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An introduction to kayak fishing 101


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Hi All,

Over the years I've seen a few threads come up from people looking at getting their first (fishing) kayak. A lot of the information the Fishraiders will provide often covers familiar ground. This post is an introduction to kayak fishing 101.

I'm not sure at what point someone becomes an expert at something so please filter through the following information and make your own judgement. On a side note I've spent a lot of my life on or around the water and mucking around on various vessels. I've owned my Hobie Revolution 13 since late 2010 and have probably done over 1,000km on it on most of Sydney's major waterways at some stage.

Just some things to think about. A lot of information (I've plenty more too) but use it as a check list:


  • Suitable load rating (I’m 108kg plus battery, fishfinder, fishing gear, water)
  • Pedal or Paddle? Part of the philosophy behind the pedal kayaks is the legs are used to being used for long distances (e.g. walking or running daily) and they are a stronger muscle group than the arms. I have a Hobie (mirage drive). Another pedal system I have heard of is the Slayer. A mate that had both said the Hobie felt more efficient but the Slayer with its propeller system could be operated in reverse and hold position more easily. The newer Hobies have a reversible drive system and the seats are more comfortable. A major advantage of a pedal drive system is that your hands a free for fishing, especially when you have hooked that big one and are trying to guide it away from structure. The obvious disadvantage is that the pedal drives often cost significantly more than the paddle kayaks. You also need to be a bit more careful when in shallow water over structure.
  • The seat - is it comfortable? Does it give support where needed. Are you going to lose blood to the backside and just fall over the side of the kayak when you get off after an awesome 8 hour session out on the water because your legs no longer respond (only slightly exaggerating there). Hobie had an inflatable cushion for their older seats which I couldn't get used to but my Hobie owning friends wouldn't do without. Replacement seats - far less likely to come up but I've at least four mates who needed to get a replacement seat for one reason or another. My way of stretching during long sessions is to put both my arms down on the sides of the kayak and lift my backside up and stretch.
  • Tracks in a straight line when paddling (mine doesn’t so I make rudder adjustments). Some come with a rudder so tracking is not a problem. You have to remember to lift it up when going over obstacles or getting it up on a jetty.
  • Longer is faster but harder to store
  • Freeboard (with higher sides you are less likely to get wet but it is more affected by wind)
  • How are you or where are you going to store it. I bought a hoist from Ebay and hung it from the roof in my garage. My friends pay $300 per year to store theirs near the water.
  • Easy to carry to water or has wheels (mine is 30kg but I can lift it). Walk 100m with it over your head and you will know it.
  • At least 2 rod holders (I needed 3 – bream plus snapper rods with the third being a heavy rod or fly rod). Ideally put extensions in to get reels clear of water – you can make these from PVC. Hobie has off the shelf rod holder extensions. I personally don't like any rod holders in front of me as sometimes I have to move the rod tip over the bow of the kayak when fighting a fish. It can also get in the way of my casting. I created a bracket to put a third rod holder behind my seat.
  • Ease of installing accessories (one mate bought a kayak with no practical access to internal storage)
  • Decent paddle so you don’t snap it when pushing it hard
  • Storage hatches for cases (e.g. tackle), water and a dry bag for keys, money, phone
  • Colour: I chose blue as it is visible on the water for other boats and my safety . I don’t think the fish care about the colour. Yellow stands out too and I stayed away from red as red cars fade faster in the sun and I thought it might be a similar long term concern with a kayak. Unless you plan to do some undercover work then personally I think a camo pattern is a bad idea.
  • Budget – my pedal drive Hobie was $2,300 back in 2010 and worth it but if you look around you can find new paddle kayaks for around $350. These get you out there. A few years down the track if you love it then you could probably still sell it for about $200 and by then you will know exactly what you want and why.
  • I hear questions about an electric motor - I've never tried one. Part of my reason for getting a kayak was that I could combine fishing with exercise. I already owned a boat I could use to get around under power. If you have your heart set on it then some things to think about besides the cost. Most kayaks are not set up for them (no mounting brackets or storage well for the battery). Which model electric drive (size, power, weight). How to mount it. Battery size (weight and dimensions) and capacity (how long you can run your electric motor). Battery charger. How to carry it all - my fishfinder battery is heavy enough and that has far lighter duties than driving a motor.

