Spend any time on the water, and you’ll quickly realize fishing is a labor of love. This adage becomes even more true when you’re fishing from a kayak. Kayak fishing provides a thrilling perspective that puts you so close to the water; you’re practically swimming with the fish. But, being so close to the water presents some practical challenges for anglers.
As a general rule, the ideal rod length is going to be between 6’ and 9’ when you’re kayak fishing. Most anglers use a rod somewhere in the middle, around 6’6”–7’6”. Depending on where you’re fishing and what you’re targeting, you’ll find that rods of a certain rod length are the best fit for how you fish.
Read on as we share everything you’ll need to know to select the best rod length for kayak fishing. We’ll also share some essential tips to keep in mind when choosing your next rod for kayak fishing.
Choosing the Right Rod for the Job
The more you fish from a kayak, the more you realize that there isn’t one ideal rod size for everything. Instead, there are times when a short rod is best and times when a longer one is what you’ll need.
You should use a rod in the 6-to-7-foot range if:
- You’re fishing along the shoreline or around bridge and dock pilings and need to cast more accurately.
- You’re not concerned with casting distance.
- You want a rod that’s going to be as easy as possible to maneuver when you’re fishing from a kayak.
Meanwhile, you’ll want a rod that’s 7-feet or longer if:
- You’re fishing open water and want to bomb long casts as far as possible.
- You need some extra leverage to muscle fish from cover or to fight a larger gamefish.
- You fish in a 14’ or longer kayak and need a longer rod so you can fight fish off the bow.
It’s even possible for a rod in the 8-9-foot range to be useful for kayak fishing. These rods will provide the most casting distance of any rod you can use from a kayak. Above 8-feet, you’ll have difficulty finding a rod with a short enough butt to cast from a kayak unless you build a custom pole.
How to Select the Ideal Rod Length for You
Before you purchase a fishing rod for your kayak, you’ll want to consider many factors, including where you’re fishing, what you’re fishing for, the size of your kayak, and more.
Consider Your Waters
Chances are, you have a good idea of where you’ll be fishing in your kayak. If you’re going to be fishing inshore waters, small lakes, or in areas around dock and bridge pilings or along the shoreline, you’ll benefit from a shorter rod.
The primary benefit of a shorter rod is that you can cast them more accurately, especially from a kayak. This characteristic is crucial when you need to skip a perfect cast into some mangroves or around two dock pilings.
But, if you’re fishing in the ocean or large lake, where you don’t have to worry about casting accurately, all the benefits of a shorter rod would be lost. If you’re fishing open water, a longer rod is going to provide significant casting distance,
The Fish You’re Targeting
The fish you’re targeting will not only influence the power and action of the rod you choose but the length as well. If you’re fishing for a species that requires a powerful hookset, or if you’re fishing for large saltwater gamefish, a longer rod is going to provide more leverage.
When you’re fishing from a seated position, you’re already at a disadvantage in terms of leverage, so a longer rod comes in handy when you’re targeting larger fish.
Rod Power and Action
When you’re choosing a fishing rod for your kayak, you’ll also want to consider the power and action of the rod.
Rod power refers to the amount of force it takes to bend the rod to its action rating. Lighter rods are intended for smaller fish, while heavier rods are for targeting bigger species. The best rod power for you depends entirely on the type of fish you’re targeting.
If you’re on the hunt for panfish and crappie, a light rod will serve you best. Bass anglers usually opt for medium power rods, while those targeting large gamefish reach for heavy power rods.
The action of a rod refers to how far down the rod it bends when force is applied to the rod. Slower rods bend further down the blank, while faster rods bend closer to the tip. Faster rods offer greater sensitivity, allowing you to feel bites or structure more easily. Fast action also allows a bit more leverage when fighting a fish, which is vital for kayak anglers.
Related article: Ideal rod power for crappie
Kayaks have nearly as broad a range of sizes as fishing rods do, and the length of your yak will be critical in determining the ideal rod length for you. Anglers need a rod that reaches at least as far as the bow of their kayak, as a matter of safety.
Kayak fishing is so incredible because it presents additional challenges that you rarely have to account for when you’re fishing from a boat or shore. But, those challenges can turn dangerous if your rod isn’t long enough for your kayak, and you find yourself fighting a giant fish.
This won’t be much of a concern for bass or panfish anglers, but if you’re targeting larger gamefish, a rod that’s long enough to extend beyond the bow of the kayak is critical.
If you hook into a large fish with a lot of fight in them, how they’re running not only affects how you fight the fish, but it also affects the way your kayak moves. If they run underneath the boat, you’ll lose all your leverage, and it’s possible for the fish to capsize your vessel as it runs.
