Featured Image Credit: Scott Beutjer Fishing
Selecting the right fishing kayak is a big decision and can be really intimidating. As kayaks continue to gain popularity, there have never been more options to choose from. If you’ve been looking at kayaks for long, you know that there are all kinds of videos and reviews out there showing how certain kayaks perform, but how do you know what you’ll like?
Looks and brand are definitely important but they aren’t everything. Here are some things to know and consider when finding the right fishing kayak for you.
Fishing Kayak Selection: Anatomy of a Fishing Kayak
Fishing Kayak Selection: The Hull
The very basic element to consider when looking at kayaks is how it’s constructed. Most fishing kayaks are rotomolded which means the hull is one piece made from a mold. There are also Thermoformed kayaks which are two pieces that are plastic welded together. Rotomolded kayaks tend to be heavier but more durable over time. Thermoformed are lighter and typically cheaper.
One of the biggest differences between the two, is the rigidity of the hull. Rotomolded kayaks typically don’t have any give and are much more rigid. Thermoformed do not typically have the same rigidity which makes things like standing up a bit more challenging.
The width of a hull can make a major difference in how your kayak performs.
If you want a kayak that’s easier to paddle and faster in the water, you’ll want to look for a kayak with a thinner, more streamlined hull. For those looking for more stability, a wider hull is what you’ll want. With many fishing kayaks being designed for anglers to stand and fish, it’s not uncommon to see hulls upwards of 36 inches wide. These kayaks will be slower in the water but offer superior stability as a fishing platform. If you fish moving waters like rivers, you will want to consider avoiding wider kayaks as they are not always as maneuverable or as responsive.
Fishing Kayak Selection: Keel, Skeg, and Pedals
One element of a kayak that plays a major role in maneuverability and responsiveness is the keel. A skeg is located on the bottom side of a kayak hull towards the stern. In most kayaks, this is a rigid part of the kayak that helps keep the kayak straight and provides additional strength for the hull. Some kayaks come with rudders that work alongside a keel to allow a kayak to turn by using your feet rather than a paddle. In the case of a pedal kayak, steering is controlled by a handle rather than your feet. Not all kayaks come with rudders but they are an essential component for fishing in the wind and maintaining position while fishing.
Over the past couple of years, pedal kayaks have emerged as a popular choice for anglers.
These kayaks allow anglers to keep their hands free to fish while moving or holding on a spot. Pedal kayaks tend to perform better than paddle kayaks in high wind situations as the pedals are submerged in the water and not exposed. Like kayaks themselves, pedal-driven kayaks come in a variety of shapes and styles all with their advantages and disadvantages. Pedal-drive kayaks are typically more expensive, but many anglers are willing to pay extra for the advantages.
If you are unsure about pedal-drive kayaks or they’re out of your price range, here are some words of wisdom: no kayak has ever caught a fish. You don’t need the most expensive option to catch fish and have fun.
Fishing Kayak Selection: Sit-In or Sit-On-Top – Try Before You Buy
While most fishing kayaks look to be very similar, there can sometimes be some major differences. The most noticeable is the hull. Different hull design and shapes lend themselves better for certain body types as well as specific conditions. If you’re reading this article, you’ve most likely seen videos and reviews of specific kayaks online. While these kayaks can seem flawless, they are often created by expert fisherman who have a lot of time and experience kayak fishing.
Just because a certain kayak works for them, doesn’t mean it will work for you.
If you’re wondering if a kayak will work for you, and maybe you don’t have the best balance, you’ll want to consider a sit-on-top kayak. At first glance, they may not look it, but they’re far more stable than sit-inside kayaks. Sit-on-top kayaks are, essentially, a giant pontoon that holds you up in the water while you fish. Now that’s a very basic definition, but it does give a good perspective as to why they tend to be more stable and buoyant. To be fair to sit-inside style kayaks, there are some that are designed to be stable enough for standing.
Sit-inside kayaks offer a great platform to fish from for anglers who are looking to see what the sport is all about. They’re easy to use and are great for folks with limited experience with kayaks. They typically don’t offer as much storage as other types of kayaks, but they’ll get you on the water and on the fish. These kayaks are extremely basic, usually offering a seat and a few rod holders. Every company makes their kayaks slightly differently so be sure to check out different companies and what they have to offer.
Sit-on-top kayaks are becoming the more popular choice amongst anglers for their superior stability and customization options. Most sit-on-top kayaks come with scuppers. Scuppers are holes that are built into the hull of the kayak to drain water out of the hull. On windy or rainy days, rougher water conditions may bring water over the top of your kayak, these scuppers make sure your kayak sheds that water and remains afloat. Scuppers do tend to let water up through them as well so if you’re someone who doesn’t like getting their feet wet while fishing, you may want to consider purchasing scupper plugs.
During the spring, many outfitters offer demo days or host boat shows.
These shows can be a great way to see and try a variety of kayaks and sometimes purchase them at a discount. These events also offer great opportunities to speak with company representatives who are knowledgeable about specific models and features. Many of these shows also feature local pro anglers who are willing to share and discuss the kayak setups that they use and why they use them. This is a great way to get some tips and tricks that are not always advertised.
Fishing Kayak Selection: Rigging Options
When looking at potential kayak options, be sure to consider what you want for accessories. Different brands offer different options for what can be added to your kayak. YakAttack is a company that offers all kinds of kayak rigging options and many kayaks come with their Gear Tracs preinstalled. The Gear Tracs allow for a variety of different accessories to be attached to your kayak securely, giving you the added convenience of things like rod holders, and mounts for electronics.
YakAttack is an American company who stands behind their products. There are other companies that offer similar products as well, so get out there and figure out which will serve you best.
Fish finders are a hot topic among kayak anglers, some hate them, others won’t go fishing without them. Most fishing kayaks come designed ready to add fish finders without having to do too much, if any, cutting or modifying. Fish finders offer kayak anglers some great advantages like water depth, temperature, as well as GPS features that can be critical for finding your way on larger bodies of water. There’s a wide range of options when it comes to fish finders, some that are really cheap and others that are not, you don’t have to break the bank to add these features to your setup.
While looking at kayaks, you may notice that some models are labeled with “Angler” or “Fishing” added to the model. Often times this simply means that the kayak has been pre-rigged with rod holders and sometimes comes in a unique color. When this is the case, you can usually save some money by purchasing the non-angler model and adding the rod holders yourself at a lower price. There’s nothing wrong with these kayaks but the companies don’t always know how you want your kayak setup. Rigging a kayak is one of the most enjoyable parts of the process, if you follow kayak anglers on social media, you’ll see it never stops.
Fishing Kayak Selection: Making Your Decision
When the time comes to purchase your kayak, make sure it’s something that you’re happy with. With social media and web videos, it’s hard not to be persuaded one way or another.
Make sure you keep in mind what you like and how you like to fish, at the end of the day, this is what matters most.
There are plenty of local shops and shop owners that can provide you with a stress-free experience, take them up on it. Most anglers get many years out of their kayaks, to make sure that you enjoy those years be sure you select one that you’ll be happy with.
Selecting the right kayak for your fishery with Torqeedo’s Jeff Little.