Getting Into Kayak Fishing

Cory Byrnes
Getting Into Kayak Fishing
Family fun. Kayaks are a great way to enjoy the water with your family. My son has been riding on mine since he was four. It is almost time to upgrade to a tandem kayak, so he has his own seat.

Here in 2024, kayak fishing continues to be a fast-growing sport. More and more fishermen are getting into kayaks and fishing rivers, lakes, bays and even offshore alongside their motored counterparts. It is affordable, effective, and in some ways more peaceful than being on a boat. They are the Swiss Army knife of fishing vessels in today's market and with manufacturers pushing the boundaries of what a plastic boat can be as a fishing platform, it is easy to end up in a kayak that doesn’t suit your style of fishing. Here is what you need to know if you are just getting into a kayak.

The hull you choose will affect your enjoyment of the kayak. It is also likely to be the most expensive part of kayak fishing, next to adding a trolling motor or fish finder. You can expect an introductory kayak to run between $1000-$2000 with some flagship models being as high as $5000. You can save a little money by watching Facebook marketplace and E-bay for used kayaks. A lot of the time you can find a good deal on a kayak that is already partially or fully rigged for fishing.

The most common hull design for fishing kayaks is the cathedral. The cathedral hull's advantages are increased stability and improved tracking. It is a hybrid of the V-hull and flat bottom designs. The length of the kayak can affect hull speed and stability. Sit-on-top kayaks range in length from 10’-16’. Shorter hulls sacrifice stability but the trade-off is improved speed. A longer kayak will be a bit slower, but it will have better stability and tracking. Tracking is the kayak's natural tendency to resist turning. Large bodies of water, like Galveston Bay, require a hull that tracks well for efficient long-distance travel.

If you don’t have a truck or trailer, then you should consider the inflatable kayaks on the market. They have come a long way and many of them are excellent fishing platforms. New technologies have made the outer shell very strong. They are stable and comfortable to be in. Lastly, they pack down into a small package, making transport and storage much easier than the rigid models. Your customization options are more limited with inflatable kayaks. With that said manufacturers have developed options to make inflatable kayaks efficient fishing crafts.

Both plastic and inflatable kayaks now come with two primary propulsion modes: paddle and pedal. Fisherman favor the pedal-driven kayaks which keep their hands free while moving from spot to spot. No matter what you are leaning towards, I highly recommend renting the kayak you are considering for a weekend before buying.

Gearing up: initial kayak setup

As I mentioned earlier kayaks are the Swiss Army knife of fishing platforms. There are many creative ways to make your boat fish better for you. Here are a couple of upgrades I would recommend to improve your kayaking experience.

The first thing I installed was an anchor trolley. An anchor trolly is a line with a loop made of plastic or metal stretched between two pulleys and runs from bow to stern. It is perfect for an anchor, drift sock, drag chain, or stake-out pole. It allows you to adjust the location of your anchor line along the side of the boat, giving you better control of the boat in changing winds. And if you set your kayak up with rod holders in the right location using gear tracks, you can set it in the middle and put out a spread of rods with plenty of space between each line. Anchor trolleys are easy to install. All you need is an anchor trolley kit which will set you back about $40, a drill, a Philips screwdriver, and waterproof silicon ($10).

  1. Lay out the pieces of your trolley kit. Make sure you have all the pieces.
  2. Take one of the pulleys and position it close to the bow.
  3. Mark and drill the holes.
  4. Then place waterproof silicon in the holes and fasten the pulley to the hull using the screws provided.
  5. Repeat for the stern.
  6. If you do not have a zigzag cleat already installed, use the one with the kit and place it where you can reach it.
  7. Thread the trolley line through the pulleys on either end.
  8. Tie the ends to the to the loop provided. Make sure it is tight but not so tight the line doesn’t move freely between the pulleys.

The second thing I did to my kayak was install a fish finder. I use mine more for navigation than I do for locating fish and structure. A small Lowrance model Hook 2 will run about $100 new. Many of the fishing kayaks on the market right now have a location molded into the hull to place your transducer so you won't have to worry about beating it up against oyster reefs and other obstructions in the bay. It also makes installation of the fish finder and wiring much easier. You will need a drill, a waterproof grommet ($10), waterproof silicon sealant, a transducer mount (kayak specific), a fish finder mount, and a battery such as the Game Winner 12v 7ah. The rechargeable battery will run you about $20. Here is how I installed it on my kayak.

  1. Using a scupper transducer mount, install your transducer at the factory-molded transducer location.
  2. Run the transducer wire to a location where you can drill through the hull into the storage compartment. Use a drill bit large enough for the grommet you have.
  3. Apply waterproof silicon to the grommet threads and install in the hull.
  4. Run the transducer wire through the grommet.
  5. Position the fish finder unit, then run the cables provided for it to make sure you have enough slack.
  6. Follow the wiring instructions for your fish finder and wire to the battery.
  7. Mount the fish finder. There are many ways to do this. I use a ram ball mount that utilizes the gear tracks that came stock with the kayak. A fix mount can be used as well, just make sure you use silicon on any hole you drill in the hull.

 Lastly, I recommend you get some gear leashes. A 6 pack of them will run $11 but it could save you $100 or more in gear sinking to the bottom, never to be seen again. There are many different options. Most of which allow attachment to fixed rod tubes already on your kayak. If you go with a leash that does not have a way to tether to a fixed rod tube you can always add deck loops where you need them. These are simple to install. You will need a drill, Philips screwdriver, and waterproof silicon.

Gearing up: Safety

I fish in the bays all along the Texas coast and you can sometimes encounter quite a bit of boat traffic. Kayaks have a low profile on the water and on choppier days they can be hard for other boaters to recognize. For that reason, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have the following safety gear.

A ‘yak flag. These come in various lengths. You will need a flag equipped with a light for low-light conditions or if you’re out after dark. They also come with different mountings. Over the years I have owned several types. I have had ones that use gear tracks, and ones that fit in rod tubes. The one I currently use came with a socket that must be installed in the hull of the boat.

You will need a life jacket. I recommend spending a little bit of money on it. You will be wearing it a lot on the kayak. Try them on. Make sure it is comfortable so that you will wear it. Some come with safety whistles and others do not. Make sure you have a safety whistle tethered to your life jacket. If you are planning to do any night fishing in your kayak, get a hydrophobic light and attach that to your life jacket in case you fall off. These lights are water-sensitive and will activate when they get wet, making it easier for someone to see you in the water.

I have been kayaking for 10 years. Do something long enough and you will eventually end up in a position you didn’t want to be in. Flipping a kayak can be a heart-thumping experience. Learn how to right your boat if you flip it, and how to re-enter it if you fall out. You should definitely practice this before making your first fishing trip. Here is how:

  1. Position yourself in the middle alongside your boat.
  2. Boost yourself over the gunnel and reach for the opposite side, grabbing ahold of the edge.
  3. Slowly pull the edge toward your body. Sinking your hips downward helps. Then roll the kayak right-side up.


There are increasing numbers of manufacturers catering to the small boat industry and options are nearly limitless. Kayak manufacturers are also designing their kayaks to have factory-reinforced areas for micro power poles, electric motors, and much more. But this doesn’t mean there is no place for backyard engineering. I think that that is part of the appeal of a fishing kayak. They are affordable and customizable in a way that larger boats are not. These are just a few things I would do when getting into a new kayak, and remember that your options are endless.