Rigging the Jackson Kraken 15.5

2018 promises huge change for me on the kayak fishing front, or does it?. Perhaps it's not so much as a huge change though more of a large step backwards. Taking a step back can often be seen as a negative thing, though at times it's just the right thing to do. This is where I've found myself.

Towards the end of 2017 I resigned from the Hobie Fishing Team. To many that may have been seen as a drastic move, however, for me it was definitely the right decision. I'm a saltwater kayak fisherman at heart and as a result I'd started this Blog using that very name back in 2007.

When I switched over to a Hobie kayak I found that I changed my fishing habits immensely, spending the majority of my time on freshwater. I did enjoy it to begin with, though it eventually became a chore and I actually started to dislike kayak fishing. I also found that the Hobie Outback was far from suited to saltwater bait fishing for many reasons. The decision to sell my Big Game was beginning to haunt me a little so I made the decision to find a kayak that was far better suited to saltwater bait fishing. Hobie didn't make a model that I felt was suited to my needs.. hence the decision to leave.

Anyway, I found myself spending hours researching fishing kayaks on the internet, reading countless reviews and watching hours of videos. The kayak that really caught my eye was the Jackson Kraken which came in two sizes, the 13.5 and the 15.5. After chatting to Mark Radcliffe of the Jackson Kayak Fishing Team an opportunity emerged to take on a Kraken 15.5 which had been returned by a customer to the UK Jackson distributor.

As a fishing kayak it's rather long, 15' 7" in fact. That's considerably longer than my old Big Game at 12' 7" as well as the Hobie Outback at 12' 1". It allegedly weighs in at under 40kg, with the Outback nearer 45kg and the Big Game at just over 30kg. It feels heavier than the Outback, I really must weigh it.

After a bit of a delay, I ordered several items that needed to rig it ready for fishing. My Kraken came without a plastic centre hatch insert, though that didn't concern me. The previous owner had fitted and removed an anchor trolley leaving a few random holes and rivet tails around the kayak waterline, not ideal but easily fixed.

I put together a list of requirements for the rigging and they were as follows:
  • Anchor trolley (possibly both sides)
  • Full electronics fit
  • Navigation light
  • Dry storage
  • Frozen bait storage
  • Centre hatch liner
  • Rudder
As I currently own a Hobie Outback and a Hobie Adventure Island it's import for me that I can swap equipment between these kayaks as required. Partly for ease, though mainly to minimise the amount gear that I own (or have to buy).

It's a tad chilly at this time of year so it was a case of sitting the Kraken in the garage, putting the heater on, before returning an hour later with a large cup of coffee!. I am  rather slow at rigging. I can spend hours just looking and thinking of where things need to go or how to overcome potential problems, etc. The rigging itself probably takes considerably less time than the planning phases do. However, the end product is what counts and getting something wrong through haste is not really an option. 

The first job I tackled was to fit the rudder. The Kraken comes pre-rigged with the internal tubing fitted for the rudder lines as well as a variety of 'moulded in' threaded fittings. I had a Jackson rudder kit with full instructions which perhaps weren't the best. However, they do a cracking You Tube video that covers the whole rudder installation in great detail.

I found the installation straightforward using the video guide as required. Time for the job was a couple of hours at the very most. Getting the rudder lines through the internal piping can be a little tricky at times.. patience is the key!. Below is the result.. 

The retract/deploy line is to the right of the seat (below). It's a spring loaded rudder, release the control line and it deploys (with a little help at times) and pull it back to retract the rudder before locking off.

Rudder Deployment/Retraction Line

I have two Lowrance combo fishfinder/GPS units that I had the choice of using, one being the HDS7 and the other the HDS9 Carbon. Neither head units are light and they both require a pretty solid mounting platform. Initially I fitted the HDS9 to the centre hatch cover using a 1.5" YakAttack Screwball fitted to the plastic GT90 GearTrac that runs along each upper edge of the hatch cover. The result was far from ideal!. The plastic Geartrac is not suited to higher sideways loading, though the bigger issue was the amount of flex on the centre hatch itself. There was no way I was going to endure a frantically wobbling head unit in front of me. A fix was required!

After taking a good look at the design of the top hatch I decided that it required stiffening. I eneded up using a single piece of HDPE sheet that I had lying about. Shaped to fit, and picking up on existing holes as best as possible, the sheet was bolted into position. 

Test Fit of the HDPE Stiffening Plate

I then added a section of GT175 GearTrac to permit the addition of a 1.5" Screwball. The Lowrance head unit would attach to this via an arm. The Geartrac also added additional strength to the centre hatch cover. 

Stiffener and GT175 GearTrac Fitted

The front of the cover is hinged and the rear of the cover is secured with a strap. However, it's rather a long cover and there was still some flexing possible along its length. To overcome this, and for improved hatch sealing, I added an additional strap towards the centre of the hatch. This also has the function of securing my ready use bait box which will reside on top of the centre hatch.

