Kayak fishing crate GoPro mounting rig

View from my GoPro Hero2 utilizing a side mounting location on the base frame.

It seems the quest never ends for finding that perfect mounting location for the GoPro camera (or any other action cam, for that matter).  I’m constantly researching mounts and angles, which usually means watching awesome videos on Youtube and Vimeo.  It’s no secret that most of these videos are of kayak fishing.

One item that nearly all kayak fishermen utilize is a milk crate, usually located in the stern of the kayak, to organize tackle, gear, and necessities when on the water.  I’ve used a tube mounted within the crate along with a hacked monopod to hold my GoPro Hero2, but I decided to try to design and build something more purpose-driven for handling my camera-holding duties.

From Version 1 of my crate mount, this is utilizing the extension arm as a pole mount for shots. GoPro Hero2 baby!

The first version, visible in the picture at right, utilized 1″ PVC and was situated on top of the crate.  It was fastened to the crate via some short bungee ball tie downs.  The connection between the extension pole and the base mounted to the crate was via slip-on connections.  While this connection is strong and sturdy for this application without gluing the joints, it creates problems when attempting to remove and replace the pole, especially when on the water.  The force required to do so was wreaking havoc with the base mount frame and its position on the crate.

Version 2 of this rig changed a few things.  First, I’m using 3/4″ PVC instead of 1″.  The main reason for this decision was that 3/4″ PVC is plenty strong enough and is more comfortable in my hands than 1″ PVC when using the extension arm as a pole for filming.  Second, I built the frame to go around the top edge of the crate rather than sitting on top of it.  The frame is then bolted in place with 3/4″ PVC conduit clamps purchased at Menard’s.  Lastly, rather than using slip-on connections at the tees in the frame for mounting the extension pole, I chose to use a threaded connection to allow simple screw-on and screw-off mounting, eliminating the need to apply force to the frame.  This requires tees to be a combination of slip-on and threaded as well as a male thread adapter for the extension arm.

Base frame mounted to crate with extension arm attached.

None of the joints are glued.  The mounting brackets should hold the frame in place and keep it from disassembling itself.  Additionally, since the tees are not glued into place, you can rotate them to adjust the angle of the extension arm, providing additional flexibility in camera positioning.  This rotation is made easy by utilizing the extension arm once screwed securely into the tee.

On the business end of the extension arm, you have multiple options.  I chose to one of the stick-on flat adhesive mounts that uses the GoPro quick-release adapter.  This decision was based upon the fact that I also have a Scotty Portable Camera Mount that I use for forward filming duty and it, too, uses this quick-release mount.  You could also drill and tap a PVC cap and insert a 1/4″-20 bolt to hold any standard camera with a tripod mount or the GoPro tripod adapter.

Fabrication of the rig

My crate is a standard square crate formerly used by a certain local dairy.  Your dimensions may vary, but the concept is the same and slight modifications may be needed for your application.

Parts needed

  • 3/4″ PVC pipe (QTY: 10′)
  • 90 degree elbows (3/4″, QTY: 4)
  • Tees (3/4″, QTY: 4, Female threaded output)
  • Male PVC Adapter (3/4″, QTY: 1)
  • PVC Cap (3/4″, QTY: 1)
  • Conduit Support Snap Strap (3/4″, QTY: 8)
  • #8-32 machine screws w/ nuts (1 1/2″ or 1 3/4″, QTY: 8)

Build

Cut 8 pieces of pipe 6″ in length.  Piece the frame together with a 6″ pipe between each elbow and tee.  Squeeze connections tightly to seat the pipes as deep as possible.  Place a snap strap around each pipe section.  Test fit and make note of approximate location of the mounting holes of the straps.  Using a 9/64″ or similar drill bit to drill 8 holes in the crate for each of the snap straps.  Mount the frame using the machine screws and nuts.

For the extension arm, take your pick on length.  I am using a 3′ length.  Once cut to length, place the male adapter on one end and the cap (already prepped to your specs for your camera) on the other.  Press firmly into place, glue if you wish to.

More examples of shots from this rig are available in my flickr feed to the right.

Fish Finder installation on my Angler 144 Kayak

After a few times on the water, I decided it would be very beneficial to have a fish finder/sonar to locate structure and bottom contours while out fishing.

So, I set out to research my options.  My priorities (in order) were cost, size, and reliability.   After speaking with my father, who has had great luck with his Lowrance unit, I decided on the Lowrance X-4.  This unit is small in stature but has great features and even better affordability.

Battery box with inline fuse inside.

