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Saltwater 101: Rig Up to Ride Out

In the movie Steel Magnolias, one of the characters says that what separates people from animals is the ability to accessorize. And for kayak fishermen, accessorizing their sit-on-top kayaks can be just as much fun as fishing from it.

April 26, 2005

In the movie Steel Magnolias, one of the characters says that what separates people from animals is the ability to accessorize. And for kayak fishermen, accessorizing their sit-on-top kayaks can be just as much fun as fishing from it.

Kayak manufacturers have started to respond to the needs of fishermen by making improvements such as adding molded-in spots for placing rod holders, compasses or other fishing equipment. These items come already installed on a few kayak models, but for the most part you’ll have to determine the placement and install them yourself.

A rod holder is one of the most important additions to a kayak. A 9-foot fly rod can get in the way while paddling, and the prospect of knocking a $1,000 outfit overboard frightens me to death. A good rod holder, like the one Scotty Outdoor Products (www.scotty.com) produces, solves these problems. I like this holder because it rotates 360 degrees and tilts almost straight up. It also has a rubber strap to hold the rod in place if you flip your kayak.

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I installed one holder on the center hump between my legs and another on the top deck behind my kayak seat, both of which are common spots. Whatever your preferred location, make sure it does not hinder your movement in the kayak or limit your ability to get in or out of it. Also be sure that you can easily reach your rod from a seated position, especially if you want to mount it behind you.

The best fasteners for attaching rod holders or any accessories to the hull of the kayak are either stainless-steel bolts or pop rivets. I suggest using stainless-steel bolts, locknuts and washers when possible, which means you must be able to reach inside the kayak to secure the washer and nut. If you can’t, then you’ll have to use pop rivets, the specialized ones found at kayak shops.

After drilling the appropriate-sized hole, squeeze some silicone caulk onto the fastener, into the holes and on the bottom of the accessory to prevent water from leaking into your kayak. Wipe away any excess after installation. Other than a small amount of condensation that may form inside the kayak from time to time, it should stay dry. If you see water pooling inside, check the holes for leakage.

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**Means of Egress
**When fishing from a kayak, you’ll want to exit quickly from the shell before casting to a fish. To achieve this consistently, make a habit of getting on or off the kayak on the same side. Since I’m from Texas, I pretend I’m on a horse and get in and out from the left. As a result, I mount my paddle on the right side and keep it in place with a couple of paddle clips.

Most kayaks have numerous pad eyes, which offer the most versatile method for connecting almost anything to the shell. These C-shaped devices are most often used to secure the kayak seat, a paddle leash or an anchor rope. I also have a small length of bungee cord stretched between two pad eyes on the bow and another set on the stern. I use the one on the front to hold my tow rope; the one on the rear keeps my anchor line in check.

Bungee cords can also be used to hold lifejackets or camera cases in place. If you want to secure any large object, such as a camera bag, try mounting it on your hatches by first cutting some holes in the hatch and running the cord through it rather than using pad eyes. Tie a knot on the ends and apply some silicone to the holes, but leave enough cord so that larger items will fit securely.

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While a GPS or compass is not necessary to navigate all locations, having one comes in handy when trying to get from spot to spot. You can easily mount lighter items, like a hand-held GPS or compass, using heavy-duty hook-and-loop material. Just remember to apply it sparingly because it creates a very strong bond.

**Storage and Safety Concerns
** When it comes to storage space, don’t overlook the inside of your kayak. Most models have a hatch on the front and sometimes one on the rear. I use the front hatch to store a soft-sided cooler with drinks – this creates a better balance than placing it in the rear. The dry-storage compartments are often roomy and ideal for stowing rain gear, food or emergency gear. I have even discovered that I can keep my entire 9-foot fly rod inside my kayak – without taking it apart – if severe weather comes.

Accessing shallow-water flats often means crossing deep water. I always require clients to wear PFDs when doing this, but we normally take them off once we reach the flats. While it may seem convenient to stow a PFD under one of your hatches, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department rules state that it must be within reach at all times. You’ll have to check your area’s regulations for local laws, but I stash my PFD under a bungee cord on the top deck.

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After removing his PFD, friend and veteran kayaker Amancio Cantu prefers to wear a mesh fishing vest, but I like to use a chest pack. Both work well in our hot climate, and both are more practical than a fanny pack because you often need to remove them before re-entering the kayak. Besides extra flies and leaders, I also carry a BogaGrip, pliers, nippers and numerous other items in my chest pack. This allows me to be self-contained when I wade away from my kayak.

Todd Fleming, another top kayaker here in Texas, considers his kayak a floating workbench. He prefers to keep minimal gear on him – often just a fly box in his shirt pocket – but he always keeps his “workbench” within reach by using a 25-foot tow rope. I also drag my kayak behind me as I wade. Because it floats, its actual weight is negligible and the 25-foot rope keeps any hull-slap noise well behind me so I don’t spook any fish. If the wind tries to blow the kayak around me, I drag an anchor off the stern. I use a 4-pound plastic-covered dumbbell because it’s heavy enough to keep the kayak in place yet light enough to slide through the sea grass with minimal damage.

The underlining thought when rigging a kayak should be to create an efficient stalking platform that enables you to sneak in for short casts. The endless varieties of sit-on-top kayaks will create an unlimited number of rigging ideas. Riding out on a flat with a well-organized kayak enables you to hook more fish, especially if the kayak is rigged correctly.

Lefty Ray Chapa operates the Kayak 4 Redfish Guide Service on the middle Texas coast. Visit _www.leftyray.com for more kayaking rigging ideas, or call him at 210-543-1865._

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