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How to Troll on a Kayak: Setup Techniques & Tips

Trolling on a kayak is a form of kayak fishing, which is similar to how boats are used for trolling.

Even though there are some major differences between how you troll on a kayak compared to how you boat troll, many people still refer to how they fish from kayaks as “trolling” even if the types of lures and techniques they use don’t exactly follow how they would troll with a boat.

Quick Pro Tip

Before going into detail, there are three important quick tips when trolling on a kayak. They are utilizing a rod, mastering your speed, and taking advantage of stealth.

Utilizing a rod for trolling on a kayak – You can use a casting or a spinning rod when you’re trolling on a kayak. The recommended rod length should be 7’6″ to 7″10 in length while on a kayak. It’s important that you have the right rod setup when trolling on a kayak because it will help you achieve the maximum amount of control when you’re on the water.

Master Your Speed – It’s important to master your speed when you’re trolling on a kayak. If you go too fast or too slow, your lures won’t be able to generate the type of action that is needed to entice fish to bite. To master your speed when trolling, practice how far apart the rod tip should be from where the lure extends out from the water and how long it should take for one depth level of your depth finder to reach another depth level.

Take Advantage of Stealth – One major advantage that you have when fishing from a kayak is how stealthy they are; unlike motorboats which make noise and eventually spook fish as they get closer, kayaks can approach fish without them knowing because there’s very little surface disturbance as move through the water. Consider how you can use this to your advantage and how that will impact how likely it is for you to catch a fish.

Trolling Setup for Kayak

Setting up a kayak for trolling is key. There are four important factors when setting up and they are speed, lure weight and shape, line and length, and rod tip elevation.

1. Speed – Speed is how fast you are going when fishing. Faster speeds will allow your kayak to go over rougher waters, and slower speeds mean smoother waters. However, how fast you troll is not the maximum speed of the kayak; rather it is how fast you can paddle while trolling that dictates how fast your kayak will go.

It’s best for trolling if you travel somewhere between 2-3 mph while paddling and 1-2 mph while backpaddling. This will provide a good balance between comfortable fishing and enough speed to cover some ground quickly.

2. Lure Weight and Shape – The lure weight and shape have a significant impact on how you troll. How much weight you use is determined by how deep your fishing area is. If you are trolling in very deep water, it’s best to use heavier weights since the water is that much deeper.

For example, if you are trolling in 100-300 feet of water, 20 lbs. of lead should be sufficient for most lures and bait used when kayak fishing. However, for anything under 100 feet of depth having 40+ lbs. of weight is advised if possible since most lures will not be enough to get them down to the fish so adding more weight will help ensure they get down there faster with less chance of getting hung up or snagged on rocks or coral.

3. Line and Length The line and length of how you troll affect how far the lure will be from your kayak. In general, you can use a depth of anywhere from 4-20 feet for fishing while trolling on a kayak depending on the water depth and how deep it is where fish are found.

However, what length line you use depends on how big the bait or lure is, how fast your kayak can go, and how many times it wraps around your paddle when you have your rod in the rod holder. If the lure or bait is very large or heavy, more line is needed so it can get down to where fish are without being snagged up on rocks since there isn’t enough weight attached to pull it downwards.

Though most people only need around 10 feet of line to troll with a kayak, it’s best to have a little more so you don’t run the risk of having your lure or bait getting snagged on rocks.

4. Rod Tip Elevation – The rod tip elevation depends on how high or how low you hold your rod while trolling. The higher you hold your rod, the more aggressive action it will have when pulling through the water due to how much more of the line is above the surface of the water compared to how much is submerged under it.

On the flip side, holding your rod lower below the surface creates a softer swimming motion that has no pops and twitches in its movement since there isn’t as much tension on how far up or down your line is being pulled.

One benefit of trolling with a kayak instead of a boat is how easy it makes setting up for multiple rods due to how compact things are when fishing from one kayak.

For example, if you plan to troll with two rods, it’s best to hold the rod tip slightly higher than how you would hold your other rod so when they both pop up and down in the water you can easily tell which one should be kept on because it is the one with a lower tip.

Trolling Fishing by Kayak Type

You can troll fish with three different types of kayaks and they are paddle, pedal, and motorized kayaks.