Testing out the Centre Hatch Modifications

Next up was the anchor trolley, a must for any saltwater bait angler. I used the YakAttack LeverLoc anchor trolley system as it's neat, effective, uses quality parts and is simple to fit. 

I did have the issue of existing holes in the kayak hull from a previous anchor trolley fit, though I was quite fortunate the the hole size and location was a relatively close match for the pulley blocks holes  and my desired positioning on the hull. I ALWAYS use sealant when fixing hardware to the hull, usually Marine Goop. I never advocate the use of Well Nuts neither, I hate them with a vengeance. There's always ways around them. With an anchor trolley I always tape the various items in place first on the kayak to ensure that I'll be happy with the final fit. I'd hate to drill holes and fix an item only to regret it later!.

Here's the end result (loose ends still to be trimmed off).

The paddle holder was located on the same side as the anchor trolley so I fitted an additional paddle bungee strap on the other side of the kayak. I prefer it setup in that manner with the trolley clear at all times.

With the trolley fitted I turned my attention to my biggest potential headache, the transducer. I've been using the Lowrance TotalScan transducer for a couple of years now and it performs very well. Though it does have one distinct problem for the kayaker... its size!. It's a bit of a beast, measuring in at approximately 26cm. Due to its length it wouldn't fit into the Jackson transducer friendly scupper hole. For it to function effectively it needed to be at least beneath the lowest hull point on the kayak. There was no clever fix for this which meant I was going to have to resort to using a transducer arm.

I'm not a fan of transducer arms, I've tried one before and hated it. Why?, it was another item to rig onto the kayak every session, though my biggest issue was having several metres of transducer cable sat under the seat or in the tank well. It was a pain and it's just not the way I like to do things. If I was to use a transducer arm it needed to be a tidy permanent fit and that wasn't going to be easy.

Previous experience has highlighted the need for a solid mounting point, otherwise it will be a major cause of arm flex and vibration. The issue was that accessing the hull at this point to bolt a mount into position was a non-starter, plus space in the area that I envisaged fitted the arm was limited. I ended up modifying the RAM base that was currently fitted to the kayak for the rod holder to enable an aluminium 1" RAM ball to be fitted (see photo below). This resulted in a very solid mounting point.

I was fortunate to have a couple of pieces left over from a previous mock up of a RAM transducer arm that enabled me to produce my working arm. The transducer mount was for an earlier LSS2 transducer, though after a small amount of drilling and filing the transducer bolted straight on. The arm itself was an issue so I picked up a length of 12.5mm aluminium bar. This was heated and bent to produce the shape that I needed to keep the transducer close to the side of the kayak yet just beneath the lowest point of the hull.

 Transducer shown deployed

It wasn't quite as simple as that, as I needed to be able to secure the arm for travelling as well as for when it just wasn't required on the water. I also intended to store the spare cable inside the kayak on a permanent basis to keep things as clean and uncluttered as possible. This design did allow the transducer to be positioned to meet the above requirements.

 Stowed for fishing

Stowed for transport

With a satisfactory design completed I fitted the transducer and neatened up/protected the arm with some shrink tubing. I also added some sealant here and there to prevent moisture ingress .

 Completed Transducer Arm

The next problem was how to cleanly get the cable into the hull. As mentioned previously, getting inside the hull to utilise nut/bolt fixings was pretty much impossible at the rear of the seat and the the forward sides of the tank well. Previously I've fitted hatches to permit access, though there wasn't a suitable location to fit one. I really needed the cable to enter the hull close to the arm to prevent having to route it along the topside of the hull whilst keeping the setup as clean as possible.

The solution was to use a Mighty Mount backing plate with a pair of YakAttack's rigging bullets. It's difficult to explain how they are used so if you want to know take a look at John Oast's video below which shows clearly how best to use these useful items.

I made a top plate out of chopping board, modified to permit the cable to slide under the plate tightly and into the kayak. Plenty of sealant was used here and it was all bolted into place. The YakAttack items are UNC threaded and my supply was running low, hence the mis-matching heads!. Note the 'lazy loop' of transducer cable to permit the arm to be positioned as required without placing undue stress or excessive flex onto the cable thus reducing its operating life. There's actually surprisingly little movement of the cable whilst moving the arm to different positions. 

It was at this time that I fixed a new paddle holder bungee to the right of the seat. 

Right Hand Side Paddle Bungee

I previously mentioned that the Kraken didn't come with its plastic centre hatch removable insert. This didn't bother me in the slightest as I'd probably not have used it anyway. On my last 3 kayaks I've fitted a tough rubberised dry bag as used in large backpacks by the military, etc. I pick these bags up off Ebay at about £20 a time. I made a cutout to suit the centre hatch opening and glued velcro to both the dry bag cut and the inner facing edge of the centre hatch. The dry bag can be opened at one end so I positioned this end to the rear of the centre hatch. It can still be opened if required to permit rods to be inserted into the kayak for rough beach landings, etc. 

