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Kayak Fishing Checklist

First time or fiftieth time. Packing for a fishing trip takes patience & planning. And even more so if you are fishing from a kayak. There are so many benefits to kayak fishing, but it does require a thoughtful, minimalist approach to gear & equipment.

Make the kayak fishing process as simple as possible with a handy checklist. 

Safety List

Make safety a priority. Whenever you are on the water, it is important to take precautions. A personal flotation device, or lifejacket, is a must. Not only is it often required on many waterways, it is simply a good idea. If you get one with pockets, it can also double as a handy place to hold frequently used items. A whistle or other signaling device is important to communicate with other boaters/paddlers.

Self-care items like sunscreen and bug repellent can keep a trip from turning south. A compact first aid kit is also a wise inclusion. Dry clothes and snacks are important items for a long day. Even if you don’t plan to get wet, you never know what may happen so keep a change of clothes in a dry bag.

Lastly, be sure to leave your plans with someone on shore. Let them know where you plan to launch from and the reasonable time for your return.

  • PFD
  • Whistle
  • First aid kit
  • Sunscreen/sunglasses
  • Bug repellent
  • Dry clothes
  • Water/snacks
  • Float plan

Kayak List

Of course, a kayak is a pretty vital part of kayak fishing, but you won’t be going anywhere without your paddle or pedal. Even though this list may feel a bit extra. You would be surprised how often the most obvious pieces of equipment get left behind!

And include a repair kit. While you would never want to spring a leak, things happen. Even if it isn’t a perfect fix, you may be able to get yourself - and your catch - back to shore.

Fishing from a kayak can also benefit from an anchor or even a pole. Many kayakers really like the anchor pole (aka stake out pole or anchor pin or shallow water anchor). No matter what you call it, this handy device is excellent for keeping your vessel in place in skinny water so that you can fish to your heart’s content without needing to paddle / pedal to maintain your position. An anchor is also extremely helpful if you want to plant yourself in place and take advantage of a particularly hot spot.

  • Kayak
  • Pedal / paddle
  • Repair kit
  • Anchor or pole

Fishing List

Now the fun part! Getting together all the stuff that makes for a great day of casting, catching, releasing, battling, measuring, and making memories. The biggest challenge for a kayaker angler is learning to keep things simple. A kayak just doesn’t allow you to take all your gear and the kitchen sink. The simplest and most popular way to get organized seems to be the milk crate. This device allows you to mount rod holders and get everything inside the cube so that you can grab-and-go.

A few things to consider as you load your crate or box or however you choose to organize/pack. If possible, take a few rods (2-3) that are pre-rigged for what is likely biting or lets you fish a variety of depths. Then you can just grab the rod you want and get to fishing instead of trying to change lures on the fly.

You’ll also want to have a knife on hand. A blade can be helpful in a variety of situations, especially when you are dealing with lines that can get tangled or caught. Take along your tools for removing hooks and a net for scooping up your catch. You will likely also want your fish finder/graph (and an extra battery). A measuring tool is helpful if you are taking anything back and might need to meet regulations. Speaking of regulations. . . don’t forget that fishing licenses so you don’t run amok of area laws.

  • Milk crate
  • Rods
  • Lures
  • Knife
  • Measuring tool
  • Fish finder/graph/battery
  • Net
  • Grips/pliers/forceps
  • Fishing license


Getting organized is a great way to be ready whenever the fish are biting! Use this checklist and add your own personalization. Happy fishing!

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