Help Santa Hookup Your Kayak Angler

If you're like me, Christmas gift-buying season can be tough. Some of the folks on my list seem to already have everything they could possibly need. I had pretty much reached that point with my mom and dad a couple of years ago. I always want to get them a gift they can really use and appreciate. They both enjoy the outdoors and in particular they like to fish, but after several seasons of upgrading their equipment I was running low on ideas. Then they joined me in my kayak fishing obsession and the door of opportunity swung wide open again. Kayak fishing is an accessory-intensive activity and just acquiring quality basic gear can be a daunting task for the new kayaker on a tight budget. Even the veteran kayak fisherman on your list could always use an upgraded paddle, PFD or seat. And if they already have the best of the best, there is still a laundry list of gear and gadgets available to make their day on the water safer or more enjoyable.

The most basic piece of equipment that every kayaker needs is a paddle. Many beginners choose the most basic and affordable model when they buy their kayak. Unfortunately many of these paddles are heavy and inefficient. A high quality paddle will be lightweight and fairly stiff. This is an area of the sport where you get what you pay for and as you step up in quality you'll also be stepping up in price. A good paddle will fall in the $150 - $200 range, while a top of the line carbon fiber model can reach four bills. Most every kayaker who doesn't already own one has his eyes set on a high-end paddle and you are sure to be the Holiday-Hero if you put one under the tree. I'd suggest talking with his fishing buddies or visiting a specialty paddling shop for this purchase as the Big Box stores won't generally carry them.

Another item often ripe for an upgrade is a PFD. Most of the anglers getting into kayaking already have a PFD of some type from their boating or wading past. It will work, but there are better options on the market designed specifically for paddlers. Most of these will have a thinner rear panel making them more comfortable to wear while seated and paddling. My favorite model has gone a step further and has no floatation along the lower back. I can wear it all day with no problems and that is what you want your kayaker doing. Not only will they be more comfortable, you can rest easier knowing they are being safe out there on the water.

And while we are on the subject of safety, there are several items that fall into this category. While kayaking is generally a safe activity, I know that many spouses tend to worry. Giving safety equipment might ease your mind a bit. One of the most important is a waterproof, handheld VHF radio. Many anglers rely solely on their cell phones for communications, but as most fishermen have discovered cell phones are quite susceptible to failure with the slightest exposure to moisture. Being a water sport, most any emergency situation will involve getting wet. A good VHF radio would be a welcome addition to your kayaker's gear bag and allow them to summon help if they need it or check on the weather.

A more specialized method for summoning help in a real emergency is a personal locator beacon. I don't currently own one, but I've been checking them out and seriously considering adding it to my arsenal. These cool little devices work off of cospas-sarsat, an international satellite based system for search and rescue alert detection and information distribution. Should your kayaker get into a serious situation they only have to hit a button and help is on the way in a matter of minutes. The unit sends an emergency signal via satellite to NOAA, US Coast Guard, US Air Force and the National Association of Search and Rescue. The unit I've been eyeing is the ACR-Aqua-Fix which provides rescuers with the exact location of the unit using GPS coordinates. It is also waterproof and floats, pretty handy for anybody who ventures into the outdoors.

If you're still stumped for gift ideas, a trip to the local paddle store or tackle retailer is in order. Most any kayak angler would be happy to get a new hand-held GPS unit, a stainless pocket knife or dive knife, a waterproof bag or dry box, a lip-gripper device for landing fish, or maybe a kayak cart for hauling their kayak from the truck to the launch. And there are dozens of other possible stocking stuffers hanging on the display racks.

There you go guys. Take this article and circle your favorites, then leave it on the table and hopefully Santa will take the hint.