Throwing Stickbaits From The Kayak

The Most Fun You’ve Ever Had.

Have you ever nearly nodded off while drifting or trolling a live bait from the kayak?  If so, you’re not alone.  I personally have a hard time slowing down enough to fish a live bait these days, for the simple fact that it’s just not as fun as lure fishing.  If you’re looking for pure fishing entertainment, you’ve got to add stick bait technique into your repertoire.  One of the reasons this technique works so well from the kayak is that the baits themselves are stealthy and quiet, so you amplify your already stealthy approach by gliding in on the kayak.  

No Down Time

Throwing a stick bait is all about staying active.  No matter what style of bait you’re throwing – lipped or lipless, sinking, floating or suspending – it’s constant action.  Most of the time, being successful with a stick bait is a numbers game.  The more casts you make, the more opportunity for success.  You’ll find that many times, a properly presented stick bait actually has the ability to call a single fish or two in from quite a ways away.  Don’t get me wrong, fishing dead water is never overly productive, but the beauty of casting a stick bait is that even the most subtle sign gives you a reason to cast.  Simply pedal along, looking for signs of life to stop and cast to.  Even better is when you have a visual target to cast to (i.e. breezing fish). 

The Proper Rod and Reel

As I’ve alluded to in previous articles, the kayak gives you the luxury of being able to get away with relatively lighter gear than what would be acceptable from a larger boat or sportboat.  A kayak hull has so little drag in the water, you’re essentially able to wind the kayak to the fish rather than the fish to the kayak.  Fishing a lighter rod and reel allows for more casting distance and a funner fight.  How heavy or light you choose to fish of course is dependent on what type of structure you’re fishing around.  For that single reason, I always lean toward heavier rather than lighter. Depending on the style of bait I’m using, I have two favorite setups: 

  1. Daiwa Lexa 400 TW + Proteus Inshore Trigger Grip 8’ Heavy Casting Rod + 65 lb J-Braid Grand + 60 lb AFTCO Saiko Pro Fluorocarbon Leader
  2. Daiwa Saltist 5000 + Proteus 7’6” Heavy Spinning Rod + 65 lb J-Braid Grand + 60 lb AFTCO Saiko Pro Fluorocarbon Leader


The number one tip I can give you is to not place a cast directly on the head of your target fish.  Doing so will spook the fish nine times out of ten.  Be sure to lead the fish slightly.  Put the bait in a position where they can see it, and give them a reason to pursue it.  Check the techniques below as a general guideline.  You may find the need to alter technique a bit based on sea surface conditions and wind.  When it comes to wind – I always try to have the wind at my back or diagonally at my back.  Setting up on your targets with this in mind will help you make longer, more accurate casts.  

Read Next: Must Have Gear For Kayak Fishing

Lipped Stick Baits

If you’re fishing a lipped, chuck-and-wind style bait like a Shimano Current Sniper jerk bait or a Daiwa SP Minnow, then a baitcaster is a great choice.  While the traditional sweeping method may be used, the best way to fish these two baits is with a burn-pause-burn technique.  Three or four extremely fast turns of the reel handle, followed by a 3-5 second pause can be deadly.  More often than not, fish will strike on the pause.  Don’t be afraid to work a bait all the way back to the side of the kayak too.  I’ve had plenty of fish eat a stickbait boatside. 

Lipless Stick Baits

If you’re fishing a lipless stick bait such as the Daiwa Saltiga Slider or any of the numerous specialty hand-crafted stick baits on the market, the ideal rod and reel is a spinning setup like the one listed above.  

The general idea with the retrieve on “slider” style baits is to sweep the rod horizontally and slightly downward.  This sweep causes the lure to dive subsurface with a dart out to one side.  Following the initial sweep, bring your rod tip back toward the bait as you wind up the slack in your line.  As you take up the slack from a sweep of the rod tip, the lure will dart back to the surface head-first, causing a slight splash and an incredible distressed baitfish presentation. Timing your next sweep of the rod tip is key in order to give the bait good action without it skipping out.  Getting a feel for the cadence of this retrieve takes some practice!

When the fish are foaming up and eating everything in sight, simply casting to the fish and skipping the lure back to the boat is a very effective technique.

Hooks and Terminal Tackle

When you start digging into the world of stick baits, you’ll hear a lot of buzz around terminal tackle and hooks.  Some species require upgrading, and others don’t.  I will say, these lures are designed to swim best with a certain set of hooks and hardware so it’s imperative to swim test lures if you switch out stock hooks and hardware for something more robust.  After a little trial and error, you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t. 

If I’m targeting big yellowtail or tunas, I will often switch out hooks and split rings – but only on the lures that can handle the heavier terminal tackle.  My favorite upgraded hook is an Owner ST-66 4x treble hook.  As far as attaching the hook to the lure, I typically go with Owner Hyperwire #8 or #9 split rings, depending on the size of the hook.  To the eyelet of the lure, I like to attach the same size split ring and a Spro 220 lb Power Swivel.  The split ring and power swivel on the front end of the lure allows the bait to roll and dart freely for the best action.  

Once you put some time in perfecting these lures and techniques, and experience the thrill of a big yellowtail engulfing your lure right next to the kayak, you may never look back to live bait fishing ever again! 

Howie has been fishing in Southern California salt and freshwater since he was three years old. After working under some legendary SoCal owner/operators in the charter industry, he ventured into the corporate side of the industry. As a Product Manager for Hobie, he helped develop and launch some of ...