How To Set Up Your Kayak For Fishing


The key to smooth and enjoyable kayak fishing experiences is having all the gear you will need meticulously organized so it’s within easy reach but not in the way of paddling, casting, and retrieving. So how do you rig your kayak for fishing?

Whether you own a fishing kayak designed specifically for fishing or want to transform a regular recreational or touring kayak into a fishing kayak, this kayak fishing setup guide will give you all the information you need to set up an amazing kayak for fishing. Let’s get down to it!

1. Add Fishing Rod Holders

There’s a reason most fishing kayaks come equipped with fishing rod holders. Whether you will be casting or trolling, the fishing rod is the most important fishing equipment you will use. Since you will be paddling most of the time, you won’t have your hands free to hold your fishing rod or rods. Thus, the very first thing to do to convert a regular kayak into a fishing kayak is to buy and mount fishing rod holders.

Where to Mount The Rod Holders

Where on your kayak to mount the rod holders will depend on how many rods you will be using. One or two-rod holders are all you need in most cases and the best place to install them is behind the cockpit. To make sure they don’t get in the way of paddling, the rods should point behind you. If you will be using more than two rods, you can install some of them in the front. Just make sure that these arc above your paddle strokes so that they don’t get in the way of your movements.

The mounting position will also be dictated by where and how you fish. Will you be trolling? Flush mount rod holders are ideal for trolling and the rods should be facing more to the side rather than right behind you. As for rivers and shores with cover, horizontal rod holders ensure that snagging won’t be an issue. 

How To Mount The Rod Holders

Once you’ve determined the best place to mount your fishing rod holders, it’s time to drill holes. Yes, mounting rod holders securely involves drilling holes. But it’s easy to do and won’t damage your kayak. Trust us, once you’ve set up the rod holders, you won’t even realize there were holes on your yak. Your set of holders will probably come with a template to use to ensure you drill holes in the right places.  Next, bolt the rod holders and use the provided sealant or a silicone sealant of your own to complete the installation. 

2. Set Up Your Kayak Tackle Storage System

Now that you have the fishing rod holders in place, the next thing to do is to set up your kayak tackle boxes/storage system. Kayaks have limited space so the best way to make sure that everything you need for your fishing trip fits in is by bringing only what you need.

Not only that, organize it properly so that you won’t have some pieces of equipment getting in the way of your fishing or paddling. Depending on the kind of kayak you’re working with, here are some fishing kayak tackle storage ideas:

Milk Crate

Most kayak anglers use a plastic milk crate for tackle storage. It’s spacious enough to accommodate everything you need, makes transporting tackle to and from the kayak a breeze, and doubles as a convenient lashing point for other items. 

If you will be fishing off a sit on top kayak, you can set up a plastic milk crate on the platform at the rear and secure it with bungee cords.

Small Tackle Box

If you’ll be using a sit-inside kayak, on the other hand, you won’t have a lot of space for tackle storage. In this case, you can stow a small tackle box in front of you so that it’s between your legs. Not the most comfortable setup but it will ensure you bring along only the supplies you need and access anything you need easily.

Tool Holder

Don’t forget to keep the essential tools at hand when rigging your fishing kayak storage. For your pliers, fish lip gripper, scissors, and bolt cutters, you can mount a tool holder within easy reach. A tool holder is easy to install and comes with screws for mounting it on your kayak, crate, or anywhere else you prefer.

Fish Cooler

If you will be keeping some of the fish you catch, your fishing kayak setup isn’t complete without a place to stow your catch and keep it fresh. However, the limited space and weight limit of a kayak present a challenge here so not just any cooler will do. If you go for small fish, you can stow a compact cooler in the tank well. If you target big game fish, you can attach a large insulated fish bag to the bow or stuff it in a hatch.

3. Add An Anchor System

It’s impossible to cast, feel for strikes, and retrieve your catches when your kayak is at the mercy of the wind and current. This means that you will need an kayak anchor system to hold your kayak in place and transform it into a stationary platform for fishing.

However, a poorly installed anchor system can do more harm than good. It can flip over your kayak creating even more problems. Due to this, the best anchor system for a fishing kayak is the trolley anchor.

Most kayak fishing setups prefer this system because it’s made of a pulley that runs the length of your kayak and has a carabineer allowing you to choose whether to drop your anchor from the front, middle, or rear of the kayak.

With this system, you can set up the perfect anchor for your fishing style and your kayak will turn into the wind or current without tipping over. Setting up the anchor isn’t difficult. All you have to do is drill a few bolt holes on your kayak and mount it. 

