. DISCLAIMER – All these tips fit my preferences or style of kayaking and fishing. You need to develop your own or adopt some of these based of your own level of comfort and safety considerations.


  • A kayak isn’t as stable as a full size fishing boat. Entering and exiting step to the middle and stay low. I often use my paddle like a fly fisherman’s wading staff

Lessons Learned From a Kayak

  • The correct footwear is a plus. Plastic and water equals slippery. While I will go bare foot in the summer a pair of Astral Loyaks are lightweight, comfortable but most important have a super gripping sole. In the late fall and through the winter I opt for NRS boundary boots. Warm, comfortable and again non-skid soles make them ideal for cold water kayaking.


  • I never take safety for granted. My life jacket goes on before climbing in the kayak and stays on until I exit. I have life jackets for winter and summer that allow for comfort and casting ease, NO EXCUSES. I use flag on a pole secured to the track on the back of my boat to make myself more visible and keep a whistle for an audio signal to alert big boat operators. Periodic checks of bolts and straps on seats, casting braces and anywhere else is highly recommended.


  • I anticipate problems in order to avoid them, everything in a kayak should be secured, tethered or float. A dry box, dry bag stored appropriately are very important. I have rope tied to front handle if I need to drag or be towed. I have grippers attached to both sides right along my seats. I use them to stay put in wind and current along docks and downed trees. I prefer not to carry an anchor to avoid the extra weight and the danger in current surges from the places I fish where water rises quickly because of generation at dams. I also use the grippers to secure rods I have staged. * (photo) They allow quick access.

Lessons Learned From a Kayak

  • Wicking and wool are buzz words for wet weather and cold weather. Hypothermia is a real threat. The 50/50/50 rule from the Coast Guard states, “If you are in 50 degree water for 50 minutes you have a 50% chance of survival. I also carry rain gear in my dry bag.


  •  A hat and sunglasses protect you from the sun. I keep water and a power bar close by on long trips. Both of these also protect you from errant hooks on casts, sets or other anglers.


  • I keep “screw balls” and a Rod Rocket* (photo) to stabilize my other fishing rods since I have them staged on both sides of the boat. The rods sit inside both accessories, held in at two points, making it virtually impossible for them to slip over the side. * (photo) I also have a casting brace that gives one more anchor point.

Lessons Learned From a Kayak

  • The storage of my Plano #3600 tackle boxes is generally alongside my seat. The spaces provided will hold two and there is under seat storage also. I turn the snap handles on the tackle boxes down or you run the risk of fishing line getting caught in the them and sending them over the side. * (photo) One box holds about $50 – $100 in artificial fishing lures, just protecting my investment.

Lessons Learned From a Kayak

  • I prefer to stand while fishing and most of the time while paddling. * (photo) Standing lets me incorporate the power of my legs into setting the hook on fish and paddling also. A few tips on standing on the kayak. Pick a stable kayak, I love the original Big Rig and the new HD and FD models. A quick spec check shows the widths all being over 36 inches. I stand in the MayFly, Coosa, Bite, Liska, Yupik and as mentioned previously the Big Rig. Standing allows me to see and cast to targets that might be holding fish. I maximize my hook set and can play bigger fish more effectively when I’m standing. When setting the hook if you can position yourself to cast parallel to the kayak as opposed to generating force perpendicular to the boat it minimizes the impact and wobble of the kayak. Another little trick I employ is I use the foot pegs to stabilize my stance. I slide my feet under the pegs for an added measure of stability. Extremely important is your stance. After twenty years of martial arts / karate training I use the identical stance in the kayak. It creates balance and a sure footed foundation for every kayak activity. My feet are about a shoulder distance apart and in a staggered stance meaning one foot ahead of the other. Over the years this has become a habit that gives me reassurance in the wind, on big water and even in the wake of other boats. In waves or wakes created by motorized boats, I sit and position the kayak into the waves or wakes.

Lessons Learned From a Kayak

  • I keep everything possible staged at my feet, beside me or directly behind me. My landing net is in the Rod Rocket so I can turn and grab it. The best soft plastic baits are stored in my pocket. Pliers and small cutters, along with a Line Cutterz ring sit at the base of my seat. *(photo) Minimal movement means less disruption to fishing, lure change or paddling.

That’s my list of lessons, I hope they’re helpful. I’m sure we all have lessons we learned from a kayak.