Rookie Kayak Fisherman

What Every Rookie Kayak Fisherman Shouldn’t Leave Home Without

So you’re new to kayak fishing? Well same here. And from one rookie to another, I’ve found there are a few basic essentials that you don’t want to leave home without. In no particular order, here are a few must-have items.

Pliers

Whether you need to tweak something on your boat, unhook a fish, or cut your line, a good set of pliers is absolutely essential on a kayak. I’ve forgotten mine a couple of times and it makes for a long day of fishing. I find that I am in need of pliers far more often in a kayak than I am in a bass boat. 

The main reason being… treble hooks. 

I have never been hooked past the barb in all my days of fishing, but I’ve already had several of the closest calls of my life in a kayak. When you bring a fish into a kayak it is either in your lap or around your legs and feet. A bass flailing about the bottom of the boat with 6 or 9 little gaffs sticking out of its face is enough to make you river dance. 

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Having pliers to remove the hooks from the fish will certainly decrease the chances of you getting a hook in your hand. 

But in the unfortunate event where one of those hooks end up in you, piers may be your only means of popping the point back through and cutting the hook in the bend to be able to remove it. It’s not something I want to do. But it’s something I’d want to do a whole lot less without a good set of pliers

Personal Flotation Device

I’m not going to lie, I don’t wear a PFD all the time when I’m just fishing in a big fiberglass boat as I should. But I ALWAYS wear a PFD in a kayak. Part of it is probably due to my unfamiliarity with everything, but I believe its best for a kayak angler of any skill level to wear one. There are just so many more ways to mess up in a kayak. 

Whether you bump a submerged tree in a calm pond or you’re blistering through a rapid in a swift river full of rocks, things can go wrong in a hurry. 

Just put the thing on and forget about it. You never even know you have a good PFD on. And one with compartments on the chest is actually very handy for fishing from a kayak. One of the biggest things I want in a kayak is to have everything within arms reach. What better thing then than a wearable tackle box that might also save your life. I’ve been using one made by Stohlquist WaterWare that my buddy Scott Beutjer gave me. It has compartments on the front large enough for my phone or battery pack and high back padding to get out of the way of the seat. 

Paddle

Obviously, but still worth mentioning quickly. A good kayak paddle is really nice. I had a little cheap metal and plastic one that came with my Sundolphin Journey 12 SS but once again, Scott stepped up and hooked me up with something much nicer, a Bending Branches Angler Classic

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Having a quality paddle that’s the right size for you and the boat you’re in definitely makes a difference. 

Another good thing about this paddle is that it has a ruler marked on it in the event you need to measure a fish and don’t have a bump board with you.

Tackle

Tackle is the thing I was the most worried about when it came to kayak fishing. How am I supposed to condense the hundreds of pounds of tackle in my boat to fit into a milk crate? Funny thing is I have found that simplifying and condensing my tackle has been super easy.

I’ll go over what’s in my basic tackle box below. But outside of that, I just prepare for each trip specifically. No matter where I’m going, I have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to do when I get there. And with just a couple handfuls of additional baits, I can give myself several alternatives if plan A isn’t working. 

The thing I didn’t think about is how unnecessary 90% of the tackle is that I take in my boat. 

I don’t need 50-pounds of punching gear when I’m on Lake Lanier, but it’s in my boat. Heck, I don’t even need as much punching stuff as I have in my fiberglass boat on Okeechobee. 

If I’m going to be fishing shallow vegetation during the spawn, I obviously don’t need my 4 boxes of deep crankbaits. What I do need is a couple of frogs and a few packs of Senkos. It’s really not that daunting of a task and the limitation of tackle is actually kind of freeing at times. I find myself trying harder to figure out the water in front of me with what I have to work with, which at times is the whole name of the game when it comes to kayak fishing. 

Rod Combos

Again, obviously, you need rods. But I’ve found that a few setups and strategies in particular work best for kayak fishing.

For starters, a 7’0” medium-heavy is the most common rod I use paired with a 7.5:1 gear ratio reel. This is a great rod to do a lot of stuff with. I typically have two of these, one with 14-pound test fluorocarbon and one with 30-pound test braid. Braided line when possible is your greatest ally in a kayak when it comes to getting a good hookset into a fish. 

