Oddly enough, and despite the enormous growth in the popularity of kayaking, there are no kayaks specifically designed for fishing. Although some manufacturers market “fishing” versions of their boats, this often means no more than the addition of a rod holder and anchor. So, while the new wave of inexpensive and stable polyethylene kayaks is in some ways ideal for the sport, eventually you’ll need to rig one for fishing.
Most rigging problems and solutions apply equally to the three kayak types I described in the last issue: sit-on-top styles; slim, enclosed-cockpit touring kayaks; and the shorter and more stable, large-cockpit recreational boats. Here are a few things you need to know at the outset.
Don’t permanently add accessories like rod holders to your kayak before using the boat. Paddling and fishing from your new kayak a few times will allow you to better decide what accessories might be most useful and where on the hull they can be best installed to suit your needs. A little patience and forethought here go a long way in avoiding aggravating gear changes later.
The most widely distributed, inexpensive kayaks are made of rotomolded polyethylene. That hull material won’t bond well with common glues because it’s smooth, nonporous, and chemically inert. Therefore, most attachments will be added with mechanical fasteners such as Pop Rivets or small machine screws and nuts made of stainless steel or brass.
A caveat: Some anglers will be tempted to add an anchor system featuring a bow-mounted pulley. This would allow a bow-mounted anchor to be easily operated from the cockpit, but it’s also a guaranteed disaster. Sooner or later the anchor line will tangle on the pulley, and you won’t be able to release or even cut it. Now you’re in big trouble. There’s just no way you can crawl to a kayak’s bow, and the only way to clear the line is to swim.
** Essential Accessories**
Like climbing or mountain biking, kayaking is a minimalist sport, which is part of the appeal. It’s about as close to nature as you can get and still stay dry.
That means you won’t haul tons of tackle in your fishing kayak; you need to pare things down to a few essentials.
I carry a small compass and a rescue whistle (which is both easier and louder than yelling if you need help) on a lanyard around my neck. The pocket in my (mandatory) flotation vest holds a serrated-blade knife, easily reached for any emergency cutting chores. I also wear a breathable paddling or rain jacket with two large patch-style pockets, each of which holds a box of lures or flies, plus pliers and line clippers. Not only are many essentials thus taken care of before I even sit in the boat, but I can easily reach them while seated in the cockpit.
Fishing-rod stowage is perhaps the biggest problem. I’ve installed rod holders on several of my kayaks, which work well for both stowing an extra rod and for trolling. Use rod holders that detach from their flat mounting bases, so you can remove them to put the kayak atop your car. Some like their rod holders behind their kayak seat; others in front. I’m with the front crowd. Not only do I then not have to turn around to reach a rod-which invites a loss of balance-but I can watch the rod tip and check a lure’s action when paddling and trolling. And in the event of a strike, a front-mounted rod is easier to grab quickly.
Mounting Rod Holders
After using your kayak a few times without holders, you’ll have a good idea of where you’d like to mount one or two bases. Make sure the holders won’t interfere with your normal paddling stroke. Use the bases to lay out a drilling pattern, then drill the hull as needed for mounting. Use silicone sealer between the bases and the hull to prevent any water from dribbling in the holes. And use large fender washers under the nuts inside the hull to better distribute stress.
SSome kayak dealers offer rod clips as an accessory item. These are simple U-shaped clips that can be fastened to the upper sides of the hull alongside the cockpit to hold rods when traveling. Paddle clips work in similar fashion, handily keeping your paddle out of the way while you fish. And, of course, you’ll want a paddle leash (one end fastens to the middle of your paddle; the other end clips to a deck cleat) so that your paddle won’t disappear if you drop it or capsize. Finally, you might also want to fasten a short cord between your own life vest and the boat hull. If you do tip over, it’s otherwise very disconcerting to watch the wind blow your boat away faster than you can swim after it.
I use a special deck-mounted bag on the foredeck of touring and some recreational sit-inside boats. These waterproof bags are available from a variety of makers, and their clip-on mounting position allows easy access just by leaning forward in the seat. Here I carry more lure boxes as needed, lunch, water, sunscreen, a cell phone (just in case, and in another waterproof bag), a portable GPS unit, and navigation charts if needed. And yes, a plastic pee jar tucked down near my thighs in the cockpit.
Many sit-on-top boats and some recreational boats with larger cockpits won’t accommodate the same style of deck-mounted bag, in which case you can use a small, waterproof boating bag to hold the same items. Make sure to clip or otherwise fasten the bag to the hull. In most cases, there will be ample room for such a bag between or around your legs.