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Kayak Tools of the Trade

The goal is always to make my on-the-water trips are to be safe and successful. At a glance, I may appear to be a minimalist, but my approach consists of carefully choosing the necessary equipment and accessories. Over the years anything deemed unneeded is eliminated, anything in my kayak has earned its place and space. While an exploratory paddle may be on the schedule most of the time, I’m testing my fishing skills. Being prepared for what could be considered “the unexpected” is a comfort and to ensure my safety, comfort, and success I have standard equipment.

First on my “must have” list is my life jacket aka a PFD (personal floatation device). I never launch without my life jacket zipped up and buckled. From a personal standpoint, I won’t kayak with anyone not wearing a life jacket. (I even carry a spare) My life vest of choice is the NRS Chinook. Adjustable, comfortable with plenty of pocket and pouch storage I have a few and like the high visibility models for fishing big waters. Testing your vest in a pool or shallow waters is a good idea and this is not a place to scrimp pricewise. For the serious kayaker inflatable vests are not recommended because of the need to take inflating action where a full vest requires nothing but to wear it. Another consideration is footwear. For several seasons I’ve depended on the NRS Boundary boot for dry, warm feet. Through late fall and the winter I use the Boundary boot 100% of the time coupled with a pair of thin socks.
For further visibility I use an attachable pole with a USA flag attached and light capabilities. I keep a rechargeable (USB) LED HybridLight ultra bright headlamp model in my dry box for late night or predawn activity. If you frequent lakes with heavy boat traffic early visible warning is important. A whistle attached to a lanyard adds the ability to give an audio signal to another approaching watercraft.

Propelling your kayak gives you several options, paddle, pedal or motorize. About ten years ago I committed to kayaking and grabbed a mid-grade paddle. Cost and weight are two key considerations but for fishermen this is your outboard and trolling motor. A typical year sees me on the water about 75 days a year, last season I fished 120 days. I have or have had many paddles and the Bending Branches paddles have always served me well. The carbon fiber Angler Pro Carbon and the Angler Pro (now in a Versa-Lok model) are long time favorites. Bending Branches offers many styles, lengths, sizes, weights and even colors. My partner Debbie pedals a BITE FD but keeps an Angler Pro Carbon affixed to the side of her Jackson kayak. We also carry an inexpensive bright orange collapsible paddle with a 60-foot length of cord in the vent of emergency. Getting to and from your destination safely and efficiently requires a reliable source of propulsion. Your comfort and style are personal choices.

After years of outdoor activities, I’ve filmed, fished and guided in some extreme weather conditions and for those who know me they’ve heard me say “I can be cold or I can be wet BUT I can’t be cold AND wet. I carry Frogg Toggs rain gear in both my vehicles and have a summer rain suit (pants and hooded jacket as well as heavy gear for fall/winter weather. High quality and made to last, the Frogg Togg technology offer strong seams, zippers that stay zipped and multiple pockets for safe and dry storage of your possessions and most importantly keep you dry. Packed under my seat or close by for pop up showers or cold rain I depend on my weatherproof clothes to protect me.

A set of pliers, hook sharpeners and spare truck key are firmly attached to my person. I rarely venture out with sunglasses, I use Strike King glasses which are affordably priced, comfortable and let me scan above and below the waters surface. I like the Jackson Kayak storage systems for behind or under the seat items. The most often used items or tackle should be secure and easily accessible.

You can determine your own list of tools of the trade, but they should all be functional and keep you comfortable as well as safe while you kayak any time of day, for any reason or any season