How to Transport a Fishing Kayak (Complete Guide)

If you're up for kayak fishing, you need to know how to safely transport your kayak. Keep reading for everything you need to know - including a few tips you could be overlooking.

Last updated: April 5, 2024

By: Brandon Sanders

Kayak fishing has grown in popularity over the past decade due to the accessibility, simplicity, and challenge that come with catching fish from a kayak.

However, before you get to enjoy the benefits of fishing from a kayak, proper transportation and launching must come first. What is the best way to transport a kayak safely? How do you transport multiple kayaks? Is it as simple as throwing a kayak in the back of a pick-up and hitting the road?

This article seeks to shed some light on these questions.

Ready to learn how to drive, tow, and transport your kayak to that hard-to-reach bass fishing spot?

Let’s dive in! 👇

Basic Safety Tips When Moving a Kayak ⛑

Getting to the water is a crucial step to successful fishing, be it in a kayak or any other vessel. Therefore, it is critical that the kayak is transported safely so that no danger is presented to the operator or passersby.

First and foremost should be compliance with all traffic and game and fish laws concerning the transportation of vessels. This will likely include some sort of registration, marking for visibility if using a trailer, and frequent inspection for invasive species that may be attempting to hitch a ride to your next stop.

Next, the kayak should be secured so that no bump, sudden stop, or acceleration allows the kayak to shift in transit. This can be extremely important when considering larger, salt water-specific kayaks that have considerable weight. A kayak sliding around on a trailer or in the back of a truck can easily result in automobile accidents and injuries.

A good set of ratchet straps or rope can easily prevent a disaster. Invest the time and effort, which is extremely minimal, in securing your kayak before you transport it.

Finally, make sure none of your vehicle lighting is obstructed by the kayak. Some municipalities that don’t require small trailers to have lights can present a hazard if brake lights are not easily seen by other vehicles. Other instances where tailgates are left open, kayaks droop off roof racks, or trunks are opened to accommodate transportation can obscure the lighting on the back of your vehicle.

In times of limited visibility, this can be extremely hazardous. Pay careful attention to the configuration of your vehicle and load before you embark on your next trip for river fishing on a kayak.

Transporting a Fishing Kayak by Truck 🚚

Transporting a fishing kayak by truck can be one of the simplest ways to get your kayak from your garage to the boat launch. Simply opening a tailgate and sliding a kayak in and out can be reason enough to own a truck.

Doing it successfully, quickly, and simply takes some honest thought before the trip begins. Knowing your equipment, the demands of the trip and your own physical capabilities are very important.

No two trucks are the same. Knowing the ins and outs, capabilities, and restrictions of your truck and kayak is very important to safely get your vessel to the water. Comparing the length of a kayak to the length of the truck bed can shed some light on how feasible it would be to transport the kayak in that way. Having a 12-foot kayak in a 5-foot truck bed means that the kayak’s center of gravity will be off the tailgate. ⚠️

However, having an extended truck bed may allow for the kayak to be transported safely with the tailgate up. Knowing your vehicle and vessel and how they can best me married is important to safe transportaiton.

Having a proper understanding of the demands of the trip is also very important for truck transportation. Will you have to travel at highway speeds? Are there sure to be dirt roads that will make the trip extremely bumpy? It pays to remember that in transportation, safety is paramount.

These types of considerations must be taken into account when considering using the bed of a truck for transportation. Having a kayak stuck out in downtown traffic may not be the best idea.

Using a Car and a Roof Rack 🚙

Using the roof rack of a car is the least ideal way to transport a kayak.

However, more than likely that is what most people are equipped with. One of the key challenges of loading and unloading a kayak from atop a car is the sheer physical demand it places on a person.

The boat must be able to be lifted above the roof of the car and placed on the rack in such a way that nothing gets damaged. The physical limitations of most people forbid this from being a reality.

Yet, life will demand that some take this approach to transporting their kayak. When that is the case it is important to pay attention to the rack itself for ease of loading and unloading as well as safety in transport. While many stock racks will suffice for carrying kayaks, they often do not provide the security needed to keep the kayak from moving without an excess of tie downs.

Aftermarket racks that are specifically designed to transport kayaks are recommended. This will ensure the kayak stays secure and loading/unloading time is limited.

When unloading and loading a fishing kayak, special consideration must be given to the uniqueness of that type of kayak. For example, many anglers use trolling motors to help cover more ground when kayak fishing. Such tools - trolling motors, depth finders, rod holders, and special seats - are a common loadout for such specialty boats.

Given that a car is not designed with using the roof as a load-bearing structure in mind, getting items on and off of it can be a bit challenging. This combination is a perfect recipe for damaging either the equipment attached to the kayak or the car itself.

The alternative is to keep the equipment in a kayak’s setup for fishing quite limited and separated from the boat. All equipment can be attached to the kayak after it is unloaded. However, this increases the amount of time at the boat ramp.

Hauling a Fishing Kayak on a Trailer 🚗🛶

One of the greatest benefits of kayak bass fishing is the simplicity and low cost. This often precludes the use of a trailer, however, that is the ideal way to transport a kayak. Trailers have the distinct advantage of being lower to the ground and thus, easier to load.

