​​Kayak Fishing Gear List: Essential Items for A Day on the Water

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We do a lot of kayak fishing between us at Tackle Village, and it often involves an early start.

We find using this kayak fishing list helps us to pack everything we need, even when we are bleary-eyed and in need of coffee.

I’ve divided it in separate groups to make is simple: Core Kayak Gear, Fishing Gear and Clothing and Accessories.

We have this list saved on an app called Dynalist, which enables you to create simple lists with checkboxes and synch them across your devices.

Packing then becomes a simple exercise of ticking off the items on the Kayak Fishing CheckList on Dynalist as we add them to the car or kayak. 

Feel free to use this list to create your own Dynalist to save you time and mistakes. We have separate Dynalist for trout fishing (and salmon and steelhead) trips too!

Core Kayak Gear

In this section, I’ve gone through all the key gear need to get the kayaks launched and up and running (I’ve covered kayak fishing gear in the next section).

  • Paddles – although we use Hobie fishing kayaks (the Pro Angler and the Outback models) which use a pedal drive system, paddles are still vital for getting in out of the shallow water and getting home in the rare event there is a problem with the drive (known as a Mirage drive)
  • Mirage Drive – the drive system with the fins and pedals for our Hobie fishing kayaks. Without these we are pretty restricted, so it is a vital item on the kayak fishing gear list.
  • PFD (Personal Flotation Device)- We use the pull-to-inflate ones. What you use is up to you, but just make sure you use one whether it is mandated by regulations or not. You don’t want your latest kayak fishing trip to be your last! Most PFDs have a safety whistle and reflective patches to help in emergency situations.
  • Fish Finder – Finding the fish and likely fish holding structure is much easier with a fish finder and if you have one, it should be a key item on your kayak fishing gear list (see here for our picks as the best fish finders for kayak fishing)
  • Fish Finder Battery – we use either AGM batteries or lithium batteries (see here for a discussion on the merits of the two and our picks for the best choices)
  • Kayak Crate – this has rod holders on the side, a net holder and space to put an anchor, water bottle etc. It sits directly behind me in the kayak. Mine is a handmade one based on a milk crate, but your can buy specialist ones too.
  • Anchor – we don’t take or use a kayak anchor on every trip, but for bait fishing or in a high current area where you want to hold on one particular spot it can be really handy.
  • Lights (plus battery for them) if fishing at night or into the darkness. A kayak light system is essential safety gear so other boats can see you and is a legal requirement in the fishing regulations in some areas.
  • Dry bags – another really important piece of kayak fishing gear. A dry bag gives your somewhere to put your phone, wallet and keys and other personal belongings to protect them from water when you are kayak fishing.

Kayak Fishing Essentials

A well setup fishing kayak can make your fishing more comfortable and more enjoyable.

Here is our list of the key fishing tools and tackle that you need for a successful kayak fishing trip.

  • Fishing Rods – we like to pre-rig the rods the night before to save time. We take up to four fishing rods on the kayak so we can fish different types of lures without having to retie, which can be difficult in choppy conditions. That way you choose a different fishing rod for a different depth or lure presentation.
  • Fishing Net – we take a light aluminum net with a long handle that slots into one of the rod holders on the crate. We’ve wrapped it in buoyant foam to ensure it floats if it gets dropped.
  • Measuring tape or sticker. To make sure you are abiding by size limits, and to brag to your friends when you do catch a big fish, always bring a measuring tape, or betting still, get one of those so-called “brag mats” – a sticker with dimensions on it that you can lay the fish on for a photo.
  • Rod Holders – it’s always handy to have rod holders on your fishing kayak as it allows you to use multiple rods and not get yourself into trouble. I usually use two rod holders on a fishing trip – one either side of the kayak. Hobies and other kayaks have built in rod holders, but they don’t really allow the rods to sit at the right angle.
  • Pliers – its important to have pliers to quickly and easily dislodge hooks from a fish. The other option is a hook remover.
  • Fish grips are very handy for bringing heavy or toothy fish aboard the kayak. Boga Grips are the best, but its worth considering some cheaper alternatives.
  • A knife – A shape knife is vital to cut braid or mono or kill any fish we want to take. We sometimes also take a wheelbrace to kill larger fish humanely and safely with a well placed blow to the brain. Other options include an ikejimi kit to kill them instantly and preserve the flesh in best condition for eating.
  • Lure boxes and tackle boxes – I prefer to take a single large lure box that’s been pre-packed with all the lures I will need for the location I am fishing.
  • A Fishing Cooler – if you are keen to keep a fish for the table (as opposed to catch and release) then a small fishing cooler than you can fit behind the seat of your fishing kayak is great (something like the Yeti Roadie 24 is a good size). It can also come in handy for keeping your lunch and drinks cold in hot weather.
  • Scent – I always coat my plastics with an effective scent to boost strike rate
  • Sanitiser – its always handy to have a small tube of alcohol-based hand sanitizer to remove the smell from handling scent, fish or bait from your hands before you need to eat or drink.
  • Fluoro leader in different sizes – fishing in the salt I like to use fluoro leader line and carry it in a wide range of breaking strains from 6lb for small fish right up to 20lb for larger targets.
  • PLB – having a personal locator beacon in your personal flotation device means you can call for the cavalry if you do get into trouble. Kayak fishing is a very hazardous sport and it is easier than you think to get into difficulty. Having a PCB means you can get help when you need it without having to rely on a phone that can become inoperative if you’ve been tipped overboard.
  • Fishing License – make sure to take you license if required as fisheries patrollers sometimes check licenses on the water or when you are coming at a launch ramp
  • An old towel is another vital item to have as part of your fishing tackle. You can use it wipe your hands, or to hold a fish that you are going to release to avoid damaging it’s skin.
  • A first aid kit is another thing to consider when you are kayak fishing. I wouldn’t say a first aid kit is essential if you are fishing for short periods close to built up areas, but once you go remote, it becomes an essential item that could save your life in emergency situations.
  • Nippers or braid scissors: important for changing up your rig and lures quickly and easily. We have nippers on a lanyard so they are always in easy reach.

