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Kayak Mods: 20 Cool Upgrades You Need To Have For Your Kayak

Kayak Mods

Kayak Mods

Updated on 6/20/2024
Abigail ScottBy Abigail Scott
Hi, I'm Abigail 👋 Since embarking on my kayaking and boarding adventures in 2010, I've navigated rivers and lakes across North America and beyond. With over a decade of experience and countless waterways explored, I'm here to help enthusiasts like you embark on unforgettable water adventures!
Learn More about Abigail Scott

The vast majority of today's kayaks come outfitted with everything – or at least virtually everything – that a paddler may require to get out on the water. On the other hand, here's the thing:

There will always be things that you want or need that your kayak does not have, even if you spent a lot of money purchasing a high-end kayak with all the most recent features.

The encouraging thing is that kayaks typically have the flexibility for customization, alteration, and upgrading options. Continue to hang around if you think that might be something that piques your interest:

I have compiled a list of the most delicate kayak modifications, aftermarket accessories, creative kayak improvements, and do-it-yourself kayak mods that will allow you to customize your kayak and take its utility to the next level.

Top 20 Cool Kayak Modifications: Improve The Functionality And Comfort Of Your Kayak

1. The Second Paddle (For Emergencies)

Second (Emergency) Paddle

Second (Emergency) Paddle

Regarding essential accessories for your kayak, having a spare paddle is one of the most helpful additions you could make to your collection. And while it's true that it won't be utilized consistently, that doesn't make it any less important:

When you go out on the water, having a second paddle ensures that you will be ready to handle any unexpected situations.

Consider it an essential component of your "just in case" safety equipment:

This reliable backup paddle could save your rear if you or another member of your kayaking group loses the primary paddle, which typically occurs as a result of damage or capsizing.

Because I had ruined mine by careless manipulation of the anchor, I had to make my way back to shore using only one hand.

How to Properly Hold a Kayak Paddle

Best advice The possibilities of a small paddle with just one side are not as appealing to me as the full-sized paddle that can be broken down into two halves and stored away.

My go-to kayak paddle is the Manta Ray 2-Piece Kayak Paddle from AQUA BOUND.

The carbon-reinforced nylon blades with variable feathering and the ribbed carbon shaft provide the sensation of an actual carbon paddle, which is strong, stiff, and light. However, the two-piece design makes it simple to keep the paddle in place.

2. Fish Finder

Kayak Fish Finder

Kayak Fish Finder

If you want to take your kayak fishing to the next level, one of the first kayak fishing adjustments you should make is to install a fish finder that is both compact and portable.

This device, which is equipped with sonar, gives real-time information and graphic depictions that are both specific and detailed of what is happening in the water. It can distinguish the aspects of the waterbed, including fish, fish size, and their approximate location, and it can provide additional helpful read-outs.

You don't have to choose your fishing sites solely on pure luck; you may use accurate information instead. Your chances of making a catch will also increase once you are no longer casting into waters that are devoid of fish because of this change.

Sonar for Dummies! Fish Finder Explained for BEGINNERS!

Choose the user-friendly Garmin Striker 4 if you want to make some unique modifications to your kayak without breaking the bank:

It features a portability rating of IPX7, a waterproof rating of IPX7, a dual-beam CHIRP sonar, and GPS-enabled waypoint mapping. Additionally, it has a waterproof rating of IPX7. A fantastic kayak modification is excellent and offers an exceptional value for the money.

Related Waterproof Walkie Talkie

3. Kayak GPS

Kayak GPS

Kayak GPS

Product tested by Board and Kayak
Our Overall Review

Things we like:

  • Equipped to work with both the GPS and the GLONASS systems
  • A subscription to BirdsEye Satellite imagery is included in addition to the preloaded TOPO US 100K maps and 250K Worldwide Geocaches.
  • Easily readable in the daytime, even in bright sunlight.

