Practical: Yak Set-ups
Keen to get started on setting up your brand new ’yak and getting amongst it? Seasoned ’yak fisho Paul Blenkin shows you how to go about it.
THIS is a basic “how to” for starting you on your way to pimping your ride. If you don’t already have a kayak there are a few things to consider before you jump in and purchase the first one you see and like the colour of. These considerations include: the style of fishing you plan to do, e.g. saltwater (estuary or offshore) or freshwater (dam or river). Will you be casting/trolling lures or bait or fly fishing? How many rods and how much tackle would you like to take with you and where will you store it? How will you land your catch – will you need to take along a tackle box, cooler or multi-purpose milk crate? Will you be fishing solo or will your partner/ kids/mate be fishing with you? Do you want to paddle or pedal? All of these need to be taken into consideration.
When you’ve worked out most of the answers to the above you then need to think about weight: the kayak’s when loaded with gear, and with you on or in it. Most kayaks have a capacity weight guide to help with this issue.
Some kayaks have built-in rod holders as part of a fishing package, some come with extra add-ons such as live wells, and different hatch covers for various storage applications. Some have front, middle and rear hatches that are accessible when you’re standing next to your kayak, but can you reach them when you’re on the water and getting rocked around by waves?
Ok, so you’ve nutted out all the above details, the next and most important step should be to take out various ’yak brands and styles for a test run – make sure you do take a test run before you buy as one ’yak might feel right while another could scare the hell out of you.
You now have your pride and joy but where to start? Rod holders are a good place. As mentioned before some kayaks already come with them – some moulded and some aftermarket – but they might not suit your style of fishing, or you don’t like their position.
There are a few different rod holder types and styles on the market. Some are permanently mounted in the hull and others are attached with purpose built mounts for easy removal – e.g. Scotty and RAM mounts. Whether you decide to use a deck or flush mount I strongly suggest that when you’ve decided where to mount them use a backing plate of some description when you install the base. The reason for this is that most kayaks are made of polyethylene and are only a couple of millimetres thick; if you use self tapping screws they are likely to pull out if you hook a large fish while trolling. The use of a backing plate or very large washers in conjunction with stainless steel bolts will prevent this.
Before you start to drill holes make sure there are no cables running on the inside of your kayak. Always measure twice before you drill.
The placement of rod holders can make fishing from a kayak a delight or a nightmare. Take into consideration your paddling stroke (both in front and the follow through) as you don’t want to be smacking your paddle into your favourite rod, or possibly lifting the rod out of the holder and over the side (rigged rods sink very fast).
The stowage of tackle will depend on your style of fishing and how much you plan on taking out with you. The majority of kayakers use some form of box (e.g. Esky, milk crate, fishing tub or tackle boxes) to stow tackle and other odds and ends such as ruler, pliers, lip grips, anchor or drogue, trace material, food and water and first aid kit. Does your kayak have a rear well to accommodate all of this and how easy is it to access; can you reach it from where you are seated?
I used to use a trusty milk crate with modified lid – to stop stuff falling out in case I tipped over – and although it carried all my gear and a couple of rods I found it a pain to reach behind and find what I needed had fallen to the bottom of the crate. I’ve now refined my stowage by keeping all my tackle boxes (containing lures, jig heads and the like) inside the hull and attached to the hatch lid between my legs with very long football boot laces and carabineers to stop them sliding down inside the hull. Everything I need is right in front of me and I no longer twist my back and strain my neck trying to find something.
When storing some of your catch a few purpose built insulated kill bags attached to the front or rear of your yak are ideal; the Surf to Summit Fish Bag is one of the best I’ve seen. These are great for keeping your catch fresh, especially with the aid of ice, and to prevent any blood from escaping down scuppers and attracting sharks. On the subject of sharks if you use bait always have it in a sealable container to stop juices escaping.
When it comes to the use of an anchor or drogue the easiest way to go about it is via the installation of an anchor pulley which consists of a length of cord guided though eyelets that run the length of your kayak and through a pulley at the bow and stern, then joined with a stainless ring and/or carabineer. This set-up allows you to run the anchor or the drogue along the length of your kayak to suit your fishing situation. The pulley also allows you to position the anchoring point anywhere along your ‘yak to help position it for your fishing application. Very rarely would I use an anchor while fishing; I mainly use a sea anchor (drogue) to slow me down when the wind’s blowing hard. When using an anchor you need to be able to store the anchor and the rope attached to it. The use of 3mm thick Venetian blind cord stored on a large handline makes a great alternative for that job.
Electronics are becoming very widely used these days on ’yaks with sounders, GPS units and communications gear all becoming common place. When installing these goodies you need them in easy reach, importantly taking into account which side you mount/dismount your ’yak from (port or starboard) to prevent kicking your expensive units into the water when getting out in a hurry!
Electronics can make ’yak fishing more productive and safer as do items like bilge pumps for the live well and safety lighting for fishing at night; for these applications you’ll need to be able to store a decent size battery in your ‘yak which will add to overall weight.
Kayak fishos can be a very ingenious bunch. You might be amazed at what can be made from PVC pipe: a simple rod holder extension, berley tube, live bait holder, rocket launchers and even a trailer that can be towed behind your kayak for carrying a variety of things.
In closing, as mentioned there are many things to take into consideration before you start drilling holes in your new pride and joy. If you sit back and plan exactly what you want to achieve in before attempting any modifications you’ll be closer to becoming “as one” with your ’yak when you both hit the water. And you’ll not only be more successful but will enjoy your fishing a whole lot more.
For more information on kayak fishing go to www.kfdu.com.au.