KAYAK OUTRIGGER INTRO
Is the term “kayak outrigger” unfamiliar to you? Well, let’s fix that! One piece of kayak fishing gear that has tremendous appeal for kayak fishermen of all levels of experience and ability is the kayak outrigger, also referred to as the kayak stabilizer. While the name might be unfamiliar to you, we are certain that you have seen outriggers on the water (like on a catamaran sail boat) or on land (like on a crane on a construction site).
Outriggers have actually been around for many centuries, though we are certain that their application to kayak fishing is a bit newer than that! We decided to write this Kayak Outrigger Ultimate Guide in an effort to create an all encompassing free resource for the kayak fishing community! Oh, and don’t worry, we have ranked The 5 Best Kayak Outriggers for you!
KAYAK OUTRIGGER ULTIMATE GUIDE
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The team at KayakFishingCorner.com has many years of experience evaluating many styles of kayak outrigger. This Kayak Outrigger Ultimate Guide contains a list of each of the key details and features of a functional kayak outrigger.
KFC divides these important details and features into separate categories, including kayak outrigger basics, kayak outrigger designs, and which kayak outrigger is best suited for you. At the end of this article, we include a link to one of our favorite models of kayak outrigger! Take a look!
Kayak Outrigger – Overview
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I have already mentioned it a number of times in this Kayak Outrigger Ultimate Guide, but let’s make sure we have a full understanding of the term “outrigger” before we go much further. Outrigger can be defined as, “a framework extended outboard from the side of a boat … supporting a float that gives stability” or “a projection with a float … at the end attached to a boat to prevent capsizing”.
These definitions paint a pretty good picture of what an outrigger is and what it is intended to do. But, let’s add our own definition, at least in terms of what an outrigger is relative to kayak fishing. A kayak outrigger is an after market product that is designed to be attached to the hull of a fishing kayak and to aide the fishing kayak in balance and stability by increasing the surface area of the fishing kayak, further resulting in the creation of a counter balancing effect.
A kayak outrigger will have either one or two arms. One arm is going to provide a significant amount of stability, particularly as it will allow a kayak fisherman to situate his or her body in the fishing kayak itself, thus serving as a ballast. Wait, what is a ballast? A ballast can be defined as, “a heavy substance placed in such a way as to improve stability and control”.
But if one kayak outrigger provides a significant amount of stability, than two kayak outriggers can only be described as providing supreme stability. You see, the average length of a kayak outrigger is roughly 3 feet long. When you combine two kayak outriggers, taking into account the width of the pontoons at the end of each outrigger, with the width of the hull of the fishing kayak itself, you’ve quickly increased the surface area of your boat by more than 300%! That’s right, your width will be 9 or 10 feet!
The wider the fishing kayak, the greater the level of stability and control afforded to the kayak fisherman. When using a kayak outrigger, and thus when gaining the advantage of a more stable fishing kayak, a kayak fisherman will be able to fish while standing upon the kayak without fear of toppling over.
Does this guarantee that you will catch more fish? Well, no! But, we think that the ability to sit and stand in an alternating manner will allow the kayak fisherman to “stretch out”, become more comfortable, and actually stay on the water for a longer period of time! The longer you are able to kayak fish, the greater the period of time you have to possibly reel in the big one!
Parts of a Kayak Outrigger
Now that you’ve learned a little bit about the basics of the kayak outrigger in this Kayak Outrigger Ultimate Guide, its time to read about some of the important features to look for in deciding which kayak outrigger you’d like to add to your fishing kayak.
First, let’s start with the point of connection to the hull of the fishing kayak. Your point of connection is the most important part of your kayak outrigger set up, as without a solid connection, the outrigger and fishing kayak will not have a stable base to “push” against when traversing strong currents or choppy waters! You will want to purchase an outrigger that sits “flush” against the hull of the fishing kayak, leaving no room for rubbing or twisting to occur, which would otherwise weaken the mechanism.
Next, but directly related to the point of connection, is the adjustability component of the outrigger’s arms. This will be a function of the connection point. If you look closely at the picture of the connection point below, you can see that the device actually contains an internal ratcheting system. The ratcheting system allows a huge number of angles at which your outrigger arms can be set.
You will want to be able to raise or lower the kayak outriggers based upon the type of water conditions you are encountering. Sometimes you will want to lower the rudder deeper into the water, like when you are attempting to move forward in a direct line and need to keep a straight course. To do this, you’ll need to lift the outriggers higher, allowing the rudder, and fishing kayak, to sit more deeply in the water.
