Which Fishing Kayak Is For You?
Such a selection and so many questions. Fishing kayaks have come a long way, the market is flooded with new innovations and better designs. Shopping for a “first timer” can be expensive and confusing. When it comes right down to it, what you decide to purchase should be based on your needs and personal preferences.
One of the first things and angler needs to do before making an expensive purchase is to try a friends kayak and actually see if this is for them. Many stores offer water testing so you can actually try a kayak on-sight. So, there are many basic things to consider: Weight capacity is first and foremost, safety is paramount and no one should get a kayak that does not fit their body type. The next thing to consider is the style of kayak, sit-in or sit-on-top. Again, this is a personal preference. Most anglers in Florida own SOT's, they are easy to get in and out of and allow convenient access to equipment.
A smart buyer should consider purchasing a used kayak, many are pre rigged and there are some great deals to be had. There is nothing wrong with having a kayak with a few scratches and some good fishing Mojo already in place. This will give you a good idea of what to look for when you are ready to get that new kayak. You will also have the pleasure of selling your “baby” to the next “newbie” wanting to live the life.
At this point the questions and dollar bills really begin to add up. Do you need a rudder, pedal power, attachable sails, built-in trolling motor, what should the kayak be made out of, the list goes on and on. Many of these questions can be answered by just asking yourself three things, how much can I spend, what type of fishing do I like, and how am I going to use this vessel.
The composition of a kayak is a key factor. Plastic is generally the most used material for fishing kayaks. It can take a beating and be patched or repaired fairly easy. Fiberglass or composite kayaks, used primarily for touring are very appealing to the eye, but can be much easier to damage and repair can be very difficult.
The weight of the kayak is so important, if you can't move it around by yourself, guess what, you can't fish by yourself. It must be a weight that you can lift to and from your vehicle and/or trailer without killing yourself. Always remember, “putting in” is much easier than being on the water for six hours and reloading to go home. The length is also a consideration, generally the longer the kayak, the faster it is with better the tracking (going straight while paddling) A shorter, wider kayak provides better stability and a tighter turning radius.. A long kayak works great in the open water, but if you prefer “backwater” fishing a shorter kayak maybe more your style.
Now, do you want to peddle or paddle? Kayaks with peddles make for a hands free fishing platform. The downside is that these have more moving parts, more things that can break and be damaged. An angler has to be more cognizant of their surroundings, so they do not hit the bottom with the fins. If you like fishing oyster beds in skinny water, this may not be the way to go. Paddles on the other hand can get in your way while fishing, this is when you wish you had another hand or so to keep it all together. Rudders provide assistance in tracking and steering, again something else that can break or be damaged by skinny water. For offshore kayak anglers, rudders may be an ideal setup.
Purchasing a kayak that provides comfortable seating must not be overlooked. A bad seating system can make all the difference in your fishing. One case of “kayak back” can shorten or ruin a great fishing trip. Kayak seats have evolved immeasurably in the last few years and many equate to a living room “lazy-boy” now. This is not an area where you want to scrimp on money.
If you are considering going the “high tech” route of built in trolling motor kayaks. Be aware, you have bumped up in classification and will need to register your kayak just like any other powered vessel. Kayak fishing purist will consider this a hybrid and you will be stuck in limbo somewhere between boater and yakker.
The accessory business has been booming recently. Primary concerns are the paddle, PFD (personal safety device) seating, anchoring systems, fishing rod holders and tackle storage. Many of the other “goodies” can be bought after the initial purchase. It is very easy to spend as much or more on accessories than you did for the kayak itself.. This is all incumbent on your needs and how many toys you want.
Kayak fishing is a great way to stay stealth, enjoy your passion and get exercise. If you ask a group of 20 avid kayak anglers what their favorite kayaks are, there is more than a possibility that you will get 20 different answers. For many of us, buying a new kayak is a very expensive venture and can change your life. Take your time, try as many kayaks as possible, and do your homework. Have fun on the water and catch plenty of fish!
Published in Paddling Life Magazine December 2016