What Shoppers Want in a Fishing Kayak

Cash in on the kayak fishing craze by understanding the gear anglers want and need.

What Shoppers Want in a Fishing Kayak

While bass fishing has long been an extremely popular sport to millions of Americans, the recent boom in kayak bass fishing is making the sport accessible to more anglers than ever before. In fact, fully decked-out fishing kayaks are becoming all the rage in some parts of the country, and participation in kayak bass tournaments is also booming.

Dave Mull is a longtime outdoor writer and avid kayak bass tournament angler who knows more than just a few things about fishing and tricking out a kayak for bass. He believes kayak bass tournaments are becoming so popular because they allow anglers who always wanted to fish competitively to do so without spending $70,000 on a full-size bass boat.

“I think it’s an offshoot of the popularity of professional bass fishing and bass tournaments in general,” Mull says. “The big advantage is you can do this and still afford to send your kids to college.

“Kayak fishing has opened fishing up to a lot of people who don’t have a tow vehicle and/or a budget to afford a big, expensive bass boat. It’s perfect for guys who want to get off the bank without spending a lot of money, use whatever vehicle they’re already driving to get their kayak to the lake, and then store it easily around the house.”

Fishing kayaks are a fairly expensive proposition to begin with, though certainly not to the extent that full-size bass boats are. Many start in the $3,000 range before all the add-ons. While most recreational kayaks are made to sit inside of, fishing kayaks are designed for sitting on top. That gives anglers more storage room for rods, tackle and other essentials.

Here are some products to consider adding to your inventory to cater to the growing population of hardcore kayak anglers.

Gearing Up

First of all, since they are prone to getting blown wherever the wind chooses to send them, many kayak anglers choose a kayak with some sort of drive system. “It’s just easier to fish and move if you have some kind of pedal-drive system,” Mull says. “But that class of kayaks is more expensive than paddle kayaks.”

Some pedal-drive systems utilize a propeller to move the kayak along when the angler peddles. Others like Hobie’s Mirage Drive use two flaps that mimic how a penguin flies under water. If you are going to add a handful of kayaks to your inventory, consider a few with each type of drive system, along with one or two without a drive system. That gives anglers a good selection from which to choose a model that fits their needs and budget.

Kayak paddles are also an important item, especially for those anglers who choose to not have a drive system. While you can get a fairly cheap paddle for around $35, the quality ones preferred by anglers are much more expensive due to their light weight and other factors like adjustable length and curvature of the blade.

Look for popular kayak paddles from companies like Bending Branches and Werner. Kerco is a new company that has nice kayak paddles with a lower price tag than some of the really high-dollar brands.

Rod holders are another must-have item. “You need at least one rod holder for your kayak to put in front of you so you have some place to put your rod when tying on a new lure or taking a fish off,” Mull says. “If you lay your rod down, you’re likely to kick it overboard. Ask me how I know.”

Many anglers have several rod holders mounted in different locations around their kayak so they can keep a number of spare rod-and-reel outfits ready to go. Railblaza, Ram Mounts and Scotty all offer options that are popular with kayak anglers.

Another essential is a fishfinder, which does a lot more than find fish. “Fishing, in general, is more of an electronics-oriented world nowadays,” Mull says. “Now, everybody goes around and looks at their electronics extensively before they even start fishing.”

Fishfinders to consider include models from Humminbird, Lowrance and Garmin, with the Humminbird Helix 5 and Helix 7 being quite popular with the kayak crowd. Detailed map chips from companies like Navionics and LakeMaster, which fit into fishfinders and work hand-in-hand with the units’ GPS function, are also in great demand and represent another product segment to consider adding to your inventory.

Electronics need batteries, and lithium batteries could be a good profit center for your retail outlet. Since keeping weight down is such an important factor in everything added to a fishing kayak, the lighter, more expensive lithium batteries, which weigh about half of what typical batteries do, are preferred by anglers.

A number of companies make lithium batteries specifically for powering fishfinders and other fishing electronics, including Dakota, Nocqua and Wilderness Systems. 

