Kayak Fishing Gear: The Basics

There is one question that I get asked often, “Mike what type of fishing gear do I need to fish from a kayak in the saltwater?”

Of course this is a pretty loaded question that can run down so many different lanes depending on preferences like live bait fishing, fly fishing, artificial bait fishing!

Then there’s the question of gear experience? Bait casters or spinning reels? Budget? Heavy tackle, light tackle?

There are so many variables, we could talk about this for day’s even weeks and only begin to scratch the surface and that does not include talking about favored brands!

So let’s set some basic boundaries around this discussion to help us come up with the best overall recommendation for fishing gear.

When you kayak fish in a saltwater environment typically you will find yourself fishing inshore areas like creeks, marshes, estuaries and coves so your locations are typically smaller inshore waters.

Let’s set some basic boundaries around this discussion to help us come up with the best overall recommendation for fishing gear

These waters are typically inhabited with Redfish, Speckled Sea Trout, Flounder, Black Drum and Sheepshead; there are numerous other species in these waters as well but the five I listed are normally what most anglers are fishing for.

Starting with rods and reels, most prefer spinning combos (myself included) over baitcasters or fly combos.

Spinning reels range in size from 500 (ultra light) up to 7000 + (heavy jigging rods) on rods that are ultra light up to heavy surf or trolling rods.

For most all inshore fishing a 2000 to 4000 reel paired to a 6’8” ML to a 7’6” M / MH rod.

If you can only afford one rod and reel combo I would recommend a 2500 or 3000 series reel paired to a ML / M 7’ fast action rod.

Pair your reel with 10 to 15# braided line and have some 15 to 20# flouro line for leader material; with this one set up you can go after and land most any inshore species.

Fish with the right bait and you can fish multiple species without changing any of your gear.

For example, in the fall months I can tie on Eye Strike Fishing’s Trout Eye Finesse jighead with a Z-man Slim Swimz in opening night color and catch trout, reds and flounder in the same trip on the same bait.

When you look to purchase your first combo, a couple things to consider beyond cost are weight and durability.

First weight, a heavy combo becomes hard to use after awhile and, unlike being on a boat where you just set your combo down and turn on your engine and go, in the yak you are the engine, so try to watch the overall weight of the combo.

Second is durability, in a salt environment you are going to want to purchase the most durable reel you can afford.

If you can get one that is saltwater protected/sealed, even better. When I hit the water now, I normally take three spinning combos with me.

Looking for a different local restaurant experience? We recommend trying the Salty Dog Cafe at Bohicket Marina, sit on their deck and enjoy beautiful sunsets over the lowcountry! click above for more info


One will have a topwater lure tied on like a Spook Jr, another will have a Mirrodine or Yozuri suspended twitchbait tied on and the last will have a jighead with some sort of swimbait tied on.

Having three combos set up like this allows me to work all parts of the water column without having to spend a bunch of time retying.

I prefer to use 2500 series reels and 7’ ML / M rods that have either fast or extra fast action to them.

There are numerous places that you can go and speak with experts to help you in making your gear purchase, locally.

Haddrells Point Tackle in Mount Pleasant and West Ashley and Palmetto State Armory in Mount Pleasant and Summerville come to mind.

Of course you can also go on Facebook to the “Lowcountry Kayak Anglers” page as well as YouTube to find more information.

So welcome to the addiction that is Kayak Fishing and I hope to see you on the water soon.

Good Luck and Tight Lines!
Mike Kohler
LKA Tournament Director


You may also enjoy reading  Crazy Redfish