Written by Kyle Matlock, Feelfree US Pro Staff Team Member. Edited by Bobby Ulrich, Feelfree US Pro Staff Team Member.
Being a kayak angler is very much different from being a boat angler. Boat anglers have an abundance of space to store and house all the items they may need for a successful day on the water. As a kayak angler, we do not have this luxury. Instead, each outing we have to load and unload every bit of gear that hits the water with us. In this article I will go over a checklist of things every kayak angler should have as well as a secondary list for the items that I feel are necessary to my success when I am out fishing for the day.
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First and foremost I cannot stress safety enough, everyone that gets out on the water needs to have a personal flotation device (PFD) worn at all times. If you cannot afford anything else in this list, the PFD needs to be a top priority. The kayaking community loses several people each year to drowning due to the lack of a PFD being worn and while not preventable a PFD will give you a greater chance of surviving a potentially deadly situation should you ever find yourself in one.
Always have a float plan, and let someone know your plan! This is right up there with a PFD if you are out on the water. Whether it be solo, or with a group someone needs to know your plan. What ramp or bank are you launching from? Where do you plan to fish? What time are you planning on being back? What is a reasonable grace period should you not return by your time stated? Every time I hit the water I have a detailed float plan that I send to my parents and at least one other individual should something happen and I do not return for some reason.
Light or Flag
Another important item for safety is the use of a 360 light and flag. Having these items allows other people on the water to see you from a greater distance. The Railblaza Visibility Kit II has everything you need in a compact package that is able to be broken down for easy transport. If you are fishing at night or before safe light a 360 light is required by the US Coast Guard. If your kayak is powered by an electric motor, red and green Navigation lights are also required.
A knife is also a very important thing to have on your person at all times. There are many options available but my favorite is the NRS Co-Pilot. Knives come in handy should your anchor ever get snagged and you need to cut your anchor line.
A whistle is required by the US coast guard on any waterborne vessel. For this item you want something that is loud and high pitched. These can be purchased at any outdoorsman store or even your basic big box multi purpose store with a boating or fishing section.
Kayak With Paddle or Pedal Drive
Don't forget to load your Kayak and propulsion system! Whether it be a paddle or a pedal drive without it you are stuck bank fishing. While bank fishing is enjoyable, nothing beats a day out on the water. My FeelFree Lure 11.5 with Overdrive basically lives on my roof rack for the majority of the year.
Don’t forget to pack something for measuring that next PB. I love my YakGear FishStick! This compact measuring device folds down to 12” for easy storage on your kayak. The FishStick is definitely my favorite measuring board of the few that are made and by far the easiest for me to see when I am judging fish in a tournament.
Tackle & Rods
This is such a broad subject so I wont get into the specifics here. On any given day I carry 4-6 3700 series boxes, a small bag with 20-40 various soft plastics and seven rods. All of these items fit in or on my YakGear crate with YakGear rod holders allowing all of my tackle to be securely stored and in a readily accessible location directly behind me on the kayak.
Fish Finder / Graph & Battery
This is yet another very broad subject as there are several very good options out there for Graphs that work well on a Kayak. I tend to lean towards Garmin as that is what I started with and I know and am comfortable reading them. Both my Graph and transducer are mounted directly to the rails of my Lure 11.5 and are very easy to remove when necessary.
Fish grips paired with the YakGear Fish Grip Lock and the YakGear Brush Grippers are both items I consistently use on trips. Whether I am looking to “anchor down” to any type of brush or even a dock, or looking for a way to hold a fish while I safely remove a hook from a mouth, these two items are important to my arsenal.
Lasso Net, in my opinion, is by far the most compact, and easiest to use net on the market. This net retracts into its handle and deploys effortlessly when needed. I have tried several different types of nets and the Lasso Net will always be my go to for any trip.
Pole or Anchor
I always pack both my YakStick Floating Stake Out Pole and anchor. Stake out poles are nice when fishing skinny water and you are wanting to pick apart an area, or are sight fishing during the spawn. I cannot stress how much my YakSticks helped me this past spawn when I needed to sit on a fish for an extended period of time. My boat never drifted or came un anchored These are definitely a must have for those skinny water situations! A standard YakGear 3# anchor is what I use if I am fishing anything over 7 feet deep and need to work an area thoroughly.
Pliers or Forceps
For those pesky deep hook situations where your fingers just won't cut it or for treble hooks if you don't like to live dangerously.
I always pack spare rudder cables, crimps, Gorilla Tape, screw drivers, a set of Allen wrenches and other various parts in case an on the water repair is necessary for you to get back to the dock. Being stranded several miles or even 100 yards from the dock without a rudder or propulsion system because of a broken rudder cable or a busted blade on a paddle or peddle drive can lead to a miserable end to your day and a potentially life threatening scenario. I have fixed a broken paddle blade with a few popsicle sticks and Gorilla Tape well enough to get me back to shore in a pinch.
That pretty much sums up the things I feel are needed on an everyday fishing trip. Below is just a straight checklist for everyone to follow that includes some things not discussed above. My biggest piece of advice I can give when getting things ready to go out is to set up your kayak like you are on the ramp getting ready to hit the water for the day before you load anything into your car. Once that is all complete start your loading process, doing things this way will ensure that you don't forget anything and end up at the launch ramp missing your rods because you left them in the back of your dads truck on tournament morning.
- Float plan
- 360 Light and flag
- Kayak with paddle or peddle drive
- Measurement tool
- Tackle and rods
- Fish finder/graph and battery
- Pole and/or anchor
- Pliers or Forceps
- Repair supplies
- Bug Spray
- Wet wipes
- Dry Clothes
Edited by Bobby Ulrich, Feelfree US Pro Staff Team Member