In part one of this kayak series, I covered the standard features on theOcean Kayak Prowler 4.5m, which was purpose designed for serious fishing. This month I will look at the extras to improve your kayak fishing experience, the essential sounder and GPS, and all the accessory options available.
Having a sounder in the kayak was always a necessity for me. I was originally just going to opt for a budget-type, low pixel-count model that would basically tell me the depth and little else. Once I started researching, I found that there was not a lot of difference in price between a budget model and a quality mono sounder. Add a little bit more to this and I could even get a high quality colour sounder. Add a little more to this again and I could purchase a built in colour GPS. So what started as a basic sounder requirement soon ended up in my purchasing a Humminbird 383C colour GPS/Fishfinder unit.
Humminbird was always my natural choice as they are fully waterproof, have an easy disconnect swivel mount and are serviced locally. The 383C is a complete GPS-Sonar-Chartplotter with a brilliant 256 colour, high definition 320V x 240H display. It has dual-beam sonar with 20 degree and 60 degree beams plus temperature and GPS-speed readings.
It has a whole lot of other features too numerous to describe here, however one feature that impressed me was how easy it was to read the screen, even in the brightest sunlight. The transducer is flush-mounted into a recess in the bottom of the kayak and my 383C Humminbird is powered by a small motorcycle battery strapped to a plate inside the hull.
The Ocean Kayak Prowler 4.5 has been purpose built for fishing and has a large recessed area at the rear to allow you to carry plenty of gear and a small esky or to stow your catch. Recessed into the area between your legs, there is a small waterproof well with inspection port type lid into which you can store your wallet, keys, mobile phone, small camera or any other gear that you wouldn’t want to get wet or lose if you were to capsize.
The forward section of the Prowler has a large waterproof hatch that allows access to the inside of the hull where the sounder battery and tray is. There is also room to store plenty more gear although it can only be accessed whilst on land or by another yakker, as you cannot reach it safely from the seated position.
In the space between your legs there is a plate that holds a small Plano 3500 size waterproof box, which holds tackle that needs to be close at hand. I have subsequently purchased several more of these to hold other tackle and just take whichever ones I need for a particular trip. Forward of this plate the sounder is mounted on the standard Humminbird swivel mount.
There is a backrest/seat with the Prowler that is adjustable and makes it much easier on your back. I think I might have to invest in a marine cushion also as I still get a numb but after a few hours of paddling. The kayak is self-draining with holes moulded through the hull in several areas. A bung in the nose of the craft allows any water that may get into the hull to be drained once the craft is upside down on the roof rack or similar. There are carry handles on both sides at a position that sees perfect balance of an empty craft and allows one person to carry it. In addition, T-bar handles at each end of the craft allow for a two-person lift.
Having the kayak decked out with all the right gear at hand, yet secured in case of a rollover, is very important for kayak fishing. Also the entire kayak and accessories need to be portable by one person, as you will often be going out alone without assistance. For this reason I opted to get a Johnson trolley that allows the kayak to be effortlessly wheeled wherever you want to take it with everything in it ready to go. It has quick-release, inflatable wheels and straps to the kayak in a few seconds. An added bonus is that this trolley can quickly be disassembled once at the chosen location and then stored inside the hull. The pneumatic wheels allow it to be used on both hard and soft surfaces.
A recessed screw hole just behind the seated position allows a fibreglass pole to be fitted, which can sport a safety flag or light. I opted for the light for trips during darkened hours but also purchased a gamefish style tag flag with a Velcro fastening that can be quickly affixed to the light pole to increase your chance of being seen by boaties while on the water during the day. An extra base can be fitted if you want to add any additional fibreglass poles or want to run both a flag and light in unison.
On the safety side, another item I purchased for kayaking was an inflatable life vest. This can easily be worn without interfering with paddling or fishing and can be inflated by pulling on the toggle if you were to capsize and required the extra floatation. There are several good inflatable vests on the market including Hutch Wilco, BLA and Shimano.
The paddle I purchased is a Carlisle Magic Smart Shaft. It is a two-piece fibre tube shafted paddle, joining in the middle via a locking screw mechanism. The advantage of this paddle over one piece shaft paddles is that it allows the entire length of paddle to be adjusted, as well as the angle of the blades, which can aid in paddling in different circumstances.
For example, if you are paddling with a tail wind, the angle of the paddle blade can be opened up so that it is flat to the wind while the other blade is in the water. This acts like a sail, giving you a faster speed across the water. The face of both blades would almost be on the same plane for this paddling situation. However, if you were paddling into a head wind then you would want the blade to be side on to the wind when it is in the air. To do this the two blades would almost be at right angles to each other. A greater degree of wrist rotation is required to put each blade into the water however the paddling will be a lot easier with decreased wind resistance on the exposed blade.
