20 Kayak Fishing Tips to Make You a Better Angler

Whether you are brand new to fishing out of a kayak or you already an experience pro, every angler wants to catch more fish and become a better angler.

Having success as angler in a kayak is a process, but the more you can learn and prepare the more fish you’ll catch and the better experience you’ll have out on the water.

In this article I will share with you the top 20 kayak fishing tips that will not only help you catch more fish, but will also make you a better and more efficient kayak angler.

Let’s get started.

20 Essential Kayak Fishing Tips

Safety First

First and foremost, let’s talk about being safe out on the water. Every year there are kayak fishermen that don’t end up coming back and I don’t want that to happened to you. Being safe out on the water should be your primary concern above everything else.

Here a few tips and things you should always do and have with you while fishing out of a kayak:

Kayak Safety Tips

  • Always wear your PDF
  • Never anchor in swift current
  • Be visible
  • Carry a knife
  • Carry a whistle or other sounding device for alerting power boats of your location.
  • Water (stay hydrated)
  • Sunscreen

The most dangerous time to be out on a kaya is in cold water. Check out this video by the Flukemaster on how to safely fish out of a kayak in the winter.

Choose the Right Kayak

I’ve fished in a cheap non-fishing kayaks for many years and it’s something that I don’t recommend doing. If you are going to be spending a lot of time fishing out of a kayak, make sure to get one that is comfortable and that best fits your fishing style on the bodies of water where you’ll be using it most.

Selecting the right kayak that fits your needs will help enhance your fishing experience, keep you and your gear safe and is well worth whatever investment you may have to make. You’ll end up catching more fish and have a better overall experience.

If you need help selecting a fishing kayak check out this article: How to Choose a Fishing Kayak

Target High Percentage Areas

One of the best tips that I can give that will help you catch more fish out of a kayak is to target high percentage areas.

What I mean by that is you should look for areas of the lake, pond or river you are fishing and identify the best waters your targeted species are more likely to be located.

In general fish can be found where there is food, cover and a variety of water depths. If you can find these types of areas, you’ll catch a lot more fish.

When kayak fishing you are limited on the amount of water you can cover making your spot selection even more important.

Here are some proven areas that are known for holding a lot of fish year round.

High Percentage Fishing Areas

  • Points
  • Secondary Points
  • Docks
  • Inlets/Creek Channels
  • Current
  • Hard Cover
  • Bluff Walls
  • Ledges
  • Humps
  • Windy Banks
  • Grass Lines & Flats
  • Rock Piles
  • Trees
  • Wood
  • Bridges
  • Riprap
  • Tullies
  • Other Types of Structure and Cover

Do Some Research

Doing some simple research before you head fishing is extremely important and can give you a huge advantage even before you make your first cast.

These days there are a ton of resources we as anglers can utilize that will help us breakdown the waters we fish including apps, maps, and online resources that can provide us with some key information on forage, productive areas, water clarity, weather, seasonal patterns and much more.

Here is a list of some of my favorite tools and resources that I use to help me find productive areas and help me select the type of baits and lures to throw.

Google Earth – I use google earth to scout out lakes, ponds, reservoirs ahead of time. It’s a great mapping tool that is free to use and should be something every angler utilizes.

Navionics Web App – the Navionics web app is another great tool that shows you a ton of different lake maps with contour lines, helping you scout out some key spots ahead of time. They also have a mobile app that you can download to your phone. I use this app both to do research as well as tool out on the water.

YouTube/Websites – there are also a ton of different online articles, information and YouTube videos that can provide you with some great information. I would highly recommend checking these out as well.

Far too often we as anglers just head to the lake and wing it. Sure you can catch fish this way, but you’ll end up having a lot more success if you take advantage of these resources.

Wind Is Key

Wind can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to fishing. Especially if you are fishing out of a kayak. The wind can make it difficult to navigate your kayak and can be challenging to cast.

However, the wind can also activate the fish and turn the bite on, which can make for some great fishing opportunities. When the wind picks up fish will become more aggressive and making it easier to trick them into striking.

If you can find a windy bank or areas that have good current, there will likely be plenty of nearby by fish around waiting to be caught.

Be Thorough

When fishing out of kayak you are limited on the amount of water you can cover. This requires you to become more thorough in your fishing efforts and maximize each fishing spot.

