Techniques for Bass Fishing from a Kayak
By: Chandler Parker
Hitting the lake with a fishing kayak simply isn’t enough; to maximize your chances of catching quality largemouth bass, you’ll need to know how to use that kayak properly.
You’ll want to understand how to control your fishing platform—as well as cast, present, and retrieve from it.
You’ll find plenty of beginner kayak fishing tips out there, but here, we’re specifically exploring various methods you can use on the water to generate bass strikes. From not-so-casual drifting to fishing while you stand, let’s look at some good techniques for bass fishing from a kayak.
Drifting with the Wind
No matter where you go, fishing from a kayak is growing in popularity. When done correctly, drift fishing is one of the more productive types of angling from these platforms. Think about it; your kayak is relatively light and is easily pushed around by the wind and water currents if left alone.
Placing your kayak in the proper location allows you to spend more time and energy fishing and less paddling. The trick is finding the structure you want to fish and positioning your kayak to drift your tackle along the edge of cover or drop-offs with the least amount of repositioning. Use your rudder to maintain your drift position, or use an oar to steer if you don’t have a dedicated rudder.
The speed of your presentation can trigger strikes or a hard pass from the bass. You can position your kayak to offer more or less of a profile to the current or wind to speed up or slow down your drift. If you need to slow things down more, you can deploy a drift sock to increase movement resistance.
Drifting keeps a lure moving continuously with less work at the reel. When slowing the drifting speed, lots of water can be covered around a structure, finding little pockets that can otherwise be missed in fast currents or on windy days.
Drift fishing is ideal for new waters where you are trying to find fish. It’s a great technique to explore new water. The motion produced by drifting can also appear more natural than fast retrieving or trolling, enticing strikes from some cautious lunkers.
Trolling is the favored method of many kayakers, with pedal-powered designs keeping their hands free and providing finesse speeds that are hard to match. With a quick turn, they can reposition for another pass over an area or quickly move to other locations on a body of water.
In most conditions, you should be able to get your kayak moving at a couple of knots. You’ll be moving faster than drifting with the currents or wind, but you’re not speeding across the water at an unsustainable pace. Turn with a big radius to prevent your lines from crossing, or reel in and redeploy if you want to make a tight turn.
When it comes to depth, look for signs of birds feeding on the surface. If there is none, set one pole to run deep and a second to run mid-depth. You can adjust the depth of both lures to match where you get strikes.
For some anglers, the trouble begins when they set the hook with two lines out. You can put your active rod back into the holder, maintain tension by paddling, and retrieve the inactive line. This is a popularly recommended method if you are learning how to bass fish from a kayak.
You will want to learn how to turn your kayak’s side towards the fish and continue to troll with your pedals. That keeps your second line in play as you fight that bruiser. Your inactive line stays behind you on the opposite side of the kayak where the action is taking place.
Sit-on-top designs are becoming the most popular type of fishing kayaks, and for good reason. These kayaks are ideal for fishing from the side saddle position. You position your body so that you are facing the side of the kayak. Your legs dangle over the edge and into the water.
Side saddle fishing works best when drifting with the current or winds when you don’t need to operate the pedals continuously. It also works well in shallows you can not wade in because they are too muddy. Your weight can stay on the boat, and your feet can touch the bottom and move you without sinking deep into the mud.
Some anglers set the hook on a bass and then stand up outside the kayak to fight a lunker and try to bring it in. You will want to connect to the kayak to prevent it from floating too far away if you stand up in the water like this. Sitting side saddle can also give a break to muscles that tend to cramp up as you sit in the seat for hours.
Try to side saddle in the middle where the kayak is the widest, as this is the most stable area. Round edges are also more comfortable on the back of your legs as they dangle. With your gear stored at the stern (back) of the kayak, have your casting arm closest to the bow (front) to prevent things from getting in the way each time you cast.
Another way to break free from your seat is to fish from the kayak while standing. It is a productive method for casting by sight at fish you can see moving or bedding nearby. You can cast farther while standing and get a better hook set after a strike.
Many modern fishing kayaks offer the stability needed for standing anglers, but you will want to take the time to practice without your gear to learn how to stand, sit, paddle, and push the edges down by shifting your weight. Take a friend to a calm body of water and learn the ropes, including climbing back in after falling out!
The act of standing or sitting is often the most challenging and awkward feeling part of this method. A standing strap fastened in front of the seat assists you as you lift from sitting or transition back into the chair.
Anglers can have a tendency to use a push pole to move while standing, but it’s best to use a paddle to cut down on unnecessary gear. A paddle can work as well as a pole in most situations.
If you are standing for sight fishing purposes, you’ll find this method works well in calm and clear water but is ineffective in limited visibility conditions. The leverage and increased range apply to all bodies of water. Avoid standing in choppy conditions, wind, or strong currents to avoid unwanted plunges for you and your loose gear. Just take a seat.
Remember: Safety First
Being safe on the water starts with preparation beforehand. Check the weather and monitor for updates; you don’t want to be caught in a storm or unexpected conditions while on the water. If you are heading to a new body of water for the first time, search the internet and check with local anglers, clubs, and shops to get an idea of potential hazards before you pull into the parking area.
The most critical piece of safety gear is your personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket. A traditional style with the horse collar will keep your head above water, and many jackets come with pockets to hold tackle.
Another safety tip is to dress for immersion. It might be a nice 80-degree spring day, but that water might be dangerously cold. Many kayakers will dress in dry or wetsuits and carry layers they can adjust for temperature, sun, wind, and water.
Some anglers and retailers suggest your gear, kayak, and paddle blades should include bright colors for visibility. You are closer to the waterline in a kayak, and fast-moving boaters (or potential rescuers) can lose you in the distance.
Communication is also crucial to safety. Let someone know your plan before you leave home. Carry a GPS beacon and bring a device to contact emergency services.
Finally, prepare for the worst by practicing self-rescue. You will capsize or fall out at some point during your kayak fishing adventures. Practice getting back in or on your kayak quickly and efficiently in safe conditions to be ready when it matters out in less-than-ideal situations.
Putting It All Together
Now comes the fun part; combining these kayak angling techniques to generate more strikes and swing a few fish onto your new platform. The size and portability of your kayak mean you can fish in waterways that a boat cannot access while covering more water that is impossible to reach from shore. A lower angle while sitting can be advantageous in certain situations, like skip casting.
A kayak lets you travel fast and light compared to hauling a boat around, which makes it easier to get more time on the water with those lunkers. Mix and match these techniques with the fishing conditions, and you will swing more bass into your kayak, which is what it’s all about!