When you’re thinking about going fishing, half the fun is planning for your trip and figuring out all the necessary gear, tackle, and equipment you need to bring.
And when it comes to kayak fishing, it’s going to take a fair bit of organizing to make sure you don’t get your head in a total spin.
That’s why I’ve put together the ultimate kayak fishing gear list – which includes just about everything you could possibly need for a successful day out on the water.
So, without further ado, let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- Kayak Stuff
- Fishing Stuff
- Clothing Stuff
- Technology Stuff
- Safety Stuff
- Fellow Human/Dog
- Some Extra Thoughts
Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.
You’re not going to get very far kayak fishing without a decent fishing kayak – and there are plenty to choose from.
Try this review of the best budget fishing kayaks if you’re looking to keep costs to a minimum, or go here for the best pedal fishing kayaks if money is no object.
Just make sure your kayak offers (at the very least) rod holders, ample storage, paddle parks, and adjustable seat and/or foot braces.
It also helps if it floats.
You might well chuckle, but the number of kayakers – fishing or otherwise – who leave their paddles at home each season seems to rise every year.
A Fishing PFD
A non-negotiable, no excuses item of potentially life-saving equipment. And don’t put it on your kayak – put it on yourself. People literally drown because they do that.
It doesn’t have to be the best fishing PFD, just so long as you’re wearing one. But follow that link if you want extra help storing tackle, anyway.
You’re going to be out on the water, so there’s a strong chance things might get wet. It’s a good idea to have a quality dry bag along with you for storing all your valuables, or anything you want to keep away from water-like substances.
Food and Water
Even if you’re only planning to go out for a couple of hours, having a flask of water and a few nibbles to hand is vital. Stay hydrated and keep your energy up for fighting those monster catches.
An essential piece of equipment if you’re fishing rivers, oceans, or anywhere there’s a current, a bit of wind, or both – a kayak anchor will keep you from floating away from your favorite spots.
Try an anchor pole if you’re in shallower water, and you want something a little more efficient.
And check out this review on the best ocean fishing kayaks if you do enjoy more of a challenge in tricky fishing conditions.
Rods and Reels
While you can use any rod that’s suitable for your style of fishing, having the right size is important, so you should take a look at this review of the best kayak fishing rods on the market.
And make sure it’s fitted with the right kind of reel for the job.
Alternatively, you could go a completely different route and try a bowfishing bow instead.
I realize I could write a book’s worth of information here about the best tackle to use when kayak fishing, and it will really depend on the rig you like to rock or the species you’re hunting.
Just make sure you’ve got a good tackle box for kayak fishing, so you can keep yourself organized when you’re out there.
Every bit as important as your tackle, no fisher-person should be without good-quality tools to help them with their catch.
Try these saltwater fishing pliers for starters, designed to withstand corrosion in harsh conditions, or maybe one of these fly-fishing nippers will help make your life much easier if that’s your bag.
A hook remover is extremely useful, too, if you prefer to use one separately from your pliers, and fish grips aren’t a bad addition either – especially if you don’t actually like handling the slimy critters.
Yes it might be classed as a tool, but I feel like a good fishing knife deserves a spot all on its own.
Perfect for cleaning your catch, cutting line, dicing up bait, or pretending you’re a pirate. Follow that link for some excellent, razor-sharp fishing knives.
I kid you not – having a decent fishing net for kayaking will make the difference between landing that behemoth and watching it slip away into the murky depths.
That link will take you to some options that have been specifically made for kayaking – and there are some truly ingenious devices available.
Just so you can prove to everyone in the bar the sheer size of the whopper you caught single-handedly, a measuring device is always a good idea.
It’s nice if the kayak comes with one on board, but some of these awesome fishing multi-tools have one built-in – which is really handy for disproving the BS.
Either way, take one along or forever regret it.
Most decent kayaks, like the best kayaks for river fishing, for example, will come with ample storage – including a rear tank well section.
This is just right for bringing a good fishing cooler along – so you have a place to keep live bait, keep your catch fresh, and/or somewhere to stash a pack of cold ones for the trip.
While we all like to look the part when we’re out fishing, it’s more important that we’re comfortable, so wear some threads that are breathable, and loose-fitting, so they don’t restrict those epic casts.
Choosing quick-dry gear is highly recommended, and make sure you bring along a change of clothing if you do anticipate getting wet.
I can’t stress this enough – if you’re kayak fishing (or any type of fishing for that matter) and you’re out in the sun all day – you need to protect your head from those harmful UV rays.
A good fishing hat will do just that, and keep you cool at the same time. You might even look good in it, too – which is a bonus.
Your hands are very important things, and they can take a beating when you’re fishing – especially when using a paddle on a kayak.
Keep them protected from cuts and hooks, prevent paddling blisters, and hold onto those slippery (and often sharp) fish with a pair of good-quality fishing gloves.
Wet Weather Gear
It’s always a good idea to go out prepared – even if the weather is going to be glorious all day. Check out this article on the best rain gear for fishing, or head over here to admire these excellent fishing jackets.
