One of the best things about kayak fishing is kitting out your craft ready for a new expedition.
There are hours of fun to be had making your vessel your own, and setting it up to give you the best chance of success when you’re out on the water.
You can find products that are beneficial to you when it comes to safety and protection, as well as some useful equipment and gear which will make life a lot easier on board.
And not to forget – some great gift options for those keen kayak anglers in your life.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled this review of the best fishing kayak gear on the market.
Let’s jump right in.
Table of Contents
- Must Have Kayak Fishing Accessories – A Complete List
- A Fishing Kayak
- Kayak Fishing Paddles
- Personal Flotation Device / Life Jacket
- Kayak Clothing
- Kayak Fishing Rods
- Kayak Fishing Rod Holders
- Paddle / Rod Leash
- Multi-tools / Fishing Pliers / Fishing Knives
- Fish Grips
- Measuring Tapes and Weighing Scales
- Tackle Boxes / Bags / Crates
- Kayak Coolers
- Landing Net for Kayaks
- Fishing Gloves
- Fishing Shoes / Boots
- Sunglasses and Hats
- Mounting Systems / Railings
- Kayak Anchors
- Bilge Pumps
- Kayak Dry Bags
- Kayak Carts
- Sports Cameras
- First Aid Kit
- Safety Lighting / Flags
- Kayak Fish Finders
- Roof Racks / Trailers
- Trolling Motors
- Choosing the Right Kayak Fishing Gear
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Must Have Kayak Fishing Accessories – A Complete List
A Fishing Kayak
Thank you, Captain Obvious!
Okay, so a fishing kayak is not technically classed as kayak fishing gear – but you might struggle without one.
And these are exciting times to be a kayak angler, as new fishing kayak technology improves all the time, helping you have a thrilling, safe, and comfortable experience, all while helping you catch more fish!
This article on the latest and greatest sit-on-top fishing kayaks for 2023 is an ideal place to start, which offers a selection of the best fishing kayaks currently on the market.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a challenge, you can go here for some awesome sit-inside fishing kayaks.
And while those articles contain a few budget-friendly options, you can also take a look at this review of the best fishing kayaks under $1000, if you don’t want to break the bank.
When you’re looking for a new craft, it’s important you keep in mind the kind of fishing kayak accessories you’d like to include as part of your setup.
Having options to customize your kayak is every bit as important as how it performs on the water. Take a look at this article on how to choose a fishing kayak, for more information.
Kayak Fishing Paddles
Unless you’re using one of these premium pedal fishing kayaks, you’re not going to get very far without a good quality kayak paddle.
And even if you do prefer pedal power – you should still have a backup power system anyway.
There are literally hundreds of paddles to choose from when it comes to kayaking, made with different materials that affect weight, blade designs for different stroke styles, bars with different grips, and more.
And like fishing PFDs, there are kayak paddles that are specifically designed for kayak fishing.
One excellent example is the Bending Branches Angler Scout kayak paddle, which includes a built-in tape measure, and a hook retrieval notch to help with landing fish. Check it out.
But although the Wisconsin-based company makes some of the best paddles out there, there’s more to the market than the Bending Branches Angler Scout.
Head on over to this article to discover more excellent paddles for kayak fishing.
It’s also a good idea (and highly recommended) that kayak anglers use an emergency paddle as a backup, which is another useful addition to your kayak fishing gear.
They’re compact enough to be stored easily close to hand, and will become that vital kayak fishing accessory you’ll be glad you brought along should anything ever happen to your main blades.
It’s just a shame that most fishing kayaks don’t come with one as standard, stashed under your kayak seat.
Personal Flotation Device / Life Jacket
After the kayak and paddle, the most essential piece of kit for kayak fishing – or any paddle sport for that matter – is a Personal Flotation Device.
This is non-negotiable, and should always be worn on the body – without exception.
Not over the back of your seat, not lashed to the kayak deck, and not left back in the garage. A life jacket isn’t going to be any use if you’re not wearing it.
