Keeping a fishing kayak attached to the top of the car

I’m new to kayaking, just getting into it. I suck at fishing! But I know that once I’m out on a body of water I’m going to want to drown some worms. So, decided on a fishing kayak.

My question is if anyone has any advice on the best mode of roof top carry. Not having any experience, it seems like most options aren’t really that great for the bigger, boxier fishing kayaks.

My GMC Terrain has rails and (now) Malone crossbars. Which are, due to the rails, only 24 inches apart. I’ve looked at the J-hook and saddle style carriers, as well as just setting it on padded bars. Honestly, I’d probably have picked up the new kayak by now if I wasn’t over thinking the transportation aspect.

All advice appreciated.


Perhaps you could use something line Malone’s Channel Loader. The suction cups attach to your back window, then you lift the front into position and shove your boat from the stern into saddles on your crossbars.Lots of images available on Malone’s site and elsewhere on the 'net.

This wouldn’t work for me because my 4Runner has a nearly vertical rear window an a wind deflector that sticks way out over it. Hence, I have not tried this or any of the other suction cup alternatives. Maybe others can offer real experience based on vehicles more similar to your Terrain.

It would help if we knew what kind of fishing kayak you were planning on getting. Also how you plan on outfitting it for fishing and what you will be attaching or leaving attached for fishing.

Around here many use SOT kayaks for fishing and find they need to add additional stabilizers in the form of DIY pontoons when fishing. Others like sit inside rec-kayaks made for fishing. We have such a kayak it is an Old-Town 10 footer. You sit lower than a SOT and in sitting lower have more stability when you have your paddle stowed while fishing.

We haul ours upside down on the cross bars held down to each cross bar with a cam strap doubled under the bar with both sides of the strap coming around the hull. We then add two more cam straps bow and stern one to a hood strap and one to a tailgate strap. It rides very well and if it rains it doesn’t fill with water. We sometimes leave the boat on when we know we will be going again the next day and anytime it is sitting on the car not being driven especially in the sun I loosen the straps to just slightly snug as to not warp the boat.

If we had a SOT I would likely want a vee cradle and strap it down right side up.

What “fishing kayak” did you get? Has some impact on how you would cartop it.

It terms of “sucking” at fishing. It’s all about “structure.” Find down trees, logs, boulders, edges (where sand meets rock, or weed bed edges). Fish these areas and you are going to hook up. I would say to not “dunk worms.” This works better from shore, were used sinker and bait hook rig. But, out in a kayak, you are going to drift and pull you worm around. If you over structure, good chance you are going to get snagged.

I would suggest going with weedless jig for deeper water, where you can probe and feel the jig hitting structure. In shallow water, weed beds, down trees, go with with a Johnson weedless spoon that get be retrieved at variable speeds (swim, fluttering, sink). Or go with a faster retrieving spinner bait. With a fast retrieve, you litter “buzz” the over the weed beds and water lilies, etc. to trigger a quick predatory response from a bigger fish in the vicinity.

Using artificial lures is more “active” form of fishing and will get you to under structure more than one more passing “worm dunking” approach.


Reverse of that for me. With my Scupper Pro and RTM Disco, I much prefer to have the cockpit gunwale area resting flat on the bars and the hull up in the air. With a pedal fishing kayak - Hobie Rev 13 - I need to use a Hullavator because the Hobie is a beast in weight. No way for me to cartop by myself without the Hullavator.


I don’t think all of your options are bad. You’ll need good bow and stern lines in any case. You want tie-down points around the front corners of your hood. Then you’ll need to learn a couple of knots…the bowline and the trucker’s hitch. Just get a piece of rope and watch youtube videos and practice.

Best option may depend on the boat. If you can flip it and lay it on padded bars that’s a fine approach. If you can buy load stops for the Malone bars that help hold the boat in place that’s worthwhile.

As far as fishing you might try fishing when the fish are eating. I was coming home from an evening paddle the other day at around 8:45 pm and the fish were so active I thought one might jump into my canoe; there’s no way
a worm could have lived long enough to drown.

I’m far from an expert on SOT fishing kayaks. About all I know is what I see being used on the waters here. The ones I see have a taller seat mount and rod holders and such mounted on the top. My guess is seated they are closer to my canoe than our sit inside rec-kayak. Many folks fishing opt for the highest seated position and some are building DIY risers. The height is the reason I would much rather fish from my canoe than her kayak even though it is sold as a fishing kayak.

The extra height of the SOTs isn’t much of a problem when paddling but when anchored and both hands busy they get a little tipsy. Thus the addition of outriggers.

Your Scupper Pro looks more like a sit inside with the folding seat back and all. I would for sure haul that upside down.

It sounds like you may be concerned that your crossbars are only 24 inches apart. It does seem with some modern cars, especially with sunroofs, the rails are very short.