4. Mount A Kayak Fish Finder

A fish finder is the most important accessory you can install on your kayak to maximize your catch. It will show you where the fish are so you can pick the optimum spots to cast. It comes with a transducer that sends beams down into the water and returns images of what is beneath your kayak.

You can see, fish, structure, and the bottom, and know exactly where to concentrate your efforts to maximize your catch. Some units even use GPS to map and save your favorite fishing spots and monitor the speed you’re moving at. 

With most kayak fishing setups, installing a fish finder is a simple three-step process. Most fish finders come with the transducer and mounting hardware and require a 12-volt power source. As for where to set up the display unit, you should be able to see the screen easily without the unit being in the way of paddling and casting.

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5. Consider Installing A Trolling Motor

One of the best ways to fish off your kayak is by trolling. It allows you to cruise around the water effortlessly while presenting your bait. All you have to do is buy a quality 12 volts transom mount the motor and follow the provided instructions to install it. With most kayak setups for fishing, the best place to mount the motor on your kayak is on the stern.

Depending on how the seat on your kayak is configured, though, reaching the motor when it’s installed on the stern might prove too much of a hassle. If this is the case with your kayak, the best place to mount the motor would be on the midsection of your yak. Here, you will be able to control the motor without trouble since you can reach it easily without having to get off your seat, stand up, and turn around.

6. Other Fishing Kayak Setup Ideas


Now that you’ve rigged your kayak with fishing rod holders, a kayak tackle storage system, an anchor system, a fish finder, and a trolling motor, you’ve taken care of all the basics for successful kayak fishing adventures. Beyond this, consider adding the following items to have a phenomenal experience on the water: 

  • A camera mount for holding a waterproof camera or a GoPro so you can film your kayak fishing experience, and capture good photos of the fish you land.
  • You will need to bring along food and drinks to stay energized and hydrated. A kayak cooler to keep your snacks fresh and drinks refreshing cool is a good idea, especially when fishing in the heat of summer.
  • A kayak fishing net to make it easy to land and release the fish you catch back into the water. When practicing catch and release fishing, using a rubberized fishing net is the best way to ensure the fish you land aren’t harmed.

7. Don’t Forget The Safety Essentials

As with any other adventure on the water, safety is a top priority when fishing from a kayak. Being on the water means you’re at the mercy of unpredictable weather and water conditions. With fishing, you will also be handling sharp objects like fishing hooks and toothy fish. Accidents can and do happen.

To be on the safe side in the event of an emergency, make sure you carry the essential safety equipment. These include:

  • A leash for your main paddle and an  extra paddle for backup just in case the paddle in hand breaks or goes overboard
  • A kayak fishing life vest that doesn’t restrict movement but will keep your head afloat in the water. It’s also a bonus if the vest has fishing features such as tackle pockets and tool lashing points
  • A first aid kit for taking of injuries and medical emergencies
  • Lights for visibility especially if you love fishing in low light conditions
  • A whistle you can use to attract attention should you need help
  • Bug spray for repelling mosquitoes and other insects so you can fish in peace. This is especially important when fishing in a bug-infested environment.
  • VHF marine radio for weather alerts and emergency communication when off the grid
  • Protective clothing to protect your skin against the harmful UV rays or a wet suit or dry suit to keep you dry and warm in frigid conditions

8. Make Sure The Layout Suits Your Kayak Fishing Style

The final step in the fishing kayak setup process is to make sure that the layout will work well out on the water. The best thing about rigging your kayak yourself is that you can lay it out to suit your style of fishing, the waters you fish, and the fish species you go after. Besides, you can set everything so it’s easy to access from the comfort of your kayak seat.

Once you’ve set up everything, get the kayak on the water to see how the fishing kayak set up works in real life. Make sure nothing is in the way of paddling, casting, and landing fish. Once out of the water, fine-tune the setup based on your experience.

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As you can see from our kayak fishing setup tips and fishing kayak ideas, customizing a kayak for fishing is neither difficult and time-consuming nor does it have to cost a fortune. All you need are the basic kayak fishing essentials including fishing rod holders, a kayak tackle storage solution, an effective anchor system, a fish finder, a trolling motor, and careful thought to layout your kayak for the best experience on the water.

Safety is also vital so you should incorporate it in your setup. Once you have the ideal kayak set up for fishing for your style of fishing and abide by the basic safety precautions, you are all set for successful and enjoyable kayak fishing adventures.

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