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Best Kayak Mods and Upgrades (Get More Out of Your Boat)

You have done your research. You know what kayak you want, and now it’s time to upgrade! There are tons of options when it comes to upgrading a kayak.  Some people will add accessories like a kayak paddle holder or rudder system, while others will go with an entirely new seat.

Kayaking is a sport that anyone can enjoy, and it’s one of the most rewarding sports out there. But if you’re interested in getting more out of your kayaking experience, upgrading or modifying your kayak is a great idea!

There are tons of ways to do this, from replacing the basic seat with something that provides comfort and back support (and even makes paddling easier) to adding storage for convenience on long trips.

No matter what you decide on, these upgrades can make your kayak more customized for YOU and set up the perfect boat for your paddling adventures.

Kayak modifications and upgrades

Gear tracks

Many kayaks come with tracks to stow your gear. If your kayak doesn’t come equipped with tracks, this is one of the best upgrades for your vessel.  Gear tracks are the perfect solution to a problem that every kayaker struggles with: “Where do I put my gear?”

Kayak upgrades - Man fishing using kayak gear tracks for gearPin

Gear tracks are designed and built specifically for storing your kayaking gear. They can be mounted directly to your kayak. Tracks make it super easy to add other accessories, like a fishing rod holder, a fishfinder, or a GPS.

Adding gear tracks to your kayak requires drilling some holes into your kayak. If you have some DIY skills, adding a gear track is an excellent investment for any kayaker.

Tracks are one of the best kayak modifications you can make. They are versatile and come in very handy for a lot of situations.

Cup holders

A cup holder seems like the thing that every kayaker would want to have in their boat, right? You need a place to put your coffee or drink when you’re paddling.

Cup holders can attach to tracks on your kayak, or you can use a simple clamp that will attach to your vessel.

Cup holders are great for day trips in calm waters. You also might need one to secure your drink if you’re going out on rougher water. 

Adding a cup holder to your kayak is a significant modification, and it’s one less thing you have to think about when you are paddling.

Watertight storage

Let’s face it, when you are paddling, your gear is likely to get wet. As a kayaker, you want to be prepared for any situation, so it is essential to have watertight storage on your kayak. This will keep your gear dry in case of rain or if you capsize.

Kayak mods - Yellow waterproof box to store valuablesPin

There are many different options to choose from when looking for waterproof storage for your kayak. You should consider dry bags and watertight boxes. Soft-sided bags provide more flexibility because they are lightweight and roll up for easy storage. Watertight boxes are great for your phone, wallet, and car keys, things you need to keep dry.

Waterproof containers and bags will protect not only your equipment but, most importantly, your phone, which can be very valuable when navigating back home after a day on the water.

Add bungee cord storage

Anyone who owns a kayak knows that it’s not easy to find the right place to store all of your gear. When you’re out on the water, there are never enough convenient storage areas for things like life jackets, extra clothes, or other gear.

Kayak mods - kayak bungee cord storagePin

One excellent option is attaching bungee cords to your kayak so you can easily stow away these items when they’re not in use.

Many kayaks come with bungee cords, which makes it easy to take advantage of these storage areas. But if your kayak doesn’t have bungees, you can add them to your vessel with a bit of modification.

This might take a little bit of drilling, depending on your setup.  You might be able to screw pad eyes to your boat, then you can attach bungees to those. Or you can drill holes in your kayak and attach the bungees to them.

By attaching bungee cords, you will be able to wrap up small items like clothes or life jackets and store them away when needed. This is a great option for those trying not only to save space but also to keep their boat organized!

Add an outrigger

Kayak stability is vital for a few reasons. First, if the kayak is listing too far to one side, it can make paddling more difficult and uncomfortable for you and make your stroke less effective. Second, you want to avoid capsizing your kayak, which can be disastrous in some circumstances.

Adding an outrigger to your kayak can help make the kayak more stable. Some outriggers are so stable you can stand up in the kayak.

There are a few different methods to attach an outrigger.  The installation will depend on your kayak.

The most common method is to attach the outrigger via a universal clamp on either side of the kayak. It can be attached at different points depending on how far apart you want it from your boat. This type of attachment will not change where you sit and only requires one hand for each outrigger.

Another method is to use a clamp on each side of the kayak then attach it with straps or bungee cords. This type also does not change where you sit but requires two hands for each outrigger. You can adjust how close they are to the kayak by adjusting the length and tension of the outrigger.

Click here for more information about kayak outriggers.

New kayak seat

The kayak seat that you are currently using might not be the best one for you. Some of the standard seats that come with kayaks are pretty poor. You should always consider this when kayaking, and it can really make a difference in how enjoyable your time on the water will be.

