When Bonafide set out to design the ultimate fishing kayak, they put in years of research that would ultimately pay off in a big way. When they produced the final product, what they had was a kayak that was laser-focused to have one defining characteristic—Fishability.
Kayak fishing can be as simplistic or complex as you want. Some people trick out their kayaks with fancy accessories and electronics, while others prefer bare-bones, minimalist setups.
I’ve fished out of a kayak for several years now. I know from experience that the right gear can make your fishing trips much more enjoyable.
Below is my list of the best kayak fishing accessories I take on every fishing trip.
This list is based on my own experience and my own (sometimes costly) mistakes.
This comprehensive guide will help beginners decide which fishing kayak accessories to buy and what to avoid.
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Quick Answer: Essential Fishing Kayak Accessories
- Personal Flotation Device
- Anchor Trolley
- Kayak Cart
- Fish Finder
- Landing Net
- Lip Grip
- Rod Holders
- Appropriate Clothing
- Dry Bags
- Flag and Lights
- Flashlight or Headlamp
- First Aid Kit
- Whistle or Air Horn
- Leash or Bungee Cords
Best Kayak Fishing Gear: Must-Have Items
Personal Flotation Device
“Safety first” is the common mantra of many outdoor sporting activities. It rings true with kayak fishing.
You are at a higher risk of drowning in a kayak because kayaks can tip over more easily than traditional bass boats. In inclement weather, this becomes even more of a concern.
Always wear your PFD when kayaking, even in shallow water. Many drownings result from head injuries or other problems hindering your swimming ability.
Having a life jacket gives you a greater chance of staying afloat in any situation.
New PFD models are very comfortable to wear. They don’t get in the way of casting, paddling, and handling fish like older life jackets used to do. Some models come with convenient pockets for small items you need at hand.
RELATED: Best Life Jackets for Kayak Fishing
My personal favorite PFD for kayak fishing is the Stohlquist Keeper. I’ve been using this life jacket for 3 years now and I absolutely love it. This PFD is super adjustable, well-ventilated, and has large pockets with internal organization.
This item may seem obvious, but some owners of pedal kayaks or motorized kayaks take to the water without a paddle.
Modern pedal systems and trolling motors are so efficient and reliable that paddles are sometimes considered something insignificant that takes up space in a kayak.
I’d never go kayak fishing without a paddle. Your pedal drive can break, your trolling motor battery can die on you, your prop can hit an underwater obstacle and crack, and so on.
A paddle can be lifesaving in some cases. I’ve seen paddles used for everything from dislodging hooks from trees to fending off angry alligators in the backwater swamps of the southern United States.
Keeping a paddle stowed away on the side of a kayak might seem inconvenient, but it is one of the most essential kayak accessories you can have.
RELATED: Best Paddles for Kayak Fishing
Kayaks are lighter than most other watercraft used for fishing. Being so lightweight is usually an advantage.
But on a windy day, you will quickly realize the importance of having an anchor.
A small anchor can make all the difference between being windblown all over a lake or staying in the correct position and on the fish.
3 to 4 lbs is all you need for lakes. You’ll want to use a 5 to 6-lb anchor in moving waters.
To manage my anchor line, I use a heavy-duty, 30-ft retractable dog leash.
If you have an anchor in your gear arsenal, consider adding an anchor trolley.
Some kayaks come standard with anchor trolleys. But it’s easy to install an anchor trolley on most kayaks.
An anchor trolley lets you position your kayak at different angles to the wind or current so you always face the right direction. It helps you focus on the fish instead of wasting time keeping your kayak in position.
One of the biggest problems with kayak fishing is getting your kayak to and from the water. A kayak cart or trolley makes this job much more manageable.
A good heavy-duty kayak cart lets you bring your vessel and all fishing accessories from your vehicle to the water in one trip rather than walking back and forth with rods, crates, bags, etc.
The best kayak carts can be taken apart easily and are stowed away in a hatch or behind the kayak seat.
A fish finder is one of the best kayak fishing accessories you can invest in. Having a fish finder on your kayak will open up many new possibilities.
If you plan to fish tournaments or simply want every advantage possible on the water, fitting your kayak with a fish finder will pay off. You may choose a high-end fishfinder model with GPS, mapping, and side imaging or a simple sonar with a depth finder and down scan. Either way, it’s always good to know what’s going on in the water.
Most fishing kayaks have transducer scuppers that make installing fish finders quick and easy.
Every accessory that can help you land fish is essential, especially if you fish competitively. A landing net is a must-have gear item that significantly increases your chances of putting fish in the boat.
Unlike fishing from a large boat, your range of motion in a kayak is limited. This makes fighting and landing fish more difficult. A landing net can make a difference between landing a trophy fish and losing it.
A lip grip is another essential accessory I take on every fishing trip. Just like a landing net, a lip grip helps you control the fish while you remove hooks and log your catch.
I still remember the crushing defeat of catching and landing a trophy bass onto the kayak only to have it slip away with a few lively thrashes—essentially ruining my chances to win a tournament.
Another reason to use a lip grip is that it helps prevent injuries from hooks, teeth, or sharp fins as you handle your catch.
You can store a lip grip in a kayak crate or underneath the seat. I like to put it in a cup holder for easy access and leash it to the kayak. This way it’s always at hand when I need it.
Fishing from a kayak is a continual lesson in learning to use what you have available and keeping your overall amount of gear at a minimum. This means that it’s highly unproductive to tote a full-size toolbox along on your fishing trip. Instead, it’s widely considered essential to bring along a quality multi-tool.
