DIY Kayak

Build a wooden boat for fishing.

By Ed Mashburn

One of the author’s kit boats, a work in progress, built of cedar strips and ready for glassing.

Catching a fish on a homemade lure or rod is a real thrill. How about catching a fish from a boat you’ve built for yourself?

Anglers have discovered the benefits of paddle- or pedal-powered fishing craft that require no trailer, no gas, and which can go places motorized boats cannot. The silence of a kayak, too, has proven to be a great benefit in many fishing situations.

What many kayak anglers have yet to realize is that building a kayak that fits your specifications is well within the means and abilities of most anglers.

I’ve built a few wooden kayaks, and I assure you that I am no craftsman with wood, and I don’t have a full woodshop of tools. I am a schoolteacher, and if I can afford the materials to build a beautiful and functional fishing kayak, just about anyone can.

The thing I like best about building my own fishing kayaks is that I can make a kayak
fit me and my needs. If I want the cockpit to be bigger and to have rod holders, it’s no big deal. If I want to have a certain sized cut-out so my ice chest can fit down into the back deck of the kayak, that can be done, too. Modifications are easy to make.

The biggest reason I built my first wooden fishing kayak was simple curiosity. I just wanted to see if I could do it. As the project progressed, I could see changes that would make the basic boat much better for my angling uses, and I made modifications accordingly.

Author with a keeper-size seatrout caught out of a customized kayak.

Now, many folks who are not yet familiar with wooden kayak construction might wonder if a thin, wooden kayak can be strong enough and durable enough to stand up to the abuse a fishing boat receives. We have to remember that wood is only part of the construction. All wooden kayaks—whether made from thin strips of wood glued together or thin panels of plywood stitched together—have fiberglass and epoxy coating both inside and outside. These external and internal coatings give great strength to the wooden structure.

How strong are wooden kayaks? I’ve had kayaks I built slide out of the back of my truck as I drove down the road and survive. I had some scratches to repair, but no major damage was done to the boat structure. Wooden kayaks are tough. They’re also light weight. My 12- and 14-foot wooden kayaks weigh less than 40 pounds dry, and when loaded with gear, less than 60 pounds. They paddle easily and maneuver well.

There are many sources for wooden kayak plans that are suitable for fishing kayaks, but the one I use most is Guillemot Sea Kayaks. I have found that the Auk Series of kayaks, designed by Guillemot owner Nick Schade, convert very well into fishing kayaks.

The biggest problem that most anglers will have when they take their new self-built kayaks to the water for fishing is dealing with all of the attention of the people at the beach or ramp who want to look at the great-looking wooden kayak. FS

  • Eric Vuong

    Kayaks are although a great medium of recreational activities but need to be chosen carefully with all necessary parameters. Thank you for sharing this post.
    Careful Kayaking

  • whitewaterpages

    Very good and interesting article.
    Would you mind to post how did you build your kayak?
    That could be great and helpful for many other.
    However thank you for your post