What to wear kayak fishing is way more than a fashion statement. Fishing from a kayak leaves the angler totally exposed to the elements—the only protection from weather and water is the clothes on your back. But that doesn’t mean you can’t look cool, too.
Technical clothes are designed to meet whatever conditions an angler faces. Advanced materials and smart design come together to keep an angler comfortable in any weather. When the sun is beating down, breathable fabrics keep you cool and protect against harmful UV rays. In cold conditions, choosing what to wear fishing is about comfort and safety. An impervious outer layer over insulating base layers defends against hypothermia and manages heat.
Dressing correctly is a big step toward staying safe, too. One of the leading causes of rescue is improperly dressing for the conditions. Anglers should be prepared for the worst weather possible. In minutes, sunny skies and light breezes can change to dark clouds and gale-force winds. Before leaving the launch, be sure you can quickly meet the conditions.
[This article is part of The Kayak Angler Buyer’s Guide for The Best Kayak Fishing Gear For 2021. Find all the best kayak fishing gear from the top brands for all situations.]
What to wear fishing
Rain, wind, waves, freezing cold and boiling heat—nothing can stop a kayak angler determined to go fishing. Whether you creep around farm ponds in the heat of summer or fish the open ocean in the dead of winter, on a typical day kayak fishing, an angler should hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
The latest generation of technical clothing is specifically designed for fishing. And kayak anglers are completely exposed to the weather. To enjoy a day on the water, in any conditions, we need all the help we can get. With useful features and the best components available, the latest generation of fishing clothes allow an angler to fish longer and happier.
Clothes specifically made for fishing can do amazing things. UV-protective, breathable, waterproof, windproof, stink- and stain-resistant, even bug-repellent—kayak anglers have a lot of help when deciding what to wear out on the water.
In the heat, a loose-fitting, lightweight long-sleeve shirt and long pants will protect against sunburn and keep the skin cooler. Advanced materials wick moisture and dry quickly. Water shoes, lightweight gloves, a neck gaiter and a lucky fishing hat round out full coverage.
When it’s cold out, kayak anglers are especially at risk. Exposure to freezing temperatures on a small, open boat is only possible with the best safety gear. Safety starts with clothing that keeps the angler warm and dry. A breathable base layer with a heat-trapping middle layer works with the water- and wind-proof outer layer to keep the angler alive even when submerged in cold water.
Modern clothing for fishing from a kayak combines good looks with high-tech performance. Technical clothing no longer looks like technical clothing—you can wear clothes for kayak fishing out on the town, too.
- Best Fishing Apparel
- Best Fishing Pants
- Best Fishing Shirts
The only thing between a kayak angler and the elements is a great outer layer. In warm weather, pop-up storms require a light, waterproof, breathable jacket and pants that can be stuffed into a hatch and donned at the first drops of rain.
In colder conditions, anglers need the protection of a wind- and water-proof outer layer. While many people get away with waders and a raincoat, the safest option is specially-designed paddling pants and jacket or a single-piece drysuit.
While nothing beats PVC for wind and water protection, breathable fabrics with a perforated inner layer and waterproof outer layer keep you more comfortable when you are active or at rest.
Outer layers for kayak fishing have to keep out the elements and survive the rigors of fishing. The toughest garments are reinforced in areas of heavy wear and tear. Outside and inside pockets hold your cellphone so you don’t have to open the jacket to check your messages.
What to wear under fishing waders
Under the outer layer, cold-water anglers should wear a thin, moisture-wicking base layer. Keeping the skin dry is the first step in staying warm. This layer should fit snug to the skin to soak up sweat and transfer it to the mid-layer. The middle layer is a lofty, insulating layer to trap heat leaving the body. For extra-cold conditions, double up on this layer. Look for clothes that fit snugly under a life vest and still allow you to move.
- Best Drysuits
What shoes to wear fishing
Launching, recovering and traversing shallow water require a kayak angler to wear a good pair of shoes. In the summer, water shoes that drain and dry quickly protect your feet from sunburn and rough bottom. In winter, a pair of neoprene booties overtop your drysuit socks keep your feet warm. Be sure your footwear will fit in the limited space of a kayak cockpit.
- Best Fishing Shoes
Why wear fishing gloves
An angler’s hands are constantly exposed to harm. Cold, sun, fish teeth, sharp scales, knives, hooks and line cuts are just the top of the list of hazards. To protect hands in summer, anglers wear thin, sun-resistant gloves. In cold weather, wear full-finger gloves. Neoprene gloves stay warm even when wet. Fingerless gloves offer padding for miles of paddling. But, to maintain feel on the paddle or rod, nothing beats bare hands.
- Best Fishing Gloves
- Best Kayak Gloves
Fishing in different weather
The biggest obstacle to kayak fishing is the weather. You get the day off, the fish are biting, your friends are waiting and then it starts raining. You can hang it up, or throw on the rain jacket and charge ahead. Preparing for extremes in the weather will unlock more opportunities to fish. To face the challenge, kayak anglers have high-tech clothes to meet any weather. From the hottest heat to the coldest cold, if the fish are biting, nothing can keep a kayak angler off the water.
