Kayak Fishing Part 2 - Choosing a Kayak

Kayak header image
  1. Part 1: Intro to Kayak Fishing
  2. Part 2: Choosing a Kayak
  3. Part 3: Outfitting Your Kayak
  4. Part 4: Transporting a Kayak
  5. Part 5: Kayak Storage
  6. Part 6: Going Fishing

What Type of Kayak Should I Buy?

There are two basic types of kayaks available; sit-on-top kayaks and sit-inside kayaks. Sit-on-top kayaks have a closed upper deck with a seat built into or strapped onto the upper surface. Most will have scupper holes that allow any water which gets inside the cockpit or cargo areas to drain out. Sit inside kayaks have a cockpit in which the user sits. Kayaks intended for fishing and generally poking about will tend to be fairly wide and stable with room for some gear.

Another important distinction is between solo (single person) kayaks and tandem kayaks. If you're planning to paddle by yourself then your choice is obvious. If you want the option to take someone else with you and think you will be doing so regularly then it might be worth looking at tandem kayaks or possibly a canoe. In general, tandem kayaks are lousy single person boats. There are some exceptions to this rule so, if you're willing to sacrifice some performance to have the ability to paddle with someone else, a tandem would be worth a look.

If you’re planning to head to the salt with your kayak or to one of the larger lakes or rivers then a sit-on-top kayak will probably be your best choice. These kayaks are self draining (any water that comes in goes right out through the scupper holes) and virtually unsinkable. They are easier to get in and out of, especially while in the water, than a sit-inside boat. They have ample deck area for mounting extra rod holders, anchor trolleys and other accessories that will make your life much easier

Sit inside kayaks make excellent boats especially for inland ponds and lakes, streams and protected coastal areas. They are usually lighter in weight and less expensive than sit-on-top boats. The sit-inside kayaks we use for fishing are very different from the traditional touring boats. They are shorter and wider, which gives them more maneuverability and stability, and have a larger cockpit to allow you to enter and exit easily. If you’re looking for something to throw over your shoulder and toss in the lake for a couple hours then it will be hard to beat a small sit-inside boat.

What do I look for in a kayak?

The first things to look for in a boat are size and overall quality. Make sure you get a boat that will float you easily and not be too much to handle. People of average size and weight will be able to paddle a wide variety of boats. Those who are particularly small or heavy will have to be a little more careful to find a boat that fits their body. There are definite differences in the quality of boats. The major brands that you have probably already heard about will be built solidly. The hull should look clean, the seams smooth, and the rigging well done. If there is anything that bothers you ask about it before you buy the boat.

Your kayak should be comfortable to sit in and paddle. An uncomfortable seat has probably ruined more relaxing trips on the water than rain, wind and insects combined. If your kayak doesn’t have a comfortable seat get one as soon as possible! This will greatly add to your enjoyment. There are a number of companies making aftermarket seats that can be installed in most kayaks with minimal rigging.

Your kayak should be very stable, as well as responsive and easy to handle. Most kayaks that are advertised as fishing kayaks are relatively stable, but some more so than others. You should be able to sit in any fishing kayak without worrying about falling out or tipping over. Some, however, are stable enough thay you can stand up and pole your way across a flat, which will give you a huge advantage over the guy beside you who is stuck on his backside. A fishing kayak is not going to be as fast as a longer, narrower touring boat, but it will be quicker and easier to turn, and a whole lot easier to cast and fight fish out of.

You will catch more fish if you paddle a quiet boat. Within your first few minutes on the water you will know if your boat is quiet or not. A boat with an upswept bow will ride up and over waves nicely but it will probably also have horrible hull slap. Even small ripples, if they hit your hull wrong, can make a serious racket and send the fish running for deep water. A boat with a harder entry that cuts through the water rather than rides over it will be much quieter. Before you buy a boat ask the salesperson or someone you know who has paddled that boat or one similar how quiet it is.

Make sure your kayak has enough storage for what you want to bring with you. Most sit on top fishing kayaks will have a tankwell behind the seat that will hold a 5 gallon bucket or a milk crate very nicely. Most also have a hatch in front where you can put things you will not need to access regularly.

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