Setting Up For Kayak Fishing

As this is the first issue of BLADE we thought we’d have a look at some of the gear you might kit your yak out with and a few things to remember when selecting your gear. The great thing about kayak fishing is that you can keep it as simple as a yak, seat, paddle, safety gear and a rod and reel, or you can pimp your yak and create a fully kitted out technical fishing rig.


Why Kayak Fish

There is less initial setup cost and less ongoing cost from maintenance, registration and fuel. Kayaks are easily transported, handled and there is no need for a trailer. You can launch them pretty much anywhere without a ramp and access areas that cannot be accessed by boat. It is an easy way to grab an hour or two here and there and be on the water fishing, just grab a rod, a few lures or some bait and you’re fishing areas you can’t access from the bank. A kayak is not only a green activity that has minimal environmental impact it is also great exercise and there’s nothing more exciting than being towed around by a good fish in a kayak.



There are a range of trolleys available, so what makes a good kayak trolley.

Look for a trolley that is sturdy, with good size wheels and constructed from quality materials that will stand up to salt water. A trolley is great if you are in a campsite near the water, for putting a loaded kayak in at the ramp and for fishing in areas where you may have to transport your kayak across land at some point. A trolley that breaks down to store in your kayak, or has the ability to be attached to your kayak is also an advantage.



There are a wide range of soft racks, hard hacks, loading systems and tie down straps available so do some research online to work out the best option for you, your yak and your vehicle. Remember don’t over-tighten your tie down straps or you may damage your yak.



An anchor running rig is one of the most useful accessories that can be fitted to a yak. An anchor running rig allows you to shift the anchor from one end of the kayak to the other, or part way along the kayak to adjust the angle you are holding at in wind and tide.


A sea anchor slows your drift and allows you to control the angle of your kayak during the drift to ensure that you are casting to where the fish are.


A folding anchor or Cooper poly anchor allows you to hold in the one spot to fish a particular area or piece of structure, create a berley trail or control the angle of the kayak to ensure you are fishing the most productive area.



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 Storing your kayak

It is recommended that poly kayaks are stored on their side, tip or tail as these are the stronger points. Sitting the kayak on its belly can cause warping of the material. If you kayak has a bung or hatches, undo them when storing as it allows the air to flow in and out with temperature changes and also heaps to dry out any moisture.


Fishing Tools

There are a myriad of fishing tools available to make your experience safer, easier and more enjoyable. Key fishing tools you might carry include; braid scissors for rigging, split ring pliers for rigging, changing trebles on lures and removing hooks from hooked fish and a hook remover may be handy for removing hooks from fish, especially active fish or toothy critters.


Lip grips for landing and releasing fish are a good idea and preferred by some anglers as a landing net can be difficult to store and can catch the breeze making paddling harder work. If using a net go for the small Environet, or similar scale safe style net, especially if releasing fish as it is less likely to damage the fins and protective slime coat of the fish. A fish donger / priest is another option if you are going to take any fish home, especially when fishing in offshore conditions. Using a knife to kill a fish is risky with the water movement, especially with active fish.


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A sounder is your eyes under the water. It allows you to find fish, as well as structure that holds fish such as weed beds, drop offs, rock bars, gravel patches and submerged timber. A sounder assists you to fish in the right areas, making you more likely to catch more fish.


Spending more money on a sounder will give you more power which is ideal when fishing offshore as it gives you more chance of an accurate return in deep water. A few more dollars spent will also give you more pixels which gives you more information and a better understanding of what is beneath your yak by giving you more pixels per metre of water.


After using a colour sounder it’s hard to go back to monochrome. Colour is easier to see at a distance and from an angle and provides more information by better differentiating between bottom types, structure and fish. It is also much better for locating fish in thermoclines when fishing in freshwater. On a monochrome sounder the thermocline can appear as almost black making it difficult to identify fish, while on a colour sounder fish will clearly appear as red to maroon, in a green thermocline, depending upon size.


Transducers can be mounted inside the yak, check out Fitzy’s story in this issue, and will shoot through the bottom. The main disadvantage of this is that you don’t get a temperature reading. Some Kayaks have a transducer scupper allowing you to mount a transducer scupper in the base of the hull providing the best possible reading as well as water temperature.



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GPS allows us to locate our latitude and longitude and thus our position on the globe. GPS is handy in a kayak because you can mark fishing spots and return to them easily. There are many other benefits of GPS though including the ability to back track, track courses in the dark, read wind drifts to position yourself best, the ability to fish areas you haven’t been to before, plot courses at home for upcoming trips and the ability to swap spots with other yak fishos.

Handheld is a good option if you plan on getting in and out of your yak to trek and fish, otherwise I prefer the sounder GPS combo option, that combines sounder and GPS in the one unit as it makes the most of the yaks available space.



Small sealed AGM batteries are the choice of most yak fishers. They are sealed so there is no risk of acid spill and they are compact. These batteries are also available in a range of sizes and are basically maintenance free. A 7amp hour battery easily runs my sounder for the day, but for longer range trips or for running lights, live bait pumps etc, you will need to match your batteries to your power consumption. A battery tray is handy as it allows you to strap your battery to the yak so it doesn’t shift during your mission.


