It is possible to fish from pretty much any kayak, canoe or SUP but some craft are better than others and there are a variety of modifications that you can make to improve the effectiveness and enjoyment of the experience. Here is some valuable advice for anyone looking to purchase a new fishing platform or modify their existing setup.
FISHING PLATFORM: Start by reading Global Paddler’s equipment advice about kayaks, canoes and SUPs including watercraft design and construction material. Kayaks and canoes are the most popular choices for fishing platforms because there are lots of options when it comes to mounting accessories and storing gear in reachable places. There are also stable versions of both in which it is possible to stand up and cast. SUPs have the same advantages but a major disadvantage is that there isn’t any comfortable seating. Sit inside kayaks are preferred by some because they offer greater protection from the elements but as a general rule you can’t stand up and the gear storage areas are less accessible.
Another fishing specific consideration is whether you want your hands to be free to manage your rod and other equipment while the craft is in motion. If so, then you will either need to work out how to mount an electric motor or purchase a pedal powered kayak. This is an advantage that cannot be underestimated. Casting and retrieving line, playing and netting fish are all two handed jobs and the more control the angler has over the positioning of the kayak while performing these tasks the better.
ROD HOLDERS: There are two types of rod holders; deck mounted and flush mounted. A deck mounted rod holder holds your rod entirely above the deck in a cradle on a stand. Deck mounted rod holders generally lock into place around the reel. Some are only suitable for specific types of reels so you may need to match your holder with your reel. Deck mounted rod holders are adjustable both up and down and side to side. This allows you to set the angle depending on your desired function e.g. trolling or re-rigging. Deck mounted rod holders are usually attached to a base from which they can be removed when not in use. This can be a single position base or a track along which the rod holder can be slid into its preferred position. There are also clamp-on versions of deck mounted rod holders which can be used on canoes. A flush mounted rod holder is essentially a hole in the deck with a tube beneath which can be either angled or vertical. Many fishing kayaks come with these already fitted. Flush mounted rod holders are not adjustable.
All rod holders should ideally be within arm’s length because it is often very difficult to move around in your craft to access gear. It is also worthwhile to have at least one in front of you for easy access. Make sure to test the location of your rod holders before you start drilling holes.
RODS: Some thought needs to go into the length of the rod. A long rod is advantageous when it comes to casting distance but it can act as a lever and make you more unstable when you are fighting fish. Conversely, some shorter rods may be able to be passed around the bow or stern as may be necessary when there is a lively fish on the line. The amount of storage space on a craft may also be a deciding factor in the length of rod selected.
REELS: Paddlers tend to use either baitcasting reels or spinning reels. A baitcasting reel has a rotating spool and is mounted on top of the fishing rod. Fishing line enters the guides on the rod directly from the spool and the amount of line drawn is dependent on the weight of the lure and the speed of the cast. Inexperienced users can encounter a casting problem known variously as backlash, bird’s nest or over-run. This is a tangled mess which results when the spool rotates faster than the line can escape. Baitcasting reels are traditionally favoured by anglers who are using heavy lures or targeting big fish, although lightweight versions are now also available. Spinning reels are suspended beneath the rod. A stationary spool is positioned in line with the rod and fishing line is wrapped around it by a rotating wire bail operated with a crank handle. The bail is then opened manually to release the line and enable casting. Spinning reels were designed for use with light lures and that is when they are at their best. They are also great for beginners because there is no backlash. Many other anglers choose them because they are easy to cast and simple to operate.
TACKLE: There are literally millions of different fishing tackle items available on the market today. A good place to start is a species specific tackle box. This comes pre-loaded with all the hooks, sinkers, swivels and lures that are recommended for the particular species you intend to target.
ROD LEASHES & CLIPS: All of your gear is at risk of being lost unless it is securely fastened to your craft. Paddle leashes can be used to attach fishing rods to your craft. Fixing all other gear down with bungee cord and clips is also a good idea.
FISHFINDER: A fishfinder is a device which uses sonar technology to give you a picture of the immediate underwater environment and the fish that inhabit it. A fishfinder is an important tool for any keen fisherperson. Most importantly it provides a depth reading to the angler. There is no point in fishing for deep sea species if the water is only one metre deep. Even the most basic unit will show fish, reefs and snags and that is all that is needed to greatly improve your fishing results.
Fishfinders consist of a transducer to send and receive sound waves and a head with a screen to display the results. If your craft does not have a dedicated transducer mounting position then you will either need to fix it to the inside of the hull yourself or use one that clamps to the side. Portable fishfinders contain batteries within the head while non-portable units are powered by a 12 volt deep cycle, sealed battery which must be stored in a dry location elsewhere on the craft. Large 12 volt batteries are heavy so it is essential to consider how their location could affect your balance.
DASHBOARD: This is a narrow raised platform that can be attached to a sit on top kayak over the legs of the paddler. It is used to mount fishfinders, rod holders, GPS units, drink holders or anything else you might want close at hand. A dashboard is usually attached to the kayak on either one or two slide tracks so the distance from the paddler can be adjusted as required.
ANCHOR: An anchor is required if you wish to maintain your position in the water for any length of time. The anchor will need to be tethered to the furthest point of either the bow or the stern to ensure that your craft remains streamlined to the current. However this presents some issues. You may want to use the stern on some days and the bow on others. On top of that, deploying and retrieving the anchor from the extremities of the craft can be near impossible. These issues can be resolved with a system of ropes and pulleys that enable you to transport the anchor point to the required place. The most commonly used anchor is a folding grapnel anchor with a trip ring at its base which enables it to be pulled out backwards when it is stuck on the bottom. A 0.75 kilogram anchor should be good enough for single kayaks and SUPs while a 1.5 kilogram anchor will usually be sufficient for double kayaks and canoes.
LANDING NET OR LIP GRIP: Landing nets need to be big enough to accommodate your trophy fish but small enough to fit somewhere on your craft. Short handled landing nets are good because they store easily in rod holders and generally take up less space. If your mission is to catch and release then a knotless, fish friendly landing net is best. Lip grips are an excellent alternative to nets because they take up far less space.
CATCH BAG OR COOLER: Be sure to give some consideration to keeping your catch fresh. A hard shell cooler is good but an insulated catch bag is better because it is easier to manage and it occupies less space. Storing your catch in an insulated catch bag or cooler will also ensure that it doesn’t become shark bait.