PREPARING MY KAYAK FOR LAND BASED SHARK FISHING
This post documents my process for preparing my kayak for land based shark fishing. As I alluded to in an earlier post, my first kayak was a Heritage Angler 10′ that I purchased on sale at Academy for about $300 bucks. I used it in some small lakes, and for the price it was a good little yak. But the first time that I took it into the surf I realized how unstable it was. I flipped it in the breakers multiple times. I had to keep it almost perfectly straight in the waves, because if I came in just a little sideways I’d get dumped. The first time that I made a long bait drop, the surf was a little rough, and I was getting pounded by the waves. I was getting tossed in the little Heritage Angler 10′, and it was a lot of work keeping it straight. Past the breakers where I wanted to drop my bait, I almost flipped it just turning back to reach for the bait and the leader. After getting back to shore, I was exhausted. I definitely needed something bigger that could bust through the waves, and that was stable enough to allow me to reposition myself without risking capsizing.
I conducted some kayak research and it seemed that the Ocean Kayak brand is popular for surf applications; of course the brand name indicates that. The Ocean Kayak “Frenzy” model is a favorite because its compact, affordable, and its very stable in the breakers. Its relatively short at 9 feet long, but its width of 31 inches and its tri-form hull provide excellent stability. The Ocean Kayak “Scambler” model is popular too, and its basically a stretch version of the Frenzy, and measures 11.5 feet long and 29.5 inches wide. The Ocean Kayak model that caught my eye was the “Malibu Two”. Its a 12 foot kayak that’s 34 inches wide. Its a tandem kayak, but it can be paddled solo, and by my estimation it would provide excellent stability in the surf. Of all the kayaks that I researched, the one that I liked the most was the Cobra brand “Fish N Dive”. The Cobra Fish N Dive kayak is 12.5 feet long and 36 inches wide. Its a little heavy, but I’d say its worth it since its rated to handle up to 600lbs, and it’s said that it easily handles paddlers that weigh 300 pounds. I read that it cuts through waves effortlessly, and that it’s outstandingly stable. There were other kayak brands that I liked too, but they were all too expensive for my first year shark budget. I specifically liked the Hobie brand kayaks especially the ones with the Mirage Drive capability. But since I was only going to use the kayak for long bait drops, going out and coming back in, I didn’t need anything outfitted or fancy. I just needed something that was going to meet my functional requirements; be able to handle rough surf and provide good stability in the ocean.
I started searching for kayaks on Craigslist and I found a Cobra Fish N Dive listed for $800. I offered $600, but I was told that the lowest they would go was $700. I’ve seen the Cobra Fish N Dive listed for $900 new, so I didn’t think $700 was that good of a deal to buy it used. I kept searching and I came across a posting from the local kayak rental business which advertised that they were updating their kayak fleet. They were selling all of their Ocean Kayak Frenzies for $200 and all of their Ocean Kayak Malibu Twos for $250. Since those prices are more than 50 percent less than retail, I considered them to be good deals. I planned on buying one of the Malibu Two kayaks, and I sent an email to see if any were still available. I received an email response stating that they had about 40 left, but since the weather was bad the store was closed. I was told to check back when the weather improved, and if they were open I could stop by and choose the one that I wanted. Due to my need for instant gratification I was a little bummed that I had to wait. But it turns out that the bad weather was a blessing in disguise. That same day my wife had mentioned to a coworker that I had been looking for a kayak, and the coworker said, “I have a big kayak in the garage that has been gathering dust forever…you can have it for free.” The kayak that was offered for free turned out to be the exact one that I had planned on buying; it was an Ocean Kayak Malibu Two. Given that I was ready to spend $600 on a Cobra Fish N Dive, getting a Ocean Kayak Malibu Two for free really helped the shark budget.
MODIFICATIONS TO OCEAN KAYAK MALIBU TWO
Given the good fortune of getting a free kayak, I decided to add a couple things to my first year shark budget, a trolling motor and a fishfinder. Paddling against a strong headwind can be extremely difficult. I figured that a trolling motor will help during windy conditions, especially if I’m trying to get out 500 yards. The reason I wanted a fishfinder wasn’t because I wanted to find fish, but because I wanted to be able to determine water depth. I’ve read that deeper water produces larger sharks, but even after reading tons of forums and informational articles I couldn’t find any definitive information on the water depth of Texas beaches. For example, it would be nice to know how deep the water is 300 yards out, but I know that would be different from beach to beach, so I figured a fishfinder would be extremely valuable for its depth finding capabilities. I bought the cheapest trolling motor and fishfinder that I could find; a Minn Kota Endura C2 30lb thrust and a Humminbird Piranhamax 155.
