Everyone seems to have a slightly different idea as to what constitutes essential kayak fishing gear. And don’t get me wrong – I think that’s a good thing.
Things would get boring pretty fast if all kayak anglers followed the same set of rules and used the same equipment and accessories.
Then again, I think about someone who’s just getting into the world of kayak fishing, and I can’t help but feel bad for them. I mean, their head must be in a total spin, and they probably aren’t enjoying planning and organizing their trip as much as they should be.
That’s kind of the point of this guide – to help you select your kayak fishing supplies and make those pre-trip preparations fun again!
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Essential Kayak Fishing Gear
Fishing from the shore requires hardly any gear – other than your trusty rod, reel, and lure, that is. That’s pretty much all you need to start casting. But fishing from a kayak?
Well, you’ve gotta be a bit more prepared than that. But what is the right gear to carry?
1. Fishing Kayak (Well, Duh!)
Kayak fishing calls for an extensive list of essential gear and accessories, not the least of which is – well, a kayak. I mean, it’s not kayak fishing without a fishing kayak, now, is it?
I could hear that “Well, duh!” all the way from here.
Seriously, though, you want to choose the best fishing kayak for your needs – and by that, I mean the one that has all the fishing-friendly features you seek, such as fishing rod holders and storage compartments. You’ll need them to be able to store and utilize the other items on this list.
See? You’re planning in advance already.
While we’re at it, did you know that you have more than one option propulsion-wise? To be more precise, you have three options – paddle, pedal, and a trolling motor.
Now, I’m an old-school guy who swears by their paddle. But I’m not saying that the alternatives cannot be more beneficial for someone else – including you.
For example, pedal kayaks can give anglers an advantage when catching fish because they can use their legs to control the kayak – which frees up the hands. Plus, pedal propulsion is stealthy and quiet, meaning you can keep a low profile and avoid scaring the fish.
On the other hand, a motorized kayak will allow you to cover a lot of distance and reach places that are typically out-of-bounds.
One of the best motor-powered ‘yaks is the Sportsman Autopilot 136, equipped with a powerful 12V Minn Kota motor and revolutionary Spot-Lock technology that keeps you “anchored” when needed.
But you can also check out my list of the best kayak trolling motors if you already have a fishing ‘yak and want to “motorize” it.
So, which one will it be?
Regardless of the answer, once you’ve got your perfect vessel, you can move forward.
2. Fishing Kayak Paddle
Speaking of obvious essentials, you are also going to need a paddle to match that fishing kayak of yours. And before you get to ask, yes – you still need to carry a paddle even if you opted for a pedal-propelled kayak.
If there’s one piece of advice I’d like you to remember, it’s this:
Don’t be afraid to spend a bit more on a higher-quality paddle; the weight difference will be more than worth it.
The Pelican Boats PS1131 is a fishing paddle I can wholeheartedly recommend to everyone. It features height adjustment for paddlers of all sizes and kayaks of different widths. Not only that, but it also features adjustable drip rings that keep your hands dry.
The result? A better grip on the shaft.
Oh, and did I mention the built-in hook retrieval system and tape measure?
If you want to consider more options, check out my kayak paddle reviews.
3. Kayak Life Jacket (PDF)
The fishing kayak and a matching paddle aside, the single most important piece of gear for any paddler out there – angler or not – should be a life jacket. I’ve said this a thousand times, but I’ll say it again:
Wear your PFDs, people.
Even if the water is pretty shallow. Even if you have Olympic-gold-medal-level swimming skills. No PFD means no kayaking – that’s the end of that debate if you ask me.
And if you think about it, a life jacket – one that’s specifically designed for kayak fishing – will do more than keep you safe out there. All those extra pockets, loops, and whatnot will prove to be pretty helpful when it comes to keeping essential tools on hand.
Speaking of PFDs primarily designed for fishing, the Onyx Kayak Fishing Life Jacket has it all -- front pockets for your accessories, six adjustment points for a custom fit, and breathable mesh panels coupled with evenly distributed foam for maximum comfort.
