Best Kayak Fishing Rod – Yak Angler’s Top Picks
Whether you’re a seasoned angler, a seasoned kayaker, both or neither, kayak fishing can be a great way to blend two fun activities.
But the gear can often be a little different to what you might be used to, especially if you normally fish from land or a larger boat.
So we thought we would put together some information to help you find the best kayak fishing rods and give you a little introduction to some of the features you might see on most rods on the market.
Top Choices: Poles For Kayak Fishing
Why Fishing From A Kayak Is A Little Different
You will probably find that your favorite 10 foot surf fishing rod will be a little on the large side for using on a kayak and you may need a shorter rod . The best kayak fishing rods will often tend to be shorter other types of rods because shorter rods can be easier to use when you’re in the limited space of your vessel.
However, you might find that very short rods are just too short (even though they take up little room) and they may not be long enough to prevent your line from getting caught on your boat, particularly if you’re in a longer yak.
When you’re in a kayak, chances are you’re not going to be targeting enormous fish, unless you’re one of many experienced anglers out there.
Your yak will have a maximum weight capacity and catching giant fish could result in your kayak flipping, which can be dangerous and cause you to lose all your gear, or you could be dragged off course if you’re not anchored.
Video: Huge Marlin Tows Kayak!
So you’re probably going to want lighter gear in general, whether you plan to fish in saltwater, freshwater or both.
Choosing A Kayak Rod: The Main Features To Consider
A lightweight fishing rod can be a good choice for using in a kayak, as this can make it easier to hold and cast, without adding any unnecessary weight to your boat.
Graphite fishing rods will tend to be lighter than fiberglass ones, so this can be a good construction material to look out for when choosing a rod. Ultralight rods can also be useful and made out of premium materials, sometimes with more resin for durability.
The length of your boat may determine what length of rod you might prefer. Remember that you should be able to extend the rod past the bow of your yak, otherwise you could risk getting your line caught on the boat if your catch decides to swim underneath the yak to the other side.
But you don’t want your fishing rods to be too long or else you may not be able to maneuver it in the small space of your deck.
If you plan to do some fly fishing, you may need a longer rod or a telescopic rod.
If you plan to paddle in the ocean or other saltwater areas, it can be a good idea to make sure your rod is designed for saltwater use. Corrosion resistance should be pretty high on your list of priorities, even if you plan to only fish in freshwater. Most of the best kayak fishing rods will be saltwater-ready but some of the cheaper rods may not be.
When you’re in a kayak, the chances of your rod ending up in the water are probably greater than if you’re fishing from a riverbank. So having rust-proof gear, such as stainless steel guides or a solid graphite reel seat (or Fuji reel seats), can be essential.
Power And Action
The rod's power can be an important factor to consider. Medium power, fast action rods can be ideal for kayak fishing because they can be highly versatile when fishing from a kayak. These rods can also be ideal for jig fishing or for using spinnerbaits with single hooks and can be useful for bass fishing.
Video: Rod Selection for Kayak Fishing
A fast action fishing rod can also be more sensitive than slow action rods, which can help you to notice bites from timid largemouth bass. And when you’re spending time in a kayak, this can be pretty handy.
High power rods or medium heavy can be better suited to larger target species than low power rods. A low power rod may be more suitable for small fish than most high power rods.
What About Reels For Kayak Rods?
After you’ve chosen the right type of rod you can then choose a reel. A spinning reel can be easier to use, especially if you don’t have any prior fishing experience.
As a kayak angler, when you’re choosing your reel, it should be compatible with your rod and should be designed for the same weights and purposes. A lightweight reel can be more convenient when you’re in a kayak, as it means less fatigue, which is always handy when you also have to paddle.
Making sure the reel is also resistant to corrosion is important, as its moving parts can quickly become damaged if it’s not. Rust-resistance should be an important factor regardless of whether or not you plan to fish in saltwater. Fuji reel seats can often offer good protection against rust.
But if you want to fish in saltwater, rust-proof components on your reel will be even more essential for most kayak anglers.
Kayak Fishing 101 (Some Useful Advice)
Drop Your Anchor
An anchor can be a useful accessory for kayak fishing, especially on a windy day or if you’re in a moving river.
An anchor can hold you and your yak in the same spot while you fish, meaning you can keep both hands on your rod rather than try to battle the wind of current with your paddle in one hand and rod in the other.
Wear A PFD
A Personal Flotation Device (PFD) should be an essential part of your kayaking fishing trip. There are lots of styles on the market so you should be able to find one that is well fitting and comfortable enough so that it doesn’t hinder you fishing performance.
You should ideally wear your PFD at all times when you’re on the water, just in case you take a dive. This should be the case no matter what type of water you’re in.
Invest In Gadgets
A fish finder can be a great tool to have with you, as it can pinpoint the locations of the fish, giving you a better chance of casting your bait into the right areas and targeting fish with greater accuracy.