Things we don't like:

  • The screen measures 2.6 inches but is not touch-sensitive despite its relatively tiny size.
  • The user interface does not have a contemporary appearance, nor is it exceptionally intuitive or user-friendly.
  • The downloading of extra maps might be a bothersome process.
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Additional capabilities that are available on a variety of fish finders include GPS and built-in mapping. If you are looking for the finest kayak mods for fishing, then a fish finder enabled with GPS is what you need.

However, some people aren't in it for the fish at all.

Suppose you prefer kayaking because it allows you to explore nature and discover new places. In that case, it is highly recommended that you purchase a GPS device designed specifically for kayaks.

Also, the GPS that is incorporated into your smartphone is not adequate. It could be helpful in day-to-day life, but we're not talking about daily living here; we're talking about navigating unfamiliar waters. There is a possibility that access to cellular networks and Wi-Fi will not always be available.

The compact and lightweight Garmin GPSMAP 64st, which has a water resistance certification of IPX7 and is compatible with the GPS and GLONASS navigation systems, is the most appropriate tool for the task at hand.

However, remember that technology can and will fail; therefore, you should also be sure to invest in a solid kayak compass.

4. Deck Mat

Deck Mat

Deck Mat

Even while it might not seem like one of the essential kayak modifications for fishing in the same way that a fish finder does, updating your kayak with a deck mat is still something you should consider doing because it is beneficial.

Along these same lines, there are a few advantages of deck padding that are sometimes disregarded:

Because it has a padded and non-slip surface, a deck mat can serve as an excellent platform for stand-up fishing or a shooting area for duck hunting, provided that your kayak can support its weight. The addition of traction makes it simpler to get in and out of the kayak, which would otherwise be difficult due to its slippery deck.

In addition, it performs the function of soundproofing insulation, reducing the distracting noises on the deck and enabling you to sneak up on the fish. They are also an excellent method of shielding the deck from knocks and bumps, such as those caused by an anchor for a kayak.

PUNT SURF's Non-Slip Mat comes highly recommended by me.

The EVA foam traction mat measures 20 inches by 20 inches and contains a 3M self-adhesive backing for easy installation. The carpet can be trimmed and adjusted to fit your kayak as needed.

5. Anchor Trolley System

Kayak Anchor Trolley System

Kayak Anchor Trolley System

Product tested by Board and Kayak
Our Overall Review

Things we like:

  • The pulley mechanism keeps the optimal placement constant despite the wind and the stream.
  • Simple to put together using hardware made of stainless steel
  • The kayak will not be rubbed or scratched by the raised pattern.

Things we don't like:

  • Because it is not included, you will need to purchase an anchor separately for your kayak.
  • With continued usage, the trolley cable will likely get stretched out and lose its tightness.
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If you thought that dropping your anchor would be adequate to maintain the position of your kayak in windy conditions or changing currents, you need to rethink that assumption:

A kayak anchor may keep you from getting away. However, the wind and currents will still cause your kayak to spin in all directions other than the one you want, which will make it impossible for you to maintain your position.

A fishing anchor trolley system is typically mounted to the kayak's gunwale. It comprises two pulleys and a rope that is free to move. Because the anchor is tied to the trolley line, you may drop it anywhere between the bow and the stern of the vessel while keeping it in an advantageous position regardless of the sea state.

See the YakGear Deluxe Anchor Trolley Kit for more information:

It has everything you'll need to get your anchor trolley system up and running, including thirty feet of rope, two pulleys, a tiny zigzag cleat, and mounting hardware.

6. Gear Tracks

Kayak Gear Tracks

Kayak Gear Tracks

The hull of a specialized fishing kayak may come equipped with pre-installed gear rails or, at the least, dedicated mounting areas on the sides of the hull, whereas the hull of a standard recreational kayak may not have these features.

In either case, including them on your inventory of kayak fishing modifications is an intelligent idea.

You are essentially adding a multipurpose mounting surface for all your other equipment, such as rod holders, pistol mounts, camera mounts, fish finder mounts, and so on.

