“Spring” into a New Fishing Kayak

“Spring” into a New Fishing Kayak
Spring time is here! Usually, come April, we have enough tide to put water back in the marshes and I can get back into my skinny water routine. I went through another winter season without a trophy trout, though a few readers have had good luck as you will see in this month's photos. Speaking of readers, I have been getting a good many emails inquiring about kayak selection and recommendations. For this month I am going to lay out some considerations of my own that pertain to buying your first or perhaps your next kayak.

Before we look at anything in particular let me lay out a foundational principle that applies to any part of your selection. That principle is; "Does it fit your purpose the best?" Lets first take a look at the kayak itself.

What is your primary purpose with a kayak? Are you fishing? Racing? Planning, maybe, some whitewater adventure?

If you are reading this article my guess is you are fishing or considering it so let's move forward with that train of thought. Kayaks are by and large broken down into two categories; sit-on-top and sit-inside. I am not going to get into SUPs, hybrids or canoes.

It is my observation that sit-on-tops are the hands-down favorite and majority sales leader in fish-ability and rig-ability, as far as fishing craft are concerned. Sit-inside paddle boats excel in other areasespecially whitewater and racing. Okso we've got the basic hull style narrowed down to a sit-on-top for a fishing boat.

Next; what about hull length? In general, my advice on length is get the longest kayak you can haul and store. Assuming most of you are going to be favoring saltwater fishing, you will be best suited by a longer kayak. For small ponds, creeks and rivers, maybe a shorter kayak will suit your purpose. Kayaks only look long when they are standing on end or laying across your garage floor. Think about it, when you sit in it, you only see the front half, so it really seems a lot smaller.

My primary kayak is a 16-footer and I am really glad I didn't opt for a shorter one. Longer kayaks tend to be faster, more stable, have better tracking characteristics, more storage, etc.

Alright; so now we know we want a sit-on-top kayak and you have picked a length that best suits your purpose. Which brand should you get? To be honest, this comes down to personal preferencereminiscent of the old Chevy, Ford, Dodge, Toyota question.

I would say focus on Hobie, Ocean, Wilderness, Native, and Jackson. Those are all quality brands and will have what you need in their line up. As a side note, some of the options within these brands have peddling systems, or trolling motor attachments. While these features might seem attractive do take into account, the limitations they bring can actually become highly limiting if shallow saltwater is your primary fishing pursuit.

Great for navigating deeper water, peddle and motor power systems will increase your boat's draft, which will prevent you from accessing super-skinny fishing grounds, which is one the greatest aspects of the coastal fishing experience. Sure, you can detach these accessories on the fly, but my point is don't expect to leisurely peddle or motor around in four inches of water, or even nine- to ten inches.

Let's move on now to accessories. Fishing accessories will not be my focus here, but there are three main accessory items that everyone should pay attention to when planning to outfit a new boatpaddle, seat, and rudder.

My opinion; the paddle is the most important of all accessories, don't be a cheapskate. Your kayak will come with a seat (though not always a great one) and it will sometimes come with a rudder, but none come with a paddle. For selecting a paddle, I will say it like this, "If you are not prepared to spend $300+ on a paddle, then you aren't ready to buy a fishing kayak."

That is perhaps a slight exaggeration but it has truth behind it. Think about this, when kayaking, how many times do you stroke the water? Hundreds, even thousands. Each paddle stroke is like doing a rep in the gym. A light paddle (generally more expensive) will make your trip more fun and less work. My first paddle was a decent $100 dollar model. A few months later I upgraded to a $400 paddle and it was worth every penny.
When buying a paddle don't just buy a random length or fin style. Ask an outfitter for help. Get a paddle that fits you and your kayak and your paddling style.

Moving on to seat selection, the goal here is comfort. For short trips you can get by with the stock seat on just about any kayak. However, if you are going to make long trips you should really consider a seat upgrade. I would find myself getting very uncomfortable on trips with my stock seat so I upgraded to one with superior back support and it has made all the difference. Test-sit different seats and find the one that you like the best.

Finally, lets look at rudders. Rudders provide comfort and efficiency in their own way in that you have much more control over the kayak and don't have to use lopsided paddling strokes to keep the boat tracking straight. I used to kayak without one and similarly to my upgrade in my paddle, upgrading to a rudder was worth every penny.

I hope I have given some useful insight to anyone who is looking to break into the kayak fishing world. If I didn't answer a specific question you might have, please email me. Don't forget to send me your kayak fishing pictures and stories.

Until next time.