If you find an area that you think should hold fish, try making multiple casts to the same spot with varying retrieval speeds and different baits/lures as well as colors.

Another helpful tip that you should consider trying is casting at different angles. A simple angle, speed or cadence change can make a big difference and help you catch as many fish in a given area as possible.

Being able to pick apart and make multiple casts to your best fishing areas will dramatically increase your chances of catching more fish as you learn to be more thorough.

Use Versatile Rods

Space can be limited while fishing from a kayak, making your rod & reel selection critical. I find it best and easiest to select a few versatile rods that will allow me to fish a variety of baits and techniques throughout the day.

Don’t make the mistake of bringing every rod you own. Keep things simple and select your most versatile rods. This can prevent a lot of headaches and allow you to focus on fishing and not untangling a bunch or rods.

Fish During Prime-Time hours

One of the best ways that you can position yourself to catch more fish in a kayak is to fish during what I call the “prime time hours”.

The prime-time hours are the times of the day where the odds are in your favor for catching the most and biggest fish. In my experiences fishing is always best in the early mornings, at dusk, at night and when its windy or cloudy.

If you can plan your fishing trips around one of these periods, you’ll have a way better chance at catching bigger and more fish.

For more insight on when the prime-time fishing hours are, check out this article: When is the Best Time to Go Fishing?

Install a Fish Finder

Look I get it. Fish finders can be an expensive kayak accessory, but they are well worth the investment. Sure, you can catch plenty of fish without one but having a solid sonar unit on your kayak will give you a huge advantage. You’ll be able to find important fish habitat, understand how deep you are fishing and be able to know other things like the water temperature.

Still not convinced? Check out this article on why a fish finder is worth the investment

To help you make sure you get the right gear and accessories for your kayak check out this resource: 20 Must Have Kayak Fishing Accessories

Use an Anchor

A key kayak fishing accessory is a simple anchor. This will make holding your spot in the wind or current easy and ensure you don’t drift off your honey hole.  

The wind can make things challenging in a kayak and if you are having success in a particular area and the wind picks up it is going to be tough to stay put without an anchor.

One of the first accessories I would recommend purchasing for your kayak (outside of anything safety related) is an anchor. It can be a huge help and is something every kayak angler should own.

For tip on using an anchor while kayak fishing check out this Guide to Anchoring a Fishing kayak.

Use Scent

Another important tip that will increase your odds at catching more fish out of your kayak is by adding scent to your baits and lures.

Scent is something that often gets overlooked by some anglers which can be a big mistake. Adding some scent to presentation will mask any unnatural odors that tends to get on your baits (typically from your hands), but it will also increase the drawing power of your lures and baits.

Another benefit of scent is that when a fish does bite they will hold onto it longer, giving you more time to react and help you get a good hook set.

Mix Up Your Retrieval Speed & Cadence

A simple yet effective way to generate more strikes is to mix up your retrieval speed and how you work your bait or lure.

Fish are opportunistic predators and can’t help but take advantage of an easy meal, even if they aren’t hungry at the time. If you can present, your baits and lures in a way that imitates a wounded fish or an easy meal you’ll have a lot more success.

The best way to do that is to mix up how fast you’re reeling in your presentation and by mixing in a few rod jerks, or twitches. You’ll be surprised by how many more fish you’ll end up catching by doing this.

Fish Remote & Untouched Areas

One of the biggest advantages you have as a kayak angler is that you can access remote areas. This can give you a huge advantage and will allow you to fish untouched waters that other boats and bank anglers simply can’t go.

Not to mention you can launch just about anywhere. These waters will be less pressured, easier to catch and you’ll most likely have them all to yourself.

Be Stealthy

Another huge advantage kayaks have over boats is that they are extremely quit. When paddling there is only a light sound, and when you are not paddling its basically complete silence. Use this to your advantage.

You’ll be able to sneak up on and not spook any fish that even the quietest trolling motor or boat would scare off. Being stealthy out on the water will help increase your odds at catching bigger and more fish.

Match The Hatch

Every angler should be familiar with the term matching the hatch. It basically means to select baits, lures & flies that closely resemble the fish forage.

If you can identify what available forage the fish have in your waters, what they are actively feeding on and throw baits and lures that closely resemble it. You’ll have a lot more success.

