Installing a Rudder to a Prowler Big Game kayak

One thing I'd chosen not to fit to my yak was a rudder. Why?, partly because of the expense, it seemed a lot for what it was. Plus I didn't really feel the need, after all is there really a requirement for a rudder??

One thing I have noticed over the months is how annoying it can be paddling across wind and tide, having to tack across, pushing the nose at an angle away from your destination in order to keep on track. There's often been a need to correction strokes to get back on course. Being quite high out the water leads to the Big Game getting caught be the wind only exasperating these problems.

I did a few favours for a fellow kayaker the other week expecting nothing in return, well, a did request a bottle of Bacardi !. However, he didn't feel this was anywhere near sufficient for the work done and I was rewarded with a new rudder, awesome!!

I soon set about emptying the contents of the box and getting to grips with the instruction. Sadly it turned out that the instructions are rubbish, poor explanations with even poorer photocopied photos to back it up. I decided to take the opportunity to produce something that's hopefully of more use to someone carrying out the same job.


The guide below is by no means a definitive guide, it should be used in conjunction with the supplied instruction where hopefully it'll make the procedure of installing the rudder far easier to understand and carry out.

One item that you do required if not already fitted is a centre hatch in order to provide access to the inside of the kayak. These can be purchased separately and there's a guide in my rigging section of fitting the hatch if required.

The first step is to gain access to the inside rear of the kayak when the rudder cabling will exit the kayak in order to attach to the rudder itself. The kit comes with a paper template which is placed on the rear circular moulding at the rear of the tankwell. All nine holes are to be marked and drilled prior to removing the main access hole with a 4" hole saw. If you don't possess a hole saw it can be achieved with a jigsaw aided with a Dremel tool or rough circular file.

The photo below shows the location where the holes are to be drilled. This photo shows the frame of my screw-type hatch fitted to the yak. The principle is exactly the same. Bolt holes have been drilled with a large 4" access hole.

I was fortunate in the fact that I'd previously fitted a screw-type round hatch many months earlier when fitting my stern light. I'd personally recommend that you fitted a screw type hatch in lieu of the fixed blanking cover that is supplied with the kit. It's quite possible that you may need access in the future and having to de-rivet the blanking cover would be a real pain.

It's worth removing the existing footrail assemblies at this point, 2 cross-head screws hold each footrail in place, removed these and the footrails will fall away.

The next job is to drill the four tubing holes to allow fitment of the steering lines. There are two holes are the rear of the yak and two holes in the rearmost section of the footwells (see photo). These are to be pilot drilled and opened up to 3/8" prior to fitting the four supplied grommets.

Rear guide holes with grommets fitted

Front guide holes with grommets fitted

Take the supplied tubing and snip one end to a 45 degree angle, this will make inserting the tube into the grommets that much easier. Wet the tubing with very soapy water thus enabling the tube to slide through the grommets. Insert the tube into one of the footwell grommets from the footwell side. Thread it to the rear of the kayak keeping it between the tankwell and the outside wall of the kayak (outboard of the scupper holes).

Reach through the 4" access hole drilled previously and guide the tube through the stern grommet, paying attention that it's on the same side as the footwell grommet used previously. Pull the tube tight, removing any soap solution close to the grommet, this will prevent the tube sliding back into the yak. Once the tubing is taught cut the tubing 1" from the grommets as shown below.

The new footrails can be fitted at this point, refit as per the removal mentioned above, ensuring the pedal is towards the bow of the boat. You'll notice that these footrails use a different bolt hole to the removed type, however it's already existing so that makes life easy.


Repeat for the other track.

The steering cables can be un-wound and straightened. Feed each cable through it's respective footwell grommet so all the excess passes through the stern grommet. Keep it tidy at this point as kinking it would be bad news.

The supplied instructions stated to 'adjust the pedal on the track using the tri-glide, so that the cable loop is at the back edge of the track when it is pulled straight'. I found this actually put the cable too far back, this would lead to fouling in the 1" of tube exiting the grommet and thus not allowing full lock of the rudder. I found having this loop further forward gave the desired result, see the photo below.

