Kayak Mods – The Top 20 Must-Have cool Kayak Upgrades

Most modern kayaks are equipped with everything – well, almost everything – you’ll need to get out on the water. But here’s the thing: Even if you shelled out on a high-end kayak with all the latest features, there will always be things that you want – or need – ...
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Sam OBrien

Founder, Kayaking & Paddle Boarding Expert

Sam is the founder and editor of WaterSportsWhiz. With over 20 years of experience across various water sports, he provides trusted reviews and expert advice to help others pursue their passion for getting out on the water. When not working, you can find him kayaking, paddle boarding, or planning his next water-based adventure with family and friends.

Most modern kayaks are equipped with everything – well, almost everything – you’ll need to get out on the water. But here’s the thing:

Even if you shelled out on a high-end kayak with all the latest features, there will always be things that you want – or need – that your ‘yak doesn’t have.

The good news is that there’s usually room for customizations, modification and kayak upgrades – 

If that sounds like something you’re interested in, stick around:

I’ve rounded up the best kayak mods, top aftermarket accessories, cool kayak upgrades and DIY kayak mods, that will give your ‘yak that personal touch and take its functionality to the next level! 

We may receive a commission if you click a link on this page and then go on to purchase something, but at no extra cost to you. Learn more here.

Top 20 Cool Kayak Modifications: Upgrade Your Kayak To Boost Functionality & Comfort 

1. Second (Emergency) Paddle 

A pile of kayak paddles on the beach close up.

A second paddle is one of the most useful items you could get when it comes to must-have kayak upgrades. And sure, it won’t be used regularly – but that doesn’t make it any less essential:

The point of having a second paddle is being prepared for emergencies when you head out on the water.

Think of it as part of your just-in-case safety gear:

If you – or someone in your kayaking group – happen to lose the primary paddle, often due to damage or capsizing, this trusty backup could save your behind.

How to Properly Hold a Kayak Paddle

I managed to damage mine from a mishap when manhandling my anchor – it was a long one handed paddle home

Top tip – I prefer a full-sized, two-piece paddle that breaks down for storage over the miniature, one-sided options. 

AQUA BOUND’s Manta Ray 2-Piece Kayak Paddle is my go-to:

The carbon-reinforced nylon blades with customizable feathering and the ribbed carbon shaft have the feel of a real carbon paddle – durable, stiff, and light – but with an easy-to-secure, two-piece design.

2. Fish Finder 

Kayak Fish Finders on display

Adding a compact and portable fish finder should be one of your first kayak fishing mods if you’re looking to step up your kayak angling game.

This sonar-equipped gadget provides real-time information and detailed graphic representations of what’s going on in the water. It can detect fish, indicating their size and approximate location, recognize waterbed features, and offer other useful read-outs.

Sonar for Dummies! Fish Finder Explained for BEGINNERS!

You can pick fishing spots based on factual information, rather than lucky guesses. And since you’ll no longer be casting into empty waters, your odds of making a catch will go up, as well.

If you’re doing some cool kayak mods on a budget, go with the easy-to-use Garmin Striker 4:

It’s portable, has an IPX7 waterproof rating, and it’s equipped with a dual-beam CHIRP sonar – complete with GPS-enabled waypoint mapping.  A great around and excellent value for money – a cool kayak upgrade. 

3. Kayak GPS

GPS satellite navigator in hand over tropical sea

Many fish finders list GPS and built-in mapping as additional features. So, if you’re thinking of the best kayak mods for fishing, a GPS-enabled fish finder fits the bill.

Not everyone’s in it for the fish, though.

Perhaps you love kayaking because it lets you explore and enjoy nature – and if that’s the case, investing in a dedicated kayak GPS unit would be a much better move.

And no, your smartphone’s built-in GPS won’t do. It might come in handy in day-to-day life, but we’re talking about navigating unknown waters here. Wi-Fi and cellular network access won’t always be an option.

The lightweight and portable Garmin GPSMAP 64st is a better fit for the job, boasting compatibility with GPS and GLONASS systems and an IPX7 waterproof rating.

But remember technology can and will fail – so make sure you also invest in good kayak compass.

You’ll find a more in-depth look – and a few additional options worth considering – in my best kayak GPS reviews.