If the water conditions are particularly choppy, and you want to maximize your stability and control to guard against an overturn, it is best to lower the outriggers and put pressure on the water. Doing to will immediately increase your surface area, and the desired counter balancing effect will take place! Remember, being properly counter balanced will make the fishing kayak much more capable of standing up to choppy water, gusting winds and swiftly flowing currents!
The next piece of the kayak outrigger set up that is of critical importance is the pontoon connected to the kayak outrigger’s arm. Some of the kayak fishing community is unfamiliar with the term “pontoon” though they have almost certainly seen one before. A pontoon can be defined as, “a float for raising a sunken or deeply laden vessel in the water”. For us, the vessel is the fishing kayak itself, and the pontoon is connected at the end of the outrigger arm to float and assist with balance. Below is a basic example.
Pontoons need to be of appropriate size to provide enough buoyancy to push and lift against cresting waves, swiftly moving currents and gusting winds. Even if the correct “size” (which is typically 1 foot in length, and 4 – 6 inches in width) it is important that the kayak outrigger’s pontoon is built of a high quality material to ensure it maintains its buoyancy.
We prefer molded PVC pontoons. PVC is highly durable and very buoyant. Many even come with the bonus feature of increased visibility to other lake traffic! How? They are often brightly colored (like the yellow one shown above) but not too bright as to take away from the natural beauty of your surroundings!
The final feature of tremendous importance? The arms of the kayak outrigger. The arms, and the connection point, are going to face a great deal of strain as they work to push against the water and to support and balance the fishing kayak.
After all, the kayak outrigger is only as good as the length and strength of its arms. Buy a kayak outrigger with arms that are too short? You will lack suitable leverage or surface area and you will not achieve the counterbalancing necessary to stabilize your kayak. That said, its also important that the arms not be too long! Why is that? If the arms are too long, you are going to have trouble maneuvering the fishing kayak around tight channels and could put too much strain on the connection point and hull of the fishing kayak.
We think that an outrigger’s arms should be around 3 feet. But don’t let the length be the only factor weighing on your decision, as you’ll also want to ensure that the material that the arms are built of is high quality. Remember, the outrigger is going to be exposed to wet conditions, and will likely be subject to strain on an “on again” “off again” basis as the fishing kayak bobs up and down with the movement of the water.
We have found that outrigger arms built metal, and even some built of high strength plastics, are perfectly suitable for standing up to the elements as well as the continued movement of the fishing kayak. Metal arms are, of course, going to be heavier than plastics. Remember, extra weight isn’t necessary a bad thing when it comes to outrigger arms. The heavier the arms, the more ability the outrigger has to stand up to the punishment of the waves and winds!
Buy the Best Kayak Outrigger
This one was clearly built with a kayak fisherman in mind! Built by kayak fishing enthusiasts, for kayak fishing enthusiasts, just like it should be! We like the customizable angles (check out the image below) at which the outrigger arms may be set. Also, the installation was very easy – and I am NOT handyman!
What is it Made of. The hard plastic results in an outrigger coming in at just about 6 pounds. Don’t let the word “plastic” scare you from seriously considering this outrigger, this one is built to last for many seasons!
It is very rigid and is more than capable of standing up against large waves and swift currents. Weight is a very important consideration! The lighter it is, the easier to navigate!!
How Long are the Arms. Measuring 30″ in length, this outrigger’s arms are perfectly sized. This proper sizing creates the desired level of balance, while being compact enough to avoid maneuverability concerns. Your outrigger should NOT get in your way, and this model certainly addresses that concern!
The larger the width, the easier it is to stand and cast! This is due to your increased surface area! We love standing and casting – its one of the primary reasons we bought an outrigger!
What About its Floats; Buoys. The buoys on this model are designed as single pieces. We like the ability to replace a damaged buoy with ease. That can be one of the downsides of this particular model of outrigger.
It is easier to find replacement buoys for other outriggers, no doubt about it. However, the buoys on this model are durable, so as long as you don’t subject them to endless abuse, you should be OK! The buoys are dark grey in color, which is a negative when compared to the more brightly colored models. The more you stand out on the water, the safer you are! If possible – find an outrigger with bright yellow or orange buoys – they stand out the best against the darker shadowy water!
