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​How To Use Kayak Outriggers For Trolling

Kayaks can be ideal fishing crafts. They are small, lightweight, versatile, and easily maneuverable. However, these advantages come at the cost of stability.

Outriggers can help resolve the stability issue.

Today, we’ll discuss using outriggers for trolling in your fishing kayak.

Let’s get started.

​What are outriggers?

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Outriggers are a framework or extension from the side of your kayak that supports a float or pontoon. The purpose of an outrigger is to increase the stability of the craft.

Outrigger systems generally have three main components:

  • The mount that attaches the arm and floats to the hull of the kayak.
  • The arm that connects the float and kayak together.
  • The float or pontoon at the outer end of the arm.

​How do outriggers increase stability?

The wider a watercraft and the lower its center of gravity in the water, the more stable it will be. Most kayaks are relatively narrow and sit high in the water. This results in a craft that is easily moved through the water and is highly maneuverable but is unstable to side-to-side movements.

Outriggers help resolve this issue by greatly increasing the effective width of the kayak. They can also lower the center of gravity. Both of these increase stability.

Consider a kayak that is about 30 inches wide. Now, add an outrigger to one side with an arm that is 3 feet long. You’ve more than doubled the effective width of your craft.

What if you added outriggers to both sides? You would end up with an effective width greater than 8 feet? That’s a big increase in stability.

A typical flat-bottomed fishing boat 12-14 feet in length might have a beam of about 75 inches. But, with the double outrigger configuration described above, you would have an effective width of over 100 inches. That is much more stable than the 30-inch kayak you started out with.

​What are some advantages of using outriggers?

kayak with an outrigger

We’ve already talked about the advantage of added stability with outriggers. Outriggers move the center of gravity further from the center-line of the boat. The floats also increase buoyancy.

There are advantages to being able to stand up while fishing. It is easier to cast; especially to the sides of the boat. And it provides better visibility for being able to see where fish may be.

Unfortunately, standing in a kayak, even one designed for fishing, can be a tricky proposition. Just the act of casting can be a balancing act. Then, when you get a fish on the hook, you may be joining it in the water.

Outriggers can provide enough stability to let you either stand or sit to fish. You can also change positions from sitting to standing and back again. This can ease stiff muscles from doing one or the other over long periods of time.

More comfort on the water means more time on the water. More time on the water results in more opportunities to catch fish! That’s what it’s all about, right?

The added stability of outriggers can be helpful even if you remain seated. Sometimes the weather can change in a heartbeat. What was a calm glassy lake first thing in the morning may become a choppy, windy nightmare with a suddenly approaching storm.

In those conditions, it can be a comfort knowing you have outriggers for added stability. Where would you be if a sudden storm caught you by surprise? With all the extra gear you may want to strap to the top of your kayak (a tackle box, a cooler, etc.), your center of gravity would be even higher.

This would mean your kayak would be more susceptible to tipping – or even capsizing. Just think what it would mean to have to replace all that gear if this should happen. I don’t even want to think about taking an unexpected bath; especially when fishing in cooler weather.

Then, think of how much more confident you would be with the added stability of the outriggers. They would help keep your kayak level and less likely to tip. All your gear would be better protected.

And so would you!

​What are some disadvantages of using outriggers?

This all sounds good, but what about the downside? What are some reasons you might not want to use outriggers? Here are a few disadvantages to consider:

  • Outriggers add weight and complexity.
  • When paddling, the contact of the floats with the water will slow you down.
  • The outriggers may interfere with your paddling or fishing.

Granted, the added weight may not be substantial. Still, it is more equipment to carry, store, and keep up with. This may be a consideration for someone with a minimalist approach to getting on the water to fish.

One of the great things about kayaking is that you can almost effortlessly glide across the surface of the water. Adding a float or two on the sides will definitely slow you down getting on location. If you raise the floats out of the water while traveling you can alleviate this issue.

The outriggers may interfere with your paddling or fishing. That’s why proper positioning of the outrigger arms is critical. We’ll discuss that more in a bit.

​How are outriggers used for fishing?

brothers fishing on a canoe with outrigger

When you’ve paddled to your favorite fishing spot, lower the floats and seat them firmly in the water. Now you’re ready to fish. You should be able to fish stably either seated or standing up.

A standing position will allow for greater visibility to other potential traffic. It will also provide you a better vantage to scan your surroundings for potential fish.

The outriggers may pose some potential obstruction for reeling in your lure or catch. However, that should be more than offset by the advantage of being able to stand and fish. You wouldn’t want to try that without the outriggers.

​How do you troll with outriggers?

Trolling can be an effective fishing strategy. In fact, one of the advantages of fishing from a kayak is the ability to apply this method.

When trolling, should you set your line over and behind your outrigger arms? Or, should you make sure your line passes under the arms before trailing out behind you?

Casting the line out over and behind the outrigger arms may be easier. However, once you have a fish on the line, the arm and float may pose an obstacle to landing the fish in your boat. Experiment and see which method works best for you.

Standing up will give you a better view of the water surface. This may make it easier to spot potential fish in the area around you.

The outriggers should provide the stability you need to paddle while standing. This will help you troll while standing. You may need to adjust the length of your paddle.

Ideally, you would use rod holders positioned just the back of the cockpit, yet within easy reach. With the rods behind the cockpit, they are less likely to interfere with your paddle stroke. Then, you can troll the lines out behind you with less interference.

Paddle stroke interference is also why you want the outriggers positioned behind the cockpit. Usually, positioning them two-thirds to three-fourths of the way toward the back will work out well.

You may want a fishing rod on each side of your kayak. That way, you can run two lures simultaneously.

Let out your line. Have one lure set at a shallow depth. Set the other to run deeper.

The lighter the lure, the higher it will trail in the water. So, you may want to add a weight to one of your lures to help keep them separated vertically.

Paddling faster will pull the lures closer to the surface. Going slower will allow the lures to sink deeper in the water.

A good strategy may be to paddle faster for a few minutes. Then, go at a slower pace. Pay attention to your speed when you get a bite.

Here’s a tip. A GPS unit can help you gauge your speed. It can also help you maintain a consistent or repeatable pace.

Sometimes fish are keyed in to the speed of the lure being pulled through the water. Keep in mind that different fish species may prefer a faster or slower speed. It’s always a good idea to know about the characteristics and feeding habits of your target fish.

Try different speeds with start/stop patterns. A jerky rowing pattern can result in a natural action to your lure that fish can’t seem to resist.

Trolling shouldn’t be a strenuous exercise. Leisurely paddle with frequent long pauses. The trick is to match the pace of a small minnow or even an aquatic insect.

Experiment and see what works best. After all, that’s part of the fun.

​Conclusion

Adding outriggers to your fishing kayak can provide a good advantage. Outriggers can provide the stability you need to be able to stand and change positions while fishing. Without outriggers, you may be confined to a sitting position.

There are few disadvantages to having the outriggers. They will add weight and complexity and if you try to paddle with the floats down, it will slow your progress to some degree.

Do the advantages outweigh the drawbacks? That is for you to decide.


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