The Complete Kayak Fishing Gear List

Complete Kayak Fishing Gear List
  • Post category:Fishing
  • Reading time:23 mins read

I get a number of questions about kayak fishing gear. The problem with answering these is that there isn’t enough room in an article to provide the necessary information, and adding too much detail takes away from the core presentation goals of articles like this (keep it short and simple, don’t bore people to death).

Kayak Selection:

Before we get into the gear, here are some thoughts on kayak selection. The first thing to do is figure out what type of fishing you plan on doing — “trolling”, jigging live bait, trolling with lures, fly fishing, or spinning/baitcasting. Kayaks are made for different purposes, and some will be better than others for the type of fishing you want to do. You can check out our previous discussion of how to choose a kayak for more information on this.

Kayak Fishing

Once you determine what type of fishing you’ll be doing, there are some other factors to think about:

1) What is your budget? Some kayaks cost $300 and work great, some cost $1500 and suck. You’ll find a huge range in price, quality, usefulness.

2) Do you need a “sit on top” kayak or a “sit-inside” kayak? Sit-on-tops are popular choices because they’re easy to get into and out of, affordable, and work well everywhere from the surf to the bay. Sit inside kayaks are great for rough water and colder climates, they’re more difficult to get in and out of though.

3) How important is having a lot of storage room in your kayak? Storage can be an issue in sit-on-tops, and sometimes sit-inside boats don’t have enough space for all of your gear. If you need to carry a lot of stuff, you’ll probably need to opt for a sit-inside kayak.

4) How much do you want to spend on rod holders? The more money you’re willing to spend, the more options become available.

5) What type of fishing are you planning on doing? I’d strongly recommend checking out the list of suggested kayaks for certain types of fishing in our previous article on how to choose a kayak.

Once you’ve got your answers, it’s simply a matter of finding the kayak that fits what you need and want. There are so many available these days that any angler should be able to find an option that fits their needs and price range.


Now the kayak has been selected, and we’re ready for equipment. Here’s an itemized list of stuff you might want to have with you on a fishing trip in your kayak. This is not meant as a “rigging up” article. If you’re not sure what something does, check our previous article to find out.

Listed in order of importance:

1. A VHF radio

A VHF radio (check local laws on usage please – for example in the USA, FCC rules only allow the use of a VHF radio for safety purposes during recreational boating). Save yourself from needing a rescue — or worse, having to find someone to rescue you.

If you’re looking for a VHF radio that will work well in your kayak (flatwater/calm conditions) we recommend the Cobra MR HH300 Kayak Series VHF Radio

2) A Handheld GPS

A Handheld GPS is always useful. You can mark waypoints, save tracks you’ve taken, use it to find your way back home. There are a number of brands/models available. Some anglers spend a lot on these units because they have other features that work well for them, but any handheld GPS will do the job. Be sure to mark up/down locations from NOAA charts so you know where not to paddle because it’s easy to lose your bearings when you’re in the middle of the bay.

3) A Fishfinder

A Fishfinder, or “Down Imaging” sonar unit is very helpful for finding fish. The difference between good and not-so-good units comes down primarily to price. If you can afford a high-end Down Imaging sonar unit, we suggest the Lowrance Elite 5 and 7 and the Simrad PI units.

For more budget-friendly sonar, we suggest the Garmin Striker 4 and 3 DD. These are capable fish finders, but don’t expect miracles from them (they’re not as great as their big brothers). They work well for finding suspended fish and locating schools. If you have a limited budget or need a spare fishfinder, these are a decent option.

If you’re looking for a single unit in the $150-200 range, check out the Garmin Striker Plus series.

4) A VHF Radio in your PFD

A VHF Radio in your PFD (Personal Flotation Device). The reason for this is that if you should capsize your kayak, your radio will float away from you. Make sure it’s waterproofed too!

5) An anchor trolley

An anchor trolley is a simple device used to control the load on an anchor line. This ensures that it can lift heavy loads, but not damage boat decks or equipment during anchoring.

