Fishing kayaks are the fastest-growing segment of the recreational kayak market. They’re lightweight, relatively stable, you can store lots of gear on board, and they’re very easy to maneuver around fishing hotspots.
But if you’ve ever wanted to stand up on a kayak’s surface area as small as eight feet by three feet, you know that stability is a relative term. When the kayak is as wide as your shoulders and has a flat bottom, it’s a lot easier to inadvertently punch a hole in the hull with an errant knee or toe than when you have the length of a 17-foot canoe under your feet.
So if you embrace the idea of spending long days fishing from a kayak, it’s absolutely essential you learn how to correctly attach the gear that will keep your butt planted on your seat. And you can’t rely on bungee cords for this job.
Long story in short:
#1 Prepare your fishing kayak by assembling the necessary items before heading out on the water
#2 Use a deck rigging system to store your fishing equipment in one place
#3 Secure your paddles and/or fishing rods with a paddle leash
#4 Be ready for emergencies with a portable repair kit for your fishing kayak
#5 Use an anchor system to secure yourself and prevent your kayak from drifting away
#6 Organize all your speeds and speeds systems in one place via deck rigging
#7 Make sure to have the right amount of equipment for where you’re planning to fish
#8 A properly rigged fishing kayak, along with the proper equipment, will help you land your next trophy catch!
To rig my kayak, I start with four different storage systems: rod holders; an elevated deck rigging system; an elevated deck net bag; and a console with accessory trays.
I then add bungee cords that are tied to specific places on the kayak, allowing me to store additional gear there as needed. In addition to the four permanent systems, I use about 12 feet of bungee cord to carry extra tackle containers, my anchor, and other gear.
To rig your kayak, you’ll need to make a choice between mounting the rod holders horizontally or vertically. While I prefer having all my rod holders in a horizontal position if possible, some kayaks are easier to mount vertically because the front deck rigging is too high to fit them side by side horizontally.
Although most kayaks will offer enough space to mount two-rod holders side by side, you’ll typically need another 8 inches of space on the starboard (right) and port (left) sides in order to accommodate three-foot-long fishing rods. With a little creativity and patience, it’s even possible to fit four horizontally, but it’s extremely tight.
To figure out where to place rod holders and elevated deck rigging, I typically carry a large piece of thin plywood or Masonite that is cut to the width of my kayak. I then stand at the back of my kayak with this piece resting on top of me, measure the distance between my shoulders, and transfer that measurement to the board.
Using this piece of plywood as a template, I then place it along the starboard side just behind my cockpit where I want to attach my elevated deck rigging system. This will allow me to measure the distance between it and the back of the kayak. Then I transfer this measurement directly to my kayak and drill holes where I want to attach the rigging system.
Once that’s done, I find the center of the plywood template and measure out from it three inches in both directions (that’s six inches total), and transfer this information to my kayak. That way the elevated deck rigging system will be installed at a six-inch height above the kayak’s surface.
If I’m mounting my rod holders vertically, I do the same thing for them first before drilling any holes in my kayak. But since this activity is so much easier to accomplish with the system already mounted horizontally, it’s what I recommend. You can also choose to drill all your holes in the kayak before attaching anything. But I find it much easier to work with when everything is mounted first.
And even if you opt for vertical holders, you still need to measure out six inches from your elevated deck rigging system and place a mark there. That’s where you’ll attach the bungee cord to secure your anchor.
Once all the holes are drilled, I mount my rod holders and elevated deck rigging system. With a little creative determination, it’s possible for a shorter person with a smaller kayak to do the job almost completely alone. But there’s no shame in having someone help you out when it comes time to lift everything into place.
Even if you’re not using the elevated deck rigging system, I still recommend mounting your rod holders first. That way, you can then determine how much space you need between them to accommodate fishing rods and other gear.
While most kayak rod holders will typically give you enough options to choose from, there is an important rule to follow: always try and mount your rod holders as close together as possible without them touching. You’ll see why once you begin fishing.
Most kayaks will offer between three and six inches of space between each rod holder. I absolutely recommend measuring this out as well using the same technique as mentioned above for the elevated deck rigging system.
As for where to place your rod holders, I like to mount mine right behind my cockpit in the same location where I’ll be standing when I’m working my anchors and paddling. But you can also mount them near your seat.
It’s important not to place them too low or else they’ll be under the water when you’re fishing, and if they’re too high, your rods will scrape along the underside of every wave.
With all this information in hand, I can now begin to rig my kayak for fishing. My next step is attaching the bungee cord used to secure my anchors near the back of my elevated deck rigging system.
I start this process by first placing the bungee around my anchor, then I use that same piece of cord to create a loop on the backside of my elevated deck rigging system, and finally secure it using a “cinch” knot.
With the loop secured in place, I attach one end of the bungee cord to the elevated deck rigging system and tighten it by pulling on the free end.
I’ve tucked the bungee underneath itself so I don’t have to worry about it slipping or sliding once everything is secure. See, good things come from having all your holes drilled beforehand!
Once my anchors are secured in place, I can now attach a paddle leash.
The kayak paddle leash is going to be the key component in keeping your fishing items from washing away in the event you capsize. And since it’s long enough to reach from your elevated deck rigging system all the way down to your rod holders, you’ll always know where to find it.
To avoid the kayak paddle leash from getting caught up in your feet or other items around you while paddling, plan out where exactly you want it positioned. Then pull the bungee cord taught at that point of attachment before tying a knot to secure it in place.
I like to attach my paddle leash at the same level as my elevated deck rigging system because it keeps everything neat and organized. The last thing you want is for your fishing rod holders, paddle leash and elevated deck rigging system to get tangled up in one another.
Now that I’ve finished rigging my kayak for fishing, I can now begin to think about what else I need to bring with me on the water. There’s no doubt that fishing kayaks are extremely versatile and can accommodate a variety of needs. But there comes a time when you need more than just your kayak and paddle to help catch the fish of a lifetime.
That’s why it’s important to think about what else you’ll need on the water before heading out.
It’s going to be different depending on where you’re fishing, but here are a few items that I’d recommend for my fellow kayak anglers: fishing rod holders, a fish finder, a paddle leash, and a deck rigging system.
– An anchor system so you don’t drift away from your spot.
– A tackle box, a net, and a fishing rod.
– Equipment to repair small cuts or holes in your kayak. So if the worst happens, you’ll be prepared!
So there you have it! How to rig a kayak for fishing like a pro.
Now that you know how to rig a kayak for fishing, you can start thinking about what other equipment will help make your kayak fishing experience even better.
Remember, it’s not just about the kayak and paddle. You’ll need everything mentioned in this article plus more to land the fish of a lifetime.
So before you drift away to the next spot, make sure to take a moment to reflect on everything that went into rigging your kayak for fishing. You’ll be surprised by how much time goes into getting organized!