The  bag is secured into position using the velcro strip, though at the front upper edge I added a small piece of chopping board internally to provide additional support for the weight of the bag to help it maintain the shape I wanted. At the rear of the centre hatch opening was a loop of bungee, pushed through and knotted inside the kayak. This was standard fitment for a transducer cable should I have used the transducer scupper. I wasn't keen on it not being properly waterproof so I shortened it into a small loop and bolted it into position. This loop could then be used to clip tool leashes, etc on as required.

 Centre Hatch (looking forward) with Battery Bag Fitted

Centre Hatch (looking aft)

This storage is pretty dry, only potentially getting wet when the centre hatch is opened. There'd have to be some pretty serious interior flooding of the kayak for the bag to take in water. All in all, there's a good metres length of contained storage within the kayak.

Centre Hatch with Dry Bag fitted

The front of the dry bag liner is positioned just after of the front hatch in such as way that a broken down C-Tug will fit with ease.

C-Tug fits easily into the front hatch

With the Lowrance head unit and transducer swing arm fitted it was time to turn my attention to the electrics. As previously mentioned I like to have my gear interchangeable between my kayaks. That meant using my current battery bag and navigation light setup. They are both rigged up with Bulgin waterproof marine connectors, hence any new wiring loom I constructed would require the equivalent mating connectors. The 12V power connection for the navigation light would need to be switchable. This point may also have to power up a live well if required. 

Wiring in progress

The electrical and transducer cables were passed into the dry bag through a reinforced hole that I made with a small piece of chopping board on either side, screwed together.

Cable entry hole into the dry bag

All spliced connections were crimped and heated sealed with the additional of shrink tubing and sealant on top before the Bulgin end connectors were fitted to complete the loom assembly. The fish finder connectors were passed through the centre hatch lid via a Hobie cable gland that I had spare. It's neat and works well.

Lowrance HDS9 Carbon connected

Functionally Testing the HDS9 Carbon

My 'ready use' bait box in the above photo has been further modified with the addition of some nylon chopping board bolted to the lid to make the chopping of bait simple and effective.

The rear navigation light fits to any section of GearTrac or to a Mighty Mount. Though the 4' nav light caused too much flex on the standard fit plastic GT90 GearTrac fitted to either side of the tank well, so a Mighty Mount was fitted adjacent to the nav light to provide a solid mounting point. The YakAttack rigging bullets were used again to permit the fitmet of the backing plate.

 Navigation Light/Bait Well connection point

 Navigation Light T-bolt connection and power plug

Navigation Light 21 Watt LED

Power Socket On/Off Switch (RHS footwell)

The battery for this kayak is a 23aH LiFePo battery which is compact for its capacity compared to an SLA type battery, much lighter as well. It's kept in a small rubberised drybag with a 2 pin Bulgin connector to permit connection to the main wiring loom. This is used on my other two kayaks and  I've used the same mating connectors on the loom it will fit on the Kraken as well. This is positioned at the front of the centre hatch storage as seen blelow and earlier.

Battery bag positioned forward in the centre hatch

With the electrical system fitted and functioned it was time to progress onto the final bits of rigging. I've used my dry box setup for several years and it was a must to have it fitted to the Kraken. The rear tank well is stepped where the dry box will be positioned so I glued two foam blocks to the base of the tankwell to ensure that the drybox sat level. Two extra pad eyes were added to the rear to secure the dry box, the front being secured using two T-bolts fitted the the side GT90 GearTrac.

One thing I could never get to work on my Hobie was the effective storage of frozen bait, a must for the saltwater bait angler. On the Big Game I used a Flambeau box behind the seat that could (with a couple of frozen cooler blocks) keep bait frozen for hours at a time. As it was so effective I repeated the same setup for the Kraken.

 Dry Box and Frozen Bait box 

 Dry Box and Frozen Bait Box 

The last item to be fitted was a deck cleat towards the front of the left hand footwell. For me this is a must for the safe recovery of an anchor when anchored in a strong tide. It's also handy to lock the anchor warp (by hand only) against the cleat when the anchor is snagged on the sea floor. The rise and fall of the kayak on a swell is often enough to break the anchor loose (or snap the weak link) in such a situtation. 

Deck Cleat for Anchor Recovery

I guess that concludes the rigging of the Kraken 15.5

I like my rigging to be clean and simple, to the eye at least. A clean setup makes for a pleasant fishing experience as well as a safe fishing experience. Yes I spent quite some time planning out my setup before I even began work, but that thinking time (to me at least) is the most important part of rigging.

2017 was an incredibly quiet year for me. Mainly due to both my elederly parents being extremely ill, though partly due with me becoming increasily disallusioned with my fishing. I've made some big changes to overcome the latter and I'm really looking forward to the 2018 season.

Below are some more photos of the finished Kraken 15.5