Installing gear tracks will be an improvement that completely changes the game for you if you have a wide variety of fishing accessories but no practical way to store them and keep them organized.

Choose an item capable of withstanding harsh marine circumstances, such as the YakAttack GearTrac SpectraLite.

These high-strength polymer gear tracks are made of marine-grade polymer and rated for uses ranging from light to medium duty. They are compatible with all 0.5-inch wide track gear, including Scotty mounts for optimum versatility. This is perhaps the most significant aspect of their design.

7. A Bag For Dry Storage

Kayak Dry Storage Bag

Kayak Dry Storage Bag

Our Overall Review
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On a kayak, space for storage is nearly never sufficient. You will want to bring a lot of stuff on board, particularly for longer paddling adventures, but there is very little space available to store everything.

Even while a dry storage bag is not technically considered a kayak alteration and is considered one of the best accessories to have, please hear me out on this one:

Some kayaks do not come equipped with built-in watertight storage; even in such cases, your belongings will likely end up moving around inside the hull while you paddle.

What is the sense of carrying anything with you if it is unavailable as soon as the hatch is closed?

As a reliable and watertight travel companion for your excursions into the great outdoors, a dry storage bag such as the Earth Pak is what you need.

The waterproof bag is constructed out of 500D PVC and is offered in various sizes, the largest of which can hold up to 55 liters of liquid. In addition to that, a waterproof phone case with an IPX8 rating is included in the package!

8. Fishing Crate

Kayak Fishing Crate

Kayak Fishing Crate

I'm going to tell you two reasons why installing a crate in the back well of your kayak is one of the most valuable and convenient kayak modifications you could do for fishing:

A fishing crate not only offers additional storage space for your tackle boxes, anchoring kit, and other fishing equipment but also helps keep everything organized and within easy reach. And second, it serves as a platform on which you may install a kayak light, a flagpole, and fishing rods if the situation calls for it.

You wouldn't be the first person to consider attempting the do-it-yourself kayak milk crate solution, even though you might be tempted to do it. In addition, it is an excellent method for making use of any unused PVC pipes you might have lying about in the back of the garage.

"Ultimate Kayak Krate" DIY Kayak Crate Build and How-to

On the other hand, the Wilderness Systems Fishing Kayak Crate is the best option if you are looking for a kayak fishing crate that is not only highly useful but also constructed to last and resistant to water.

The crate includes a vast main compartment in addition to the secondary storage in the lid, giving it a total capacity of 29 liters. It is made of blow-molded plastic, which is a sturdy material. In addition to that, it features four-rod holders. A kayak fishing equipment is essential, and there is not a single PVC pipe in sight.

9. Camera Mount

Kayak Camera Mount

Kayak Camera Mount

Our Overall Review
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On your marks, get set, and film! I am among those individuals who prioritize the act of creating memories and fully immersing themselves in the present more than taking images that are worthy of being posted on Instagram. Because of this, I never really thought about installing a camera attachment on my kayak.

Not until I started kayaking with my child, and every second of our paddling adventures suddenly became "worth documenting." Until then, I didn't think our paddling adventures were "worth capturing."

I am still making the most of those moments, but now I have these extraordinary films and images to show him when he is a mature adult.

Whether you wish to record your excursions for personal or professional reasons, you should include the Yak Attack Articulating Camera Mount on your list of fantastic kayak upgrades.

This 5.5-inch camera attachment offers a straightforward method for rigging most conventional GoPro cameras weighing less than 3 pounds. It is also compatible with most kayak track systems, making installation simple.

10. Upgrade Seat

Kayak Upgrade Seat

Kayak Upgrade Seat

Our Overall Review
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As someone currently in their forties, I am well acquainted with the typical aches and pains that accompany the passage of time. During longer paddles, I can no longer afford to skimp on comfort and support because I will, at the very least, hear a few complaints from my lower back.

