After the first couple of outings, I gradually forgot one, or more items at home that really embarrassed me in front of others. So, on a particularly slow day at work, I began to list everything that I would take for a "normal" day of fishing.
I'm using the word "normal" lightly here because some of the items on my checklist may be used for freshwater locations, as well as some saltwater locations too. I also began to break the items down into separate categories. I will explain why I listed some of the items on the list that may be questionable to some. Below is a photo of a document that I use as a guide in the Spring to help myself remember what I need for the season ahead.
Photo Credit: Jeff Hall
Let's start at the top section and work our way down. "Kayak Gear" means the essential items that your kayak needs to perform right.
First item is "Paddle", if you have a kayak that has a "Pedal Drive" system, it will count as the same item.
Secondly, don't forget your "Seat".
And thirdly, your "Kayak Cart/Wheels" (plug-in style, strap[s] attachment, or folding style), just in case you have to park far away from your launch point.
Middle section includes some "Safety Items". Though it's not marked in the photo, I will put a star on the "must have" items that will help you avoid getting a fine by the Game Wardens in your region.
These items marked with a star are a must have:
PFD/Life Vest*, First Aid Kit*, Marine VHF Radio*, and Safety Mast w/Orange Flag & Light*.
The "PFD/Life Vest" will save your life. Don't take chances with this one item. It will be the final difference between coming home to your family, or your family getting bad news by your local police.
The "First Aid Kit" may not get used that often, but here in Connecticut and Rhode Island, it's a must have item.
A good quality "Marine VHF Radio" that floats is a big must have. Most good quality radios will have weather channels. These are good if the weather should turn ugly in a hurry. Mine, a Standard Horizon HX130, came with a small cord attached to the radio's clip. I removed the clip on the back of the radio and attached the cord to my life vest's mini D-ring inside the left front pocket. If I roll, the radio won't be lost floating in the surf.
A "Safety Mast w/Orange Flag & Light" is a great addition to anyone's kayak. In saltwater, the orange flag mounted high on a mast, will help you be more visible during tidal swells. In saltwater, as well as freshwater, it will also alert other boaters to stay clear of you while you fish. The white light should be mounted at the top of the mast, preferably above your head, so as to be seen 360 degrees in any direction. The light needs to be bright enough to be seen in heavy fog, as well as, the dark of night. US Coast Guard says the light MUST be White (non-flashing) and be visible up to two miles away. I also covered the top 8 inches in red & white reflective tape. Not all parking areas have street lamps at them.
These other items are optional: Bug Spray, Sunscreen, and Rescue Rope.
If you've ever rolled your kayak (I did in 2015), you know how difficult it is to right your kayak, let alone get back on your kayak without any help! The "Rescue Rope" is a true kayak angler's best friend. It will aid you in getting your kayak flipped back over in no time with very little effort. It can also be used to tow another kayak angler back to shore. No place to hold your monster catch? No problem! Keep one end clipped to your handle, un-clip one end and feed the other end through the fish's gill, then clip the other end to the rope (like a over-sized fish stringer), and drag the fish back to shore.
For re-entering a SOT (sit-on-top) kayak after you've rolled, be sure to click this link by Walt Lariscy on "How to Re-Enter a SOT Kayak":
And finally, the Last section - the miscellaneous "Materials". Most of these are optional. What you carry while out on the water will be up to you. There are some items on this list that even I don't carry. You can put these items in whatever order you choose:
GPS/Sonar, Towel, Knife, Power Cable (for your sonar/fish finder), Tape/Ruler, Gear Basket, Rain Suit, Food & Water, Anchor, Fish Net, 12 volt Battery (fully charged), Sponge/Water Pump, Machete/Brush Axe, Dry Bags (different sizes), Digital Camera (waterproof), Fishing Poles w/Leashes, Lip Grippers/Long Pliers, Safety Whistle, and Bait.
Some of the things that I carry: PFD/Life Vest w/Safety Whistle (attached to the zipper), Dry bags for my cellphone and digital camera (both the cellphone and digital camera are not waterproof), Ruler (aka Hawg Trough) which has an old landline phone cord "leash" because it doesn't float, Food (nut bars) and watered down Powerade, Lip Grippers (landline phone cord "leashed" to a homemade holster that's attached to my Gear Crate, I have different 12 volt power sources - one for my Hook 5 Fish Finder/GPS and the other to power a small light in my foot well (both are in separate dry bags in my center hatch), Small Dive Knife with Sheath on a lanyard, Towel is in forward hatch, Two 9 ft salt poles (graphite/medium action), and two freshwater rods (graphite/medium action) with Hobie rod leashes, and my "Bait" is bought at *Wal-Mart in the frozen food section - Small/Medium Uncooked Prawns [shrimp]. *Note: Most Wal-Mart stores are open 24 hours a day now.
The above photo was originally written as a document and couldn't be uploaded, or downloaded. So, I took a picture and tried my best to clean up the image. But if you want, you may use this as a guide for making your own check list. Take a picture with your cellphone and follow along while making your own checklist document.
As usual, keep those lines wet & tight! - J