Kayak anglers also need some kind of tackle crate for storing lures and other gear. Anyone who has done much bass fishing knows just how much gear tournament bass anglers carry. While a tackle crate won’t allow kayak anglers to carry quite that much equipment, it will allow them to carry what they need, plus some extras. Many such crates also have rod holders attached.

The Black Pack made by YakAttack is currently one of the most popular tackle crates among kayak bass anglers. Other companies that make quality tackle crates include Plano, Frabill and YakGear.

Kayak anglers also need a good landing net if they expect to safely get fish out of the water and into the boat. There are lots of different kinds of nets available, and rubber nets that can’t easily entangle hooks are generally preferred.

Some companies make nets exclusively for kayak fishing, including Frabill with its Bearclaw model. Instead of a long handle shaft, the Bearclaw features a forearm support bar and handle grab at the yoke, both with rubber grips, so netting becomes a simple reach-and-pull process. Ranger and Beckman also make quality nets for use in kayaks.

It makes sense that another important, must-have item for kayak anglers is a good anchor system. “An anchor is really important because you don’t have much control over where the wind is going to push you,” Mull says. “A lot of guys anchor during a tournament if it’s even a little windy at all. They’ll put the anchor down while they photograph and release the fish. In four minutes, they could be 400 yards downwind from where they caught it.”

The hottest product in the kayak anchor market right now is the Anchor Wizard. Billed by the manufacturer as “the ultimate kayak anchoring system,” The Anchor Wizard’s unique spool design allows the angler to turn the handle backward to drop the anchor with a free-spool release. A forward crank of the handle locks the spool. To retrieve the anchor, simply crank the spool forward to take up the line.

Not a necessity, but for most anglers, a good track system can help them organize their fishing gear and accessories much better than trying to do so without one. A track system provides innovative ways for anglers to customize their kayaks to fit their personal needs. Easy-to-install tracks provide secure receivers for attaching accessories like rod holders, cups, anchor systems and tackle organizers.

One of the most popular track systems is the made by YakAttack and comes in a variety of different lengths. Other companies that make and market quality kayak track systems include Ram Mounts and Sea-lect Designs. 

The next few must-have items involve angler safety, the most important of which is a top-quality personal flotation device. In fact, since kayak anglers are closer to the water and in a little more precarious position than anglers in large boats, they are extremely PFD conscious.

While nearly any PFD will work to keep anglers safe, not all make fishing from a kayak as convenient as it could be. Several companies make life vests specifically for kayak anglers, including Kokotat’s Leviathan PFD and the Chinook Fishing PFD from NRS. Inflatable PFDs are also popular with kayak anglers, with Mustang, Onyx and Stearns all offering quality products in that category. 

For safety — and in order to be legal on the water after dark — a 360-degree light is another kayak fishing necessity. “They usually come with a flag on them to be more visible during the day, too,” Mull says. “A 360-degree light can go in a rod holder or you can get a mount for it so you can attach it with screws or rivets to your kayak. Or you can slide it into your track system.”

YakAttack’s VISICarbon Pro is one very popular model that gets lots of use by kayak bass anglers. Hobie also makes one that is high quality and works well for this application.

Last but most certainly not least among must-have gear is some kind of wheel system for moving a kayak. Once an angler gets his kayak rigged just the way he wants for fishing, it can be quite heavy.

“You’ve got to have a way to get your kayak from your vehicle down a path to the water in areas where you can’t just back in, then get it back when you’re done fishing,” Mull says.

One very popular model is the C-Tug by YakGear, which weighs only 10 pounds but can carry up to 300 pounds. Another is Malone’s Nomad, which is light, easy to stow because of its removable wheels and is padded to not damage kayaks when transporting them.

As you can see, there is much more to this pursuit than just a one-time purchase of a kayak. And we’ve not even touched upon all the various fishing gear that kayak anglers buy on a regular basis.

Give some thought to outfitting these unique customers. You might just see a positive difference in your bottom line.


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