With the continued popularity of kayak fishing as a whole, I’ve have been noticing an array of different questions floating around lately. I thought that I would take this opportunity to do a Best Fishing Kayak Brief Micro-Post Series on the many things to consider upon joining this wonderful sport. We will talk very novice level information all the way over to technical configuration ideas and present day purchase recommendations. When I sold my little boat and decided to join all of the kayak fishing rage, I have to admit that it was a little overwhelming. I mean, at first thought, yeah it’s just a kayak. However, when you really get into the purchasing phase there is quite a bit to consider. Hindsight is 20/20 and like most things, looking back, I could have saved my self a great deal of time, trouble, and headache with a little more know how. That being said, here are a few of the things that I wish I could have told myself four years ago….
When considering the best fishing kayak for you and your family, Type is extremely important. Is this for only fishing or recreational use as well? Will your significant other, child, dog, or friend be joining you? Will this be used in a lake, river, ocean, or all of the above? Will you have help with transportation in and out of the water and/or car?
Single or Tandem
These are the types of questions that you will want to ask yourself right off the bat. Before considering price range or dreams of landing monsters, this stage is absolutely crucial to your kayak fishing sanity. My first piece of advice would be to steer clear of the tandem. I repeat, DON’T DO IT. She may seem like a wily temptress with her accommodating and “couples friendly” appeal, but it is a farce my friends. These things are slow, heavy, and generally useless. It pretty much does nothing well, but sit like a rock. I’ll add that it also takes just a couple rounds of hitting your wife in the back of the head while attempting to synchronize paddle strokes before you’re sleeping on the air mattress. Even if you have to save money for another few months, stick with two single kayaks and you will find much more enjoyment.
SIK or SOT
Okay so now that you’ve decided on a one-person kayak (or at least we hope so), you need to choose between a Sit in Kayak (SIT) or Sit on Top (SOT). The SIK is what probably comes to mind when traditionally thinking of a kayak. This type is heavily used for touring, recreation, and offers protection from the elements. On the other side of the spectrum we have the SOT. The SOT is heavily responsible for the emergence of kayak fishing as a sport. You might not know that back in the 1980’s angler’s used to actually paddle out past the break on surfboards to chase fish. The lack of gear space and general instability is what led to the SOT surfacing as an improved replacement. Although I am partial to the SOT, for the easy transition to grass flats wading, personal preference is going to be the ultimate factor here.
Recreational or Fishing
Once you pick the particular style, you will have the option of getting an actual fishing kayak (built for that one purpose) or a recreational kayak used for fishing. Price and overall use are most likely going to heavily way in this decision phase. Generally, recreational kayaks will run a bit on the cheaper side (fiscally) and have features that will be more conducive for toting a child or dog around on non fishing days. Keep in mind that what you gain in price cuts and broad function, you will lose in fishing congruency. You can absolutely have a great time fishing in a recreational kayak, but will just need to be more creative when it comes to tie downs, storage, etc (rigging will be covered later in the series). Now those of you that choose to go straight into the fishing kayak, will access many convenient features that even further enhance the experience. Built in rod holders, cooler ties downs, and configuration options are just a few of the things that are really nice to have when traveling to the water. Some people will love the fun creative aspect to homemade rigging, but others may want to purchase these amenities. Going with an angling kayak (even used) may not be a bad idea, no matter your plans, as leisure and fishing can both be easily accomplished.
Next we recommend that you consider your desired fishing environment. Are you just going to putt around in the local neighborhood lake, drift down the river canal, or paddle straight out into the ocean break? Maybe you want to do all three. You’ll really want to look for the appropriate fit when it comes to length. Most kayaks generally range from about 10-15 ft. The longer the vessel, the more stable. Besides the obvious benefits for fishing that would accompany stability, a 13-15 ft. kayak would also prove much smoother in moving water. Moreover, if you’re anything like me and constantly hopping from honey hole to honey hole, you will be able to cover much more ground in a shorter period of time. If I had to find one negative for the longer kayak, it would be the bulkiness. We will cover transportation options later in the series, but generally you will want to assess your ability to load and carry.
Finally we’ll talk hull design. This would be the other factor, besides length, to consider with your target fishing environment. In this respect you will be looking at the following three designs. Again, preference and function will be the deciding factor.
- Flat: Very stable in flat type of conditions
- Rounded: Increased speed with low resistance
- V-shaped: Least initial stability but offers better secondary stability and strong paddling tracking.
Well in conclusion, I hope that post #1 in the Best Fishing Kayak-Beginner Guide Series will prove helpful to you in the early stages of your search. Please look out for #2 in the series: Which Seat. Add to the conversation: comment below and tell us what else you experienced kayakers considered when it came to type?(photocred:fishthebaja.com)