Next is the installation of the rudder body. I neglected to photograph this though it's straight forward enough and the supplied photo shows the process clearly enough. Basically you remove the existing four screws at the rearmost of the kayak where the rudder body is to be fitted. The rudder bracket is then attached to the transom using the supplied machine screws. It needs to be orientated correctly so take note of the supplied photo - again, do not over-tighten.
The rudder body itself can now be fitted. Remove the 4" screw from the rudder body and insert it between the mounting tabs of the rudder bracket previously fitted. Fit the 4" screw with nyloc nut. Do not over-tighten, the body should swivel freely on the bracket.

The photo below shows the rudder bracket and body installed onto the transom of the kayak.

The rudder blade can now be fitted. Disassemble the large screw and bush assembly from the rudder body. Insert the bushing into the rudder blade prior to fitting and lining up the centre holes of the blade and the body. Fit the screw and nyloc nut. Again, do not over-tighten, the blade should be able to move freely. The photo below shows the rudder blade fitted, ignore the ropes, they are fitted at a later stage.

Next to fit is the strap eye and clam cleat. One the right hand side of the yak, where the seat well and tankwell meet there are two 'O' ring marking spots where these items are to be attached.

My setup differs somewhat as I have RAM tubes fitted just aft of this position. However, I decided to go ahead and fit these items in the suggested location as it makes deployment and retraction of the rudder relatively simple. I use screws with nuts and washers as opposed to the supplied rivets, purely as I'm not a big fan of rivets. also the centre hatch allow sufficient access to fit nuts and bolts which is always a better option. Always use sealant when fitting nuts and bolts in order to retain the watertight integrity of the hull. The rope shown below is not actually fitted at this stage.

Next in installation of the rudder retraction and deployment lines. On the rudder body, viewing from the top looking forward, feed the retraction rope aft under the grey cam, around an over the top, ensuring enough has been fed through to reach the clam cleat. Feed this long length through the holes on the rudder blade itself. This is explained adequately on the supplied instructions, see the photo below for the finished detail.

The next step is to attach the two loose end of the retraction/deployment rope. This is achieved with the aid of some supplied bungee cord utilising the explained knots. The knots are straightforward enough and well explained, though it may take more that one attempt to get them located in the desired position. when tying the second not you need to keep the bungee cord tight in order to retain sufficient tautness in the cord loop that you've created.

The finished result in as shown previously and again below.

The final step of the leaflet covers the fitment of the steering lines. It's worthwhile putting the rudder in the stowed position to prevent rudder movement during this operation.

Remove the nut and two washers from the left wing of the rudder body. Fit one piece of black shrink tube of about 1.5" along the cable followed by a supplied copper crimp. Take the end of the cable and pass it back through the crimp creating a loop.
Place this loop around the screw in the left rudder body wing.
Tighten the cable by feeding the cut end through the crimp bringing the crimp with 1/4" of the wing. The rudder body should be aligned in the dead ahead position at this point due to the rudder being stowed. Whilst retaining some tension in the cable crimp using the correct crimping tool (not supplied). Cut the loose end close to the crimp.

Finally slip the black heat shrink over the crimp and cut wire, heating down with either a lighter or a heat gun.

Attach the other rudder cable in the same manner.

Fit the cables as follows: put one washer onto the screw, place the crimped cable loop onto the screw followed by another washer. Finally fit a nyloc nut and tighten down. (see photo in supplied leaflet). However, do not over-tighten, the cable loop must be able to move freely.

The final job is to fit the supplied blanking plate to the 4" hole made earlier in the rear tankwell. Remove any debris and apply a bead of silicon to the mating surfaces and rivet in place.

The foot pedals can be adjusted to suit the individual. A length of webbing it attached from the cable to the pedal and be adjusted to ensure the control cable is kept suitably taught. A length of bungee from the pedal to the front of each pedal track is used as a 'spring'. Again this can be adjusted to suit the individual be setting the correct length with a single overhand knot. In the dead ahead position there should a small amount of tension on the bungee. Once pedal positrons have been set the loose webbing strap could be cut off, though I elected to tywrap it away.

I also fitted a rope guide next to the rear tankwell, close to my stern light fitting, to guide the ropes around the tankwell and light fitment (visible in photo below)

The final job I carried out was to fit a retaining bungee over the rudder pedal to prevent inadvertent deployment should the yak be mounted upside down on a vehicle roofrack.

