Best Fishing Kayak Reviews: A Fishing Kayak Checklist

You are ready to hit the water and get some of that much needed time out and, hopefully, fresh fish for dinner. If you are like me, no matter how often you set out and no matter how well you pack, you will find that you have forgotten a much needed item. You resolve that next time, it will be the first item on the list… only to find that another important item has been forgotten. Here is a partial checklist of the items you will need and some important considerations when outfitting your fishing kayak.

How you outfit your fishing kayak and how you pack will depend upon the type of fishing you are doing and the conditions you will encounter. Small streams and lakes require different considerations than offshore big game fishing for instance. Due to the limited storage on the kayak and the number of items you need (as well as the large amount of fish you will be returning with of course) you will need to outfit carefully- not only for your enjoyment but your very safety may depend upon it.

Whatever type of fishing you intend to do, kayak fishing has some unique considerations as the space is so limited upon a kayak. Which items do you access most frequently? It will be important to prioritize these items that you need to access most frequently, and have them within easy reach. Some anglers like to keep it simple and carry the minimal amount of gear: some like to carry anything that they might possibly need. There are some basic accessories that can increase the fish-ability of a kayak, or make it more angler-friendly.

We have covered fishing kayaks in other review posts so will here assume that you have chosen the kayak that best suits your needs and you are ready to continue. Also assumed is that you, more than anyone, know what you prefer for fishing gear… so, given the kayak and the fishing gear- what more will you need?

At first glance, it seems you will need little more than your fishing gear and the kayak. When I first discovered the pleasure of kayak fishing, I was so anxious to hit the water for a few hours of calm that I did not consider the safety items which were at the top of any outfitting list I checked. One eve though, as the days were getting shorter, I found myself returning in the dark across boating lanes… I had forgotten a flashlight- well, forgotten is probably not the right word- I deliberately ditched it that morning as the batteries needed to be replaced and I thought “I don’t need this, I am going to be home well before dark”… so I found myself frantically striking matches as I heard motorboats approach and shouting out my presence… to which I heard angry voices in the dark responding: “get out of the water you dang fool”…

After that, I have developed and printed out a checklist. I tack it to the wall of my garage in multiple copies and physically check off each of the items as they are packed. I will not assume you are as unorganized as I am but, in speaking with others, I frequently hear tales of excursions that are notable by what items were left behind.

I have shared my developed list and hope you find it useful. Add your own items and share it with friends. Please do not skip the safety items. Due to their importance, I list them first. I look forward to seeing you on the waters.


Before you even pack the Car:

Fishing License in a dry bag (depending on state requirements)
Boat Registration in a dry bag (depending on boat and state requirements)
A Float Plan


Life Jacket (Personal Flotation Device or PFD)
VHF Radio
GPS and/or Compass GPS, compass, and a map
Phone (fully charged and in a dry bag)
Flashlight (w/fresh battery and in a dry bag)
Extra batteries (for radio, flashlight, and GPS)
First Aid Kit

Kayak Gear:

Paddle/Paddle Leash or extra paddle secured to kayak
Seat cushion
Rod Holders
Drift Chute (Drift Sock)
Stake out Pole
Bilge Pump
Kayak Trolley
Bungees and/or tie downs
Fishing Gear:

Rod Leash
Tackle box with tackle
Extra Line
Needle nose pliers
Fish clip
Crate or bait tank
Gaff and/or net
Sabiki Rig
Bait Tank

Clothing Etc:

Extra Clothing (stored in a dry bag)
Hat or visor
Camera (waterproof or minimal in a dry bag)
Fish finder
12v battery (to power the fish finder)