I’ve rigged several fishing kayaks before, mostly for other people. The Outback had to be capable of being fished in various ways: anchoring, fishing with live or deadbait, trolling, lure fishing, and sailing - obviously not all at once! It needed to be rigged in such a way that I could change roles quickly and with minimal fuss. I also considered safety, and decided early on that I’d be fitting a bilge pump. It’s something I’d always wanted to fit to my Ocean Kayak “Prowler Big Game”, but I never got around to doing it. With the Outback I had a blank canvas, and with several years of experience behind me I wanted to get it right from day one.
The first photo shows the Outback as it was delivered, and the second shows the rigging complete but with the kayak fully stripped for storage/transport.
Hobie Outback (as supplied)
Hobie Outback (Fully rigged and stripped)
At a glance, there’s not a lot of difference, though the kayak can now be rigged to sail and/or fish in a matter of minutes, day or night. Look closely, and you’ll see various pieces of YakAttack “GearTrac”, a couple of cleats, and two rod holders (removable if required). Look a little closer, and you’ll notice electrical cables; the kayak is fully wired to connect a battery to power a fish finder, GPS, bilge pump, and navigation light.
There’s a crossbar fixed behind the seat - this permits attaching Hobie “Sidekicks” [amas – outrigger-like stabilizers -Ed.] that are ideally suited to sailing or fishing in rough seas. There’s also an anchor trolley system, a must for anchoring in tidal waters and anchoring duties in general. Also visible on the other side of the kayak, close to the nose, is another trolley system. This is actually a half-trolley, and was fitted to use a drogue while anchored.
You may notice that the upgraded “sailing” rudder is larger than the standard unit. At the rear left of the kayak (behind a section of GearTrac) is a flush outlet for the bilge pump. So while at a glance may not appear to be much change, there are actually many hours of planning and rigging to reach this point.
Below are a few photos showing the rigging I’d consider ideal for standard fishing duties, whether it be anchored up or drifting. This would permit some lure fishing, fishing with dead baits, perhaps a live bait if caught and used immediately.
The only additions have been my trusty dry box, a GoPro “Hero 2” camera mounted up front on a YakAttack “PanFish Portrait” mount. The PanFish is mounted to a piece of YakAttack’s GT90 GearTrac. Another piece is mounted on the rear upper side of the dry box, for attaching a VISICarbon Pro flag/light and my camera monopod. The GoPro is remote controlled, so its position up front is not a concern.
The GearTrac is strong and versatile, permitting the quick and easy attachment and removal of suitably equipped accessories. I also have four pieces of GearTrac GT175 positioned around the kayak; more on that later.
There’s an anchor reel and anchor in the front hatch (in the Hobie hatch liner – not shown), though the dry box also features two anchor storage spots, so there are various options for storing the anchor and reel. The kayak trolley is fitted upside down in the tank well scupper holes and secured using the forward straps on the dry box.
I fitted additional stainless steel pad eyes either side of the seat to permit the front securing straps of the dry box to be attached kayak. The Hobie mounting points either side of the dry box didn’t work, but they are perfect for securing the Hobie livewell. As you can see in the photos above, I’ve run two continuous lengths of bungee cord around the dry box to permit items to be easily stored, yet remain readily available. I keep my removable cutting board and paddle float secured in these positions.
The cutting board is a must for bait fishing, and was simple enough to manufacture. I utilized a MightyMount from YakAttack and the associated T-bolt, allowing easy on-and-off from the front right GearTrac.
Let’s take a closer look at the permanent fit as well as the electrical items.
The rod holders are modified composite RAM tubes. I’ve fitted them on either side of the seat in the recesses that permits the storage of pliers, etc, whilst fishing. They weren't a straight forward fit and required spacers and a longer bolt for the handle to permit them to be correctly fitted. They’re ideally placed and provide an ‘armchair’ fishing position. Rod leashes are also attached in this location, keeping those expensive rods and reels leashed to the kayak at all times.
I found the centre 8” ‘Twist & Lock’ hatch not that user friendly to begin with. Like most hatches it opens up directly to the hull and does not permit the easy storage of tackle and other items. Hobie don’t produce a ‘hatch bag’ for the 8” hatch so after some thought I produced my own hatch liner for little money. The end result was a cavernous compartment that allows many items of tackle, a flask, food, etc, to be stored as required.
There was, of course, the luxury “requirement” of having electronics installed. I did consider a fish finder/GPS combo unit, though once you combine the initial purchase price with a mapping card they suddenly become very expensive. I already owned a Garmin “60Csx” GPS with a BlueChart card, so I decided to stick with that and add a new fish finder. After an awful lot of deliberation I settled on a Lowrance “Elite 4x DSI”. This is a small down-imaging unit and from the various reviews that I’d read, its performance and price were quite impressive.
The GPS was already mounted to a RAM cradle and could be fitted to the GearTrac in seconds. The Lowrance is supplied with a rather bulky mount, though a dedicated RAM mount can be purchased (part No.RAM-B-101-LO11). This negates the requirement for the supplied Lowrance mount, and permits the unit to be mounted directly to the GearTrac using a ScrewBall from YakAttack. Both the fish finder and the GPS are easily removed and stored for surf landings if required.
The transducer for the DSI units should ideally be placed outside the hull, as opposed to a ‘shoot through hull’ configuration frequently used with traditional sonars. This did prove somewhat difficult on the Outback, as the only suitable mounting points were the rear scupper holes. I didn’t want to lose the ability to use the Hobie kayak trolley, so an alternative mounting point was required. I’m not a fan of mounting a transducer on an ‘arm’ and hanging it over the side of the kayak. After quite some thought, I worked out that by removing the thread from a seat scupper the transducer would pass through. Though the transducer mount needed quite some modification, the end result was neat and very functional.
