Tips for Successful Freshwater Kayak Fishing
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Tips for Successful Freshwater Kayak Fishing

Tips for Successful Freshwater Kayak Fishing

Packing the Essentials

Whether you are an avid tournament kayak angler or a kayak fishing beginner, there are a few essentials that you will need for kayak fishing in freshwater. The most important gear when kayak fishing includes a kayak you are comfortable in, a well-fitted PFD, a paddle, fishing rod, and some tackle. In my Old Town Predator PDL, I can fit 9 rods, a measuring board, tackle crate, a few zipper bags for soft plastics, Humminbird fish finder, and lastly an Enduro Power Lithium battery to power everything. Additionally, if I plan on fishing low light hours, it is important to have navigation lights on the bow and a 360 light on the stern of the kayak. Although a few of these may seem obvious, they are also the most important.

Rods & Tackle

Besides these essentials, the amount I pack for a day of kayak fishing depends on what I want to accomplish. If I am going out to pre-fish for a tournament I will take all of the rods and tackle that I can fit on board. At that point, I am unsure of what the fish will be dialed into, so I want as many options available as possible. The amount of gear I take also depends on what I see in my research leading up to the event. For example, when I go to lakes where the deepest section is 12-14 feet, I can eliminate those deeper running baits from what I need to pack. If my research reveals a lake of shallow depth, but perhaps is dense with weeds and vegetation, I can pack more weedless baits to take up the space not being used by deep-diving baits. Similarly, if I am fishing a local lake that I know well or have good intel on, I will bring only 5-6 rods with the baits that I think will work. All of this sounds like a pretty clear formula, but once you’re on the water, the art of kayak fishing truly begins.

Kayak Positioning

When kayak fishing in freshwater you are either going to be on a lake or river system, and in both scenarios kayak movement and positioning are extremely important. When fishing out of a paddle kayak it is necessary to move less and fish more. The reason is simple: if you are spending more time with a paddle in your hand you are spending less time with the fishing rod in your hand. In the tournament scene, having the ability to keep a bait in the water is the name of the game. One way you can do that in a paddle kayak is to take your time and fish areas thoroughly instead of rushing around. Positioning your kayak at different angles on the same piece of structure could help you get a few extra bites during the day. When in a paddle kayak I believe that having an anchor system is more important than it might be in a pedal kayak or one with an electric motor. Repositioning a boat with a paddle while trying to fish is very difficult, and when battling the ever-present tournament time crunch having an anchor to hold you in place could be extremely beneficial and increase your productivity.

The Catch

Landing a fish in a kayak is very similar to landing a fish in a big boat or from the bank. The decision about how you're going to land the fish must be made quickly each time a fish is caught. Hesitation or lack of commitment can be the difference between placing well or sitting on the bottom of the rankings. Some fish you can lift out of the water and into the boat, also known as  “boat flipping.” Others you are better off using a net and scooping the fish out of the water. Each way of fish landing has its pros and cons, but depending on your comfort and experience, both are effective. After the fish is landed and in the boat, whether in a net or on the deck of the boat, the next step in tournament fishing would be to take a photo of the fish on a measurement board such as a Ketch Board to submit to the tournament director. Your measuring board should be located somewhere on your kayak where it’s easily accessible to make the time of CPR (Catch Photo Release) as quick as you can. 

Kayak Rigging

When it comes to kayak fishing it is important to make yourself as comfortable as possible with the equipment you are using. There are so many ways to rig a kayak and different pieces of equipment that can be utilized to make your kayak fit your fishing needs. This is one of the fun parts of kayak fishing: it is endlessly customizable. Almost no angler will have the exact same setup, because it’s all about personal preference and dialing in your unique setup. The best way to find what works best for you is to get out on the water and use trial and error. It is not a perfect process and the kayak world is constantly evolving to make anglers’ lives easier on the water. This will also change over time, what works today may not work tomorrow and that is expected. One of the best parts of kayak rigging and fishing is that change is simple. It’s an exciting time to be in the world of kayak fishing. Innovations are coming fast, and everyone benefits. Hopefully, this general information helps you get a basic idea of how to kayak fish freshwater for fun or in the tournament scene.


Since 1999, Black Hall Outfitters has been southern New England’s premier kayak fishing and paddle sports destination. From kayak accessories, lighting, and transport, to bait, tackle, and marine gear, BHO has everything you need to make the most of your on-water adventures. For more information, stop by either of our two locations in Westbrook or Old Lyme, Connecticut or visit us online at

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