Get Hooked

An introduction to kayak-fishing.

From the first time I paddled out onto a glassy Montana lake in a sit-on-top fishing kayak, I was hooked. I’m willing to bet other outdoor enthusiasts will feel the same, so I’ve compiled a list of benefits to help you get the most out of kayak-angling, as well as some tips to get you started.

Many a fishing trip has been ruined because “a buddy” was running late or backed out at the last minute. The ability to just load up and go fishing without having to include anyone else is one of the main draws of kayak-fishing. With other watercraft, it usually behooves you to have at least one other person along. With kayaking, the ability to enjoy the entire experience alone allows for unparalleled solitude and independence. If you do go alone, always let someone know where you’ll be and when you’ll be back.

Some of my best days fishing have been from my kayak—they’re called fishing kayaks for a reason. Most kayaks don’t have a motor, so the rhythm of your paddle propelling you to your favorite fishing spot is all you’ll hear, and more importantly, all the fish will hear. You can also maneuver kayaks to where the fish are biting, resulting in more opportunities and increased hook-ups.

Kayaks are incredibly tough and can be launched from just about anywhere that you’re willing to push, pull, or drag them. Some kayak anglers hike to remote bodies of water dragging their boats behind them the entire way. Fishing kayaks perform well in just a few inches of water, allowing access to even extremely shallow areas. With no motor to worry about, you can paddle directly over weed beds and other underwater obstacles. Additionally, the narrow width gets you into all but the tightest of channels.

The speed, maneuverability, and efficiency of a fishing kayak are impressive, and with little effort and time you can paddle long distances. Most fishing kayaks are incredibly stable, allowing them to perform in heavy wind, rain, and chop—especially helpful with Montana’s frequent (and at times violent) weather changes. Having said that, always wear a life jacket on the water because at some point you will take a spill and a properly fitted PFD might just save your ass.

Best Water
The best choice for a beginner is a calm lake or reservoir, instead of moving water like a stream or river. This allows you build your skills and confidence with the least amount of pressure and distraction. A few of my personal favorites include Hyalite, Hebgen, Harrison, and Ennis lakes, all within a short drive of Bozeman. They all have easy access points and aren’t excessively far from help if trouble does arise.

Final Thoughts
So there you have it: my case for kayak-fishing. Before you go out and buy a boat, do your homework, as the options are endless. Read online reviews and listen to what other kayak anglers have to say. Better yet, demo or rent from your local dealer to get first-hand experience of how different boats perform. Consider where you’ll be paddling and how you plan on using your kayak. Will you be floating on lakes, rivers, or a combination of the two? Answering these questions before you buy will ensure you have the best kayak-fishing experience possible. After all, if you’re going to get hooked, you might as well do it right.

“YaknDave” Howlett is a member of the Johnson Outdoors Pro Staff Adventure Team.