Kayak fishing is booming…one of the fastest growing sectors in the fishing industry right now. The number of new anglers coming into this once small community is astounding and I couldn’t be happier about it! So in the spirit of getting those new anglers out on the water…what do you need to consider when picking out your first fishing kayak?
When buying a kayak for the first time you have to keep in mind two things to start….does it fit your needs, and does it fit you?
The best advice that I see pop up quite often on social media is to demo a kayak before you buy it. That is probably the best advice you can get if you are going to buy a new kayak. If you can’t demo, seek the advice of a kayak shop or trusted friend with a kayak to give you an honest opinion. The worst mistake you can make is buying something on a whim without doing your homework only to find out that it isn’t big enough, it’s unstable, and it’s difficult to fish out of.
You have to start by considering the type of water you are planning on fishing. If you need a more nimble kayak that is easy to maneuver and is easier to get into tight quarters…a shorter length kayak will be your best bet (9-12 feet). If you are looking for speed, better tracking and a boat capable for bigger water…get a longer kayak (12-15 feet). If you are looking for more stability you will be looking at a wider kayak (over 30-32 inches for example). Wider kayaks however will start losing their tracking ability and speed as you get wider. A narrow kayak will be just the opposite as it will be faster and track better but will hurt you on stability. The goal is to find a balance that will work best for you.
With that in mind you also have to be cognizant about your weight and height when choosing a kayak…in other words pick the best kayak dimensions that fit your dimensions! If you decide you want a more nimble kayak in the 9-12 foot range and you’re a bigger guy, you will most likely have to go to the longer side of that range. Same with the width, if you are a bigger guy you will probably want to go with the widest kayak you can get away with for stability. Look at the weight rating for the kayak…can it easily hold your weight plus another 20-30 pounds of gear?
Should you get a sit in or sit on top style of kayak? Having paddled both I believe a sit on top is the most fishing friendly style of kayak. It can have its drawbacks at times just like anything else, but if you are serious about fishing from a kayak, the sit on top versions are better suited for it. The seats on any current sit on top kayak are usually of better quality and allow you to sit in a more comfortable seating position. This gives you a better vantage point as well as the ability to stand up more easily in some models…which ultimately makes it easier to get in and out of the kayak as well. Couple that with the amount of storage and rigging options a sit on top kayak has and you are at a major advantage over a standard sit in kayak.
Next I would suggest buying a kayak with the best seat you can afford whether you decide on a sit in or sit on top kayak. Fishing out of a kayak is not a 30 minute deal in most cases…it’s usually a multi hour trip sometimes with the inability to get out when you need to. Your butt and legs will start going numb sooner than you think when you’re put in an awkward seating position on a non-supportive seat. That will take the fun out of it in a hurry! You should know within the first 15-20 minutes of paddling if the seat is not ideal for you.
The last set of items you need to consider are how you plan on hauling it, storing it and moving it around on your own. Are you going to car top it, haul it in the back of your truck or possibly trailer it? Do you consider yourself capable of lifting 70-100+ pounds on your own or pulling a kayak 50 yards to a fishing spot? Do you have a garage or storage area large enough to store your kayak, or are you OK with keeping it outside? All of these questions need to be evaluated when you purchase a new kayak and are probably some of the most overlooked items on the list.
The list can honestly go on and on about what you need to look for on your starter kayak, but I think the above should get you started in the right direction. Honestly you will never fully know everything that you need on your first kayak until you get some seat time…so if you have the opportunity to go with someone before you buy, do it! It will make you that much more informed before your purchase.
I hope this information has helped and good luck finding your new fishing kayak!