For more high-quality picks – even life vests for your kids and dogs – you can refer to my best kayak life jacket round-up.
4. Kayak Anchor
Okay, I think it’s pretty evident why you’ll need a kayak anchor. If there’s any current, even a bit of wind – let alone both – you’ll need something that can keep your kayak in the desired location and prevent it from drifting away.
That especially applies to fishing in rivers and oceans. The water constantly moves, and it can be frustrating to try and stay stable. In this sense, kayak anchors save the day. It’s beneficial both from the fishing and safety perspective.
That being said, if you’re drift fishing, you don’t necessarily want your ‘yak to stay in one place.
Drift socks – large, parachute-style bags – attach to your kayak, enabling you to have complete control over the speed.
The Airhead Complete Grapnel Anchor System is a comprehensive anchor system to quickly and safely secure your kayak – and yes, it’s compatible with most kayak types and models out there.
You’ll find more recommendations featured in my best kayak anchor round-up, though!
5. Kayak Anchor Trolly
If you already have a kayak anchor, then it’s probably a good idea to go all-in and get an anchor trolley, too. Why?
Because it will work hand-in-hand with your anchor, allowing your ‘yak to not only remain in one place – but to face whatever direction you want to face at the moment.
Anchor trolleys grant you complete control over anchoring your kayak in any kind of water, allowing you to turn your ‘yak into the wind, cross-current with the wind, or with the wind at your back. Plus, it makes it easier to pull the anchor up when you’re ready to move on.
The YakAttack Kayak LeverLoc HD Anchor Trolley stood out against the competition:
This USA-made kayak anchor trolley enables you to position your ‘yak in the preferred direction with LeverLoc line clamps, and it’s easy to use even for inexperienced kayakers.
Also, the manufacturers went out of their way to make the installation process even simpler by creating an instruction video. Check it out:
6. Kayak Cart
Fishing kayaks can get heavy – as in, more-than-80-pounds-for-the-whole-thing type of heavy. I don’t know about you – but carrying an 80-pound hunk of plastic isn’t my idea of fun, let alone a relaxing afternoon.
So, how do you make the trip from your car to the water less of a hassle? And, by the way, no – dragging your kayak is NOT the answer.
By wheeling it!
A kayak cart – a manual trailer supported by two wheels – enables you to transport your ‘yak by placing it on the cart, using straps to secure it, and just rolling it to the water.
One of the top choices for hauling your kayak from point A to point B is the TMS KY001 kayak cart. This metal cart has a 150-pound capacity and stainless steel fasteners with foam bumpers that protect your beloved ‘yak. And it even folds down for storage.
Not sure if that’s what you’re looking for? You’ll find more kayak cart reviews here!
Kayak Fishing Gadgets & Tech
We all look for ways to customize our fishing kayaks to our liking. It makes the kayaks feel more like “us,” if that makes sense. And let’s be honest; it’ll also add a coolness factor to an otherwise plain-looking kayak.
That’s not to say that these kayak fishing gadgets and electronics are there for the sole purpose of making you look cool, far from it. They’ll be pretty handy when you’re out trying to catch some fish.
7. Fish Finder
While a fish finder isn’t on the list of must-have kayak fishing essentials, that doesn’t make it any less useful.
You can probably guess what this device does; the name is a dead giveaway:
It helps you find fish.
I bet you didn’t see that one coming, huh?
All jokes aside, though, this sonar-equipped gadget can help you determine where to cast your line and make every moment on the water count, increasing your chances of reeling in the best fish – or decreasing your odds of going home empty-handed.
It depends on if you’re a glass half full or half empty type of person.
The Garmin Striker 4 vaulted past other fish finders with its dual-beam CHIRP transducer, GPS with waypoint mapping, speed tracking; the list goes on.
If you’re looking for more kayak-friendly fish finder recommendations, though, you will find them here.
And while we are on the topic of fishing tech. If you’re a huge geek like me, why not take your techechical fishing game to the next level with a drone?
These battery-powered helicopters allow you to scout fishing locations, bait an area, and even cast your line into spaces that are too difficult to reach using conventional methods. For some excellent suggestions make sure to check out our list of the top drones for fishing.
