Finally! My first kayak tournament is in the books!

This past Saturday, September 7th, Portside Marine held their second Hobie kayak bass tournament. You may recall that, due to weather, I chose not to fish the first tournament. Since learning of this latest event, my excitement to fish it has been off the charts.

This day shaped up to be much better weather-wise.  We were greeted by a beautiful calm and clear morning with comfortable temps and no chance of rain.  Throughout the day, the wind did pick up to the point where the water got pretty rough, but it definitely wasn’t a deal-breaker and was only bad during the last hour or so of the tournament.  The turnout for this tournament was much better with 9 anglers showing up to try to find the fish on Morse Reservoir.  For many of the kayak anglers out there, this may not seem like much, but considering this is only the second known kayak fishing tournament in the area, it’s impressive!

After launch, I headed for a flat I had had some luck on.  This flat is marked heavily with rock and has a trough that runs through the middle of it.  It seemed to be a good decision, as about 20 minutes into fishing I hooked into my first fish on a 5″ Yamamoto Senko (texas-rigged).  After only fighting it for a few seconds, it seemed to have gotten me hung on one of the aforementioned rocks, but after paddling past the rock to work it loose, I discovered it was still on my hook, and I successfully landed it, got it on the board, and photographed.  While it was only 13″, I was pumped to have some success this early in the day.

This is where I struggle in tournament fishing:  spending too much time on unproductive water.  I had convinced myself in planning for this day that this flat would be great, and it just wasn’t.  I worked it, and worked it, and worked it.  I threw the Senko, a football jig, crankbaits, and a buzz bait, with no luck.  I finally decided it was time to move on, and headed to a cove nearby.

On the way, I fished some of the docks and water between docks where seawalls were built from chunk rock.  After switching to a Yamamoto PsychoDad on a shaky head, I found another fish!  This one was a bit bigger than the first, measuring right at 15″ on my Hawg Trough.  However, this one was far less photogenic, and decided to start flopping and wiggled his way out from under my hand, over the lip of the measuring board, and back into the lake before I could take his picture.  The roller coaster of emotions went from the peak of excitement of finding another fish to the valley of sadness knowing that one wasn’t going to count for the day.  I pulled myself back up to level and plugged away, certain this roughly 30 foot of chunk rock seawall and slow drop-off (difficult to find on this reservoir) would produce a few more fish.  Again, I spent too much time here, using 30 minutes working the area with the PsychoDad and a Senko with nary so much as another bite.  After finishing up my conversation with a homeowner, discussing fishing, business, and the lake, I finally made my way to the cove I had originally set out to fish.

As I made my way into the cove, I pitched the PsychoDad along the concrete seawall marking the north side of the cove.  After a few jigs, I thought I got hung up on a rock.  No problem, this has been common all day, so I made my way to the opposite side of the rock to pop the jig away and go about my fishing.  However, as my kayak got closer to said rock, I spotted a large carp sitting near the surface.  I have never weighed a carp, nor caught one for that matter, but I’d guess this monster was over 20 pounds.  I spotted him just as my kayak was a few feet from him, which is apparently the same time he spotted me, as he tore out of there like he’d just robbed a bank.  The biggest surprise, though, was that my hook was attached to him somewhere.  The sheer force of him heading for deeper water spun my kayak 90 degrees in a split second.  He doubled my rod (a 6’9″ Medium Light) quickly, and pulled drag so fast that I’m surprised my reel didn’t start smoking.  After a few seconds, though, my 7 pound test line finally gave up on me.  I didn’t really care, but it took a few minutes for my heart rate to return to normal as I tied on another jig head.

I continued to explore the cove, again throwing multiple lures, and just could not find a bite.  At this point, I decided to make my way back towards the beach to allow myself a little bit of time to hit the water where I’d already caught fish.  I wasn’t out of the cove long before I realized that the wind had picked up considerably while I was fishing in the protection of the cove.  It had picked up so much so that I found it difficult to spend too much time in one place.  I made my way back to the original flat, allowing the wind to blow me through the area while I fished it.  Nothing.  With only 20 minutes to go until check-in, I kept drifting along the dam, working the PsychoDad setup on the rocky bottom.

