I Got A Kayak For Christmas. Now What?

Every year it happens. For the last decade that I have been around kayak fishing, Christmas brings a great new flood of people to the sport I love. Thousands of new anglers, looking for a way to get on the water or maybe a different way to get on the water, ask for and receive a kayak for Christmas.

Often times these gifted kayaks are not the $2,000 super decked out angler editions. They are sit-in or sit-on kayaks purchased at major chain stores. You know what? And hear me say this: THAT IS JUST FINE!

You don't need to have a BMW 7 Series car to drive on the highway and you don't need the Hobie Pro Angler 14 to get on the water. Would it be nice? Dang skippy. Is it necessary? Not even close.

I fished my first six, almost seven years out of a $200 sit in kayak from Academy Sports and Outdoors. And it was great. I fished differently then than I do now but every kayak owner fishes a little differently and some of that comes from the type of kayak they fish from. The important things to remember are safety, time on the water and customization to fit your needs.

These throngs of people often find their way to kayak forums and ask the same questions. That is when they get a good taste of what our sport is about. Sharing. More specifically, sharing information.

The questions typically revolve around accessories, where to try, and what is all this I hear about tipping over?

Today, I want to give you some of what I have learned both from the school of hard knocks and by others in the sport who have mentored me.

So I got a new kayak:

What accessories do I need? 
MTI Dio F-Spec

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 NRS, MTI and Stohlquist PFDs. 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. The YakAttack Visicarbon Pro with Flag is a popular choice amongst kayakers everywhere.The PFD and whistle are legal requirements in Texas. The light is also if you are out at night.

Paddle- This is your motor. Use this paddle guide and find the right one for you. If you only have two upgrade 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.

Park-N-Pole in a Trolley
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 underpurchased item under $50. Anchors exist in all shapes and sizes. The most popular one is the collapsible anchor. If you are going to be in water eight feet deep or less, I suggest a YakAttack Park-N_Pole. It can double as a push pole, GoPro camera pole and many other things. Very versatile and it floats. It comes in three different lengths to fit exactly what your needs are.

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.

YakAttack BlackPak
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. Eventually you may want to upgrade to a YakAttack BlackPak. This is the king of all packs to haul gear and hold rods.

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.

Your fishing adventure is just that. Add things as you can and see what others are doing. Go to get togethers. Visit kayak shops like HOOK1 if you are in Tennessee or Mariner-Sails if you are in Texas. Talk to guys who have years or even decades on the water. Talk to the new guys. See what's new, what's a need, what's a want and go for it. And if you buy something that doesn't work out, there is always the buy-sell-trade forums. Most of all, have fun and catch some fish!

A Lesson Learned: Long Walks with a Kayak

In 2003, my new Pelican Endeavor (sit in kayak) in tow, I took my first long hike with my kayak in search of the elusive honey hole. I was very new to the sport and didn't want to spend the money on a kayak cart so I  rigged up a golf club caddy and took off down a long dirt road, a road that hadn't seen a car in twenty years. I was smart enough to bring a buddy with me and he had a very similar setup.
Not a kayak cart

The road was old, sometimes rocky, sometimes sandy and had ruts running on both sides that had been there for who knows how long. Going around turns in the road was an adventure as you usually spooked a wild hog or deer or had to work around a rattlesnake. It was as close to an American safari as I've ever come. The landscape snarled with yucca, prickly pear, mesquites and cedars. It taunted us to make a wrong move. The hike, all gear and kayaks in tow was just over a mile. Because our "carts" weren't made for this terrain, it took several adjustments and close to 45 minutes to get to the water we were so desperately seeking. We saw it up ahead. A sharp rise of about 20 feet. A berm that stretched a few hundred yards was actually the dam on this honey hole and we knew it. With renewed spirits we made the climb and saw what we had come for: the honey hole.

I had bank fished this little spot in northwest Texas once before and had decent success but this time I was prepared with my new boat and a conquering attitude. We unstrapped our kayaks and quickly were on the water. Paddling toward a tree line that looked promising we were greeted by a pair of water snakes who seemed very curious about our kayaks, possibly the first ever on this lake. Two casts into the day we both hooked up and that pattern would continue for most of the day.