8. Kayak GPS
There’s always another fishing area waiting for you to explore it – but how can you find all those hidden, underfished nooks and crannies if you don’t know where to look?
It all comes down to navigation.
It’s shockingly easy to lose track of where you are when you’re paddling in unknown waters. Not only that, when fog, poor light, and other weather and water conditions conspire against you, the horizon can disappear easier than you think.
That’s why a kayak GPS should always be part of your fishing gear.
Now, you may ask:
But why do I need a dedicated kayak GPS when I can always use my phone?
Wrong. Our smartphones rely on cellular networks to track our position, rendering them useless when remote areas come into the equation.
On the other hand, kayak GPS systems are satellite-based – which means they are much more reliable.
Speaking of reliable GPS units for kayaks, the Garmin GPSMAP 64st does a pretty decent job:
In addition to the standard GPS satellite system, it improves accuracy by using the GLONASS satellites. It also has an IPX7 waterproof rating – because what would be the point if it died with the first splash?
You can check more on the best kayak GPS devices here.
9. Fishing Scales
Fishing scales are pretty self-explanatory – they weigh your catch. It’s that simple.
I mean, what’s the point of catching fish if you’re not going to brag about the size of your catch later on to your friends, family – and anyone who’ll listen, for that matter?
It becomes even more important when you’re kayak fishing in areas with certain restrictions and limitations regarding the size and weight of your daily catch. Kayak crabbing, for example, has a pretty long list of laws and regulations regarding this topic.
The Dr.meter Fish scale is my go-to.
It can weigh catches from 0.2 to 110 pounds – with all due respect, I assume that will be enough for the average angler reading this – and it can also measure the length of your catch due to the built-in measuring tape.
Kayak Fishing Clothing & Apparel
What you wear to your kayak fishing trip is more than a fashion choice. Functionality is the key here.
Having the right kayak fishing clothing is a must to enjoy your trip – and above all, to make sure you’re safe. Below are some dos and don’ts of what to wear kayaking, especially when fishing is involved.
10. Rain Gear
You get up at dawn, you have all your fishing gear packed, and your kayak is already loaded on the back of your truck – and then Mother Nature decides it would be hilarious to try and ruin your day with a sudden rain shower.
What do you do?
No, you don’t give up and postpone your trip. You put on your rain gear and have a blast on that trip – despite the rain.
Staying dry is the most important thing – even if it’s just a summertime rain shower and you feel like it’s not that big of a deal.
My advice would be to get a rain suit that offers waterproof and breathable protection – such as this one by Frogg Toggs, made from 100% polypropylene non-woven fabric blend.
Okay, sure, a drysuit sounds a bit overkill for what is supposed to be a casual afternoon on the water with a few of your fishing buddies. I get your argument, and it does depend on the overall conditions.
But I’d like to see you get out there in 60-degree weather – let alone anything below that. Getting wet in cold temperatures increases the risk of hypothermia.
You’ll want to stay as dry and warm as possible, and the only actual way to do that when you’re fishing from a kayak is to pull out the big guns – as in, your drysuit.
I found that the Kokatat Hydrus 3L Meridian drysuit has everything you might need in the best kayaking drysuit – three layers, latex gaskets, a reliable and convenient zipper, and built-in dry socks.
You’ll find a more in-depth review – along with some other drysuit recommendations – here.
Is there anything more annoying than when you’re trying to check out something on the water, but the glare keeps blinding you?
I mean, there probably is – but you get where I’m coming from here. I can recall so many times when I struggled with aiming my cast because of the reflected light.
That’s probably my fault, given that the solution can be as simple as getting a pair of polarized glasses that will help with reducing the glare.
Plus, rocking a pair of sunglasses makes you look ten times cooler. That’s a scientifically proven fact; look it up.
All jokes aside, the Fishoholic Polarized Fishing Sunglasses are worth considering here. They’re made from the FlexTuff composite frame and have mirror coating on the lens.
Plus, they come in five sleek color schemes to match any kayak fishing outfit!
