Setting up a fishing kayak (Part 2)
  |  First Published: June 2009

Last month we chose a kayak hull that suited us for fishing, now let’s begin setting it up.

Rod holders are the most obvious place to start. You will need both trolling positions and storage positions.

I carry three rods and a landing net or gaff at any one time. I have one rod for plastics, one for squid and one for bigger fish like snapper. So four storage positions for me is best, I think any more than this on a kayak is too busy.

It’s good to be able to keep all this gear at the back of the yak at any time and the best spot is right behind the seat in vertical rod tubes. Most fishing kayaks will have rod holders already fitted to the rear that are also angled out to the sides acting as rear trolling positions. I have also seen successful multi rod carriers purchased from boat shops and some great racks made with a little imagination and some PVC piping. It can be shaped and joined in many configurations to provide a rack of holders. Consider also a milk crate strapped to the rear with tubes zip tied to it, or my favourite, a Hobie Live Well. It’s a little pricey but provides storage, rod racks and a perfect reticulated live well all in one.

Set the rod holders up in positions for trolling because kayaks are slow and it pays to make the most of your fishing time by trolling lures while paddling out to your spot. The yak is also a lot quieter than other craft and you will be surprised at the type of species you begin to pick up in unexpected areas. Most yaks sold for fishing have those holders already mounted in the sides behind the seat, hopefully clear of a back paddle stroke. They can’t be watched and are usually pointed a bit high but are good for bigger fish where you don’t want the yak jerked around from the strike. The sound of a screaming reel is enough to know you’re on.

Forward mounted holders are much better for small and mid size species. You can easily see a light hit or full strike and you can choose holders that will give a wider spread on each side of the kayak, which means less chance of fouling up lures during a tight turn. I prefer holders that have lots of universal positions and some height to keep reels from splashing water. My favourite brands are Ram and Scotty, they have many options and are easily removed for car loading.

For paddlers the holders need to be positioned far enough forward so as not to interfere with your paddle stroke. Sit in your yak with the paddle and take a few pretend strokes to work it out or even hit the water without the holders for your first outing to ensure they are in the right spot.

Pedal powered kayaks can mount forward holders in closer reach of the seating position but don’t get too close because it can make getting in and out of your kayak difficult. Lately I only mount one forward holder, because with two rods out and big fish things can get messy. I pedal my kayak, so when it comes to smaller fish one hand steers while the other is free to hold a second rod and give it a few twitches while under way.

I use 5mm 316 stainless threaded screws with large washers and nyloc nuts to fix any extra rod holders down. Don’t use self-tapping screws, they won’t hold. If you can’t reach far enough inside your hull to fit the nuts and washers to the desired position then try this trick. Drill the holes in the yak then mouse some 4lb fishing line through them to a point you can retrieve the line and tie on a longer bolt and washer. Use the line to pull the screw up through your hole backwards then hold the long threaded end of it with multigrips while fitting the rod holder base and tightening the nuts. Once it is tight break of the offending extra length by bending back and forth with multigrips just above the nut. Clean off any sharp dags with a file.

Now don’t forget to leash your gear. The rod that goes over the side is not the one you are using it’s the one behind you. Also rod height extensions in those rear holders are good for your bigger outfits and also keep reels away from the drink in rougher conditions. These accessories can be bought from switched on kayak retailers or home made.

Next month I’ll install a fish finder.

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