After a long day of fishing for largemouth bass, no one wants to engage in the physical labor of lifting a kayak onto a roof rack or into the bed of a truck. A trailer can be designed in such a way to create an easy launch and recovery for the angler.

While it is not the most attractive alternative, cheap flatbed trailers can often be the ideal mode of transport for a kayak. Being relatively low to the ground with ample places to secure the boat, a cheap flatbed trailer also offers the angler room to move more than just a kayak.

Coolers, gear, and other items that consume precious space inside a vehicle can go right beside the kayak. A small, affordable flatbed trailer that can be towed by many types of vehicles is often the ideal way to transport a kayak.

For those that want the platinum standard for kayak transportation, kayak-specific trailers that are either purchased or homemade are the way to go. Unlike the flatbed trailer, this type of trailer is tailored to the specific needs of the kayak. This has supreme advantages in security, ease of loading, and simplicity, but lacks in versatility.

There is no way to transport items other than a kayak and what will fit in it, but that may not be of consequence to the angler who only has day-long outings. Loading and unloading can also be a bit more laborious than most people have in mind, which is a big difference between fishing from a kayak and a bass boat.

Transporting Multiple Kayaks for Fishing 🎣

It is far more enjoyable to explore water ways with someone rather than by yourself. When it comes to transporting more than one kayak for fishing, there are two basic ways to go about it.

First, you can place them side by side in a truck bed. This can be effective and efficient if the need is only an occasional affair. However, in any vehicle, space comes at a premium and fishing kayaks are very large items. The preferred method of transporting multiple kayaks for fishing is via a trailer.

The question is then what trailer works best for transporting multiple kayaks for fishing? Just as in transporting one kayak, a flatbed trailer can be very useful for transporting multiple kayaks.

This type of trailer is the king of versatility and affords the angler a diversity of options to meet the needs of each specific fishing trip. With an unobstructed area to work with, multiple kayaks can be loaded, unloaded, and secured with relative ease.

However, just with anything outdoors, you can find custom solutions to your problems if you are willing to pay a premium in either cash or time. There are kayak trailers available and those that can be constructed at home can carry multiple kayaks at a time. These trailers are constructed with unloading and loading in mind as well as the constraints of single-person operations.

Their drawback is in the price and specificity of use. Yet, if the price is no object, these specialty trailers are the way to go.

How to Unload a Kayak 💡

When unloading a kayak take into account your surroundings. If you are at a public beach and there is not a lot of boat traffic, take your time to make sure there is no damage done to the boat, your vehicle, or yourself.

However, if you are launching at a public boat launch consider the constraints of other boaters. Prepare your kayak for launch so that you can get out of the way of other boaters that need to use the ramp to launch and recover their vessels.

One of the advantages of the newer plastic kayaks is the resilience of the material they are constructed out of. However, dragging the kayak across gravel and asphalt will damage the bottom unnecessarily.

This translates into a shorter life, lower resale value, and more friction going through the water. Unload your kayak in a place that will not require it to be drug over surfaces that won’t damage the bottom.

Kayak anglers are not constrained to public boat launches the same way boats are. Therefore, kayak anglers should seek to embrace that advantage by launching in places that other people cannot access.

Drainage ditches, sloughs, beaches, and other waterways that are too constrained and shallow for boats offer excellent access opportunities for kayaks. This can be especially useful when largemouth bass fishing during the spawn. Further, it creates a much more low-key and easy environment to launch a kayak in.

Conclusion 🏁

Ultimately, kayak fishing is a deeply rewarding experience, but it is not without its own unique challenges and nuances. While the best fishing kayaks are generally lighter without sacrificing stability or strength, some of the larger, longer, and more complex vessels are much more challenging to transport. However, with a little know-how and some creativity, it can be an easy and pleasurable experience.

Safely Transporting a Kayak for Fishing: FAQs

Is it easy to transport a kayak?

It is easy to transport a kayak. Given their lightweight and inherent simplicity, kayaks are the simplest vessel an angler can have. This includes the general ease of transportation that comes with being able to place it in a multitude of vehicles with little or no extra equipment or modification.

How can I transport a fishing kayak myself?

You can transport a fishing kayak by yourself with ease. This can be accomplished in the bed of a truck, on a roof rack, or in a trailer. Kayaks are unique in that they are easily managed by one person as opposed to needing two for large boats.

Can I transport a kayak without a roof rack?

You can transport a kayak with many stock and aftermarket roof racks. Roof racks offer the advantage of not needing a trailer. However, it may take some upper body strength to get the kayak on and off the rack.

Is Kayak fishing worth it?

Kayak fishing is absolutely worth the time and effort that it requires—especially when chasing bass. It offers an extremely low cost of operation and accessibility into more restrictive waters. It is hard to beat the kayak’s economy of space, price, and the accessibility it affords the angler.

About the author: Brandon Sanders, who goes by BBSanders, is a freelance outdoors writer that enjoys hunting and fishing across the world. He is a combat veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other smaller deployments. He lives in East Texas in a small cabin with his wife and two dogs. You can learn more about him on his own website, here.