Clothing and Accessories

The success of kayak fishing largely depends on to what and which types of gears you are using.

You won’t need all of this on every fishing trip, but this list key clothing for kayak fishing gives you a selection to choose from.

  • Polarized sunglasses – necessary to be able to cut throught the surface glare and see the bottom if possible and spot fish
  • Kayak pants – waterproof pants for launching and fishing in cold weather.
  • Neoprene socks – for launching on warmer days when shorts are OK but you want to keep your feet warm
  • Rain jacket – a decent rain jacket that keeps you inner layers dry is really important when you are kayak fishing. It can be along day on the water when your torso area gets wet and you begin losing heat. Proper Gore-Tex rainwear is essential gear for a kayak angler really on wet days.
  • Crocs – the ideal footwear for launching your kayak as you can stow them once aboard and operate the pedals with bare feet or covered feet if you are fishing in pants or neoprene socks.
  • Water bottle and urine bottle (important not to confuse them!). I bring a drinking water bottle that fits the cup holder in the Hobie and a second wide mouthed bottle that can be easily distinguished from the water bottle that I use if I have to relieve myself on the water when I am kayak fishing.
  • Sunscreen – There is very little protection from the bright sun on a fishing kayak so I always take a tube of sunscreen and a separate protective lip balm to guard against harmful UV rays.
  • Neck gaiter – we always carry one for those days when the sun if very fierce as you can pull it right up over your face so it is fully protected.
  • Long sleeved fishing shirt. I don’t want to be bothered having to apply sunscreen to my arms on the water, so I always fish in a long-sleeved fishing shirt made from a quick dry material and having two large chest pockets.
  • Headlamp – one of the important kayak fishing accessories for trips in low light (ie dusk or dawn). A headlamp at least allows you to see your tackle close up and tie knots etc and is a must have for kayak anglers fishing at these times..
  • A hat. I have pretty fair skin, so I take sun protection seriously. I use two basic kinds of hats – a baseball cap if we are wearing a buff or neck gaiter. These two combined give probably the most sun protection of any system. However, if the sun is not that fierce, I prefer a boonie hat as wearing a buff all day can get a bit uncomfortable and a broad brimmed style fishing hat is enough. This kind of fishing hat is also better for sight fishing as the wide brim means light can’t in behind or to the sides of your sunglasses.
  • Fishing Gloves – these are great to have when you are fishing in very cold weather or stormy conditions, or in very strong sunshine. The best fishing gloves, unless it is extremely cold, are the ones with the tips of your fingers exposed so you can still tie on lures with proper knots and fishing effectively.

 Final Words on Packing for a Kayak Fishing Trip

 So there you have our complete kayak fishing gear list. You can turn it into a Dynalist or print it out as a checklist for your next kayak fishing trip. It will really help you get on the water without forgetting any of the key essentials, which can be not only annoying, but compromise your wellbeing if you forget a key piece of safety gear or a hat and you end up getting horrendously sunburnt.

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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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