You know you have a favorite fishing hat, so don’t act too surprised to see one listed here.
A fishing hat – also called a Boonie – helps you in more than one way:
The hat’s wide brim shields your eyes from the sun and protects your skin from its harmful rays. It also adds a layer of protection for your head. It’s almost like sunscreen on steroids.
My recommendation is the KastKing Sol Armis UPF 50 Boonie Hat.
The fabric is rated for UPF 50 sun protection. The hat’s mesh venting will keep you cool, while the adjustable drawstring ensures a snug fit – and prevents it from flying off on windy days.
On top of that, the hat’s camo pattern nicely fits into an idea of a true angler’s attire.
Paddlers should generally invest in a pair of gloves for kayaking, whether they plan on fishing or not. It will protect your hands from all the elements, including saltwater, keep your fingers warm, and prevent any blisters that may come with continuous paddling.
But when you’re going kayak fishing, the gloves become even more essential:
They can save you from fish teeth, sharp fins, and line cuts. Any angler who has caught a large fish barehanded knows how easily things can get messy – and not to mention, painful.
The KastKing Sol Armis Sun Gloves offer all the protection you need:
They boast several convenient features – including integrated pull tabs for easier removal. They are rated at SPF 50, blocking the harmful UV rays, while the four-way stretch fabric promises a snug and comfortable fit without affecting your movement.
Oh, and did I mention they have a microfiber-reinforced palm structure with extra padding?
Yes, folks, these gloves have it all. But you can find a few more recommendations here.
Kayak Fishing Accessories & Tools
You can’t count on a big catch without the right kayak fishing gear to rely on; trust me. So, I’ll try to set you up for success with this versatile list of kayak fishing accessories for both amateurs and experienced anglers.
15. Fishing Pliers
In the world of fishing tools, fishing pliers are the jack of all trades:
They allow you to unhook your catch hassle-free, but you can also use them for fixing your bait, cutting and crimping lines, tying a new lure – you name it. Come to think of it, perhaps the much better question here would be what you can’t use them for, huh?
For example, check out the video on how you can replace treble hooks by using fishing pliers:
As far as recommendations go, my vote goes to the KastKing Cutthroat 7 inch Fishing Pliers.
They are built from stainless steel and coated with Teflon, which translates to durability. More importantly, they are corrosion-resistant; so, the water won’t damage them over time. Also, the rubber handles prevent slipping when your hands are wet. And they’ll be wet most of the time.
16. Fillet Knife
You’ve had a great kayak fishing trip. You’ve landed a good catch.
What’s the last step before you get to enjoy a fish feast?
You guessed it; the oh-so-boring filleting. Now, this is far from my favorite part of fishing, but I’m not here to complain, though. I’m here to tell you what makes it a dozen times easier – the right equipment.
And by that, I mean a fillet knife.
How does it compare to your regular kitchen knife? Well, a fillet knife has a more flexible blade that’s usually longer and thinner.
The BUBBA Li-Ion Cordless Electric Fillet Knife is a good example:
It has two serrated, sharp blades that move in opposite directions for effortless filleting. It can’t get much easier than that! Plus, the knife is equipped with non-slip handles for your safety.
17. Kayak Coolers
While your fishing kayak will come with dedicated space for storage, cold storage isn’t part of the deal. A kayak cooler – a portable, insulated container designed to keep its contents cool – might be your best friend here, and is without question one of my must-have kayak accessories for fishing.
You’ll have more than a few options, depending on what you plan to store in it:
- A “traditional” kayak cooler works great if soggy sandwiches and lukewarm drinks don’t fit into your idea of a perfect lunch. The Igloo 25 Qt BMX Cooler is not too bulky; it has a 19-liter capacity and does a great job at keeping snacks and drinks cool.
- A fish-only cooler, aka fish bags, are designed to keep your catch fresh. A dedicated fish kill bag is your best bet; it keeps your fish fresh – and your main cooler clean.
- A kayak baitwell that circulates fresh water, keeping your live bait, such as small fish or worms – well, alive. Wilderness Systems Thrive Baitwell efficiently utilizes a hose system to draw water through the kayak’s scupper holes and keep your bait healthy.
