By John Barrell of Rootbeer Barrell Surf & Kayak, New Jersey:
I have been in the watersports business since 1974 and have found it very frustrating when a customer comes through the door and wants to be an instant expert. Take your time and enjoy being a novice. Learning new skills is exciting and a hobby all on its own. Being out over a mile offshore in December and watching the sun go down is an exciting experience. It is even better when you just caught nine stripers and can be very safe if you use common sense. Using common sense means you don't do anything that you don't know how to do. Read everything you can about the new sport, talk to more experienced paddlers and go on-line. I can't possibly mention all the situations that can go sour and all the ways to deal with them in this paragraph, just slow down and think first. Think if you are ready for what you are about to do and always be prepared for disaster.RODS AND REELS
RODS: A six-foot rod is perfect for trolling from the stern and for bait fishing. However, a seven-foot rod would provide more line clearance, if you plan on mounting the rod holders in front of you. Keep the drag light so you don't have the rod tip pulled into your face by a big fish. I like a rod with a thin tip but guts in the lower two thirds. You will need the strength in the base of the rod when trying to force the fish to your strong hand side for landing. Don't use one of those bait-casting rods that have a short stubby grip below the reel. They will not fit most rod holders securely.
REELS: Spinning vs. conventional? Use what you have the most confidence in. If you plan on doing much casting use what you cast the best. Always buy the best quality you can afford. The only spinning reels I use are the PENN PRIONS. Once you try one, you will retire all your other reels. For a bait-casting reel the SHIMANO CORSAIR series can't be beat for the money. I used the PENN 930'S for years but retired them for the corsairs. The Shimano Calcuttas are a little nicer than both but what they cost would pay for half your kayak. If the Prion spinning reels are out of your price range Penn SS Series treated me well for a lot of years. The 440 SS on a six-foot rod is probably the perfect kayak-fishing combo in the 0 price range.
LINE: Mono around 15 - 17 lb. Test should handle most fish. This may be heavier than some guys like but you can't let the fish run back and forth from one side to the other. In a kayak you have to force the fish where you want him to be, when it comes time to land him.
BRACKET ROD HOLDERS: The rod holder is a must have item. They can be flush mounted or mount into some kind of bracket that you bolt on the boat. There are ball mount styles that are pretty neat, but pricey. Just make sure you get the style with the wing nut on the side so you can tilt the rod, allowing more room for the butt of the rod where it contacts the kayak.
A locking ring that prevents rod loss is available on most brands and is a must. Don't buy one that doesn't tilt or lacks the locking ring. Sometimes when trolling, the blues and stripers just swim along with the lure in their mouth, but other times they start taking out line pretty steady and the locking ring prevents you from losing your prized rod and reel.
You will need a minimum of two-rod holders. One bracket mount should be just behind your strong side elbow and is used for trolling. Some guys argue that they need to see the action of the rod and put their rod holders up on the bow, which sounds reasonable, but I have no problem catching fish while trolling from the back and I know the line will stay out of my way. If you decide to put them on the bow you will need rods long enough so the paddle does not interfere with the line and you will have to get out of the seat on some boats to reach the rod.
FLUSH MOUNT ROD HOLDERS: The other type of rod holder is a flush mount and should be installed directly under where you would rest your weak hand on the gunwale. This location is best for bait fishing and placing the rod in when landing a fish. I also place my rod there, with the bail open when letting out line while trolling. I have been unable to find a commercially available flush mount rod holder that is sealed shut on the bottom, so here are some tips on how to seal it and install it:
First, measure the depth of the kayak where the flush mount is to be located and trim the rod holder tube so the top of bracket is flush with the deck of the boat prior to installing it.
Second, to seal the bottom of the rod holder (to keep water out of your kayak) plug the bottom of the tube either with a sanded down PVC end cap (1.5 inch diameter) or cut out a plug from polyfoam and seal it with "Aquaseal" or "3M's 4200". "Aquaseal" is one of the only glue/sealant products I've found that sticks to plastic kayaks, although many guys swear by the 3M products.