Friday, February 19, 2010

Rudders, trollies and other kayak accessories explored in depth

To rudder or not to rudder?
That is the question.
Rudders are the savior to some and the bane to others. This accessory costs around $200. It might be the best addition you'll ever make to your kayak. Or it might be something that you never use.
What is the purpose of the rudder? Some use it as they paddle from Point A to Point B. Nothing wrong with that, but if you have a straight-tracking kayak you'll probably never have to use it.
I paddle a Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5 and it's one of the best tracking kayaks out there. So, I don't use a rudder.
I've had kayaks which had rudders. I had a rudder when I started out in a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140. I have rudders on two Heritage Redfish 14-footers. In those craft, I used the rudder when I was drift fishing. I would use it to correct my bow position as I drifted along a row of mangroves or over a deep grass flat. It allowed me to continue fishing as I made the corrections by pushing on the port or starboard foot pedals.
Port or starboard? That's left and right to you landlubbers. You'll notice port has only four letters. That's the same as left. That was the little trick I used years to ago to differentiate between the two. It works. Now, I don't even have to think about it.
Back to rudders ...
There's nothing at all wrong with adding a rudder to your vessil. However, I've found that I rarely use them. So, when I purchased two Ultimate 14.5s, I opted to go rudderless. Somehow, I developed the ability to correct my position without picking up the paddle. I usually fish with the paddle lying across my lap. As I'm drifting along, I can dip the paddle blade into the water and move it with my elbow to correct the bow. I never have to take my hands off the rod. Don't ask my how I do it because I can't explain. It's just one of those little tricks I've picked up over the years and I can do it without thinking about it.
What are some of the other accessories you can add to your kayak to make it better and more fishable? For me, less is better. My kayak is not loaded with a bunch of stuff.
You can add depth/fish finder, GPS, anchor trolley, rod holders, cup holders and a bunch of other stuff. I do use a hand-held GPS and I added an achor trolley.
A trolley is simply a system that allows you to anchor at any point from the bow to the stern. It's a line that runs throuh a pulley on the bow to a one on the stern. The line has a clip on one end and an O ring on the other. The clip is attached to the O ring and you have a nice trolley system. You can make one quite easily and buy a commercial rig and have it installed. I prefer the latter.
For an anchor, I use foam-covered hand dumbbells that I purchased at Walmart. I added about 30 feet of line to it and tie a clip to the end. When I want to anchor, I clip the line to the O ring, drop the anchor overboard and move the anchor to where I want.
I use the system whenever the wind is making it tough to drift. For example, the wind is blowing 12 miles per hour out of the north and I'm drifting the deep grass off Stephens Point in Sarasota Bay. The fish are cooperating, but I'm having trouble. The kayak is moving too fast for me to fish effectively.
What I'll do is anchor in an area where I think the fish are. I then drop the anchor over and pull the trolley line so that the anchor is now position off the stern. The wind then will turn the kayak so that the bow is point south. And that's the direction I want to face because I set up directly north of the grass patch I want to fish.
If I don't have to anchor, I don't. But there are times when it's a necessary evil.
I stand and fish about 80 percent of the time. I also usually pole my kayak over the shallows when I'm sight-fishing. So, a push pole is another addtion to my kayak. For a push pole, I use an 8-foot anchor pin. Two that are made in the area include the Stickit Anchor Pin and another made by Wang. Both are vertical anchoring systems made for powerboats, but they work great as push poles for kayaks.
There are real push poles for kayaks, but they're fairly expensive. And storing them while you paddle can be a problem. I can place the 8-footer on the bottom of the kayak when I'm paddling so that it's out of the way.
You can also put the anchor pin/push pole through the O ring on your anchor trolley and use it to stake out.
Do you need pedals for your kayak? That's up to you. I'm more of a purist, so I'll stick to a paddle. However, some prefer pedals to paddles.
Pedal kayaks are more expensive. That's a negative.
One manufacturer claims that its pedal craft gives you hands-free fishing. Good gimmick. As I explained above, I have hands-free fishing and I don't pedal.
Two of the best pedal kayaks are made by Hobie and Native Watercraft. In the Native, you can pedal backwards. That comes in hand if you're fishing around a dock and hook a big redfish or snook. If you didn't have the ability to pedal in reverse and away from the dock, the big fish certainly would pull you and your craft into the structure. The Hobie system doesn't allow reverse.
Kayak fishing is so popular that I rarely find a spot where I'm fishing alone. Reason is kayaks are fairly inexpensive, easy to maintain, great fun and don't require a stop at the gas station.
The two best days in a boat owner's life are the day he buys his boat and the day he sells it.
That's not true with a kayak.


  1. Great information Steve! Which hand-held GPS do you use and what advice can you offer for that piece of equipment?

  2. I use the Garmin GPSmap 76. It's a good unit and not real expensive.