How to Pick a Fish Kayak (by Paul Presson)


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Which Fishing Kayak is Right 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 down to it, base it 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 friend’s kayak and actually see if this is for them. Many stores offer water testing so you can actually try a kayak on-sight. 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 prefer SOTs; they are easy to get in and out of and allow convenient access to equipment.

On a budget? 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 it to the next newbie in line.

At this point the questions and dollar bills really begin to add up. Do you need a rudder, pedal power, attachable sails, or 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 also important; if you can’t move it around by yourself, 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. Putting in is much easier than being on the water for six hours and reloading to go home.

Length is also a consideration, generally the longer the kayak, the faster it is with better the tracking. 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 pedal or paddle? Kayaks with pedals 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 prop or 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. 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 one with comfortable seating as well. 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 living room comfort now. This is not an area where you want to skimp.

If you are considering going the high tech route of built-in trolling motor kayaks, beware you have bumped up in classification and will need to register your kayak just like any other powered vessel. Kayak fishing purists will consider this a hybrid and you will be stuck in limbo somewhere between boater and yakker.

The accessory business has also been booming recently. Primary concerns are the paddle, PFD, seating, anchoring systems, fishing rod holders and tackle storage. Many of the other “goodies” can be bought after the initial purchase. It’s easy to spend as much or more on accessories than you did for the kayak itself.

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!

–By Paul Presson

Staff Post
Staff Post
Paddlers writing about all things paddling.


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