There are many different types of multi-tool units, but most can be distinguished by the price and any seasoned angler will agree that when it comes to fishing tools and accessories, you often get what you pay for.
Having a multi-tool allows you to use pliers to bend, reshape hooks and other important parts, as well as use the variety of blades at your disposal for any purpose you might need. Some multi-tools have elongated plier arms that are able to reach down inside a fish’s mouth to dislodge hooks.
Multi-tools also usually feature a solid pair of snips that help in cutting braided line, or anything else while on the water. Bringing along a high-quality multi-tool unit can prove useful in a variety of situations and is arguably the most important accessory in a kayak angler’s list of gear and tackle items.
Most fishing kayaks will come standard with one or more rod holders, but experienced anglers will attest to the importance of having rod holders placed in exactly the right location. Many of the most sought-after kayaks feature a number of gear tracks along the sides, bow and stern of their kayak. Anglers can use these tracks to install any number of rod holders to fulfill various functions on the water.
Extra rod holders, especially adjustable models, will allow you to strategically place fishing rods at various points on your kayak to improve your trolling ability, or to simply stow an extra rod in just the right spot so that it can be quickly and easily reached once you arrive at your fishing spot.
Making use of limited space is an underrated skill set for professional kayak anglers and having a well-placed rod holder greatly contributes to making the most out of the space you are allowed.
Kayak fishing is most popular in the warm months of spring and summer when most anglers don’t mind getting a little wet while on their fishing trip. However, serious kayak anglers take to the water year-round in a variety of cold, rainy conditions that might otherwise keep amateur anglers at home.
Purchasing specialized, waterproof clothing will go a long way in making sure you stay warm and dry while on the water in your kayak when most anglers would rather not brave rough conditions. There are a variety of new and well-established clothing companies that produce waterproof, insulated clothing that are highly popular among professional kayak anglers.
Owning the right kind of gear and tackle is obviously essential to your success on the water, but making sure you are dressed in a way that will give you the greatest chance for a successful fishing trip is a lesser-known secret that veteran anglers know too well.
For more information on what to wear kayaking, check out this guide at REI.
Many fishing kayaks offer dry storage compartments and hatches that are great for keeping some of your most important gear items stowed away safely and securely out of the elements. However, many budget-minded kayak models do not feature these amenities, so having a dry bag is extremely important for ensuring that some important gear items don’t succumb to the potential wet conditions.
A dry bag is perfect for storing food, or valuable items like cellphones, wallets, and other items. Some anglers go as far as stowing the dry bag in a storage hatch, but some might consider this to be taking too much precaution. However, many seasoned anglers have found that when it comes to keeping your most valuable possessions dry and free of water damage, it’s often better to be safe than sorry.
Flag & Lights
Proper safety equipment is easily the most important item an angler could bring along with them on their kayak. If you’re fishing areas where you might encounter larger, high-speed boats, it’s absolutely essential to have a flag that makes your watercraft as visible as possible from as great a distance as you can. Having large, tall flags are also considered to be important for those who fish along coastal areas and shallow inlets where bass boats often speed through with little warning.
Adding lights to your kayak is a must if you plan to fish at night. Many states require that kayak anglers who fish at night have the same lights that are required of full-size boats. Even if you don’t plan to fish in the dark, having lights stowed away that can be equipped in the event that you become stranded on the water can turn out to be extremely important.
Flashlight or Headlamp
Experienced anglers know the importance of being prepared for emergencies and kayak fishing is no exception. Bringing along a headlamp or flashlight could prove to be extremely important for anglers who become stranded or can’t find their way back to their launch point for any reason. A flashlight or headlamp will also allow you to signal nearby boats if you do happen to get stranded.
Finding yourself ill-prepared in an emergency can often turn a bad situation worse, or even lead to serious injury. Packing a well-stocked first-aid kit along on your kayak will help you be prepared for anything you or your fishing partners might encounter. First-aid kits can quickly become the most important item in your kayak should you be faced with an emergency. Having one of these aboard your kayak is especially important for longer, overnight journeys into areas where cell phone signal is scarce.
Whistle or Air Horn
One of the lesser known safety items that experienced kayak anglers include in their gear arsenal is a whistle or air horn. This might seem like an insignificant item that will have little value in an emergency, but many anglers and first responders will agree that an item such as a whistle or an air horn often carries louder and farther than a person’s voice when in distress.
Having a whistle attached to your PFD is a great way to stay prepared and ready should your kayak capsize and you find yourself in need of immediate help. If you opt for taking an air horn in with your other gear, be sure to keep it in a location where it won’t be easily damaged by water.
Many states require that kayak anglers have a whistle in their possession when on the water, but there are plenty of instances where having a whistle can greatly increase your chances of being rescued.
One item that is all-too-often overlooked but can come in very handy is extra rope or cordage. Having extra rope can prove useful when tying your kayak off to structures along the shoreline, or even securing your kayak to another fishing partner’s vessel if they happen to lose their paddle or encounter an emergency. Bringing along extra rope or cordage is an item that will usually prove its usefulness when needed.
Leash or Bungee Cords
Kayaks are small vessels that can tip quite easily. If you take a tumble, you will lose any gear lying around loosely on board.
Accidents on the water often lead to harsh lessons about securing each gear item while fishing. After all, tipping your kayak always happens when you least expect it.
Having leashes or bungee cords for all your gear will ensure you keep them even if you tip the kayak.
Securing every item during your trip can be frustrating and time-consuming, but it can keep you from losing expensive tackle and other equipment.
Kayak fishing takes some preparation and the right gear. By having the right tools with you, you will stay safe, have more fun and (hopefully) catch more fish!