If you’re like us then you’re probably constantly thinking about how to tweak your rig for next trip out. Customizing your kayak adds extra functionality, as well as character, that can quickly increase your enjoyment on the boat. While a lot of kayak fishing gear trends northward in price there are still some gems at the lower end of the spectrum. We’ve focused on on less expensive kit that both looks good and makes a big impact. The products on our list below made a substantial impact on our days out; and we think you’ll get a kick out of them as well.
The 1998 movie Wild Things had a couple memorable scenes; however in another scene that you may not remember, Kevin Bacon goes flying off the sail boat and Matt Dillon says:
One hand for the boat, the other for yourself. First rule of sailing.
Think of all the valuable stuff on your boat as Kevin Bacon, and carabiners as extra hands. They’re durable, easy to use, and more convenient than tying knots. Keep some in the truck and you’ll be surprised at how often they come in handy.
We’re big fans of the Sturme Aluminum Carabiner. It’s all aluminum (no rust) and has a static weight load of 150 lbs. A single 6 pack will keep your high dollar gear from going all Kevin Bacon on you.
Tie downs, anchor lines, web mesh, survival bracelets – there are a multitude of uses for paracord, and it’s surprisingly useful for kayaking. Lots of kayak fishing greenhorns use cheap polypropylene rope from one of the big-box stores to keep things secured. It’s functional, but not the best solution. Ropes mold if they aren’t dried out, and they’re easy to snag with an errant hook.
Paracord offers a lot of advantages over conventional nylon rope. It’s typically thinner: most paracords have an outer diameter of 5/32″, while most poly rope comes in 1/4″ or 3/8″ O.D. This difference may seem inconsequential but the thinner diameter, along with a tighter weave, makes it much less likely to get caught by a hook. Type III paracord, which is one of the more commonly available, has a high tensile strength of 550 lbs – this is to keep people from falling out of the sky, but it’s also pretty handy as an anchor tie.
Paracord Planet sells US government certified paracord made in the USA. They have some really cool colors available. It’s tempting to match your Kayak’s paint scheme, but consider grabbing a neon color – they can be a lot easier to see underwater.
Anchor’s are indispensable in the never-ending struggle to stay in one spot on the water, but they do have their limitations. You’re probably most familiar with drag anchors – they’re the type tattooed on Popeye’s arms, and they flex just a little smaller for kayaks (sans spinach). They’re great when they can grab some purchase on the bottom substrate, but they can have difficulty when bathymetry is either very silty or very rocky. Retrieving a drag anchor wedged between rocks… itsa’ no bueno.
When I’m on the river, or even floating close to shore, I like to bring a Brush Gripper, also colloquially known as a branch grabber. Just grip it onto a branch or log upstream and you’ll have a quick and painless way to stay put. No stuck anchors, no dredging up muck on your bow, it’s an elegant solution. The cord is wrapped through the handle such that grip gets tighter the harder the cord is pulled. It’s more likely the branch will fail before the Brush Gripper does.
The Brush Gripper is made in the USA and is a great addition to your paddling arsenal. Tie 10-20′ of paracord onto the handle and keep it somewhere readily accessible on your rig.
Depending on the make and model of your kayak you may already have molded in cup holders. If not then we strongly recommend you consider making a cup holder one of the first accessories you pick up. Holding a hot cup of coffee between your legs, and trying to paddle, and trying to catch a fish, it’s just not necessary.
There are a few different styles of kayak cup holders – almost all of which are categorized by mounting system. Several include their own mounting brackets which can often be used to house other accessories within that mounting ecosystem. We’re fans of cup holders that work with t-track; the ability to easily adjust the position is indispensable, especially as you continue to add more accessories to your boat.
The Yak Attack Multi Mount Cup Holder easily slides into most t-track systems (GearTrac, MightyMount, etc) and quickly tightens by rotating the base. The wider base can easily accommodate a nalgene bottle, or a beer can with coozy (tested), and is big enough to throw loose baits in if you couldn’t stop by 7-11 before launching. There aren’t any drain holes in the bottom, but you can quickly add your own with a drill and 1/8″ drill bit.