4. Deck Mat

Lady In stand up fishing kayak

It might not seem like one of the must-have kayak mods for fishing – not in the same way as a fish finder does – but upgrading your ‘yak with a deck mat is still worth it.

On that note, there are a few benefits of deck padding that often get overlooked:

A deck mat makes for an excellent platform for stand-up fishing or to shoot when duck hunting– if your kayak can handle it, that is – as it provides a padded, non-slip surface. Added traction also makes it easier to get in and out of the otherwise slippery kayak’s deck.

Plus, it acts as sound-proofing insulation, minimizing the unwanted on-deck noises and allowing you to sneak up on the fish.  They are also a great way to protect the deck from knocks and bumps – such as from a kayak anchor.

I highly recommend the PUNT SURF Non-Slip Mat:

The 20-by-20-inch EVA foam traction mat can be trimmed and customized to fit your kayak and features 3M self-adhesive backing for easy installation.

5. Anchor Trolley System 

kayak with a Anchor trolley

If you figured that dropping your anchor will be enough to hold your kayak’s position in windy weather or changing currents, think again:

A kayak anchor might prevent you from floating away. However, the wind and currents will still spin your ‘yak around in every direction – except the one you want – making it impossible to hold your position.

An kayak fishing anchor trolley system typically consists of two pulleys and free-moving rope and mounts to the gunwale. With the anchor attached to the trolley line, you can deploy it anywhere between the bow and stern and maintain a favorable position based on conditions.

Check out the YakGear Deluxe Anchor Trolley Kit:

It includes 30 feet of rope, two pulleys, a mini zigzag cleat, and mounting hardware – everything you’ll need to set up your anchor trolley system.

Don’t have an anchor yet? Find my best kayak anchor reviews here, with a few more great options!

6. Gear Tracks

Fishing Kayaks with Lawn Chair seat and gear tracks

A specialized fishing kayak may come with pre-installed gear tracks – or, at the very least, dedicated mounting spaces on the sides of the hull – but basic recreational ‘yaks might not.

Either way, it’s a good idea to add them to your list of kayak fishing mods.

You’re essentially adding a versatile mounting surface for all your other gear, including rod holders, gun mounts, camera mounts, fish finders – you name it.

If you have a wide range of angling accessories and no practical way to store them and keep them organized, installing gear tracks will be a game-changing upgrade.

Go with something that can handle not-so-gentle marine environments, like the YakAttack GearTrac SpectraLite.

These high-strength, marine-grade polymer gear tracks are rated for light to medium-duty applications. More importantly, they’re compatible with all 0.5 inches wide track hardware, including Scotty mounts, for maximum versatility.

7. Dry Storage Bag

Two dry bag laying next to a yellow kayak

Storage is almost always an issue on a kayak. There’s so much gear you want to bring onboard – especially on longer paddling trips – and so little room to store it.

A dry storage bag doesn’t count as an actual kayak modification and is really one of the top accessories to own, but hear me out:

Not all kayaks feature built-in waterproof storage – and even when they do, your stuff usually ends up sliding around inside the hull as you paddle.

What’s the point of bringing something if it’s going to become inaccessible the second you drop in the hatch?

That’s where a dry storage bag – like the Earth Pak – comes in as a trusty waterproof companion for your outdoor adventures.

The dry bag is made of 500D PVC and comes in multiple sizes, with the largest one offering a 55-liter capacity. Plus, it comes with an included IPX8-rated waterproof phone case!

8. Fishing Crate 

Kayak Fisherman in kayak with rod, fishing crate

I’ll give you two reasons why fitting a crate in your kayak’s rear well is one of the best and most convenient kayak mods for fishing you could make:

First, a fishing crate provides additional storage space for your tackle boxes, anchoring kit, and other gear, and keeps everything organized and easy to reach. And second, it acts as a platform for mounting a kayak light, flagpole, and, if need be, fishing rods.

You might be tempted to try the DIY kayak milk crate solution; you wouldn’t be the first. And, if you have a set of left over PVC pipes laying around in the back of the garage it’s a good way of using them up!

"Ultimate Kayak Krate" DIY Kayak Crate Build and How-to

However, if you want a highly functional kayak fishing crate that’s built to last and water-resistant, the Wilderness Systems Fishing Kayak Crate is the way to go.

