The appeal of fishing from a paddle boat is not just about the paddle anymore. It may have started off that way, but the evolution of the plastic armada has, for some, gone from the simplicity of throwing a paddle and a fishing rod into a lightweight boat and fishing anywhere the imagination could wander to seeing how complex an angler can make a human-powered watercraft.
A simple mathematical kayaking equation is Complexity = Weight. Complexity also means most boats have to be transported in an upright position. Complexity means multiple rods, electronics systems for depth finders and lights, additional gear like measuring boards, fishing tools, tackle boxes and bags, bait containers — the list goes on. Complexity means the kayak no longer goes on top of the car or in the bed of the truck; it needs a trailer. Take a fishing trip with a family of kayak anglers or a group of buddies from the kayak club, and a trailer is a definite necessity.
Everything you just read applied to Billy Lewis of Liberty. An engineer for Bosch, Lewis loves to build things, and he believed he could convert a standard powerboat trailer into a kayak trailer instead of buying one of the commercially made options.
“I started with a list of features I had to have on trailer and then added a wish list of features I’d like to have,” he said. “I drive a Jeep Wrangler 4-door, so everything I will need for kayak fishing will have to go on the trailer.”
The flagship of Lewis’ personal fleet is a 14-foot Hobie Pro Angler, a stable, well-designed, pedal- drive kayak whose downsides include bulk and weight. He also owns a couple of Wilderness Systems rides, also wide, stable and heavy. His idea was a double-decker that would accommodate his fleet or space for carpooling with other members of the Upstate Kayak Fishing Club, to which he belongs.
“I found my base trailer, for $100, on Craigslist,” he said. “It is a nice, all-welded trailer that came from a 17- or 18-foot boat. The construction was great and will create a great starting point for my masterpiece. It is 60 inches wide; that will allow me to have a great base for my Hobie and planned storage space on the other side. I will be able to store and haul four or five boats with no issues.”
For Lewis, must-have features include a lockable storage box, rod tubes, cooler storage for transporting food, drink and fish, and a dual strap and locking system for the boats.
“When you’re on the road, you might pull into a gas station at night and have to leave the trailer,” he said. “I wanted to be able to lock everything up, including the boats.”
Amid the bunks that would support the kayaks, laid flat on the trailer, he designed a bar-and-chain system with the chains looping through the kayaks scuppers and locking to a bar. In addition, straps would also hold the boats securely.
A unique feature of Lewis’ design is an LED light system. The lights, powered by the vehicle, would put off enough light to see when rigging boats or launching at night.
“At club events or tournaments, we frequently launch before daylight or stay out after dark,” he said. “The light system makes it easier to get everything rigged up, then back the trailer down to the water, off-load the boats, and go.”
After purchasing the base trailer and replacing the wheels, Lewis’ next decision was what materials to use. Expanded metal mesh is lighter weight, costs less and is easy to work, with while aluminum diamond sheet metal is more durable but costs more. With a planned budget of $500, Lewis decided he could get a lot more bang for the buck in a home-built model and expanded metal than a commercial trailer.
“It will have a 50 by 28 by 20 (inch) storage box. This box will be made of expanded metal and angle. It will be lockable and hold any cargo with confidence that it will not be messed with. One of my goals is to have an area in the front storage box where I can charge my kayaking SLA batteries on trips from the vehicle harness,” he said. “Behind that area there will be a 30 by 50 (inch) area for cooler storage. I also ordered new galvanized wheels from Amazon for $50 each.”
“Also in the works is a 12-volt system to run two LED spotlights mounted to be bottom of the upper T-bars that will hold the kayaks on the top of the trailer. I found the LED spotlights on eBay for $18 each. They are 12-volt/27-watt and produce 2,000 lumens of light. These lights will allow me launch at night or load at night with ease,” he said.
Looking over the commercial markets, Yakima rack-and-roll models retail in the $2,200 range, while Malone makes 2- to 4-boat haulers in the neighborhood of $1,500. These models do not include storage or lighting systems.
Lewis has a blog of his kayak trailer exploits that can be followed on the Upstate Kayak Fishing Club website, www.upstatesckayakfishingclub.com/