Time was ticking away but I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.  One more cast, right?  I’m sure I’m not the only fisherman who says that.  On what I was convinced should ACTUALLY be my last cast, I caught one!  This one, too, was right at 15″ on my Hawg Trough.  This one, too, hated cameras.  I did it AGAIN.  I allowed a fish to jump off my board as I was getting ready to take its picture.  Very, very frustrated, I packed up, swung the transducer up and out of the water, and headed across the significant swells caused by open water, wind, and boat traffic.

As frustrating as my day had been, that one fish that let me take his photograph actually got me into third place.  While it was definitely nice to win my entry fee back (and a little bit more), the real highlight of my day was getting to meet some new guys that share the same passion I do!  A few of them I’d “met” online, a few I hadn’t.  Most I’m sure I’ll see again on October 5th at the Fall 2013 Kayak Bass Classic, which can’t get here soon enough!  It was also nice to get to visit again with some of the folks I’d met at the last tournament that I didn’t fish.

Congratulations to the winner, Dan Wheeler, who came in with 48.25″, including big bass with 18.25″!  Runner up was my buddy Keenan Chamberlain who came in with three fish totaling 40.25″.  I just barely inched out Greg Strother who had one fish for 12.75″.

GIGANTIC thanks must go out to Jim and the folks at Portside Marine and Hobie Fishing Kayaks for working hard to bring competitive kayak fishing to Indiana.  I’d also like to thank the folks from Hamilton County Parks for coming out early to open the gates to the beach, which allowed us to use that as our launch point (and allow Portside to hold their demo day) rather than the rock-laden seawall.  It may not seem like much, but it was substantially easier than where I launched in practice the previous weekend.

Time to go practice keeping fish on the measuring board long enough to take their picture…

A lot of learning on White River

This weekend was a whirlwind of activity of which a small portion included some fishing.  I only fished for just shy of 5 hours, but it was packed with learning experience for me.

On Saturday, my daughter and her friend were going to GenCon in downtown Indianapolis, so rather than drop them off and make the round trip twice, I decided to pack up my fishing gear, load the kayak, and do some fishing on White River while I was in Indy.  Since there’s not a very good non-interstate route to downtown Indy from Muncie, and I’m not comfortable using my trailer on the interstate, I loaded the kayak onto the roof rack of my Trailblazer.  This detail becomes important later in the story.

On Friday, a good friend reached out to me and provided some good information on the area I was planning to fish.  I altered my gear a bit due to this information, mapped out the location I needed to reach, and planned my day on the water.

A gorgeous day on the White River

A gorgeous day on the White River

I dropped off the kids and headed towards Broad Ripple Park. This was my first time here and my first time fishing the river any further downstream than Yorktown.  I am still amazed at how much different the water is here versus Muncie and Yorktown, considering the relatively small distance between the two locations.  The river in Indy is MUCH bigger, deeper, and lined with docks and boats, something you’ll never see in Muncie.  I’ve never fished water like this before, so I was very thankful for the advice provided by my friend on Friday as it helped me get focused on particular water and patterns, something I struggle with in unfamiliar territory.

Talking kayak fishing, GoPro cameras, and politics with a gentleman at the boat ramp.

Talking kayak fishing, GoPro cameras, and politics with a gentleman at the boat ramp.

After unloading and gearing up the kayak, I spent 20 minutes or so chatting with a random stranger who was asking questions about my kayak and my GoPro.  Soon I was heading upstream, paddling to the location I had plotted out the night before, about 1.5 miles upstream.  Though I found it difficult to force myself to go straight to that location since all of the water looked good to me, I controlled myself and made my way there.  Paddling up the current wasn’t an issue, though the headwind did slow me down a bit.

A little fishing chat on the water.

A little fishing chat on the water.

I spent the next 3 hours or so working the rocky shoreline without a single good bite.  I even resorted to some other lures that have been successful in Muncie recently, but had no luck with those, either.  While frustrating, I was enjoying the beautiful day, talking to other fisherman in big boats about the area, their history, and answering their questions regarding my kayak setup.  Additionally, the White River Yacht Club nearby was having a public open house party, so I was treated to some music and got to observe many flights from the helicopter giving tours over the river.

The chopper taking off for another tour.

The chopper taking off for another tour.

