How to Paddle Your Fishing Kayak

3-minute read + 10-minute video

It’s not uncommon for kayak anglers to dismiss the need to learn proper paddling technique. But kayak fishing veteran and Bending Branches ProStaffer, Chad Hoover, learned that learning paddling skills makes you a better angler.

woman paddling her fishing kayak

“Early on in my fishing career I said, ‘I don’t need to learn how to paddle. I’m a fisherman, not a kayaker.’ Then I realized after paddling 60-70 miles a week for the first ten years of kayak fishing that I was actually a paddler, whether I liked it or not,” says Chad.

“So if you want to invest in becoming a better kayak angler, invest in becoming a better paddler.”

In the video below, Chad demonstrates how to hold your paddle properly, as well as a some key strokes and techniques you’ll want to master:

Hold Your Paddle Properly

Chad likes to use the hand he throws with as his glue hand. It remains glued to the paddle at all times—not in a death grip, but lightly and firmly. Line your top knuckles up with the paddle blade’s top edge.

His other hand he calls his grease hand. His fingers are looser, and it allows the paddle to rotate underneath it.

Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart on the shaft, forming a box when you hold it above your head.

Strokes to Use with Your Fishing Kayak

Draw Stroke

The draw stroke is used to move your kayak sideways in the water. It’s helpful when you want to pull yourself into position quietly, get next to another angler—anytime you want a side motion instead of moving forward or backwards. The technique, as Chad says is, “like spreading butter on toast.”

Sweep Stroke

Sweep strokes can be forward or backward, and are used to pivot the nose of your kayak quickly. You’ll start in close to the kayak and sweep out.

Forward Stroke

The forward stroke is the most-used stroke. It’s the one that brings you to your fishing spots. It’s most effective when your catch (the point where the blade enters the water) is close to the side of the boat—not out away from it. Draw the blade back as close to the side of the kayak as you can without hitting it.

When you’ve gotten to the spot where you’re ready to cast, use your paddle to stop the kayak from its forward momentum by simply placing it vertically in the water next to you with the blade perpendicular to the side of your kayak.

man doing a forward stroke in his fishing kayak

(photo courtesy of Hendrik Dierks)

It’s important to stop your forward momentum before you cast. Otherwise it’ll be harder to set the hook and reel in if you get a bite, because you’ll be moving toward the fish.

Keep Your Paddle Quiet in the Water

With your forward stroke (and really, all your strokes), paddle gently to prevent splash. If you keep the blades in the water as much as possible you’ll have less splash to warn the fish.

Chad likes to put a 30º feather angle on his paddle blades so he can pull each blade out of the water on its edge rather than its face. That helps further reduce any splash.

When you’re ready to set your paddle down and pick up your rod, don’t let your paddle bang on the boat. “That’s like beating on a drum—that’s going to spook fish,” says Chad. “Be stealthy and deliberate in the way you paddle. You’ll catch more fish because you’ll spook less fish.”

He points out that even pedal anglers need to learn how to paddle. You could have a mechanical failure or you could be in water that’s too shallow for the pedal system. Plus, paddles are quieter than both pedals and electric motors.

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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