No matter how many installs I do while working for ACK, it is always a bit nerve-racking to drill into someone’s boat. In the best-case scenario, the customer has been paddling for a while and knows exactly where he/she would like the item mounted. Even still, there is the process of finding which mount will work best for that specific location, for that specific piece of gear. It isn’t a huge leap in logic to see that a maneuverable mounting system can save loads of headaches.
There are three major things to think about when installing accessories on a Canoe or Kayak:
Deck Space – Boat manufacturers have varying ideas about cockpit and deck layouts. There are some designs that designate spots for specific bases but lots of times we are improvising to make a mount fit where it is functional. Even with several companies to choose from, it is sometimes hard to find a base with just the right size or shape needed for an install. With limited deck space on streamlined models like Hobie’s Revolution or Necky’s Vector, a thin rail like Yak Attack’s GT90 Gear Trac makes otherwise impossible installs a reality.
Paddle Stroke – The biggest placement issue in a canoe or kayak is paddle clearance. You might not realize it, but accessories could get in the way of your paddling stroke, so plan ahead! The manufacturers that do factory-installed rod holders tend to leave at least 32’’ of clearance in front, and 6” behind the seat for a paddle stroke. When I can, though, I like to have the customer sit in a cockpit with a paddle to get a feel for where a mount would work the best for them. Even so, there is not always a space for one in the “sweet spot”, so having the ability to move an accessory closer to you when using it, and away from you when paddling, can be a huge boon.
Functionality – Besides paddle-ability, there are other factors that can determine the placement of accessories. Fish-ability is a key point for a lot of people, so whether a person is right or left-handed or if they mostly use a spincast/baitcast can factor into the placement. Also in the case of fish finders and other electronics, it is nice to have them within reach.
Last but not least, is the question of weight distribution. A heavy surf or trolling rod can put a lot of stress on the plastic when installed on a smaller mount. A rail, however, would disperse the tension throughout a larger area.
With all the benefits of these accessories, it is no wonder that most kayak companies are embracing them. Wilderness Systems, as in lots of areas, was ahead of the curve in this regard. They included the Slide Trax rail into all of their Sit-On-Top boats starting in 2010. Native was not far behind with their Groove Track, and now Feel Free is including the Uni-Track on the Moken 12 and 14. Furthermore, third party companies are introducing new ways to become part of the rail world. RAM’s Screwball and Scotty’s Gear Track Adaptor now make it possible to bypass the mounting plates and dashboards that used to be conventional wisdom, although sometimes they still make more sense.
With the ever-evolving systems, there are lots of things coming on line to help with the search for the “Holy Rail” – good luck! If you ever need assistance with mount placement or suggestions, please let us know, we are always happy to help.
Randy @ACK San Marcos