Winter time ditch bag

Lets face it, when you decide to take your kayak out when the water and air temp is low you are taking a risk. There are so many factors that can easily lead to disaster if one is not prepared.The biggest danger in cold weather is hypothermia. When your body gets wet You loose body heat extremely fast and most times you may not have enough time to save yourself depending on the situation you have put yourself in.

This post will not be on proper dress or standard cold water precautions, rather on some of the essential survival gear one needs on board their kayak to deal with unexpected occurrences.

The kit I am going to describe is what I call a bail out or ditch bag. This is gear that is only to be used in a survival situation and should be inspected before every cold water outing. (The contents listed here are what I use and your kit may need to have other items in it due to the environment you are planning on going out in.)

The Dry Bag

This will keep your survival gear dry and ready. This needs to be stored under some bungees on top of your kayak and have a long lanyard on it that you can clip to your PFD. This way if you go in the water and the wind or current separates you from your kayak and makes it impossible to get back to it, you will have all your essential survival gear with you. The air in the dry bag will allow it to float.

Dry warm clothes
These you will change into once you get on land, dry and warmed up. Anything made from wool is a good choice here as it insulates even when wet. Toboggan, socks, trousers, gloves and sweater.

To dry off.

Air activated hand warmer packets 

These are not just for comfort, they are great because you can put them under your armpits and in your crotch area to get warmed up quickly. These will save you life!

Heat reflective emergency blanket 

To wrap your self in while you get warmed up and wait for rescue. Can also be used to keep you dry if it starts raining.

Water and wind proof matches or lighter and tinder
To start a fire with once on land. This will be a difficult with the condition you may find yourself in, and will usually be done after getting dry and warmed back up.

Bottled water
Believe it or not you can become dehydrated even quicker in the cold and wind as in the summer heat. Being dehydrated does not help a survival situation very much at all.

High protein energy bars
If you can not paddle out on your own and have to wait for rescue you will need energy to generate body heat, the more calories the better,

Cell phone or VHF radio
This should be kept in your ditch bag. To call for help. Some inland fisheries a VHF radio will do you no good as not many people will monitor these.


To be used in many number of ways to survive, should you have to await rescue,

The Pre-launch risk assessment
Before getting in your kayak and paddling off into the sunset looking for that trophy you should take a minute and go over in your head all the possible scenarios that could happen and mentally prepare yourself for the action you will take in each event. This gives you precious seconds that you do not have to think about what to do when something goes wrong.

If you find yourself in the water, the perfect situation would be to get to land as soon as possible. However if you find yourself in a situation where this is not possible, you are in real danger and hopefully you remain calm and get your communications device out and call out for help. If you do not know your position where you can instruct potential rescuers where to find you you are indeed in grave danger.

These are just items that I carry, you can add or take away as the need for your paddling environment dictates.

The biggest advice I can give you is; if you are not prepared to deal with any situation that may arise when out on the water in the cold....Cold water can kill you,  Stay home.

Pulling Lead Core for Deep Fish From a Kayak

The Native Watercraft Slayer 13 Propel has once again proven it's mettle in it's ability to maximize your time on the water and ability to catch fish.

I prefer fishing for land locked Striped Bass and this time of year they are very deep in the water column. The traditional method of catching them from a kayak is to use a weighted line rig called a down line. The down side to this is that the fish are also very spooky this time of year and if they even see your weight they will not bite your bait.

Some of the methods that powered craft operators use to get their offering deep are down riggers and lead core. Lead core being the least complicated system. These have not been a viable means for the kayaker as they require a consistent speed of the tow craft to be effective. Both of these methods allows you to put your lure at a specific depth and cover a tremendous amount of water. This is not a technique that I would try in a kayak that you paddle; you will most likely lose most of your lures to the underwater structure, however the Slayer Propel is the perfect platform for this technique.

So what is lead core? Lead core is a nylon braided line that has a core of lead to make it heavy. It normally comes in 100 ft lengths and every 10 yards the braid changes color. This allows you to calculate the exact depth your lure is running based on lure weight and speed of craft. For example If I let out 6.5 colors with a 1oz Chipmunk Buck tail jig and cruise at 1.5 to 2 MPH I normally run my bait at around 25-35 ft deep. Your bait will actually be some distance behind you as you are trolling and if you come over structure that is higher in the water you only need to increase you speed to raise your bait, then just slow back down when you feel your lure has cleared the structure.

Setting up a reel with lead core is easy, just make sure it is at least a 30 series reel because this big diameter line consumes a large part of your spool. First you spool a backer line using normal braid. You then attach the lead core line to that using a very small barrel swivel. Then you attach a 30 ft. Fluorocarbon leader to the lead core with another small barrel swivel. Tie on your lure and take off.

Trolling artificial baits deep with Lead Core is used for walleye, Salmon, and summer time land locked Striped Bass. This may be a method that will up your game when the bite is extremely tough.