So was it worth all the effort??. Absolutely, the yak tracks brilliantly now, whereas previously it would nod slightly from side to side whilst paddling . It makes crossing over wind and tide so much easier, no corrective strokes required, just a slight pedal input as required. If I'd fully appreciated the effectiveness of a rudder I'd without doubt have fitted one much sooner.

A glimpse of summer !

It was around this time last year that the first mackerel started to show. I just hate buying the blast frozen AMMO bait, it's small and tends to go mushy when thawed, expensive and disappointing. Last year I made the mistake of not catching them in quantity when they arrived in May/June and departed soon after, something I intend to repeat this year.

I've heard of the odd mackerel being caught here and there, not in any quantity though. I decided to carry out a recce mission of sorts to see what, if anything, was out there.

I was joined by a couple of new yak fisherman, both called Andy. They've both purchased new Ocean Trident 13's, one of which I've spent many hours rigging and the results were very pleasing, well Andy was certainly pleased and that's the main thing. I'll probably put a post up at a later date reference the rigging of his Trident 13.

We paddled out early evening into water that varied from 5-20m, drifting around various spots in an attempt to locate some mackerel. I was in almost immediately, only a single fish but nevertheless it was a good start. We all started to catch, albeit very slowly, all single fish here and there. The fish seems very close to the surface, with the best result coming from trolling feathers behind the yak.

At one stage my rod tip bent over nicely and on feeling the weight I was convinced I had a full string of mackerel. However, that wasn't the case, a single mackerel and a nice bass, cracking!

As the sun dropped so did our chances of picking up anymore mackerel. I ended up with half a dozen, with us taking around 20 between us. Hard work for sure, though hopefully the numbers will increase quickly and my bait freezer will start to fill up.

I paddled ashore, de-rigged and headed further along the coast in search of some early smoothounds. They were certainly out there as I had several good takes to peeler crab. However, I failed to hook into anything for more than a few seconds, very frustrating!. I fished until midnight before calling it a night. I have since made amends with a recent night trip producing my first smoothounds of the season - see my previous report.

First Smoothounds 2009

Due to the recent poor weather I haven't accrued much time on the water, very frustrating I'll tell you. I managed a brief trip out early in the week where I had half a dozen hits of smoothounds and failed to stay connected with one for more than a few seconds, maddening.

However, the Bank Holiday weekend has been blessed with some decent weather so a fishing trip was on the cards. I've spent the last couple of days fitting a rudder to my yak so I was still disorganised from my last trip out, gear was hanging from everywhere in the garage.

I decided on an evening session, arriving at the beach around 8pm. I took a chap totally new to the sport along, though not new to kayaks. We fished quite close in and immediately the weed was proving to be a real headache. We persevered for a couple of hours and were about to move further offshore when I had an aggressive take, and I was hooked up!

I cant do these fish justice, they really are cracking sport on light tackle. Not a big specimen, but a lot of fun, more importantly it was my first Starry Smoothound of the year.

The weed was getting worse making it almost un-fishable, so the decision was made to head offshore. As I'd managed to forget my anchor I was restricted to tying off to buoys. Navigated to a marker buoy 1/2 a mile away, my GPS earning its keep. It certainly impressed the new chap, paddling off into the night, with me finally calling out that it should be coming up. There it was, directly in front of me, a 3' high un-illuminated buoy. Yup, a GPS loaded with charts is a cracking piece of kit.

The new mark wasn't proving too productive, well, not for smoothounds anyway. However, there was little weed plenty of dogfish!. The new chap was dragging anchor and heading downtide a bit too rapidly for my liking so I retrieved my gear and headed off after him.

We took a chance and headed back inshore to another mark in the hunt for another smoothound. The tide was much less and this was reflected in the fishing, it was slow. Patience paid off though as line was stripped from the reel, smoothound on!. This was clearly a better fish and it really came alive as it neared the yak. Some hard runs and even some acrobatics, totally airborne at was stage, absolutely brilliant!!!. Apologies for the fuzzy photo, it'll teach me for only taking one...

A little more sport....