I finally decided I wanted to fish some of the docks on the opposite side of the river on my way back to the ramp, so I made my way downstream a bit and crossed over.  I threw everything I had setup to no avail.  Frustrated, I cut off my wacky-rigged Senko and tied on my old school, tried-and-true fallback rig, a Yamamoto Double-Tail Hula Grub on a 1/8 oz. jig head.  This was a case where I wanted to catch fish so bad that I didn’t trust my OWN judgement.  It only took a few pitches to the dock before I landed my first solid smallmouth.  Over the next 30 minutes, I caught one slightly bigger than the first, and lost one to a giant leap at the kayak. At that point, time was up, and I had to pack up and head in.  Though it’s always hard for me to get off the water, at least I ended it on a good note.

Here are some non-fishing things I learned on this day:

  • My kayak, while only being an entry-level sit-on-top, is amazingly stable.  While many of the boaters on the water were kind and courteous, there were also many that weren’t.  I must say I’m MUCH more comfortable in busy water after the trials of this day.  I took water over the sides from wakes more than once, including one particular instance where not only was I unsure if the driver of the pontoon saw me sitting a mere 5 feet from the end of the docks, but when she finally did (thanks to me waving my white paddle in the air) she didn’t bother to slow down before veering just a few feet to her left to miss me.  My kayak took it all in stride and I never once felt unstable.  However, methinks I need to save my pennies for a YakAttack Visicarbon Pro.
  • I need to be more vigilant in ensuring my GoPro hasn’t shut down due to a dead battery.  I carry plenty of fresh batteries, but sometimes I don’t hear the audible shutdown alert.  On this particular day, it was likely due to the frequent percussion of the Huey overhead.  I failed to capture any of my catches or my kayak vs pontoon chicken victory.
  • I LOVE my new Buff. This was my first trip in a while that didn’t end in slight sunburn on my neck and ears.  I’m glad I spent some birthday money on it.
  • If you want superb parking in a downtown Indy parking garage, drive an SUV and strap a kayak to the top.  When picking up the kids, I decided to park and go inside to get them though I hadn’t considered the height restrictions in the parking garages.  I drove slowly under the hanging gauge tubes, clearing it by mere inches.  The kind attendant told me to back into a spot reserved for employees, right there by the booth, so that I didn’t have to make my way through the entire garage that was nearly full.

DIY Transducer Arm for Kayaks

Since installing my Lowrance X-4 fish finder in my kayak, I’ve questioned it’s accuracy, especially when marking fish.  When moving, I would mark a LOT of fish at the surface, which I knew was wrong, but I was unsure whether that was due to the duct seal used to mount the transducer in the hull, or perhaps turbulence from the hull cutting through the water.

I had already decided I wanted to add some YakAttack GearTrac to my kayak for use with the GoPro, rod holders, etc.  I chose the SL version, made from a lightweight composite, mostly for it’s affordability.  Since I was adding this, I also decided that it was time to try mounting the skimmer transducer onto a folding arm.  The concept for these arms is very simple, so why not try and do it myself!

Parts Needed

Cut two lengths of tubing.  The first is to move the transducer away from the side of the kayak.  The second is to move the transducer down into the water.  Both of these lengths will vary by kayak and how far you wish to have the transducer into the water, but should be very easy to measure for your application.  Once the two lengths are cut, drill a hole from top to bottom near one edge of the piece designed to move the transducer away from the kayak.  This will allow the MightyBolt to pass through and mount the arm to the kayak.  These bolts are 1/4″, so your hole should be 5/16″ or 3/8″.

Test assembly on the workbench.

Test assembly on the workbench.

Now mark and drill a hole from side to side on both pieces of tubing.  Theoretically, this hole should be 3/8″ from the top, bottom, and outside edge of the tubing to ensure that the edges of the two pieces are flush when folded or when the transducer is deployed in the water and the two pieces are perpendicular.  Attach the two pieces with the long 1/4-20 bolt and threaded knob.

Closeup of the notch cut and filed to snugly fit the Lowrance Skimmer Transducer.

Closeup of the notch cut and filed to snugly fit the Lowrance Skimmer Transducer.

