Dead sticking is an often misunderstood but highly effective fishing technique for catching freshwater and saltwater fish. Dead sticking works well when kayak fishing.

What is a Dead Stick?

A dead stick is simply a standard fishing rod and reel that is equipped with tackle, lowered to a specific depth, and placed in a rod holder. Dead sticking works with artificial lures, live baits, and cut baits.

Although dead sticking can be done at anchor, it is most often practiced while drifting. Dead sticks are used when anglers need to target multiple depths at once, present a variety of baits and lures, or simply to increase the odds of hooking fish.

When fishing dead sticks it is important to place rods where they can be accessed easily. Depending on the situation, lures or baits may be set near the surface, at mid-depth, or on the bottom.

Unlike casting, the angler must rely on visual cues to detect fish on the line. Although hard strikes can occur when fishing dead stick lures, bites are often indicated by only a slight bobbing of the rod.

Black Bass

Dead sticking can be deadly technique for most species of black bass. The technique is often associated with largemouth bass due to their affinity for s-l-o-w moving lures. When scouting areas for largemouth bass, anglers sometimes employ a dead stick to provide an added element to their presentation.

Typical dead stick choices include slug baits, tube lures, hair jigs or other lures that have a natural movement at low speeds. When conditions allow lures to contact the bottom, Texas or Carolina rigged soft plastics are often effective.

The slow presentation of a dead stick lure can also be effective when searching for smallmouth bass. In addition to standard bass lures, smallmouth specialists often choose tube bodies, crawfish patterns, or other soft plastics that mimic natural prey.


Numerous variations of the dead stick technique are used to target crappie. The most popular technique, known as “spider rigging,” involves placing multiple rods around the boat in a spider-leg configuration. Each rod in a setup is baited with a live minnow and set to a specific depth. Although the practice is usually associated with larger boats, spider rigging can be successfully accomplished with properly equipped fishing kayaks.

Dead sticking can also be combined with casting to catch crappie. A typical dead stick rig might consist of a jig-minnow combination, fished under the kayak while the angler casts conventional lures along a channel edge or other structure.


Dead sticking can be extremely effective when targeting sunfish. The technique is especially effective after spawning season when bluegill, pumpkinseed, and other species tend to suspend in deep water. In these situations, a slow-moving jig fished dead stick style can produce results when casted lures may not.


Dead sticking can also be effective when fishing for pike, pickerel, and musky. These species respond to many of the same lures that are used for black bass. In addition to artificial lures, live baits can be highly effective when targeting members of the pike family.

Saltwater Species

Dead sticking can be highly effective when saltwater fishing. Dead sticks can be deployed when casting, drift fishing, or other situations. Anglers fish live or cut baits at the bottom or at mid depth to catch a variety of saltwater species including flounder, sea trout, bluefish, striped bass, and others.


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