Okay, so you bought a new fishing kayak. Now what? What paddle is best for the fishing you do? What makes a perfect PFD? Where to add rod holders? How to install electronics? Should you rig a rudder? What about tackle storage? Bringing home a new kayak is just the first step towards getting on the water. We asked top pros for their suggestions for turning a fishing kayak into a fishing hot rod.

PRO 

Jackson Kayak pro Drew Gregory is host of River Bassin’ Kayak Tournament Trail and Hooked on Wild Waters web show. He knows a thing or two about rigging a kayak for swiftwater fishing.

DREW GREGORY'S COOSA HD IS RIGGED WITH HORIZONTAL ROD HOLDERS TO REACH THE DEEPEST, DARKEST WILD WATERS. | Photo: Christina Gregory
DREW GREGORY’S COOSA HD IS RIGGED WITH HORIZONTAL ROD HOLDERS TO REACH THE DEEPEST, DARKEST WILD WATERS. | Photo: Christina Gregory

KAYAK 

Jackson’s Coosa HD was designed with high volume and offers a wide stance specifically for river fishing. The boat has a shallow draft to keep me bouncing down rocky rapids, but it is wide enough to stand and fish with confidence.

PADDLE 

Bending Branches‘ Navigator paddle has natural red alder and roasted basswood blades. When I slam it into rocks, I like the extra give provided by the wood blades and my arms and joints don’t hurt at the end of the day.

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Bending Branches

Navigator Paddle

  • Made in Osceola, WI, USA.
  • Combines high-tech materials with the natural beauty of red alder and roasted basswood.
  • Lightweight T-700 carbon shaft flexes a bit with every stroke and reduces shoulder and arm fatigue.
  • For added durability, the blades are wrapped in fiberglass and protected with Bending Branches Rockgard around the blade.
  • 2-piece paddle with snap-button ferrule is easy for travel and storage.

SEAT 

Jackson’s latest Elite seat can be adjusted up and down and even removed for a camp chair. After a long day on the water, the Therm-a-Rest lumbar support keeps my back from aching. And the integrated line-cutter on the seat frame makes changing lures quick.

ROD HOLDERS 

If my kayak flips in the rapids or I paddle beneath an overhang, I don’t want my rods sticking up in vertical rod holders. I keep my rods in horizontal rod holders that run down the side of the kayak. Rod-tip protectors at the bow protect my sticks from snags.

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TACKLE/GEAR

I carry my tackle in Plano Hydro-Flo trays. The lid and bottom are perforated so my lures dry inside and the box fits in a standard tackle tray holder.

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Plano

Hydro Flo Box

  • Plano Tackle Storage | Protecting your passion since 1952
  • Hydro-Flo holes allow tackle to dry naturally preventing oxidation and rust | Spray off baits and lures through the closed box, and then set them aside to dry quickly and thoroughly
  • Creates 4-24 adjustable compartments for versatile bait organization options
  • Transparent for quick and easy identification of contents
  • Utility box fastens securely with Plano’s dependable ProLatch closures | 3600 Size Stowaway
  • Hydro-Flo holes let wet tackle dry naturally
  • 4-24 adjustable compartments
  • 10.75″ X 7.25″ X 1.5″

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GADGETS

A drag chain is one of the most essential accessories for river fishing. I attach a two-foot piece of chain to the line coming from an Anchor Wizard windlass that connects to a GearTrac near my seat. Turn the handle of the Anchor Wizard and quickly recover up to 60 feet of line. I cover the chain with a bicycle tube or wrap it in Gorilla Tape to keep it from making noise as it drags through the rocks.

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ELECTRONICS

GoPro’s new Hero4 Session mounted in the bow. I can hit one button and the camera starts filming. It’s small and simple, making it easy to get creative angles and shots. PFD For river fishing, I prefer a foam PFD that will keep me afloat if I should flip and headbutt a rock. I keep rigging to a minimum so I don’t get tangled in tethers or lose gear.

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GoPro

HERO4 Black Edition Camera

  • Professional 4K30, 2.7K60 and 1080p120 video, 720p240 video for super slow-motion playback and 12MP photos at up to 30 frames per second
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support the GoPro App, Smart Remote and more
  • Improved camera control and built-in video trimming lets you create and save short video clips right on your camera. Protune with SuperView delivers cinema-quality capture and advanced manual control for photos and video with the world’s most immersive wide-angle field of view
  • Night Photo and Night Lapse offer customizable exposure settings for nighttime shooting

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PFD

For river fishing, I prefer a foam PFD that will keep me afloat if I should flip and headbutt a rock. I keep rigging to a minimum so I don’t get tangled in tethers or lose gear.

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Read more of Drew Gregory's rigging tips in Kayak Angler's Winter Issue now!

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