The Earth is two-thirds covered by water. Finding a fish in the expansive abyss is like finding a needle in an Everest-sized haystack. Two factors significantly improve success: time on the water and distance covered. Trolling allows the lure to stay in the water while the angler paddles for miles, making it the most productive fishing tactic.

Man on a fishing kayak
More time with lures in the water plus covering more distance equals more fish in the boat. | Photo: Jordan Parker

How to troll in a kayak

King mackerel

William Ragulsky | Virginia Beach, Virginia
Ocean Kayak, Werner Paddles

Man on a kayak holding up his catch
The King of Kings, William Ragulsky. | Photo: Ric Burnley

Kayak trolling tip:

Paddle fast enough to keep the bait near the surface. Run a second bait deeper with a half-ounce egg sinker above the stinger rig.

Season: Late summer

Forecast: Northeast five to 10 knots, partly sunny

Tactic: Trolling live menhaden in the ocean. Launch through the surf at dawn. Use a weighted treble hook to snag menhaden from large schools on the surface. Hook bait on a stinger rig. Paddle from the beach up to three miles offshore looking for schools of menhaden.

Rods: Medium-action with a slow tip prevents small hooks from pulling out of the fish

Reels: High-speed conventional to keep up with a charging kingfish

Line: 20-pound high-visibility monofilament

Leader: 12 to 20 feet of 20-pound dark green monofilament shock leader. King’s have sharp eyes.

Rig: Use haywire twist to attach a No. 4, 4X treble hook to one end of 12 inches of No. 4 wire. Twist a small, 80-pound swivel to the other end of the wire. Attach a three- to five-inch piece of wire to the eye of the hook. Haywire twist another hook to the end of the trailer.

Tackle tip: Set the reels at four pounds drag to prevent the fish pulling the hooks

Brown and rainbow trout

Brad Hole | Cooper Lake, Washington
RAM Mounts, Hobie Fishing

Man wearing baseball hat holding up his catch
It’s a trap! Brad Hole | Photo: Jordan Parker

Kayak trolling tip:

Speed is critical. Use a GPS to monitor speed. Pedal faster for a few minutes, then slower. When you get a bite, note the speed and repeat—the fish are often keyed in on a specific speed.

Season: Spring and fall

Forecast: Flat calm to light chop

Tactic: Trolling spoons with lead-core line over drops and points in mountain lakes. Look for steep cliffs and feeder creeks on the lakeside to indicate structure below the water. Mark fish and bait on a fish finder and use GPS to focus in on the location. Keep the rod in front with a large, elevated rod holder like the RAM Rod HD.

Rods: Seven-foot, six-inch Daiwa North Coast SS Kokanee Rod

Reels: Daiwa Sealine B with Line Counter

Line: 18-pound Leadcore Line by Tuf-Line

Leader: 50 feet of 10- to 12-pound fluorocarbon leader

Rig: Mack’s Lure Wiggle Hoochie, Wedding Ring spinners, spoons, flatfish

Tackle tip: Tip lures with small chunk of earth worm, mealworms or scent. Use the line counter to set the depth of the lure. More lead core line in the water will drop the lure deeper.

Striped bass

Alan Battista | Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
Author Light Tackle Trolling Chesapeake Bay

Man on a kayak holding his catch
Go big or go home. | Photo: Alan Battista

Kayak trolling tip:

Fishing the river is best when the water is muddy. An electric motor makes it easy to maintain speed and direction when heading upriver.

Season: Spring

Forecast: Calm, cool early spring morning

Tactic: Trolling large swimming plugs in Susquehanna River. Pedal or motor into the current while looking for large boulders on the fish finder. I pull the lure over the boulder while holding my rod tip high. As soon as I pass the rock, I drop the rod tip to make the lure dive deeper and strike the rock.

Rod: Six-foot, six-inch medium-action baitcasting. Shorter, lighter rod is easier to work the lure.

Reel: 4500-series baitcasting reel to quickly release line and drop the lure deeper

Line: 15-pound braided line cuts through the current. Braided line is sensitive to feel the lure bounce over rocks.

Leader: Abrasion-resistant 30-pound fluorocarbon runs over the rocks without breaking

Lures: Rapala Shad Rap and Cordell Red Fin are large, noisy lures putting off violent vibrations to attract big striped bass in muddy water

Tackle tip: Expect to snag lures in the rocks. If the lure isn’t bouncing off boulders, it’s not going to catch fish. Never risk safety to retrieve a snagged lure.


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