YAK FISHING: Getting Set Up

This summer will see many fishos hit the water in new kayaks. In this timely piece, our yak columnist DAN BODE and his mates offer advice on the right fit-out for your yak.
NOT long after Stone Age humans deployed the first spear from a hollowed out log, they adapted their vessels to improve everything from functionality to safety. Like many of us, they pimped their yaks! It didn’t matter whether they were Alaskan Inuits attaching net racks or Pacific Islanders testing outriggers to improve performance, each tribe used adaptation and accessories to simplify and improve their fishing success.

Flash forward to 2008 and the current tribe of anglers ride plastic, Kevlar and fibreglass hulls. Not much else has changed. Fresh out of the mould, these bare boats retain all the essence of the tools I just described. How they are accessorized is up to you and your fishing situation.


If you think of a kayak as a tool, it will quickly help you discover a rigging pattern that best suits your needs. Whether you are an occasional estuary angler on holidays with the kids or a bluewater marlin specialist pushing the boundaries of human endurance, your key to the ultimate kayak fit-out should be based on functionality, safety and the best use of available space.

Looking at the core of your fishing pursuit and accessorizing from the ground up is the best starting point. Do you prefer to fish with a handline or a rod? If you prefer a handline nothing is easier than attaching a simple bungee cord and line clip to the standard deck eyelets to act as a stringer. Rod users can easily install a pair of flush mount holders just behind the hip position. If you’re not the DIY type, specialist rigging services and dealers can offer solutions for just about every conceivable yak fishing application.


Once the core components are in place you can delve deeper into your common fishing applications and investigate the plethora of available options. These range from adjustable forward rod holders for trolling, anchor trolleys, sounders, sail kits, electric motors, GPS and radio storage mounts, live bait tanks and all the way to cutting edge downrigger setups and custom bombs that limit drag and maintain depth.

Let’s not forget the jungle of homemade tankwell crates on many yaks that provide additional gear storage options and an added degree of functionality. On the safety side, there’s standard boating equipment plus protective devices like Sharkshields, waterproof handheld radios and small EPIRBS. To help in the decision making process, reflect on the pros and cons and remember each product usually carries an extra degree of weight, utility and bulk.

Before you drill

Spend time sitting in the yak on dry land while locating and using the objects you expect to be taking onto the water. Having such a tactile approach before you start drilling will give you an idea of the importance of those accessories and the most appropriate placement. At this point, one thing should be made abundantly clear: always rig for your preferred style of fishing and the water conditions you’re most likely to encounter.

Although there is a large amount of crossover, kayaks and rigging systems reach a point where they are totally inappropriate for certain conditions. An extreme example of this is when an operator of a fully optioned sweet water rig with electric trolling motor and vertically placed rods takes on a surf launch. A more common example of thoughtlessness promotes the use of forward rod holders when targeting bluewater game species with heavy lines.

As practical as this setup first appears, offshore anglers practicing this method simply have no idea of the risks they face. By putting your rod tips ahead of you, places the lines at neck level before running down your side. All it takes is one hard oncoming strike from a wahoo to rapidly expose the jugular vein to a 50 pound noose of razor sharp braid. Also, if you fall off your forward rigged kayak, you have the rods and lines to contend with when re-boarding. Freak incidents can also happen with rear mounted rods but the risks are minimized because you are moving forward, the lines are higher above you and the cockpit is free of obstructions. Sensible bluewater/surf anglers only use forward rod holders to re-rig, store their bait rod or hold a flick stick. Humans have a pretty good track record in stupidity and safety factors like these are well worth considering.

Fitting the profiles

To better demonstrate practical rigging systems, we’ve profiled four elite kayak anglers and sequenced their rigs for the conditions they regularly encounter. Given the huge amount of kayak brands and rigging patterns that intersect the different fishing scenarios, these profiles can be used as a guide to help unlock your own rigging DNA.


Professional Outfitters

Paul Ricketts – Wavedance Kayaks
Ph: 1300 72 9992

Craig McSween
Adventure Outlet
Shop 3/74 Marine Pde
Southport, QLD
Ph: (07) 5571 2929

Rigging suppliers

Ph: (02) 9695 7799

Pondrill Core Pty Ltd
Ph: (03) 5623 1498

Pure Fishing Australia

Ph: (02) 4351 7740

BLA: Boating’s Leading Accessories
Ph: (07) 3390 0106



Bass Basher – Bob “Richo” Richardson
Kayak: Perception Swing 400

“I like watching my lures flutter properly. If weed gets caught up I can tell straight away”.

Veteran bass angler “Richo” Richardson started out in open water, moved to estuaries and now enjoys most of his yak time trolling a local sweet water impoundment in search of solitude and trophy bass. The almost horizontal forward rod holders let him focus at a wide angle, the centrally placed fish finder is at arms length and the inflatable seat cushion with padded back rest provides pure fishing comfort.