I’ve found that it is difficult to set the hook well from a kayak because I’m either too unsteady to really lay the wood to them or I’m out of position and don’t have enough range of motion to drive the hook into the fish. The lack of stretch in braid definitely helps combat these things versus monofilament or even fluorocarbon. If I need to use fluorocarbon, another trick is to step up your rod size. If I usually use a 7’0” medium-heavy I’ll go to either a 7’0” heavy or a 7’3” medium-heavy for that technique. 

Outside of a couple 7’0” medium-heavies being standard, I again just select 4 or 5 rods for whatever fishery I’m going to be on. If I’m dropshotting on Lanier I’ll have more spinning gear. If I’m fishing grass on Guntersville, more heavy-duty baitcaster combos with braid. It’s pretty simple. 

ANGLR Bullseye

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my Bullseye while writing an article for the manufacturer’s website and app. But it’s honestly worth reminding you here because I often forget it myself and am frustrated by that fact once I get on the water. 

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I really believe the capabilities and benefits of the ANGLR App and logbook are extremely important to my growth and development as an angler over time, but the app alone isn’t going to do me a lot of good in a kayak if my Bullseye is in the truck and my phone is in the dry box. 

So don’t forget your Bullseye.

Miscellaneous Items

A few other items like sunglasses, water, snacks, and toilet paper are all obvious. Sunglasses are a must-have. I’ve forgotten mine a couple of times and it’s been brutal. You get a lot more glare it seems like because you’re closer to the water. 

I will say that staying hydrated is a lot more important too. Being closer to the water and not moving around much can make for a pretty hot day. Add to that the physical exertion of paddling and it’s much easier to get dehydrated in a kayak than a bass boat.

Shaye’s Basic Kayak Gear and Tackle

Pliers: Rapala Fisherman’s Pliers

Cutters: Rapala Fisherman’s Side Cutters

Scissors: Rapala Super Line Scissors

Paddle: Bending Branches Angler Classic

PFD: Stohlquist WaterWare

Logbook: Anglr Bullseye 

Rods: Vursa 7’0” Medium Heavy

Reels: Lew’s LFS Speed Spool 7.5:1

Fluorocarbon: 14-pound Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon

Braid: 30-pound Sufix 832 Braid 

Hooks5/0 offset, 4/0 EWG, 4/0 flipping hooks, trailer hooks, wacky hooks, dropshot hooks

Weights1/4 ounce, 3/8 ounce, 1/2 ounce, dropshot weights 

Terminal tackle1/4 ounce shakey head, bobber stoppers, whacky tool


This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

Become an ANGLR Expert and apply here.

Shaye Baker

ABOUT Shaye

Shaye Baker started fishing with his dad in Alabama as soon as they could find a life jacket small enough to fit him. Competing with his father in local tournaments, Shaye quickly found a hunger for competitive bass fishing. He furthered his fishing career at Auburn University helping to establish the Auburn University Bass Fishing Club. While at Auburn, Shaye served as the President of the club and qualified to fish on the traveling team amassing six Top 5 finishes including two 3rd place finishes in consecutive FLW College Fishing National Championships. While beginning to dabble in the world of outdoor journalism, Shaye continued to fish semi-pro events finishing in the Top 5 in the Bassmaster Opens, FLW Costa Series and BFLs. Finding himself at a crossroads, Shaye chose to put down the rod and pick up the pen and camera to focus on his career in outdoor journalism. Shaye has had work featured in Bassmaster Magazine, FLW Outdoors Magazine, B.A.S.S.Times and the Japanese bass fishing magazine Basser. Shaye has also had work featured on ESPN and Wired2Fish.com, FLWfishing.com and Bassmaster.com. While working with B.A.S.S., Shaye initiated and spearheaded their GoPro division which brought more video coverage to the fans than had ever been done before in competitive fishing. After his tenure with some of the best companies in the business, Shaye identified a need for competitive fishing where participation didn’t cost a fortune. By founding UPLOADED, the Online Fishing Series, Shaye established a free tournament series where anglers could film their fish catches and upload their videos to compete against other anglers for prizes.

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