Finally, attach the transducer.  The Lowrance skimmer transducers mount very nicely in the inside of the 3/4″ tubing, but your mileage may vary if you’re using a different transducer.  This is just trial and error, but using a small saw and file, you should be able to mount the transducer securely.  Cutting an additional notch may also allow you to fish the cable through the inside of the tubing rather than having to zip tie it to the outside.

I’m very pleased with the results from this move to the outside of the boat.  Readings seem more accurate and I now have a valid water temperature reading, something I was unable to get shooting through-hull.  It’s also very easy to flip up out of the water if I need it out of the way for fighting a fish or beaching the kayak.

First trip with the new transducer arm.  Westwood Lake in New Castle, IN.  It worked like a champ!

First trip with the new transducer arm. Westwood Lake in New Castle, IN. It worked like a champ!

Central Indiana Kayak Anglers Fall Classic!

CIKATournamentFlyerA new group, Central Indiana Kayak Anglers, has announced they’ll be hosting a tournament at Morse Reservoir in Noblesville, IN on October 5th.  Entry fee will be $20 with an additional $10 rental fee if you need to borrow a kayak for the day.  This is a great opportunity for anyone wanting to try out the sport but not yet ready to invest in their kayak.  Additionally, any proceeds from the tournament will benefit the local chapter of Heroes on the Water, a fantastic charity that provides our veterans the chance to get out on the lakes and rivers and enjoy a day of fishing therapy.

I’m personally very excited to have this opportunity to finally tournament fish from my kayak!  More and more opportunities like this will be available in the coming years and I look forward to each of them.

For more information, visit CIKA’s Facebook page or view the flyer image on this post.  Don’t forget to thank the sponsors of this tournament, Nurpu River and Mountain Supply, Wildcat Creek Outfitters, Leviathan USA, and Temple Fork Outfitters.

DIY monopod hack – the next level

I’ve posted previously about converting an inexpensive monopod into a GoPro pole with kayak mounting capabilities. I decided I wanted to add additional flexibility to the camera angles available when mounting this system to my kayak.  To do this, I needed to be able to adjust the angle at the base of the monopod where it is mounted to the kayak.  I chose to use two 1.5″ YakAttack Screwballs, one to attach to the base of the monopod and one to retain the track bolt to be used to mount to my Mighty Mount.  To connect the two balls, I’m using a RAM short double socket arm.

Bolt inside cap

Bolt inside cap

Screwball attached to cap attached to monopod

Screwball attached to cap attached to monopod

The Screwball is essentially a RAM ball mount, except there is no base attached, only a socket threaded to 1/4-20.  When YakAttack ships these, they’ve got a Mighty Bolt threaded into that socket so that the Screwball can be used on nearly any track-mounting system.  I left one of these in place on one of the Screwballs since I will using it as the base, threaded into my Mighty Mount.  I removed the Mighty Bolt from the other one, exposing the threaded socket.  I lined this socket up with the hole in the bottom of my PVC cap (which happens to be tapped for 1/4-20, but that’s not necessary for this application) then attached it to the cap using a 1/4-20 bolt.  I reattached the cap to the monopod, essentially completing this project.  Very simple.

This two Screwball, one socket arm setup, combined with the extendibility of the monopod, should provide countless new shooting angles for my GoPro adventures.

My first kayak tournament…almost

You can imagine how excited I was when I read this post on IndianaAngler.com that informed me of the first kayak bass tournament within a few hour drive of my home!  Planning began almost immediately, including when I could get some practice time in on the lake I’d never even seen before.

One of the nicer fish I caught while practice fishing on Morse Reservoir.

One of the nicer fish I caught while practice fishing on Morse Reservoir.

On the Wednesday prior to the tournament, I took the morning off from work and headed out to Morse.  I had gathered a little local knowledge and studied some maps so I felt relatively prepared for the fishing. However, this was my first time in a kayak on such a big body of water loaded with giant pleasure boats, so I was a bit concerned about how I and my kayak would handle the large wakes.  The first run-in made me especially nervous, but I soon realized that it was a non-issue, and I just had to pay attention and roll with it.  I was also caught a bit off guard by the extreme drops of this reservoir.  My Lowrance X-4 unit was reading depths of 30+ feet when I was sitting only feet from the ends of docks.  So much for using docks for shallow water structure!  No matter, I had a few other ideas, so I headed across the water for those spots.  Time was short, as I had to head into the office in Carmel for the afternoon, but I was able to locate a few fish and identify a few locations I’d like to hit during the tournament.  After finally packing up the trailer at Morse Park (I had two multiple long conversations with random strangers, one asking me about my trailer, and and another asking about fishing from a kayak and my kayak modifications) I headed into the office, totally geeked about the upcoming tournament.

