Essential Fish Kayaking Know-How

Tips for beginning kayak fishermen

This story featured in the 2013 Beginner’s Guide issue.

Paul Lebowitz, Morgan Promnitz and Kevin Nakada enjoy a day of fishing from thier Hobie kayaks in the kelp beds offshore of La Jolla, Calif. Photo: Aaron Schmidt


By Paul Lebowitz

Kayaks and fishing. A natural match, right? Still, a boat, a paddle and a rod can be a lot to juggle—and that’s before some pinstriped torpedo otherwise known as a fish starts tearing line off the reel. That heart-pounding moment will be easier to handle with these five essential kayak-fishing skills.

Know your ride. Give your boat the same attention you would to a rod and reel fresh from the tackle store. Learn its capabilities; push the limits. Take it to a calm pond and discover how far you can lean your boat before it tips (you may be pleasantly surprised). Then practice climbing back on until it’s easy. As far as kayak fishing skills go, none are more important than the ability to fish yourself out of the drink.

Take control. Once you get that first fish on while kayaking, don’t be led around like a dog on a leash. Take command of the fish. Dictate the fight. If a fish is charging off to the side, point the rod at the bow. It’ll turn the kayak for you. Getting towed into the weeds? Hold the rod in one hand and back-paddle with the other using your body as a fulcrum. Ready to land that beast? Do it the easy way by leaving a rod’s length of line out. Simply point the pole skyward and the fish will swing to your grasp. (With a fragile graphite rod, use an oblique angle or you could end up with a two-piece.)

Customize your craft. There isn’t much real estate on a kayak deck. If you pack more than a single rod and a handful of lures, everything must have its place. You don’t want to lose that lunker because you can’t reach the net. Think carefully about how and where you use your kayak. That will dictate where to mount rod holders, stash a net or gaff, and store your tackle.

Break free of the seat. Most sit-on-top fishing kayaks are extremely stable. You’re not nailed to your seat. Gear will be easier to get to if you use the whole boat including the front hatch. Moving fore and aft is easy if you dip a leg in on either side. Sitting sidesaddle changes your casting angle and gives cramped muscles a break. From there, it’s easy to reach something stashed in a stern storage well.

Stroke it. In your haste to hook up, don’t forget to figure out the forward stroke without developing sore biceps. For a start, get the feel of pushing with one arm while pulling with the other, starting your forward stroke at your toes and ending at your seat. Also learn the reverse sweep stroke, the opposite of the forward stroke, for control. With practice—and maybe even cracking a book or crashing a class—paddling will become second nature. Thanks to your increased range and stamina, no

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