For most lakes, rivers and reservoirs you can find out what kind of forage may be present online. If you are not sure, start by using your confidence baits and go from there. Matching the hatch is one of the best ways to catch more fish regardless of your targeted specie.

Fish the Right Colors

A bait or lure color may seem like a minor thing, but it can be big difference maker. Regardless of your target species or angling method selecting the right color and pattern is critical.

If you aren’t having any luck on a particular color or pattern don’t be afraid to mix up your color selection. Sometimes a small change can be all it takes to turn the fish on and get them actively feeding again.

The best color advice I can give you is to adapt your color selection based on the conditions you are fishing in.

Here are some color selecting tips that will make choosing the right lure color or bait a breeze:

Change Baits & Lures

A mistake that I’ve made in the past and one I’ve seen other kayak anglers make as well, is sticking with the same bait or lure for too long.

It’s impossible to accurately predict what bait or lure the fish will want on a given day. Fish can be finicky at times and what may have worked yesterday, last week or even earlier in the day may not work later on.

As conditions and weather patterns change, certain baits and lures will work when other won’t. That’s why it’s important to mix things up until you can establish a pattern and find what’s working.

A good rule of thumb to go by is if you’ve been fishing in good areas with the same lure and its been over 15 to 30 minutes with no bites, it’s time to switch it up.

Fish Different Depths

One of the keys to fishing is figuring out what the fish are holding to and what depth they are at. If you’re not fishing at the right depth, you’ll have a hard time finding success.

Each species of fish will prefer to be at a different depths and a lot of it will depend on the water temperature and seasonal patterns.

Fish will move up shallow or out deep depending on the light penetration, weather patterns, and seasonal behaviors. When out on your kayak try fishing different depths throughout the day until you can find where the fish are at.

Adapting your lure and presentation based on the depth and fish location will dramatically increase your chance of success.

Make The Right Casts

A simple yet effective way to increase your odds of catching more fish is to make long casts. Longer casts will allow your bait or lure to stay in the strike zone for longer making it more likely a fish comes by and grabs it.

An often overlooked yet important thing to remember while kayak fishing is the advantage you have of being lower in the water. This proximity will give you better angles when fishing under docks, trees and around cover. Use this to your advantage to pull fish out of hard to reach places where other anglers can’t get to.

Also, if you are fishing at a specific target make sure to past behind where the fish will likely be. That way you won’t spook your fish and you’ll have an easier time getting them to bite.

Making these type of casts will help you get to where the fish are and increase your odds of catching them.

Fish the Conditions

Every kayak fishing angler has their own favorite baits and lures that they have confidence in. However, it’s important to stay present and adapt your baits and strategies to the conditions your faced with.

To give yourself the best chance for success you’ll want to modify and adapt where and how you fish based on a variety of factors.

Here is a quick guide on how I approach different weather conditions and how you can use each to your advantage out on the water.

Cloudy – In general cloud cover is a positive thing for the bite. Fish tend to roam around more and become more active and willing to eat. In these conditions I like to throw moving and reaction style baits that allow me to cover water efficiently.

Sunny – When it gets hot and the sun is high, fish will head out to deep cool water or find shade and cover. Slow natural style of baits and lures tend to work best in these conditions. Especially if you are fishing in clear water.  

Windy – The wind can give us as anglers a huge advantage. Fish will become more active and aggressive in the wind, making moving and reaction style lures the best way to go. Fish around points and banks where the wind is blowing towards the shore. These are typically prime fishing spots.

Cold Fronts & Slow Bite – When things get tough and you are faced with a cold front or you can’t catch any fish it’s time to downsize your presentation and slow down. This will help you catch fish when they won’t bite anything else.

Other Resources to Help You Catch More Fish

Final Thoughts

Whether you are targeting bass, trout, walleye, pike or some other species kayak fishing can be both challenging and rewarding.

The kayak fishing tips we covered in this article will help you locate and catch more fish, keep you safe and help you meet whatever challenges you may be faced with out on the water.

I hoped you have found these tips be insightful and that it helps you get out on the water and enjoy the wonderful sport of kayak fishing.

Aaron Warner

Aaron Warner is an avid angler with over 15 years of experience. He has participated and won fishing tournaments all over the country and enjoys fishing for bass, trout, walleye and other species.

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