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9 Upgrades and Add-Ons to Customize Your Fishing Kayak

Hopping in a basic bargain kayak to catch some bass can be fun, but making a few tweaks to your craft can take your fishing to the next level—and no one understands that better than pro anglers who spend months on the tournament trail each year. Both members of Old Town’s National Pro Team and decorated competitors Casey Reed and Anthony Garcia have found innovative ways to rig their kayaks for more effective fishing.

From DIY add-ons to top-of-the-line tech, here are nine pro-approved upgrades to make a fishing kayak your own—no matter your budget.

Smart Storage

Image by Flambeau

Whether you’re trolling for trout or catching carp on the fly, fishing is a gear-heavy sport. Standard kayaks just aren’t built to easily accommodate all the necessary equipment in their compact compartments. You can make any kayak more fishing-friendly by adding a variety of storage options to secure the essentials and stay organized.

●  Bungees: Even if your kayak comes outfitted with a couple bungees, you can tie on a few more to create a custom setup for just a few bucks.

●  Waterproof containers: Some fishing gear and personal items simply can’t get soaked. Often more reliable and convenient than hatches, watertight cases or boxes can keep this stuff dry and within arm’s reach. Look for options that can easily clip or tether to a variety of attachment points, such as the Watertight Boxes from Outdoor Products.

●  Crates: Crates keep gear easily accessible while preventing water from pooling. You can purchase a rugged crate specifically engineered for the job or pick up a leftover milk crate from a grocery store for little to no cost. Garcia has found either option to work great on the tournament circuit. “A couple of years ago, I used to use milk crates to store my tackle and pieces of PVC pipe to hold my fishing poles,” he said. “Now I am using the Flambeau Outdoors Tuff Krate. It comes with four rod holders, but as a tournament angler, I needed more than that. I purchased two inexpensive wall rod holders on Amazon that fit three rods. I was able to zip-tie them to each side of the Tuff Krate, and it works great for tournaments.”

Fish Finder

Image by Humminbird

Adding sonar to your setup isn’t the most budget-friendly upgrade, but it’s likely the one that will have the most impact on your success as an angler. Fish finders are available with a wide variety of features and price tags, but Reed sticks with his two Humminbird Helix 10s. Garcia opts for a 9-inch Garmin paired with the company’s Panoptix LiveScope on his Oldtown Autopilot 136. To keep these investment pieces in place, you’ll also want to choose quality mounting systems for the technology. Garcia prefers the quick and easy setup of Fishing Specialties mounts, while Reed has luck with the scupper mount from Navarre Kayak Fishing.

Rod Holders

Image by YakAttack

You need to be able to go hands-free for paddling, tying, and snacking, so rod holders are essential to any fishing kayak. Some kayaks come with a single rod holder pre-installed, but if you like to run multiple rods or prefer to keep spares on board, you’ll need more than that. You’ll find flush mount options that will require some drilling, as well as models that can easily attach to a track system, such as the YakAttack Omega. Whichever route you go, look for rod holders that are versatile and adjustable so they’ll accommodate any type of rod and be able to face whichever direction you want them to. If your kayak didn’t come equipped with gear tracks and you want to easily mount multiple accessories without making holes, you can start there.

Paddle

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Image by Tetra Images

Whether you’re casting from a standard, pedal-drive, or motorized kayak, you may want to trade up from the basic paddle to one designed for navigating the waters you fish with ease. If your kayak is powered by an electric motor, you’ll likely be using the paddle to help you launch and steer into tight spaces while standing. So a heavy-duty paddle that can help control that tank of a kayak is in order. No motor? Your upper body will be doing a lot more work, so a lightweight paddle that helps you move through water efficiently is a better choice. Consider the construction of your rig and the conditions you’ll face to choose the right size and style paddle for your angling outings. No matter your setup or location, adjustability and durability are qualities to look for in a great fishing kayak paddle.

Anchor System

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Image by Mumemories

When you reach a hot hole or get caught in a current, the ability to quickly drop anchor is a must. Reed has two Micro Power-Poles mounted on the stern of his fishing kayak to help him silently stop in shallow water.

Camera Mount

Image by Boomstick from YakAttack

If you reach the professional level or simply like to look back at an exhilarating fight with a lunker, consider adding a camera mount for easy chronicling. Reed films his adventures with a GoPro and loves the BoomStick from YakAttack to lock it in place.

Navigation Lights

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Image by Cavan Images

Kayak lights are required outside of daylight hours in many places, but they’re always a great idea to ensure safety when you’re hitting the water before sunrise or paddling past dark. Reed recommends Yak-Power’s button-style red and green navigation lights, which he has permanently fixed to the bow of his kayak.

Cup Holders

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Image By Goto_Tokyo

Staying hydrated as you reel in lunkers all day is easier when you can keep a tumbler or bottle right next to your rod. Reed’s pair of YakAttack cup holders pull double-duty during long days on the water. “They can be used from drink holders to storing baits that I need to quickly change out,” he said.

Comfortable Seat

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Image by MICHELANGELOBOY

Even time on the water is tough to endure all day when you’re slumped down in an uncomfortable seat. Swap out that factory seat for one that boasts more back support, sports more cushion, or dries quickly—whatever is most comfortable to you.

You can technically fish from just about any kayak, but you’ll enjoy better odds and more success with one that’s properly outfitted for the task at hand. Make a few—or all—of these upgrades to your rig, and you’ll be set for an action-packed season on the water.

Which upgrades appeal to you most?

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