Welcome to the wonderful world of kayak angling, a fun and effective way to catch fish. Whether you own a sit-in or a sit-on-top model, outfitting a kayak for fishing isn't much different than outfitting any other boat. The small size and storage limitations of these vessels usually create the biggest challenges when outfitting a kayak. But don't fret — there's plenty of gear to help turn your kayak into a full-fledged fishing machine.
Since you can't hold a fishing pole while paddling, rod holders are critical to kayak angling, and multiple holders allow you to bring several outfits on your kayak fishing trips.
It's common practice to have one or two rod holders in front. Use removable holders so that you can take them out when not in use or during transport. Mount holders within reach, but don't mount them so close that they interfere with paddling and landing fish. Adding height extensions to your rod holders is useful so that you don't have to bend too far to grab the rod.
Most anglers will set up at least two rod holders behind the cockpit, placing one holder on each side. Flush mount holders work well for this application. This way, when not storing rods, holders won't clutter the kayak.
Another popular approach is mounting a a rod holder system, like Bass Pro Shops 3-Position Rod Rack, to a milk crate or office box. Secure the holder in place with stainless steel nuts and bolts or use zip-ties. Most sit-on-top kayak tank wells will hold a crate and bungee cords and will help keep the accessory secure when paddling.
It's best to buy a kayak flotation vest. Kayak-specific designs allow for plenty of upper body movement so that you're not constricted when paddling or casting.
Some flotation vests come with storage pockets — perfect for things like pliers, a tackle box or a portable VHF radio. Another popular option with many anglers are auto-inflatable vests, such as Mustang Survival's Deluxe Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket. The lack of bulk affords kayak anglers plenty of unrestricted movement in the boat.
A black vest may look cool in the store, but you'll likely find it warm to wear on hot days if it doesn't have adequate ventilation. You're better off buying colors like yellow and red. They don't absorb as much heat as black and are more visible on the water.
Find the right spot for a fish finder so that it doesn't interfere with a paddling stroke.
You can outfit a kayak with plenty of angling electronics. If offshore, a GPS unit is critical to safely navigating low-light or foggy conditions. GPS units are also handy for storing the coordinates of your favorite fishing spots. Get either a watertight portable unit or consider purchasing a GPS/sonar combo unit.
A fish finder is another great option when outfitting your fishing kayak. Either a portable unit or a model that you mount will work. Most fishing kayaks have console space for a small mount. If using a bigger unit, consider purchasing a RAM mount or Johnny Ray mount to create a customized, adjustable set-up for your electronics. The transducer can be mounted to shoot through the hull.
Carry a portable, waterproof VHF radio if offshore fishing. Get a durable model with a good waterproof seal.
Lastly, if you plan to fish at dusk or dawn, carry some portable navigation lights so that you are visible to other boaters.
Storage is a common topic of discussion amongst kayak anglers, and there is no shortage of options to consider. Use dry bags and secure them on top of the kayak with bungee cords to keep items dry. Bungee cords are also great for keeping rain gear secure but accessible when needed.
Packing gear in the bow and stern hatches also works. Use hard-plastic watertight containers to store fragile items.
Kayak storage deck bags are another way to increase storage space, and some are specifically designed for fishing. Deck bags have plenty of pockets and compartments to hold your tackle and gear. They easily mount on top of the kayak with bungee cords.
Other storage options include various kayak utility packs, soft coolers and small fanny packs.
Tackle Boxes and Trays
It's likely you'll purchase a variety of tackle trays to hold fishing tackle. Some kayak cockpits come with spots to hold trays. Measure these spots first to get a snug-fitting tray and maximize storage space.
You can also carry small trays in your vest or in cargo pant pockets. Purchase watertight models to prevent your baits from getting wet, which can lead to rusty hooks. The Plano Waterproof Stowaway Utility Boxes are perfect for this task.
If bait fishing is your game, most fishing kayaks have tank wells with contoured notches to hold a bait bucket. Bungee cords are also standard on most tank wells to keep things secure on the water. A variety of buckets are available with plenty of features. The Malibu Kayaks Five Gallon Bait Bucket is one example. An aerator is a worth while add-on to keep minnows and shrimp lively, and a dip net helps you capture bait easily.
The Boga Grip can help land a fish easier while in a kayak.
You'll want to bring some fishing tools along with you in your kayak. A lanyard is helpful to keep things like clippers, scissors, forceps and a hook file within reach. Carrying pliers or a multi-tool lets you quickly remove hooks from fish. Store them in a sheath on your belt for quick access.
Fishing nets or other landing devices, such as a Boga Grip or a grip master, help when landing fish from a kayak.
A small anchor is an important fishing accessory. Use it fishing to stay put when fishing a specific piece of structure. Consider getting an anchor — they're well worth it on windy, wavy days.
Sea anchors, also called drift socks, are useful to maintain boat position in windy conditions and rough water. To get the most our of an anchor or a drift sock, be sure to install a kayak anchor trolley kit as these let you fine tune the position of the line for best positioning.
For extra cushioning and a much more comfortable day on the water, buy a high-end kayak seat or seat back, such as the Ocean Kayak Comfort Tech Adjustable Kayak Seat. Most quality kayaking seats come with lumbar support. Kayak seats also feature adjustable straps, letting you adjust the seat angle for a customized fit.
Safety and First Aid Kit
Carry a safety kit in your kayak. Check on-the-water requirements for your state or province to determine what you're mandated to carry. At a minimum, though, you'll want the following: a whistle, signal mirror, bilge pump, bail or sponge, throw rope and a flash light with working batteries.
A small first-aid kit should be in your boat at all times. Store it in a water-tight container and keep it within reach.
Pack a good assortment of products to protect you from the sun and insects. Use a small tote or container to carry the essentials, such as sunscreen, lip balm with an SPF rating and bug repellant. Make sure you pack plenty of water to stay hydrated. Paddling requires a lot of physical effort and you'll need more water than you normally do when fishing from a motorized boat.
Consider picking up a few of these items when you're rigging your kayak for fishing. They'll help keep you organized on the water, which should help you catch a few more fish this season.