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Ten Essential Kayak Fishing Tips

Getting on the water and catching fish from a kayak seems easy, but we all wish someone had told us a few things before we jumped in some plastic and grabbed a rod. Here are my Top Ten Essential Kayak Fishing Tips.


1. Research

In this age of information almost any topic is readily available. New to bass fishing from a kayak, thousands of articles, opinions and facts can assist you in lessening your learning curve. Seek out videos, podcasts and on line or print information. With tons of tournaments and fun fishermen there’s bound to be someone local who is willing to mentor you. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed, choose a style of fishing that most suits your interest.

Bass are object oriented, smallmouth a bit less than largemouth. Largemouth relate to submerged wood, weeds, rock in all sizes, manmade structure in the form of docks, bridge pilings and rip-rap banks. Bass will eat anything that fits in their cavernous mouths but prefer crawfish first and minnows, shad, frogs and again anything they can track down and catch. They need oxygen, food, cover and deep water as an escape route and they’re happy. Found almost everywhere they are a most worthy opponent.


2. Kayak Choice For Kayak Fishing

As important as anything is the choice of a kayak that fits you, is affordable, high in quality and critical is fishing friendly. Consider models that have options that suit your fishing spots. Again a little research will go a long way. Most of us wouldn’t buy a vehicle without test driving it, same here. Climb in a kayak and go for a ride. Handling, casting room, paddle or pedal all matter. What about hauling and handling? Options include car topping, trailering or the bed of a pick-up truck. Make sure you’re comfortable with loading / unloading your kayak. Consider carts like the C-tug and others to lighten your load.

You can find a complete list of Dealers in your area that carry Jackson Kayaks and more, here.

3. Essential Safety Tips For Kayak Fishing

Regardless of age or experience safety is a top priority. Would you put your child in the set up you have? The most important piece of gear is the life jacket. There are several models that make paddling, casting and fishing comfortable. Invest wisely and consider highly visible colors if you’re sharing the water with larger water craft. Check out some great ones from Astral, Kokatat, and NRS

Light poles and flags like the ones from YakAttack add a degree of visibility. Have a whistle attached in a handy spot as an audible signal to other boaters. Try to make sure everything you carry is tethered or floats (including you.)

Ten Essential Kayak Fishing Tips

4. Simplify

Bass fishing offers simplicity or a high degree of complexity. Simple is basic tools (*more on tackle later), minimal electronics, and functional equipment. Clutter and confusion go hand in hand. A dry box for keys, wallet and phone is securely attached to the kayak, a dry bag to hold other items you wish to keep dry is another option that can be stowed below the deck of many boat models. Strategically carabiners are your friend, they allow security for other accessories and a rubberized short handled net can be carried to assist in landing your catch, equipped with a lanyard and secured in a spot behind your seat is more than adequate.

While you might own tons of tackle a minimalist approach is possible. Consider storage space, necessity and cost. A couple of Plano #3600 plastic tackle boxes will hold literally dozens of bass baits. (*it’s coming I promise.)

5. Knowing Nature

Another aspect of safety and bass fishing success is knowing and understanding nature. You’re in hot pursuit of a wild creature. Every type of weather is an indicator of activity of the all species of bass. Arm yourself with as much information to wind, weather, water conditions to assist you with safety concerns and to land more bass. Air and more importantly surface water temperatures are valuable clues. Bass will be in pre-spawn from 50 – 62 degrees, they are eating machines in preparation for the spawning rituals.

Smallmouth go first, then the spots aka Kentucky bass and finally the legendary largemouth hit the beds. At about 70 degrees and a couple of weeks they finalized the function (post spawn) and move off to deeper water haunts. Wind direction gives you an idea of the prevailing future weather patterns. A north wind brings cooler changes, south warmer, east possibly some unstable patterns and west seems to bring the bite with it. High winds and lightning are the bane of the bass anglers. GET OFF THE WATER.

Ten Essential Kayak Fishing Tips
6. Essential Bait and Rod choices for Kayak Bass Fishing


There are hundreds of colors of crankbaits, thousands of blade configurations of spinnerbaits, a never ending rainbow of colors of soft plastics… attention, attention…. You don’t have to have them all.