Kayak upgrades - A new kayak seatPin

You might need a kayak seat that offers more back support, a kayak seat that is softer or more firm, or one with an adjustable backrest.

These things might seem small, but they can really make your time on the water better, and you will be able to enjoy it much more without feeling sore from sitting all day long.

A good kayak seat can make a huge difference in your kayaking experience, so you should always consider upgrading your current one.

Click here for more information on swapping out your kayak seat.

Kayak anchor or anchor trolley

Adding an anchor can be immensely helpful when you are fishing from a kayak. A kayak anchor is an excellent upgrade for fishermen wanting to take their fishing trips on the water to a whole new level of success!

A well-placed anchor will keep you in one spot and help you to get the most out of your day on the water. Once you find the fish, you want to stay there as long as possible.

A kayak anchor is easy to use, affordable, and allows for more effective fishing when used correctly. I would never go back to not using an anchor after trying it once!

Numerous anchors are available for kayaks, including folding anchors, drift socks (more for slowing you down), and an anchor trolley.

Add a fishing rod holder to the kayak

If you are fishing from your kayak, a rod holder is a must. It’s hard to paddle and hold your fishing pole at the same time.  It’s crucial to find a way to keep your rod and reel within reach.

Kayak mods and upgrades - Kayak fishing Rod HolderPin

A kayak fishing rod holder is specifically made for people who fish from their kayak. Kayak rod holders can be attached to the kayak’s deck, to a rail system on the side of your boat, or even mounted in one spot.

Many kayaks come with some type of rod holder already installed on the deck. If yours does not, you may have to buy one separately and install it yourself. Some kayaks have flush-mounted rod holders mounted behind the seat.

The best part about using a rod holder is that it saves you from holding onto your fishing pole while you are paddling. 

You can read more about kayak rod holders here.

Milk crate

Adding a milk crate to your kayak can help with storage. The milk crate is a portable and sturdy container that can store anything from food to other gear you may need for your kayaking adventure.

What makes the milk crate so versatile? They are relatively inexpensive, sturdy, and small enough to strap on the deck of your kayak.

Most people use a milk crate in the rear tankwell. Milk crates also provide a secure area for anything you might need while paddling, like water bottles, food, clothing, snacks, sunscreen, etc.

The milk crate is one easy solution to help get organized before taking off on those long kayaking excursions.

Many people use milk crates to hold fishing gear and other items needed for a day on the water. You can even add fishing rod holders to the crate.  Others use them to store extra clothing, food, or even camping gear!

GPS

Have you ever wanted to get lost without getting lost? A kayak GPS might be a great option for you because it can help keep you on track. 

Kayak mods - kayak GPS sitting on a map next to fishing gearPin

You can use a GPS to find places that are not on any map or search through an area with no cell service and still have access to GPS coordinates.

A kayak GPS is handy for tracking your favorite fishing hole. Next time out, you can load the coordinates to your spot and paddle straight there. 

The best part of using a kayak GPS is to help get you back to where you started.

Fishfinder

If you are serious about kayak fishing and you are not using a fishfinder, then your chances of catching more fish are significantly reduced.

Kayak mods and upgrades - FishfinderPin

Fishfinders come in all shapes and sizes, but the most popular ones for kayaks usually have sonar that ranges from 50 to 200 feet. This is enough depth range for any size body of water such as ponds, lakes, and rivers.

This sonar will show fish that are either swimming near the surface or maybe suspended in deeper water. Fish sometimes swim close to the surface and find refuge at different depths due to predators and their own food sources.

A good fish finder gives you an unfair advantage when it comes to reeling in your big catch. The fishfinder can also be used as a GPS, telling you when you have reached your fishing spot or where it is on the map of your chosen body of water.

A fish finder is an indispensable tool to have for a kayak fisherman. You also need a power source. More on this later. Modifying your kayak with a fishfinder is a top-notch upgrade.

Get a spray skirt

If you kayak in cold conditions and don’t want to get wet, try using a spray skirt. A spray skirt is crucial to stay warm and dry even when kayaking in rough water.

With a spray skirt installed and tightened correctly, waves will break over the deck of your boat without spilling onto you. Adding a spray skirt is an easy kayak mod that doesn’t require any DIY skills.

Consider installing a trolling motor

A trolling motor is an excellent addition to your kayak.  Yes, there goes your workout, but you can spend more time reeling in fish when you are not paddling.

Depending on how your kayak is set up, you may be able to attach an outboard motor directly to the kayak. You should consult your manufacturer’s instructions for this process to ensure safety.