Then Saturday rolls around.  I spent a few hours Friday night narrowing down the tackle I wanted to use, preparing my rods and other gear, and packing up the Trailblazer and trailer to allow me to leave home around 4:30 with minimal lead time in the morning.  The weather predictions for the morning weren’t looking promising, but I held some faith that I would be able to participate in my first event and only have to deal with some rain.  However, once I woke up at 4:00, I was extremely disappointed in both the current conditions and the predicted morning conditions for the reservoir.  I pondered for a bit, then made the decision to stay home, not wanting to battle lightning and possible hail from a small plastic boat on a large body of water.  I kept in touch with Portside Marine, the host of the tournament, via Facebook, to see how things were progressing as they’d decided to continue on with the tournament.  None of the weather predictions were true, with only some rain passing through in the early hours, but fishing was safe and commenced as planned.

Around 11:00, I decided to make the hour drive to Morse Park, the launch and check-in location for the tournament, just to see how things went.  Through my communications on Facebook and IndianaAngler.com, I was recognized by Jim, the owner of Portside Marine, and another angler, Keenan from the IndianaAngler.com message boards.  They were beyond hospitable, welcoming me as if I’d known them forever and even requiring me to be in the group shot, even though I battled out the rain in my recliner instead of the kayak.  This brief interaction affirmed my belief that the kayak fishing community was one I wanted to not only be a part of but to contribute to in any way that I could.  I spent nearly an hour shooting the breeze with Keenan and look forward to trading fish stories with him in the future.

One other takeaway from this event was the absolutely phenomenal kayak made by Hobie, the Mirage Pro Angler.  I spend a lot of time reading forums and watching videos of kayak fishing, many including the Pro Angler, but nothing prepared me for actually seeing one in person.  All of the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed on this boat.  Whole E. Cow.  From the rod management setup, to the tackle box management, to the amazing seats, to the feat of engineering in the Mirage Drive System, these things are UNREAL.  Basically all of the things that require some hacking on normal sit-on-top kayaks and add to some frustration on the water have been addressed and solved on these kayaks.  I’m pretty sure I left some drool on Keenan’s 14 footer and Dan’s 12 footer.  Sorry, guys.

The day wasn’t totally lost from fishing for me.  A friend that lives on a private lake in Anderson, IN called me as I was leaving Noblesville to ask for some help with his boat.  After determining that we didn’t have all of the parts needed, we decided to just do some fishing instead.  We were able to put some nice fish in the boat and didn’t get rained on.  Hey, weatherman, I’m sure you’re used to hearing this, but you were WRONG.  Again.

Went 4 pounds on my scales.  I think she would have been a bit heavier last week.  It appeared she had just recently dropped all of her eggs.

Went 4 pounds on my scales. I think she would have been a bit heavier last week. It appeared she had just recently dropped all of her eggs.

Hacking a Harbor Freight Trailer Kit – Kayak Edition

Rigged and ready

I own an SUV. This is great for most purposes, except for when there’s a need to haul things. This included my kayak and fishing gear. While I had been loading my Future Beach Angler 144 SOT fishing kayak to the top rack on my SUV for the past year, the idea of having a trailer for kayaking purposes appealed to me for ease of loading and unloading as well as time spent preparing to leave for a fishing trip. In most cases, I can leave the kayak on the trailer and just hook up and go. Additionally, there are always household projects that require hauling scrap to the dump and furniture, appliances, and materials home from the store. With these requirements in mind, I set out to design and build a trailer that will cover all of these bases for me. Like most of us, budget was an issue, so I set out to research my options, keeping in mind the total cost of the project.