Other stuff:

  • Transport – how are you going to get it around? I have Thule roof racks and a cradle accessory which allows me to get a second kayak on the roof (I drive a hatchback). Soft roof racks could damage paint over time. There are some accessories (such as side bars) which you can clip on to roof racks which will make it easier to lift the kayak on to the roof for those who are a little less physically able. Not cheap but if they save your back they are worth it. Some people have made their own so you should be able to find out their solution with a bit of research. Some people have customised trailers to suit their kayaks.
  • Foam or cradles on racks: If you strap a kayak down directly to the roof racks you are likely to get a dent in your kayak. Clark rubber insulation foam split and wrapped over bars is one way of preventing point loading. Cradles are another.
  • Straps: Long enough to go under rack over kayak under rack again and back over kayak again, tightened off with the excess tied off. Mine are Thule 4m straps but as an idea of what you should be looking at I suggest these at Bunnings for $23: https://www.bunnings.com.au/gripwell-28mm-x-4-5m-300kg-cambuckle-tie-down-with-pvc-cam-cover-2-pack_p4310641. I'm not a fan of ratchet straps for the roof racks as they are cumbersome, you need good fastening points and due to their shape they can dent your kayak.
  • Life jacket: A higher rating is often required for offshore than inshore. If you get an inflatable lifejacket you can also use it for rock fishing but it must be inspected (can do by yourself) annually. I have an inflatable jacket but I usually use foam filled jacket specifically designed (high back to clear seat plus plenty of pockets) for use on the kayak. If kayak shop doesn’t have them then look at Whitworths or other boating shops for inflatable jackets. Double check the life jacket rating (e.g. 50S, 100, 150) required for kayaks on the RMS site for inshore and offshore before purchasing. The inflatable life jacket is more compact and generally cooler but the reason I use a foam jacket are twofold - firstly it is yellow which helps with on the water visibility. Secondly, I reasoned if I came off a kayak it was for something beyond my control like being hit by a boat - if as a result you are unconscious then it is a bit hard to operate an inflating jacket. The foam one is always operational but my inflatable life jacket has a higher rating.
  • Spares: Are there critical spares for your kayak? On my Hobie drive the cable locknut came off - I now keep some spare ones and the spanner in an easy reach location. I have spare rudder pins inside the hatches and spare cables inside my kayak bag (gets left in the car). Trying to get spares in a rush on a weekend will always be a pain. In my case it might take me some time to get back to the car but once there I can be back on the water relatively soon. Even with the Hobie drive I always take the paddle with me too. One time I had to get back from Barrenjoey head to our launch point when the drive failed. If my friends had to tow me they would not have been happy.


Straps under bars, over kayak, under the bars on the other side and then back again. Pulling down on the straps pulls the cambuckles flush against the hull. You can just see the black foam pads over my roof rack bars.


I tie off the excess strap for added peace of mind (little chance of both knot and buckle to slip) and to stop the annoying flap of strap against hull when driving.

Your first time out:

  • Read through (or skim through the applicable parts) the boating rules for your state to at least know your rights and obligations on the water. You don’t have to take the exam. Safety is a priority. Ideally head out with someone who has been doing it for a while and knows what they are on about (not just thinks they do).
  • Shortcut to current RMS (Roads and Maritime Services) NSW safety guidelines for kayaks and canoes: https://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/maritime/safety-rules/other-boating/canoes-and-kayaks.html
  • The RMS have also put together a Paddle Smart, Paddle safe page including safety advice and a map specifically for heading out on Sydney Harbour: https://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/maritime/safety-rules/campaigns/paddle-smart.html
  • Think about the gear you are going to take with you. What happens if it drops in the water or you roll the kayak (unlikely)? Travel light until you know your limitations. Some people like leashes for their gear. I find these get in my way. If the gear does go in on a leash and you get it back then ideally get the reel in to service as soon as possible to minimise long term damage and the cost of replacement parts.
  • Have a plan. Where will you be using it? I've worked out plenty of launch locations over the years for the main waterways in Sydney by checking out the street directories, GoogleEarth, asking people or just having a look. What boat traffic is expected?
  • Check the weather - I've had mates pushed ashore in really strong winds and they were not Newbies. On that day it could have ended up far worse, they came out of it safely but kayak bottoms were badly scratched up by oysters.
  • Pace yourself. Getting along at 50% - 70% of what you can do will allow you to cover a lot of ground without getting exhausted. You don't need to impress anyone with how fast you get somewhere. Any distance out will be the same distance back. Wind and tide can work for or against you and whether it helps or hinders you can change throughout the course of the day.
  • Unlike a motorcycle keep your body vertical. Centre of mass will ensure the kayak moves back to an even keel. Worst waves are quartering (say at a 45° angle) from behind which results in a corkscrew type movement. If I have a choice I will try and hit the waves straight on or sideways as it allows the wave to gently lift me up and lower me down the backside. If the waves or wake start to break you will probably get wet. Practice on wakes and waves till you get comfortable.
  • I head out frequently on Sydney harbour. There are often waves (or wakes from big boats). Sometimes I get wet. In my case the scuppers don’t work – for someone lighter they might. I keep a sponge on board to empty out the water around my backside.
  • Keep a good look-out at all times. To me at least Sydney Harbour has a rhythm - the ferries follow certain routes at certain times. The sailing races happen about 1pm on a Saturday (depends on the sailing club). You will learn this by watching what happens around you. Understanding an area is a great confidence builder. Stay within your comfort zone where possible. Follow the shoreline (say 50m to 100m out) where possible (but give shore based anglers plenty of room) to ensure sufficient clearance between you and other harbour users.
  • At some stage when it is a nice day and you have no gear on board flip your kayak under controlled conditions (e.g. near a beach). Can you get back on board and under way? Can you empty out the water?
  • Clothing: You will have sunlight hitting you from above and from the reflection off the water. I use quick dry long pants and a long sleeved top. Consider a legionnaires’ cap or cap and buff.
  • It can get hot out there so bring water. I also keep some money with me as there are a few vendors on the water from whom you can buy a coffee or other beverage.
  •  Bathroom breaks – if it gets too uncomfortable holding it in (some of my sessions are over 8 hours) I will sometimes head for the nearest secluded beach. Other people use different methods. Get to know which beaches have public toilets available for use. If you get desperate you could also walk into a waterside hotel or club and buy something with that emergency money you keep in the dry bag and conveniently use their facilities at the same time.
  • There are restricted areas in Sydney Harbour such as the naval bases (Garden Island, Clifton Gardens and Balmoral). Keep outside the yellow marker buoys. The security guards get a little pissed off if you move into the restricted waters. They generally only yell at vessels inside this area but sometimes you will see an authority vessel come to request you to move on.
  • You should not stop under the harbour bridge (which is a killer as there are often some very good schools of fish there) but make your way smartly through.
  • Think about a bright orange flag for extra visibility. I don't and have had the same person have a go at me at least twice over the years for not being more visible on the water. Under maritime guidelines "The skipper must be in a good lookout position at all times to watch and listen carefully...". If he can't see a 4m plus bright blue kayak with 6 foot me in a bright yellow vest and bright blue cap I'm not sure what a 300mm x 300mm orange flag will do and a trip to Spec savers is in order. Having said that being right won't help me if I get run over.
  • While I have been out on the water just after daybreak quite a few times you won't find me on the kayak between sunset and sunrise. If you do plan to head out at night  then consider the following lifted straight from the RMS: "Paddle during daylight hours or, if paddling in restricted visibility or between sunset and sunrise, exhibit two all round continuous or flashing white lights, one attached to the canoe or kayak at or near the forward end and the other one attached at or near the aft end. The light is to be visible in clear conditions from a distance of one kilometre and may be masked so as not to interfere with the vision of the occupants, provided at least one light is visible from any direction".