Much like fishing kayaks, the market is awash with personal flotation devices, life jackets, life preservers, and buoyancy aids. So long as you’re wearing one that’s US Coast Guard approved, suitable for the craft you’re in, and the activity you’re doing – you can pretty much wear whatever style you want.
But as a kayak angler, you might like to choose a dedicated kayak fishing PFD, like the Onyx Fishing Life Jacket.
Not only can it potentially save your life, but it offers a wealth of extra storage space for your fishing gear such as fishing pliers – and a place to rig your tackle.
For a larger selection, visit our review of the best fishing PFDs on the market, as even the most seasoned kayak angler should be wearing one.
It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with life jacket types, so that link includes a comprehensive buyer’s guide to help you out.
And don’t forget, you’ll also need a DFD (Dog Flotation Device) if you enjoy going out with your best friend. Everyone and everything on board has the right to a safe kayak fishing experience!
While this section could take up pages and pages of articles (and it has), it’s still worth mentioning here.
Aside from a life jacket, appropriate kayak clothing is imperative if you want to enjoy a safe, comfortable, and successful day on the water.
Remember, you always need to dress for immersion – so if the water temperature is low, then a wet/dry suit is essential.
Kayak Fishing Rods
While it is possible to use almost any rod when you’re kayak fishing, you’re going to have a much easier time if you stick to something that’s the right length, power, and action for your needs.
As with most fishing kayak accessories, the right gear and fishing tools will make a huge difference to your overall fishing experience.
One of my personal favorites is the Kastking Blackhawk II telescopic fishing rod. I don’t think there’s a better kayak/travel-friendly/compact fishing rod available for the price.
But that’s just the tip of the fishing rod iceberg, and you should visit this post on the best kayak fishing rods – which has a more detailed explanation on what you should be looking out for.
You can also head to this review on the best saltwater fishing rods if you like to fish in harsher conditions.
Kayak Fishing Rod Holders
And speaking of space, it’s important you maximize what you have in a kayak, as you can run out of it real fast.
This is where a good rod holder (or several) will come in very handy.
Rod holders are pretty much essential and should be built-in to all decent fishing kayaks as standard. I always say a fishing kayak without a rod holder is not a fishing kayak!
But you can always add more, and you’ll find that Scotty makes some of the very best rod holders out there, and this baitcaster/spinning rod holder is a great example of their quality.
YakAttack and YakGear also offer some great products – but you need to decide if you’re looking for articulated holders, flush mounted holders, or vertical rod stows for your craft.
Vertical rod stows are also useful for storing a landing net.
To be honest, most experienced anglers will use a variety, so why not get them all?!
There’s a rod holder for every kayak and every angler – especially if you’re rocking multiple rods, and you need help staying organized.
You can even make your own, and add a customized rod holder to a kayak crate, for example.
This article on the best kayak fishing rod holders will help you navigate all the choices on offer.
Paddle / Rod Leash
You don’t want to be up shit creek without a paddle on your next fishing trip, and you certainly might be if you don’t use a decent paddle leash.
These simple devices are often overlooked, but they can easily prevent your means of movement from floating off down the river should you get into difficulty.
They can also help keep your rod secure, too – so, for the price, they make a worthwhile investment and a nice affordable gift.
It’s also worth mentioning a kayak paddle holder. Most decent fishing kayaks should come with one already built in.
But if they don’t, then a paddle holder is one of the most essential kayak fishing accessories there is. This easy-to-install version from YakAttack is the ideal solution.
Multi-tools / Fishing Pliers / Fishing Knives
No self-respecting angler is going to leave the house without a tried and trusted set of fishing tools – and there’s no exception when it comes to kayak fishing.
Let’s keep things simple:
Go here for some awesome multi-tools – if you’re looking for one tool to rule them all.
And head on over to this review of some razor sharp fishing knives – perfect if you want to clean and cook your fish there and then.
Whether you need a bait knife, fillet knife, or a general-purpose blade, that link has you covered.
Just remember to always pack fishing pliers, and a fillet knife – especially if you enjoy cooking your catch in the field.