Can it Adjust? The adjustment was quite easy – no special tools required. Once you find the desired angle, it is easy to “lock” the outrigger at the particular point. Once locked, you can stand and cast with ease! Take a look at an example of this by referencing the picture below:
Also, you can adjust the arms to be set at different angles. Perhaps you are only casting to one side of the boat, and therefore want your outrigger to be adjusted upon the surface of the water on that side. It is very easy to do! Setting the arms at different angles isn’t hard – in fact, you can do it from the water as conditions warrant!
Anything Else to Look For?. We like that the Stainless-Steel Installation Hardware. The installation of the outrigger to the hull of the kayak is where the “rubber meets the road” in terms of kayak fishing. If you have a weak connection point, you are very likely to damage your outrigger or your kayak. Stainless-steel not only looks good, it will hold up to the test of time!
What is it Made of? The aluminum construction (shown in the image below) provides a ton of strength and rigidity without needlessly adding weight (remember, weight is your enemy). The stainless-steel mounting material comes with the outrigger – meaning one less trip to the hardware store for you!
Note that the outrigger “arm” comes in 3 pieces, one for each side, and a middle piece (the middle piece is behind the seat in the above image). These are easily adjoined by snapping together and inserting the ball joint into the prefabricated holes. You do NOT need special tools to make the connections (nor to take them apart when you are done fishing for the day)!
Also, the pontoons are made of an inflatable material. Sometimes inflatable buoys can be a drawback. Why? In lower quality models, inflatable pontoons are more subject to being popped!
Also, saltwater can deteriorate the inflatable material of the pontoons over time, eventually causing them to leak or rupture. You won’t have this problem the outrigger depicted above, however, so long as you are mindful to take proper care of the buoys by cleaning them with fresh water (no chemicals) after each exposure to salt water!
Layout. The center bar (goes across the inside of the hull of your kayak) measures 24″ in length. The other 2 arms are 27″ each. This results in an overall length of 78″. The 27″ arms are in the sweet spot in terms of KFCs desired length, and the ability to “fix” each of the bars together lends additional strength to the outrigger.
Efficient Design. If you look closely at the image below, you can see that the buoys have been thoughtfully designed to tilt upwards at the front and rear.
This is a great feature for reducing the “drag” created by larger (or non-wisely engineered) buoys. Don’t worry, there is no downside in terms of reduced buoyancy or navigability!!!
There are tons of different models of kayak outrigger on the market. For kayak fishing, however, you can’t go wrong with the outriggers that we’ve linked to above!
My Experience with a Kayak Outrigger
I am always working to broaden my kayak fishing experience. Both in terms of level of skill, success on the water, and locations traveled to. One of my favorite and more recent kayak fishing discoveries is Broken Bow Lake. Broken Bow Lake is situated in the southeastern corner of Oklahoma.
Why have I become so fond of this particular lake? Well, for more reasons than I have room to share on this website, but just to state a few – because this particular lake is massive, has a clear rock bottom, is surrounded by mountains and rock outcroppings, and is full of a wide variety of game fish!
During one of my earliest trips, during the late Fall, I departed very early in the morning. I wanted to beat all of my fellow fishermen to a spot that I suspected would be the best for the weather conditions forecasted for that day.
Right off the bat I was having great luck! I probably reeled in 10 or so large mouth bass in just my first couple of hours on the water. I was having such great luck that I didn’t even notice that a large storm had formed and was gathering to the south and west of the lake. Quite quickly, the skies began to take a dark and troubling turn.
Then, all of the sudden, I was stuck way out in the middle of the lake when the winds kicked up from 5-10mph, all the way up to 50mph gusts! If you know anything about storms in Oklahoma, you know that they can be incredibly violent, and often take even the most observant residents and visitors by total surprise! The high winds, combined with the criss crossing wakes generated from the many power boats that were racing to get cover from the storm, almost caused my fishing kayak to overturn!
As it was late Fall, the water temperature was a bone chilling 45 degrees. Worse? I had many hundreds of dollars worth of kayak fishing gear on my fishing kayak with me. If I had overturned, I would have found myself in a very precarious position very quickly and my kayak fishing gear would sink to the bottom of the lake, never to be seen again.
Luckily, and no doubt thanks to the power provided to me by my kayak trolling motor, I was able to make it all the way back to the dock before the weather further worsened. Even though I made it safely, I promised myself that I would look into all available options to keeping my fishing kayak safely balanced in the gusting winds, during strong currents, and while experiencing large and criss crossing waves!