  • As mentioned, I have friends that store their kayaks by the water. $100 to $300 a year adds up over time so I went a different way. Some people will use cradles from the walls but I have a high garage with concrete ceiling so can store my kayak from the roof and above the car. Looking around I found a 60kg rated block and pulley system. There are multiple versions out there and some seem to be overly positive on the weight rating. Some key words to help you in your Google or Ebay search: Kayak / Hoist / Bike / Lift / Pulley / System / Garage / Ceiling / Storage / Rack / Capacity / 60KG.
  • I got rid of the cheap Dynabolts which came with it and bought some genuine Dynabolts of similar size. The slings will be longer than you require so I shortened them by using an overhand loop knot to create a second hook point. Note: Depending on how far apart the straps are, the shape of the kayak, how smooth it is the straps will want to slide off towards the ends of the kayak. I put two lines (I like symmetry) from one strap to the other of the same length as the spacing between the roof pulleys. You can do it with one line.
  • If you are really unlucky and you let go of the rope for the pulleys it can end up at the pulley block. With some spare line I tied a 1m tail on to it so I could always reach the tail rope.
  • Put some thought into where exactly you are hanging it. If the power to the lights is concealed in the ceiling work out beforehand where it is likely to run (I expect square to the walls of the room). I really don't want to hear that one of the Fishraiders (or anyone for that matter) had an accident installing a hoist. As you are likely drilling into the roof with a hammer drill safety glasses and earplugs are important (of course you have those already).
  • When assembling the blocks both ends of the rope finish up going through a hole in the bottom of the pulley block at which point you need a stopper knot. For security I used a compact loop knot and made sure that the fixing shaft in the pulley block passed through this loop knot (you will see what I mean when you install it).
  • Will you want to put in a second or third system in the future? Does the body of the kayak block out the light? Where will it land when you lower it? Does it clear the garage door (I had to raise the kayak by shortening the straps to get the necessary clearance)? Think about the spacing of the pulleys and where you will put the hook to tie off the extra line when it is in the raised position (the friction lock holds it in place really well but the tie off is a secondary safety measure).
  • BTW you will likely have a deep sense of satisfaction when you have installed it and the kayak is hanging from the ceiling. When you pull it up for the first time see how the friction lock works and then try and lower it. I installed one for my neighbour but he isn't mechanically inclined and he damaged the lines a bit before he decided to ask me for a second demonstration - it doesn't need to be forced. You pull down on both lines to ease off the friction lock and while holding tight on one of the lines you can allow the other to feed out. Alternate pressure between lines to get the kayak to see-saw downwards. I land my kayak on foam pads.
  • Mine have been is service for about 9 years and still work but keep an eye on the condition of the rope at any rub points.


I own a 2010 Hobie Revolution 13 and have installed a Humminbird on it years ago. I helped another two friends install fishfinders on their kayaks (another Revo and an Outback) so I have had some experience. At the time Hobies did not come with a transducer pocket. I didn’t want to damage the hull of my kayak so after some research I put together a through the hull arrangement in front of the drive well. The bad thing with that Humminbird unit is that the connections are permanently connected to the mounting bracket so I had to work out how to stow that when not in use. I use the rear hatch for the battery compartment and with a 7.2AH SLA 12V battery I can get a comfortable 10 hours plus use.

A problem with the through the hull design is that the temperature sensor in the transducer will give false readings. If you get bubbles in the fastening medium you will also run the risk of getting false signals. The advantage with the through the hull design is that I won't knock off the transducer through bumps from submerged objects or poor handling.

Working on the basis that I didn't want to drill any holes in my Hobie this was the shopping list I came up with when installing my Fishfinder. Anything you already have you should just tick off. I used the mast hole for a Ram ball on which my Fishfinder sits. I had to put a second ball on my mast pole for out of use storage.
I've included where I got some of the equipment as I believe that it shouldn't be a conflict of interest with the site sponsors.

