Essential gear for a day of multi-species fishing via kayak

Rod floater, lip grippers, floating live well and a comfortable life vest are just a few of the essentials Tim Lesmeister considers necessary for a successful kayak fishing program.

The kayak fishing bug bit me early. I owned the earliest Hobie fishing model for the small lakes I targeted in the west metro area of the Twin Cities, and I had an Ocean, paddle-style kayak for the rivers I would run. These days I own two kayaks in Alaska that allow me to fish remote mountain lakes, as well as rivers and even saltwater situations for trout, salmon, and halibut.

A couple of kayaks in Minnesota perform for fishing lakes that are tailor made for this style, and I have six kayaks spread around Madeline Island where I spend my summer chasing pike in the lagoon and lakers and brown trout on Lake Superior. I still have the Ocean kayaks for river runs and another on Maui where I fish the deeper coral reefs off of Napili and Kapalua Bay during much of the winter.

So you could say I am an experienced kayak angler and with my extensive knowledge base I have discovered what is essential to a great day on the water fishing from a kayak.

Wear a comfortable life vest. On lakes I wear a self-inflating vest. The reason I don’t wear the auto-inflating style is because kayak compartments get wet, and if you lay an auto-inflator down in a wet spot it will trigger the CO2 and fill on its own. On rivers I wear the NRS Chinook life jacket. No inflation necessary with this one so if you get knocked out of your kayak you will float. Designed for kayaking, this life jacket is pretty comfortable with lots of pockets for gear storage.

Fishing rods for kayak fishing should be shorter and float. I use the Blakemore rod floaters on all my kayak rods. Someday someone will design a kayak rod that floats on its own, and I will replace all my rods with those. Since you’re sitting instead of standing, a shorter rod gives you a better hook set and more control to fight the fish. Most of my kayak rods are between four and five feet long.

Bring a lip gripper. Controlling the fish to get the hooks out is important and a good, not cheap, lip gripper is imperative. Any lure that has treble hooks is a potential mishap waiting to happen. Using a lip gripper will increase your odds exponentially that no accident will happen when handling fish.

If you like to keep a few fish for dinner, like me, bring the Clam Outdoors Fish Well. It’s easy to keep fish alive until they reach the cleaning table with this floating livewell.

I never leave the lakeshore without an anchor. A little eight-pound vinyl-coated mushroom anchor is more than adequate for keeping a kayak in position. My trick is to drill out a big Lindy slider float and slide it onto the anchor line. A knot at the end of the rope will make sure it stays on the rope. When you hook a huge fish you just reach down, undo the rope and toss it off to fight the fish unhindered by the anchor. Go back later, grab the float and pull in the anchor.

There are other tools I add to my program that I wear on my lanyard. Line snips, mouth spreaders, eye-busters for jigs, and I carry all my lures in small tackle bags and use compact folding nets. Some stuff you will discover on your own, but never forget the essential ingredients for a day on the water in a kayak. It will make your fishing experience much more rewarding.

Learn more from the Minnesota Kayak Fishing Association.

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