Fish are slippery critters, and a good pair of fish grips are necessary for safely handling and landing your catch.
The Grip Master II from Bass Pro Shops is a great option, with a super-strong, polycarbonate shaft and comfortable rubber grip for maximum control.
Use it in conjunction with a kayak landing net, and you’ll never complain about the one that got away, again.
Measuring Tapes and Weighing Scales
Some kayaks come with a built-in measuring tape, so you can see at-a-glance how large (or how small) the critter is that you’ve just managed to land.
They can also be located on some of the better kayak fishing paddles along the grip bar – which is a really useful touch.
However, not every kayak or paddle has them, and if that’s the case for you, then owning a dedicated fishing measuring tape is something you should look into.
Especially as they can easily fit into a small tackle box or milk crate.
This one from Rapala is one of the most practical and effective, but then they are up there with the best fishing brands in the world.
Additionally, a good set of fish weighing scales can come in handy too – especially if you’re desperate to prove just how heavy that beast was. Check out this link for the best fishing scales on the market.
Tackle Boxes / Bags / Crates
So, you have all the tools and fishing tackle that a successful fishing trip demands – now you just need somewhere to put them.
Thankfully for you, I did this painstaking review of the best kayak tackle boxes, bags, and crates, so you don’t have to.
And if you’re not freshwater fishing, this review of tackle bags for saltwater will be more useful for those challenging conditions.
Alternatively, experienced kayak anglers often just grab a milk crate, turn it into a tackle crate, and go from there.
Either way, choosing the right fishing setup to organize your tackle can be a lot of fun in your kayak, and you’ll find that many anglers get as much of a kick out of the process as they do from catching fish!
Take a look at the video below to see what I mean – and for some additional inspiration for when you’re designing your tackle crate loadout.
Having a quality fishing cooler on board can be really useful for a number of reasons.
You might want somewhere you can store your bait – if you’re fishing with live critters.
If you’re catching fish for a delicious meal later, then a kayak cooler filled with ice is going to keep it in the freshest condition possible.
Or, a cooler can be used to simply stash a six-pack of cold ones, your lunch, or any other snacks and drinks you might need for the day.
Follow the link above for more seriously cool kayak accessories – pun fully intended. And go here if you’re looking for products that are specifically designed as kayak coolers.
Landing Net for Kayaks
As we’ve already mentioned, kayaks can be short on space. You don’t have the luxury of moving around like you would on a bank or shoreline.
As such, landing a fish can be tricky – especially if it’s a monster. You’re going to need all the help you can get.
A good fishing net is the answer.
Of the wealth of options available, I like this YakAttack folding fishing net – as it features an ingenious leverage grip, which is like having an extra pair of hands for landing a large fish.
If that’s not to your taste, this article on more awesome kayak fishing nets will surely have something that suits your kayak and fishing style.
Many of them have been designed for use specifically in a kayak, so you never lose big fish again.
Wearing hand protection when you’re fishing in general isn’t “essential,” but it’s highly recommended.
Not only will it help protect your hands against the elements, but they’re also useful for gripping slippery fish, holding tools, and keeping you safe from sharp fins, teeth, hooks, and other unsavory accidents.
But the beauty of using them in a kayak is they also help prevent paddling blisters.
Check out these practical fishing gloves and pick yourself out a pair. But since I own a pair of the Bassdash Gloves, I can highly recommend them for fishing, paddling, and cycling.
Fishing Shoes / Boots
Obviously, you’re going to need something practical to wear on your feet when you’re out there kayak fishing.
And while you can pretty much don just about anything and call it good, it helps if you have something dedicated to keeping you on your feet in slippery conditions, or on challenging terrain.
Check out this article on the best shoes for kayak fishing to see what I mean. Columbia’s Drainmaker IV is a reliable choice.
Alternatively, some of these fishing boots are more suitable in colder conditions.
Either way, a grippy pair of deck shoes can make the difference between a light spray and a total soaking.
