Kayaks present anglers with one of the most affordable and eco-friendly options for enjoying the outdoors. In addition to providing a solid platform for stalking the shallows, kayaks provide anglers a base platform to customize to their specific desires and needs for numerous applications and various venues.
Whether you’re installing flush mount rod holders, paddle keeper, multifunction display, rudder, anchor trolley or transducer, there are a few things you should know before drilling a hole or dicing up your kayak. It’s understandable that drilling or cutting a hole in any watercraft seems like a bad idea at first, but with the proper approach, tools and technique your tricked-out ‘yak will be as seaworthy as the day you purchased it. Although the installation of specific accessories varies slightly depending on accessory location and kayak brand, there are a few common guidelines to follow no matter the end goal.
Lets start with the process involved with the simple installation of a flush mount rod holder—the most popular kayak accessory. Many of the newest kayaks come with mounting options that prevent the need to puncture the hull, but sometimes it’s impossible to avoid the inevitable. Long before you pierce the kayak with a drill or Dremel tool you’ll first want to decide exactly where you want to mount the rod holder or accessory. Board your kayak and make sure it will be within easy reach. If you’re installing a rod holder it’s important the mount is angled correctly so it doesn’t interfere with your paddling stroke. This may be 15 or 30-degrees back or out depending on preference and intended use. After making sure there are no below deck obstructions, trace the hole for the insertion of the rod holder base. When choosing a drill bit it is recommended that you use one slightly smaller than the manufacturer’s recommendation so you can achieve a really snug fit. Once you’ve inserted the rod holder take the appropriate drill bit and create tiny pilot holes for the stainless steel screws. Again, it’s better to have a hole that’s too tight than too loose. Most aftermarket flush mount rod holders and Scotty or RAM mounts come with a base plate. Before attaching the base plate and tightening the screws you’ll want to create a thorough seal with marine grade silicone.
No matter what type of accessory installation you attempt, self-tapping stainless steel screws will hold tight, although some choose to use rivets or even thru-bolt if access allows. If you select self-tapping screws don’t install with a power drill, rather tighten by hand. The friction from a rotating screw can melt the plastic around the threads and the screw might become stripped. You should also install screws or rivets from corner to corner instead of going in a circle.
Compact multifunction displays are also gaining popularity among kayak enthusiasts and the installation process is rather simple. The unit you purchase will likely come with detailed installation instructions, but no matter the brand you’ll need to install a mounting bracket and run electrical wires through the interior of the hull to a power source. Depending on the kayak model you may be able to run a transducer through an existing scupper hole, while older model kayaks will require a hole to be cut from the hull.
Although the latest roto-molded kayaks are incredibly durable, they are not bulletproof. Whether your kayak has been cracked or punctured by accident, or you made a critical measuring mistake when installing an accessory, it’s not the end of the world and you’ll be back on the water sooner than you think. Cracks and small holes can be repaired by contacting your kayak manufacturer and ordering plastic filler rods. To fix a small hole in your kayak you’ll need a heat gun, wire cutters and scraping tool. Before starting clean the area in need of repair with a plastic cleaner or alcohol to remove any grime or salt residue. You also want to slightly sand the area. Start by heating the plastic welding rod with your heat gun. When the tip of the plastic rod begins to melt, insert the tip in the hole and slowly twist while continuing to aim the heat gun at the point of insertion. While the plastic rod is still hot, cut the remaining lengths with wire cutters and smooth the cooling plastic with a metal scraper.
Large cracks and patches can be fixed with the same general technique. Plastic welding rods will work for small repairs, but manufacturers might send you hatch lids so you can cut out the prefect size patch. If you have a narrow crack in your hull or topside, heat the welding rod and tack the melting tip about a half inch from the outside of the crack. Once the base of the welding rod has been melted to the kayak, continue heating the rod and the area around the crack. As you start to push the welding rod into the crack you can smooth the weld with a metal scraper. When you get to the end of the damaged area cut the remaining plastic rod. From here, make sweeping strokes with the heat gun to make the patch as smooth as possible. Don’t heat too fast, although you’ll have to work quickly to keep the kayak and patch heated. It’s much easier to have to redo the process than end up with more damage than you started with, so move with precision.
Mounting aftermarket accessories shouldn’t be a burden, rather an enjoyable DIY experience that puts more tools at arms reach. Fortunately, the latest multi purpose mounts from Scotty and RAM provide a plethora of mounting options for a wide variety of accessories no matter your needs.