Living in Nebraska has its advantages. Great hunting and fishing, wide open spaces, and an outdoor arena that is perfect for the fishing kayak. Just after turn of this century I purchased my first SOT or what we call a “sit on top” kayak. Up until that time I used a cockpit style kayak for fishing on the area ponds and lakes where we live for a few years prior. There were no dealers that I knew of in the interior states but I did find one in Florida that offered a Wilderness Systems 135 Ride for sale after searching long and hard on the internet. I found this kayak very stable and the fishing was spectacular as I learned how to fish with a paddle. But how could I find out what was below the surface? How could I put rod holders on my kayak to keep my rods from tangling with each other? I had already lost one pair of needle nose pliers. How could I keep them afloat? How could I keep my fish alive? What about lighting for night fishing? These and many other questions arose more and more with every trip to my favorite fishing holes. To store my tackle I found a cheap milk crate at a local store but it was very flimsy. Then I went to Ebay and found a high quality milk crate with a metal rim on the top edge which I still use today! I found a picture today that made me chuckle. There I was catching master angler wipers in a kayak while boaters cruised by staring like I was an alien out of the “wild blue yander.” Yes, these were the early days of kayak fishing where I was the only one on the water sitting in a floating plastic bath tub. if you wanted to “accessorize” your kayak you had to come up with your own prototypes. Looking at the picture reminded me of the first crate but also that snorkel hanging over the side was the same as today’s “Liberator” used to hold the transducer in the water. I ran the wires through the inside of the snorkel and used black electric tape to hold it in place. The battery was placed under the hatch up front. The fish finder was one those compact devices that showed dots on a screen where the fish were located and the bottom structures were just a line going across the screen.
Now I use a Lowrance DSI Elite-5 that gives me an incredible amount of information in seconds! Then there were the rod holders. Looking at the modern day Railblaza Trac Port Dash I see a comparison of the prototype I made with wood and a few screws. I drilled holes for the rod holders to be placed and it held up real well in the kayak. My “livewell” was a metal mesh basket placed in the water alongside the kayak. When paddling I would lift into the kayak frequently stopping to give the fish I kept a bit of fresh water. To make my kayak legal for night fishing I started with a portable Walmart style light and also used solar yard lights. My camera was a waterproof plastic box that could take twelve pictures and then sent to a developer to be made into prints. I still remember waving down other boaters asking them to take a picture for me. Sometimes, I would paddle to a beach hold up a large fish and a crowd would soon appear with interest. I didn’t get many pictures but today I can actually video my trips without touching a button! Transporting my kayak was a cinch. I just strapped it to the roof of my Isuzu Trooper. Sometimes it would slide around but I usually managed to get it home safely. I’m sure there are some better pictures placed in my hard drive somewhere that depict these early attempts at “accessorizing” my plastic fishing vessel. I’m sure there were others who were doing the same and as engineers came forward these early ideas became a reality in the products we use today. Companies like YakGear, YakAttack, Hook1, and a few more have grown rapidly with an online presence and with the use of Youtube have demonstrated how these products can enhance the kayak fishing experience in many ways. The entry level kayak fisherman can be overwhelmed by the gadgets and accessories that can be placed on their craft. I would recommend keeping things simple and watching lots of videos or attending a kayak seminar to educate yourself on the uses for these accessories. The accessories are endless for today’s kayak fisherman and I feel this is only the beginning of the development of these devices with the passion for this sport growing daily by leaps and bounds.