In our kayak shop guide, we have put together the following tips to becoming a stronger paddler while you're out adventuring.
Firstly, your paddle is very important.
Kayak fisherman need a bigger blade on their paddle. Speak to your local kayak shop about paddles with bigger power faces (the side of the blade that pulls the water on each stroke).
If you're fishing from a kayak, you'll need to displace more water than the average kayaker because:
- Fishing kayaks aren’t built for speed, but rather for stability and hauling gear.
- These vessels are wider than touring kayaks, so there’s more drag pulling through the water.
- Your vessel is generally heavier due to the amount of gear carried on board.
When it comes to choosing the best paddle from a kayak shop, keep these important points in mind:
- Buy the best possible paddle you can first, rather than 'buying your way up' from entry-level, to intermediate, to high-end. You’ll save money in the long run. We have great paddles in our kayak shop
- You spend as much time with the paddle in your hand as your rod and reel. It’s worth the investment.
- A lightweight paddle will reduce fatigue and repetitive-motion injuries.
- An adjustable ferrule is almost a necessity with modern kayak fishing. Adjustable-height seats and the option of standing up or sitting down means either bringing along multiple paddles, or one adjustable paddle. Many a kayak shop stock options. If you're not sure, call us and we'll be sure to point you down the best path for you.
Many experienced kayak fisherman will tell you that a it is better to start with a high quality paddle from the start! Fortunately, when you purchase one of our premium fishing kayaks, we include a high quality paddle.
The Importance of knowing how to paddle when kayak fishing
Once you have chosen the right paddle it is time to start practicing. You are using your kayak for fishing, but you need to become a strong paddler too.
Many new kayak fisherman comment, “I’m not a paddler, I’m a fisherman.”
You will learn fast that if you are kayak fishing a lot, you will be paddling 60-70 miles a week. If you don't focus on becoming a better paddler, you will quickly realise that you are always working harder than you need to. This will mean more time paddling, less time fishing and that you are ending sessions earlier as you are tired.
We strongly recommend working on your paddling right away. If you're not sure where to start, come into our kayak shop and well be happy to guide you.
To start, look at some of the basics of technique for kayak fishing paddling:
- Hold the paddle properly: The power face of the blade needs to be towards you. (The inward curve of the blade should be facing you.)
- The paddling technique for fishing is different than for touring. You’ll use less torso rotation because you’re always looking ahead of you. Still try to make use of your torso and not just your arms and shoulders.
- Practice a smooth catch in the water with your paddle blade and a clean lift-out with each stroke. Then you’re not spooking the fish by splashing more than necessary.
- Experiment with feathering your paddle blades for a more efficient stroke, especially when paddling into a headwind. Again, feel free to come through to our kayak shop and we can teach you how to do this before you head out.
- If you can read the label on your paddle blade, you know it’s right-side-up.
- The drip rings should be about a four-finger width from the shoulder of the blade. Then the water will drip outside the boat as you’re paddling.
- A wet paddle dripping into calm water “sounds like a bomb going off to the fish!” Spin your paddle to get the drips off once you stop.
- Keep your paddle from hitting your kayak. The sound reverberates into the water, spooking the fish.
Once you have spent some time on the water kayak fishing, you will feel yourself becoming a stronger paddler. As with all sports, the more time you spend practicing, the better you will get.
Advanced Paddling Techniques
When you have mastered the basics and are feeling more comfortable at kayak fishing, you can start working at becoming an advanced paddler.
Here are some of the advanced techniques you will need to work on to become a master of kayak fishing paddling. Feel free to ask the sales assistants at our kayak shop about advanced techniques if you're in the neighborhood.
As a general rule, a fishing kayak will paddle better all-round if it is trimmed neutrally. That is, with the bow (nose) and the stern (tail) equally out of the water, or with the bow slightly higher out of the water than the stern.
Keep the maximum performance weight limit of your fishing kayak in mind. If the combined weight of the paddler and equipment on the boat exceed this limit, it will become unstable, especially on the ocean and in river currents.
Always try and keep more weight from the center to the back of the kayak. This becomes even more important if you are going to be paddling your kayak fishing through the surf.
When paddling during kayak fishing, it is very important to keep a good rhythm. Hard and jerky motions will not only tire you out, but also chase the fish away as they hear you coming from miles off.
Keeping a steady and slow pace and keeping the noise down ensures you are not tired out on arrival at your fishing spot. When trawling this is even more important, as you will need your energy once you have hooked a large game fish.
You also need to remember that you have to return to where you started to managing your energy is very important.
There are a few basic things to keep in mind to get your forward stroke right. First of all, try to put the paddle in the water as vertically as possible; it makes your grip on the water more efficient. For kayak fishing specifically, a paddle angle of about 60° with the water surface will be fine. You can get a better idea of the basics if you're starting out and buying a vessel from our kayak shop, just ask and we can show you the ropes.
Secondly, put the paddle blade in the water next to your feet, or even in front of your feet (if your paddle is long enough) and pull it out when the blade comes past your hips.
When you pull the blade through the water, pull it in a straight line, almost against the side of the fishing kayak. Do not make wide sweeping strokes, these will just make the fishing kayak turn all the time. (If you are on an advanced fishing kayak, like our Black Bass, remember to keep your feet balanced on the rudder pedals.)
Thirdly, use your whole upper body for the paddling stroke.
We could get a lot more complicated, but these basics will steer you in the right direction. With just a bit of practice you will become quite efficient with the forward stroke, which is undoubtedly the most important stroke for kayak fishing.
Sometimes it is necessary to do a back stroke. It might be to stop the boat from moving forward, or you simply might need to move back to not tangle your lines. The key, as with the forward stroke, is to keep the blade fairly vertical in the water while taking the stroke.
