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Fishing Kayak Setup – The Complete DIY Guide


Article Categories: Fishing | Fishing Tips | Gear
Article Tags: Fishing Gear

When kayak fishing your kayak’s setup is crucial to catching more fish and navigating waters both safely, and more comfortably.

In addition to your kayak, there are many other accessories and pieces of gear that increase comfort and safety. Catching more fish is why you hop in the kayak in the first place but doing this can be quite complicated. In order to help you out, here are some DIY tips that will lend a big helping hand.


Choose A Quality Fishing Kayak

This should always be the very first thing on your mind if you are interested in kayak fishing. There are many styles and brands available but what is important is to choose a kayak that is specifically designed for fishing.

Fishing kayaks give you increased stability because of the wide base. Also, they have different special features that are built-in for anglers to use, like tackle storage and rod holders.

Keep in mind that these kayaks usually range in length between 10 and 16 feet. Choose a smaller kayak when you need increased maneuverability and a larger one when you need increased stability.

With all of this being said, you can fish from your regular kayak, especially with some DIY modifications.


Safety First

Kayaks are small and a lot of fun. However, they are not very secure. Due to this, you need to always focus on safety. As a very simple example, a PFD (personal flotation device) is always a necessity.

In regards to safety, here are some great tips to remember:

  • Watch the weather report so you do not get hit by an unexpected thunderstorm. Also, if fishing in very high heat, you need a lot of water and sun protection.
  • Prepare a float plan and make sure someone knows where you go or better yet, have someone with you.
  • Stay aware of your surroundings to spot powerboats on large bodies of water. You need to know all possible dangers so you are not surprised when on the water.


DIY Safety Tips:

  • Put your phone / gps in a waterproof bag that you can keep wrapped around your neck. Easy and safe access is crucial in an emergency situation – not just for you, but for someone else you may help.
  • Practice recovering from a situation where your kayak flips. Get comfortable with things going wrong.


Get Appropriate Storage

Every fisherman knows that a lot of gear is needed, like poles, tackles, knives, pliers, and food. As you go fishing in a kayak, make sure all your fishing gear is easy to access. Place it out of the way when paddling and casting and use a container to store the rods and tackle. Usually, kayak anglers prefer to place the storage containers in the back of the kayak as there is enough space for them there.

If you do not have a special container for storing your items, use a milk crate. Many anglers actually use this when fishing in a kayak because grated sides can be used to attach things while offering ventilation and allowing water to easily drain out.


DIY Storage Tips:

  • Milk crates make perfect storage options and often fit nicely behind your seat.
  • Coolers make great food and drink storage. This one is pretty obvious, but if you simply measure your kayak, you’ll be able to find a cooler that fits really nicely into various places on your kayak. Using bungie coords generally works great for securing.


Rod Holders Are Mandatory

You should always have rod holders very close to the top of your shopping list. These have to be attached to the kayak without damaging it. Do not blindly go to a store to buy something. You can use rod holder mounts to avoid kayak holes. Fortunately, these are not expensive and offer interesting benefits, like the possibility to lock in place, rotate, and swivel.


DIY Rod Holders

  • Rod holders can be created by attaching them to this milk crate behind your seat. Purchase cheep rod holders online or at your local shop and fasten them how you see fit to your crate. Different rod holder options can be found on Amazon here.
  • Purchasing a rod tube rack is a great option to securely fashion onto your milk crate or box behind your seat.


Wear Lightweight, Comfortable PFDs

As already mentioned, it is a very good idea to wear a personal floatation device if you want to be safe. Many anglers refuse to wear PFDs or they do so only in specific situations. Do not make this mistake. It is so much better and safer to buy a comfortable and lightweight personal floatation device. The lightweight PFDs are comfortable and you won’t even notice them despite wearing for an entire day. While you do not want to or expect to get wet as you go kayak fishing, accidents can happen and it is better to be safe than sorry.


Life Vest / PFD Tips:


Buy Anchor Systems

The kayak needs to be kept still as you cast against the current or in the wind. This is not easy to do if you do not have an anchor system in place. The addition helps keep the boat still and you avoid all possible drifting as you focus on fishing.

The best DIY anchor solution is to use a trolley system because it allows you to easily drop an anchor from the stern, the middle of the kayak or from the bow. You can easily make a simple trolley system yourself for just $10. All the parts you need are available in hardware stores. Alternatively, you can use the anchor pole. However, this is better when you go fishing in shallow water.


Anchor System Tips:

  • If you don’t want to build a system yourself, check these out.
  • Check out this video (or others) to learn how to make something yourself.

Kayak Paddles


Don’t Forget About The Paddle

Most people want to save money when they go fishing so they buy cheaper gear. This is something you should never do with the paddle because it is your personal engine. Although you have a wonderful kayak and all the amazing accessories that make fishing better, if you use lousy paddles, the experience will definitely be less than ideal. The paddle you buy has to be stiff, lightweight, and look great.


Consider Using Trolling Motors

Last but not least, trolling motors are always handy when you go kayak fishing. You can easily cruise and just focus on fishing, not on how you get to the best possible spots. The only problem is that it can be a little tricky to build a motor yourself.

Buy a good quality transom mount motor of 12 volts. You can mount it on the stern but if the kayak has seats, you need to mount the motor on the boat’s midsection, right behind a seat. For more security, you can attach it to the milk crate.


Trolling Motor Tips

  • You may want to go to Amazon and check out these kayak trolling motors.
  • Many place the trolling motors on the back of the kayak, but this can often make it difficult to reach and steer. A great DIY tip is to use a 2 x 4 or some materials across your kayak, that extends slightly beyond the side of your kayak. Then mount your motor onto that material.


Final Thoughts

Creating your perfect DIY kayak fishing trip is not as difficult as you may think, especially with all of the products out there now that are relatively inexpensive. It is very easy to get all the accessories we recommended above or just improvise. However, the vital thing that you need to remember is that safety should be your top priority. Never make a sacrifice in regard to safety because it will lead to risky situations you do not want to face. Also, always respect the other fishermen around you.

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, backcountry skier, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued climbed all of the Colorado 14ers, is always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about