To prevent this, all you need to do is point your rod tip to the front of the kayak and fight the fish over the bow. Of course, you can’t do this if your rod is too short. Depending on the length of your yak, you may want a rod that’s 7-feet or longer so you can maintain leverage when fighting a giant.
Related article: Tips for inflatable fishing kayaks
Tips for Selecting the Perfect Kayak Rod
Fishing from a kayak presents several challenges, and there are some things you can do to help mitigate those difficulties and make things easier for you when you’re on the water. Keep these tips in mind when you’re selecting your next kayak rod or hitting the water for a day of fishing.
Choose a Rod with a Shorter Butt
One of the biggest challenges for kayak anglers is managing the butt of the rod. Given your low center of gravity in a kayak, there’s limited clearance between the kayak and the butt of the rod. With little clearance, it’s more challenging to cast, work techniques, or fight a fish.
Fishing a rod with a shorter butt provides a little extra distance between the end of the rod and your kayak. The trade-off with losing length of the butt of your rod is that it can throw off the balance of the rod as you fight a fish (which brings us to our next point.)
Related article: Tips for fishing from kayaks
Fish Before You Buy
Many kayak-specific fishing rods with shorter butt ends are a bit unwieldy compared to a rod with a standard butt. The shorter end can present some issues with balance when you’re fighting a large fish. Unfortunately, you usually don’t realize that a rod offers poor balance until it’s too late.
If you can, see if you can borrow the specific rod you’re shopping for from a buddy or purchase a rod that offers a generous return policy so you can head back to the drawing board if you find out the rod doesn’t meet your needs.
For most of us, this is wishful thinking. Once you leave the shop with the rod, it’s yours, and unless you have a ton of gearhead buddies, you probably don’t have anyone who can lend you the exact rod you’re considering.
At the very least, someone at the tackle shop can grab the rod tip while you put some pressure on the rod so you can simulate what it’ll be like when you’re hooked into a nice fish. As you lift up on the rod, note whether it feels balanced in your hand and how much leverage you have.
As a rule of thumb, you want to fish a rod with the shortest butt possible from a kayak, provided you can still get plenty of leverage with the rod under your elbow.
Consider a Two-Piece Rod
Space always comes at a premium when you’re fishing from a kayak. If your yak has a rod holder, you won’t have to worry much about safely storing your rod when you need to paddle or use your hands for something else. But, some kayaks don’t have rod holders, and even if they do, it’s nice to have the option to safely stow your rod away when you aren’t fishing.
Serious anglers generally prefer one-piece rods, but two-piece models have come a long way from the old days. These days, they’re just as sensitive and sturdy as a one-piece rod, but they’re much easier to store away on a kayak than a one-piece rod.
Having a two-piece rod is especially useful if you bring multiple rods with you when you fish from the kayak. This way, you can have a long rod and a short rod to use for different fishing scenarios or a backup rod should anything go wrong with your main one when you’re on the water.
Don’t Break the Bank at First
Many kayak anglers make the mistake of shelling out serious cash to buy a rod for their kayak, only to discover months down the line it isn’t quite what they wanted. Fishing gear is far from cheap, and you could easily spend $500 or more on a high-end outfit for your kayak.
Before you consider spending big on a custom rod for your kayak, hit the water for a little while with a cheap setup. This way, you can determine what you like and don’t like and what you ultimately need from your kayak rod. Once you know exactly what you want, you’ll be able to get much more bang for your buck when you spend big on a custom kayak rod.
Are Shorter Rods Better for Kayaks?
The best rod length for a kayak depends on the type of fishing you’re doing. Shorter rods provide better casting accuracy, so they’re best when fishing inshore around cover, bridges, docks, and other obstacles.
Is a 7-Foot Rod Too Long for a Kayak?
Most people find that a 7-foot rod is an ideal length for a kayak. These rods are short enough to provide decent accuracy while also allowing the angler to launch long casts. If you’re fishing around heavy cover, bridges, and docks, a shorter, more accurate rod may be best. Otherwise, a rod that’s 7’ or longer is preferred by most kayak anglers.
Best Rod and Reel for Saltwater Kayak?
Saltwater kayak anglers usually prefer spinning rods and reels between 7’-9’. A medium to heavy rod with fast action is well suited to the needs of saltwater kayak anglers. If you’re fishing inshore and around cover, a rod on the shorter end of the spectrum is preferred, while open-water anglers usually prefer longer rods.
Do I Need a Special Rod for my Kayak?
If there’s one thing true of anglers, we love new gear. But, there’s no need to run out and buy a special rod to use when fishing from your yak. Except for huge surfcasting outfits that are too large to cast while seated, almost any fishing rod can be used to fish from a kayak.
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