How to Catch Catfish from a Kayak

How to Catch Catfish from a Kayak

Kayak catfishing can be very fun! Given you have the right gear, safety equipment, and rod/reel.

Fishing for catfish by kayak has been taking over recently. Many anglers are buying a kayak and getting set up for some warm weather catfishing.

It is easy to rush this process and head out the door before you have your necessities. Kayaking is one thing, but kayak fishing is a whole other beast!

Kayak fishing takes loads of practice and experience, so take your time learning the ins and outs of your kayak before you get on the water. Catfish are tough, and take a special kind of finesse to catch in a kayak.

Choose the Right Style Kayak

Choosing the right style of kayak can make or break your fishing adventure. It is important to get a sit on top kayak for fishing.

You want adequate amount of room to keep tackle, bait, and move freely. If you make the mistake and get a sit in kayak, you will lack mobility, space, and you really won’t have much to work with.

The sit on top style kayak has been used by many for years for a fishing kayak. That brings to my next point which is you do NOT have to buy a “fishing kayak”.

There are many brands out there that sell their, “fishing kayak model”. Although these models may have the bells and whistles you’re looking for, you do not need a fishing labeled kayak for fishing.

A wider, bigger kayak that can support your gear and has plenty of space will do fine. I personally made my Ocean Kayak into a fishing kayak. I simply added some rod holders, a fish finder, and boom.

So with that being said look around for what you like. I recommend ocean kayaks as they are reasonably priced and can be turned into fishing kayaks quiet easily.

You can get a pedal drive kayak, as these work very well for fishing. Your hands are free, and it is easy to get from spot to spot. These however are very pricy, and you need to be careful about choosing the right brand.

The classic paddle kayaks do just fine, especially for catfishing. You are most likely going to anchor up somewhere anyway, so you don’t need to work about your hands being free.

Paddle kayaks are much cheaper than peddle drive kayaks, so if you are just getting started, it may be best to learn on a paddle.

Safety Equipment/Tips

Safety is rule number one! If you are going to cut corners on anything, make it anything except safety.

At the bare minimum, you should have a lifejacket, spare paddle, whistle, and adequate clothing. It is also important to have a change of clothes just in case you get wet in your kayak, you can change into some warm clothes.

The lifejacket is self explanatory. Make sure it can support your weight, make sure it is not outdated, and make sure it fits you properly. The last thing you want to do is go swimming and slip out of your life jacket.

The spare paddle comes in handy in case your paddle breaks. It does happen, so it is best to prepare for the worst. If you have no paddle, you are basically sitting adrift in a life raft. Bring an extra paddle.

A whistle can come in handy if you need to signal for help, or get the attention of another boater. If a boat is running up on you, or you are simply in need of assistance, a whistle blow travels a long way.

Using adequate clothing is sooo important. If you are fishing colder temperatures, you will need a wetsuit or neoprene material. This will help keep you warm while fishing, to eliminate the risk for hypothermia.

Winter fishing temps can be very cold, so plan adequately. Another great tip when fishing from a kayak, plan to swim! To make this as safe as you can it is best to dress as if you are going to tip over.

You need to be able to move freely and swim out of your situation. When I see people wearing steel toed boots with jeans and a thick jacket, all I see is a big anchor.

It will be very hard to swim in clothing like that, so don’t put yourself in a death trap. I usually wear neoprene pants, a lighter neoprene shirt, booties for my feet (and/or crocs), and my life jacket.

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How to Properly Anchor

Anchoring can be very tricky, so you need to be sure to do it safely. Kayaks are a bit more mobile than boats, so you can get away with anchoring in smaller places.

It is always best looking for the direction of the tide, as this will dictate where you will anchor.

When anchoring, I usually paddle past where I would like to anchor upstream, then toss my anchor and drift down to where I want to be.

It is also important to let out a little bit of slack line to account for the waves, and current drift. When attaching your anchor to your kayak, there are a few ways you can do it.

The front, back, and sometimes side. I prefer the back the most, because the current will keep you in line, and you can easily fish straight in front of you.

In calmer waters you can anchor from the front, in order to fish either side of your kayak. It is the same for side anchoring, as you only want to do it in calmer water.

You don’t want to be swept off center, or catch a fast current and be turned over.


Your rod and reel may not change much when getting in a kayak, but for the lack of space you may want to use a shorter rod. 6-7 ft is a perfect length for boat rods.

This makes it easy to bait up, cast, and handle fish when they are in the boat. Catfish are pretty tough, so I recommend at least medium heavy action rods.

You want some kind of power to get these fish in. For your reel, you want something with enough torque that works well with your rod.

You do not need to worry as much about a reel that casts far, only worry about one that will have some good line pickup.

I personally like the abu Garcia 6500 and 7000. These reels cast great, but they are also perfect for the boat. For a good spinning reel, I would recommend the okuma avenger, or the okuma Coronado.

These reels are reasonably priced, and they work very well for all species of fish.

Your fishing line is dependent on the size of catfish you’re fishing for. If you are just targeting small channel catfish you probably only need 17-20 pound test mono.

If you are targeting big blues or flatheads, it may be beast to up that line to 25-30lb. For braid, I say no less than 50lb, but be sure to use it in locations that aren’t rocky.

One sharp rock can cut off braid extremely easy.

Spots to Target

Now that you finally got yourself off the bank, it is time to find some spots. I have found the most success fishing current breaks, channels, the mouth of creeks or other rivers, and deep holes.

Kayaks can really help you get to the spots that are just out of reach. Often times when launching you do not need to go too far to find a spot.

Catfishing in the kayak is the same as anywhere else though. Move around until you find the fish. Just know that the distance you paddle away from your car, you will need to paddle back.

Early in the morning I like to start at the creek mouths, and then after that I usually move to the channel. If I am finding no success there I try the current breaks, and as a last resort I hit the deep holes.

It is best to have a plan A, B, C, D, E, etc… You never want to feel stuck not knowing what to do.

With this given, know your waters. Do your research ahead of time to make sure you know the depths, and distance between different spots.


Kayak fishing can be very fun, given you know your body of water. Safety is paramount and should not be neglected. If you ever find yourself in a situation you can’t handle, just pack it in.

It is not worth your life! Be safe everyone and catch some catfish!

Be sure and stay tuned into my Youtube Channel to stay up to date on all my fishing adventures!

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