Why Kayak-Specific Rods are Hard to Find

A Sato Custom Rod helped this Sea Samurai client land this bad boy of a yellowtail.

A Sato Custom Rod helped this Sea Samurai client land this bad boy of a yellowtail.

By Kevin Nakada

There is no denying that kayak fishing is the fastest growing sector of recreational fishing. In the last six years kayak fishing products have dominated the awards ceremonies at ICAST, the world's largest fishing trade show, winning overall Best of Show four times.

Kayak fishing has grown so impressively quickly that huge companies such as Lowrance, Torqeedo, and Power Pole have developed products that are specifically designed for kayaks. One category is conspicuously absent: kayak fishing specific rods.

To understand why there are next to no kayak specific rods on the market, we have to walk backwards to 2007 and thereabouts when a handful of big-name tackle companies tested the market for kayak-specific rods. There were some interesting ideas behind the designs. Okuma’s Baidarka series had short butts and long EVA grips that floated the rod to the surface when fully rigged. Just in case you… well, flipped. Lamiglas offered beefy Tri-Flex composite layups built to survive high-sticking. Quantum kicked out a kayak series – every rod had an extra-long butt. But just when kayak fishing was becoming mainstream they were all discontinued.

Gone but not forgotten: the Okuma Baidarka was an unsinkable kayak rod, buoyed by a ton of foam. As a consequence, it wasn't ideal for finesse fishing.

Gone but not forgotten: the Okuma Baidarka was an unsinkable kayak rod, buoyed by a ton of foam. As a consequence, it wasn’t ideal for finesse fishing. Photo: Paul Lebowitz

What happened? Even though we kayak anglers like to believe we outnumber the rest of the anglers in the US we are still a niche group. The major tackle companies couldn’t sell the volume they needed to make kayak rods worth the effort. Now that there are more of us, they’re wary of trying again due to the unfortunate history.

It sucks that we can’t roll down to the tackle shop and pick up sticks built for our style of fishing right from the rack. Don't get me wrong, there are some badass rods out there that are great for every kind of fishing. Some of them are ideal for kayak specific techniques, but that's not really the point. The point is the kayak fishing community is being left out of the most critical weapon in the fishing arsenal. It's disappointing.

Kayak anglers are a resourceful breed accustomed to adapting and creating accessories to our own needs. Livewells are a great example. Although there are now a few solid commercial options, many kayak anglers still prefer to build their own.

Although it is hard to find a kayak-specific rod built by a major tackle manufacturer these days, discerning kayak anglers have a solid fallback option: have a custom rod builder craft a stick to spec. This one built by Sato Custom Rods for Nakada has a braid-friendly soft tip, a shortened butt and specialized grip material for a quicker draw from a rod holder.

Although it is hard to find a kayak-specific rod built by a major tackle manufacturer these days, discerning kayak anglers have a solid fallback option: have a custom rod builder craft a stick to spec. This one built by Sato Custom Rods for Nakada has a braid-friendly soft tip, a shortened butt and specialized grip material for a quicker draw from a rod holder. Photo: Kevin Nakada.

Custom rod companies are stepping in to fill the gap. For example, a unique company called Sato Custom Rods; if you can think of it they will make it, and they are game for just about anything. Performance-wise you will find no better kayak rods on the market other than the ones crafted by a custom rod builder.

Kevin Nakada is the owner and operator of the Sea Samurai kayak fishing guide service located in La Jolla, California. He has a number of years experimenting with custom rod building and employing unique designs with kayak fishing techniques in mind.