Adjusting the length of the paddle is usually done when paddling situations change due to increased current or you want to travel at maximum speed in open water. When you need to put in a rapid stroke rate, you are best to shorten the paddle to allow you to dig the paddle closer to the side of the ‘yak. However if you were just having a leisurely paddle (perhaps trolling a few bibbed minnows) then you would lengthen the paddle and stroke in a more leisurely manner. Transportation and storage is also much easier with a two-piece paddle.
There are also a few other fishing accessories that I purchased, and in some cases adapted, to allow safe use of them in the kayak. One of the main things when fishing from a kayak is having your fishing items secured to avoid loss in case of a turnover, yet having them at hand at all times. I added a carabeena clip and bungee cord to a pair of braid scissors so that I could use them to trim knots etc. They are clipped to the wire cable that runs down the side of the craft for the foot pedals of the rudder.
Another handy item was a Daiwa mini dehooker tool that allows you to grip a hook securely whilst removing it from a fish. I think they are better than pliers because the hook is easier to hold securely, even when a fish struggles, which eliminates the possibility of ending up with the hook in you, a greater possibility when working in such a confined space. This tool is also very light in weight and made of stainless steel so it will last for a lot of years. I also added a cabeena clip to secure it to the wire cable so it is at hand when required.
A Berkley Fish Gripper with a digital weighing scale is useful for securing and handling fish such as flathead whilst you are de-hooking them. As it has a natural gripping mechanism it can be clipped anywhere for safety when not in use.
A small Environet is good for holding fish too small for the lip gripper and eliminates the possibility of the fish flipping around and possibly impaling you with the hooks. An 80cm, foldable plastic ruler sits in the groove adjacent the foot rests and although not secured if I had a rollover, it is not a great loss monetary wise.
A bag made from a shade cloth style mesh was purchased and had a carabeena clip added to secure it to the bungee cords in the rear well. Inside this I keep items I don’t need as often, such as a crab measurer, leader material, waterproof boxes of lures and other tackle, sunscreen, insect repellent, hand cleaner and various packets of plastics. It has a Velcro closure at the top and in case of an accident it would stay with the kayak and not be lost. When I get home, I just spray the entire bag and contents with a hose and hang to dry.
An Igloo 25L esky was purchased to store cold drinks, food and the catch and sits in the rear well. The Prowler’s supplied bungee webbing system holds it in place but must be removed to open the lid. To fix this problem I am in the process of adding some tie down fittings to the side of the esky so it can be strapped in to the kayak’s well securely and the lid can be opened at will. I may even fit one of those quick release catches to the lid so that if I do turn over the contents of the esky won’t be lost. This esky is in a position where I can just reach back and open the lid from my normal seated position.
Another item I purchased especially for use from the kayak was an Olympus 1030 SW camera. Although I have some great cameras, such as my Nikon D200, they are all too bulky and lack the waterproof ability required for use from a kayak. This Olympus model has only just been released and is a 10.1mp camera that is fully waterproof to 10m and roughly the size of a cigarette packet. It has a 3.6x optical zoom and a 2.7” LCD monitor. I don’t have to worry about keeping it dry between uses which means it is always at hand, especially since I added a neck lanyard so I can keep it in my top pocket.
Even with wet or dirty hands, the operation is not effected. I can submerge it to take some of those great underwater shots and it is secured around my neck in case of a rollover. You can get an extra waterproof housing if you want to use it in water deeper than 10m. Probably the main thing I was impressed about with this camera was the menu of shooting scenarios. You just flick through the 24 shooting options (eg. portrait, landscape, night, sport, sunset, beach/snow, underwater, macro etc) to choose which is closest to your shooting situation, click the ok button and then take the shot. It is a very simple camera to operate, which is important in this situation.
I have only had my Ocean Kayak Prowler 4.5 for a few months now but am very impressed with the performance and fish-ability of it. I have caught several species in the salt and freshwater from it already and am keen to do a beach launch to chase a few tailor and longtails over the cooler months. I might have to invest in a wetsuit though as I hate the cold. If you are after a little more information on kayaks and kayak fishing then get onto the website www.akff.com.au which is an Australian-based site for interested ‘yakkers. It has monthly competitions, user organised trips plus good information and ideas on purchasing that first kayak and setting it up. Hope to see you at water level soon!Reads: 303