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I began researching best practices for installing a fishfinder on a kayak. I saw that people would mount the transducer inside the kayak hull. Evidently, the transducer sonar can shoot through the hull and still register an accurate reading. From what I read, most people use marine goop or silicone to mount their transducer. I read that when installing the transducer that you have to be careful not to have any bubbles in the marine goop or silicone, because air bubbles can distort the sonar readings. The first thing that I did is build a housing for the transducer. I used some packing styrofoam, but it wasn’t the kind that crumbles. It provided a nice clean fit.
The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two hull isn’t flat, but it has a groove down the center. I took the Styrofoam transducer housing that I had made, and I cut it down so that it fit snugly into the hull groove. I also picked up some “silicone” at Walmart. It was on clearance for about two bucks. It wasn’t clear like the silicone that I had seen on the web, but it was white and it was used for painting applications. I used the silicone to fasten the transducer housing to the kayak hull, and I let it dry overnight. The next day I filled the styrofoam housing with silicone, I stirred it around in an attempt to ensure that there were no bubbles, and then I firmly pushed the transducer down into the housing; the silicone formed around the transducer and oozed up a little. I let it dry overnight, and the next day it seemed to be very sturdy. Since the kayak was off the ground, strapped on two saw horses, I tried to test the fishfinder. I thought that it might register three or four feet. But all it read was zero. I searched online, and from what I read, the kayak had to be on the water to successfully test the fishfinder. With the transducer installed I turned my attention to the trolling motor.
INSTALLING THE TROLLING MOTOR ON THE KAYAK
I needed ideas on how to mount the trolling motor to my kayak, so I watched YouTube videos of other peoples’ setups. I saw simple setups where the trolling motor is mounted to a crate, and it drops into the water from the side of the kayak. It’s steered by hand just by reaching back. I liked that simple setup, but I was concerned that if I were to flip the kayak in the surf, that I might hurt my self on the motor. In order to minimize the risk of the prop slicing me open if I were to get dumped, I decided to mount the trolling motor to the rear. I still kept it simple though. I spent $12 dollars at Home Depot, on a 2×6 plank, some industrial wood screws (the thread was really wide), and some nuts, bolts, and washers. My DIY trolling motor transom came out pretty good, and it extended directly off the back of the kayak.
Since I opted to mount the trolling motor off the back end of the kayak, I wouldn’t be able to turn it on, or steer it by hand. I needed to do some more DIY engineering. With the proposed kayak application in mind (i.e. going out to drop bait and coming back in) I determined that all I would need to be able to do is turn the motor on/off from my seat. I figured that I could steer with the paddle (FYI… I eventually found out that steering with the paddle doesn’t work). I took apart the trolling motor, and I re-housed the electrical core in an empty plastic container (an old fiber supplement container). I bought some additional wiring and extended all the connections into the re-housed core. Also, I added in a push button electrical switch; I wanted to be able to turn the motor on/off at the push of a button. I tested the reengineered trolling motor, and it worked.
I took the kayak to one of the local lakes. After launching the kayak I turned on the fishfinder, and it worked. I was relieved that the cheap silicone that I used didn’t ruin the transducer signal. As I paddled around the little lake, the fishfinder read the different depths and I could even see what seemed to be a few fish. I was pleased. Next I needed to test the trolling motor in the water. The motor worked like charm. At the push of a button the trolling motor turned on, and the 30lb thrust propelled the kayak forward at a pretty good rate. But as I briefly mentioned earlier, I couldn’t steer the kayak with the paddle. I should’ve of known; the motor in the water is essentially a rudder. It was very difficult to steer, and turning the kayak was major work (with the motor running the kayak couldn’t be turned). So as far as the trolling motor goes, I’ll have to do some more engineering before its fully functional. I’ll have to add some steering, or at least be able to raise and drop it from my seat. The kayak performed great in the water, its super stable and tracked quite nicely. I think the fishfinder is going to be tremendously helpful during my shark hunts. I’ll know exactly how deep the water is where I drop my baits.