Yak Attack is a high quality brand and they don’t disappoint with their cup holder. It’s large enough to fit your Nalgene, or a beer can with a coozy, whatever floats your boat.
It’s become popular to joke about Yeti products being overpriced, and to be fair, they are expensive. But Yeti didn’t become Yeti by making cheap stuff. They make awesome stuff. I’ll admit, I was on the anti-Yeti bandwagon. Even though I caught myself mirin’ their coolers and tumblers from the aisle over, I could never justify the price-tag. But when I got the Rambler as a gift from my brother in law, well I saw the light.
All you really need is something that will keep your coffee warm or your water cold for a few hours. There are plenty of tumblers out there that will do the trick, but the Rambler has a few key benefits over the chotsky cups your dentist hands out to new patients.
Double walled insulation is cool – it’s still novel having hot coffee 4 hours after you poured it. The screw top lid prevents spillage and keeps things simple with no moving parts to get gummed up or broken. The best feature though is the built in handle – just throw on a carabiner with some paracord (callback!) and tie it off to keep it secure.
Versa Brella with Universal Clamp
The Versa Brella is a small portable shade umbrella that probably wasn’t designed with kayakers in mind. No need to worry though, because this umbrella makes a fantastic addition for fishermen. Fishing on your favorite lake in the middle of Summer is a true joy; until it gets too hot. It’s usually around noon that most yakker’s are headed home because of the midday sun. The Versa Brella can save you from camping out under the willows by throwing a little shade your way.
With two points of articulation and a clamping handle this umbrella will easily fit any kayak with a lawn chair style seat. At 36″ high it shouldn’t interfere with your paddling. We don’t recommend relying on the Versa Brella for keeping you dry in the rain; and it’s probably not best to keep it up in a storm. A metal pole sticking up in the air has a tendency to attract some unwanted ions.
One of the best features of the Versa Brella is it’s versatility. It can be used on a camp chair, golf cart, baby stroller, or really anything else with a tube. For well under $30 and at only 1.8 lbs we think it’s worth throwing on your yak during the warmer months.
Thermacell Mosquito Repellent
Freshwater fishermen don’t have to contend with sharks or pirates like their saltwater faring comrades do. Rather their most fearsome nuisances are far typically tinier. Mosquitoes can quickly turn a trip from fun to terrible if they’re out in force. Depending on where you live these pests range from a mild nuisance to an unbearable plague swarm. In the never ending fight against skeeters you want to arm yourself with every weapon possible. With that in mind we recommend arming yourself with a thermacell.
A thermacell uses heat to continuously propel and distribute insecticides within a 15′ range. It effectively creates a hemispherical force field that repels bugs. Most thermacells use a form of pyrethroid as its primary deterrent. Pyretheroids are incredibly effective at killing most insects, especially mosquitoes and ticks. These chemicals affect a bug’s nervous system and cause it to weaken and perish rapidly.
Spray on repellents are an effective deterrent method as well, but there are some drawbacks. Perspiration and natural deterioration means that you’ll usually need to re-apply bug spray every 6 hours. If you miss a spot while your spraying, well, you’ll know about it soon thereafter. A single thermacell charge works for 12 hours and there’s no risk of missing a spot. Recharges are inexpensive and these units work great on the boat or around the campfire.
Duk Gear Waterproof Phone Case
Despite your best efforts water will inevitably find its way into every nook and cranny on your kayak. That can be problematic for your high value electronics, especially your cell phone. Nothing will ruin your day faster than dropping your phone into the drink. It’s not only a costly mistake, but potentially a dangerous one if you’re far from shore.
A high quality cell phone case will protect your mobile camera/lifeline from rogue waves and capsizes. We’re big on Duk Gear’s Waterproof Case. It features translucent plastic which makes it usable in case. A see-through window on the rear side also keeps camera’s functional so you to take a pic of your catch without risking a slip. Finally one of its biggest selling points is the fact that it floats. Other cases offer similar protection against water, but not gravity. Duk Gear’s Waterproof Case is a worthwhile investment for paddlers, surfers, or any other maritime enthusiast.
If you’ve got a bigger budget consider taking it up a level with the best kayak fishing gear under $50.