“I’m an old bloke now, I’ve plugged up the scuppers coz I like a dry ride. I usually run the net up the foot well so I don’t have to twist around to land a fish … Yak fishing isn’t just for the young fellas.”

On the deck

A – Berkley adjustable rod holders
B – Cuda 168 Fishfinder
C – Forward flush-mount rod holders
D – Rear flush-mount rod holders with risers
E – Crate and net
F – Anchor trolley for drogue anchor
G – Cleat to adjust anchor line depth

In the hatches

Keys, sunscreen, wallet, rope, food, drink, thermos, drybag,

On Bob

PFD, UHF radio, mobile phone.

In Bob’s crate

Tackle box, drogue, anchor


Estuary Engineer – Craig McSween
Kayak: Hobie Quest

“The forward rod holders let me see the slightest touches when I’m trolling small hard bodies for flathead”.

Craig McSween of Adventure Outlet is a leading Gold Coast kayak dealer, specialist rigging outfitter, professional kayak tour operator and addicted light tackle angler. His latest setup demonstrates all round versatility in estuary environments. The seemingly indulgent deck layout is designed solely on purpose, functionality and ease of operation while incorporating high levels of finesse and technology.

“When I’m casting the racks for bream, they allow for instant rod changes and easy rigging. The running rig drops the anchor exactly where I need it and the electronics speaks for themselves.”

On the deck

A – Scotty deck mount with baitcaster rod holder
B – Scotty deck mount with baitcaster rod holder and extender (to raise rod from footrests)
C – Lowrance 50DS fishfinder on Scotty Ram mount
D – Knife and pliers holder (std)
E – Hobie Gear Keeper (retractable device for braid scissors etc.)
F – Paddle keeper (Std)
G – Hobie seat with padded backrest
H – Hobie kayak cart
I – Soft cooler bag for fish storage
J – Rear flush mount rod holders (Std)
K – Anchor running rig
Lip grippers and landing net (not shown)

In the hatches

Forward partial bulkhead for easier access to forward storage, Hobie fishfinder installation kit, Hobie Gear Bucket that slips into 8″ centre hatch, spray jacket, additional tackle, keys, phone.

On Craig

PFD, camera, mobile phone.

In Craig’s cooler bag

Fish storage only


Bluewater Specialist – Stuart Thompson
Kayak: Hobie Adventure with ST fins

“I can troll with a rod in one hand and a set line out the back.”

As a guru of modern open water yak fishing, Stuart Thompson recently made the transition from paddle to pedal and quickly overcame the limitations of a shoulder injury. He continues to set new yak fishing benchmarks on everything from longtail tuna to snapper. His bare essentials rigging approach represents his passion for easier launches and bar crossings, trolling lures, flicking large soft baits and live baiting with a keen eye on offshore safety.

“The two detachable forward Scottys are used only for my GPS and rigging my rods. With the pedals and fish finder blocking access to the bow hatch, securing a big fish to the yak can be a bit tough. Given the extra trolling speed it’s a compromise I’m happy to make.”

On the deck

A – Scotty recessed Ram mount with GPS cradle and Garmin GPS72
B – Scotty recessed Ram mount holds detachable rod holder (not pictured)
C – Navman 4380 fishfinder on Scotty Ram mount
D – Bungee cord gaff holder
E – Paddle holder (Std)
F – Seat with back rest (Std)
G – Fold up bait bucket
H – Rear flush mount rod holders (Std)
I – Crate
J – Onion skin fish bag

In the hatches

Keys, sunscreen, wallet, rope, food, drink, drybag,

On Stuart

PFD, UHF radio, dive knife, energy bars, mobile phone.

In Stuart’s crate

Two small tackle boxes, pliers, spray jacket, large sponge, camera.


Surf Launch Expert – Steven Smith
Kayak: Stealth BFS

“Everything I need to catch a big king or cobe is either on me, at arm’s reach, or in the hatches.”

Steven Smith is a leading surf zone negotiator and highly experienced blue water pelagic specialist. Due to the extreme wave and swell conditions he encounters, plus the long offshore distances covered, his surf capable fishing ski and rigging system remains virtually unchanged from the factory floor.

“Apart from these stickers, I don’t want bells and whistles because I might get caught up on them or cop a bruising if I come off the yak. Before I reach the surf zone, my rods are stored in the hatch to clear the deck.”

On the Deck

A – Bungee cord to hold paddle (std)
B – Centre hatch (std)
C – Flush mount rod holders (std)
D – Livebait stored in 10″ sealed rear hatch (std)
(Not shown) Paddle leash
(Not shown) Rod leashes

In the Hatches

Centre: Sliding tackle tray (std), 2 x gaffs, small trace bag containing lures and rigs, bait jigging rod, flares, sponge, pliers. Rear: livebait and sponge.

On Steven

PFD, mobile phone in waterproof pouch, Garmin GPS 72, handheld UHF radio, diving knife strapped to leg.

What's your reaction?

Related Posts

Load More Posts Loading...No More Posts.