Stand Up Kayak Fishing

Stand Up Kayak Fishing | Tips for Standing in a Kayak

Featured Image Credit: Scott Beutjer Fishing

I feel confident saying that when I was half my current age of 56, I would have run down a ramp and walked into a kayak; pushing it offshore with one motion. I most certainly would run up to shore in my Hobie, like my friend Will Son, stand up and walk across the hatch just before it beaches. But back then, I had balance and was fearless and stand up kayak fishing hadn’t really taken off yet.  

It was an incident with my first Hobie (a skateboard), a playground slide, and an ego that taught me the reality of the physics behind the equation force=mass x acceleration… and aging that has shown me that all things change, especially balance – or maybe just my willingness to accept falling down or out of a boat has changed? 

Regardless, I am going to share a few things I have learned about standing in a kayak which I think are important; you really need to understand your kayaks primary and secondary stability and at what point the latter kicks in, you should be aware of where you are in the water if you are going to stand and you should choose a kayak or gear that makes it possible for you.

Stand Up Kayak Fishing: Primary Stability

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The primary stability of your kayak is the initial steadiness you feel with the kayak on flat water, the secondary stability is what keeps the kayak upright when you pass the primary point.  

If you haven’t spent a lot of time in a kayak, this may not seem that simple to understand, but get in a kayak and lean to one side.  You will feel the kayak moving with you fairly easy to a certain point, then you can feel it “grab” and seems that it will not tip further… this is the point that the secondary kicks in (very simply stated); just know, it will go further. If you really want to understand it, stand waist-deep in the water beside your kayak and push down on one side until it rolls.  Now, there are body shape and size factors, hull shape, buoyancy… and on and on… and on… but to learn your boat, learn where it tips with you in it and you will know when the waves or your movement are putting you at risk.  

If you are a bit of a science geek (guilty) and really want to gain a deeper understanding, this is a pretty cool explanation – kayak stability from Guillemot Kayaks.

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Raymond Jones testing a Caney Fork Outdoors Kayak for stability

I have demoed a lot of kayaks and can tell you the primary stability of many cheaper kayaks has kept me from attempting to stand up. In shorter, narrower boats, I refuse to raise up out of the seat unless it is warm and I am certain I am shallow because the motion of paddling causes the boat to lean deeply from side to side. It is in these kayaks that I will place my hand on the side of the kayak and push down to test at what point the secondary kicks in before I lean at all. 

If both seem to be fairly stable, I will stand with my feet wide for added stability. But this seemingly simple motion of standing has shifted the center of gravity and completely changed the physics of the kayak, and you will see increased instability with even the best kayaks on the market. If you have just purchased a new boat and are a person who likes standing to fish, learn the tipping point before trying stand up kayak fishing.

Stand Up Kayak Fishing: When I Stand or Sit

So you took the time to learn how far you can push your kayak to stay upright and are headed out to tackle a new body of water. Is the area filled with stumps or submerged timber? Is it an open and deep lake, or shallow and stump filled? Since I shared that I thought riding a skateboard down a very long playground slide was a good idea, let me share something else; I walked right off the end of my bass boat and face planted. The trolling motor brought the boat to a dead stop, but objects in motion tend to stay in motion, so my big ‘ole butt stayed in motion until it hit the ground after snagging a rock with the trolling motor. This was in an extremely stable boat on a calm day. Now picture the less stable kayak busting wide open into a submerged object; the likely hood of you falling in the kayak is increased drastically.

Another reason I recommend you understand the kayak’s stability is that one day, you will run upon a submerged object that will cause you to think that you are rolling.

 It may be a tree just under the surface, a log, or even a rock that causes this to happen and if you panic, you will go over. The first time it happened to me was at Toledo Bend and I had just encountered my first alligator. I will not go into more details, but just know that had I not understood the point at which my Hobie would tip, I may have leaned myself right out of the boat; and well, I was already more than scared by the 12-foot gator! So be aware of the water you are in when deciding to do some stand up kayak fishing.

Since you will eventually stand up in your kayak just to test it, make sure you have the right kayak for you. First and foremost, the Hobie Vantage seat is a godsend to us older kayakers who have suffered back surgeries (probably related to the playground slide now that I’ve thought about it). With its height and side rails (and the width of the kayak itself), standing is extremely easy. But even with those advantages, you need to be aware of the center of your kayak. If I were to stand up in the PA14 with my feet together like I was on a balance beam, I would find myself in the water. I have several Hobie buddies who have found a way to roll them by forgetting to keep their mass centered. 

Stand Up Kayak Fishing: Helpful Accessories 

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Some kayaks come with a stand assist strap. Photo credit: Rogue Fishing

My first kayak was a Jackson Big Tuna with a “stand assist” strap to allow me to pull myself to an upright position. Without this device, I would have not been able to physically raise myself out of the seat while on the water. Many versions are available, but Rogue Fishing has an assist that also serves as a strap to pull your kayak. 

This can be connected to the kayak inline with the kayaker to allow them to have a wide and balanced stance before raising completely to an upright position. A lot of boat manufacturers offer these along with the kayak as accessories. There are also stand assist rails that allow you to pull yourself up and stand for long periods, but as a tournament angler, the value they provide versus their interference with casting does not make them a good deal for me personally.

I rarely in stand up kayak fishing, most of my standing is for biological reasons or to enter/exit the kayak, but I have learned (through experience) that I need to know what it takes to be safe because there are times where I need to get a better vantage point. Your trips will be more enjoyable the more you’re aware of your capability, the boats capabilities, and your surroundings. I hope you find this helpful and it helps you to stay inside the kayak… and I hope if you are still young enough that you reconsider taking a skateboard down a slide… just saying.

This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

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Mike Cheatham


May 2016, sat in my first kayak. October 2016, skunked in my first tournament. Spring of 2017, placed 11th in the KBF Open and have chased the addiction since. Fishing is the one place my mind gets quiet, the place I have always found peace. To do it competitively with a great bunch of folks is just a bonus. To have an opportunity to combine my love for fishing with writing...I feel like I have finally found a place in this world! I do have the support of a wonderful woman who understands my need to be on the water; she supports my dreams is truly good.

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