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Tips for Becoming a Better Kayak Angler

Fishing AND kayaking? Yes, please! More and more people are discovering the benefits of kayak angling. Whether it's the action-packed retrieve, the low price point, or the great access, the advantages of kayak fishing are abundant. Want to join the party? Check out some of these tips to improve your kayak angling game

Master your propulsion for better kayak angling

Perhaps the biggest improvement you can make to your kayak fishing game is learning to propel your vessel efficiently. There are commonly two ways to do this.

  • Learn to paddle one-handed. Kayaks are traditionally paddle craft but that double-sided paddle is cumbersome if you are also trying to cast or reel. Learning to negotiate your paddle and direct your yak with one hand will free up the other to fish.
  • Invest in a pedal powered propeller. Another option for better kayak angling is to buy or upgrade your craft to pedal power. This allows you to have both hands free for fishing. Some fishing kayaks come with pedal power for just this reason.

Master your casting for better kayak angling

Casting from a kayak (especially seated) is very different from casting from shore or boat. Honing your technique from this unique position can make a dramatic difference in your fishing.

  • Cast one-handed. As with propelling, learning to cast one-handed will allow you to both paddle and fish. This means opting for lighter combos instead of heavy rods and jigs. Or consider a pedal kayak or adding a pedal drive to your yak to free your hands to cast and reel.
  • Cast stealthy and low. Learning to drop the bait quietly will improve your fishing game. Remember that with a kayak you are much closer to the water. You will have to adjust your cast accordingly. Learning to cast low can make a difference, especially if you are also trying to paddle/steer. Focus on finesse tactics.
  • Cast to steer. As you improve in your technique, you will discover that you can use your cast to help steer your kayak. If you are using crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and chatterbaits, you will find that the simple resistance as you reel in the bait will pull your yak in the direction of the cast. Use that to your advantage to subtly adjust your position.
  • Position seat for stability. Often fishing kayaks are sit-on-top and offer a certain amount of seat adjustment. Many kayak anglers like to position their seat a bit higher to capitalize on a better field of vision and easier casting; however, if you want stability, a low seat position is advisable. If you’ve mastered your low cast, putting your seat in the lowest position to the kayak can improve your stability which might prove helpful in landing those whoppers.

Master your kayak’s movement for better angling

Getting your kayak where you want to go - and keeping it there - is a huge aspect of kayak fishing.

  • Use your feet. As surprising as it may seem, your feet can play a huge role if you are fishing from a sit-on-top kayak. Because you are so low profile and skinny in your yak, you will find that your feet are a wonderful addition to keeping your boat moving - or not moving - in the right direction. If your yak is narrow enough, you can drop a foot in the water to steer or hook it around a log as an anchor or even use it to push off from obstacles if your hands are busy reeling in that catch.
  • Use an anchor. As helpful as your foot might be for the occasional pause to finish fishing a particular hole, using an actual anchor is also extremely helpful. While you might not always think of anchoring in conjunction with kayaking, think again. If you want to fish, you probably want to stay in one particular spot for a while. An anchor lets you do just that. Anchoring a kayak doesn’t require any heavy arsenal but it should come equipped with a release if you are in current. (Currents can actually push the whole kayak under if you aren’t careful.)
  • Use the shore. If you find yourself fighting the wind or current in your kayak, you know how quickly you can tire out – and then have no energy for fishing.  Make use of the shore to move your yak more effectively. Because of its low profile/draft, your kayak can get close to shore where the current is less active as the water gets “skinny”. Wind and waves are also reduced by the vegetation and structures near the shore, which all combine to make paddling along the shoreline easier than the middle when you are heading upstream. (You can also take advantage of some excellent fishing opportunities provided by that shoreline vegetation as well. Win, win.)
  • Use your centerline. One huge aspect of kayak angling is balance and stability. While fishing kayaks are incredibly stable, it can still take some practice to get used to and use that rocking motion of your kayak. Kayaks are designed with primary (initial) stability ( how the boat sits flat on the water as you paddle) and secondary stability (how the boat leans from side-to-side when you make a dramatic movement). There is a learning curve in trusting that stability - the yak will move back and forth as it returns to flat. You can use this to your advantage and trust that you aren’t likely to capsize – except if you become forgetful of your centerline. Do your best to stay centered in the yak. When you lean over to land a fish or if you let a hooked fish come alongside the side of your vessel, you risk a dunking. Keep your body mass on the centerline of the craft, point your rod tip to the bow, and stay low and centered when you land a fish.

The combination of kayaking and fishing is truly a match made in heaven. Whether you are fishing lakes, streams, rivers, or ocean, you can embrace the kayak angling game and join the excitement of this growing sport.

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