How To Convert a Regular Kayak to a Fishing Kayak

Do you love kayaking and fishing? If so, you’ll be excited to learn how to convert a regular kayak to a fishing kayak. It’s a lot simpler than you might think. This blog post will walk you through the simple steps you need to take to make the conversion. Once you’ve completed the process, you’ll be ready to hit the water and reel in those fish.

So, what do you need to convert a kayak into a fishing kayak? First, you’ll need to purchase a few essential items. Of course, you need a kayak and some fishing rod holders. You may also consider adding a fish finder to help locate the best fishing spots. The rest is up to you.

Once you have the necessary items, it’s time to get started.

Buy a Kayak

Fully equipped fishing kayaks can cost a small fortune, so converting a “regular” kayak to a fishing kayak can save a great deal of cash. In addition, you may only want or need some of the gear already attached to a pre-built fishing kayak.

One of the advantages of converting a kayak to a fishing kayak is that you can customize the boat as you see fit. Depending on your budget, you can buy a new or used kayak. There are risks in buying a used kayak, but you can also save a lot of money if you can find a solid yak.

No matter the kayak you buy, here are some things to keep in mind:

Install Rod Holders on Your Kayak

A good fishing kayak needs to have fishing rod holders. Kayak anglers need a spot to park their fishing pole (or poles) while paddling. And if you want to have multiple rigs set up and ready to go, you need two or more rod holders.

So, if your kayak doesn’t have any, it’s time to install some rod holders. You can find many different types of rod holders on the market. Flush mount rod holders are a popular behind-the-seat option. They are relatively easy to install if you have the space and aren’t afraid to drill into your boat.

There are deck-mounted rod holders, which require you to drill holes in your kayak. However, they are easy to install if you have the right tools and sealant.

Deck mounted kayak fishing rod holderPin
Image source: Paddle About

Track mount rod holders are excellent because the angler can adjust the position of the rod holder along the rail. In addition, these mounts allow you to move and adjust the location of the rod holder without any drilling required, which gives you more flexibility when setting up your fishing kayak.

We will get more into gear tracks in a bit.

Some anglers like to install multiple rod holders, so they can have different rigs set up to quickly adapt to what the fish are biting. Others prefer to keep it simple and have one or two holders.

Add a Kayak Crate or Milk Crate

Milk crate converted into kayak cratePin
Image source: Paddle About

A kayak crate is a great way to store fishing tackle and gear while on the water. Plus, a kayak crate can be strapped down in the back of your kayak, providing valuable storage space.

Many kayak crates serve a dual purpose: they often have fishing rod holders built in. So if you need a spot for your fishing poles and don’t have the space (or desire to drill into your precious kayak), a kayak crate with rod holders may be the way to go.

But kayak crates can be expensive, and a milk crate is a solid alternative. Milk crates are easy to find at your local big box store, or you can order one online. You can easily add rod holders to a milk crate, and you are good to go.

Make sure the crate is secured correctly in your kayak, so it doesn’t tip over, and you have to say goodbye to all your fishing gear.

Install a Fish Finder

If you want to up your fishing game, consider adding a fish finder to your kayak. A fish finder uses sonar technology to scan the underwater environment and display a real-time image of what’s below the surface.

This can be incredibly helpful in finding schools of fish and navigating around submerged obstacles.

There are many different types and sizes of fish finders on the market. You don’t need the biggest and best model to have a successful day on the water, but consider one with GPS capabilities.

Installing a fish finder can be tricky, and you may need to drill holes in your kayak to do it properly. But it’s well worth the effort to find those pesky fish.

You also need to power your fish finder, which means installing a marine battery and wiring to the fish finder. This can seem daunting, but many helpful tutorials online can walk you through the process step-by-step.

And if you don’t want to drill into your kayak or deal with wiring, consider a portable fish finder. Portable fish finders can be mounted on the kayak using a suction cup and don’t require wiring.

Batteries power them, so you must monitor the battery life. But they are much easier to install than a traditional fish finder and can be moved around easily.

No matter which type of fish finder you choose, adding one to your fishing kayak can give you a significant advantage on the water.

Add an Anchor System

Once you find the perfect spot to fish, you will want to stay put. That’s where an anchor system comes in.

Anchor systems help keep your kayak in one place so you can focus on fishing and not paddling. There are many different types of anchors on the market, from simple mushroom anchors to more elaborate stake-out poles.

A 3.5lb grapnel anchor is popular among kayak anglers and relatively inexpensive. Grapnel anchors are easy to stow on your kayak and pretty easy to toss in the water where you want it to go.

Which anchor system you choose is up to you, but make sure it’s the right size and weight for your kayak. You don’t want an anchor that’s too bulky and heavy or too light and can’t hold your kayak in place.

You also need to consider the bottom type where you’ll be fishing. For example, some anchors work better in the sand, while others are better suited for rocks or weeds.

