Tactics for Catching Trout from a Kayak

When I bought my first kayak almost ten years ago, the first place I went was to a High Sierra lake in search of some trout. Since then, I have fished


By: Kevin Hofer

When I bought my first kayak almost ten years ago, the first place I went was to a High Sierra lake in search of some trout. Since then, I have fished over 150 lakes in my kayak, the majority of which I was targeting trout. I’m excited to share my go-to techniques and some tips I’ve learned along the way to hopefully put more fish on the end of your line.

When I first started fishing, I used what my grandpa had taught me to use– a set of Half-Fast flashers with a leader and a worm. I would troll this set up around the lake and, yes, I would catch fish, but the drag of those large flashers took away from the fight of the fish. I enjoy eating trout very much, but as many say, "the tug is the drug". To get more fight out of the fish, I began trying micro flashers and finally found a setup I liked: a small 4-inch Seps dodger or one of the smaller teardrop-shaped ones with a 7"-12" leader followed by a worm, lure, or fly.

This setup has caught me hundreds if not thousands of trout. Predominantly rainbows, brooks, and cutthroat but the occasional brown will fall for it as well. If the water is cool or the fish are feeding on top, trolling with this setup will work just fine without any added weight. If the fish are deep, then a small banana weight or lead core line can be added. The fish will often follow and not bite if you are going the same speed in a straight line. Speeds from 1-2mph are ideal for this setup and I recommend varying your speed and occasionally doing zigzags to help trigger more strikes.

Trout Thumbnail

While on the subject of trolling, I feel compelled to share that my second most productive method is hooking on a silver and blue Kastmaster or a J-5 Rapalla in a rainbow trout pattern, letting out some line, and trolling around. If I am trying to target German browns, then I will up the size of the Rapala and usually troll it on the lead core near the bottom.

As well as trolling the Kastmaster, it is also an amazing search bait when you are just drifting around in the kayak. For the first few retrieves, be sure to not let it sink. If there are no hits, for the next few casts let it sink for 5 seconds and retrieve. If you continue to have no hits, then continue. Try 10 sec and so on until you find where in the water column or by what type of cover/structure the fish are at.

My second favorite lure to cast and/or troll around is the Thomas Buoyant either in red and gold or in rainbow trout pattern. The brook trout seem to love the gold and red Buoyant.

Now that I’ve covered my favorite trolling setups and lures to cast, I will get into what has become one of my favorite methods to catch all varieties of trout, both large and small: the jig. Jigs come in all sorts of varieties; the first I ever used for trout was a mini tube jig. I keep the Berkley Power bait mini tubes in grasshopper or white in my box at all times. Slowly and stealthily moving my way along the shoreline, I will toss the jig, let it sink for a while, then reel it in twitching here and there until a hungry fish takes it.

Pelican Catch

If you are fishing in artificial waters, you can either find the small tube jigs unscented or you can go to one of my other favorites, the marabou jig. My personal best 30+inch cutthroat came on a 1/8 ounce marabou jig. I fish them similar to the mini tubes, though, with a little bit of extra weight, I can feel the bottom better and can hop it along the rocks. I’ve caught golden trout, German browns, steelhead, brook trout, cutthroats, rainbows, and even a tiger trout on marabou jigs, so don’t be hesitant to try them in any body of water!

There are many different ways to target trout from the kayak, so try out a few different techniques and see which is most productive and enjoyable for you. No way is the right or only way; sometimes you may have to try a few different things before you figure out what the fish are in the mood for that day.