How to choose your first fishing kayak

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Ocean kayak Big Game loaded

Being haunted by idea to start kayak fishing for months and not being able to let that thought go away probably means it is time to buy your first fishing kayak.

Once you get introduced to this beautiful sport there is no way back. Freedom and a chance to be one with the nature, having a close contact with the water opens the whole new fishing experience. Gliding stealthy and becoming aware of every sound of nature and every movement turns familiar places into new found adventures. Should I even mention the fact that there are no more unreachable spots, spots you were not able to reach from the shore before?

WHAT KAYAK TYPE TO USE FOR FISHING?

Before spending your hard earned money on fishing kayak and a gear there are some things to consider. I will share my experience which might help you to select right one that will suit your needs.

Kayak Types:

We differ 2 types of kayaks; Sit On Top kayaks and Sit-in kayaks

 

Sit On Top

Usually this is the type of kayak what most anglers prefer and the industry has a focus on. Upgrades, new technologies and innovative solutions are built into this kayak types regularly.

Fishing kayak
Sit On-Top kayak

Besides providing an easy access to a gear and offering unlimited rigging options, pedal and motor drive options, sit on top kayaks are more stable and virtually unsinkable.

It is easy to get in or to get out of the sit on top kayak even if capsized. Higher sitting position also gives an edge when sight fishing and a comfort of course, especially with todays modern ergonomically seats. Without a doubt sit on top kayak is a first choice for kayak fishing. Downside, when comparing with sit-in kayaks is speed and maneuverability.

 

Sit-In kayaks

 

Sit-In kayak
Sit-In kayak

While being Ok on the small water and calm lakes, fact that in case of capsizing sit-in kayak is filled with water and can sink much more easily I don’t recommend using sit in kayaks for off shore adventures.

If you flip over it’s not as easy to get in or out of the kayak and requires a special technique to flip back, which is probably something that most won’t be able to do.

Advantage of sit in kayak is better speed and tracking at the cost of stability. Another plus is a lighter weight, which means a lot when you go on a quick fishing trip and don’t have help loading and unloading a kayak on a roof rack.

  Sit-in kayak Sit-on top kayak
PROS Speed Stability
Maneuverability Rigging posibility
Weight Propulsion options
Hight seating position
Unsinkable (safety)
 
CONS Rigging and accessibility Not as fast and and maneuverable
stability weight
sinkable
Low sitting position
Lack of propulsion solution and tech solutions

 

Weight of the kayak as a really important factor for me

Weight itself is a really big factor for me. I use old Ocean Kayak Big Game Prowler for example, and although it misses gear rail tracks, high ergonomic dry seat and some other cool features its weight allows me to load and unload it by myself and not being dependant on other people and having a problem of finding a help when packing home.

I sure miss high seat, mount rails and other stuff now regularly equipped with new kayaks, but having lighter kayak gives me more hours on the water and more freedom.

There are new kayaks almost fully loaded with features while still light enough, so give more attention to weight instead focusing on one cool feature that a specific kayaks has if you can live without it and don’t really need a big fishing platform if fishing local ponds and small lakes.

 

On what types of water will you be using your kayak?

 

To help you decide between different brands and models you also have to consider where you will fish mostly.

If local ponds, small lakes and rivers are water types you will fish most of the time than a shorter 10-11 feet long (up to 4m) and wider, more stable kayak might be the best option.

Since you won’t be covering big distances, lighter, more stable kayak on which you can also stand while fishing and is easier to maneuver might be the best choice.

Fishing on a small water doesn’t require best possible tracking and speed possibilities that longer kayaks provide and lighter weight sure means you will be likely spending more time using it and fishing, even on short trips where you wouldn’t consider hustling with a big kayak.

kayak fishing
Kayak fishing on a local lake

 

On the other hand, for fishing saltwater and bigger lakes  longer and narrower kayak is the way to go. Longer and narrower kayak means better tracking and speed. Have in mind that with less width you sacrifice some stability, but in situation where you have to cover a lot of water and paddle long distances on the open water to come to your fishing spot this sacrifice is well worth taking.

After all, sit on top kayaks are really stable, so with experience and being used to fishing from kayak feeling of instability will diminish and the need for speed will overcome initial need for additional stability.

Hull Shapes

Hull shape also determents stability. Wider kayak doesn’t necessarily mean more stability offshore.

Kayak made for offshore fishing might feel less stable when sitting flat (this is called primary stability) because of its hull design, but at the same time has better secondary stability which is more important on a rough water and situations offshore.

Secondary stability is how much leaning on a side can kayak handle before it flips over. Kayak can take much more beating and being thrown around when paddling on a rough sea and windy day if it has better secondary stability, so doesn’t let width of the kayak worries you.

Anyhow with today’s 3-hull designs which are a mixture of different hull types built into single kayak there are no rules written in stone how kayak will perform. It is best to have a test ride before deciding which kayak to buy.

 

Load capacity, storage space and rigging

 

Before buying a kayak also pay attention to:

  • maximum load capacity
  • Storage space
  • Transport of your kayak
  • Rigging possibilities
  • Storage space

 

Maximum load capacity

Last but not least important when deciding which kayak to buy is to consider its maximum loading capacity. It all depends on your weight plus the weight of all the gear you plan to have on your kayak fishing trips.

Storage space

Another thing is a storage space on your kayak. Big storage space behind the seat is a must for me as I always have my tackle box and portable fridge behind. Maybe you also need a live well, anchor storage etc… Hatch size is also important if you plan to load tent, sleeping bag or spare rods and a paddle.

Ocean kayak Big Game fishing kayak
Ocean kayak Big Game loaded

 

Rigging possibilities

Depending on your gear check the rigging possibilities of your kayak. Does it have pre mounted rod holders or mounting rails that makes install of any add-on easy? If you plan to have a fishfinder check if there is a transducer mount solution built into kayak. Lack of rod holders, mounting plates or rails means a lot of improvisation and drilling holes in your new kayak, which is something many people hate, including myself.

Transport of your kayak

You will have to transport your kayak, either using roof racks or a trailer, so have that in mind. Length of the kayak might also be limited by the length of the car or a trailer. Way of transport may also influence positioning of your kayak mounts. If you have to transport your kayak upside down on a roof rack be careful where you install add-ons. Storage space during off-season and cold days is another thing which might be limiting factor of your kayaks length.

 

Although everything said here might seem complicated to a first time kayak buyer it really isn’t. After all, whatever you end up buying you can’t go that wrong and it will serve you for few years.

If you have a chance of buying used kayak cheap, even if it’s not the one you want, it might be worth buying it. When you get familiar with your needs and fishing style you will still have enough money to buy a kayak tailored specifically to your needs.

Tight lines.

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After falling in love in fishing as a young boy I never looked back. I am grateful to my grandfather for embedding the love and passion for fishing and nature into my life and for all the hours and patience spent fishing with me. The older I get the more I realize how valuable gift that was. Thank You!! My passion for fishing, sports, movement, nature and people led me to become a fitness trainer and to dive deeper into science of human movement, nutrition and health. After getting a long lusted fishing kayak which I was dreaming about for years a whole new world and horizons opened. With a kayak my fishing got a new meaning and is getting to a new higher level. Kayak fishing perfectly conjoined my passion for fishing, movement and exploring, making my bonds with nature and appreciating life beauty to become even more intense. I am looking forward to this journey, and as a father of two I hope I will transfer at least a piece of my love for fishing and nature preservation to them.

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