What to wear fishing in the rain
When you’re on a kayak in the rain, water comes from every direction. There’s water from the sky, water blowing in the wind, splash and spray, and rain pelting off the deck. The best rain gear for kayak fishing will cover the angler from every angle.
Start with a breathable rain jacket designed for paddling with a longer hem and sealed sleeves. A high collar and articulated hood will move with your head so you can look around without turning your body.
Match the rain jacket with a pair of high-waisted paddling pants. Many jackets and pants for paddling can be joined at the waist to seal out water.
Store the rain gear in a waterproof drybag stashed in the bow hatch for quick deployment at the first drop of rain.
- Best Rain Gear For Fishing
What to wear fishing in cold weather
Cold weather presents many hazards for kayak anglers. But some of the best fishing is in winter. To safely fish throughout the winter, anglers should dress for immersion.
The safest and warmest option is a full drysuit with sealed gaskets at the neck and sleeves. These suits are tested to keep out water and maintain body temperature for extended periods in freezing water. Breathable materials and articulated joints make them as comfortable as possible, but they can be hot and awkward in a fishing kayak.
Paddling pants with booties and a matching drytop are good options for adding and removing layers as the temperature changes. Thin, light, and cut for sitting, pedaling, and paddling, a combination of paddling pants and a drytop is the most comfortable option for cold weather fishing.
Many anglers choose waders and a rain jacket. While this option is readily available and reasonably safe, it is the least comfortable and most awkward in the water. Stocking foot waders and a pair of sandals fit best in a kayak cockpit. Breathable waders block the wind better than neoprene waders, but neoprene offers more insulation in extreme cold.
A warm, waterproof hat and neoprene gloves will further preserve body heat.
Under the outer layer, wear a hooded sweatshirt and lofty pants to trap the heat. The inner layer is a pair of breathable, insulating long underwear and long wool socks over a thin pair of silk socks. The key is to move moisture away from the skin while preserving heat.
Always choose warm layers that allow movement beneath a life vest. Falling out of the kayak and not being able to reenter is a common cause of kayaker rescue. To be sure of your abilities, test your system under controlled conditions before heading out in the cold.
What to wear fishing in hot weather
Anglers fishing in summer face sunburn and wind exposure. To prevent exposed skin from frying to a crisp, start with a layer of high-SPF sunblock. Then, cover as much of the body as you can with light, UPF clothing. Long sleeves, long pants, a neck gaiter, sun socks and sun gloves under a wide-brimmed hat are the best protection.
High-quality polarized sunglasses protect against UV rays and help an angler see through glare on the water. In extreme heat, anglers prefer inflatable life vests that offer floatation without adding insulation.
- Best Fishing Hats
- Best Fishing Sunglasses
What to wear fishing in shoulder seasons
In fall and spring, fish are on the move, making the shoulder seasons great for fishing. To meet changing conditions, the best bet is paddling pants and a drytop. Light, breathable, packable and comfortable, paddling-specific outwear can go from cold to warm over the course of the day.
Keep extra layers in a drybag stored in easy reach. For some options for keeping up with the seasons, check out what the pros are wearing here: 6 Pros On What To Wear During Shoulder Season Fishing.
Different types of fishing
What to wear bass fishing
Tournament bass anglers are looking for every advantage over the competition. That includes their clothes. Bass fishing is a game of a thousand casts. To make cast after cast for hours and hours, bass pros look for clothes that move with them and protect them from the elements.
The most advanced fabrics are light on the skin and stretch in every direction. That’s especially important when the clothes cover every inch of skin. Pedal boat anglers wear water shoes that drain quickly and offer support for miles of pedaling. Since many bass anglers stand and fish, a comfortable pair of shoes takes pressure off your feet.
Bass tournaments are rarely canceled for weather, so a bass angler has to be prepared for the worst conditions. A drytop and paddling pants in a waterproof bag will keep the angler competitive if it starts raining.
Different bodies of water
What to wear river fishing
From ponds to lakes to the open ocean, from winter to summer to winter again, the same principles of layering apply to keep anglers comfortable and safe. River anglers need to take a further step. To shoot the rapids and come out casting, river anglers should be prepared for immersion.
In the summer, this means fast-drying fabrics and river shoes. In cold water, a drysuit is the best protection from hypothermia. In addition to a foam life vest, river anglers must wear a whitewater helmet in the rapids. A kayak can survive the rigors of rocks and rough water to access the best fishing other anglers can’t reach. Dressing for immersion will keep the angler safe and comfortable when he gets to the fish.
What to wear lake fishing
On a lake or any open water, anglers face wind and waves in addition to sun and cold. Even if rain isn’t in the forecast, a windy lake crossing can leave you soaked to the skin. Always carry a waterproof paddling jacket and pants to stay dry and warm. There is no shelter or shade on a kayak, so lake anglers should prepare for sun exposure, even in the winter. Sun block, UPF clothes and a tight-fitting hat will keep you in the shade even in direct sunlight.