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Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 9:20 a.m.
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'Yak attack

Custom job converts paddlecraft into ultimate fishing machine

By Bryan Hendricks

This article was published August 3, 2014 at 2:03 a.m.

the-completed-project-includes-a-36-pound-thrust-trolling-motor-transducer-mount-on-the-right-side-of-the-transom-an-electronic-graph-and-a-milk-crate-converted-to-a-three-rod-holder-and-battery-box-even-with-a-pilot-the-added-weight-does-not-push-the-stern-down-far-enough-to-take-water-up-the-stern-scuppers

The completed project includes a 36-pound thrust trolling motor, transducer mount on the right side of the transom, an electronic graph and a milk crate converted to a three-rod holder and battery box. Even with a pilot, the added weight does not push the stern down far enough to take water up the stern scuppers.

I have turned my kayak into the ultimate small-water fishing machine.

Customizing a fishing kayak is fun, and it enables you to build a platform that's ideal for waters where boats with gas motors are prohibited, or where limited access makes trailer-drawn boats impractical.

These factors, coupled with their low cost, make fishing kayaks the next frontier of recreational fishing.

Trolling motor mount

An electric trolling motor vastly increases a kayak's versatility. Building a trolling motor mount for my kayak was cheap and easy.

I took four surplus leg sections from a deer feeder to Howlin Custom Cycles in Little Rock. My buddy there charged me $20 to put a 35-degree bend in four tubes. I only use two, but now I have two spares.

These tubes slip into the angled rod holders in the gunwales behind the kayak's seat, forming two "horns" that are perpendicular to the hull. I found a piece of channeled 2x4 in a trashcan at a local home improvement store. The manager gave it to me for no charge.

With two U-bolts ($1.99 each), which come with a strap washer and nuts, I clamped the board to the metal tubes. My Minn-Kota Endura 36 trolling motor clamps to the mount with plenty of room to spare. However, the weight of the motor causes the starboard side of the mount to rise in the rod holder. I corrected that by installing an eye bolt in the starboard side of the mount and lashing it to a tie-down in the hull.

If I don't want to use the motor, I lift the mount out of the rod holders and put it away.

The trolling motor came with a canoe that I bought years ago. You can buy custom kayak trolling motors for about $325, but there are some very good, very light 30-pound thrust motors available locally for $100.

Depthfinder

An electronic graph is useful for fishing from any boat, but it definitely makes a kayak more efficient.

I chose the Lowrance Elite 4X HDI. It's a modern color unit that also has down imaging capability. It's also designed for kayak use, a compact unit with a screen big enough to provide lots of detail. It comes with a transducer, mounting bracket and all mounting hardware.

The only suitable spot for the wide footprint of the factory mount was too far forward. I bought a RAM ball mount, which has a much smaller footprint that enabled me to get it a lot closer. This required drilling four new holes for the bolts and lock nuts. I sealed the holes with marine epoxy.

The unit wires to a small marine battery that fits into a little nook in front of the starboard foot rest

Transducer mount

This was the hardest part of the conversion. I considered a Lowrance scupper mount, but it left the transducer vulnerable, so I built a transom mount with PVC pipe.

I bought one short length of 1 1/4-inch PVC and an equal length of 1-inch PVC. I clamped the wider piece to the transom with a U-bolt. The narrower piece slides flush inside the wider piece. I drilled a hole through both pieces in the flush position. A D-bolt keeps the transducer high and safe when not in use.

To use the transducer, I slide the narrower pipe down to a length that positions the transducer about 4-6 inches beneath the hull. I also drilled two holes for a D-bolt to hold it securely in the down position.

To mount the trolling motor bracket to the PVC, I attached a 1-inch union to the bottom, which I cut off at the flange. This forms a lip that provides a stopper for the bracket, which I secured to the pipe with two zip ties. I also cut a channel into the pipe to eliminate tension on the wires. This allows the transducer to meet the bracket without resistance.

Because of the closed hull on the Ascend FS12T, running the wires through the hull is impractical. I ran the wires up through the pipe and along the deck.

Anchor trolley

Using an anchor is vital for fishing from a kayak, but wind can still play havoc with positioning. An anchor trolley solves that problem.

A trolley is a loop that runs the length of your boat just beneath the gunwales between two pulleys. The lower line has a nylon ring that serves as a guide for your anchor line. Pulling the top half of the line back and forth positions your anchor anywhere along the hull between the pulleys and allows you to position your boat according to wind and current.

A SeaLect Designs trolley costs about $27. The kit comes with 3/16-inch rivets or 3/16-inch screws with lock nuts and washers. I used rivets because most of the Ascend's hull interior is inaccessible.

The hardest part of this process was tying the second bowline knot to the ring so that it was sufficiently taut. That took more time than the installation. The kit also comes with a zig-zag cleat that allows you to secure the line and keep the trolley from moving while anchored.

I use a 3-pound, retractable claw anchor attached to 50 feet of thin-diameter braided line.

I also added a regular cleat for about $5.

Battery box/rod holders

The trolling motor mount puts the factory rod holders out of commission, but YakGear makes a kit that converts a milk crate into a rod holder. It costs about $26 and comes with all the necessary hardware. This gives your three rod holders. A deep cycle marine batteries fit snugly in the crate, with enough room for tools. Bungee straps secure the apparatus to the hull through eyelets that are molded into the hull.

Registration

Any vessel powered by a motor or sail on any Arkansas waterway must be registered. A three-year registration for the Ascend FS12T costs just $7.50. The number and letter decals cost $10. I put the registration certificate in a Ziploc bag and duct-taped it to the bottom of the deck hatch.

For night use, you can buy kayak lighting kits, including red/green bow navigation lights and a pole-mounted stern light. You can also increase stability with a pontoon kit. You can even buy sail kits for some kayaks. The possibilities are endless.

Sports on 08/03/2014

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