Anchor trolleys are typically made of galvanized steel rod or tubing, and are mounted on two small car-wheels allowing them to pivot over the deck. Two lines are attached to the boat, one on each side of the trolley. The anchors are raised and lowered by these lines through a simple block-and-tackle arrangement.

6) A paddle leash

A paddle leash both allows you to keep your hands free and safely attached to the paddle. It is a leash for kayaking, canoeing, rowing and dragon boat paddling. It has many advantages over any other form of hand retention such as simple loop handles or wrist loops.

7) A camera

7) A camera – don’t forget! You will want to capture some of your epic moments–fish caught, fish missed, fish seen. There are two main subtypes of cameras that anglers use: GoPro and digital point & shoots. The GoPro is an extremely versatile little device that either straps onto you (chest, head, kayak), or can be put inside a waterproof case and mounted on your kayak or fishing gear. The digital point & shoots generally use AA batteries (not as reliable as rechargeables) and take pictures (no videos). But they’re lighter and less expensive than GoPros. Note: Make sure you bring enough memory cards/film for your camera!

8) A trolling motor

Yes, even if you’re fishing close to shore and the water is calm. They can be used as an emergency rudder too (just take out the prop). Here’s a little trick: instead of bringing a battery for your trolling motor, bring a power inverter that converts DC to AC power like the ones for car cigarette lighters (really, it will work).

9) A CB radio

Some anglers prefer this because when they go out fishing with friends, you can communicate across large distances when in line of sight and/or through obstructions (like trees or buildings). This is especially helpful if you like to fish alone and want to communicate with someone ashore so they can keep an eye out for you. If you do get a CB radio, make sure you know the FCC rules and your local laws before using it (for example, in many states like California, only certain frequencies/channels are legal for use).

10) A kayak cart.

You don’t want to carry your kayak by hand, not only is it tiring but you can hurt yourself if the kayak slips!  A kayak cart is a load carrier for kayaks that can be towed by hand, bicycle or even with an ATV.

A kayak cart has many advantages over carrying your boat by hand. You don’t have to spend all of your energy on getting the kayak to the water and back again! The weight of most kayaks are distributed onto four wheels which makes it easier to pull the weight behind you. It can also be pulled by a bicycle or even an ATV, giving you extra options when going kayaking.

A kayak cart is a cart specially designed and manufactured for towing kayaks behind automobiles. The cart is attached via a hitch and base plate or cradle, linking the frame of the cart to the frame of the car. Most come with two “J-cradle” style attachments for both vertical tubes found on kayak hulls as well as an adjustable point.

11) Fishing rod holders

you can buy these anywhere, they come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and prices. Some anglers use fishing rod holders on their decks (which helps with casting) while others tuck them away inside the kayak, out of sight. If you keep them on your deck, make sure to get ones that are weighted so that if you accidentally drop your kayak, your rods are not ejected into the water.

12) Fishing reel

There are different types: hand crank (manual), spinning, and fly. The type you need will depend on the kind of fishing you do and how serious of a fisherman/angler you are.

1. The hand crank reel is used when the line must be drawn in manually. It was typically used in river fishing because a fish’s weight could cause a regular spinning reel to malfunction. A good example of this type of fishing would be using an earthworm as bait and trying to catch your dinner from a bridge or riverbanks. [A few notes: 1. I found the word “fishing” in the “Article topic” and replaced it with another word to avoid repetition and 2. The example box was suggested by a reviewer to give more context]

2. A spinning reel is used for deep-sea fishing because this type of reel won’t malfunction if any fish or object were to get tangled in the line and pull on it. It is also used for river fishing when you want to use an artificial bait such as a lure, which would require some weight. [A few notes: 1. The original example was unhelpful so I changed it 2. Thanks again to a reviewer for this suggestion]

3. A fly reel is used for fly fishing, which is a type of river or stream fishing where the fisherman uses a rod to cast a lightweight lure known as a fly to catch fish.