And remember the anchor line! You’ll need a rope or cord to attach the anchor to your kayak. The length depends on the depth of the water and how far you want the anchor from your kayak.

Adding an anchor system to your fishing kayak is a great way to stay in one spot and focus on fishing. But make sure you choose the right anchor and line for the job.

Paddle Holder or Paddle Leash

You’ll need your hands free when you’re fishing, so consider adding a paddle holder or leash to your kayak. Trying to reel a fish with one hand while holding your paddle will not end well. Most likely, you will lose the fish, your paddle, your fishing pole (speaking from experience), or heaven forbid…all three!

Paddle holders are mounted on the kayak and provide a place to stow your paddle when you’re not using it. Paddle leashes will keep your paddle tethered to your kayak, so you don’t have to worry about losing it if you drop it in the water.

Paddle holders and leashes are inexpensive, and they can be a lifesaver when you’re trying to land a fish and don’t want to lose your paddle.

Get the Right Kayak Seat

Sitting in a fishing kayak for hours can be tough on your butt and lower back. And if you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to have a good time.

That’s why it’s essential to get a comfortable kayak seat that gives you the support you need. Many kayaks come with seats, but they’re not always the most comfortable option. Depending on your kayak, you may or may not be able to swap out the seat for a more comfy option.

Many different aftermarket kayak seats are available, from simple cushions to more elaborate seats with better back support. Stadium-style kayak seats are popular among anglers, as they provide a higher perch and better visibility. These seats also allow you to store gear under the seat, which is valuable given that there often isn’t much storage space on your average kayak.

Which type of seat you choose is up to you, but make sure it’s comfortable and provides the support you need. You don’t want to be sore after a day of fishing.

Gear Tracks

Some kayaks, mainly fishing kayaks, come with gear tracks pre-installed. But if you convert a recreational kayak to a fishing one, yours may not come with gear tracks. Never fear. You can add them yourself.

Gear tracks are essentially rails that run along the length of your kayak. They provide a place to mount accessories, like fish finders, rod holders, GPS units, and action cameras. The great thing about using gear tracks is that you can adjust, tweak and play with exactly where you want your gadgets on the kayak.

Adding gear tracks to your kayak is relatively easy. They can be a great way to add more functionality to your fishing kayak. But make sure you choose the right ones for your kayak and the accessories you want to mount.

You will need to drill holes in your kayak to add gear tracks, so if you are squeamish about drilling into your kayak, you may want to have a professional do it for you.

Don’t Forget Your Camera

If you don’t have footage, it didn’t happen, right? That’s why action cameras have become so popular in recent years. If you’re going to convert your kayak into a fishing kayak, you’re going to want to add an action camera to your kayak.

An action camera can be mounted on your kayak in several different ways. You can mount it to the front or back of your kayak or use the freshly installed gear tracks. Special mounts, like suction cups, don’t require drilling into your precious vessel.

Kayak Fishing Safety

Kayak fishing can be a fantastic experience, and converting your kayak into a fishing kayak is a great way to get started. But you can’t skimp on safety. So make sure you take the time to familiarize yourself with kayak fishing safety before heading out on the water.

Wearing a kayak fishing life jacket is always a good idea, even if you’re a strong swimmer. If something happens and you end up in the water, a life jacket will help keep you afloat until you get back to your kayak or are rescued. Become familiar with the regulations in your area. Some places only require a lifejacket on the kayak, while others require you to wear a life jacket at all times.

In addition to a life jacket, you should also have a whistle and a flashlight on your kayak. The whistle can signal for help if you find yourself in trouble, and the flashlight can signal for help at night or in low-light conditions.

Taking the time to learn about kayak fishing safety before heading out on your fishing adventure is crucial. Following simple safety tips can help ensure that your time on the water is fun and safe.

Grab a Fishing Net

A fishing net is the final piece of gear you’ll need on a fishing kayak. Sure, you can lift your fish out of the water and risk losing it, or you can invest in a nice net and make your life much easier.

A bit of talent is involved in netting a fish on a kayak. You must maintain your balance, so you don’t end up in the water, especially with a converted kayak that might have a super stable hull like a traditional fishing kayak.

A net with a 3-foot handle is a good option, as it will give you enough reach to scoop up your fish without tipping your kayak.

Other Stuff

One thing about kayak anglers, they sure do like accessories. There are so many ways to customize your yak. But, in the end, it’s up to you and your preference.

Why Not Just Buy a Fishing Kayak?

It’s a good question. But, by the time you add all the necessary accessories to convert a kayak to a fishing kayak, why not just buy a fishing kayak to begin with? Fishing kayaks can be expensive, and you can often get by with converting a regular kayak. Plus, where’s the fun buying one already decked out?


Now that you know how to convert your kayak into a fishing kayak, it’s time to hit the water and start catching some fish! These simple tips will help you get started, but there’s no substitute for getting out there and trying it yourself. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start fishing!

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.