It might be a while before bass pro Mike Iaconelli permanently swaps out his 20-foot Bass Cat for a Hobie MirageDrive, but “Ike” certainly recognizes the value of paddle and pedal-powered watercraft.
“You can get into places that you can’t even think about putting a bass boat into,” says Iaconelli. “That’s a super advantage.”
Today’s kayaks are indeed formidable fishing boats. Though diminutive, they have ample tackle storage space and allow anglers to put rod holders and other accessories anywhere they desire. Able to handle almost any electronics from wee LCD sonar units to full-scale GPS/side-scan sonar displays, kayaks can put the angler on fish and fishy structure with style.
But sonar and storage are just for starters. Here are six other often-overlooked kayak essentials for your fish-catching machine.
1. Anchor System
Wind and waves can mercilessly buffet a ‘yak off of fish and structure. Savvy anglers know how to use the wind to their advantage by positioning upwind of structure, dropping anchor, and casting with it. A wind-on system like the Anchor Wizard ($150) lets you drop and pull anchor without getting your hands wet or leaving coils of anchor line in the boat.
2. Tablet or Smartphone Mapping Software
To help you discern upcoming structure before you’re on top of it, mapping company Navionics offers a smartphone app ($15) that shows lake bottoms in as little as 1-foot increments. Heavy-duty plastic holders worn on a lanyard or strapped to the forearm keep your phone waterproof and the charts at your fingertips.
3. Forward Rod Holders
Although some kayak anglers prefer to keep the forward boat deck clear, front-mounted rod holders—angled to clear your paddle or pedal stroke—are ideal for quickly spotting strikes while trolling. If casting is the day’s approach, the only time a rod goes in this holder is when you’re retying, changing lures, or unhooking a fish. The holder—there are many types currently being manufactured—prevents rods from being bumped and deep-sixing.
4. Stake-Out Pole
Electronic anchoring systems such as the Power Pole are awesome and efficient, but the quickest way to silently stop your boat from moving in shallow water is with a simple stake-out pole. Commercially made models such as the YakAttack ParkNPole ($80) work well, or you can make your own out of an aluminum rod. In conjunction with your anchor, the pole will keep the ‘yak from swinging when you’re casting to beds, waiting to ambush cruisers, or thoroughly covering an underwater point. Just poke it through a scupper hole or an anchor trolley ring.
5. Stand-Up Aid
Rapidly gaining fans (especially among the older-kayaker demographic), a stand-up bar helps the angler stand and fish while maintaining balance.
6. Short-Handled Paddles (not shown)
Great for maneuvering around docks, shorties also help river anglers avoid blowdowns and rocks while still holding the rod in their other hand. The Assault Hand Paddle ($30) features a padded grip, and a molded-in hook on the blade. It also floats.
Photograph by the author