Sunglasses and Hats
Even if you’ve slathered yourself in factor 50 sunblock, you can still feel the effects of the sun’s harmful rays when you’re exposed in a fishing kayak.
Especially if you go out for several hours at a time.
As such, it’s rare – if ever – that you will see a kayak angler going without a good fishing hat. Check out that link for some of the latest and greatest designs.
But for the most protection possible, this BassDash hat with detachable neck flap is hard to beat.
Likewise, sunny days can be blinding – and you often have to deal with some serious glare back off the water.
Using a pair of polarized fishing sunglasses will help you see what you’re doing and where you’re going, all while protecting your peepers from brilliant sunlight.
Mounting Systems / Railings
Much like rod holders, good fishing kayaks should come with mounting systems and railings for pimping your ride to your personal specifications.
If they don’t (or even if they do, and you want to add more) picking up a quality mounting track can help.
The example found at that link is from Wilderness Systems – one of the best fishing kayak brands in the world.
They’re usually easy to install, and designed to be universal – suitable for use with just about any accessory you want to add – wherever you want to add it.
Kayaks generally don’t come with a kayak anchor, but many seasoned anglers will add one aftermarket.
This is especially true of the kayaks that come with an anchor trolley built-in, which is handy for limiting the need for your own DIY – the likes of which you’ll find in some of these fly fishing kayaks.
Anchors come in all shapes and sizes, but this ParkNPole from YakAttack is a great example of the stake system.
Remember – regardless of the anchor you choose, it’s very important you adhere to safe anchoring practices when you’re on the water.
And never use a kayak anchor if the weather and water is particularly angry, or if there’s significant boat traffic in the region.
Take a look at this article for some more practical and safe kayak anchor options, and you might be surprised at what you find.
As most kayak anglers will be using a sit-on-top kayak as their preferred vessel of choice, getting a bit wet is par for the course.
And not all kayaks come with scupper holes, drain plugs, or are self bailing. Even if they do, water can still build up given certain circumstances.
For that reason, it’s useful to have a kayak bilge pump on board – which is perfect for clearing the decks of any paddle backsplash, rogue wave, or water from a monster catch.
Bilge balls and/or deck sponges can also achieve the same results, and even a kids water gun can be a cheap and fun alternative.
Kayak Dry Bags
The likelihood of getting wet leads us nicely onto our next accessory for kayak fishing – the humble dry bag.
Believe me, these things are incredibly useful for so many activities and situations in the great outdoors, you’d be crazy not to have a couple in the house already.
And for kayak fishing, a good dry bag is essential for storing valuables, a change of clothes, documents, or anything else you want to keep from getting wet.
Most anglers will have at least one dry bag on board – particularly when embarking on longer kayak fishing adventures.
There are so many to choose from, but I particularly like the Sea to Summit options as they’re super lightweight and durable.
Getting to and from the water can be a bit tricky with the heavier fishing kayaks – especially if you’re on your own.
As such, it’s a good idea to have a solid kayak cart to help you do just that. Trust me, owning a kayak cart can be a serious game changer for when you’re setting up, and can take the heavy lifting out of heavy lifting.
Of these, the ABN Universal Kayak Carrier is a popular model, which, along with many more, you can check out at this review of the best kayak carts.
Of course, you can always just choose a lightweight and portable inflatable fishing kayak instead, which can be handy in certain circumstances, such as being able to sneak away for a spot of fishing at a moment’s notice.
But a kayak cart is great when you do want to fish alone, and still have an extra pair of hands (wheels) to assist you.
Pick up a good kayak cart, and you’ll wonder what you ever did without it.
These days, you should be able to prove the size of the one that got away with the tech we have access to.
You only have to glance at the likes of YouTube to see how many keen kayak anglers are filming their escapades, as it certainly serves as a nice memory of the day if nothing else.
With that in mind, a good sports camera makes the perfect gift for anyone who wants to document their adventures – and capture those beasts from the deep on film.
Naturally, my choice is whatever the latest GoPro Hero model is!
