What Is a Kayak Outrigger And Do I Need One? 

Stability on a kayak can sometimes be hard to come by. A fishing buddy of yours recommended a kayak outrigger, which you’re not familiar with. What is an outrigger and how are they beneficial?

A kayak outrigger is a stabilizer system that improves your balance and steadiness when fishing or stand-up kayaking. If you’re new to kayaking, you’ll appreciate how much sounder your boat feels, which makes paddling easy.

This guide to kayak outriggers will provide all the information you need to decide if one of these accessories is right for you. Make sure you keep reading! 

So What Is a Kayak Outrigger?

First, let’s dive a little deeper into the definition of outriggers per the intro. 

A kayak outrigger is also known as a kayak stabilizer. It’s a type of flotation device that expands the bottom width of the boat and improves your stability. 

Some people liken them to training wheels used on a bicycle when you’re just starting to ride. 

That’s not altogether an unfair comparison considering it’s usually beginners who you will see outfitting their boats with an outrigger.

Outriggers do indeed stand out like a sore thumb, but the increased stability you’ll enjoy makes having them on your boat all the more worth it. 

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The Two Types of Kayak Outriggers 

As you begin exploring kayak outrigger options, you’ll come across one or two types. Let’s go over these types now so you can narrow down your shopping decision.

Solid Outriggers

The first choice is a solid kayak outrigger.

These outriggers are built from sturdy PVC so that even if you’re kayaking in rough conditions, the base of the outrigger is secure enough to hang tough.

You could even collide with jagged rocks and the outrigger should sustain no damage. 

Considering that beginner kayakers use outriggers the most, you might not be able to help what you collide into, so that peace of mind is nice.

The solid floats that comprise this type of outrigger lend the stabilizer durability, yes, but also contribute to its weight.

Despite that outriggers are supposed to make using your kayak easier, the additional weight could make you feel unsteady, at least at first. 

Besides the extra weight that comes with a solid outrigger, of the two types, you will spend more money on this style.

Storing a solid outrigger during the kayaking off-season isn’t the easiest thing either. 

You’ll have to heave the heavy outrigger off your kayak and find room in your garage or a shed for the outrigger to sit until next season.

Once you find that you’ve outgrown outriggers, so to speak, the solid outrigger can sit there and sit there, taking up valuable room in the shed or garage that you’d like to use for something else. 

Inflatable Outriggers

The other style of kayak outrigger is inflatable

An inflatable outrigger features a series of inflatable pontoons. To increase the longevity of the outrigger, the inflatable will be built with a hardy outer membrane that makes it less resistant to popping.

An included bladder makes inflation quick and easy, although you will need a pump. Relying on mouth inflation will leave you exhausted considering that outriggers can be rather sizable.

You’ll probably want to inflate your outrigger at home in your driveway or garage before setting off for a day of boating fun unless you have a suitable portable pump.

When you’re done with an inflatable outrigger, you can easily and quickly deflate it. Then you can fold it down and hold onto it for next time. 

Compared to a solid outrigger, an inflatable kayak outrigger is a much more portable option. 

It weighs a lot less too since it isn’t made with solid material, and it takes up a lot less space. You can just deflate it and fold it up so your garage or shed is freed up.

You also won’t spend nearly as much money to procure an inflatable kayak outrigger as you would a solid outrigger.

The only downside is durability. Even with that tough membrane, at the end of the day, your outrigger is still inflatable. 

If the outrigger collides with hard, sharp surfaces, then it could pop or spring a leak. Either way, you won’t be able to use it for long! 

3 Reasons Why You Need a Kayak Outrigger 

Now that you’re acquainted with kayak outriggers, the question becomes, do you need one?

If you’ve been kayaking for many years and you consider yourself rather seasoned, then no, you can easily go without an outrigger. 

For novices who are eager to improve, as well as for some anglers, we would recommend an outrigger for these reasons. 

1. Better Stability 

A kayak can seem so stable when you’re sitting in it at the outdoor supply store or in your backyard. 

However, until you get the boat out onto the water, then you can’t make a true judgment about a kayak’s stability.

Beginners may be dismayed to learn that even though a kayak seemed like a stable enough choice on level ground that once it’s in the water, they feel like they’re going to tip at any second.

Falling into the water on a kayak isn’t safe. Even if you’re conscious and can easily get back into the boat, now you’re going to be soaked to the skin for the rest of the day.