A cross section of bass baits will prove dependable even deadly for bass. When slinging lures single hook lures do offer a lesser chance of being embedded in anything. Highly effective models of spinners, jigs, topwater buzzbaits, and soft plastic rigs work just fine. On the plastics learn to rig worms, craws and creature baits utilizing the Texas rig, popular and highly productive yet simple. It starts with a conical slip sinker, usually lead with a hole drilled through it and ranging in weight from 1/8th ounce to a hefty one ounce version (3/8ths is standard for me). Slid it onto the line (small side first, next attach you hook varying in size from 2/0 to 6/0 dependent on the overall size of your bait.

Learn the Palomar knot, the Clinch knot and the blood knot to use in attaching two lines. Stock a few crankbaits in your bass boxes, three necessary patterns/colors

  1. Shad
  2. Crawfish
  3. Charteuese black back.
  4. Done!

Add a few rubber –legged jigs in a couple of weights and colors. During the warmer months a few topwater “plugs” and minnow imitating baits are solid choices. I developed a “one year rule”, if you carry baits that haven’t been tied on, gotten wet or caught a fish after one year they come out. Soon you have your own selection of favorite bass baits for you and more important the fish. Here are my favorites for spring.


As for fishing rods, length ranging from the 5 ½ foot ultralight spinning models to the 7 ½ foot medium heavy baitcasters have earned a place in my kayak. Longer casts, lightweight lures and light line beg for the spinning combos. Lures down to an 1/8 th ounce, launched on four to six pound test calls for open faced spinning reels. To cast and retrieve the bulky bass baits I opt for a more muscular rod and reel with some guts, baitcasters.

These reels are spooled with heavier monofilament 12-16 pound test and another option is the super strong and sensitive, no stretch braid in 20 to 30 pound test range. Go armed to battle bruiser bass. Generally two baitcasting outfits and a spinning set up are staged at my feet. Depending on the available structure (rocks, docks, submerged wood) I might add another rod.

7. Go Silent

Bass can be spooky, wary and downright finicky at times. The kayak by its nature offers a silent, stealthy approach. A time proven tip, throw the quietest baits first. Subtle, smaller silent lures will catch BIG bass consistently. If you climb the scale of sound going to next level in decibel graduations you’ll find you get more first cast bass bites. Save the loudest for last. Always exceptions but generally this tactic pays off. In murky or muddy water try brighter colors and bigger sizes. No bites go to louder lures. Sound travels through water five times faster than through air. Water is a great conductor of sound unintentional OR intentional. Paddle quietly and pedal using some drift.

8. Small Water Advantages

Big water = Big bass. NO! Several state records for largemouth bass come from smaller lakes, rivers and even ponds. The kayak makes the smallest (and larger) bodies of water accessible, another advantage kayak! Smaller waters can be worked thoroughly and are often under-utilized. Even urban, close to home spots can be great testing grounds for new baits and develop your fishing skills. Covering water quickly gives you more opportunities in your busy world to fish. Tiny spots can hold BIG bass.

Ten Essential Kayak Fishing Tips
9. Comfortable Kayak Fishing Clothes

Comfortable footwear is a plus. Nonslip soles for standing, entering and exiting your kayak are recommended. *The Astral Lowyak is my personal choice almost year round. For the ultimate comfort wicking (water shedding) material is functional if not fashionable. With water all around, mist, rain and hopefully some dripping fish water resistant and waterproof is desirable. For warmth you can’t beat wool. Fingerless gloves, hats, socks and more keep you warm as you work the water in search of bass.

10. Journal

A bit of a chore but the bass fisherman’s bible is a journal. Notate surface water temperature (easily determined with a swimming pool thermometer) moon phase (major moons, full and new are great) wind direction, the most productive baits, depth that you find the fish and any distinct cover or pattern that is producing.

Bass fishing is a never ending game of hide and seek that takes place in some beautiful places. Experience and the fish are the best teachers.