Just be sure to have the right waterproof protective casing and mounts – so you can keep your hands free for fishing, and check the incriminating footage when you’re done.
First Aid Kit
A bit of a no-brainer, this one. Even if you’re not kayak fishing, you should always carry a small first aid kit when you’re angling, given the sheer number of injuries you can suffer if you’re not careful.
And even if you are careful, accidents happen.
One of these waterproof marine first aid kits should be just the ticket. Remember – it’ll be all but useless if you get it wet, so keep it protected.
Fishing in the dark or in low light can be some of the most rewarding action you can enjoy on the water.
It’s also significantly more dangerous than during the day, and should only be attempted by people who know what they’re doing.
That said, we can all do with a quality flashlight for seeing in the dark, and one of these practical fishing headlamps will help keep your hands free while out on your kayak.
Safety Lighting / Flags
You might notice that many fishing kayaks come in muted, dark colors. Greens, browns, olives, blues, and blacks, seem to be the popular choices.
Some even use camouflage color schemes.
And while this might be good for hunting – it’s not particularly safe should other water users or emergency services need to spot where you are.
As such, it’s a very good idea to have a safety lighting or flag system in place – particularly if you’re out in low light, poor visibility, or bad weather conditions.
They’re also highly advisable if you’re fishing anywhere there’s a lot of boat traffic on the water, and can go a long way to helping prevent collisions and other avoidable accidents.
Kayak Fish Finders
Just as much as people might want to be able to find you, so you would like to find fish. And one of the most essential fishing accessories for kayaking is a good fish finder.
And with the technology improving all the time, it’s arguably the easiest way to raise your game on your next fishing trip. If you can’t find fish with a quality fish finder, maybe it’s time to take up golf, instead!
One of the best options out there is the Garmin Striker 4. It’s compact, highly rated, and affordable – especially if you don’t have the budget for the more expensive, high-end models.
While some purists might say using a fish finder is cheating, if you want to ace that competition or keep your freezer fully stocked with food – then this is how to do it.
Follow that link to find the best kayak fish finder for your fishing setup. A fish finder buyer’s guide is included if you’re unsure where to start.
Roof Racks / Trailers
It’s likely you’ve already got this sorted, but you never know when it’s a good time to upgrade your kayak roof rack or trailer.
Naturally, these things come in all shapes and sizes, and you’ll need to do your research and find something that fits both your fishing kayak and your vehicle.
For anyone who’s rocking those larger, heavier kayaks, I highly recommend using something like the Yakima Big Catch – which can handle craft up to 150 lbs.
Safety is your primary concern here, but using a poor system or ill-fitting device can also ruin your kayak and possibly your car or trailer, too.
When in doubt, measure it out.
While the very nature of kayaking demands the use of paddles, modern kayak anglers will often utilize a trolling motor system – if their kayaks are compatible.
They’re surprisingly inexpensive, not that challenging to install, and can make for a great gift for anyone serious about kayak fishing.
Of all the options available, it seems that Minn Kota are the market leaders in this tech, and the Endura C2 model is one of the best.
Alternatively, you can purchase a motorized kayak that already comes with this power source as standard. This article on the best motorized fishing kayaks will tell you more.
But if you already have your kayak, visit this review of the best kayak trolling motors, and give your arms a much-needed rest.
Choosing the Right Kayak Fishing Gear
Phew! That’s a lot of top-quality stuff to choose from! How do you sort the essentials from the superfluous?
It just depends on your fishing style and technique. You don’t need all the “best kayak fishing gear” to be a successful kayak angler.
And sometimes, it comes down to trial and error. Give a product a go – and if it works for you, then you’ve made the right decision.
There you have it, folks, some of the best kayak fishing accessories known to humankind. Dare I say – known to the universe.
If you’re short on birthday gifts after reading that list – I’m not doing my job right.
But do let me know in the comments if I’ve missed anything, or any suggestions you might have to improve the overall kayak setup for other readers.
And don’t forget to take a look at this kayak fishing checklist before you next venture out.
Stay safe, tight lines, and happy kayaking!