Kayak Fishing Bait Tank

Some days when lures are just not working and you can see fish working bait, live bait may be just the ticket. This can make a slow day change into a very productive day. Don’t get me wrong, I love to use artificials, but the live kind can be the right kind.
There are a lot of different ways to carry bait. Bait buckets and bait tubes (see our How-To HERE) are one way. You hang them in the water next to your kayak.

These are good and inexpensive, but the only work for bait – not as a live well.

The classic kayak bait tank / live well will cost you more money to make or buy, but the return is worth it. A classic kayak bait tank / live well uses a cooler, bucket or container that fits in the tank well of a fishing kayak. it uses a bilge pump to lift the water into the tank and a drain letting the water out creating circulation and keeping the fish alive. Below we have provided a How-To on the classic kayak bait tank / live well.

How to build a Bait Tank!

Click the pictures for a larger view.

1. Measure the tank well in your kayak to know what size of a container to buy. We are using a pet food container found at our local PetsMart.

2. I use a waterproof box for the battery. Drill four holes in the box and container. You should place the container in your kayak and position the battery box at the correct position before drilling any holes. I tap the holes, if you are unable to do this, you can seal them later when you bolt it all together.
Kayak Fishing Bait Tank - Battery BoxKayak Fishing Bait Tank - Container

3. Put a drain system on the bottom. You can do this with a 1″ PVC male fitting.
Cut a hole just a little smaller than the PVC so you have to thread it through and it is tight. Now take a 1″ PVC cap and cut about 1/4″ off. Use the cut off as a jam nut and the rest as a cap for the drain.
DrainDrain Drain

4.Now for the intake.

Cut the top off a 3/4″ female PVC fitting, about 1/4″ off the top.

Drill a tight hole into the container near the top. Screw in the right angle hose fitting in the container using the cut-off PVC as a jam nut. Screw it into the fitting inside the tank.

Using 2′ to 2 1/2′ of 1″ OD x 3/4″ ID hose, clamp it on the intake fitting with a hose clamp. On the other end of the hose clamp is the 360 GPH Bilge Pump. Take the wires of the pump and unroll them. Now twist them together over and over to make them into one long wire. Using 4′ of some bailing wire or fishing line (at least 20lb) push it through the electrical hose that is 2′ to 2 1/2′ long by 5/8″ OD x 1/2″ ID. Tie it to the wires and pull the wire through the hose. Drill a 9/16″ hole in the top side of the battery box, the same side as the inlet fitting. This hole is smaller than the hose so put the wires in the hole and now pinch the hose and push in into the 9/16″ hole at least 2″ into the box.
Battery BoxPump and wiringPump and wiring

I used amalgamating tape to wrap around the exposed wire from the pump to and over the electrical hose to seal. Now zip tie the two hoses together with about 4 ties.

5. A switch that is waterproof is what you need to put on the other top side of the battery box. This hole, that you drill, needs to be tight to make it water tight. Crimp a round connector on one wire, hook it to the switch. Take an inline waterproof fuse holder and cut it’s wire about 1′ from one end. On the short end, crimp a round connector and put it on the other end of the switch. Put a female flat connector onto the other end of the fuse wire. Now you should have one wire from the pump with nothing on it. You will need to put a female connector on this wire. The battery is now ready to hook up.

wiring battery box

6. The outflow is next. I used a drain screen for this. Cut a hole in the tank at the level you want for your live well. Make this hole the same diameter as the ID of the screen. GOOP the screen to the tank.


7. Put some nylon strap material, adjustment/ladder locks and brass clips on each corner to attach the tank to the kayak.

strap materials

8. A handle or two is nice to make it easy to handle and transport.

handle on the tank

I hope this gives you some kind of an idea of how to make a bait tank. This does take some time and thought to make a good kayak bait tank. Just think of it this way – you need power to make water go in the tank, and water needs to go out faster than it comes in. It’s that simple.

I added a second level to my tank so during tournaments the water level can be higher and when using live bait, the water level can be lower.

I used some accessory cord to leash the lid to the tank.

We sell a bait tank that is made out of a Rubbermaid cooler. You can use the steps above to make a tank out of this Rubbermaid cooler, a different container or purchase our tank complete and ready-to-go. Click HERE for more info. We also sell a Bait Tank Kit which has all of the components needed, except the container, battery and charger.

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Chris Payne

A lifelong Texan, Chris Payne has been an outdoor enthusiast his entire life and has spent the last 15 years fishing mainly from a kayak. He is known for his thorough and helpful reviews as well as how to articles for nearly everything kayak fishing related. If you have questions or comments, you can leave them on this post or email Chris at: paynefish@gmail.com

One thought on “Kayak Fishing Bait Tank

  • July 20, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    How much is the ready to go live well system?

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