And while I'm certainly no spring chicken, the fact of the matter is:

Seats that are well-cushioned, comfortable, or back-supporting in standard recreational kayaks are extremely rare every day.

You are responsible for seeing to it on your own in this regard. Consequently, if you don't want to spend hours at a time hunched over on an uncomfortable, molded-in plastic seat, purchasing an upgraded seat is one of the essential kayak adjustments you may make.

My go-to seat as of late has been the WOOWAVE Kayak Seat, a universal fold-flat style seat featuring an ergonomically designed EVA foam cushioning, a contoured high-back design, and a removable waterproof bag that is included with the purchase.

11. Outriggers

Kayak Outriggers

Kayak Outriggers

Outriggers should be at the top of your list of most acceptable fishing kayak modifications if you want to turn your kayak into a sturdy platform for stand-up fishing.

When it comes to fishing from a kayak, some anglers might laugh at the concept of utilizing so-called floats, but hear me out:

Even when the weather is windy, and the waves are rough, your fishing kayak's stability will be improved thanks to the outriggers because some of the weight will be distributed to the sides. This will lessen the likelihood that your kayak will capsize.

To summarise, they have the potential to improve the safety of your kayak, and as a paddler, you should never skimp on safety measures.

I would suggest using inflated outriggers rather than solid-bodied ones because of the added convenience offered by a design that is both lightweight and simple to move.

For example, the kayak Floats sold by METER STAR are composed of relatively tough and thick PVC, weigh only 2.6 pounds, and are simple to inflate and deflate so that they can be transported easily. In addition, you will receive four repair patches in case the bag becomes punctured.

12. Flag Pole

Kayak Flag Pole

Kayak Flag Pole

You're already familiar with paddling, so I don't need to explain how compact and low-profile kayaks are compared to full-sized, motorized boats. Therefore, you must make yourself visible if you are paddling on open seas or navigating high-traffic areas filled with many other boaters.

You can provide the much-needed visibility by fastening a bright red or orange flag to the outside of your kayak. This is a specific technique.

Some paddlers may attempt to construct their kayak flag poles; I even gave it a shot but ultimately decided it wasn't worth the trouble.

Therefore, it would be best to do yourself a favor and choose the YakAttack VISICarbon Pro Visibility Flag rather than making your kayak flag pole.

DIY Inexpensive Safety Flag and Accessory Pole

Carbon fiber tubing gives it the sense of being lightweight but tough while also allowing it to collapse for transportation. Additionally, it is compatible with most tubular and flush-mount rod holders.

However, here is the most exciting part:

In addition to having an orange flag that is simple to identify, the flagpole also has an LED light that shines in all directions. This is an absolute necessity when the lighting is poor.

13. Rod Holders

Kayak Rod Holders

Kayak Rod Holders

When it comes to the most effective modifications for fishing from a kayak, these are practically self-explanatory. There is no such thing as having excessive rod holders on a fishing kayak, so don't worry about that.

Even if your kayak already has a few flush-mount rod holders that have been installed by the manufacturer, adding many aftermarket ones can do wonders for improving your ability to fish from a kayak.

They prevent your rods from falling over, free your hands so you can paddle or prepare bait, and provide you the ability to set your rods in an ideal way. In addition, they are practical for holding additional equipment like stake-out poles and flags.

Now is the time to give do-it-yourself rod holder projects a shot, but a word of warning: they include more PVC pipe.

Does the ability to DIY projects with PVC piping have no limits?

A cheap PVC kayak rod holder

But if you want the real thing or if you're not too crafty or handy when it comes to DIY projects, you should get the YakAttack Omega Rod Holder:

It is a universal holder solution for fly rods as well as conventional casting and spinning reels, and it gives you the ability to lock in your rods or stage them so that you can get to them quickly.

14. Kayak Light

Kayak Light

Kayak Light

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When going out on the water at night, you must have an all-around white light or an electric torch following "Rule 25 Sailing Vessels Underway and Vessels Under Oars" of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), which also applies to kayaks.

