kayak fishing

Setting Up a Kayak for Fishing

A fishing kayak is all about new adventures. Not only does a kayak allow you to access areas you may never fish otherwise, but it is also portable enough to take almost anywhere. But what does a fishing kayak need? What is the best set up to provide the best fishing experience? Join us while we run through some tips for selecting a kayak, gear selection, and how to make your kayak into the ultimate fishing machine.

What is a fishing kayak?

Although there are plenty of kayaks specifically sold as “fishing kayaks” it can be almost any kayak that has been specially outfitted for fishing. Don’t have the money to buy a new kayak with all the bells and whistles? No problem, the old paddling model you have in the back of your garage will do to start. I say to start because there is little doubt the time will come when you want to upgrade but isn’t that the case with almost any fishing gear?

Regardless of whether you are purchasing a dedicated fishing kayak or outfitting one you already have there are some features you want to look for:

Rod holders – these are the most basic of fishing accessories. Anyone who has tried to paddle while also balancing a rod on their lap or tucked under their legs can attest to the need to add rod holders before any other accessory.

Gear storage – obviously you will have plenty of gear and there needs to be a convenient, secure place to store everything from your tackle to your lunch. The best option is a built-in storage area. If this is not available a plastic milk crate will work if there is somewhere to secure it.

Dry storage – there was a time when hitting the water meant unplugging and leaving the world behind. Few of us have that option today. Plus, we also use our phones for taking pictures of our catch, navigating, and even looking up the local regulations. Having a dry storage compartment makes protecting your electronics, keys, wallet, and similar valuables much easier. Otherwise, you will need to invest in some quality dry bags.

Seating – it may not seem like a must-have, but a quality seat is without a doubt a top priority. Many standard kayaks have a hard plastic depression that may pass for a seat on short trips with the family, but they will not work for fishing. Not only are they incredibly uncomfortable, but they also limit visibility and mobility. A quality mess seat that sits a few inches above the deck will transform your kayak into the Queen Mary.

Anchor system – most kayaks do not come equipped with an anchor. However, if you are going to fish from your kayak an anchor is something you will want to install. Having the ability to stay put and fish a productive spot while the bite is hot is well worth the investment.

Construction – kayaks are made from a wide range of materials including wood, polymers, fiberglass, and even cloth. When it comes to fishing polymer or molded plastic is the way to go. These materials offer the best combination of weight, strength, and durability. Unlike wood, cloth, or fiberglass they also require less routine care. However, new materials are always being introduced so do not be afraid to investigate additional options as they become available.

Remember, when installing accessories, you need to consider how they will affect the overall performance of the kayak. You need to ensure nothing will be in the way when paddling, keep weight evenly distributed, and make sure everything can be reached without capsizing the kayak.

Types of Kayaks

The term “kayak” no longer means the same to everyone. There are several different types of kayaks available to today’s paddlers and anglers. Each has advantages and disadvantages when it comes to fishing. Let’s look at each:

Sit in – this model most closely resembles what you may think of as a traditional kayak. The operator sits in a small cockpit, or opening, surrounded by the upper hull. Storage is inside the hull and generally accessed via the cockpit, although some models now offer through-hull hatches.

Sit on Top– this is exactly what it sounds like, a kayak without a cockpit with the seat located on top of the hull. Unlike the previous type, a sit-on-top model includes a depressed deck, storage compartments, and usually a location where gear can be secured.

Inflatable – in most cases an inflatable kayak will be a sit-on-top model with the difference being it includes inflatable chambers rather than a solid or molded hull.

The following are not technically different types of kayaks but are commonly considered specific classifications:

Pedal instead of using a paddle this type utilizes a set of pedals and an under the hull propulsion system to move the kayak. This system allows the angler the use of both hands and makes it easier to maintain your station as it can easily move forward and backward.

Motorized– instead of using a paddle this type utilizes a small motor for propulsion. This motor can be mounted either on the stern or via a through-hull compartment. Like the pedal model this model allows the angler the use of both hands and increase mobility. They are also a good choice for those unable to paddle or pedal due to medical issues.

So which type is best for fishing?

As stated earlier, you can make do with almost any kayak. However, there is one design that is far superior when it comes to fishing from a kayak – the sit on top. This is the model on which almost all commercially available fishing kayaks are based and the easiest to use in a DIY conversion.

Why a sit on top? First, they offer the most room. The open design allows for a variety of users to sit comfortably as well as plenty of potential storage space. Second, it is the easiest model to mount accessories to. The flat surfaces of the gunwale and deck can accommodate plenty of aftermarket add ons including a seat, rod holders, fish finder, storage box, or even a trolling motor. Third, it is the easiest to operate once these accessories are in place. Even if you could mount such items to the other models they would likely be in the way when paddling, casting, or attempting to land a fish.

The ultimate fishing kayak would be a sit-on-top with a pedal system. In addition to the advantages listed above you also gain free use of your hands and better maneuverability. This allows you to continue to fish while moving. Once you find the perfect spot it is also a lot easier to maintain position with pedals. The only disadvantages of a pedal system are, depending on the specific design, the inability to access shallow areas and increased weight.

Good luck, good fishing!

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