Tuesday, November 4, 2008

KAYAK FISHING: Tips On Rigging & Outfitting a Kayak for Fishing

I've been getting allot of questions lately about the best ways to rig a kayak for fishing, as well as people looking for information on what kind of tackle to use.

In this post, I'm giving you my best tips for rigging your kayak, be it sit-on-top, or closed cockpit kayak, for fishing. I don't claim to have everything completely worked out, but six long, hard, often frustrating years of kayak fishing have provided me with a little in-site into what works and what does not. I'm also providing links to several on-line fishing resources to help you guys narrow down those long and confusing trips to the tackle shop.


I've said before in past posts, the key to outfitting your kayak for fishing is to keep it as simple as possible. Kayak fishing is hard enough with the bare necessities. You'll soon find that a rod, net, knife, pliers, and a few small tackle boxes are more than enough to keep from dropping in the drink. Go out a few times with just enough, and decide from there what you really need.

I fish out of an Ocean Kayak Prowler Trident 15 angler, and I've pretty much kept it unmodified.
As there are no bulkheads, I've added float bags in the bow and stern to keep her from filling with water and sinking.

If I'm fishing the river & doing anything other than trolling, I'll take a 3 pound claw anchor. The Prowler has a cleat on the left side of the seating area to stop it, and I'll run the line under a bungee on the stern.

I've also added thigh straps, which allow me to edge the kayak for more effective turning, as well as control it in the surf, and the ability to roll the kayak. Without thigh straps, you are just sitting on a log. They really make a sit-on-top a "kayak" rather than a float platform.

The Prowler Trident Angler comes with two flush mounted rod holders behind the seat. These work great for trolling, you just have to keep an eye on that rod tip for strikes. When I move into steelhead fishing, I'll be running plugs downstream in front of me as I back paddle, so I'm thinking of adding a Scotty rod holder just in front of the sonar shield.

I keep a net handy, secured to the back deck under bungee at two points. I've tried keeping it in one of the flush-mount rod holders, but it sticks up high, catches wind, gets in the way of my line if I have to fight a fish that way, and is generally a pain. I also secure the net with a Scotty paddle leash to the deck rigging. Trust me; When you have a net in one hand, and the rod in the other with a 50 pound king on the end of it, chaos will ensue. Securing your net and/or rod to the kayak is a good idea.

However you decide to outfit your kayak for fishing, make sure that you can perform all the necessary movements without hitting something. Where ever you mount that rod holder, make sure it's not in the way of your paddle stroke!

Forward stroke is clear:

Right side clear for bow rudders, sweeps, draws, stern rudders, and braces:

Notice how the rod interferes with the stern rudder position on my left side. This should be an indicator to not store items here while landing in the surf, or paddling in confused seas. In reality, the deck should be free of all items while launching or landing in the surf. Everything kept in the boat should be secured.

The Ocean Kayak Prowler Trident 15 angler has the "Rod Pod", which, while allowing you to store your rods in the boat, isn't sealed that great and can lead to allot of water inside the kayak, hence the addition of float bags.

Being able to access rod, net, and tackle while keeping it clear of your paddle strokes is challenging, and takes a little bit of trial and error to make it right for you.

Netting the fish is always the hardest part. Just try to stay calm and take your time. It's funny, my heart wasn't pounding very hard when I netted this massive lawn fish:


Fishing from a sea kayak is what it's all about. It's why the boats were invented in the first place. Hunting whale, walrus, seal, and other critters from a kayak goes back thousands of years, but for now, lets focus on salmon and ocean bottom fish in 2008.

Fishing from a sea kayak is as easy as tying off a hand line with 100 feet of fishing line, weight, and lure to your deck rigging, and pulling it behind you while your touring. When you get to your destination, you see what you've got.

If fishing is your main pursuit, you'll want to use a rod, and mount a rod holder. I couldn't bring myself to drill holes in my sweet NDK explorer, so I bought a "Johnny Bar", and modified it by sawing off several inches on either side. Shortening the width of the bar means I won't bang my paddle on it every time I take a stroke. It's also important to note that I've secure the bar far enough forward to clear my stroke, but it's still with in reach.

