While the concept of kayak fishing is gaining popularity around the world, a kayak is an often overlooked fishing platform. Utilizing such vessels offers an angler an affordable, ecologically friendly, and easy way to target fish. Although many are just beginning to recognize the potential for this form of fishing on the Susquehanna River, it in many ways is an ideal method for fishing our beloved body of water. The way an angler rigs a kayak for fishing is a very personal undertaking. The choices you make are dependent upon your fishing style, and the waters you paddle. What works for me may not work for you. Over the years as a professional kayak angler I have conducted many presentations on kayak rigging, and even created a popular Youtube channel dedicated to the practice (http://youtube.com/fishyaker).
The typical fishing kayak consists of a sit-on-top kayak with a couple flush-mounted rod holders behind the seating area, and a strapped-on milkcrate in the tankwell. These two options enable the angler to transport both rods and essential gear, which may not have been possible without their addition. The next common feature would be a pivoting-style rod holder, normally mounted to the front of the seating position. With this feature, a rod can be placed in nearly any position, and located in front of the paddler, for easy access and view.
For an angler who wishes to anchor during an outing, the installation of an anchor trolley system is very common. A trolley system can be as simple as a cleat, or as complex as utilizing pulleys and bungees to attain the best anchor line position. Keep in mind that anchoring a kayak in turbulent or flowing water has its dangers. The same anchor that helps you stay on the fish can also cause a kayak to be pulled under water. If using an anchor, always carry a good knife! Many of the Susquehanna’s stretches of flowing water are not ideal for such a practice, but in slower moving or still water, anchoring may be very beneficially.
Another popular add-on for the fishing kayak is the fishfinder or sonar unit. These electronics can be purchased new for anywhere from $75 to several hundred dollars. It all depends on what resolution you want, how many “bells and whistles” it has, and how big your budget is. As for the rigging of these devices, some prefer to attach the transducer with suction cups below the hull, while others use a through-hull transducer application. Each has its benefits and downfalls. I personally shy away from the external application of the transducer, since underwater obstructions may cause it to be knocked off of the hull.
Finally, an important piece of equipment which is often overlooked is the seat. If you want to enjoy your time on the water, you need to be comfortable. I always recommend that the new kayak angler invest in the best kayak seat that he or she can afford. Look for durable stitching, and a high back for added support. If you can’t get comfortable in the kayak, you won’t be on the water very long. Some seats even have optional rod holders attached right on the back, or even a small tackle holding area.
These are just a few items to keep in mind when first considering a kayak for fishing, but also remember a few mandatory items, such as a personal floatation device (life jacket), whistle, and some form of light if paddling at night. The PFD has to be comfortable just like your seat so that you will always wear it, because it may save your life. The whistle may help you signal assistance from others if you are “up a creek without a paddle”, or just trying to hail your paddling companion.
The list of rigging options and accessories for the kayak angler is extensive. Each time you hit the water to fish, you will think of new ways to best rig your kayak for your own purposes. To many kayak anglers, the art of rigging a kayak is nearly as entertaining as being on the water hunting for a favorite gamefish.