Simple kayak modifications make fishing and paddling more enjoyable

Here are a variety of simple kayak modifications that I have done, or seen done, that can improve the utility and safety of most kayaks.

Here are a variety of simple kayak modifications that I have done, or seen done, that can improve the utility of most kayaks.
Updated March 2016 – *added more links directly to the products and supplies needed for these projects to make it easier to get all the right supplies.

simple kayak modifications. deck bungee rigging, paddle leash, bow line, fishing rod holder

Deck bungees, paddle leash, paddle holder, dry box with lanyard

Kayak paddle leash:

My first kayak modification when acquiring a new paddle is to add a simple, hand crafted kayak leash. This allows me to drop the paddle in the water beside the kayak when getting on or off, without worrying about it floating away. I’ve read a variety of solutions for a home made kayak paddle leash, but prefer a simple 3/16″ Poly Braided Diamond Cord  with a Brass 2-3/4″ Trigger Snap Hook 5/8″ Swivel Eye on one end. You can also use the much stronger Amsteel line, but it costs a LOT more. The brass clip secures the paddle to the kayak, and I simply tie the other end around the middle of the kayak shaft. I sometimes add a Velcro – One-Wrap Thin Self-Gripping Cable Tie around the paddle shaft and over the knot to keep it from sliding around on the paddle shaft. If you would rather have a fancy commercially produced leash, check out these at NRS or this 2 pack of kayak paddle leashes that are made in the USA for less than $15 via Amazon.

Kayak seat pad:

If you enjoy kayaking but sometimes your backside gets sore from sitting too long, then a padded seat cushion might help. I like to use thin closed-cell foam sheets taken from an old square throwable flotation cushion. However, there are many commercially available kayak seat pads. I have friends who swear by gel kayak seat pads. These foam kayak outfitting kits allow you to customize the shape to fit your kayak.

Kayak deck bungee rigging kit:

Some kayaks have deck bungees installed, some don’t. For a tinkerer like me, there is usually an opportunity to modify the stock arrangement to better fit my needs. NRS also sells very nice NRS kayak bungee rigging kits which simplify typical deck installations. The kits I used came with all of these items (links for each item from Amazon):

The NRS kits are reasonably priced and you know you will get quality hardware from such a reputable specialist shop. However, I sometimes find even better deals via Amazon for kayak deck bungee kitsI’ve also had great luck using J-hooks to allow sections of the bungee to be reconfigured to accommodate loads of varying size or shape. I can’t say enough about the utility of deck bungees for quickly securing cargo, or to give a hand hold for re-boarding the kayak from the water.

Fishing rod holders:

As an avid non-fisherman, I don’t have personal experience with this. However, I can attest to seeing the passion with which fishermen select and lovingly install their prized fishing rod holders. 
Yes, I said “holders”. I’m told that “real fishermen” require multiple kayak fishing rod holders. 🙂 By the way, the reason fishing rod holders are required for kayak fishing, is that it takes two hands to paddle the kayak, leaving no way to hold the fishing rod. Kayak anglers cast, then put the rod in the holder so their hands are free for paddling.

Perimeter line:

A perimeter line is a great safety addition that gives an easy hand hold for a kayaker that ends up in the water. While deck bungees can also provide great hand holds, a non-bungee line around the perimeter with something to raise it off the deck a touch (stand-offs, little balls, etc… but never knots) to allow for an easier hand hold, can provide a more secure grip when things get hairy. To install a perimeter line, use much of the same hardware and techniques as installing deck bungees. However, instead of bungee cord, use a water resistant cord with minimal stretch. I have a strong preference for Amsteel 1/4″ braided line because if floats, is water resistant and is obscenely strong. Amsteel line is not cheap, but the perimeter line is a safety item. You don’t want it breaking when you really need it.

Kayak paddle holder:

I’ve seen this in a few forms, usually involving a bungee that is stretched over the paddle shaft and hooked over a button or J-hook. We found a cockpit lip clip at NRS that looks intriguing if you are using a Sit-In kayak. A paddle holder keeps the paddle secured to the kayak, as opposed to floating in the water, as if on a paddle leash. On my Tarpon 160 I use a short section of 3/16 in. line which is tied to a pad eye on one end, and has a brass clip on the other.  I secure a paddle blade under a deck bungee near the bow, and wrap the paddle holder line around the paddle shaft, clipped to a pad eye beside the seat. This arrangement holds my paddle securely in place along the side of the kayak.

Bow and stern lines:

For boaters, adding a bow and stern line goes without saying. However, many new kayakers are not boaters. It never crosses their mind to add lines to secure the kayak to things like docks, other boats, while pulled up on shore, etc. When I get a new kayak I add a 10 ft. Amsteel line at each end of the kayak, with a Brass 2-3/4″ Trigger Snap Hook 5/8″ Swivel Eye on the end of each line. I can use the Snap Hook to secure the kayak directly to something, or clip it back onto the line to make a loop to attach to a dock cleat. At first I used the same 3/16 in. line and brass clips mentioned in the paddle leash section above. However, I found that the cheap line does not hold up very well and have installed Amsteel bow and stern lines on all of my kayaks. We needed the additional strength for things like towing the kayak behind the boat (we rarely go faster than 5 knots. NEVER tow a kayak behind a boat going faster than this), but generally found that the cheap line would degrade too quickly, while the Amsteel line lasts for years.

Brass clips:

I’ve mentioned the brass clips a few times already, but like the so much that I just had to mention them again. I have tried 3 types and generally like them equally. Try the different types and pick the ones that work best with your setup. Here are links to get them at Amazon:

I have gotten them from the local hardware store or ordered from Amazon (see links above). Other uses not previously mentioned: securing dry bins or other items so they don’t get away in the event of a capsize, securing objects that are too bulky to attach to the normal deck bungees, etc. They are cheap and effective.

In stall a kayak hatch with cat bag:

I installed a Harmony 5-Inch Hatch Kit in my Ocean Kayaks Malibu Two. It was very straight forward and simple to do and took about 20 minutes. A kayak hatch with a cat bag makes a great dry place within the kayak to put my wallet, keys, etc. I still carry the dry box for my cell phone… but then again, maybe I don’t have to, since I already carry the phone in a dry bag. My kayak hatch attaches with rivets and has a watertight bag inside. Other models attach with screws and have mesh bags inside.

Please let me know which simple kayak modifications you would like to read more about. I’ll take pictures and add details, as needed. 🙂

About Jeff

Jeff is the Editor in Chief of Gear Report and a National Shooting Sports Foundation Media member. He reports on the outdoor industry, reviews gear for camping, hiking, shooting, hunting, paddling, backpacking and other active pursuits. A USAF veteran, Jeff earned a MBA in Marketing and Health Services. He specializes in consultative selling and internet marketing. As the VP of BD & Marketing, Jeff provides sales and marketing leadership to MGECOM, Inc. and helps acquire new clients in need of solutions for online merchants in need of Affiliate Marketing program management. Jeff founded and manages Cress Sales & Marketing LLC, offering online sales and marketing consulting and services to online merchants and service providers.