The big obstacles when installing a sonar unit into a kayak are power source and transducer mounting.  To overcome the first obstacle, I purchased an inexpensive battery from my local battery store.  This battery is a 12 volt, 5 amp hour battery.  Simple and small.  To complete the power source duties, I purchased an inexpensive dry box from Walmart that is actually designed to keep items dry when camping and boating.  The battery fit inside this box perfectly.  I drilled two tiny holes, just large enough to feed the 14 gauge wire through.  I wired in the inline fuse provided by Lowrance and utilized a 2 wire quick disconnect harness designed for a small trolling motor that I picked up from my local marina for a few dollars.  I also added a short section of pipe insulation just to keep the battery from sliding around within the box.  This entire assembly is fastened to the inside hull of the kayak via some 3M industrial strength velcro.  This allows me to remove the box assembly for transport and for taking the battery indoors for charging.

As for the transducer, I had narrowed its installation down to a few options.  Lowrance actually offers a transducer scupper mount designed specifically for use in sit-on-top style kayaks.  This remains an option for me should I run into future issues with my current setup.  However, I’m leery of this option due to the exposure of the transducer versus the shape of the bottom of my Angler 144.  I would pretty much have to remove the transducer each time I beached and transported the kayak.  Additionally, the wire to the transducer would be exposed on top of the kayak and could potentially become a nuisance trying to avoid while fishing. So, I chose the popular duct seal, shoot-through-hull setup.  Duct seal is simply a strong putty-like substance used to seal junction boxes in walls.  This is found in one pound blocks at your local hardware store in the electrical supply aisle.  I picked my block up for less than $2.  To use, just tear off a chunk, roll it tightly into a ball roughly the size of a golf ball.  Press this ball into the bottom of the transducer, then press the transducer/ball combination firmly into the bottom of the hull.  That’s all there is to it.  There is nothing permanent about this mount, so you can remove the transducer at will.  However, it is very strong.  I generally store my boat topside down on the PVC rack I built, and the transducer has never fallen from its location, even in the 90+ degree heat we’ve been having.

The base for the rod holder and the Lowrance X-4.

Finally, I needed to decide where to actually mount the head unit of my X-4.  After tossing around a few options, I chose to mount it in the forward cup holder location.  For starters, I wasn’t using this cup holder for anything.  Additionally, the base of the pedestal mount fit perfectly into the bottom of the holder.  The length of the pedestal mount also allowed for me to access the back of the unit enough to be able to remove the unit, but kept it mostly out of the way and unobtrusive when on the water.  It almost appears to be flush-mounted when in place and is the perfect viewing angle when I’m seated and fishing.  This really worked out beyond my expectations.  Along with using Marine Goop to seal the bolt holes for the bracket, I ran a bead of the stuff around the bottom of the bracket itself.  This should seal the large hole used by the main unit’s wiring harness to keep any water entering the inside of the kayak from above.

DIY PVC Kayak Rack

My goals for this project were:

  1. Have a storage place for my kayak that was not on the ground.
  2. Lift the kayak to a level suitable for cleaning and modifying the kayak.
  3. Allow for a removable canopy.
  4. Cheap and easy.

What I came up with (click the photo for a larger version with part labels):

DIY PVC Kayak Rack. Pieces are labelled to match the cut sheet.

What you’ll need to purchase:

  • 10′ lengths of 1.5″ PVC pipe (QTY: 4)
  • 16 tees (I do NOT recommend sanitary tees)

Cuts checklist:

Label Pipe Length
D 1 5′
D 1 5′
D 2 5′
D 2 5′
B 3 12″
B 3 12″
B 3 12″
B 3 12″
A 3 36″
A 3 36″
A 4 36″
A 4 36″
C 4 6″
C 4 6″
C 4 6″
C 4 6″
C 4 6″
C 4 6″
C 4 6″
C 4 6″

The picture obviously doesn’t show the entire rack, but everything is symmetrical, so you should be able to deduce the assembly process from the picture and the parts list.

So far, this rack is meeting my needs perfectly.  I have not glued any of the joints, yet the rack is perfectly stable.  I’ve left the tees on top so that I can build a canopy for outdoor storage. I will have to make the canopy removable in order to meet the need of accessing the kayak for cleaning and such, plus having the canopy out of the way will make the kayak easier to load onto the rack.  When I’ve completed the design and build of the canopy, I will post that here.

The dimensions work perfectly for my 12′ Future Beach Angler 144 kayak.  If you need to tweak this for your particular model, it shouldn’t be difficult at all.