Who would have thought that a little LED light perched on the end of a long pole could be so significant?

On the other hand, it is simple to comprehend the critical nature of maintaining visibility and being able to do so when paddling a kayak in low-light settings. Your chances of getting into a boating accident are reduced if you take precautions to ensure that you can be located easily when you are out on the water.

A kayak light is an absolute must if you intend to paddle out on the lake between the hours of twilight and morning for whatever reason.

In light of this, I would like to offer my enthusiastic endorsement of the Kayalu WaterTorch 360° Kayak Light:

It is durable, completely submersible, and buoyant, and it has a waterproof rating of IPX8. Additionally, it features an industrial-grade suction for "installation" that is both quick and straightforward. Most notably, it satisfies the requirements set forth by the US Coast Guard for navigation at night.

15. Kayak Battery

Kayak Battery

Kayak Battery

If you want to install any electrical equipment in your kayak, you will require a power supply unless we're talking about hand-held, portable electronics. In that case, you won't need one.

A kayak battery might serve as a "supporting act" for the various modifications and extras you have already added to your kayak.

However, suppose you are already straining the carrying capacity of a fully-rigged fishing kayak. In that case, it is not a good idea to add even more weight by installing a big SLA (Sealed Lead-Acid) battery.

Lithium battery packs often carry more power at a fraction of the weight, making them an excellent choice for use as a battery in a kayak, despite being more expensive.

The TalentCell Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack has a capacity of 6000 mAh, the voltage output of 12V, two output ports, and many protection levels. It also has different protection levels. A sufficient amount of electricity to supply even the most power-hungry of accessories.

In addition to this, it is designed to be portable, as it is small, lightweight, and compact. The fact that the battery pack weighs less than a pound is a significant benefit for any kayak that utilizes it.

16. Kayak Cooler

Kayak Cooler

Kayak Cooler

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When you're out kayaking on a hot day, how often do you wish you had something refreshing to drink in your hand?

To be clear, I am not suggesting that you should have alcoholic beverages on board; it is still very much against the law to drink while operating a boat.

Aside from that, the possibilities are virtually limitless so long as you keep in mind the limitations imposed by the capacity of the kayak cooler.

When going on an overnight camping trip, this is a fantastic option to bring along water bottles, a light snack, or food. In addition, I have seen anglers store their catch to protect it from going bad by using the cooler with their kayak. If you are fishing in waters with alligators, having one of these will come in helpful for keeping your catch secure.

Check out the YETI Hopper Flip kayak cooler because having a high-quality kayak cooler makes spending a hot summer day on the water much more fun.

It has a high-density shell that is resistant to mildew and punctures, closed-cell insulation, and, get this, a waterproof zipper. This portable cooler doesn't leak at all and is leak-proof to a hundred percent. Unquestionably the most awesome of a bunch of awesome kayak upgrades (yes, that pun was intended).

17. Trolling Motor

Kayak Trolling Motor

Kayak Trolling Motor

Using a fitness kayak would be pointless if you had a trolling motor. On the other hand, many prefer to spend less time paddling and more time engaging in other activities, such as fishing.

It should not come as a surprise that kayak fishers were among the canoeing and kayaking community pioneers in recognizing the value of a trolling motor.

It doesn't sound like an enjoyable activity. I had to keep track of numerous fishing lines simultaneously, casting, battling large fish, and recovering gear while trying to paddle so as not to spook the fish.

One of the most beneficial modifications that can be made to a kayak for fishing is to install a trolling motor. It is as easy as saying that it frees up your hands while simultaneously keeping you moving.

Newport Vessels Kayak Series You can transform your kayak into a fish-catching machine with the help of an electric trolling motor:

It has an adjustable shaft that allows for a variety of depth placements, generates a thrust of up to 36 pounds, and is rated for usage in saltwater environments.

