Last updated: April 11, 2023
By: Brandon Sanders
I grew up fishing without a boat. We were not poor, but with bass fishing shooting up in interest and prices being sky high, a fishing boat was not in the cards for my family.
Bank fishing is super fun, but it does not provide as many good fishing opportunities as a boat will. This was until my parents got me a fishing kayak for Christmas. All of a sudden, I had access to remote areas that I have never had the opportunity to fish before.
Bass fishing in a kayak can put you in a position where bank fishers and large boat anglers alike cannot access. Although there are some challenges, the pros mostly outweigh the cons. ✅
If you are looking for a new challenge or want to increase your chances of hooking onto a monster bass from a kayak, stay tuned!
Here are some key things you need to know about bass fishing from a kayak. 👇
You always have to start with the basics, so this is all about gear, safety, and equipment (what to wear and use) when kayaking. To start, at the very least, you need a kayak, paddle, lifejacket, and fishing equipment. These are the basics that are necessary for kayak fishing.
Some of the secondary gear includes rod holders, rain gear, and tackle storage. These, and others, can be added on as well. Consider the following kayaking checklist which is not specific to fishing, but will give you a good idea of what to bring when you have the space:
Headlamp (with working batteries, of course)
Sun shielding hat
Sunglasses with straps (so you don’t lose them in the water - it will happen if you don’t use straps)
Bottled drinking water
Valuable items in a waterproof, floating device (cell phone, wallet, keys, etc.)
A big factor is your dress. How you dress is an important part of the entire process. You have to keep weather and sun exposure in mind. When on open water, incoming weather is probably your biggest threat. Bring rain gear and constantly check the radar to keep you safe. Knowing how to fish for bass in the rain is imperative for both success and safety.
The second biggest threat is the sun. As someone who burns very easily, a few hours under intense rays can be devastating. Thankfully, sunscreen and protective clothing can stop a lot of that damage from being done. You can even add a hat, neck gaiter, and gloves for the best coverage possible.
Another basic item that is super important is your lifejacket. Not only should you have one of these to potentially save your life, but you may be required to wear one depending on where you are kayaking. Be sure to understand your local state’s life jacket laws - you want to be safe, and you also want to be legally compliant.
Remember: We’re talking about kayak fishing and not just kayaking. You will need gear and lures to harbor some bites. Knowing how to use soft plastics for bass fishing is a crucial step here.
Plain and simple, you will probably get wet when starting. If you have the idea that you will hop into the kayak and be perfect right away, there is a good chance you will be disappointed. It is crucial to learn how to paddle with full acceptance that you may flip over.
Other than catching bass, the paddling portion of this endeavor can be the trickiest. There is a learning curve, but it can be overtaken with just a little bit of practice. The basic forward stroke is what you will be using a majority of the time. This is just one side after another while you propel yourself forward. The key is to get the entire paddle in the water and use your whole upper body to push through.
It’s absolutely crucial to know the basic strokes, what they entail, and how they work. Even holding the paddle the correct way is a variable to consider.
Along with knowing how to paddle, it’s important to have the right paddle for the job. This mostly refers to length as your build and kayak size will vary. Generally, find a 98-inch (or 250-centimeter) paddle to cover all bases.
Once you have the basics of kayaking down, it’s time to transfer into the fishing world. That’s right - we made it! Casting from a kayak efficiently can be tricky from the start because there is a bit of a learning curve.
Unless you have one of the top kayaks for fishing which is stable enough to stand on, you will need to tweak your casting technique to work well being that low to the water. You may feel a bit unstable at first, but trusting the kayak is key to being comfortable and casting effectively.
Also, be aware of your surroundings. Because you cannot perform a low circle cast below the waist as you would on land, you do not want to hook any trees or structures above your head or behind you.
All in all, casting from a kayak just takes practice. Be aware of your surroundings, and start out slowly. As your comfort level increases, you’ll be able to cast a little farther, and with a little more accuracy - with each cast. As they say, practice makes perfect.
Bass love to sit in grassy areas, so this should be a targeted zone for you. Whenever targeting a certain type of structure, you will probably need a certain skill set to do so successfully. When in a kayak, you do not have the leverage and vantage point like you would on a boat or the shore.
Topwater lures can be super successful as hydrilla and other grasses could be floating on the surface. When hungry bass see a disturbance at the surface of the water, they can drill up through the water column and strike. So, be ready!
The key is using a lure that has hidden hooks. This way, it will not catch the grass and mess up the tempo. Frogs are usually the best for this. At the end of the day, topwater is a crucial aspect of fishing for largemouth bass - so if you’re uncomfortable with topwater tactics, use your time on the kayak as an opportunity to further develop those skills.