The Johnny Bar attaches to the deck rigging with cam straps, and a Scotty spinning rod holder is bolted to the bar. This is a nice, solid, no drill rod holder.

It's important to note; With the johnny bar in it's current position, I would not be able to execute a standard sweep, or C to C roll on my strong side. I've thought quite a bit about how to resolve this by repositioning the rod holder, and I've decided that it's in the best position for fishing. If I do ever get pulled over by a monster fish, or rogue wave, I'll have to recover by sculling up on either side, or utilizing a back deck roll to stay clear of the rod and rod holder.

There is a real risk of getting tangled up in an anchor line, or your fishing line if you get dumped. If you find the line around your neck, just stay calm, blow bubbles, and attempt to untangle or cut yourself free before trying to roll. (remember that dive knife tethered to your PFD?)

I have to say, I've never been dumped by a fish, and except for playing in the surf, I've never capsized on accident. Learning proper technique and practicing it means the difference between lots of swimming and lots of fun.

I keep the net on the back deck, secured under bungee, and with a Scotty paddle leash.

As for tackle and tools, I keep a dive knife and a pair of needle nose pliers on my PFD, and I keep two small Plano tackle boxes, a hook & leader keeper, and some line in a small bag either in my day hatch, or in the rod pod on the sit-on-top.


Needless to say, there are tons of choices at the tackle shop. Knowing what works best and how to rig it can be challenging. I've learned allot from talking to other fisherman, mining the web, and reading books and magazines. Below are some of the most informative resources.

Salmon University
is an amazing site with all the information you need to know to catch salmon, steelhead, & trout.

Piscatorial Pursuits has a wealth of info on fishing for salmon and steelhead

Steelheader.net is one of my all time favorites for tips on catching steelies.

Moldy Chum is a a favorite blog of mine, with a unique perspective on all things fishing.

Fish Sniffer is another great resource for tips and techniques for various species of fish.

Northwest Kayak Anglers is a great resource for kayak specific fishing techniques.

ifish.net is one of my favorite fishing blogs with a ton of useful information and links for the Pacific Northwest.

Another great resource is your local tackle shop. I've learned more from being friendly, and not shy about picking the locals brains for tips and info. I pretty much ask every person I see on the water with a rod within 10 ft of them if they've caught anything, where they were, what time, and what they were using. More often than not people are happy to share information.

As far as what I'm using, I've recently changed my ways. I used to fish roe and shrimp in various incarnations, but to be honest, I'm sick of bait. It's messy, stinky, expensive, and most of the time, the friggin sculpin rob you blind.

I've been trolling spinners, tied four to five feet behind a 3/4 or 1 oz banana weight, with 12 pound maxima as a mainline, and a 10 pound fluorocarbon leader, with pretty good results. I'm sure I'll use bait again, but right now, it seems unnecessary. I'll be using flies and plugs for steelhead this year, nixing bait altogether.


I'm headed to the Nestucca estuary on the Oregon coast next Monday and Tuesday, to kayak fish for salmon with a few friends from Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe. That will be almost 4 weeks since I injured my hand, and boy am I ready to get back out there.

I've never fished the Nestucca, but It's a beautiful spot, and I'm sure it will be a good time. Check back next week for a full trip report, some great surf and rough water pics with the Alder Creek gang, and hopefully a few pics of big, fat, king salmon.



Kayaks said...

Ocean Kayak is good, but i love K-Largo :)

Aussie All Trails said...

Thanks mate, great tips. I have the Ocean Prowler which is fantastic in both choppy and smooth seas. My tip is to carry a kyak anchor. This takes no room, will not be lost over the side as it is already attached and with a little enginuity you can have a pully system allowing you to position the anchor to the front or back. Great when you find a spot where the fish are biting.

Angelica said...

Where is that ocean. i love to visit such kind of places in Dubai Fishing in Dubai

cloverpassresort said...

I’m definitely going to look into it. Really very useful tips are provided here.

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Guy Miflin said...

I have kayaked for years now. My brother wants to go fishing out on his boat. I wanted to take my kayak but I was worried that it wasn't fit for the task. Thanks for these tips. I was having trouble with turning but thigh straps are brilliant! http://www.oregon-inlet.com

Henry Jon said...

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