The area behind the seat on a standard kayak is often referred to as the tank well. It’s a central area of the boat and important for a number of reasons. First, it is a main storage area, easily accessible for the paddler, and is does not impede fishing.  Second, anything stored in the tank well needs to be balanced to prevent upsetting the craft’s weight distribution.

For years, the tank well was the domain of the lowly milk crate. The crate was cheap, durable, waterproof, kept stuff close to the paddler and was easily secured by a couple of bungee cords. 

Through the years, many pieces of kayaking gear have battled for tank-well space, but the milk crate remained supreme — until now. The milk crate has been unseated by today’s modern wave of fishing-chic coolers.

Bridgett Howard started out as a kayak-fishing pro-staffer for Jackson Kayaks and made the jump to full-time marketing rep shortly after the company began producing its line of tough, heavy insulated coolers under the Orion brand name.

“We had all the equipment necessary to make roto-molded plastic gear and were contracting coolers for other brands,” said Howard. “Then we decided to put what we know about the outdoor industry and kayaking into our own coolers.”

Kayak-fishing applications were at the top of the list for Jackson, whose line of fishing vessels has exceeded its recreational paddling and whitewater kayaking lines. The Orion line even resembles Jackson’s fishing kayaks, with a one-piece, roto-molded shell construction in swirled coloration, integrated gear tracks and Marine Mat deck covers.

Jackson also decided to go all-out with features specifically for anglers, who found it easy to strap on a cooler for use as locking dry space for the yak or traditional cooler storage on any boat.

“With the available gear track in an elevated position, you have space to mount rod holders, Go-Pro camera mounts, cell-phone holders or even a drink holder that is self-leveling so your beverage doesn’t spill while you are on the water,” Howard said. “Some of our pro staff folks are even opting to replace the Elite seat in the kayak with one of our coolers because the cooler option provides an elevated platform even higher than the seat.”

Howard said swapping out the seat for a 25- or even 45-quart Orion cooler is easily accomplished by looping the straps on the kayak through the aluminum bottle opener corners and still allows access to the cooler while strapped down.

Accessories for the Gear Track are limited only to the imagination of the user. Jackson/Orion sized its gear track to easily integrate with both Yak Attack and RAM Mount accessories. 

“Most of the accessory equipment mounts with either a 1-inch or 1 ½-inch screwball, and from there, you can mount most anything, including our own Red Fox Rover bluetooth speaker,” Howard said.

Inside, space dividers for the 45-quart coolers also double as cutting boards. For fishing at night, an available option is the removable Princeton-Tec AMP 1 light that is mounted into a removable dry-storage tray system.

Not to be outdone, the folks at Engel Coolers have designed features into their impact-resistant, highly portable cooler/dry box systems. The 19-quart and 30-quart models offer built-in rod holders in white or tan.

For live-bait storage, Engel also offers a separate stand-alone option in their 13-, 19- and 30-quart models, a 2-speed air pump that keeps the water fully aerated while the insulated cooler shields live bait from extreme temperatures, in either the dog days of summer or out on the ice in January.

The air pump runs on two D-cell batteries to run independently, or it can be plugged into your car or boat’s cigarette lighter using the handy 12-volt adapter to run the pump for extended periods to keep bait alive for multiple-day trips. As an option to the Engel live-bait system, a removable bait strainer that attaches to the inside of the hinged box lid is designed to help fishermen empty the live-bait cooler without losing their bait, making water changes much easier.

Finally, the folks at Yeti, well known for innovative “ice for days” platform that double as a sturdy casting platform capable of supporting the standing weight of an angler, have added fisherman-friendly options and accessories to their line.

Some of the newer features include stackable, aluminum saltwater powder-coated bait trays designed for easier transfer of cold temperatures from the cooler to the bait, Seadek foam padding attached to the lid of the cooler for better, slip-resistant traction and comfort when sitting or standing on the cooler while casting.

For paddlers, Yeti also offers an optional rod holder accessory that clips securely into the AnchorPoint™ Tie-Down slot of the cooler without getting in the way of the lid. Finally, seat cushions are available in both white and Camo Max 4 to allow your YETI Cooler to do double duty in the dove field or in the duck blind.