Kayak Fishing
Getty Images: Drew Angerer

How to Scale Down Your Fishing Gear for a Kayak

When you're ready to do some kayak fishing without taking every piece of gear, here's how to do it.

Over the years, we've found ourselves fishing from the shore, a boat, or up to our waist in a stream, but once we found a good fishing kayak it changed the game forever. With all due respect to one of our favorite fishing methods, the float tube, the kayak has more space and for the most part keeps anglers out of the water. Kayak fishing is a great way to enjoy an angling adventure and the fact is that its popularity has gone through the roof in the last 10 years. With that said, we're sure not trying to dissuade you from any of the great gear that is out there. We just want you to know you don't have to take it with you on every trip.

It stands to reason that we like to have our entire tackle bag, a couple of rod and reel combos, and even some electronics with us for our usual fishing trips. However, the fact is that kayak fishing is meant to be relaxing as much as it is meant to be successful. That means most kayak anglers are going to need to downsize a bit before hitting the water.

With that in mind, you will surely want enough tackle and fishing rods to adjust to every situation you will encounter. At the same time you don't want to overload yourself and spend all of your time trying to work around it. Today we'll talk about how to find that balance between the two. Most of the tips here apply to both freshwater and saltwater angling.

What You Have To Have

What you should carry with you is based on the fish you intend to tangle with, the conditions you will encounter, and the size of the body of water you're going to fish. Always carry a PFD no matter what. It can be used for a pad to sit on when you are not wearing it, and as we always say, you're better off looking at it than looking for it! Plus, you could get ticketed by a conservation officer if you don't have it because most states have laws mandating paddlers must have one on board just like motorboats and other large craft.

You should have your cell phone and a solid dry pouch to keep it safe, the type of which will do the job even when submersed. You want a seat with some back support, an adjustable paddle, a dry hatch, (which should be included on your vessel) and the right clothing.

It should go without saying, but one major kayak fishing tip is to never wear a pair of waders while kayaking as a fall into the water could turn into a deadly struggle to stay alive as the waders fill with water.

What You Should Have

A part of your clothing repertoire should include a good pair of polarized sunglasses and probably some straps to keep from losing them in the water. They'll help cut through the glare on the surface to spot the big fish. This is especially important if you don't have a fishfinder on board. In lieu of sunscreen, (which you should have) wearing a lightweight, long sleeve fishing shirt is a good option.

After that, a hat, lightweight shell pants, neck gaiters, and gloves to increase UV protection are always good ideas. In colder weather, you will want to dress in layers, but now it is paramount to wear your PFD and keep it on.

A couple of rod holders are a great part of a good fishing kayak and walk the line between the things you have to have, and the things you should have. A paddle holder or leash is also a good option and don't forget to carry some food and water.

What You Don't Need

Since kayak fishing is such a great and popular pastime, with it has come some of the best features that regular boats come with. Now, gear such as trolling motors, anchors, and electronics are almost standard equipment on fishing kayak models.

Many of these kayaks now come equipped with pedal-powered systems along with a steering mechanism to get you where you're going fast. With many electronics, trolling motors, and some anchor systems comes a 12-volt battery as well. That's going to add more weight and affect your draft in shallow water.

All of this great gear can be added to your kayak fishing experience, and it can truly make it special, but is it necessary? The simple answer is no in most scenarios. If you simply MUST have these kinds of fishing accessories, it's best to look at new fishing gear built specifically for kayaks. The stuff you use on a 20-foot bass boat usually isn't built with space-saving in mind.

Stick To the Basics

For freshwater, anything from a seven foot medium to medium heavy action rod or smaller is usually a great choice for kayak fishing. Spinning reels spooled with 10 to 15 pound test fluorocarbon line work well for clear water conditions and are easy to handle in a small watercraft like a kayak. You will obviously need to go a little larger and heavier if you're tackling bigger fish in saltwater.

A small tackle bag with such items as a good pair of fishing pliers, a knife or braid blades, sunscreen, a small assortment of hooks and sinkers, bug repellent, and of course a couple of kits with your favorite medley of lures. Most experienced kayak anglers buy a kayak-specific tackle storage system. This goes a long way towards keeps you organized. Although you will need to pick and choose what lures and tools get left behind.

After that, maybe a good fishing app on your phone and a little dexterity to take some pictures before you release your fish! At the end of the day, it's not hard scale down the gear you'll need for a kayak. However, it is something that must be done. If for no other reason than to make moving and fighting fish easier in the limited space you will have.

Please check out my book "The Hunter's Way" from HarperCollins. Be sure to follow my webpage, or on Facebook and YouTube. Go to Rack Hub and use the coupon code Craiger for a new way to display those antler sheds!