DIY Livewell

DIY Livewell | Making a DIY Livewell for My Kayak

So I recently dove head over heels into kayak fishing. You can read all about my first month in a kayak here. I’m loving it so far. I think partly because it’s so new to me, but also because it’s relatively new overall in the bass fishing world and definitely growing at an incredible pace. The appealing thing about that to me is the rate at which kayak bass fishing is evolving. There are new products and innovations coming to the market daily it seems as more and more kayak anglers’ needs are identified. For me personally, that’s very exciting. I love to tinker, customize and create, so the kayak realm is tying that passion in with my love for fishing. One innovation I’m working on is a DIY Livewell system for the back of my kayak. 

My first attempt can be seen in a video where I won a bass boat tournament out of a borrowed Bonafide SS127. It worked really well in that it kept all my fish alive but there were also a couple glaring issues that made it impractical for long term use. 

One such issue was that I had to fill the well with water before starting my trip. That wasn’t a big deal on the night I won but another night I fished a tournament out of the kayak without a bite. Hauling around 96-pounds of water for absolutely no reason for 4-hours was a real pain. 

DIY Livewell(1)

So my 2.0 version needed to have a pump-in aerator I was able to control with a switch whenever I caught my first fish. 

The second issue I identified was the treachery of trying to put a fish in my DIY Livewell without another fish escaping when I opened the lid. This was something I didn’t foresee and it made for some really terrifying moments after each catch. Luckily, that night I didn’t have to cull because I only caught 5 keepers. But had I needed to cull, it would have been dang near impossible.

DIY Livewell: Solving the Issues

I considered installing a sliding lid but the easiest, cheapest and most effective solution for that problem was to add a net around the top of the Livewell. Now when I open the lid, there is no way for the fish to jump out. I used velcro and a mesh bag that came with some flippers my dad bought my nieces for the pool. You can find that type of material everywhere now. 

DIY Livewell(2)

I installed the netting in two pieces so that I could slip the fish through the overlapping gap. 

Using no-puncture cull balls, culling the fish will now be safe and easy. 

DIY Livewell: Wiring

The power source on my boat is a YOLOtek PowerStation. Since it has a max load of 3 amps, I needed to find an aerator that wouldn’t exceed that. The smallest I was able to find locally had a 5-amp pull but I was able to find a 450 GPH Attwood pump online that only uses 3 amps. 

DIY Livewell(3)

Wiring the pump to my PowerStation was easy using one of the three connectors provided by YOLOtek. 

DIY Livewell(4)

I simply crimped two connectors onto the positive and negative wires and then connected the pump to the PowerStation.

DIY Livewell: Plumbing

I drilled a hole in the side of the cooler as high as I could to pump water in. I used a 3/4 inch hose kit to go through the wall of the cooler and down to my pump. 

DIY Livewell(5)

Fortunately for me, the pump intake fits perfectly into one of the scupper holes in the tank well of the Bonafide SS127 I’m currently using. 

But one thing to keep in mind if you plan to rig a Livewell like this yourself: the pump needs to be mounted below the water level. That’s not to say the pump needs to be submerged in water, it just needs to be lower than the water line on the outside of your boat. For me, dropping it in the scupper hole is perfect. But until I am actually in the boat and weight it down, the pump won’t prime.

If your boat doesn’t have scupper holes, you can attach the pump to the side in any number of ways so that you don’t have to drill a hole in the boat. Also, be sure to put some kind of screen over the intake of the pump. I just used some of the leftover mesh netting that I used earlier to prevent the fish from escaping.

I also installed an overflow using another 3/4 inch hose kit in the hopes that I could just turn the aerator on and let it pump continuously. Unfortunately, however, when testing I found that the overflow couldn’t keep up with the pump so water flowed through the edges of the lid. 

After thinking more about it, I decided that it wouldn’t be smart to let the aerator run continuously anyway. I do let the aerator in my fiberglass boat run continuously, but my motor also recharges that battery when I run around. If I did the same in my kayak, it would likely drain my PowerStation before the day’s end. 

In order to still have aeration without using the aerator connected to the PowerStation, I velcroed two D-battery powered bubble makers to the side of my Livewell. I used these on my first version and they worked really well. One might be sufficient but two give me peace of mind in a situation where one might fail. 

I have fished one small 4-hour pot tournament with this exact setup already and it worked really well. I was very pleased. I caught a fish within the first 10-minutes, slipped it through the netting and into the dry Livewell, reached behind my seat to turn on the pump using my PowerStation, filled the livewell within about a minute and turned the pump off. Then turned both bubble makers on and then proceeded to catch 4 more fish in about an hour and a half. The Livewell kept my small limit alive for the next two hours and I inevitably finished 2nd out of 7 boats and all of my fish swam off great. 

I’m excited to get a big fish into my DIY Livewell but I’m confident the results will be similar. The cavity of the cooler I used is about 24-inches long and it would take about an 8-pounder to stretch the length of it. It also holds 12-gallons of water which isn’t far from the 13-to-15-gallon norms of a fiberglass boat’s Livewell. 

So there you have it. Let me know if you build one yourself and find any alterations that work better for you. You can reach me on Instagram.


This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

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Shaye Baker

ABOUT Shaye

Shaye Baker started fishing with his dad in Alabama as soon as they could find a life jacket small enough to fit him. Competing with his father in local tournaments, Shaye quickly found a hunger for competitive bass fishing. He furthered his fishing career at Auburn University helping to establish the Auburn University Bass Fishing Club. While at Auburn, Shaye served as the President of the club and qualified to fish on the traveling team amassing six Top 5 finishes including two 3rd place finishes in consecutive FLW College Fishing National Championships. While beginning to dabble in the world of outdoor journalism, Shaye continued to fish semi-pro events finishing in the Top 5 in the Bassmaster Opens, FLW Costa Series and BFLs. Finding himself at a crossroads, Shaye chose to put down the rod and pick up the pen and camera to focus on his career in outdoor journalism. Shaye has had work featured in Bassmaster Magazine, FLW Outdoors Magazine, B.A.S.S.Times and the Japanese bass fishing magazine Basser. Shaye has also had work featured on ESPN and Wired2Fish.com, FLWfishing.com and Bassmaster.com. While working with B.A.S.S., Shaye initiated and spearheaded their GoPro division which brought more video coverage to the fans than had ever been done before in competitive fishing. After his tenure with some of the best companies in the business, Shaye identified a need for competitive fishing where participation didn’t cost a fortune. By founding UPLOADED, the Online Fishing Series, Shaye established a free tournament series where anglers could film their fish catches and upload their videos to compete against other anglers for prizes.

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