This Kayak Outrigger Ultimate Guide actually contains a number of the kayak outrigger products that I came across during my research. Perhaps one of them would be a great fit for you!
KAYAK OUTRIGGER: SCORES
Quality – 3.5/5
Kayak outriggers have recently come a long way in terms of quality. Only in the last several years have kayak outriggers even become widely available on the market. As with any new product, there is some trial and error while the competing manufactures tinker with different designs and materials to arrive at the highest quality and most effective product.
The kayak outrigger that we’ve linked to above is one of the top quality outriggers available as of the present date. While we have had reports of concerns relative to the longevity of the connection pieces (where the arm connects to the kayak’s hull) these concerns are relatively few and far between – but still something to be aware of!
Performance – 4/5
A top quality kayak outrigger won’t let you down in terms of its performance. Notice that we said top quality. It is important that you research to determine which kayak outrigger has the best ratings (including those which we’ve evaluated and linked to above).
Buying a lower quality outrigger, even if you are trying to save a little money, simply isn’t worth it. Why? Low quality will actually harm your kayak fishing performance, rather than help it!
Price – 4.5/5
Most kayak outriggers are priced between $100 and $200, though there are exceptions to every rule. This price point admittedly makes a kayak outrigger a little bit expensive compared to some of the other pieces of kayak fishing gear you might come across on the market, but there is a difference. What is it?
Think of a kayak outrigger as a $100 – $200 insurance policy to aid in the protection of your other kayak fishing gear. After all, a kayak outrigger is built specifically for purposes of preventing overturns, and overturns are one of the quickest ways to lose ALL of your other fishing gear! Not good!
Durability – 4.25/5
Kayak outriggers are becoming more and more durable by the season. We’ve discovered that the key to durability is actually the skill of the kayak fisherman. What do we mean by this? Well, as you’ve read above, kayak outriggers are adjustable.
You need to select an angle that works in harmony between the kayak and the water that you are traveling over. Too severe of a downward angle will result in too much pressure on the joints of the outrigger. A correct angle, however, will result in the kayak outrigger lasting for season after season!
Overall – 4/5
Coming in at an overall score of just over 4/5, a kayak outrigger is a piece of kayak fishing gear that the pros at KFC know is a “must have” for kayak fishermen of any level of skill or experience. The installation process is a breeze, the outriggers are adjustable and removable, and their presence just might prevent you from overturning!
At very least, the outriggers provide great peace of mind when you are hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of yards from shore! Try out one of the outriggers linked to above and let us know what you think. Be sure to write in to KFC if you have come across another model of kayak outrigger that you’ve been pleased with!
KAYAK OUTRIGGER CONCLUSION
I hope that this guide has helped you learn more about the different types of kayak outrigger. KayakFishingCorner.com is based on honesty. In that spirit, we share that you will not always need kayak outriggers for every one of your kayak fishing trips.
That being said, remember what you have learned in this Kayak Outrigger Ultimate Guide. Kayak outriggers are built such that you can raise the outriggers to keep them out of your way when not needed, its really quite easy! Then, if the weather gets worse, just deploy the outriggers and keep on kayak fishing! Your chance of capsizing or overturning will be significantly reduced!
Also, these outriggers are not “permanent” fixtures. You can just snap the outriggers on and off based on your need for them on any particular trip. Yes, doing so will take time, but not too long. You’ll be happy to have the flexibility and ability to go “on again” and “off again” with ease!
KayakFishingCorner always continually monitors the market to see if other interesting kayak outriggers become available! But, for the moment, if you are looking for a kayak outrigger, we are certain that any of those showcased in this Kayak Outrigger Ultimate Guide would be a great fit!
Make sure to write in to KFC and share with us which outrigger you picked for your fishing kayak. Tell us what you like about it, don’t like about it, and any tips you might have for the rest of this kayak fishing community! If you have any questions about the kayak outrigger, please post a comment at the bottom of this page or message me! Here are some of our favorite tips for improving your ability to cast from a standing position!
Have you ever wanted to go kayak fishing in the ocean? Destin, Florida could be a great match for you. Find out more, here!
Kayak Outrigger: Comments
Do you have any questions regarding the kayak trolling motor or kayak fishing in general? Please share with the rest of the KayakFishingCorner community by posting in the Comments section below.