Hot New Accessories From Your Favorite Kayak Companies | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
A Hobie H-Crate and a Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler. Photo by Ric Burnley

Kayak Companies are taking accessory building into their own hands

Cleaning out the garage, I uncovered artifacts from the early days of kayak fishing. In a spider-infested corner, I found a beat-up, soft-sided cooler, a kayak cart with Barbie Power Wheels, and a milkcrate that I swiped from a convenience store parking lot.

The progression of kayak fishing gear has gone from shade-tree engineered to purpose built. Now it enters a new stage: factory matched. The latest generation of accessories come pre-rigged and color-coordinated from the same companies that built the kayaks. Not only do matching accessories look better, but they may work better, too. I guess the good old days are gone, for good.

Feelfree Kayaks was one of the first to go wild with colors, patterns and matching accessories. Their line of innovative boats feature bold camo patterns with coolers, crate bags and paddles that match. FeelFree’s Jim Hagar explains, “This makes it easy for retailers and consumers to mix and match packages with each boat.” Instead of buying a kayak from Feelfree and accessories from after market producers, matching accessories encourage customers to purchase everything from the boat builder. That’s good for business.

Howie Stretch is the kayak fishing parts and accessories coordinator at Hobie Fishing.  He points to the 2015 introduction of the H-Rail system as a turning point in the  company’s commitment to matching accessories. “The H-Rail concept gives Hobie owners a sleek mounting solution to rigidly mount just about any accessory in the industry with no drilling or tools.” The system is an improvement over gear tracks or permanently mounting rod holders and other attachments.

Last year, Wilderness Systems went wild when they introduced a deep line of 22 innovative accessories. Product Manager, Chris Pageau says, “The reason for this surge of new products is to give our paddlers the best possible experience with accessories designed specifically for consumers and our kayaks.” The line goes beyond basic rigging to offer advanced wiring, lighting, propulsion, storage, attachments and seating options. “We received positive feedback and we knew we were on the right path,” he adds.

Designing matching accessories starts with market research. Hobie’s Howie Stretch explains, “The product has to be a viable idea for us to pour our hearts and souls into developing it.” Once they settle on an idea, the designers can work closely with pro staff to tweak the design and function.

On the other side of the world, New Zealand-based Viking Kayaks come standard with accessories from sister company Railblaza. CEO Ross Pratt explains, “We are able to work closely with pro staff and customers to quickly develop and refine products for our kayaks.” This speeds up the process of producing ideas that work.

From Wildy, Chris Pagaeu points to another advantage to grassroots design, “We are obsessed with understanding the consumer and not letting our own bias get in the way of a perfectly good product introduction.” The bottom-up approach produces gear that the consumer wants and needs.

Factory accessories offer the advantage of better fit and performance, too. Viking’s Pratt explains that they can 3-D print and test Railblaza accessories through the development stage. “That makes it easy to refine the design until it is perfect.” From there, the manufacture can work with staff anglers to test the stuff.

Howie Stretch brags that Oceanside, California-based Hobie uses one of the toughest test tracks. “We’ve got wind, waves, heat and plenty of salt and fresh water right in our backyard,” he says.

Another advantage is these accessories are designed to match colors and themes on the kayak. Feelfree’s Hagar jokes, “It makes it easy to find your accessories in the back of pick-up truck.” When the paddle, fish bag, crate and cooler match, the owner can rig his gear more quickly and easily.

Matching accessories are so popular with anglers that manufactures are anxious to give consumers more. Railblaza recently bought the injection molding plant that makes their accessories. “We are now fully vertically integrated, which allows greater flexibility and speed to market for the future.”

Feelfree’s new Overdrive motor and pedal powered kayak will include a long list of specific accessories. Jim Hagar says, “There will be many more technical accessories to compliment that technology.”

Hobie’s Stretch was tight lipped only offering, “You’ll have to wait and see.” 

After releasing two dozen new gadgets in 2016, Wilderness Systems is adding 30 more for 2018. Chris Pageau brags, “We have more ideas than we know what to do about.”

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