When areas are super grassy, there will be breaks and wells in the structure. This is where you should drop your lure down and wait for the bass to come out. This way, you can get some action without the grass impeding it too much.
Especially with hydrilla, a very common grass type, you may be able to hear some action under grass mats. What you should hear is baitfish feeding. You also hear bubbling gas being produced and coming to the surface. Where there are baitfish, there are bass ready to strike.
Whether you are new to kayak fishing or not, there is a good chance you will run into some grass. Knowing how to manage it is key.
If you are bank fishing, you are very limited. When you have a fishing boat, getting the best positioning possible could not be easier. Kayak fishing falls somewhere in the middle as being on the water is an advantage, but your mobility is not as efficient.
Believe it or not, how you position your kayak is an important variable to consider. It’s all about having the best angle possible for success. If your lure strategically enters the water, you can target bass without spooking them and in a natural fashion.
To do this, position your kayak parallel to the bank, ledge, or structure. If you are perpendicular or facing the bank, the leverage you have casting is not as optimized. When you are parallel, you can take advantage of far more contact points with the bank or structure.
Also, don’t feel like you have to stay in your kayak the entire time. This sounds weird, but I have had times on the water where I could get a better vantage point by getting out, walking through some shallows, and using the bank to my advantage. This is mostly for shallow lake or river kayak fishing, but don’t be afraid to drag the kayak onto the bank and explore outwards.
How you go at the bass is almost as important as what you throw in front of their face. Lure selection - such as when to know you should use lures such as jigs - and casting placement are very similar (and important) variables.
The biggest perk of using a kayak is accessing areas where big fishing boats cannot. In fact, this one of the major benefits when comparing kayak fishing vs. bass boat fishing.So, be adventurous when you can access areas that cannot be accessed otherwise. When you can tap into untouched areas, the chances of getting hooked up improve greatly.
Another important tip to know is to stay stealthy in any situation. Although you can turn on the jets and paddle super hard to get to your spot, once you are there, turn it down a notch. Try to create the smallest disturbance possible when fishing a specific spot. The less noise you make, the better chance those big bass will stick around and take a bite.
Although this bass was not caught on a kayak, there’s a famous story of a bass caught by a man fishing alone while enjoying the quietness of nature. This bass is the Ohio state record largemouth, and being stealthy and quiet helped this man be a part of history. You never know what’s below the surface of the water - so always treat your body of water as if there’s a state record under there, just waiting for you to catch it! 🏆
The best way to stay stealthy is to take it easy with your paddle. You will constantly be turning around and moving, but be subtle with the paddling action as to not spook any fish in the area. You can do this by keeping the paddle close to the kayak and performing slow, gentle strokes.
Although our fathers have probably told us not to talk while fishing just to get us to shut up (especially when we were younger), there is some truth behind being quiet. According to Bassmaster, water is a medium in which noise can propel quickly. Although bass may not be affected by casual speaking, the more noise you make in the kayak, the more likely those bass are to leave the area.
Not sure how to fish for bass in certain seasons? Learn how to fish for bass in the fall.
Bass fishing on a kayak is such a cool way to experience nature and get hooked up with a trophy. However, if you have never kayaked before, this could be a daunting task.
Knowing the basics of what to bring and how to kayak will kick start that journey in the best way possible. Then, you can start to integrate your fishing skills into the new environment. This is a tough aspect of the change as some of the routines and processes will change on a kayak as compared to on land or a boat.
Hopefully, these kayak bass fishing tips will help you start your journey on the water and develop a life-long passion! Good luck, and happy fishing.
Although there are kayaks made for fishing, you can fish in just about any kayak you can find. Fishing kayaks will provide more storage and space catered to the activity specifically, but a basic kayak can get the job done.
Fishing kayaks usually have storage compartments in the back and front. Depending on the size, there should be adequate storage for a few tackle bins and miscellaneous items.
Pedal Kayaks are better than paddling kayaks for fishing because it frees up your hands for fishing activities. Pedal kayaks use your feet to propel the kayak forward, so you do not have to worry about the paddle getting in your way.
The more money you can spend, the better fishing kayak you can get. Standing kayaks allow you to stand up and cast with a ton of stability. If you have a higher budget, standing kayaks are worth the money as they make the fishing experience far more enjoyable and efficient.
The types of fishing kayaks include standing, sit-on-top, sit-in, and a couple of others. Those three main designations cover a majority of what you can find on the market and are good for fishing.
About the author: Brandon Sanders, who goes by BBSanders, is a freelance outdoors writer that enjoys hunting and fishing across the world. He is a combat veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other smaller deployments. He lives in East Texas in a small cabin with his wife and two dogs. You can learn more about him on his own website, here.