Last updated: November 21

How to Outfit a Kayak for Fishing

If you are planning to go fishing in a kayak, you need to keep in mind that you will have to deal with very limited space available. Kayaks are small, and fishing equipment can take up quite a bit of space.

So, how do you outfit a kayak for fishing?

Before you look at that, you need to make sure that the kayak you’re using is a good fishing kayak. There are several features to keep an eye out for, such as:

  • A high level of stability
  • Adequate flat surfaces to hold your fishing gear
  • Easy maneuvering.

Whether you are choosing a ‘sit on top’ (SOT) kayak or a ‘sit-in kayak’ (SIK), your kayak must have the basic qualities that make it suitable for fishing.

Because there is very little space, experienced fishermen will look for ways to optimize the space that is available. One way they do this is by keeping the vital items nearby since they are used more frequently. When using a kayak for fishing, minimalism is a good way to go about it.

How do I outfit a kayak for fishing?

Outfitting your kayak isn’t very difficult. You can select from a huge variety of products in stores, and the basic items are extremely affordable.

Let’s look at some of the items you would need for fishing.

Rod holders

One essential item you would need is a rod holder to keep your fishing rod secure while paddling, trolling, and fishing in your kayak. There are different kinds of rod holders, and some fishing kayaks even come with them fitted in.

The different types of rod holders are:

Adjustable rod holders

As the name implies, these can be adjusted to increase or decrease the height, and some can also be rotated in a full circle and have the advantage of being removed when they are not needed.

For adjustable rod holders, I recommend the Attwood heavy-duty adjustable rod holders. They’re cheap but feel incredibly sturdy.
Attwood 3005.0185 5009-4 Heavy Duty Adjustable Rod Holder with Combo Mount, Black Finish

Flush-mounted rod holders

These types are easily managed and unobtrusive since they are easily fitted into the kayak by inserting a tube or even molding it into the boat. They are usually behind the kayak and can sometimes also be removed depending on the model.

For a flush-mounted rod holder, I recommend the Brocraft flush mount mod holder. Like the Attwood mentioned above, they’re incredibly cheap yet feel very sturdy.
Brocraft 2pcs Kayak Rod Holder Rod Rack/Kayak Flush Mount Rod Holder (Black)

Regardless of what kind of rod holder you use, though, you should see to it that your fishing rod is attached to a leash (my recommendation below). This is to keep it from falling overboard in case of a bumpy ride or if you capsize.

Seats

How much you are able to fish on a kayak depends on the type of seat you have installed. This is even more important if you plan to spend the entire day fishing.

By getting a comfortable seat, you can fish longer and more comfortably. Don’t try to compromise on the quality of the seat to try and save money.

If your seat is not comfortable, you won’t be able to fish efficiently and might even hurt your back.

Anchor rig

A good anchor will keep your kayak secure in one spot while you fish. Apart from that, it also helps when you are trying to fish systematically in a larger area as it lets you cover it efficiently.

Because you are fishing in a kayak, your anchor shouldn’t be too heavy (at a max of about 3lb) and shouldn’t take up too much space either.

Anchors come in packages. The complete package will likely include several things, such as the main anchor, the trolly, anchor line, and chain.

Main anchor

The main anchor can be of different types. The two most common types found in hardware stores are folding anchors and claw anchors.

Folding Anchors

These are the most popular types of anchors because they are portable and can give you a firm hold in most situations.

Claw Anchors

These are not quite as portable as their foldable counterparts but are best in keeping you held securely in one place, especially if the bed of the lake/river is very soft.

Anchor Trolleys

These are the base of the anchor system as a whole. It is an extension of the anchor line that helps in creating an adjustable attachment point to the kayak.

A good anchor trolley will also help you adjust your kayak depending on the weather conditions and the tide movements.

Anchor Line

See to it that your anchor line is at the maximum depth of where you are planning to fish. The dead-end of the anchor line is supposed to pass through the trolley ring and should be attached to the kayak.

