So you’ve found your way to this blog, so I can naturally assume that at some level the idea of fishing from a jet ski is appealing to you. Weather you already own a PWC and are looking for ways to get more use from it, or you’re a fishing addict looking for an exhilarating way to get to your favorite fishing hole…or hopefully both. Once committed, the 1st problem you’ll face is where to put stuff. How will you get your fishing pole to survive the trip, where will you put lures, once you catch a fish, then what? I can tell you from personal experience from someone who has donated way too much stuff to the deep, taking the time to really think this one out is worth it.
For starters, let’s take a look at some more simpler solutions. A cooler, with a few simple modifications, can solve all of these problems. Pick the size cooler you need for the fish you plan to target, drill a few holes in it and bolt on stainless eye-bolts for tie down points, fasten a few rod holders to it, strap it down to the tow hooks of the jet ski and just like that your rigged for fishing. For the 1st year of fishing from my Jet Ski this worked very well for me, and in that year I had caught more salmon than any year previous. Doesn’t get much simpler, lures, bait, catch and lunch go in the cooler, poles and net sit in the holders. If you do a fair amount of pleasure rides towing wakeboarders and tubes, this could be the solution for you. It’s easy to remove, inexpensive, and functional. Leaves your ski pretty much un-touched and ready for resale as a standard PWC. However, the cooler does have its disadvantages. Depending on the type of PWC you have, it could make re-entry back onto the ski difficult, if not impossible. If you plan to use the cooler, try climbing back on in shallow calm water, and give yourself an honest assessment of how difficult it would be in rough water. I would also make the cooler easily removable if you needed to ditch it to get back on.
The next step in this evolution would be a cooler rack built from PVC, aluminum, or stainless steel. It would seem that this is the most common solution to gear and catch storage for PWC owners. The rack can have pole holders built into it, the cooler rests inside. All the same problems stated above solved, but a slightly more robust and configurable rod holder configuration. This set-up also comes with the same disadvantages. There are plenty of cooler racks on the market for PWCs, I however didn’t find any of them would hold a cooler large enough for salmon or tuna. These would make great freshwater set-ups. But for the big fish hunters of the northwest, there aren’t many pre-fab options for a 40lb king salmon.
Custom built cooler racks from metal are tailored to your needs and can also start to solve some of the problems of added fuel capacity. I’ve seen some very nice custom modular racks that can add up to 10 gallons extra fuel with bleed bucket, rod holders, trolling rod holders, and cooler for those with tuna on the menu.
Catch bags are a very good option for those fishing the ocean. They take up minimal space and if mounted well, are easily climbed over/around if you need to re-enter your ski in rough water. They can be mounted toward the front in the foot wells, or across the back deck, there are even saddle bag configurations that mount just like a soft bag on a motorcycle. The disadvantage of the kill bag, is that it won’t let you bolt a rod holder to it, and gear storage can get a bit more cramped as there isn’t as much dead space in the catch bags as a cooler has. They can also be a bit trickier to secure well to the jet ski. I’ve just switched from a cooler to catch bag this year and used my cooler rack and rear handle bar to secure the bag. Wilderness Pack Systems also sewn on D rings in each of the corners along the bottom seam to give more attachment points.
The lack of rod holder attachment on the catch bag leads me to PWC fishing towers. There are some pre-fab options available on the market that have a universal fit to just about any jet ski. These do require a bit of craftsmanship skill to install, but look good when done right. Custom fit, built to purpose towers while more expensive, will not disappoint and turn heads at every boat ramp…in fact, just give yourself 30 extra minutes at the ramp inbound and outbound to talk with strangers about your setup. The front tower arch gives everything you need for a platform to mount fishfinder/gps combos, vhf radio and antenna, rod holders, and with a little imagination gear storage. Rear towers provide all the same, with added bonus of cooler storage…however, severely impact the ability to re-board from the rear of the PWC. The front tower combined with a catch bag has been my favorite combination yet.
There are some alternatives to the front tower that also would work well with the kill bags. While not available in the US yet, an Australian based company has made some nice clamp on pole holders that secure to the side of just about any ski. There are also pole holder mounts that secure on your handlebars and rear tow hook. Combined with a kill bag these options are great for those not wanting to do major modifications to their ski’s but would like to fish big water.
There are no one size fits all set-ups, someone that wants to target mainly bottom fish is going to want a different set-up than someone who is trolling for salmon…and those brave enough to venture 20-40 miles offshore for halibut or tuna are in need of a highly specialized purpose built configuration. If you’re like me, and have all the above on the menu, a modular concept is best that you can change from one trip to the next to meet that days needs for the target fish. Hopefully this article got the gears spinning, tight lines!