I Bought a Fishing Kayak. Now What? by Chris Payne (Payne’s Paddle/Fish)

Chris Payne recently posted this article on his blog and we thought it was too good not to share! In it, he outlines the products (in order of necessity) you need to start outfitting your kayak for fishing with tips for fitting and choosing certain products as well as techniques for installing some.

It’s a great feeling to pull the trigger on a new fishing kayak (or any kayak for that matter). Especially that first one. Your very first kayak is special. It’s almost like when my oldest child was born. There was a ton of anticipation, excitement and several months leading up to it. When it finally arrived I was so excited but at the same time scared. Now what? Hopefully you bought it at a place like Austin Canoe and Kayak or other reputable dealer and they can help with this next part. If you didn’t buy your kayak from a dealer, didn’t have someone to guide you through and are spinning from all the options, keep reading.

As with kids, the kayak makes you start to think of “What else do I need?” Maybe your budget is tight and you can’t get everything all at once. That is most of us. Don’t be embarrassed. Very few of us have everything we need as soon as we get home. I’ve been through this process several times and it is different with every one but what I would like to offer is a shopping list. Start at the top and work your way down. Some people may have differing opinions and that’s great. What I am hoping to do is take some of the guess work out of gearing up and save you the headaches I have gone through. This list is specific for kayak fishermen so after the second item the list would vary for other sports.

Start Here:

PFD (Life Jacket)- Most people go straight for the paddle. The only reason I recommend a PFD first is safety. If you blow all of your money on a fancy paddle and end up paddling in an $8 PFD that fits like an albatross, you won’t be paddling for long. Choose a good PFD and always wear it. Check out the Astral Buoyancy and Stohlquist PFDs. Want to learn more about PFDs? Click Here. I also recommend a knife and a whistle to attach to the PFD so you can call for help or cut your way out of a tangle or hung anchor. If you are going to paddle at night, get a 360 degree light.

Paddle- This is your motor. Use this paddle guide and find the right one for you. If you only have two things you can buy, they need to be a good PFD and a paddle. That seems like a no-brainer but lots of people skimp on the first and sell their kayak shortly after from non-use.

Anchor Trolley- It seems strange to buy this before an anchor but believe me when I say you will be much happier if you do. An anchor trolley allows you to use a drift sock, stake out stick and anchor while positioning yourself to take advantage of the wind, not be a victim of it. This also will allow for a quick release if you get into trouble. This is the one I use. Inexpensive and easy to install.

Anchor- This is the most widely mispurchased item under $50. Anchors exist in all shapes and sizes. The most popular one is the collapsible anchor. This is also the most frequent one laying at the bottom of a rock pile or root group in 20 feet of water. Use a bruce-style claw anchor and use the zip tie method of connection to get your anchor back from the murky depths. Here is a link from TexasKayakFisherman.com that shows the proper way to rig this up.

Anchor Rope (and accessories)- Most anchors don’t come with rope. If you are going to be fishing in any current or wind at all most people will recommend 2X the length of rope for the depth you are fishing. So if your fish are in 20 feet of water, you need at least 40 feet of rope. If you are fishing on the coast it is recommended 3X the depth. I like 3/16″ rope but choose what you like. Just don’t buy 1/16″ rope and expect to raise a big anchor easily. While you are there in the rope section, pick up a carabiner and rope float to attach to these as well.

Rod Holders- These come in different varieties. You can get flush mount, rocket launchers, trolling rod holders for baitcasters and spinning, rail mount, and the list goes on and on. Look at some rigging pictures, sit in your boat, see where you can reach and then go buy one.

Milk Crate- You can buy one or ask a retail grocer for one. Either way, you can strap this down to the back of most kayaks and hold tons of tackle and gear. You can also add some PVC to be additional rod holders. Cheapest investment you’ll love forever.

Everything Else-These things will get you going pretty well. After you have the above mentioned items, you should look at, in no particular order: a fish finder, stabilizers (depending on the kayak), drift sock, stake out stick, VHF handheld radio, scupper plugs (for sit on tops), waders, paddle gloves, really the list goes on and on. Most of all, have fun and catch some fish!

Chris Payne is an avid kayak fisherman from Temple, TX. Paddling since 2003, he is spreading his adventures, foibles and knowledge to those who have a couple of minutes to read a post or two. Chris loves to talk kayaking with anyone who wants to share stories, learn more about kayak fishing or just chew the fat. You can reach him at paynefish@gmail.com.