The crate is made of durable blow-molded plastic and has a large main compartment – with the secondary lid storage – which amounts to 29-liter capacity. It includes four rod holders, too. A definite must-have kayak fishing accessory – and not a PVC pipe in sight. 

9. Camera Mount

Go-Pro Hero 4 on kayak camera mount - white background

Lights, camera, action.  I’m one of those people who value making memories and being in the moment over snapping Instagram-worthy photos. So, I never cared much about fitting a camera mount on my ‘yak.

Not until I started kayaking with my boy, that is, and every second of our paddling adventures suddenly became “worth capturing.”

I’m still enjoying those moments to the fullest – but now I have all these cool videos and photos to show him when he’s all grown up.

Anyway, whatever your reasons for wanting to document your trips, be sure to add the Yak Attack Articulating Camera Mount to your list of cool kayak modifications.

This 5.5-inch camera mount provides a simple solution for rigging most standard and GoPro cameras – anything under 3 pounds – and is compatible with most kayak track systems for easy setup.

10. Upgrade Seat

Two red Kayak with black seats

I’m in my 40s, so I’m no stranger to the general aches and pains that come with the territory. I can no longer afford to skimp out on comfort and support during longer paddles – not without getting a few complaints from my lower back, anyway.

And I’m no spring chicken, but let’s face it:

Basic recreational kayaks are very rarely fitted with well-cushioned, comfortable – let alone back-supporting – seats.

That’s something you have to take care of yourself. So, unless you’re okay with sitting on a hard, molded-in plastic seat for hours on end, an upgrade seat is one of those must-have kayak modifications.

My go-to these days is the WOOWAVE Kayak Seat – a universal fold-flat style seat with a contoured high-back design, ergonomically shaped EVA foam padding, and an included detachable waterproof bag.

Check out my best kayak seat reviews for more options, though!

11. Outriggers 

Yellow kayak with outriggers

If you’re looking to transform your kayak into a stable stand-up angling platform, go ahead and add outriggers to your list of best fishing kayak mods.

Some anglers may scoff at the idea of using so-called floats when kayak fishing, but hear me out:

Outriggers work by distributing some of the weight off to the sides, which helps improve your fishing kayak’s stability and reduces the chances of capsizing, even in windy and wavy conditions.

In short, they can boost your kayak’s safety – and you should never cut corners on safety as a paddler.

I recommend inflatable outriggers over solid-bodied because of the added convenience of a lightweight, easy-to-transport design.

For instance, METER STAR’s Kayak Floats are made of relatively durable, thick PVC, weigh a mere 2.6 pounds, and are easy to inflate – and deflate – for portability. Plus, you get four repair patches in case of punctures.

Check our my best kayak stabilizers and outriggers reviews here, with a few more excellent options!

12. Flag pole 

Man in stand up fishing kayak with kayak flag pole

You’re a paddler; I don’t have to tell you how small and low-profile kayaks are compared to full-sized, motorized boats. So, whenever you’re navigating high-traffic areas with lots of other boaters or paddling in open waters in general, you must make yourself seen.

Attaching a bright red or orange flag on your kayak is a surefire way to achieve that much-needed visibility.

Some paddlers will try and make a DIY kayak flag pole; I even tried making one myself – but it’s not worth the effort.

DIY Inexpensive Safety Flag and Accessory Pole

So, do yourself a favor, skip this kayak DIY flag pole, and go with YakAttack VISICarbon Pro Visibility Flag, instead.

Carbon fiber tubing gives it a lightweight-but-tough feel and collapses for portability, and it fits most tubular and flush-mount rod holders.

Here’s the best part, though:

Besides a bright-orange, easy-to-spot flag, the flagpole also features a 360-degree LED light – a must in low-light conditions!

13. Rod Holders 

Man in kayak anchored fishing in lake

When it comes to the best kayak mods for fishing, these are pretty much a no-brainer. And no, there’s no such thing as having too many rod holders on a fishing kayak.

Even if your boat came with a few flush-mount rod holders pre-installed, adding several aftermarket ones can do wonders for upgrading your kayak fishing game.