A GPS device can also be useful to have on board, as it can let you map your trip and mark areas where you caught fish, so you can go back to those potential honey holes later or on your next trip.
A GPS can also help to prevent you from getting lost if you’re on a particularly long trip, such as an overnight or multi-day trip.
Use A Stable Kayak
Stability can be a key feature on a fishing kayak because you can be more likely to need to move around while you’re on the water.
Wide, short yaks can be ideal for fishing compared to long, narrow ones, but make sure whatever yak you choose has enough space and load capacity for you and all your gear.
You may find you want a more elevated seat for improved visibility compared to sitting low on the deck.
Use A Net
As well as using high quality rods, a fishing net can help you land your catch more easily when you’re in a yak. It can also make it a little safer and there’s less chance of the fish escaping when you try to grab it.
Tie Down Your Gear
Once you’ve loaded all your kayak fishing gear onto your vessel you might want to make sure it’s secure to prevent it from falling overboard while you’re in the middle of a lake.
Bungee cords can be ideal for this and many yaks will come with bungee storage areas, as well as storage hatches that can be great for keeping smaller items safe and dry. Making sure your other gear is in a waterproof bag can also help, especially for the gear that you plan to store on the deck.
Another thing that can be useful, if not essential for many kayak anglers, is a leash for your paddle so that it doesn’t float away while you’re fighting with a fish.
Prepare For The Weather
Check the weather forecast ahead of time so that you can prepare adequately for the conditions and make sure you have appropriate clothing. Sun protection can be a good idea and vital in the summer, even on a cloudy day.
Polarized sunglasses can be useful, as these can prevent glare on the water and help you to see under the water.
It can also be a good idea to bring along some spare clothes inside a dry bag, just in case. Also, make sure you have enough food and water for your trip, and maybe a little extra in case you get into difficulties.
If it's cold, cork handles on your rod can be useful as these tend to stay warmer and more comfortable to hold in cold weather.
Research Your Location
Before you head out it might be helpful to do a little bit of research to find out what species of fish are in the location where you plan to fish.
Your local bait shops should be able to help you out and give you advice on the type of bait to use for the species you want to target, especially if you want to use live bait.
Local shops may also be able to advise you on whether to use braided line or other types of line, or even the recommended line test rating to use. A medium test line may be more versatile and help you find that sweet spot if you want to target various fish and minimize your tackle.
When you’re on a kayak, you won’t have a lot of space to bring every option of fishing gear so it can be good to know what can work in your particular location so that you can pack your yak accordingly.
7 Of The Best Kayak Fishing Rods
1: Daiwa Sealine Xtreme Interline 2 Part Fishing Rod
The Daiwa Sealine Xtreme rod is a great rod that's designed to handle surf and sea fishing with a decent rear grip length and two long grips. It is a lightweight fishing rod with quality guides, weighing just under 16 ounces, which means it shouldn’t add too much additional weight to your yak.
This well balanced rod comes in two pieces, making it easier to transport and easier to accommodate on your boat. This rod also means you can benefit from the added length of almost an 8 foot rod without the hassle of having to transport a long rod. However, the longest piece is over 5 feet, which could still be awkward to transport and store.
The Sealine Xtreme Interline comes in two maximum casting weight sizes - 15 to 30 pounds and 20 to 50 pounds, with the lighter one probably being more suitable for kayak fishing. It's also sensitive to handle lighter bites for bottom fishing.
2: Falcon Rods Coastal Spinning Rod
The Falcon Coastal Rod is a 6 foot 6 inch medium action rod with 7 Fuji stainless steel guides with a chrome finish and a 7 inch long cork handle to improve the rod's performance. Comfortable cork handles like this can be great for fishing in colder conditions.
This can be one of the best fishing rods for using in shallow coastal waters or bays around the Great Lakes and has a comfortable rear grip length and excellent sensitivity.
The well balanced rod features a graphite blank is designed to be used with 8 to 17 pound line and ¼ to half ounce lures. It also benefits from a Fuji exposed blank reel seat, which can increase the rod’s sensitivity and let you notice those lighter bites. But it's best suited to smaller targets than big fish. You may want to opt for a medium heavy rod if you want to target larger fish.
It’s a durable rod that is built for saltwater and can be a good kayak fishing length if you’re looking for a versatile rod that also be used in freshwater.
3: Abu Garcia Pro Max Combo
This Abu Garcia Combo is a 6 foot 6 inch rod that comes with a baitcasting reel, which can be ideal if you’re looking for something to get you started with kayak fishing.
However, since it’s a baitcasting reel, it might take a bit of getting used to if you’re not a seasoned angler. So it might be better suited to you if you already know how to fish with a baitcaster and are looking for a more compact rod and reel for kayaking.
The graphite rod with cushioned hoods is lightweight, with durable EVA handles and a short rear grip length, and offers good sensitivity. The reel has a gear ratio of 7.1:1 and features a Power Disk system, which is designed to improve the silky smoothness of the drag. To help with casting, the reel has a MagTrax brake system that can be easily adjusted for added control and a smoother experience.