Should you fall unconscious, then your life is at risk. Hopefully, you’re wearing a personal flotation device, as it can save your life!

With an outrigger, the stability issues that you’ve been wrestling with will disappear. 

This will give you enough time to get used to how a kayak handles before you can eventually take the outriggers off your boat. 

For more information on whether fishing from a kayak is hard, click here.

2. Encourages Standup Fishing with Ease 

While most anglers who venture into the water in their kayak will do so in a seated position, not all do. Some like to stand up.

It uses more muscles to stay balanced, so it’s a better form of exercise than sitting and fishing. It also feels different, which is important if you’ve been fishing for a long time and you’re eager to change things up.

You also get a unique vantage point when stand-up kayak fishing. 

However, if you thought it was hard enough to stay stabilized in a kayak when sitting, wait until you stand up.

You need great core strength and excellent balance to stay upright, especially for long periods. 

To help you ease into standup fishing, a kayak outrigger will be your new best friend.

Once your body is conditioned for hours of standing on the water, you can disconnect the outriggers. 

3. Usable on Canoes Too 

If you’re reluctant to spend yet more money after purchasing a new kayak, that’s certainly understandable. 

To help sweeten the deal, an outrigger isn’t solely usable on a kayak. You can also outfit a canoe with an outrigger, expanding its versatility. You might not mind spending the extra money! 

How to Install a Kayak Outrigger 

You decided to go forward and buy a kayak outrigger. The problem is you have no idea how to affix the thing to your boat. 

Here are the steps to follow.

Table showing the 6 steps to follow to install a kayak outrigger for fishing

Step 1 – Pick a Side of Your Kayak for the Outrigger

You have your choice regarding where you’ll install the kayak outrigger. 

One option that’s quite popular among kayakers is the boat’s stern. 

You won’t have to worry about the outrigger getting stuck in your fishing line, costing you your latest big catch. The outrigger also won’t collide with your paddles.

If you wish, you can also install the outrigger on the kayak’s bow. This makes the front of the boat stabler than the back, which is nice. 

Step 2 – Add Screw Holes

After choosing between the bow or stern for installing the kayak outrigger, decide where on the boat the outrigger will go. Mark those areas using a permanent marker and then install screw holes.

You might be able to skip this step if your outrigger is produced by the same brand that manufactured the kayak. If yours is a third-party kit though, then you need to make the screw holes.

Well, sometimes it’s only screw hole, singular. Some kayak outriggers feature one installation point for the arm. 

Others have one arm and two bar attachment points that extend across the boat’s deck.

The screw holes will likely go on the starboard and port side. 

Step 3 – Mount the Arm

Included in the outrigger kit should have been a mounting plate. Take the arm and the float, connect those together, and then install the arm to the mounting plate. 

Both the mounting plate and the arm must be perpendicular to your boat, so take time to get the positioning correct. 

Use a drill to connect the arm to the mounting plate.

Step 4 – Install the Mounting Plate

Next, you need to attach your mounting plate to the kayak. We also recommend well nuts, which are blind fasteners for situations where a hole is exposed on just one side. 

The well nut, when installed, makes a waterproof seal so your boat can be airtight. 

Insert the well nuts into the holes you just drilled, then position the mounting plate. You might be able to use only a screwdriver to secure the well nuts.

A drill is fine too, but you should set the torque lower to prevent stripping the nuts and making them impossible to remove later.

Step 5 – Put on the Outrigger Arms and Adjustment Mechanism

Some kayak outriggers allow for the arms to be adjusted by height. That will require you to mount the adjustment mechanism, which uses a ratchet for lowering or raising the outrigger arm. 

That’s the other part you’ll have to install.

The arm might slide right into the cross-bar or it will slot into the adjustment mechanism; that varies depending on the kit you purchased.

Step 6 – Install the Pontoons

The last part of the process is to connect the pontoons, which may or may not have come separately from the other components of the outrigger kit. 

Use the kit instructions to guide you. 

Final Thoughts 

Kayak outriggers increase the stability of your boat so you can go kayak fishing with greater peace of mind. Whether you want to fish standing up or sitting down, you’ll feel much stabler.

As a beginner, we can’t stress enough how valuable that additional stability is. You’ll adjust quicker to paddling on your boat and can someday take the outriggers off. 

Don’t forget your personal floatation device! In many states it is the law. Click the link to see what flotation device is best for kayaking and fishing!

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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