They keep your rods secure, free up your hands for paddling or baiting up, and allow you to position your rods just right. Plus, they’re handy for holding other gear, such as stake-out poles and flags.

Now, you could give DIY rod holder projects a try – spoiler alert, it evolves more PVC piping.  

Is there no end to PVC piping DIY ability? 

A cheap PVC kayak rod holder

But if you want the real thing – or you’re not particularly crafty or handly went it comes to DIY – go with the YakAttack Omega Rod Holder:

It’s a universal holder solution for fly rods and conventional, casting, and spinning reels that allow you to lock in your rods or stage them for quick access.

14. Kayak Light

Kayak lights - Man rowing kayak in the rain falling, evening light

USCG’s “Rule 25 – Sailing Vessels Underway and Vessels Under Oars,” which also applies to kayaks, states that an all-around white light or an electric torch is mandatory for boating at night.

Who knew a small LED light sitting on top of a long rod could be that important, huh?

Then again, it’s easy to understand the urgency to see and be seen when kayaking in low-light conditions. Making sure that you’re easy to spot while on the water lowers your chances of getting into a boating accident.

So, if you plan on hitting the waters anytime between dusk and dawn, a kayak light is an absolute must.

On that note, I highly recommend the Kayalu WaterTorch 360° Kayak Light: 

It’s rugged, fully submersible, and buoyant – with an IPX8 waterproof rating – and has an industrial-grade suction for quick-and-easy “installation.” Most importantly, it meets USCG’s requirements for nighttime boating.

Don’t have lights for night kayaking? Find my best kayak lights reviews here, with a few more great options!

15. Kayak Battery 

Open Sealed  battery isolated on white background

If you plan on fitting your kayak with any electronic accessories, you’re going to need a power source – unless we’re talking about handheld, portable devices, that is.

That’s where a kayak battery comes in as a “supporting act” for your other kayak modifications and accessories.

However, using a massive SLA (Sealed Lead-Acid) battery isn’t exactly ideal if you’re already pushing the load limits of your rigged-out fishing kayak.

Although more expensive, lithium battery packs generally carry more power at a fraction of the weight, which makes them an excellent choice for a kayak battery.

The TalentCell Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack has a 6000 mAh capacity and a 12V output, features two output ports, and multiple protection levels. Enough juice to power even the thirstiest of accessories.

What’s more, it’s compact, lightweight, and designed for portability. The whole thing weighs less than a pound, which is a massive plus for any kayak battery.

Don’t have an kayak battery yet? Find my best kayak battery reviews here, with a few more excellent options!

16. Kayak Cooler

Kayak Cooler with bottles of water and ice cubes, on grey background

How often do you find yourself kayaking on a hot day and wishing you had a cold drink in your hand?

Just so we’re clear, I’m not saying you should have alcohol onboard; drinking and boating is still very much illegal.

Other than that, the possibilities are endless – as long as you keep the kayak cooler’s capacity in mind, of course.

It’s a great way to bring water bottles, a light snack, or food for an overnight camping trip. Plus, I’ve seen anglers use their kayak cooler as a storage solution that prevents their catch from going bad. They are also handy for keeping your catch safe if fishing in waters contain alligators.

All in all, a good quality kayak cooler makes a hot summer’s day on the water a whole lot more enjoyable – so, go check out the YETI Hopper Flip.

It’s a 100-percent leak-proof portable cooler with a high-density shell resistant to mildew and punctures, closed-cell insulation, and – get this – a waterproof zipper. Definitely the coolest of a cool kayak upgrades – pun very much intended!

Looking to buy a kayak cooler? Then check out my best kayak coolers review and handy buyers guide.

17. Trolling Motor 

powerful kayak trolling motor with handle

Sure, a trolling motor defeats the purpose of kayaking as exercise. Then again, some would rather spend less time paddling and more time doing other things – like fishing.

Unsurprisingly, kayak anglers were among the first in the paddling community to embrace the benefits of a trolling motor.

Managing multiple fishing rods at a time, casting, fighting big fish, and retrieving gear, all while trying to paddle without disturbing the fish – it doesn’t sound very relaxing, huh?

Rigging your ‘yak with a trolling motor is one of the best kayak mods for fishing. It frees up your hands but keeps you going; it’s as simple as that.

