If you’re reading this article right now, it probably means that you are debating taking the leap into kayak fishing. Whether you are a previous touring or whitewater kayak owner, you kayaked once at summer camp all those years ago and thought it was cool, or even if you've never stepped foot in a kayak, this is the article for you.
I will share my experience and some of the lessons that I have learned from my mistakes, as well as some other important tips. My reason for getting into Kayak fishing was very simple; I was tired of being limited to the banks to fish from. I saw open water and I knew there were fish just waiting to be caught. Limited to my Highschool budget and small condo for storage, the decision to buy a kayak to fish from was nearly made for me. I started to do my research and narrow down my options. After this came the fun part, rigging.
Purchasing Your Fishing Kayak
Some questions that you need to ask yourself when narrowing down your options are; What is my budget? New or Used? How am I transporting and storing my new purchase? What waters am I fishing? Do I want to have the option of standing up? Do I want to pedal or paddle? Sit inside or sit on top? All of this might seem intimidating so let's break some of it down. A good new fishing kayak can cost all the way up to $6,000 with Hobie’s new 360 Angler however, there are much more cost-effective options on the market.
My advice is to spend as much as you can afford but keep in mind you can always upgrade later. New kayaks have the obvious advantage of being...well...new. They are a clean slate for you to rig up how you want. One of my biggest tips for getting into the sport is joining a few Facebook groups like KAAO (Kayak Anglers Association of the Outaouais) based out of Ottawa, KKFC (Kawartha Kayak Fishing Club), HKKF (Hard Knox Kayak Fishn’ in the Niagara region) and KCKF (Kingston Canoe and Kayak Fishing). Here you will most likely find a few used kayaks for sale, sometimes you can get lucky and find the exact model you were looking for.
Transporting kayaks may seem like a daunting task but it is possible with nothing more than a few pool noodles and some rope. I would not recommend this as a long-term solution but it will work to get it home from the store. You should consider roof racks and j-hooks, possibly even a trailer, and if you have a truck, a bed extender. One tip with strapping down your kayak, do not use Ratchet-style straps.(Use Cam Straps) It is very easy to over-tighten around the hull and end up warping it. For storage, something covered and somewhat temperature controlled is ideal like a garage however as long as you store it properly, you can store it outside. A consideration for the waters you are fishing in, generally, the bigger the water, the bigger the boat. In small ponds you can get away with smaller kayaks since you aren’t going to be paddling too far. In rivers, you will want something short and nimble, not necessarily a good paddling kayak. For great lakes, you will want something with a stable hull design and excellent stability, all while being a good paddling kayak. One way to gain an edge sight fishing is being able to stand up in your kayak. Some people may not feel comfortable standing in their kayak, it may take some getting used to but it is a great advantage especially when you have been sitting in your kayak for a while.
One other question that some people have is pedal or paddle? This is mostly a personal decision. I prefer to paddle because I find it stealthier and I am able to get into shallower, weedier backwaters with little frustration, however, there are some advantages like the freedom of both of your hands. If you are going to paddle, make sure that you buy the lightest paddle that you can. You will thank yourself long term. In high-end paddles, you will also notice extendable “plus-ferrules”. These are good because it allows you to use the same paddle with various different kayaks.
Another debate is sit inside or sit on top. Both styles have their advantages but sit on top kayaks are favoured for their stability and amount of storage. Stand-up fishing is excellent for sight fishing as well as flipping and pitching heavy grass. Personally, I started off with a Perception Sound 9.5 that I got for a discounted show price. As you can see this is a shorter sit inside style kayak but it did have a big enough tankwell to fit a milk crate in it for tackle storage. I went this route because it was very light and maneuverable, inexpensive, easy to transport, easy to store in my townhouse and I could even stand up in it. Keep in mind it is not designed to be stood up in however, I was about 5’9” and 140lbs (yes I did fall out, only one time). One thing that I will stress is to demo kayaks before you make your purchase. Since I was able to borrow a fellow KAAO member’s Jackson Bite which I fell in love with so much, I moved on from my old sit inside and purchased my own Bite. Now, an important part of kayak fishing is rigging. You may have a little more rigging and planning to do if your kayak was not intended to be a fishing kayak.
Rigging Up Your Kayak (The Fun Part)
You’ll notice from my pictures that I take rigging my kayaks very seriously. DIY rigging is very popular and you’ll get a lot of great ideas from those Facebook pages I mentioned. If you’re not feeling so crafty and just want something that you know is going to last and work well, I highly recommend Yakattack products which are available at Trailhead Paddle Shack. One thing I also recommend is putting tracks on your boats. This way you can add or take off accessories without needing tools on the water. Yakattack offers various sizes of tracks and has several different track mounted products like rod holders, cup holders, fishfinder mounts, gear retractors and camera mounts. But one of my favourite yakattack accessories is definitely the Visipole. This is a track-mounted safety flag with a bright LED light on top, useful for early mornings around big boats or even hunters. Purchasing these track mounted accessories allows you to switch between kayaks and still use these accessories. You are also able to remove these when you choose to upgrade.
My previous kayak setup. (Perception Sound 9.5) Some tips for rigging are to try and keep items out of the way of you landing fish and to keep things out of the way of your back cast. This will get extremely frustrating. Make sure to paddle and fish with your kayak a bit before you start rigging - this will give you an idea of where you’d want things like a fishfinder, rod holder or even something like a cup holder. Once you are 100% sure where you are mounting gear you can start to drill holes. Yakattack has lots of helpful videos on almost every product but basically you drill your first hole using the track as a template. To secure the tracks there are several different methods. If you have access to your hull, nuts and bolts with a washer are excellent. If you don’t have access to the hull I recommend using a self tapping screw or rivets with marine sealant. Drill your opposite hole making sure not to shift the track, then do the same with the rest of the holes. Once these tracks are mounted you can start to mount your gear in place and see how you like things. Keep in mind accessories can always be adjusted and moved.
My current kayak setup. (Jackson Bite)
Do your own research on boats that you think will potentially be the right fit for you. As a person who was in the position a few years ago, I can tell you that the most valuable resource for me was being part of the KAAO. Members always have insights and comments that will help you out. You don’t even need to participate in tournaments though I will highly recommend them. Being present at the events allows you to check out other members' rigs and really get a feel for the sport, plus there are great prizes to win including a $500 Trailhead Paddleshack gift card which can get you quite a few accessories. Never paddle alone! Lastly and most importantly, safety is key with kayak fishing.
Always be sure to wear your PFD no matter what body of water. A boat safety kit is also necessary in most cases, a bilge pump will help you should you get water in your hull. Be sure to have everything on a leash should you flip and make sure that you have at least one side of your kayak for re-entry. Hopefully, this helps you to get into kayak fishing, or at least give it a try. Feel free to message me if you have any questions. I am always happy to help someone get into the sport because I was once there too.
Good luck! Tight lines!
Follow Troy in Instagram: @forest_city_yak_bassin