By Hank Veggian
Rain. Paddle Drip. Wave Splashes. Boat Wakes. These are some of the phenomena that introduce water into our kayaks. Let’s admit it: no matter how you adjust the drip guards on your paddle or angle your boat through waves, the floor of a kayak will get wet when you are on the water. Most often that water will drain out through scupper holes.
What is a scupper hole? Scupper holes are pre-molded holes in the bottom of sit-on-top kayaks. They allow for drainage of that water, but they also allow water, creatures and debris to get into the kayak. If you paddle, pedal or motor through chop, the splash under the hull will allow water in, and everything that’s in that water. Seeds from invasive plants can hitch a ride, as can every bug under the boat. In rare cases, an aquatic snake or other amphibian may try and hitch a ride, too. Once, while I was parked on the edge of a large grass bed, I looked down and had a small turtle looking back at me through a scupper hole in the deck. It couldn’t fit through, but it sure wanted to.
Scupper holes are a two-way street, but scupper plugs make it a one way street. (plug the drainage) Additionally, the plugged holes make your kayak sit slightly higher in the water. That height can improve lines of sight, and raise casting angles. Unfortunately, the plugs are often overlooked. Here are some tips to help you use them correctly, improve their functionality and clean them properly.
1. Match the plugs to your rig. If there are gaps, they won’t work well, and if they are too loose you may lose them. If they are too wide for the scupper hole, they create a tripping hazard. Be sure they are flush with the deck. To find the right sizes for your Jackson Kayak, simply search “scupper plug” on the Jackson website. 2. One size does not fit all. Generic plugs vary in quality and size, and may not fit well (see above). Additionally, a single kayak may have scupper holes of varying sizes (see, for example, the Jackson Yupik). 3. Buy and carry spares. While a scupper plug should fit snugly and be relatively difficult to remove, you may look down and find a plug is missing due to transport, wave and water pressure. Keep a plug or two in your gear box for those moments – a dry deck prevents water from damaging other gear, and there are few things worse than reaching down to find a wet sandwich! 4. Modify the plugs to weather and water conditions. If I know there is some rain in the forecast, I will use a set of modified plugs. I modify them to allow water to drain through the plug. To do so, I use a small diameter drill bit to punch a hole through the center of the plug’s cup. I will trim the excess material at the edges so that rain will drain out while still keeping water entry to a minimum. 5. Empty and clean your plugs before your hose down and wash your kayak. Invasive species are a growing problem in our waterways. As exotic plants, algae and mussels are introduced, they can ruin fisheries and/or habitat. Something as simple as a messy paddle stroke can introduce water that carries invasives into your boat. These can gather in your plugs and you might unknowingly carry them to the next waterway. Empty and rinse your plugs at home before launching again and don’t let the water drain into local drainage, sewers or waterways. 6. Check other plugs and wedges, too. The Jackson FD Scupper Wedge, the Transducer Scupper Cover and the Jackson Kayak Drain Plug should also be regularly checked and cleaned.
In summary, scupper plugs prevent water from entering the kayak and drenching items on deck. Additionally, they limit unwanted hitchhikers like seeds and animals. When used properly and creatively, they can improve the kayaking experience for some paddlers, and that’s what the best accessories should do.
About the author: Henry “Hank” Veggian started kayak fishing from a Jackson Coosa in 2011 and has been a member of the Jackson Kayak Pro Staff Team since 2019. A former tournament director for Carolina Kayak Anglers, he is Communications Director for Kayak Bass Fishing, an educator and ambassador of our sport, and an accomplished tournament angler. His writings on kayak fishing have appeared in numerous publications as well as the Jackson blog. He currently fishes out of a Jackson Bite FD.