Kayaks: Fishermen’s New Favorite DIY Project

By Taylor Chansler

Kayaking has become increasingly popular in the past few years in the state of Iowa. Kayaks have become much more affordable, and much more accessible with them being available at major box stores as well as your local outdoors store. With their increasing popularity, many folks have turned their kayak into the ultimate fishing boat making it a great tool to use on Iowa lakes and rivers.

A few years ago I decided to purchase my first kayak with the intent to explore lots of new bodies of water throughout the state as well as fish. Being a college student at the time and not having much disposable income, I purchased a Lifetime Tamarack 1200 kayak. I liked this kayak because it was simple, had plenty of legroom, a storage area inside of the kayak itself, a cup holder, an area behind the seat for more storage, and it was a sit-on-top kayak. I decided I would make this kayak just as good as some higher end, more expensive kayaks by doing it myself. Luckily, if you are looking to DIY into the ultimate fishing kayak, it is very easy, and the market for accessories has grown exponentially.

However, this DIY project will take some research on your part. Make a list of accessories and modifications you would like to make to your kayak and what options will be the best for your specific boat and needs. There are lots of resources online and many tutorials to get you started. Keep in mind that many accessories will need sort of a track system. These track systems are great because you can switch out accessories as you please, or as you need them. After taking your kayak on a few trips, you will definitely have a list of accessories that would make paddling your way through Iowa much easier.

Arguably the most important modification you can make to your kayak is the seat. Many high dollar fishing kayaks on the market come with an actual seat, unlike a very basic kayak that you may sit in. Mine did not. Luckily, after watching many YouTube videos, I purchased an Ozark Trail stadium seat which fit perfectly in the sitting area of the kayak. You may need to do some measuring and make sure one of these seats will fit in your specific boat. You will also need some rivets specifically for kayaks or boats in order to fasten the seat down. You can buy seats from specific kayak brands, but they are all very similar. A popular one is Ascend’s kayak seat that looks very similar to a stadium seat. By upgrading your seat in your kayak, you will be much more comfortable while out on the water, especially if you plan on being out for a longer period of time.

If you plan on being on your kayak all day, it definitely makes the difference to set up some sort of storage system to keep all of your gear. However you store your gear on your kayak, it should be easily accessible. I kept mine as a simple crate that fits underneath the built-in bungee cords on the back of the boat. I have plenty of room for my tackle box, sunscreen, and anything else I may need. Some kayaks may have built in storage, so double check yours when you pick out a boat or buy one. Another storage idea to keep in mind, is anything that probably should not be wet. Nowadays there are plenty of options to keep items such as phones or wallets dry and able to float in case anything happens.

Fishing Gear
Some of these modifications may depend on if you’re planning on just paddling or actually fishing. If you plan on fishing I highly recommend attaching a rod holder. Keep in mind that you will also have to juggle around a paddle, ( a paddle holder is also a great idea), so having somewhere to set your rod without having to worry about dropping it in the water makes maneuvering around a lot easier. Both rod holders and paddle holders are easily found with a track system to mount to your kayak. As mentioned earlier, track systems are a great idea if you plan on trying different kayak accessories and want the freedom of being able to adjust where you want everything. There are also many leash systems available to ensure that if you drop your rod or paddle, you won’t lose it for good. Another accessory that makes kayak fishing much easier is an anchor system. Many companies, such as YakGear have made anchor pulley systems to attach along the side of your boat to use with a small anchor. If you’re really high tech, there are many ways to rig up your fish finder to your kayak just like a regular sized fishing boat. If you have the room on your kayak, there are many mounting systems, or DIY mounting systems available online for fish finders. Another great piece of equipment to think about is a live well if you prefer fishing with live bait. The perk of kayak fishing with live bait is that it is extremely easy to use a product such as BaitShark that trails alongside your kayak. Baitshark also will not drag underwater like other livewells that are not made to be in the water. Speaking of bait, another piece of gear to think about is a smaller tackle box. You will not want to bring your entire tackle box onto your kayak, so look at a smaller one and pick out your favorite lures and save some space on your boat.

Other Convenient Modifications/Gear
There are many other accessories that will make great additions to your kayak even if you’re not fishing. As mentioned earlier, a paddle holder can make life on the water much easier especially if you’re also maneuvering around with a fishing rod. Depending on what else you want to use your kayak for, you can always add lights if you plan on being out on the water at night, extra handles and tie downs for easy transport, and many other accessories. Another piece of gear that will make your kayaking adventure much easier is a kayak cart. Oftentimes getting your kayak from the vehicle or trailer to the water is the hardest part. There are many different carts on the market, and many plans to build one yourself online. Trust me, your back will thank you!

Kayaking is a great activity to start exploring in Iowa, even if you’re not fishing it can be great to go with a group of friends and float down one of the many water trails across the state. If you are new to kayaking, watch for one of the Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s paddling classes, or check with your local county conservation for classes that can teach you how to safely paddle. Lastly, the importance of a lifejacket cannot be stressed enough, make sure you wear it!