Harbor Freight Parts

  • Haul-Master #42709 – 950 LB Capacity 8 ft. Utility Trailer Foldable with 8″ Wheels
  • Haul-Master #47423 – Steel Side Panel Kit (discontinued, but may still be available in some stores)

Other Parts and Materials

  • 4′ x 8′ treated plywood
  • 1″ x 6″ board
  • Eye Anchors
  • Styleworks Tough Tote
  • Trailer Jack
  • Berkley Twist Lok Horizontal Rod Rack (x2)
  • 2″ Square Steel Tubing (heavy wall)
  • 1 1/2″ Square Steel Tubing (1/8″ thick wall)
  • Plate steel
  • Misc pins and bolts as needed

Modifications

The list of modifications to this trailer really fall under two categories: Those for the trailer kit in general, and those specifically for the kayak rack and fishing gear duties.

The biggest source of necessary modifications come from utilizing the Haul-Master steel side panel kit that was supposedly designed for this trailer kit. The rear of the kit has a removable tailgate. However, if you follow the instructions provided and place the floor on top of the lips of the sides, then this tailgate is NOT removable unless you choose not to have the floor extend to the back of the trailer and have the rear support provided by the rear cross-member. Additionally, the composition of the side panel kit would require some odd notches and cuts to fit in this position. Therefore, I chose to mount the panels on top of the floor.

Corner welded

Corner welded

Each cross-member of the trailer frame is attached to the side rails via three bolts: 1 on the side, 1 on the top, and 1 on the bottom. However, the side panel kit, for whatever reason, does not have holes in the corners to allow the top bolts to pass through. This left two options: Drill holes in the side panels, or remove the bolts altogether and weld the corners. I chose the latter since we already had the welder available.

Hinge welded together

Hinge welded together

This trailer was designed to be foldable, though that was not an option that I would ever be using. There is a bolt that is supposed to be holding the two halves of the center hinge together. However, that bolt was impossible to keep in place with the side panel kit in place, so we chose to remove the bolt and weld the hinge together as well as the seam created by butting the two sections together. Additionally, we bolted the two center cross-members together for added stability. Contrary to the directions, we kept the sheet of plywood in one piece and added carriage bolts down the center of the floor. This required no drilling as the holes were already there from the factory.

The ground for the trailer lighting was intended to be screwed into the frame utilizing a provided self-tapping screw and a pilot hole already present in the tongue of the trailer. Unfortunately, my trailer did not have this pilot hole, so I chose to simply use one of the bolts on the tongue for my ground location.

Tailgate with relocated plate

Tailgate with relocated plate

With only 8” wheels, this trailer sits rather low to the ground. On it’s first trip home, backing it up a hill beside the driveway, I bent my license plate in half. This prompted me to relocate the license plate on the tailgate of the side kit rather than mounting it from the bracket provided. The only issue with this is having to move it back to the bracket when hauling something that requires me to remove the tailgate. I don’t foresee this happening often, nor is it much work to actually do so.

Floor and sides complete

Floor and sides complete

One convenience modification I made was to use an eye anchor in lieu of bolts in the corners to provide additional tie-down locations for carrying loads in the trailer. Another was the addition of a utility box (Styleworks Tough Tote from WalMart) mounted onto the tongue by mounting 2 1” x 6” boards across the tongue then bolting the box to those boards. In this box I store all of my tie-downs, an adjustable wrench, my kayak seat, and various other things I may need when using the trailer. I also added a swing-back style trailer jack for ease of movement when not attached to my tow vehicle.

 Kayak Rack and Fishing Gear

Initial design. Some modifications were made in production.

Initial design. Some modifications were made in production.

For the kayak portion of the trailer, I sketched together a quick drawing with my idea for the rack. This rack needed to be removable in order to use the trailer for hauling purposes. It needed to be low for easy loading and unloading of the kayak and far enough back to be able to hold a 12’ kayak without impeding with the back of the tow vehicle.

To facilitate the location of the rear pockets, I had to drill a single additional hole in order to move the taillights and brackets back 3 inches. Other than that single, simple modification, nothing else was necessary in order to make the kayak rack work.

A raw pocket

A raw pocket

Fabrication of the rack (as well as assistance in assembly and the welding duties) was completed by my cousin, and for that I’m VERY grateful, as there is no way I could have done this by myself. After presenting him with my idea, he built pockets out of 2” square steel tube. These 8” tall pockets have a plate welded along the bottom so that the pocket can be welded along the sides and the bottom of the trailer frame side rails as well as ensuring that their height remains consistent for all four pockets. These plates also have a hole drilled in them for drainage should rain water make its way inside of them. Additionally, there is a hole drilled and tapped for using a bolt to push the 1 1/2” tubing of the rack so that it fits snugly within the pocket. The pockets and rack were then drilled for pinning them into place.