Are you hungry for more info? It’s all in my best kayak cooler reviews!
18. Dry Box
When you’re kayak fishing, things can get wet pretty quickly. You would have never guessed, I know.
Anyway, you’ll need a convenient way to protect your electronics – and any other personal items that need to stay dry. Your fishing license, for example.
That’s where a dry box comes in:
This waterproof storage solution keeps your essential items dry. It also enables you to take your camera or smartphone with you without worrying about water damage.
I mean, if you didn’t take a photo of your catch, did it even happen?
On a serious note, you should check out the Plano Dry Storage Emergency Marine Box – it’s incredibly durable and has an oversized handle for easy transportation.
19. Rod Holder
Do I need to point out why a rod holder is a necessary part of kayak fishing gear? Well, I sure hope not. But just in case, it is to keep your rod secure.
I mean, if you don’t need rod holders, you’re probably not doing this whole kayak fishing thing right.
Some fishing kayaks will have built-in rod holders, while others won’t. Sometimes, you’ll want to attach an additional rod holder – or two, or more – to the existing ones.
Whatever your current rod holder situation might be, the YakAttack Omega Rod Holder seems like the ideal solution because of its versatility:
It’s easy to mount on just about any fishing ‘yak – and it has an adjustable lock to accommodate rods of different lengths.
20. Paddle Holder
You might not think that a paddle holder is an essential piece of gear – but that’s because you’re looking at this list from the comfort of your chair. Once you’re out on the water, and you’re trying to juggle four fishing rods, a paddle, tackle, and whatnot, you’ll see what I mean.
Unless you plan on growing a second pair of hands for the occasion, of course – but I’d say that is highly unlikely. So, yeah, you’ll want to have a place to rest your paddle.
And that brings us to the paddle holder:
I liked the YakAttack RotoGrip Paddle Holder; it offers the most bang for the buck. Its robust bolt construction consists of two soft rollers and works well with all kinds of paddle shafts without the risk of scratching.
21. Fishing Crate
Okay, so you’ve got the paddles, the coolers, the spare clothes, the rod, the rod holders; all of it. This list of kayak fishing essentials keeps getting longer and longer – which probably makes you wonder:
Where do I store all that fishing tackle?
With all the big stuff in the picture, you might be running out of onboard space for smaller fishing accessories. And no, cramming them into any remaining free space you can find is not the right solution.
Messy, disorganized fishing gear is an invitation to disaster.
Instead, you should use a kayak crate that allows you to store all of your items neatly.
If you’re looking for dry storage kayak crates, please save yourself the trouble and go with the YakAttack Cratewell. It has simplicity written all over it – and it will keep your gear safe and dry throughout the day.
22. First Aid Kit
Look, a first aid kit is a bit like a spare tire. You don’t need it – until you do. And boy, oh boy, will you be glad to have it on board in certain situations.
It doesn’t take up too much space – nor does it demand a lot of attention from you.
Stash it somewhere on your kayak, preferably in a waterproof box, and you’re all set. I’d advise you to check everything occasionally, though, just to make sure it’s still safe for use.
Get the WELL-STRONG Waterproof First Aid Kit. It has everything you need to deal with minor injuries – including adhesive bandage, cotton swabs, cooling patches, gauze pads, and so on.
But what makes it a perfect kayak first aid kit is that it also includes emergency essentials, such as the whistle, blanket, and compass – basically, things that could mean the difference between life and death in case you run into trouble on the water.
Quick Summary – Best Kayak Fishing Gear
On a typical kayak fishing trip, you may not need each and every item from this list – but having all of them will take care of any what-ifs.
The scenarios can range from inconvenient – ending up empty-handed because you didn’t have a fish finder – to disastrous, like risking your life because you’re not wearing a life vest. But they are all easily preventable.
I can’t think of any mishaps I’ve experienced that wouldn’t have been made at least a little better by one of the items on this list.
Anyway, I hope my recommendations will help you have a safe and enjoyable kayak fishing trip!