18. Kayak Shade

Kayak Shade

Kayak Shade

I'm willing to guess that some of you weren't aware that putting a canopy on a kayak can be done, but shade for kayaks is a real thing. You are not bound to waste away in the sweltering heat of the summer, beneath the burning sun and the ultraviolet radiation that is not particularly kind to your skin after all.

Who would have guessed?

DIY Kayak Bimini Top

This may be one of the kayak upgrades that gets the least amount of discussion, which is pretty surprising, considering that most of us enjoy kayaking adventures in the summer.

In terms of modifications that increase the level of comfort provided by a kayak, a kayak canopy deserves to be mentioned as a fantastic kayak upgrade, and I cannot recommend the Lixada Sun Shade Kayak Canopy enough:

Oxford fabric is resistant to water and has a ripstop and a metal rod to make up this item. Therefore, there is nothing too elaborate about it, except that it is available in a total of 12 unique hues.

However, it is simple to set up, can be folded up when not in use, performs marvelously in kayaks designed for a single occupant, and offers 8 square feet of shade.

This particular bimini-top kayak shade method is my personal favorite of the many excellent DIY bimini-top kayak shade tutorials that can be found on the internet. If you would rather not pay for a shade, you can look into making your own.

19. Carry Handles 

Kayak Carry Handles

Kayak Carry Handles

Many of these kayak alterations are thought of as "extras" or bells and whistles because they aren't as vital for the functioning or performance of the kayak, but they do make a difference for the paddler.

Carry handles, on the other hand, are not considered to be part of the "bells and whistles" group. They should be regarded, if anything, as essential components of your kayak because of the contribution they provide to the vessel's usability and convenience.

Besides carrying it on your back, how else do you intend to transport your kayak to and from the water?

If you skipped past this feature, now is a great time to alter your kayak by adding a set of good carry handles like the YYST Lot 2 Kayak Carry Handles. These handles are included in the package.

This package includes everything you need to pull your kayak, including pad eyes, braided rope, and stainless steel hardware. Install them to the sides of the hull or the ends, whatever works better for you, as a terrific but inexpensive solution to the issue of transporting the kayak.

20. Paddle Leash

Kayak Paddle Leash

Kayak Paddle Leash

Our Overall Review
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As a kayaker, one scenario that you do not want to find yourself in is one in which you are stranded in the middle of nowhere without a paddle. Believe what I say about it.

With that said, I will conclude our roundup of the most extraordinary kayak modifications with paddle leashes.

Isn't it true that it's better to be safe than sorry?

At some point, you may need to set your paddle down, whether to take a break or free up your hands. You also have the option to capsize your kayak, sending everything inside it splashing into the water below.

In any event, it is much more comforting to know that your paddle is still attached to the kayak and has not been lost than to watch it sink or float away.

A lightweight, low-cost, and uncomplicated method of securing your paddle is provided by the YYST Orange Paddle Leash, which features a vibrant orange color. It has an easy-to-attach, adjustable loop that can be used with paddles and fishing rods, and it has a rust-resistant aluminum clip with a wire gate made of stainless steel.

Concluding Remarks: The Most Effective Kayak Upgrades

Either you're giving your old kayak a comprehensive makeover or giving your brand-new, top-of-the-line kayak a few personalized touches before taking it out on the water for the first time.

In either case, you will discover that remarkable kayak modifications, such as the ones I discussed today, are frequently necessary for a more enjoyable kayaking experience. It is incredible how much of a difference a couple of minor changes can make regarding the structure's usefulness, comfort, safety, and security.

If you are unsure about where to begin, I recommend taking a long, hard look at your reliable yak and asking yourself the following questions:

What features of my kayak am I utterly content with, and what features of my kayak may benefit from a few simple adjustments, improvements, or enhancements? What aspects of my kayak am I satisfied with?

When you have the answer to your question, everything else will start to make sense, and you'll be able to go to work on the changes to your kayak!