If it were up to kayakers, Santa would definitely make his rounds in a ’yak. After all, a “Cajun sleigh ride” (being towed around by a large fish) is one of the most sought-after thrills by kayak fishermen.
Christmas is also a great time to put those must-have kayak fishing items on your holiday wish list.
Though often touted as a minimalist sport, there are many items that can make your kayak fishing more productive and enjoyable. Below is a list of items every kayaker would love to have. If you can’t get Santa or his elves to put them on your gift list, you really should consider buying them for yourself.
Proper clothing will make your outings safer and more comfortable. For warm weather, consider long-sleeve technical shirts designed to keep you cool and help block harmful sun rays. Quick-drying, long fishing pants also eliminate the need to constantly apply sun screen and minimizes bites from pesky bugs. A quality hat, sun gloves and a lightweight face mask help you stay and look cool on the hottest of days.
For cold-weather fishing, warm, waterproof clothing is a must. A good pair of breathable waders topped with moisture-wicking thermals and a waterproof jacket will keep you protected from the elements. The added benefit of being windproof helps warm you on those bone-chilling days.
An insulated hat and neck gaiter help you contain and regulate heat loss through your head and neck. Hands and feet are the hardest to keep warm, but waterproof gloves and socks will help keep them dry and toasty.
A good combination GPS/depth finder is not an absolute necessity, but it can be an invaluable tool in many kayak fishing situations.
Cell phones are great for general communications, but service is not available in all areas. So a small, waterproof/floating VHF radio gives you access to emergency providers and weather information, as well as allowing communication with general marine traffic.
A compact waterproof digital camera is great for capturing and sharing those epic kayak fishing moments and offer proof for those great fishing tales. POV (point-of-view) video cameras let friends, family and even the world come along for a bird’s eye view of your adventures.
You’ve got the fish ’yakside, now what? A good landing net will help get the fish under control for release back into the water or into the cooler. There are floating models available and some with telescoping handles that give you extra reach when needed but retract for close up use or easy stowage. Look for a net with a rubber bag that is gentler on the fish and virtually hook free; this eliminates the difficult task of trying to get your lure out of the webbing in the tight confines of a kayak.
A quality lip-grip tool is also great to have onboard. Fish can be controlled better for photos and release, and it’s a good idea to hook your gripper on the fish before the hook is removed — while the fish is still in your net. This is great transfer insurance to keep those “Houdini” fish from self-liberation while trying to wrestle them into your cooler.
A quality pair of precision pliers doubles as a hookout and a line cutter. Look for a lightweight pair that has strong jaws and an integrated cutter that can handle braided lines.
Plan to add a float or leash to all of your hardware to keep from accidentally sending it to the depths.
Ice chest/soft cooler
You’ve caught some fish, and now you need a place to keep them. Hard ice chests undoubtably keep ice longer and are more durable. The size and shape will be dictated by the configuration of your kayak. Another advantage of hard ice chests is that you can customize them to add rod holders and additional tackle storage.
For lightweight, versatile fish storage, consider a quality soft cooler. Soft coolers can be strapped to fit many places onboard the kayak and fit easier in irregularly shaped locations. Several models are made specifically for kayak use and have tough liners to help prevent puncture and leaking. If you add a clear, plastic fish bag, like those used for bass tournament weigh-ins, you can greatly extend the life of your soft cooler.
Waterproof cases and bags
If you bring it aboard, plan on it getting wet. Kayaks sit close to the water and offer little protection against water, be it from rain or wave splash. Investing in a couple of good dry bags or waterproof boxes will keep your stuff dry and safe.
Dry bags are great for storing a change of clothes or that jacket you took off as the day’s temperature rose. Waterproof boxes are good for dry, crush-proof storage of your phone, camera, wallet and keys.
Kayakers have limited range and need to thoroughly work the area they are fishing. A good pair of polarized sunglasses not only protects your eyes, but they literally allow you to see your surroundings in a whole new light. In clear-water conditions, they allow you to not only spot fish, but also other structure like shells and logs. The polarization cuts glare and helps you spot those telltale signs of fish activity like wakes, baitfish and other on or under the water signs.
Make sure to add a lanyard — preferably a small float.
Personal flotation device
This is not a fun item, but one that should not be taken lightly. Sure, you can buy one of those orange, $10 PFDs and be perfectly legal if you have it onboard. However, PFDs are designed to be worn for maximum life-saving protection.
Bulky PFD’s are uncomfortable, hot and difficult to wear while kayak fishing. Many models are specifically designed for paddle sports, and are akin to life insurance. Whether an inflatable or foam vest model, find a PFD that you will wear while fishing in your kayak.
You and your family might one day consider it the best Christmas present ever.