Kayaking and kayak fishing has sky rocketed in popularity. This growth is due in part to an overall increase in the paddling sport; part is due to more and more anglers realizing it is a great way to get on the water.
Regardless of your reasons for doing so, if you add a kayak to your fishing arsenal you will not be disappointed. The key is selecting the correct kayak.
Before you can pick your perfect kayak you need to answer this question: “Where will I be fishing?”
Will you be braving the crashing surf for record stripers?
Will you be drifting a lazy lily filled lack for bass?
It is important to know what you will be using the kayak for so that you can properly determine what you will expect from it when on the water.
Today’s kayaks are available in a wide range of sizes, shapes and configurations but most fall into one of two major categories- sit on top or sit inside.
Sit insides are closer to what most beginners envision when they hear “kayak”- a narrow hull, pointed at both ends and equipped with a small cockpit for the operator.
Sit on tops resemble a cross between a canoe and a kayak – a slightly wider hull, pointed at both ends but not as sharply and an open cockpit with seat for the operators.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages depending on what you expect for your craft.
Sit on top designs are favored by anglers. Not only do they offer more space for gear and rods but they are also easier to get into & out off, less likely to flip and easier to recover if they do. Sit inside designs perform better in moving water, can be lighter and also provide a drier ride for you and your gear.
You also need to consider propulsion. What?… Propulsion you say?… Isn’t a kayak paddled?
Yes, kayaks are generally paddled, but not always. Some models can be equipped with small electric motors and Hobie has been very successful in designing several models outfitted with a pedal system.
Both alternatives have seen popularity among anglers and with good reason as they allow the user to maintain a neutral position, something very useful when you have found that perfect honey hole.
Finally you need to consider size.
As stated earlier today’s kayaks come in a wide range of sizes and designs and selecting the correct one for you can be daunting the first time. The general rule is that wider is more stable and longer is easier to paddle as it will slice through the water with less effort.
The problem is these two features do not combine well (kayaks tend to become narrower as they increase in length). You need to find a design which is wide enough to be stable for you and as long as possible.
Some anglers will opt to go with length over width and add after-market stabilizers or outriggers.
While this option provides the best of both worlds, and may even allow you to stand while casting, it also makes the kayak a bit harder to transport.
It is recommended that you visit a retailer that allows you to demo a couple different models; preferably in the environment you will be using it in, before making you final selection.
If you take a kayak beginner’s course, which are often available from your state park or wildlife agency, you may also have the opportunity to try different designs and speak to other users as well.
For more information on selecting your first fishing kayak check out this YouTube video.