Secondly, put the paddle blade in the water slightly behind your hips and push the blade forward.
Take it out of the water when it goes past your knees.
Thirdly, try to get your whole upper body to assist with the motion.
Lastly, you will often be doing this with a fish on the line. Try to get the rod back into the rod holder before paddling. Otherwise you will need to paddle one handed while holding your rod. This kayak fishing technique will take practice.
When people start kayak fishing, their natural reaction to keep the kayak from turning, or to make it turn using a strong backstroke. Don’t do this, It causes a loss of momentum. Use a sweep stroke instead.
Let’s say you want to turn right. To do that, put your left paddle blade in the water as you would for a normal forward paddling stroke. Instead of pulling it in a straight line though, pull it in a wide, semi-circular stroke towards the back, all the way past your hips. It should make a nice arc around your body. For a really powerful stroke, pull it all the way to the stern.
Use the same stroke to correct the boat’s direction if it starts turning and you want to keep going straight. Let’s say you are paddling forward, and the boat starts to turn to the left. Do a sweep stroke on your left side, and it will push the nose of the boat back in direction.
The sooner you can anticipate when the boat starts turning, the less effort needed to make it go straight again. Remember there can only be one master when paddling; if you don’t take control, the boat will. Use the sweep stroke to take control.
In the case of having a rudder on your fishing kayak, remember to use your foot peddles. Even with the rudder, it is better to use the above techniques, especially when you need to turn fast. For example if a large wave is approaching and you don't want to be rolled. Kayaks with rudders are available at our kayak shop.
Paddling A Fishing Kayak Through The Surf Zone
Getting out through the break
If you want to take your fishing kayak out on the sea, you may have to get through the surf zone. Here are some tips on how to pull it off successfully.
One of the most important accessories to use when paddling a fishing kayak in the surf is a set of thigh straps. Without thigh straps to keep you connected with your boat and in your seat, you will swim a lot. Similarly, you will want to make sure all your fishing gear is secure in the hatches and tied down to the fishing kayak. Inquire at our kayak shop about thigh straps.
When a wave heads towards the shore it will pitch up and break when the depth decreases. The bulk of the wave’s force is expended as it initially breaks, then it moves towards shore as a foam pile. Where the waves break is called the impact zone. It’s critical to stay out of this area until the conditions are favorable to make a dash through. Another important thing to keep in mind is that waves travel to shore in sets, normally with three or four waves in a set. Between these sets smaller waves will come in, but they aren’t as critical, being smaller.
It is not a bad idea to practice without your fishing gear on board your fishing kayak first.
First have a good look at how the waves are breaking. If they are higher than your head it might be a good time to reconsider! If not, choose a spot that is clear of other water users, put on your flotation device, get onto your kayak and start to head out towards the impact zone. When your are 10-15m from the impact zone, hold your position. Accelerate for 4/5 strokes every time a foam pile comes at you, keeping your fishing kayak straight to go over the foam pile. Maintain your position as close to the impact zone as possible, while still maintaining control over your kayak. Eventually the impact zone will clear up, and you’ll get a gap between the sets. As soon as you register this, dash out to sea through the impact zone, and enjoy your day out at sea!
Remember if the swell is really big, the non-set waves inside of the impact zone could be big enough to really trouble you, and 10m away from the impact zone might not be enough.
When you are paddling out through the foam piles and waves, a classic mistake is to lean back with your paddle across your chest and turning your head, to avoid water splashing in your face. This will kill your boat’s momentum and allow waves and foam piles to push you backwards. Keep your normal paddling position and paddle straight through anything that comes at you; do not let the waves hit you side-on.
You might want to make sure you have a personal flotation device on when you're doing this.
Getting back to shore
It goes without saying that if you managed to get out through the surf, you will need to get back to shore through the surf at some point. There are two options here. If you aren’t comfortable in the surf yet, or the waves are massive and dumping, you can sneak back in. The second option is to surf back in.
The first thing to do is get your fishing kayak ready. Pack up and secure all your equipment, tighten up your flotation device and pack away your cap. Once this is done, paddle to a position where you will be able to observe what is happening in the surf-zone, being careful not to get too close until you are ready to paddle in.
Make sure that your route back to shore is free of swimmers, surfers and other water users. If you lose control on the way back, it isn’t a disaster unless you hurt someone else in the process. Once you have located a clean run to the beach, start to look at the waves.
The worst situation for your fishing kayak to end up in would be being picked up by a steep wave just before it breaks. The potential for the bow to dig in, the stern going over the bow, and paddlers getting aerial is very high! The trick to getting back to shore is to avoid the waves when they are at their steepest, and ride anything else. Once you have identified the impact zone you are ready to make your move.
If you decide to sneak back to shore, paddle in until you are within striking distance of the impact zone and wait for the next set to come in. Wait until the last wave of the set is coming through and follow it by paddling straight towards shore, with as much speed as you can crack out. Try to stay just behind the last wave of the set as it travels to shore. The important thing is to be just behind it as it breaks and moves out of the impact zone.
Once you have cleared the impact zone, keep heading straight towards the beach, looking back occasionally to see what is happening behind you. You will either get back in without incident or be picked up by a foam pile; this varies according to surf conditions. If you do get picked up by a foam pile don’t worry, you are now surfing. The boat will probably end up sideways on the wave. Simply lean towards the wave and ride it out.
You have all the information you need to become a better paddler. This will automatically improve your kayak fishing experience.
Practice your technique whenever you can, especially before hitting the surf zone.
A final invitation here for you to come talk to us at our kayak shop if you have any questions about starting off on your adventure with kayak fishing so you can get out there and catch the big one!