Kayaking with Electronics (as published in Coastal Angler Magazine)

It is no secret that the world of kayaking is more popular than ever and steadily increasing. Along with this rise in popularity comes manufactures with new and innovative ways to make their brand “kayak friendly”. This is especially true in the world of electronics. Now I’m not here to tell you which brands are best or what to buy, but rather give you some tips and suggestions from my own personal experience to help you make an educated purchase. With that being said, I would like to discuss some of the key components to make your kayak adventures safe, successful and enjoyable.

I want to start with, in my opinion, the single most important gadget you can have on a kayak: a GPS (global positioning system). When paddling the Big Bend area of Florida, especially coastal, a GPS can be your best friend. The maze of tidal marshes and numerous creeks that flow into the Gulf of Mexico can give even the most experienced boater directional issues. Being able to mark waypoints and track your progress will ensure a safe return from a day out on the water. If you are a fisherman, it also proves handy to be able to mark underwater structure and your favorite fishing holes with just the push of

Imagea button. When shopping for a GPS, you will find a staggering amount of options and features. For me personally, I find simplicity to be best. A middle of the road handheld GPS for just a couple of hundred dollars does everything I need it to, and then some. A  few of the features I look for when purchasing a GPS are: ease of use, ability to track my progress, set waypoints and a track back option to get me back to shore safely, easily and without any guess work.

Kayak fishing is one of the more popular forms of kayaking here on the Big Bend with everyone looking for that “edge” to catch more fish and bigger fish. Fishfinders are an intricate part of this process. To me, having a good fishfinder is not about “finding” fish, but rather displaying the bottom contour where fish will hold. Fishing the flats of the Big Bend, it would be more useful to use a narrow, single beam transducer. With a more concentrated sonar, the bottom contour comes back much clearer than a wide beam giving you a better look at what’s below. This is where your GPS becomes handy as you can mark “fishy” spots with ease. The second biggest issue when purchasing a fishfinder is where/how to mount it on a kayak. This is much simpler than it sounds. Most big name, higher end kayak brands that produce a fishing line of kayaks take adding a fishfinder into consideration. You will find that a lot of them have a scupper hole cut to accommodate a transducer so that it fits flush with the hull of your kayak and consoles in the cockpit for mounting the head unit and storing the battery securely. For those of us that do not have such a kayak, a little more creativity is involved in installing your fishfinder. The most difficult part may be the transducer. Although there are many portable types of fishfinders out there, I find the easiest way is to just mount the transducer inside on the bottom of your kayak and have it shoot through the hull. The simplest way to do this is to take some Marine Goop, plop some down where you would like your transducer, then slowly work your transducer down on the goop until it sits flat against the hull; voila! Be sure there are no air bubbles between the transducer and hull to ensure an accurate read. Run your cord up through the top of the kayak and into your head unit. There are aftermarket mounts available to attach to your kayak that will house your unit and battery. Also, there are plenty of really good DIY YouTube videos to help with the process.

While those are a couple of the more useful tools when it comes to kayaking the Big Bend area, there are many other gadgets that you could add to your arsenal. A SPOT satellite GPS locater is a nice safety net in an event of an unexpected emergency. You can communicate and send for help with the push of a button even when cell phone service is unavailable. I also often carry a handheld marine radio when I go out on open water. Being able to communicate with other boats and with Coast Guard can prove useful, especially when you are paddling such a small craft surrounded by much larger, faster boats. It is also handy having the NOAA weather channels available to keep track of weather that can be so unpredictable here in Florida. We also live in an era where taking video and pictures of your adventure is highly prized. The market is flooded with water friendly video cameras with GoPro being one of the leaders in their field.

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No matter your style of kayaking, I can almost guarantee you that electronics will play a significant role in your paddling adventures. Doing your research will go a long way when it comes to making your purchases. Customer reviews are some of the most reliable ways to get information from real life applications. Feel free to contact me for any additional information.

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