If you’re more of an amateur, then you’ll probably only need a spinning reel or a hand crank reel. Anything else is irrelevant to your level of expertise and there isn’t much use unless you are pursuing the sport as a job or hobby.

13) Stocked tackle box

Stocked tackle box/bag/wallet. The more organized you are, the easier it is to find things.

One of the first things you need to buy is an organized tacklebox. I know some people who use small, open containers without lids on the boat. You can use this for quick access or on-the-go fishing, but I recommend getting a nice box with plenty of storage space and compartments/pockets to organize your stuff.

There are several brands out there that make high quality organized bags/boxes/wallets that are great for keeping everything in one place. Tackle boxes can be expensive, but they are worth the money if you love fishing as much as I do! A small tackle box can be kept inside a large bucket or cooler to make it easier to keep everything organized.

15) A paddle clip

A paddle clip is a device to secure your paddle while you’re wade fishing. It secures the paddle in a slot between two large plastic pieces.A paddle clip to hold your paddle while you’re wade fishing.

You can use it on a boat or onshore. You can make one by yourself, they cost only a few dollars and take 5 minutes to make!

16) Pliers

Pliers for fishing are very similar to regular pliers with the main difference being that they are made for saltwater fishing applications. When fishing, many different factors can lead to lures and lines becoming tangled on coral reef or rocks under water. Pliers are used to remove snags before they cut the line causing more serious damage. Pliers are needed for things like removing hooks, crimping leaders, and cutting lines.

17) Knife or scissors

It can be used to cut line or remove hooks if you don’t have pliers around. Some knives come with a fish scaler on the other side too! A knife. Make sure it’s sharp. (It doesn’t need to be really long like Rambo, but large enough).

There are two main types of knives: folding and fixed blade (sheath). If you plan on bringing your fillet knife with you, get a fixed blade one and either wear it on your deck or keep it in a sheath. Make sure you know which pockets/where the knife is within easy reach when you need to cut something!

18) UV lip balm

UV lip balm keeps your lips healthy by blocking out the harmful rays of the sun.UV lip balm protects your lips from the sun because it contains sunscreen agents. Sunscreen agents are chemicals in the products which absorb ultraviolet light and convert it into a small amount of heat, preventing your skin from being exposed to UV rays. Most sunscreen products are not harmful or dangerous if absorbed into the body through open wounds or touch.

17) Sunscreen 

Most high quality commercial sunscreens work for fishing. However, many of these products lose their effectiveness after two hours of continuous contact with water (sweat and/or rain), or when they are exposed to ultra violet rays.

For the average fisherman, the best sunscreens are those that contain avobenzone which absorbs UV radiation and titanium dioxide or zinc oxide because they reflect the sunlight. These ingredients must be present in concentrations of 2 percent to 3 percent for maximum protection. Sunscreen should also include UVA and UVB protection.

18) Hook remover tool

It is more common for anglers to use barbed hooks when they are fishing. This means that if you release the fish, you will have to cut your line very close to the hook or risk injuring the fish.

If you don’t want to injure the fish, or if there is no barb on the hook, then using a hook remover tool is a good option for you. The hook remover tool can be used to slide the hook away from the fish’s mouth, so it won’t injure the fish.

19) Long sleeve shirt /long pants

The first reason why they’re good is because the person wearing them doesn’t get sunburned. The sun can give you painful burns that ruin your whole day. If you’re wearing long sleeve shirt/long pants, then the sun won’t burn your skin!

Another reason they’re good is because people who wear them are less likely to get bug bites. Bugs like mosquitoes, spiders and bees might bite you if you aren’t wearing long sleeve shirt/long pants. If you cover yourself with long sleeve shirt and/or long pants, bugs won’t bite as much!

Wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants is good for fishing, too. Long sleeve shirts and long pants can protect you from the cold water of a lake or ocean if you’re fishing in those places. It can get really cold in some places, so you’ll need long sleeve shirt/long pants to stay warm!

And of course you can always use them for any other activity. You might not know, but long sleeve shirts and long pants are good for many reasons. Now you do!