Mad Frog Gear Transducer Deployment Arm mounting on Sayer Propel and Review

When the new Lowrance Elite 4 HDI unit became available I was quick to try the new technology out on My Native Watercraft Slayer 13 Propel. There were a couple of hurdles that needed to be jumped when using this unit. The first was that the transducer was massively large, and the second thing was that the DSI technology would suffer if used in a shoot through hull format.

I had always used a shoot through hull install on my Sonar set ups and had never been to crazy about the transducer being suspended over the gunwales of my kayak as I always liked a neat clutter free set up on my kayaks. So some decisions had to be made. The first obvious option was to use a scupper mount type of install, however The more I looked at this approach the less I liked it.

So I contacted John at Mad Frog Gear about testing one of his Transducer Deployment Arm's or TDA on my kayak. John was very helpful and was very willing to set me up and help me in testing his unit in a real world setting.

Once I installed and used the TDA, and being the tinkerer that I am there were a few things that I wanted to adjust for my personal application. The first was that with the transducer being so large it tended to want to plane at speed and rise up out of the water. John at Mad Frog Gear recommended tightening the hardware to make a tighter fit, however I wanted to approach this from a slightly different perspective. I just used a hook in the track with a piece of bungee cord with a loop to hold the arm against the hull when in use.

The second thing was just a little stream lining of the actuial mounting of the transducer to the arm. Generally you would attach the transducer to the arm just using a through bolt Since I was working with such a large transducer I wanted it to be more streamlined to reduce drag, so I took the OEM stainless steel bracket that came with the unit and bent it to wrap around the arm. This aligned the center line of the transducer with the center of the arm and made a very solid connection between the two.

I have been using this set up for a couple of months now and I have found that some of my original objections to this type of install were unfounded. The first one being that it would get in the way and possibly catch my lines when fighting a fish. I have simply found this is not an issue. The device is simple, easy to install and light. It can be installed in many ways such as mine directly to your track, or in conjunction with the Yakattack Cell Block, or even away from your sonar head unit in another location.

Lowrance Elite-4 HDI Chartplotter/Fishfinder Combo w/83/200/455/800 Transom Mount Transducer

Over all I am very satisfied with this set up and will continue working with Mad Frog gear in the future.

Managing your kayak gear

Fishing from a kayak is first and foremost a sport that should be approached from a minimalist’s perspective. The lighter your kayak and gear is the further and longer you can paddle and fish. However no matter how much we down size and cut out unnecessary gear there still seems to be a lot of gear to deal with in such a limited space.

 You should really consider developing systems to store your gear in your kayak in a manner that is secure, easily accessible and safe. These are some tips that you can use in developing your own system.

If you don’t want to lose it…Lease it. Let’s face it gear costs money and most of us can’t afford to make gear sacrifices to the deep on a regular basis. Leashes can be cheaply made or bought to secure your gear to your kayak. When using leashes make sure that the lanyards are not an entrapment hazard to you.

Electronics and water do not mix… Use of a dry box or dry bag for cameras, cell phones, or any other item that definitely doesn’t need to get wet is a good idea.

Rig to flip… This simply means to tie your gear to your kayak or stow it away in the hull or in a dry bag with the intent that you will probably roll your kayak. If you have gear that will float then it is not necessary to tie it down.

Kayak fishing first aid kit…. You cannot take out everything to treat any illness known to man, however you at a minimum need a bottle of sterile water for cleaning wounds and washing foreign debris out of your eyes, various sizes of bandages, a good set of pliers some antibiotic ointment and any other thing for dealing with cuts and punctures.

Ditch bag… This is simply a dry bag that you will take with you on all your kayak trips. What you keep in the bag will depend on the season or conditions that you are kayaking in. A ditch bag holds the items that you will need to survive if stranded or separated from your kayak. Some of the basic items that you should have in a ditch bag would include- Dry clothes, shelter, flash light pr head lamp, bottled water, some energy bars, twine or rope, Toilet paper in a Ziploc bag, Water proof matches, emergency blanket and first aid kit. You can customize for varying conditions.

Certain gear should be stored on your person or in your PFD… Let’s face it, if you ever get separated from your kayak there are certain things you will need with you. You will want a signal device on your PFD; a whistle works fine for this. Also you will want a decent knife that is easy to access and secured so that if you drop it you will not lose it. A knife is great if you ever get fouled in ropes or lines. Water proof matches or a good wind proof cigarette lighter for building fires is not a bad item to have in your PFD either. When selecting a PFD you might want one that has good options for storage of tools and gear.

A thoughtful and well laid out kayak is efficient and more user friendly. So lay out all your gear then decide what is absolutely necessary and what is not. Where should the items be stored? Do you need quick access to them or can you put them where they can be stored out of the way like inside the hull or in the crate? Get out and adjust your storage as needed. One thing I have discovered is that most of the stuff you think you need you will never actually use.

Be safe and enjoy your time on the water!

Some of the products I use and store in my PFD:

Original Fox 40 Classic Whistle - Red
Stohlquist Squeeze Lock Knife , Yellow, One Size
MIDLAND NT3VP Nautico Waterproof Marine Radio
Ultimate Survival Technologies Floating Lighter, Orange