I guess we fall into the “overprotective” category of kayak anglers. Our kayaks are now more than 10 years old and have had a lot of use. Back in 2008, Ocean Kayak marketed their Drifter model as a stable, sit-on fishing kayak. They came with an uncomfortable seat, short paddles and not much more. Transforming these kayaks into true fishing machines helped us appreciate the maintenance needed to protect our investment in money and time spent modifying these little boats. Here are some tips to get the most mileage out of your kayaks.
Kayak storage ranges from high tech to complete neglect. The material most kayaks are made from (polypropylene plastic) should be protected from sun and rain when not in use. A simple shed roof will do wonders. Remember to pull any scupper plugs during storage to avoid ponding in the kayak. Water gets heavy and could collapse your rack. Also, open any hatches to allow air circulation and prevent internal mold growth.
Support for these non-rigid boats should be soft foam over a rigid frame. We use pool noodles on the rack for cushioning the bottom of the kayak. Any type of support will do for a short time, but eventually polypropylene will conform to a flat surface or bars used for storage. Avoid leaving your kayak on the floor of the garage to prevent flattening of the hull, which reduces straight tracking.
Standing most fishing kayaks up in a standard garage with 7-foot ceilings is usually not an option. Strap supports from the wall are space-saving, but it can be challenging to hold the kayak up while buckling the straps. We built a three-tiered wooden wall rack for our kayaks, but getting that top boat up is challenging. We keep our tandem Malibu II XL up there, since it gets used less often.
Transporting kayaks is mostly done with roof racks or in the back of a pickup truck. Our problem with roof racks is gravity and the weight of larger fishing kayaks. (It has nothing to do with our advancing age, nothing at all!) As for a pickup — well, we don’t own one.
Our solution was to design an extender that mounts to the receiver hitch on our Subaru Forester. The extender we designed sticks back 36 inches. With the addition of lights, it comfortably and legally supports two kayaks. After unloading the kayaks at the launch, we stash the extender in the car, safe and sound.
Getting the kayaks from the car to the water is easiest with a dolly. We just call them “wheels.” Our kayaks each weigh nearly 70 pounds empty, so carrying them for more than a few yards is not an option for us. Dragging a kayak will chew up the hull quickly. We cringe when we see kayakers dragging their boats across gravel or shell to and from the water.
Some kayaks are fitted with a small rear wheel to help with this issue, but balance can be tricky. We usually put our kayaks on dollies, which we use like wheelbarrows to get all of our gear transported in one load. This saves multiple trips back and forth to the car.
Cleaning our kayaks is always a pain, but it’s essential to keep them in good shape. Before loading them back into the car after a day on the water, we give them a quick rinse at the launch to remove leaves and branches gathered during excursions into the bushes to recover lures. Then we pull the scupper plugs to lighten our load of unnecessary water. A doormat keeps the wet kayaks from soaking up the back of the car.
At home, they get a through scrubbing with Simple Green and a scrubbing sponge to remove any mud, tannic stains or (if the day has gone well) fish slime. After the kayaks are cleaned and put away, we hose off or scrub everything that got wet: Paddles, anchors, seats, drift socks, rudders, fishing gear and stake-out poles. Don’t forget to rinse off the travel extender, which has had saltwater dripped on it and usually is sandy from the launch area.
Sometimes it’s hard to be enthusiastic about cleaning all this stuff after a long day on the water. That is especially true if, like us, you like to fish late and have to end the day cleaning up after dark. But don’t quit, because anything you leave on the kayak will bond to the hull and be much harder to remove later. Your kayak will need some care after each outing, whether in a bay to remove the saltwater or up a creek to get the tannin stains off before they become permanent.
When the chores are done, it’s time to relax and recall the fun enjoyed that day. Dinner is usually carry-out or leftovers, but it has to be easy. Then it’s time to plan for the next outing while recovering from the last one. Thirty minutes of cleaning assures you years of service from these little boats that require so little care and return so much fun to the kayak angler.
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of the waterproof “Angler’s Guide to Shore Fishing” and “Angler’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Southwest Florida,” contribute these columns to promote the excellent fishing available in Southwest Florida. Their books are available at most tackle shops in the area or at AnglerPocketGuides.com as a download or waterproof hard copy.