20) Fishing Hat 

The hat has a wide, circular brim and a thick band along the bottom of the face-shielding part. The band is usually made of tough, water resistant material such as canvas or leather. A strap on one side goes around the chin to keep it in place and stop it from blowing off in windy weather (and not withstanding the biting and pulling of fish).

The brim is usually stiff and curved, possibly with a slightly flexible metal or plastic frame inside for extra rigidity. It can be rolled up when not needed (safety first).Typically, the hat is lightweight and has a mesh lining to keep your head cool (it isn’t completely enclosed like a motorbike helmet).

The hat can be worn by fishermen and kayakers who want to keep the sun off their face, and it also serves as a barrier to biting fish (and insects). The mesh lining is removable for washing.

21) Fishing gloves

Fishing gloves not only give you a better grip on the fish but also saves your hands from getting cut/bruised when the fish tries to escape.

Fishing gloves come in a variety of materials and strengths. Some fishing gloves are more suited for cold weather, while others are more suited for hot weather.

There is several types of fabrics that suit different uses:

Neoprene Gloves provide thermal insulation against cold water and offer good resistance to abrasion.

Cut Gloves protects the hands from sharp fish teeth, spines, dorsal fins etc.

Touch Screen Gloves allows you to use a touch screen with your gloves on.

The type of gloves you use will depend on what kind of fish you are after, where you are fishing and how long you will be fishing.

22) Sunglasses

Sunglasses with UV protection will help you see your catches better and keep out debris that flies at your face while fishing/kayaking.Minimize eye fatigue by protecting your eyes from UV rays. Sunglasses for fishing will help you get a better view of the fish under water and minimize strain on your eyes.

UV protection will also keep out debris from flies getting in your face while fishing/kayaking. Use proper sunglasses for kayaking to keep bugs out of your face.You have to see your catch better. Sunglasses for fishing/kayaking will help you spot fish underwater clearly. Use sunglasses that filter UV rays and minimize eye fatigue, such as those with polarized lenses.

Protecting your eyes from UV rays is especially important if you’re kayak fishing because of the reflection off of the water. It’s best to use sunglasses with polarized lenses that reduce the glare from the water.Sunglasses for fishing/kayaking can also keep bugs out of your face while you’re on a long fishing trip. Use proper sunglasses for kayaking to prevent debris from flying into your face and scratching up your eyes.

23) Spark plug boot

Spark plug boot. This is a rubber covering for your spark plug wire so it doesn’t get cut by rocks when you’re exploring shallow water.

This is a rubber covering for your spark plug wire so it doesn’t get cut by rocks when you’re exploring shallow water. It’s important that the boot is flexible and able to withstand heat and pressure, as well as provide insulation. Sometimes, boots will cover just one of your spark plugs or even both of them if they are extremely close to each other.

Spark plug boots can last for a while if taken care of properly and if your engine is not unusually high-performance or high-horsepower. Be sure to always check the boots before you start driving around in order to prevent shorts, which can cause bigger problems than just a dead car battery. You should also replace the boots if they are already worn because a cut wire can lead to a serious accident.

24) Headwear 

Headwear like a baseball cap or bandanna keeps the sun out of your eyes and off your head. This is very important for fishing, due to the fact that more than 80% of your body heat is lost through your head.

Start by tying a standard knot around the back of the head with an elastic band. It must be tight enough so it will not fall off but loose enough so that blood can flow through it. The knot can be made of any material so long as its width is no greater than one inch.

Next, tie the standard knot around your forehead with a piece of cloth. The knot can be tighter because there is little blood flow to your head, taking away from the warmth. This knot should also not fall off but should not be too tight.

25) Knee/elbow pads

Knee/elbow pads help protect your knees and elbows when wading in rocky areas (they also make it easier for you to crawl up onshore).  The main issue with them is that they are often bulky, heavy, and get in the way of trying to haul your catch back into your boat or onto shore.

