John Eichelsheim dealt with choosing a kayak and the basic components involved, including transportation options. In part two, he looks at accessory and safety options…
The title of this series says it all: ‘Simple kayak fishing’. I love fishing from my kayaks, but I try and keep things as simple as I can. There’s a great deal to be said for hassle-free boating: if it’s easy to get out on the water you’ll go out more often and that’s my kayak fishing philosophy as well.
The majority of sit-on-top kayaks have at least two moulded rod holders, but some are equipped with more and many are supplied with a universal mounting – a StarPort or similar fitting – that accepts an adjustable rod holder.
I only ever carry two or three rods, so the two rod holders behind the seat and the adjustable one in front of the foot-well works fine for me. The rod holders are used primarily for stowage, though I sometimes angle the rod holder slightly to the side and troll a lure from it. That way I can see the strike.
There are lots of solutions for additional rod storage, including kayak gear/tackle bags with built-in rod holders. These are designed to fit in the well behind the seat.
Another option is to fit multiple rod holders to a rail that mounts on a universal fitting. I use a Railblaza TracPort with three StarPort receptacles, which I’ve positioned across the front of my craft.
The possibilities are endless, with dozens of deck fittings, pole mounts and rod holders, along with mounting systems for electronics, cameras, phones and tablets available from kayak specialists. However, this article is about keeping it simple: I generally limit myself to three rods, which means I don’t need much extra deck hardware.
Tethers are a worthwhile investment for your rods and anything else that could be lost overboard. A tether is mandatory for the paddle: lose it and you are without any means of returning to shore.
Because I usually fish soft-baits or hard-bodied lures, not bait, I don’t often carry an anchor aboard my kayak. I do, however, carry a drogue or sea anchor.
My larger kayak has a pulley system along the port side to which I attach the drogue (or anchor) line. I can then position the drogue at the bow or stern, or amidships if conditions allow, ditto for the anchor. When I want to retrieve the anchor, the pulley system brings it easily to hand. A sea-anchor trip-line is handy, but not essential, because the drogues used when kayak fishing are small.
With the exception of a handheld VHF radio, in my opinion marine electronics are a luxury aboard a kayak – nice to have, but not absolutely necessary.
I haven’t mounted a fish-finder on either of my ‘yaks. That’s not because I don’t see the value of one, but rather because I catch plenty of fish without a sounder.
A decent colour fish-finder, plus battery and transducer specified for kayak use, can cost almost as much as the vessel itself, though there are cheaper units available for much less. With a bit of DIY skill, any waterproof sounder can be mounted on a kayak. The handy sorts among you would have no trouble mounting a sounder to your kayak and fabricating a waterproof box for the battery. Snap-close plastic boxes can be easily adapted to store batteries below decks or even in the cockpit.
A GPS is a handy electronic tool to have too, making it easier to navigate and track your drifts when fishing, but GPS and chart-plotting smartphone apps are readily available for a fraction of the price of a dedicated GPS-chartplotter.
I have an old but functional sounder lying around in my garage. It’s an Eagle unit, very basic, with a blocky, monotone LCD display powered by four D-size dry-cell batteries. It was designed as a portable unit with a clamshell case containing the pivoting display, batteries, suction-cup transducer and cable. I used it for years in my dinghy.
I keep meaning to extricate the display from the case and mount it on my kayak. It would be a simple matter of then knocking up a battery housing from a plastic container and some silicone sealer, fitting the transducer into the kayak’s moulded transducer well, running the transducer cable to the display, and routing the wires through the deck to the battery housing.
But I haven’t bothered, because I mostly fish close to shore, often in water where I can see the bottom, and cast lures towards visible structure in waters I know well. One day I’ll probably get
around to it – or invest in a high-performance fish-finder/GPSchartplotter unit that bolts on with minimum fuss. For now, though, I’ll save myself the trouble and expense.
A VHF radio, on the other hand, is a must have. I carry a waterproof handheld unit in the pocket of my PFD. The handheld VHF cost less than $100. In the other pocket is my Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), a safety aid I always carry (see ‘Safety gear’).
I use the Navionics app on my iPhone for GPS-chart-plotting, which works fine provided there is cellphone coverage and the phone is a second means of communication.
Having a PFD is a must, preferably one designed for kayakers so you can sit in a kayak seat comfortably. Pockets are useful.
The aforementioned PLB and VHF radio are highly recommended, plus my cell phone, and a pole flag so other water users can see me more easily. If operating at night, a pole light is a good idea, and always carry a torch.
Suitable clothing is another safety consideration, particularly in winter. Staying warm, even when wet, is extremely important – not only for your comfort and enjoyment, but for safety. It’s very easy to become cold, and when we get cold we make poor decisions.
The best clothing for kayak fishing breathes, and neoprene is welcome in winter, especially for leggings.
Try and avoid taking too much gear. As a lure fisher, I make do with a maximum of three rods: one rigged with, say, a soft-bait, one with a micro-jig or inchiku, and one with a trolling lure. Use leashes on your rods, especially if negotiating the surf.
My tackle box contains the bare essentials and is small enough to fit into the console between my feet. It is filled with gear that’s appropriate to the fishing I’ll be doing that day, so generally
consists of trace, jig heads, a small selection of jigs, and perhaps a spare trolling lure. Bait fishers will also need to carry bait and probably berley too, along with a bait-cutting board and a knife.
Other essentials include a short-handled net. It needn’t be too large, because oversize nets get in the way in small craft. I also carry a lip-grip tool for handling large fish. Some kayak fishers carry a gaff, but I don’t bother. Consider attaching a float to gaffs, nets, Boga grips and the like, just in case they are dropped or slip overboard.
I store ice and my catch in an insulated catch bag behind the seat; some anglers carry a chilly bin instead, but make sure its secured to the ‘yak.
Always store your car keys somewhere where they can’t be lost overboard in a dry bag or sealed box.
Kayak fishing is no different to any other type of boating and the same rules apply. Watch the weather and don’t go fishing if conditions are unsuitable. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back, and be prepared to curtail a trip if conditions change.
If you are beach launching and retrieving with surf to negotiate, keep a close eye on swell conditions while out fishing to avoid a nasty surprise when you get back to the beach. Deteriorating sea conditions while you’re out fishing can result in a serious shore break and a hairy ride back to shore at best.
AND THAT’S all there is to it – unless you go nuts on kayak fishing, as some do, and decide to go to the next level…
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