A Bittersweet Kayak Fishing Adventure

A Focused on Fishing Seth

I am hard pressed to remember a day of fishing that was quite so wildly unsuccessful as the day that Kristian and I spent fishing the lower Colorado. I mean we could not pull a fish out of that river to save our lives. We paddled a 14-mile stretch of the Colorado that goes from the crossing with Farm Road 969 to Fisherman’s Park in Bastrop. The water was fairly high; apparently this time of year they let a lot of water go to flood the rice fields further south. At the rate the current was moving we were able to mostly drift the whole way, which we did without as much as a nibble the entire way. I don’t recall there being anything that even resembled a bite. In fact the savageness with which we were skunked still stings a little.

This is not to say that the day was entirely uneventful. I did receive a lesson in the caution that should be applied when using an anchor in a strong current. I was paddling a Wildnerness Systems Commander 120, which is a hybrid canoe for those of you who are unfamiliar with it. I tied my anchor off to the rail that holds the seat and slowly fed out the anchor line until I felt the anchor bouncing off the bottom. All of a sudden the anchor line came tight and my kayak stopped like it had hit a brick wall. The anchor line started pulling the upstream side of the boat under and even though I was leaning hard over to the other side of the boat I only had about an inch and a half of freeboard keeping the water out of the boat. Having neither an anchor float nor an anchor trolley I was a little unsure of how to work out of my predicament. I could not untie or cut it off partly because of the tension on the line and partly because I was determined not to lose Kristian’s anchor. If I had had an anchor trolley I could have just run the anchor line up to the front of the boat and it would have taken most of the tension off. I sat pondering these easy alternatives as I tried to muscle boat around to where it was pointing up stream. Eventually this effort was successful and I was able to get the anchor out once I was up stream of it. But had I capsized the boat in that situation it would have been really really ugly. I’m quite sure I would have been trying to explain to my boss how I managed to sink a boat in a river that had almost no obstacles or hazards of any kind. Well live and learn.

A Tough Day Made Better with a Steak Dinner

Fortunately all the fun I had with the anchor was only about three minutes into the trip and the rest of the day went smoothly. Kristian had to spend some time running away from water moccasins but I never saw them. I think he may have just been running from figments of his imagination. After all, the heat can do funny things to people. There was also a group of clowns who decided to pull their john boat into the tiny cove we were fishing and start up and shut off their motor ten or fifteen times. I mean really figure out where you want to go and go there already. Once I could no longer see Kristian through the clouds of smoke their engine was emitting I decided it was time to push on. It is easy enough to not catch fish just about anywhere, so no need to hang out in a thick cloud of exhaust smoke. I could have done that in the parking lot.

Seth and Kristian

As I paddled on, I really came to appreciate the river’s characteristics consisting of stone bluffs, pastures and a variety of small islands which provided a very picturesque and bucolic setting for a relaxing day of paddling. We stopped at Fisherman’s Park and grilled up some steaks which went a long way toward removing my bitterness toward the fish of the lower Colorado. I hope that I have in no way deterred any one from paddling this stretch of river because it really is very pleasant and all things said and done we had a great day on the water!

ACK – Austin

Don’t Leave Home Without It!

A simple anchor float is rarely an item of discussion when talking about paddling gear. However when kayaking on a less than perfect day it can really save you from losing your gear, especially if you are in a kayak in less-than-perfect conditions.


Point in case:

Recently I was kayak fishing one or our coastal bays facing 20 mph+ winds and made the amateur mistake of forgetting to check my drain plug. I quickly found my kayak sinking while anchored in deep water. I wanted to avoid a bad situation so I unhooked and flung the anchor rope off my kayak and made a mad dash to an Oyster bank and drained the water from my boat.  It was then I realized that finding my anchor rope would be next to impossible. This was exactly the issue. With no anchor rope in sight, combined with the high winds, I was forced to leave my honey hole with the fish still biting. If only I had an anchor float I could have continued fishing and not been obligated to buy a new anchor and rope. I also lost the fishing spot before I could mark it on my GPS.

When I purchased my new anchor system, I decided to add an anchor float. At only $4.99, it’s an investment worth its value when you compare it to the $25 plus you’ll spend on a new anchor system.

Once again, I found myself back out on the water on a less than perfect weather day. I felt comfortable knowing that I wouldn’t loose my anchor this time. I also found the perfect alternate use for it. I was anchored in fairly deep water and realized when I was pulling up my anchor I was pulling my kayak against the current and in doing so I was getting soaked with cold December water. To avoid getting soaked I would just un-cleat my anchor line and make a U-turn to retrieve my anchor positioning the bow of my kayak into the current and use the rocker of my boat to absorb the waves thus staying dry and of course, not losing my anchor.

By using an anchor float I don’t have to worry about loosing my anchor and I am even able to stay dryer and when Mother Nature is against me. I highly recommend these floats to anyone who finds themselves using any type of anchor. It can save you from having to replace costly gear and will help you enjoy paddling with fewer headaches.

Do you have any alternate uses for your anchor float? We want to know! Leave some comments below.

Grant Heatherly
Store Associate
ACK – San Marcos