Never forget about what you put on your feet, as if you look after them then everything else will fall into place.
And you can find some great kayak fishing shoes these days, so maybe you can finally throw out those stinking old tennis shoes, and reduce the risk of you slipping and getting a soaking in the process.
Another essential item if you’re out in sunny conditions – even if there are more clouds than blue sky.
The flashes of light off the water can be blinding, and guaranteed to ruin your day if you’re not protected.
I’m not sure that you’re allowed to be an angler without a cool pair of sunglasses these days, anyway…
An Old Towel
Even with the best will in the world, there’s still a very strong chance you’ll get wet – or something will get wet that you don’t want to.
Bring along an old towel to help mop things up. And it’s absolutely essential if you’re using an inflatable fishing kayak, as the hull will be filthy, and it can be a nightmare when you’re trying to pack it back up.
I found this out the hard way, and I don’t think the wife will ever forgive me for the mess I left in the back seat. It should 100% be on your kayak equipment fishing list.
Useful for emergencies, taking photos, GPS, reading my website, and telling your loved ones you won’t make it home for dinner.
While not an essential item, you can make use of this amazing technology to help keep your freezer well stocked with fresh fish. Check out this review of the best fish finders for kayaks to see the latest options.
Remember, these things can be expensive, and you don’t have to use them if you’d prefer to keep things “au naturale” – as the French say.
But they can be well-worth the investment, especially for feeding your family year-in, year-out.
Often referred to as an action camera, these things are all the rage if you want to start putting out the same kind of envious YouTube footage as you’ll see from one kayak angler below.
Don’t forget you’ll need to right mounts on your kayak or about your person if you want to take some good, hands-free footage of your adventure, so be sure you include them in your loadout.
First Aid Kit
Stashing a well-stocked boating first aid kit on board isn’t going to take up too much space, and it could well prove vital in certain situations.
Bad things happen – particularly when you combine the two accident-prone sports of kayaking and fishing – so it pays to be prepared.
It helps if it comes in a waterproof carry case, and be sure to check it from time to time to make sure everything is still in date, sterile, and usable.
Always a useful addition – even if you’re not out in low light conditions – as you’ll never know when you might need a good flashlight.
Check out this review on the best fishing headlamps – which are highly recommended as they keep your hands free. They’re also very useful in non-emergency situations if you enjoy fishing at night.
But if you’re really looking to pimp your ride, you might like to take a look at these bowfishing lights and kit your kayak out like a “playa” – or whatever.
A good PFD will have a safety whistle included, but if it doesn’t, or you’re looking to upgrade, then the famous FOX 40 is the way to go.
They can be heard from up to a mile away, and they’re great for emergency situations, keeping kids in line, and raising the dead.
We’ve already mentioned fishing hats, but slathering yourself in factor 50 is equally important. And take a stick of UV lip balm while you’re at it – as many anglers miss this sensitive spot to give a new definition to the phrase “trout pout.”
Arguably the biggest downside to kayak fishing is having to deal with biting insects.
The little bastards never quit, and so bringing along a powerful repellant is one of those kayak fishing essentials if you want a chance at a comfortable day.
Sit-on-top kayaks are generally favored for fishing, but they can have a tendency to take on water – especially in choppy conditions.
Having a bilge pump is useful to clear the decks, and it will assist the scupper plugs in draining your kayak, so you’re not sitting in the damp.
In a pinch, a good sponge can also be useful, and I’ve found using a kid’s water gun to be highly effective at soaking up the slosh, and then depositing it all over your mates.
I hope you have a faster kayak than theirs if you choose this course of action.
It appears to be everywhere these days – and for good reason.
A high-alcohol hand sanitizer can help keep nasty germs and bacteria away – which is essential when you’re handling fish in and around watercourses.
It’s also great for treating mosquito bites – if they happen to sneak through your defenses, or you forget your insect repellant in the first place.
Why not share the fun by packing someone else and bringing them along? A small child might be fun, but a dog is even better.
If you are going to share your beautiful and sacred angling experience, you might want to check this review of the best tandem fishing kayaks – which are ideal for two paddlers, or if you simply want more space for all your stuff.
Some Extra Thoughts
This kayak fishing checklist isn’t meant to be set in stone, and it’s just some ideas when it comes to useful gear and equipment you can take with you on your next angling adventure.
Feel free to make it your own, and add or remove as much or as little as you like to suit your kayak, and your fishing style. Take a look at this article on the best kayak fishing brands for more inspiration.
Remember though – fishing kayaks have a maximum weight capacity, so you shouldn’t be overloading your craft in the first place.
And don’t forget any permits you might need, cash for the car park, and to let someone know where you’re kayaking if you’re going it alone.
Kayak fishing is one of the greatest things you can do in life, combining two extremely popular pastimes into one beautiful bundle of joy.
And with help from this kayak fishing gear list – you’ll never leave home without the essentials again.
Let me know if I’ve missed anything, or if you have any great ideas or advice on what to take on board a fishing kayak.
Stay safe out there, tight lines, and happy paddling!