You should also have a cleat on the kayak to tie the anchor line and adjust the length when need be.

Chain

The bottom of the water body you are in should be considered when you’re picking out the kind of chain you want to purchase. For rougher bottoms, a chain that hangs up the anchor is the best option, while softer, muddy bottoms would need chains that sink into the mud and keep the kayak steady.

Drift chute

If you want to fish in water that is too deep for anchors to be fully effective, you’d need to outfit your kayak with a drift chute. You can also use this to slow you down if you start drifting while fishing.

Drift chutes that are properly deployed will also make it difficult for fish to toss you around if you end up catching a large one.

You can honestly get away with the less-expensive MOOCY 24-inch drift chute here. No need to spend major dollars unless you’re hitting extremely rough waters.
MOOCY 24-Inch Drift Sock Sea Anchor Drogue, Sea Brake for Kayaks/Marine Boat/Yacht/Jet Ski/Inflatable/Power Boat/Sail Boat

Paddle holder or leash

Of course, you wouldn’t want to lose your paddle while you fish, and this is where the paddle holder comes in. It doesn’t have to be very complicated; you can use a strong rope to tie the paddle, while the other end of the rope is attached to any part of the kayak.

You can also buy a customized paddle leash that is available in all sorts of designs and can be coiled or flexible.

For a fishing rod leash, I would look at the Booms fishing T02 heavy-duty coil lanyard, since it can be used for either your paddle or fishing rod.
Booms Fishing T02 Heavy Duty Coil Lanyard for Kayak Paddles/Rods

These are the essential items you would need for your fishing journey on a kayak, but there can be other items you choose to add to your kayak outfit.

Other items

Personal flotation device (PFD)

A PFD (or life jacket) is essential when it comes to kayaking for anything, not just fishing. Some PFDs are also made specifically for kayaks to allow upper body movement so that there is no constriction during paddling.

Some PFDs come with storage pockets that can be used for storing equipment like pliers or tackle boxes. Other options that are popular for fishing in kayaks are auto-inflated life vests, which do not have as much bulk and making fishing easier.

I like the Stohlquist Fit personal floatation device since it’s extremely inexpensive and does the job for what most kayakers need.
Stohlquist Fit Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device, Blue/Black

Fishing electronics

You can choose to get any number of angling electronics for your kayak. If you are offshore, a GPS can be important to help you navigate in low-light or foggy areas.

GPS units are also very helpful in storing the coordinates of the good fishing spots so you can return to them again. Fishfinders can also be useful if your kayak has some console space for a small mount.

Storage

Kayaks can have limited storage, being so small, but you can find ways to increase it by using deck bags that have multiple storage compartments and pockets to hold your gear. You can also opt for dry bags to avoid your things getting wet.

My favorite dry bag for kayaking is by FAR the Earth Pak. It’s lightweight, cheap, and keeps EVERYTHING dry.
Earth Pak -Waterproof Dry Bag - Roll Top Dry Compression Sack Keeps Gear Dry for Kayaking, Beach, Rafting, Boating, Hiking, Camping and Fishing with Waterproof Phone Case

Safety

Make sure to carry a safety kit in your kayaks, such as a whistle, a signal, a bilge pump, and flashlight. Also, make sure to carry a small first-aid kit at all times, and keep it in a place where you don’t have to worry about it getting wet.

Related questions

Can you fish in a regular kayak?

While you can fish in any kind of kayak, fishing kayaks are made for fishing and have all the features that make fishing safer and more efficient than other kinds of kayaks.

What kind of kayaks are best for fishing?

‘Sit on top’ kayaks are best for fishing because they are stable, and easy to get in and out of. They don’t restrict movement, and the water drains through the scupper holes, making them self-bailing.

Is kayak fishing dangerous?

While kayak fishing is generally safe, there are some risks associated with it if you do not take the proper safety measures, and can even be deadly. It is not for beginner kayakers.


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Always Make Sure You Have the Right Gear When You Go Kayaking