Paddle Kayak

Paddle kayaks for trolling come with multiple rod holders to place rods how you want them. One downside to paddle kayaks is how tiring it can be paddling while trolling due to how much momentum is lost for how little speed it gains.

What’s great about using a paddle kayak for trolling however is how easy it is to get around the water. If there are multiple areas you want to try out for fishing, it’s much faster than paddling in a pedal kayak since all of your momentum is not lost when trying to go quickly.

Pedal Kayak

Pedal kayaks are very easy and convenient to control since your pedal drive controls both how fast you go forward or backward as well as how much steering you can do by turning the entire kayak one way or another.

The only potential downsides to using a pedal kayak for trolling fishing are how large your footpads need to be if you plan on placing more than two-rod holders, and how expensive pedal systems cost compared to their alternatives.

Motorized Kayak

Motorized kayaks are how you get the most speed when trolling fishing. Motorized kayaks are how you have maximum control over how much steering you can do while also having how fast or slow your kayak goes, although it does take a little more time to master how to use them perfectly compared to their alternatives.

The only potential downside to using motorized kayaks is how loud they are and how this may scare off fish in an area where quiet kayaks are preferred since it implies there could be something dangerous around or that other people are already in the area which scares fish away from where they live.

Trolling for Specific Fishes

1. Trout: Trolling on a kayak for trout is how you can cover more ground in a shorter amount of time compared to other types of kayak fishing.

These fish like how long it takes lures or baits to sink all the way down to the bottom where they are, so if you hold your rod tip high while trolling on a kayak it creates an aggressive swimming pattern that is how trout will be attracted to how fast it goes through the water since this is how they hunt their prey.

2. Salmon: When trolling for salmon while on a kayak, you want how lure or bait moves through the water to have a slower swimming motion so these fish will notice how much weight it is attached and how far anything was thrown from them.

Holding your rod lower while trolling creates a slower swimming motion in how far and how much your rod tips move in and out of the water so salmon will want to investigate how it moves.

3. Largemouth Bass: When trolling for largemouth bass you want how your lure or bait swims to be somewhere in between how fast trout like it, and how slow salmon like it because these fish like their food almost as aggressive as trout but not quite as sluggish as salmon.

Another benefit of using a kayak for these fish is that when they bite anything attached to a pole, it’ll be hard for them to get away since they can easily be reeled in if they try running off with any line attached.

4. Crappie: Trolling on a kayak for crappies is how you can cover the most water aside from how much ground you could cover if you were just paddling.

These fish are skittish since they are near much other fish which makes them scare easily. Because of how near other fish live, how slow your lure or bait swims is how these fish will be attracted to how much noise it creates because this is how they avoid predators.

5. Walleye: Trolling on a kayak for walleye are how you can cover the most ground in a shorter amount of time compared to how much other types of kayak fishing can accomplish.

These fish are aggressive hunters and how fast anything is moving towards them will scare them off, so if how far your rod tips move up or down creates how fast your lure or bait swims it’ll be more likely for walleye to notice how it moves faster since this is how they hunt their prey.

6. Catfish: Trolling on a kayak for catfish are how you can cover the most water compared to how much other types of kayak fishing can accomplish.

These fish are attracted how large your rod tips move up or down which creates how fast anything is moving towards them, so holding how far your rod tips move up and down fairly low will increase how much movement there is in how it moves through the water which catfish will be more likely to investigate if they’re hungry since this is how large animals would swim by.

Final Thoughts on How to Troll on a Kayak

Trolling on a kayak is how you can cover the most ground in how much time it takes since how far your rod tips move up and down create how fast any lure or bait moves through the water so it’ll be more likely for fish to notice how they move when trolling.

There are methods of trolling when on a kayak for specific types of fish such as how fast they like their food compared to how slow they like their food and how quiet or aggressive something swimming through the water is depending on what type of fish you might be trying to catch.

Trolling on a kayak will require some practice if novices aren’t used to controlling how softly or strongly anything attached to a pole swings, but there are many benefits of how a kayak allows you to cover how much ground in how short of time so it’s definitely worth learning how to do.

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