That first day you get your kayak home is an exciting one, you can only imagine the adventures ahead. You stand there looking at the blank slate before you and think “it needs a rod holder right here”........and so it begins. The evolution of a kayak angler.
Instead of the typical article about how to rig your kayak, what accessories are best or what you need. I am going to tell you the story of my evolutionary path.
I began to really kayak fish back in 2006. I had fished from yaks before then, but it was on vacation from one of my Dad's yaks. I just moved to Southeast Georgia and was eager to get out on the water. I had a great mix of fresh and saltwater fishing very close to home. In freshwater, I was targeting the usual species, Largemouth Bass, Pickerel, Bowfin and all of the panfish species. As for saltwater, I am mostly fishing inshore, so Redfish, Trout and Flounder being the main 3 fish I target.
The first kayak I bought was an Ocean Kayak Caper. It was a small 11' long kayak that was very light, I was car topping back then. I took my fathers advice and fished it several times before making any modifications to the kayak. The first mod I made was a custom-made fishing crate for the tank well behind the seat. The Caper had a small tank will so the crate had to be custom fit. It was an open top milk crate with 2 rod tubes. Inside it would carry four 3700 series, but I only carried 2 at first. A few months later I added a rocket launcher style rod holder in front of the cockpit. At this point, I have added an additional rod to my arsenal and started carrying four loaded 3700 planos and a binder bag full of soft plastics. I would keep my salt and freshwater fishing tackle separate and grab whatever boxes I needed for the water I was fishing.
I began to fish some local tournaments at this point and decided I NEEDED a few more things on the water. I needed 1 more rod (bringing me up to 4) on the water and I needed a better way to anchor in the wind and tides. So I added a 3rd rod holder to the fishing crate and I added so anchor line pegs to the deck of my kayak. A quick explanation of the pegs is this.......I didn't like the functionality of an anchor trolley. Yet I still needed a way to anchor off the bow or stern to aim me where I wanted to be. So I added pegs up front and behind the seat, I would just route the anchor line around the pegs depending on where I wanted to be pointed. Very simple and very cheap.
So within a year of ownership, I have gone from 2 rods to 4 rods. Two plano boxes to four and a binder bag full of plastics, and I am still fishing for the same type of fish in the same type of water.
At about the 1-year mark for my first kayak, I decided I NEEDED a longer faster yak for covering more water. I loved my little Caper but it was slow in the saltwater. We would regularly cover 2 to 4 miles fishing inshore and the little yak just wasn't fast enough. So I bought a 2nd kayak. After a lot of research, I settled on an Ocean Kayak Prowler 15. Not my first yak of choice but I couldn't pass up the price. Once I bought the Prowler the evolution of the Caper plateaued. Other than a more comfortable seat I didn't make any more changes to the Caper rig.
With the Prowler I had a standard milk crate tank well......so I built a new crate. I was carrying 4 rods on the Caper so the new crate had 4 rod holders. The Prowler also came with flush mount rod holders behind the seat. I settled on 4 rods and stuck with this for quite some time. I didn't like tying and re-tying on the water, so 4 rods worked well. One topwater rod, one hard bait (crankbait for example), one soft plastic rod and the 4th rod was some “new” presentation I wanted to try. In saltwater that 4th rod was usually a popping cork rig. At some point, I felt the need to tinker with the set up again. I like the layout of the kayak and what I carried. I began to think it would be nice to have some organization to my gear. I got a second milk crate and cut it apart. I made a storage lid to my fishing crate. Now I can put all my pliers, lip grippers, leader line, sunscreen and whatever else in the lid. Game changer! Bungee closures to the lids made this the ultimate fishing crate. Everything secured in case of a rollover, everything efficiently organized. Now I NEEDED 2 fishing crates. One for fresh water and another for saltwater. I could keep them loaded and just grab and go. What an awesome setup, I finally have what I need and nothing needs to be changed.........and now enters the fly rod into the mix.
So I began carrying a fly rod in freshwater and having a blast. I carried the fly rod with me for about 9 months and caught fish every time out. I made the leap in 2016 to go “fly only” in freshwater. This new path opened my eyes to minimalist fishing. There was something very enjoyable about a single 5wt rod, a pair of pliers and a box of flies. So because of this commitment to the fly rod what I carried completely changed. The Caper was sold when we moved and the “freshwater crate” sat on a shelf. I didn't need the rod holders or the storage if all I had with me was 1 rod and 1 fly box. I won't go down the evolutionary path of my fly boxes......that's a story all in its own right.
I began to think about what I bring in the salt and what I really NEED. I began to downsize my gear from 4 rods to 3 and then eventually to 2 rods. I scaled back my gear from 4 boxes and a bag to 2 boxes to eventually 1 box. My beloved upgraded seat finally bit the dust and I needed a new one. Since I had scaled back my gear so much I began to wonder could I fish with one of those “angler” seats. I found a seat online that had some storage. The seat carries 2 small tackle boxes in the “hip” part of the seat. Behind the seat, it holds one 3700 plano and a medium sized plano, along with 2 rod holders right in the seat. I was fortunate that year that I was very well behaved and Santa brought me a new kayak seat.
So this brings us to today and wraps up my short story turned long. I had evolved from 1 kayak to 2 kayaks back to 1 again. I evolved from 2 rods to 5 (if you include the fly rod) back to 2 rods again. I evolved from open milk crate to stacked crate all the way back to a seat with storage. All of this evolution occurred all while one thing never changed. The fish I targeted and the water I fished never changed. Yet what I carried and how I fished did. And all through this journey I always NEEDED whatever I was thinking about. I believe you will find yourself along this same path, we've all gone down it. It's a wonderful journey and I know my journey hasn't ended here. I will continue to evolve and the fish I target still will not have changed.
Be patient with your kayak. Try not to do too much too soon. Take it out and fish with it. Fish with it a lot! The stuff you NEEDED that first day you had it in the garage most likely won't be there 10 years down the road.