We fished til around 2:30am before calling it a day. The new chap managed a handful of dogfish, sadly no hounds though the season is just starting. I'm sure he'll hook into one soon enough and then he'll never look back!. I was well impressed with him, first trip out yakfishing and he fished into the dark without so much as batting an eyelid. Admittedly it was a perfect evening and I was always close by, though well done that man!

I've spent the last couple of days fitting an anchor to my yak. What a difference, I'm most impressed. Not only does the yak track brilliantly now, the ability to tweak your course makes the paddling experience so much better. As the fitting instructions supplied with the rudder were simply rubbish, I'll post a 'how to' article shortly.

Kayak Fishing in Cornwall

I lived in Cornwall for about five years, moving away in about 2001. For various reasons I didn't fish too much during those years, though the shore fishing that I did experience was at times quite good.

An opportunity arose to visit the Helston area last week, so it seemed quite logical to take the yak in the hope of some fishing. Though the weather was looking rather gloomy with fresh winds and heavy rain forecast for the duration of my visit. Being pretty familiar with the area I'd chosen a handful of launch points that'd cover most wind directions, to a point.

That evening I arrived at the first 'sheltered' venue. The wind was blowing offshore at steady 20mph, gusting to 30mph, and it was raining steadily, not ideal!. Relaxed in a local fish n'chip restaurant for an hour in the hope that the weather would improve, needless to say it didn't which ended any hope of getting out that evening.

Sadly work kept me busy the following day till around 6pm, though the weather had improved somewhat and it was no longer raining. The wind direction had swung around by almost 180 degrees so an alternative launch venue on the south coast was chosen.

Conditions were pretty good, spirits were high, rigging commenced.

The area is well known for its reef, the Manacles, which stretches out over a mile. A popular dive area, it can also produce some excellent fishing. It was my first experience fishing here on the yak and it was going to be dark within an hour, so the plan was to within 1/2 mile in the hope of some conger and bullhuss, with the chance of several other species too.

The ground is incredibly rough, well suited to trolling lures and jellies, float fishing etc. The various drop-offs are populated with lobster pots which allow a convenient point to tie off and bottom fish. However, I'd neglected to pack my buoy rope so I paddled around looking for a sandy patch to drop anchor. Once achieved, fishing commenced and the dogfish quickly made an appearance.

Several dogfish later I moved on looking for another spot, again dogfish kept making an appearance. I wasn't fishing alone, fortunately for Jim he'd remembered his buoy rope and was tied off on a drop off which was producing conger eel, some a decent size though the better ones bit him off. By the time he'd upgraded his traces the sized dwindled as the top of the tide was reached.

It was only a matter of time before I lost my anchor, and I did. I was carrying a spare, though whilst looking through my spares box I came across my 'emergency' rod leash, basically a length of bungee cord with a clip at each end... a makeshift pot buoy leash if I ever saw one!

Once anchored over a reef edge I started catching conger, though the ones I managed to get to the surface were quite small, the best being 6-7lb.

There we no doubt some big eels down there, though I wasn't fortunate enough to hook up with one. We fished until 2am, making the trip over six hours, my final tally being eight conger and seven dogfish.

Being anchored up there at night though was a fantastic experience. The water clarity is excellent, glancing down would reveal objects several metres deep.

At about 11pm I was sat in the large circle of light be produced from the stern light. About twenty metres ahead of me I noticed four white marks in a tight diamond shape coming towards me, just below the surface. As they drew close I realised they were fish, four school bass around 2-3lb that passed right along the side of the yak less than a foot under the water, simply awesome. A couple of hours later they passed right by the yak again heading out to sea, you don't need to be catching to be enjoying yourself at times like that.

The were countless Pipe fish up to a foot long drifting in the water, only inches under the surface. On several occasions I touched the back of one as it came close which promptly caused them to shoot off like the proverbial bat out of hell!

As we fished close in, the evening consisted of about 3 miles paddling, with me trying four different marks.

Disappointingly the weather blew up again the next day, the day we'd hoped would produce a long day session allowing us the opportunity to explore the reef, trying a few different tactics. However, it was not to be.

There are plenty of fishing opportunities in the area, definitely somewhere I'll be visiting again, great scenery and great fishing, what more could you ask for... well, maybe a 40lb conger!!