Time melted away and what had started at sun up quickly blended into late afternoon. We needed to get back. We hadn't prepared to be out after dark and had no lights to navigate back so the pace was brisk. The walk to the honey hole had been apparently been downhill because walking back to the car was agonizing. Shoulders worn from paddling and fishing all day made the kayak and gear feel like it was an elephant being pulled along on a tricycle. The boat kept sliding off and we kept getting stuck and we were only 100 yards from where we started. As I tried to pull the caddy out from another rut the scariest thing I hadn't known could happen, happened. The bearings and axle on the golf club caddy cart gave way. Broke in two. Now what!?!

After an attempted repair job and failure, I relegated myself to dragging it back. I didn't know what kind of damage it would do but I wasn't going to leave it and there was way too much gear to pack it out. Carrying it was out of the question. I had a 50 foot long anchor rope which I fastened into a harness and started pulling. It was hard work. I felt sorry for every plow horse and mule I had ever seen. My friend, being the good sport he always is, rotated shifts with me dragging this albatross back up the winding, rutted, mine field of rocks and cactus.

Nearly two hours later we reached our destination, completely exhausted and sun baked. I immediately started downing any available fluids I had. Though it had only been about 80 degrees I am sure my core temperature reached liquid steel a couple of times. We sat until dark, recovering and learning rapidly from our mistakes.

I learned so much about having the right tool for the job, preparation for the worst case scenario,  and how to plan for a trip just from that one outing. A steep learning curve leaves scars sometimes.

I haven't been back to that spot since. I have bought better equipment though. I have also been game planning with every possible scenario. Knowing what you are up against is a good battle but the unknown is the one that will ruin a day.

Plan well and invest in a good cart.


Looking for a good cart?

Here is a good option from HOOK1: (Click here to purchase)

Your Favorite Day Ever

Believe it or not, I don't get paid to fish, (inflection of sarcasm and a smirk).Very, very few fishermen do. I work in the medical field, on the bean counter side, for my daily paycheck. Doing what I do I interview lots of folks for lots of different positions. I have a pretty standard set of questions that I have developed over the last decade or so and then I have my new favorite. I ask each candidate, "What was your best day at work ever? Tell me about it." This questions tells you a lot about the person's passions, their focus and what makes them tick. I have heard some amazing stories asking this question, especially in the medical field. I have also heard some not so great answers. 

Yesterday I asked the question a few times during interviews and was told an amazing story by one of the candidates. I still can't get that story out of my head. It really showed the passion this candidate has for their job and those they serve. Today, I find myself asking a similar question.

If I asked my kids what their favorite day ever was, what would it be? 

My kids are almost 8 and 4. I know they are impressionable and prone to like new shiny things. But what is my time with them meaning to them? Do our fishing trips  even rank in the top 10 for them? How well do I know what is painting beautiful pictures in my kids' minds? 

A favorite memory is not just a picture or a smile. When you think back on it, even though time has passed, it evokes an emotional response. You might tear up a bit, you might laugh, you might just get all warm and fuzzy. Any way you slice it though, that memory is buried deep. It lives with you, with its own heartbeat, waiting to be called to the forefront so it can give you a big hug again. 

That's what I want to create. As parents, we need to strive to give our children as many beautiful paintings as we can. Planning those special outings, teaching about nature, fishing, ecosystems and the balance of life are duties we should proudly carry out, especially if we want our children to pass along our passion to their kids. 

When they someday leave the nest, I hope in a moment of sadness, they can recall one of the great memories they shared with me and feel that warm fuzzy hug, looking at a beautiful picture we made together. And then I hope they call me so I can reassure them everything is going to be ok. 

An Open Letter to Jackson Kayaks

Dear Jackson Kayaks,

My name is Chris Payne.

I am an avid kayak fisherman and have been known to drive hours to try new water and search for fish with fellow kayak anglers. This past weekend was no different. I made plans with some friends and started my journey at 4 AM to travel the 131 miles to the meetup. I carried my Coosa on top of my small SUV, which is the norm for me and it was fairly uneventful.

Because there was a per car fee at the park we were going to, I opted to put the kayak on a trailer which my buddy had and has used to haul kayaks all over the Texas landscape. We lashed it down and headed off to the gas station for a little fuel and some snacks for the day. A few minutes later we were pulling into the gas station and confusion set into my friend's face. He looked into the side view mirror and the nose of my Coosa was pointing toward the heavens!

I got out of the truck and can only imagine what my face looked like. A mixture of confusion and panic I would think would be the best way to describe it. Apparently the straps had come loose on some of the bumpy roads and my Coosa thought it was time to launch.

I heard apologies on top of apologies from across the trailer. He was sure my kayak was a goner. He had a backup kayak at his house but I hadn't lost hope yet. I knew there was some hope left.

Last week I had installed a new keel skid plate. The other was wearing down from dragging it down to the water and over sand bars in the rivers. It was time to replace it, so for $10, I did.

I walked around to the keel of the Coosa which was kissing the ground like a long lost love and raised it up. There, in all of its glory was the new skid plate. It had a sharp angle on it but had saved the kayak from any structural damage. I inspected it for a couple of minutes, checked inside and out and I couldn't find any damage!

Thank you Jackson for thinking of the skid plate for the keel of this boat. Without it my day and my boat would have been ruined. With it, I fished 9 hours without a care in the world in MY kayak. Sometimes it's the little things that make the biggest difference and today that held true. Any other kayak would have been done but like a true champ, the Coosa took a huge punch and got right back up.

For $10, my boat will be good as new and should I ever need it again, that skid plate will be there. I know you don't recommend pavement skiing for your kayaks and I might not be so lucky next time but, this time it made all the difference.

Thanks so much,


Jackson Coosa Skid Plate
Saves the Day

Gear Review: Scotty Gear Head Track Adapter

Today we look at the Scotty Gear Head Track Adapter (No. 438). I'll go ahead and show my cards early. This product may have been the one thing that kept me from removing all of my Scotty gear from my kayak. Those are strong words but let me explain.

Since 2003 I have used Scotty bases for everything from rod holders to depth finders. For kayak fishing you had either an above deck mount which had a tall footprint or the flush mount which meant you had to use a hole saw on your boat. I'm not opposed to drilling holes but a hole saw?
Scotty Gear Head Track Adapter No. 438

This year I was waffling back and forth between converting completely over to Ram Mounts. I had a couple of things I really liked from them but didn't want to throw down the cash to rebuy everything. That tall mount in the back kept taunting me. It stuck up above everything else and made loading upside or stacking anything back there difficult. And then I found the Scotty Gear Head Trac Adapter. This product allows me a removable and mobile solution to using Scotty products when coupled with the YakAttack Gear Trac or the Mighty Mount.

At first I wasn't sure how much weight I could put on that t-bolt in the bottom of the adapter. So why not test it out? I mounted two 4" x 2" heavy duty Gear Trac plates (GT175-04) where I had previously had a big Scotty mount on the back. I put the Scotty Adapter on one of them. Then I attached a Scotty Gear Head Extender (no. 429) to get the connection point out to the side of the kayak. I then attached a tall PanFish (PFS) camera mount and then topped it with my GoPro. The result? It was rock solid. There is a little bit of sway which anything this large attached by a single point on an axis of 90 degrees would do. But it is just a touch.

I then utilized another 438 to get my 360 light up and off the deck. It worked exactly as would be expected.

The t-bolt in the bottom can be a little snug when you first get it out of the package but a little bit of torque will loosen it right up.

YakAttack GT175-04
The Track Adapter has a twist locking mechanism to hold your accessories securely in place and then with a twist release them to be stowed. I felt this was a vast improvement over previous methods. Having to find just the right lift to be able to rotate and twist out was aggravating. Scotty has done away with it. I can now have a rod holder or light or camera mounted almost anywhere on my kayak when I use a Gear Trac. If I need a mount in a very slim area, I can use a GT-90 from YakAttack and get after it.

For about $17, Scotty has saved me a ton of money in repurchases, made my fishing easier and more mobile and kept me as a customer. That's pretty good in my book.

Check out the "All Rigged Up" video in the videos section at the top of the page to see the mounts from Scotty and YakAttack in action.

Click on the links below at HOOK1 to see more specs and order some of the products talked about here.

Scotty Gear Head Track Adapter (No. 438) 

Scotty Gear Head Extender (No. 429)

PANFISH Camera Pole from YakAttack (Scotty Mount)

Gear Trac 175 from YakAttack

Gear Trac 90 from YakAttack