Kayak Angling

By Brett Boschert | June 1, 2010
From Missouri Conservationist: Jun 2010

Have you ever been waiting in line at the boat ramp and spotted someone pulling their kayak down to the bank and shoving off? It is happening more and more these days as anglers are leaving their powerboats back at the house and fishing out of kayaks instead.

Kayak fishing is gaining momentum for many reasons. One is the kayak’s ability to get to many places that powerboats cannot. They only need a few inches of water, and you don’t need a ramp. At the worst, you might have to pull it through some shoreline weeds or climb over a few rocks before you can paddle out and start fishing.

Kayaks work especially well on small ponds. Shoreline vegetation often makes it difficult to fish ponds well from shore. Launch your kayak, however, and you’ve got open and stealthy access to the entire shoreline.

Another big advantage is that the only fuel you burn when out fishing is calories.

Kayak manufacturers are catering to the specific needs of anglers. The two main styles of kayaks are sit-insides and sit-on-tops. A sitinside (or SINK) is a kayak that has the traditional kayak look but typically offers a larger, more open cockpit. They generally have hatches that seal, providing both dry areas for your gear and extra flotation.

The sit-on-top (or SOT) style is popular for fishing. SOTs offer freedom of movement and usually have a rear tank well to store your fishing gear. Anglers often place a milk crate in the rear well to store their tackle. They then attach PVC pipe to the crate to make rod holders.

Another great feature of a SOT is that it gives you the ability to fish sideways with both feet over one side and hanging in the water. This can help cool you in the middle of the summer. And when you make your backcast, you aren’t likely to hook the gear that’s behind you.

Manufacturers have developed means of steering and propulsion to prevent kayakers from having to constantly wield a paddle. Rudders help control the direction of the kayak, and bicycle-style drive systems that spin a propeller or fins or specially developed trolling motors keep the kayak moving.

Outfitting a Kayak

It’s fun to outfit your craft to fit your needs. Anglers have equipped their kayaks with such items as fish finders, rod holders and, of course, various safety items. Before experimenting with outfitting a kayak, take the boat out fishing a few times and figure out where the accessories would be most conveniently located.

You can mount a transducer for a fish finder on a kayak, but a more common option is to secure the transducer inside the bottom of the kayak so that it shoots its beam through the hull. This eliminates the potential to knock the transducer askew while going through shallow waters or getting it hooked on debris.

It’s best to have all of your rods stored behind you except for the rod that you are using. Many “angler edition” kayaks come with two flush mounts behind the seat (one on each side) and one in front of the angler. In fact, it’s a good general rule when outfitting your kayak to keep the area in front of you clear so that nothing interferes with your casting or paddling.

You might consider an anchor. Just remember an anchor caught up in fast moving water could cause your kayak to sink like a submarine. As a safeguard, equip your anchor with a quick release from your kayak. Attach some sort of float to the end of the rope so that you can come back and retrieve it.

Anchor trollies are popular. They let you position the pull of the anchor anywhere from the bow to the stern and help you to point your kayak in the direction you want. This is a great aid for fishing.

You definitely should have a personal life jacket. Many kayak anglers prefer a life jacket that has its flotation material concentrated high in the back. This improves comfort as the stuffing is located above the seat back of the kayak.

You might also include a first aid kit, or at least enough first aid items for small cuts and minor injuries that you could encounter while out on the water.

Getting Started

Before purchasing a kayak you should consider how you are going to transport it. Will you be putting it on the roof of your vehicle or using a trailer? It’s much easier to load and unload a kayak from a trailer than lifting it off and on the roof of your vehicle. However you transport the kayak, make sure you’ve secured it with straps—front and back and across the hull.

Paddles range in price from $50 for fully functional models all the way up to $400 for carbon fiber paddles. Some paddles include a built-in hook remover in case you get snagged on a log.

Thanks to the Web, kayak anglers can share research and ideas on the sport with people around the world. A good place to start is kayakbassfishing.com. The site’s regular contributors include people on the pro staff for some of the kayak manufacturers. They know a lot about kayaking and fishing. Members of the site gave me their advice and opinions when I was looking to get a new kayak and were very helpful in the decision process.

Missouri has its own Web site dedicated to bringing anglers together. Go to MissouriKayakAnglers.com.

Kayak anglers have even started their own tournaments. In these tournaments, though, you don’t bring the fish back for weigh-in. Instead, you are given a unique identifier, a ruler and a camera. After the allotted time for fishing has been completed, the competing anglers return to the launch site and turn in their photos for review by the judges. This method is known as Catch-Photo-Release.

Kayak fishing is a fun and rewarding way of catching fish. It allows anglers a unique, close-to-the-water perspective and enables them to reach shallower areas than powerboats. You even get a good workout from paddling. And while others are waiting in line at the launch ramp, you might already have paddled around the bend and have caught your first fish of the day.

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This Issue's Staff

Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Writer/Editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler