Racks and yaks
  |  First Published: December 2014

With most of our kayak fishing taking place within an hour or so of home we have always transported our kayaks using soft racks or simply loaded them into the tray of the ute. However, with a couple of long-range adventures on the cards, the time had come to look into a more permanent and sturdy option.

The decision was made to take our little Rav4, rather than the crusty old beach truck, as it gave us the luxury of a comfortable ride, air conditioning and the ability to lock all of our gear inside the vehicle when unattended. The downside of the smaller vehicle is that narrower roof racks wouldn’t allow my sit inside and Sheri, my wife’s sit on top to lay side-by-side. The solution was laying my kayak flat on the racks, and attaching a set of ‘J’ racks for Sheri’s narrower, more aerodynamic yak to be mounted upright on its side.

There are several quality roof rack brands available and we settled on a set of Whispbars from Prorack, due to their aerodynamic design, that ensures they create less noise and vibration, as well as their reputation and positive reviews. Racks, mounting kit to suit the vehicle, ‘J’ racks and basic tools and I was ready to go. Opening the box I thought ‘what have I got myself into’, but on closer inspection the instructions were pretty good and within an hour, and with minimal cursing, the racks were on.

The Prorack ‘J’ racks are designed so that they can be attached and detached in a few minutes, allowing them to be quickly removed when not in use. The downside is that they can also be easily removed when left unattended on your vehicle. For this reason we remove them after unloading the kayaks and store them inside the vehicle when we’re out on the water. These ‘J’ Racks also come with a set of straps for securing your kayak; including two for securing the hull of the kayak to the racks, one for each ‘J’ rack, along with a strap for securing the nose and tail of the kayak to the vehicle.

I am a little old fashioned when it comes to tying down the kayaks, preferring ropes rather than straps. Ropes allow for the security of good knots and a feel for the amount of tension you’re applying. If your knots aren’t great though, straps are a good option. It’s a good idea to do a test run or two for the new racks, with a couple of short range adventures first.

We travelled plenty of kilometres, checked our load regularly, tightened or retied a few times and returned home without incident. The roof racks and ‘J’ racks made life easy and in hindsight it would have been great to have these fitted years ago. If you’re thinking about adding some roof racks to your vehicle, don’t delay.

The Fishing

Our journey took us in search of a new species, sooty grunter. We did our research and went armed with spinnerbaits, jig spinners, soft plastics and chatter baits. Sooties, as they are affectionately known, are a perfect target for kayak anglers, inhabiting impoundments, creeks and rivers from around the Mary River near Maryborough through to northern Queensland. They love lures, pull hard, photograph well and take some stopping when they decide to head for the snags they call home.

Casting deep into snag piles and positioning the kayak to cast into the ‘V’ created by intersecting laydown timber soon saw us cheering as rods bent and drags screamed. It wasn’t long before I had landed my first sooty, quickly followed by a few more and I was impressed with their power and the speed of their initial run for structure. Sheri put a perfect cast into a snag pile and within a few turns of the handle was squealing as she was dragged rapidly toward the structure. Some fancy rod work and I slid her first sooty into the net, a solid fish of around 40cm.

We landed a couple dozen sooty grunter for the two sessions, including a few solid 40cm fish, with the standout lure being a 2 1/2” curl tail plastic, rigged on a 1/4oz 1/0 jighead, with a jig spinner attached for added flash and vibration. The most effective retrieve was a cast as close as possible to structure, followed by a medium speed retrieve, with the occasional pause to allow the lure to bump the timber; a knock on wood to let the fish know it was there. We also landed a 65cm saratoga on the same set up, along with a similar sized toga and a few sooties on a 1/4oz chatter bait in green pumpkin colour.

If you’ve been thinking about a long range adventure or targeting a new species for a while, it’s time to lock it into the calendar, do some research, fit the racks, sort the fishing gear and load the yaks… there’s plenty of roads and even more waterways just waiting to be explored.

See you on the water…

Tips for transporting your kayaks

• If your vehicle is too short to attach a nose and tail rope to the front and rear of the vehicle (like our Rav4), attach a rope from the nose and tail back to the racks to stop the kayak from shifting forward or backward.

• If your kayak protrudes beyond the rear of the vehicle attach a bright coloured cloth, or pick up a kayak flag from your local kayak retailer.

• Take your time tying down the yaks. An extra 15 minutes at the start could save you a lot of time and heartbreak further down the road.

• If it doesn’t look and feel right, retie or add another strap or rope. This will give you peace of mind when travelling.

• Stop early in your trip to check and tighten the ‘J’ racks, as well as any ropes or straps once the kayaks have settled.

• Take advantage of fuel, food and toilet stops to again check the ropes and straps.

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