Dry Bags & Storage

Dry bags come in a range of sizes and are ideal for storing clothes, first aid kit, safety gear, food, cooking gear and other items you need to keep away from moisture. Other popular storage containers include plastic water drums, especially for long range missions carrying sleeping bags, tent etc, and small iceboxes that are ideal for carrying food and drinks, or as an alternative storage area.


Safety Gear

Safety must be your first thought when out on the water. A basic safety kit for a kayak includes; PFD, first aid kit, a signalling device such as signal mirror, flares, whistle or air horn, a torch or headlamp, large chemical light to attach to your yak if other lighting fails, food and water, sunscreen and mobile phone.


When offshore I also like to carry flares and a handheld VHF radio. Other things you might like to include in a dry bag are matches or lighter, small stove, multi-tool, survival blanket and an emergency poncho.


Although kayaking can being a fairly solitary experience it is safer to paddle as a group and if going alone let someone know where you are going and when you are due home. Forums such as KFDU and AKFF are ideal places to meet other kayakers and find out about upcoming trips. These are also a great place to learn about new products, tips and techniques.




Sun Protection

A lot of times the best fishing is in the morning and afternoon which allows you to avoid the hottest parts of the day. When fishing the hotter parts of the day it is extremely important to stay hydrated and cover up. There are a range of hats available including wide brim hats and adapt-a-cap style caps that keep the sun off as well as hats designed specifically for kayaking that are hi-vis colours and have reflective tape.


I like to wear gloves that are designed to keep the sun off when I fish. They also assist with the handling of fish, allowing me to stick my thumb in the mouth of species like flathead without losing skin and they are also comfortable to paddle in.


Long sleeve shirts are ideal, including the traditional fishing styles as well as the many new age materials that are light, quick drying, breathable and designed to wick moisture away from your body. Long pants are also a good option, with a range of zip off pants available that are ideal as they allow you the flexibility of shorts with the ability to zip on the legs if you are cool, or when the sun gets high in the sky.


Quality sunscreen is important and make sure you reapply regularly. There are also sunscreens available with insect repellent included otherwise throw on a couple of mosquito wrist bands if you think the bugs might be around.


Quality polarised sunglasses are essential. They protect your eyes from objects as well as the sun and glare but also by cutting the glare they allow you to see through the waters surface to spot structure and even cruising fish. Polarised sunglasses will help you catch more fish by allowing you to place that bait or lure in more productive areas.



Layering is important when you are kayaking and a few thin layers can often insulate better than one thick layer because air is trapped between each layer. In warmer conditions even on an early morning start I will have just a fleece jumper and my fishing shirt. But in colder climates you may be looking for a base layer such as dry tee and a waterproof outer layer designed to cut the wind and keep you warm. The other advantage of multiple thin layers of clothing is that if they become wet they can be dried much more quickly.


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Leashes & Tie Downs

Leashes and tie downs provide piece of mind. There are a range of leashes available that include; different lengths, elastic material, coiled material, and retractable leashes. Leashes and tie downs are designed to keep items securely attached to your kayak, but also easily within reach when you need them. Things that may be leashed to your kayak include your rod and reel, paddle and fishing tools such as scissors, pliers, lip grips and your fish donger.




A basic seat is a minimum requirement if you are going to spend any time on the water and if you love your fishing, or are planning on paddling long distances it may be worth investing in a better quality seat. A good seat will be constructed from quality materials, have strong attachment clips, plenty of firm padding and plenty of adjustment points. A top quality seat can cost around $250, but they are extremely popular among hardcore fishos because you are comfortable on the water, can spend longer out there and are keen to get back in the seat even after a long day.



The low profile of a kayak that makes it such an effective stealth fishing tool also has a downside and that is that yak fishers aren’t as visible on the water. As kayakers and kayak anglers it is up to us to ensure that we are visible to others on the water. As well as having the option of Hi-vis hats and clothing there are other things we can do to increase our visibility. Hi-vis PFDs with reflective tape are an easy way of increasing visibility. Ocean kayak yaks also come with a socket designed to carry a flag or light. Flags are also a great option for increasing visibility and some include a light for night visibility.


Kayak Selection

You need to select a kayak based on your needs. If you are predominantly fishing in small sheltered waters you may opt for a smaller kayak. If you plan on heading into more open water a larger kayak would be best. Longer kayaks will generally paddle faster also making them ideal for long range missions. Wider kayaks are generally more stable but heavier to paddle. You also need to take into account your size, strength and fitness level when selecting a kayak.


Skill Level

It is important to choose your mission based on your skill level and also your fitness level. Don’t go out buy a kayak strap everything on it and head out through the surf without any experience or you may come unstuck. It is important to start with some short missions, with your basic gear and work up to more involved trips with more gear strapped on. Learn to understand your environment and work with it. This includes using the wind at your back on your return trip, or fishing with the tide and then using the tide to assist you back home.



Rudders are available to suit many kayaks on the market. A rudder allows you to keep a consistent steady stroke rate up without having to adjust your stroke to steer. This is ideal when paddling where there is wave action or wind as you are not wasting energy adjusting your stroke and can easily adjust direction with a simple adjustment of the rudder.


I hope this short overview has given you a couple of new ideas or if you are new to the sport it helps you to get set up for kayak fishing. See you out there.


Author: Justin Willmer