The reel also benefits from seven stainless steel ball bearings and it could be a good option if you’re after a freshwater rod and reel combo. But it's not built for saltwater.
4: St Croix Mojo Inshore Spinning Rod
The St Croix Mojo is a fishing rod that has been designed for inshore fishing, meaning it is saltwater ready and built to be corrosion resistant. It also has a Fuji DPS reel seat with a black hood and a short rear grip length and split grip handle - an industry standard for two handed casting.
The rod comes in one piece and is made from strong, lightweight carbon fibre, with durable guide quality with aluminum oxide inserts and a Kigan hook keeper, allowing you to keep your hook safe while you’re paddling or traveling to and from your yak.
The rod's power is medium, with a fast action tip and a comfortable, lightweight rubberized cork handle. It is designed to be used with 8 to 17 pound line and ⅜ to ¾ ounce lures. This can be more suitable for kayak fishing than a medium heavy rod.
However, it's not the most compact rod to store on your kayak due to its one-piece construction, so it may be less convenient than telescopic rods or two piece rods.
5: Okuma Nomad Inshore Graphite Travel Rod
This Okuma Nomad can be an ideal choice for kayak fishing because of its portability. It comes in 3 pieces for easy transportation compared to other rods but is designed to have the feel of a one piece construction when connected together.
It has a comfortable cork grip handle with an adequate rear grip length with less material to minimize weight.
The highly portable rod also benefits from two tip sections so that you have the option of using medium light power or medium power to target those struggling fish in high pressure environments.
This can be useful if you fish in different areas and for different species, as it almost be like having two rods with you when you only need to bring along one. It also comes with a waterproof travel bag to keep it in.
This lightweight rod is made from durable graphite with a carbon coating and could be used in both freshwater and saltwater, with stainless steel guides and durable reel seat. But it has less sensitivity, so you might not pick up on the very lightest bites.
6: Shimano Trevala Spinning S Series Rod
This Shimano Trevala S Series is a one piece 6 foot 3 inch fishing rod with light power and medium fast action. It is made from C4S graphite, which adds sensitivity and strength to the rod while keeping it extremely lightweight with a small diameter. It also has a reinforced aeroglass blank and long grips.
The Trevala S rod is just 6 foot 3 inches long, which makes it more portable than some longer rods and could be easier to store on your vessel. It is designed to be used with 30 to 40 pound line.
It benefits from a durable Fuji reel seat with 8 Fuji Alconite guides to minimize resistance and an EVA foam handle with a generous rear grip length.
However, it has a minimal reel seat and it's not designed for large fishing reels, so anything more than a 5000 reel may not fit. The rod has been designed with jig fishing in mind but it can be a versatile rod that can be a good option for kayak fishing.
7: Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod
This Ugly Stik Elite is a 7 foot medium light power rod. It's a medium fast action rod made from Ugly Tech Construction. This features a graphite blend to boost sensitivity and durability, with a solid foundation, and maintain a lightweight feel with lightning fast hook setting power. There's an entire range of these fishing rods, ranging from ultra light to medium heavy for all round performance.
Designed to be used with 4 to 10 pound line and ⅛ to half ounce lures, this Ugly Stik rod can be good for a range of techniques in freshwater when targeting smaller species. This can also make it a good choice for kayak fishing, as you are probably less likely to be targeting monster fish from a yak. Unlike some other rods, it's not made for saltwater species or strong fish.
It features 8 stainless steel guides and a cork handle for a premium feel, unlike most budget rods. It also has an exposed blank reel seat for better sensitivity. This could be one of the best rods if you're on a budget as it comes in at a great price point.
How Do You Secure The Rods In The Rod Holder?
You can use bungee cords or a leash to secure your rods while they’re in the rod holders. This can help to prevent them from being lost overboard if they do fall out their holders. You can even make your own.
What Can I Use To Fish Off A Kayak If I Don’t Have A Rod?
If you’re creative you’ll probably find there are a few ways to fish without a rod, including simply attaching a baited hook to some fishing line. There is also spearfishing from a kayak, although this usually requires diving into the water.
What Is More Important, A Rod Or A Reel?
The rod will generally be more important than the reel when it comes to kayak fishing and the reel should be secondary when it comes to choosing your rod and reel.
The best rod will likely determine whether or not your fishing trip is successful. A sub-par rod will likely be uncomfortable and difficult to cast in small spaces.
You will probably find there are a few things you might want to consider when finding the best kayak fishing rod.
The length and weight of your rod can be important, as can the length of your yak. Consider the type of fish you want to catch and where you want to fish, as this can help you narrow down your options.
What are your favorite rods for kayak fishing? Tell us why in the comments. If you want to inspire your angling buddies to get out there and try their luck at kayak fishing, share this guide with them so they can choose the best rod for the job.