Newport Vessels Kayak Series Electric Trolling Motor can turn your ‘yak into a mean fish-catching machine:

It delivers 36 pounds of thrust with eight different speed levels, has an adjustable shaft for various depth placements – and it’s rated for saltwater use!

You’ll find more options and an in-depth buying guide over on my round-up review of the best kayak trolling motors.

18. Kayak Shade 

I’ll bet that some of you didn’t know that installing a canopy on a kayak is an option – but yes, kayak shade is a thing. You’re not doomed to simmer away, in the summer weather, under the blazing sun – and the not-so-skin-loving UV rays – after all.

Who knew, huh?

Seriously, this might be one of the least talked-about kayak upgrades, which is quite shocking considering that most of us prefer summer kayaking trips.

With that said, as far as comfort-boosting kayak mods go, kayak shade certainly deserves mention as a cool kayak upgrade – and I can’t recommend the Lixada Sun Shade Kayak Canopy enough:

It consists of water-resistant, rip-stop Oxford cloth and aluminum rod. So, there’s nothing overly fancy about it – other than the fact that it comes in 12 different colors.

But it’s easy to install, folds up when needed, works amazingly in single-person kayaks, and provides 8 square feet of shade.

DIY Kayak Bimini Top Part 1

If you don’t fancy paying for a shade, then there are some great DIY bimini-top kayak shade tutorials floating around on the web – this one is my personal favorite.

You’ll find a more detailed look – and a few additional Bimini-top options worth considering – in my best kayak sun shades review!

19. Carry Handles 

Kayak weight - Two unrecognisable men carrying a kayak on wooden deck.

Many of these kayak modifications are considered “extras” – bells and whistles that aren’t as essential for the kayak’s functionality or performance but make a difference to the paddler.

Carry handles don’t fall into that “bells and whistles” category, though. If anything, they should be viewed as fundamental parts of your kayak that contribute to convenience and ease of use.

I mean, how else do you plan on carrying your kayak to and from the water?

If you overlooked this feature, now’s an excellent time to modify your kayak with a set of good carry handles – like the YYST Lot 2 Kayak Carry Handles.

The set includes two kayak pull handles, pad eyes, braided cord, and stainless steel hardware. Mount them on the hull’s sides or ends – whatever works for you – as a great but cheap fix for kayak carrying problems.

20. Paddle Leash

paddle leash
Credit for image to Mfranck – No changes made to original – Licence

One thing you don’t want to experience as a kayaker is being stuck in the middle of nowhere without a paddle. Trust me on that.

So, I’m wrapping this round-up of best kayak mods up with paddle leashes.

Better safe than sorry, right?

You might have to put your paddle down at one point, be it to take a break or to free up your hands. Or you could flip your kayak – and everything in it – over and into the water.

Whatever the case, knowing that your paddle is still secured and tied to the kayak sure beats watching it sink or float away.

The strikingly-colored YYST Orange Paddle Leash is a light, cheap, and simple solution for tethering your paddle. It features a rust-resistant aluminum clip with a stainless steel wire gate and an easy-to-attach, adjustable loop that fits paddles and fishing rods.

Summing Things Up – Best Kayak Modifications

Maybe you’re adding a few personalized touches to your new, top-of-the-line kayak – or perhaps you’re thinking of giving your old one a complete overhaul.

Either way, you’ll find that some cool kayak mods – like the ones I talked about today – are often paramount for a more enjoyable kayaking experience. It’s insane what a difference a few minor upgrades can make in terms of stability, functionality, safety, and comfort.

If you’re not sure where to start, take a good, hard look at your trusted ‘yak and ask yourself:

What are the aspects of my kayak that I’m perfectly happy with – and what are some areas that could benefit from a few quick modifications, upgrades and enhancements?

Once you have your answer, everything else will fall into place – and you’ll be ready to work on your kayak modifications! 

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Sam OBrien

Sam is the founder and editor of WaterSportsWhiz. With over 20 years of experience across various water sports, he provides trusted reviews and expert advice to help others pursue their passion for getting out on the water. When not working, you can find him kayaking, paddle boarding, or planning his next water-based adventure with family and friends.

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