  • 1x Fishfinder
  • 1x Ram Fishfinder Mounting kit to suit mounting bracket holes - Hobie agent at Mona Vale should have these. I went to Whitworths for the shorter fastening bolts and domed nuts.
  • 1x Ram ball mast mount to match mounting kit. I think it will be the smaller 25mm ball – Hobie agent
  • 1x tube of Goop (some people use silicone) – Hobie agent
  • 1x foam transducer pocket (Polyethylene foam should be the stuff)  – Hobie agent or electronics packaging
  • 1x Battery holder for rear hatch (Hobie now do fit for purpose but I prefer my option as it is sealed from water) – Hobie agent
  • 1x U-bolt Ram ball (for storing mounting kit in kayak when not in use) – agent for Ram located in North Sydney
  • 1x fuse holder and rated fuse (see fishfinder manual) – Jay car
  • 1x extension power cables to reach battery – Jay car
  • 1x Heat shrink tube to protect joins of Fishfinder power cable to extension power cable
  • Some cable ties for cleaning up loose cables
  • Some time to install it all.
  • Battery - I use a 12V 7.2AH/20HR non-spillable sealed rechargeable battery - fits in the Hobie tub perfectly and gives me roughly 10-12 hours use before my low battery level alarm kicks in (think I set it at 11.8 volts). Whitworths or Jaycar
  • Battery charger - preferably a smart one so I can clip it on when I get home and not stress about forgetting to unplug it.

I placed the transducer between the mast pole and the mirage well. I didn't want it behind the well as I didn't want to disturb the signal with water coming off the drive fins. I didn't scuff the kayak surface but I did clean it as best I could. I made a pool with the foam and locked it in place with Goop. I then warmed up the remaining Goop and carefully poured it into the pocket and then worked the transducer into place trying to rock out any air bubbles.

In my case the rear hatch is not easily accessible when on the water so I used it for battery storage instead. Water will get in the kayak so make sure any joins have been soldered and sealed in heatshrink. Don't forget the fuse. I wouldn't want a 12V battery shorting out. I used a Hobie gear bucket and trimmed out some tabs to make room for the battery.


Cables coming up underneath the hatch. The mounting bracket is in its operational position. I just have to clip the head unit in place.


Mounting bracket in its stored position.


BTW my Marine Goop dried reasonable hard (still has some flex) and I have it mounted in front of the mast pole so I don't think I get a lot of flex in that part of the hull. It has been in place for about 6 years.

Fishfinder in operational position on Sydney harbour. I use the same head unit on both my kayak and boat and there seems to be very little resolution loss (if any) with the through the hull set-up.


Hope the above information is of help to others starting out.

For the practical side of fishing from a kayak there is a part 2 to this article which can be found at:




Edited by DerekD
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Hi Sharknett.

The PFD brand is Ultra and the model is Sport Fish suggested by the kayak shop at the time. Have a look at the attached photos.


On the back lower section where the straps pass through there is no foam thus reducing the profile and making it a comfortable fit against the seat. The upper section has foam.


I admit that it is not exactly high visibility yellow any more but it has seen a lot of hours on the water.

I had a quick internet search and there is at least one shop in Sydney which sells them. You should be able to track down more information.



Edited by DerekD
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  • 11 months later...
  • 9 months later...

If you do get a Fishfinder for your kayak then there are some things that you are better off learning sooner rather than later. The following assumes that you also have a GPS incorporated in the unit.

You should know the model of the Fishfinder you are getting which means you have an opportunity to read up or look at YouTube clips before getting out of the water. You may be able to plug yours in at home to play with it and learn about it. There is also a simulation mode on most units.

These are the things I suggest you know before getting out on the water.

Getting the unit out of simulation mode.
Setting up for Australian conditions: knots, meters, Celsius.
Setting up for your preferred coordinate format. For expample. Degrees, Minutes and Seconds (DMS). Degrees and Decimal minutes (DMM). Finally. Degrees Decimal (DD).
Switching between Sonar, SideScan and Navigation Map
Programming in a waypoint. If you go on Google maps you can right click on the location you want to go to and it will give you coordinates. Not sure what format they are in.
Choosing a waypoint to navigate to.
Dropping a waypoint at a location of interest. Launch location is a good starting point. If you go over a point of interest you want to be able to enter it quickly. I can do it with a single button push on mine.
Setting the sensitivity of the sonar so you don’t pick up everything that is down there
Learning how to read sidescan. YouTube this.
Setting up multiple screens on your unit. Specifically, navigation and sonar so you can see them both at the same time
Setting low battery level alarm (e.g. 11.2 volts)
Setting up a shallow depth alarm

When you get out there use it as much as possible. Go over anchor lines to see how it shows up. Go over rocks and weed patches and see what impact the hardness of the object has on the colour of the screen. Go over a boat wake to see what turbulence looks like. 

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