I’ll cover the fish finder installation in a little more detail at a later date. I also took the opportunity to fit an electric bilge pump so I can quickly remove water from the hull if I ever experience a leak. Sure, it’s unlikely, but if it does happen I’ll certainly be happy that I took the time to install the system.
The last electrical item that I fitted was a homemade navigation light. It’s nothing special - an off-the-shelf light unit, aluminum pole, foam grip, and a waterproof plug. I modified the base by fitting a T-Bolt from YakAttack, allowing me to mount the light to a section of GearTrac. A mating waterproof socket was fitted to the hull and wired into the main electrical loom. The light is easily removed when afloat, and can be stored for surf landings if required.
The main wiring loom was made in one piece and fully sealed to prevent moisture seepage and corrosion.
I chose to use the Hobie anchor trolley system. It came with quality components, and was installed in well under an hour. I modified the suggested routing a little to meet my own requirements. It’s a full-length trolley (running from the bow to the stern), which allows me to position the anchor anywhere along the trolley run.
On the right side I fitted a ‘half trolley’, running fully forward from the center of the kayak. This was added purely to permit the use of a drogue while at anchor. If you’re subjected to a cross wind at anchor, the kayak will tend to swing across the tide. This can be quite annoying and doesn’t provide the best fishing position. With a drogue deployed just ahead of the kayak, with the trolley fully forward, the kayak will (with some tide running) swing back into the tide. I use this method a lot and it works extremely well.
I’ve tried live baiting from a kayak in the past, with some exciting moments and a few good fish to show for it. I did make a DIY livewell, though I have never used it in anger; the opportunities just never presented themselves. What live baiting I did accomplish was a result of catching a suitable bait and dropping it straight back down on a hook. I recently acquired a Hobie livewell which after some minor modifications is ready for use. Fitting the livewell is straight forward enough; it’s a case of attaching the uptake pipe, lowering the overflow pipe to the desired level, and clipping it to the kayak.
The livewell comes with two straps, which I didn’t feel was enough. There’s also the issue of where to store the kayak trolley with the livewell in place. I added a removable bungee cord to two existing fitting behind the livewell, and use it as shown below.
This bungee can be used as an additional securing point and it can hold the kayak trolley. With the trolley axle positioned up against the flared ends of the rod tubes, the bungee cords pulls it hard into position and secures it tightly to the hull.
The livewell is internally powered via a rechargeable SLA battery, so there’s no need to provide external power. The livewell sits low in the tank well and will ensure a stable configuration.
You can see in the photos that the Outback has the center bar fitted for the Sidekicks. This is a fixed bar; if you don’t have a livewell and may like one in the future, I’d try and borrow one to permit accurate positioning of this crossbar. If it’s too far back the Hobie livewell will not fit, and if it’s positioned too close to the seat back the seat will hit when reclined.
Rigging the Outback for livebait fishing is as simple as that. The existing composite RAM tubes that are fitted to either side of the seat are ideal for this type of fishing.
This was considerably more challenging, as I didn’t consider the RAM tubes ideal. They lock off well enough for bait fishing, but I wanted a solid rod holder for trolling. Another consideration was that I wanted the rods positioned slightly ahead of me, permitting easy viewing of the rods while peddling. This enabled me to closely monitor the action of the lure and watch for a bite. If you’re only fishing one rod, there’s no real reason why you can’t just hold onto it. That said, if the weather is particularly cold you may prefer to have your hands tucked into your PFD!
I didn’t want to the kayak more than what I’d already planned, so it was a case of working with what I had. I had given some thought to this problem before I’d bolted several lengths of GearTrac to the kayak. While looking through the YakAttack website I’d been intrigued to see a Scotty mount fitted to a length of GearTrac by using two MightyMounts and T-bolts.
The Scotty baitcaster rod holders are a solid affair, and seemed ideal for trolling duties. However, after sitting in the kayak it soon became apparent that with the rod holders positioned either side of my knees, I’d be unable to pedal with the rods positioned at right angles to the kayak.
After a little more online research I came across the Scotty 254 vertical extenders. These effectively lifted the rod holders up by 8-10” and eliminated the issue. They can be attached and removed in seconds, broken down into the base, extender, and rod holder, then stored in the drybox ready for use.
The Lowrance fish finder is repositioned at the front of the right side GearTrac, while the GPS is repositioned on the left side. The GPS loses its external power supply in this position, though I’m not overly concerned as the internal batteries provides hours of use. The rods are easily reached from the sitting position; I just have to lean forward slightly to remove a rod. This configuration clearly allows two rods to be fished at the same time.
If you look closely at the right side Scotty rod holder, you can see blue and yellow ‘slip discs’ fitted. These are an optional extra from Scotty, and permit an infinite range of locking positions through its range of movement. They also lock the rod holder very tightly in position - in fact, they’re far more effective than I’d envisioned. I had these delivered from Escape Watersports, and I’d certainly recommend them.
You can probably see just how versatile the GearTrac system for YakAttack actually is. I’ve used it now for mounting my fish finder, GPS, rod holders, VisiCarbon Pro pole, camera mounts (various), sailing pulleys, and a navigation light! The beauty is that everything is removable, leaving only the low-profile GearTracs attached to the kayak.
About the Author: Rob Appleby-Goudberg is an enthusiastic UK based fisherman and moved over to kayak fishing in 2007. As much as being a keen angler, regularly travelling around the UK in search of fish, he loves to rig and modify kayaks. These experiences and projects are regularly shared on his blog at www.saltwaterkayakfisherman.com and on Facebook. He resides in the south of the UK with his wife and two children. Rob is a Pro Staffer for YakAttack, a Crew Member for Hook1 and a member of Hobie GB Fishing Team.