The two possible rail configurations

The two possible rail configurations (Please click the image to see the animated gif)

The original design had the pockets 4’ apart on center from front to rear. My cousin pointed out, though, that if we made this distance only an inch or so longer, then the rack bars could be “rotated”, thus placing them out of the way when hauling things other than kayaks and not requiring them to be stored somewhere other than on the trailer. Also, having these sturdy rails along the side of the trailer provides additional tie down locations for strapping loads when hauling. The pockets were welded into place per design and an additional bead of weld mounted the tops of the pockets to the steel sides, giving the sides additional stability.

Padded rails

Padded rails

My original sketched design called for 5’ long cross bars on the rack itself. Without sacrificing strength or drivability, I chose to make them 6’ long, thus making it possible to haul two kayaks side-by-side without the need for additional uprights for vertical loading. The uprights of the rack are 22” high, giving the rack just a few inches clearance over the tops of the side panels. The rack itself was constructed from 1 1/2” square tubing with an 1/8” thick wall. This steel is strong enough for kayak hauling yet not overly heavy for the trailer and handling. I then padded these rails with rubber pipe insulation from my local big box hardware store.

Rod rack installed

Rod rack installed

One last modification I made for kayak fishing duties was to add two Berkley Twist Loc horizontal rod holders, one to each side. I positioned these so the butts of my rods would be towards the front of the trailer, hopefully eliminating any tendency for the wind to want to catch the rods and whip them out. With two of these, I should be able to easily haul 8 rods out of the way of anything else in the trailer.

So Far, So Good!

This trailer is still very new. I’ve now used it for two trips to the dump during which it performed perfectly with the rack positioned alongside the trailer. I’ve done a single, short shakedown run with the kayak strapped on the rack. It also did a great job for this. So far, it seems like this trailer is doing exactly what I intended it for despite the initial frustrations caused by wanting to use the side panel kit. In total, I was able to purchase the trailer, the side kit, and all parts and accessories used for just shy of $350. If you’re considering this trailer, keep your eye out for the frequent 20% off coupons. They’ll apply to this trailer, even when the trailer is on sale. If you’re considering the side panel kit, prepare to be amazed that it ever made it to market.

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Crate refresh: re-purpose to add external storage

The mighty milk crates have more than just storage abilities INSIDE.  The outside of the crates can be very useful for storing items, too.  I, like most people, mounted my rod holders on the outside of my crate.  I also thought it would be nice to have some pouch- or bag-style storage on the outside for items I may not want to dig for.

While wandering through my local Menard’s, I discovered the GoGear Vent Pack Organizer in the automotive section.  These are designed to lock into your car’s vent and hold junk in your car.  The mount system for them consists of a stiff moldable strip covered in a webbing material.  This lets you weave and clamp the pack anywhere on your milk crate.  In my case, I mounted both of them to what will normally be the front side of the kayak to hold my scent bottle and my scales.

Crate refresh: gear separation on the cheap

Using a milk crate in your kayak is definitely useful for keeping all of your gear in one place while on the water.  However, sometimes even that crate can get disorganized.

Do you have an old license plate laying around?  Grab a drill and some zipties, because you have an easy-to-install separator.  The pictures below explain this mod pretty well.  Just drill some holes around the edge of the plate and ziptie it to your crate.  As you can see, I put mine in place to hold 4 Plano boxes to one side and my random loose gear on the other.

Crate refresh: tie-down anchor

When strapping down the fishing crate into the stern well of the kayak, I used to just run the bungees over the top, then had to deal with them being in the way when accessing items stored in the crate.  I decided that there was certainly someway for me to manage the tie-downs so that they’d hold the crate steady yet be out of the way.

On a recent trip to the hardware store, I located some J bolts that I thought would fit the bill.  I drilled holes in all top corners and on all sides.  With all of these holes, along with the wing nuts I used, I can then reconfigure the anchor locations without tools should I choose to change the orientation of the crate in the well.