Also, make sure to tightly secure your outboard motor to a bracket on the kayak so that it doesn’t slide off while you’re moving.

Adding a motor to your kayak is great for windy conditions, rough water, or trolling while you are fishing.

If you have an adjustable length shaft for your outboard engine, this is also something to consider when attaching it to the kayak.

You may need some additional hardware to attach the motor to your kayak. This will depend on your kayak and how it is designed.

A trolling motor is one of the best mods for your kayak.

Battery

Depending on the mods you add to your kayak, you may need a power source.  Lithium batteries are lightweight and pack a lot of power, making them a popular addition to kayaking.

Be wary of what type of battery you can use with your devices. Some trolling motors do not recommend using a lithium battery. But you can use a lithium battery to power a fishfinder.

Paddle leash

A paddle leash is a great accessory to use while kayaking. If you want your hands free and need the security of knowing that your paddle will not end up floating away, or if you are trying to take a photo with one hand on the camera.

A paddle leash has a few different styles, but they all serve the same purpose: giving you peace of mind when out on the water so that you do not lose your most important piece of equipment!

Add safety features such as kayak lights/flagpole

Safety is the top priority when you are on the water. You want other watercraft to be able to see you day or night.  Kayak lights are a great addition to your kayak during the day and at night.

Some jurisdictions require lights when you are kayaking after dark, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the rules before you head out. Typically a white light on the stern and red and green bow lights will do the trick.

Some kits will come with a flagpole and a light. A flag is a great addition to your yak, no matter where you are paddling. If you are on a big, open lake with many powerboats, a flag can alert other boaters to notice you. 

In foggy, rainy, low light, or other conditions with poor visibility, a flag is a great way to let other boaters know you are in the area.

Get a kayak cart for easy transport

If you’re a kayaker, then you know the struggle of carrying your kayak to and from the water. It’s not easy, but it can make the process much easier if you have a kayak cart.

Kayak mods - Kayak cartPin

It’s not exactly a kayak mod, but a kayak cart is a great way to portage your boat to the water. A kayak cart can help save your back and get you to the water easy peasy. 

Kayak carts work well on various terrain, including grass, sand, rocks, dirt, gravel, etc.  Kayak carts also feature an easy-fold design so that they can be stored away when not in use.  

If you’re on the market for something that will make transporting your kayak more manageable, then this is definitely it!

Click here to read more about our favorite kayak cart.

Tips for upgrading and modifying your kayak

Now that you have your kayak mods picked out, there are some precautions to take before you start drilling or screwing into your kayak.

Test out the kayak and gear beforehand

Your kayak has a weight limit, and it can only hold so much gear.  Before you start screwing and drilling into your precious kayak, take it for a test run with some of your gear. Or at least go for a “dry run” in your yard. 

If you are adding a fishfinder, or a fishing rod holder, sit in your kayak and make sure you install it in a spot that won’t affect your stroke when paddling.  With some of these kayak mods, you only get one shot, so you need to get it right the first time.

Use tracks when you can

Gear tracks make life so much easier when you are upgrading your kayak.  You can add accessories and adjust the positioning easily with tracks. If your kayak comes with tracks, all the better. That’s one less step for you. 

If you need to install tracks on your kayak, it’s not very difficult, and you will be glad you did. Adding a gear track is a one-time addition, and you will benefit from its versatility.

The benefits of upgrading your kayak

The benefits of upgrading your kayak are plentiful:

  • You can add more storage to your boat
  • Added convenience
  • Extra safety features
  • More gadgets are always fun to have
  • You might even catch more fish

Safety precautions when upgrading or modifying your kayak

Be sure to check out the manufacturer warranty info and specs before you start drilling away on your precious kayak. Also, make sure when you drill holes, you seal around the area well, so water doesn’t get in. 

It’s fun to add extra gear to your kayak, so you can customize it to your liking. Make sure you don’t go overboard (pun intended) since space and weight capacity are limited on a kayak. Any equipment you add to your kayak, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation.

Conclusion

Whether you are customizing a new kayak or upgrading an old one, there are plenty of great kayak mods that will make your day on the water more enjoyable.

If you don’t know where to start upgrading, think about what you use your kayak for and what additions would help out. Maybe it’s a rod holder or a paddle leash. You can start small and work up from there. 

Just remember, always wear a life jacket and stay safe out there!

Steve Morrow Founder of Paddle About
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steve is an avid kayaker and founder of Paddle About. When he is not on the water, Steve enjoys outdoor activities, including fishing, camping, and hiking with his family. Read more.

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