Some thoughts on SINKs

Some thoughts on SINKs
The explosion of kayak fishing in Texas came about with the introduction of the sit-on-top (SOT) kayak. This style of craft is by far the favorite of coastal kayak anglers and with good reason. A SOT affords the ability to enter and exit the boat with ease. You also have the ability to move about rather freely in the unrestricted cockpit. There's a list of positives for the SOT kayak, but that isn't what this article is all about. This month I'm going to discuss the SINK. Now "sink" and "boating" do not fit well together, but in this case it's OK. A sit-inside kayak is often referred to as a SINK, although purists would prefer the term "decked boat."

Prior to the introduction of the SOT, the SINK ruled, and in certain parts of the country they still do. The reason our northern counterparts prefer their SINKs is the colder air and water temperatures they face year round. As most of you might already know, staying completely dry in a SOT is next to impossible. There are some models drier than others, but let's face it, we're sitting inches above the surface, dealing with wind, waves, and splashing fish. In the winter this situation requires waders and rain jackets to stay warm and dry. Not that this is a particularly bad thing, but the SINK offers options for staying dry while fishing in cold weather.

The first image of a SINK that comes to mind for many would be some guy rolling over and flipping himself back upright with a tricky paddle stroke. While it is fun to learn, Eskimo rolls aren't something we strive for in kayak fishing. An unplanned rollover while kayak fishing will result in a floating garage sale of equipment, dunked reels, and other unpleasant things. The only exception I can think of is a friend who goes by the nickname "Pogo." Kurt is an accomplished kayaker who paddles beautiful handmade wooden boats and delights in shocking his fishing buddies by occasionally taking a spin to cool off on a hot day. I'm guessing he has to strip-clean his reels after every trip.

All SINKs have several traits in common. As the name implies, you'll be sitting down inside the boat's cockpit. Inside the cockpit you'll find a built-in seat and adjustable foot rests. The higher priced models will have seats that are fully adjustable and extremely comfortable while a budget model may only have a plastic seat pan. Most will also have bulkheads to create dry storage areas in the stern and sometimes in the bow. These compartments can be accessed through deck hatches. An added bonus of these compartments is the flotation they provide should your cockpit become swamped.

While the majority of SINKs share the above traits, they fall into basic categories; recreational, recreational/touring, and full touring. Touring SINKs are long and narrow, usually between sixteen and eighteen feet. They are designed for speed more than stability and require greater paddling proficiency to maintain an upright orientation. A touring kayak is not well suited for fishing. It is simply too tippy to serve as a fishing platform. They are ideal for multi-day camping/fishing trips where you use the kayak to transport gear to base camp and then spend your fishing time wading. Actually, that might be an excellent topic for a future article.

A rec/touring SINK is designed more for day use and light overnight camping. As the name suggests, it is a compromise between a full touring design and a recreational boat. These boats fall into the twelve to sixteen foot range. They are somewhat wider and more stable than full touring boats. The Wilderness Systems Tsunami is a good example of the rec/touring kayak. I've fished from the fourteen foot Tsunami several times and feel perfectly secure doing so. The biggest advantage of this boat is the ease of paddling long distances. Most any boat in this category will outrun any of the fishing style SOTs. The downside is the somewhat restrictive cockpit but that can be overcome with planning. If you plan on crossing open water and paddling extended distances you might want to consider this style of kayak.

The best SINKs for fishing are found in the recreational category. These are usually between ten and fourteen feet with large open cockpits. This eases the fear some people have of becoming trapped in the boat should it overturn. In fact, the cockpit openings are so large that even a skilled kayaker would be hard-pressed to stay in the boat long enough to complete an Eskimo roll. If you should happen to overturn a rec SINK, something that is pretty hard to do, you'll simply fall out of the cockpit. The reason I say you are unlikely to flip is due to the extra width and stability designed into them. While a touring kayak may only be twenty-one inches at its widest, a recreational model will be around twenty-eight inches. Twenty-eight inches is not considered all that wide for a super-stable SOT, but a SINK affords a much lower center of gravity. The additional width also allows you to move around and get comfortable while seated which comes in handy during a long day of fishing. An additional advantage of the added room is gear storage. You can keep an amazing amount of fishing gear, drinks, and snacks within easy reach.

Most anglers who paddle SINKs leave the cockpit open, but on cold and windy days you might want to add a spray skirt to your rig. Spray skirts come in a variety of materials from lightweight water-resistant nylon to fully waterproof insulating neoprene. The type of skirt you choose depends on what you intend to accomplish. Generally speaking, a rather loose-fitting lightweight skirt intended to keep splashing water from finding its way into your lap is all you'll need. For extremely cold weather or rough conditions you might want to obtain a tighter fitting fully waterproof skirt. This style skirt not only keeps you dry, it will also trap body heat inside the cockpit. Add a dry top to the waterproof skirt and you'll remain surprisingly comfortable in the worst conditions. Fly fishermen get an added bonus when skirting their cockpit. The smooth material stretched across the opening acts as the perfect stripping basket.

Other than choosing a skirt, outfitting your SINK for fishing is quite similar to rigging a SOT. Add a couple of rod holders, mount a GPS or fishfinder if you choose, and maybe a cleat or two for securing an anchor line. As with my SOTs, I prefer to mount my accessories behind me while keeping the front deck clear. One thing to keep in mind is the accessibility of your gear. If you are accustomed to keeping everything in the open tankwell of your SOT, you'll need to plan ahead. It is rather difficult to access the storage compartments from the cockpit while on the water. Be sure to put those things you need within easy reach unless you'll be in an area that allows you to exit your kayak when necessary. An item you will want to keep within easy reach is a large sponge for removing water that might splash into the cockpit. A handheld bilge pump is also a good idea should you find yourself needing to remove a large amount of water. They are cheap and easy to use.

While I tend to use a SINK only for cold weather fishing, there is nothing wrong with paddling one year-round. I have several friends who simply prefer fishing from a SINK. They feel the advantage of staying dry and comfortable outweighs the open and exposed cockpit of the SOT.

One final note. Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about tandem kayaks for fishing. Two adults sitting four feet apart with seven foot rods chunking lures festooned with treble hooks is just asking for trouble. The exception would be when taking a kid fishing. There are several great models of tandem sit-insides that fall into the recreational category. These are wide open boats, quite similar to canoes, but more stable and easier to paddle. Having your young child within easy reach in the front seat allows you to work with them on their fishing skills. I can't think of a better way to put a youngster on a pile of tailing reds than quietly paddling them into position for an easy cast.

Note: This is a slightly edited version of one Scott's earlier pieces. Given the continued growth of kayak fishing; it seems appropriate to present it again for the benefit of folks just recently introduced to the sport. - Editor