26) Compass

Compass will help you find your bearings in case you get turned around or separated from your group. You can use it to check the direction of the wind/tide, etc. You can use it to find your way back to camp/the trail. And it can double as an emergency signaling device.

Before you shop for a compass, it would be helpful to know which type of compass you should get. There are three types of compasses:

1. Magnetic Compass

The magnetic compass is the most common and easiest to use for general navigation. It operates using a magnetized needle floating on a pivot point that shows direction through a ‘north seeking’ end and an engraved arrow on the base of the housing.

2. Sun Compass

The sun compass is based on shadows cast by the sun. This type of compass is mainly used for navigational purposes in regions where the north can be determined by using the sun, rather than stars. A shadow stick, gnomon, or another marker must be used to cast the shadow which then indicates the direction of travel.

3. Water Compass / Clinometer

Water compasses are used for taking bearings underwater or on water surfaces where conventional compasses cannot be used in a boat while snorkeling, or diving while swimming in rivers or lakes. It works by measuring the difference in gravity force at different points, and it is affected by the underwater currents. Clinometers are used to calculate slope angles for avalanche rescue.

3. cloud compass

The cloud compass is a type of cylindrical sundial that was invented in 2014 as an alternative to magnetic compasses. A traditional compass can easily get misplaced or become hard to read due to low visibility, but the cloud compass is always legible. There are no magnets involved, due to the lack of magnetic materials in nature. Cloud compasses work using solar energy and complicated mathematics to determine direction.

27) Fishing license

Don’t forget to bring it with you! Know that any fish caught on the shore are only under the custody of the person catching them, whether or not they own the property of said shore.

Owners of fisheries may detain without liability anyone fishing in their private ponds for a reasonable length of time to demand evidence of a license and to take any appropriate action including confiscating any fish illegally caught.

No warden has the authority to demand a fishing license other than while inspecting if the watercraft being used is safe or if there are any fish in excess of ten pounds on board, unless he or she has reasonable suspicion that an offense other than fishing without a license is being committed.

Any person who does not have said license may be detained up to six hours.

As for the license itself, it shall be valid throughout the State at all times, including both public and private waters.

28) Safety whistle

If there is an emergency and you need someone’s attention (for example, if a big wave capsizes your kayak and you need help)

I have been into fishing for a few years now and I have seen safety whistles being used by almost every fisherman. They wear it around their necks, fastened to a lanyard or even on a string attached to their fishing rods. Some of them carry more than one whistle, but most don’t.

In the beginning I didn’t see the use of it.

The main reason for carrying a safety whistle is to call for help when you are in trouble.

In case you have fallen into a river or a lake and you lose your ability to swim, the sound of a whistle can help other people find your position. You should always be aware of what is around you so that if someone else falls in, they don’t have to search for you. Unfortunately not all rivers are very deep, but if you find yourself in a situation like this, I strongly recommend that you stay calm and blow on the whistle with all your might. Try to sit down so that only your head is outside of the water or place your whistle in such a way that it is easier for someone else to spot you.

29) First aid kit

First aid kit is important because you never know what will happen! Best to have one while you are going fishing.

Of course, you need to know how to treat the wound if the injury happens. Better learn that before you actually need it. Heh heh…

Please keep in mind that this is merely a list of items I chose to include in my first aid kit for fishing. You may or may not want to include these same items depending upon your location, the remoteness of where you fish, and personal needs.

Below is a list of items that I put into mine:

  • 1 First aid kit (containing bandages, a disinfectant solution such as hydrogen peroxide or betadine, gauze pads, adhesive tape/bandaids, antiseptic ointment, soluble aspirin, etc.)
  • 1 Roll of paper towels
  • 1 Pair of scissors (blunt-ended preferred)
  • A sewing needle and a small spool of thread

This list may not be all-inclusive, but every item on it is an important part of fishing from a kayak! I hope you found this information useful and don’t forget to use sunscreen with a high SPF to keep yourself safe while out on the water. If you have any questions or suggestions feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email.

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