A Reese canoe loader may be an option. It can help you load a heavy fishing kayak alone and also provide another point of contact for securing and support.

I bought one last year from Amazon for about 50 bucks. I have assemble it but not actually used it. I think it will help on my wifes Pilot. I should be able to load it by myself.

Be sure to watch the weight of fishing-specific kayaks. Once folks load them up with fishing stuff they can push 100 lbs, which is why many people have trailers for them. I’m a huge kayak guy, but after lots of research, this is what I ended up with:

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I appreciate all the responses. Sorry I wasn’t more specific on the kayak.

I’m looking at getting a Pelican Catch Mode 110. It seems to have a pretty good balance of “bang-for-your-buck.” It is a sit-on-top style and is 10’8" long, 34.5" wide and weighs in at 63 pounds. It has what they call a tunnel hull, which is pretty boxy.

I’ve seen some reviews that state the boxy hull doesn’t work well for the saddle type carries as they are designed more for kayaks with curvy hulls. The J-hook style concerns me because the hull is so wide the vertical part of the carrier will barely reach over half way up the hull.

As far as adding toys to the kayak, I doubt I’ll add anything that won’t be removed while transporting. I’m not serious enough about it to pay for fish finders and stuff like that. All the little things like anchors and such will be removed before loading it up.

Thanks again.

Thank you. This is something I will look at once I have the right carrier nailed down. I also looked at the Yakima Showboat 66, but I don’t think it will pride enough reach for my vehicle, so this is an option.

That should be a nice fishing kayak with some nice features and a good price. You will want to load it right side up as the seat is a two level folder and when folded down (fishing position) it sticks up a good amount. The hull is not flat and will want to rock side to side on the cross bars so maybe buy a 5” pool noodle and cut some pieces out of it and split one side so you can snap the pieces over your cross bars for spacers that will also cushion the hull at the point contacts.

I am of the same mind set as High_Desert and liked a solo canoe a bit better than a dedicated fishing kayak. I took a 14’6” tandem and retrofitted it to a solo similar to his Old-Town Next only a little larger. Great for fishing and is a little bit easier to paddle any distance. Mine comes in at about 80 pounds though and is something to think about with what you are looking at being 60 pounds. On the water the 20 pounds isn’t a big deal but loading and moving alone could be. I have a loader I made and a set of kayak wheels that help on the ground. :canoe:

It also occurred to me that the back window would need to be clean (which mine rarely is) for the suction cups to work properly. Given everything else we cart along to our launch sites, I suppose it’s easy enough to throw some glass cleaner and paper towels in the back too.

you must not know what a Scupper Pro is… I have one, a 2003 version, They haven’t been made in at least 15 years… it’s one of the slimmest, quickest SOTs that aren’t wave skis made in rotomolded plastic. No high seatback… just a nice foam seat/back that hooks onto the boat. I have thigh straps and it a great Lake Erie boat

I’m not a fan of J-Cradles but would never consider putting a 34" wide hull in one.

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I do know what a Scupper Pro is. I think it is quite a bit different than the fishing SOT the OP is asking about and most of them I see are wide with a high seat with seat back. As it turns out the model he likes comes with a two level seat that is quite high when folded down.

About the only thing similar is they are both SOT.

OK - first if it is a big wide fishing kayak ditch the J-bars. It’ll never be stable. Stackers better if you want to carry more than one boat. If all you are carrying is your own, padding on the bars and a good strapping job wit bow line will work for you to start.

If it is a SINK and you plan to drive around with it rather than take it down every time, strap it upside down. The bigger cockpit is not going to withstand rain even with a cockpit cover and the water that’ll get in there will make it very hard to drop.

If it is a SOT this not a problem. Have it sit any way that gives you something to grab getting it up and down.

You are likely to find that the biggest problem will be getting it up and down. It will be heavy and on just bars you will not love even sliding it up and down.

A well placed blanket can help protect the car for that. If you get a third party set of crossbars, Thule or Yakima, look for ones that can take advantage of something to help you slide the boat up and down under control. One of the more basic options is to have a bar that sticks out from the cross bars far enough that you can bring the boat up and down from the side.


Lets get a better picture of the boat the OP is thinking about car topping.

My first kayak was a huge, cheap 10foot Lifetime fishing kayak. I still load it flat, bottom down on padded crossbars. I put a rubberized pad on the rear of our Honda Pilot’s roof, lean it up there and slide it up and center the weight between the crossbars. Then I cinchstrap it down tight and head to the lake!

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Hello Kurt:
I have found the easiest way to transport a kayak is in a cargo van. My 12.5’ sit-in Kestrel kayak slides in easily (I have laid down plywood floor and indoor-outdoor carpeting) is by far the best way to go. The boat slides in at waist height, is out of sight, and will never fall off!