Choosing a Fishing Kayak
If you haven’t tried kayak fishing yet, or if you are looking to upgrade to a kayak better suited for your fishing needs, what are you waiting for?
Kayak Fishing is one of the hottest trends in outdoor sports. Whether you’re a shore-bound fisherman getting into a kayak to reach new waters and distant fish, a recreational kayaker looking to bring your passion for fishing aboard your plastic vessel, or a boat fisherman who recognizes fishing kayaks as an exciting and relatively inexpensive way to get out on the water, there’s something in kayak fishing for just about anyone.
If you’re intimidated by the thought of fishing from a kayak, you should know that kayak fishing is a lot easier, and safer, than it looks. For the past decade, manufacturers have been constructing kayaks specifically for fishermen, and most of these craft are remarkably stable and comfortable. They are available with features like rod holders, tackle hatches, anchor systems, and even livewells. With all of the options out there, there’s a better chance than ever that you can find a kayak that will fit your needs and work for you.
Which Fishing Kayak is Right for You?
The bottom line in choosing the best fishing kayak for your needs is that there is no one-size-fits all. Before you make a decision on purchasing a kayak for fishing, the most important thing you can do is to take stock of where and how you plan to do most of your paddling and fishing. Identify your needs: Will you be fishing in freshwater ponds for largemouth bass? Navigating streams and rivers to catch smallmouth bass and trout? Poking around saltwater harbors, estuaries and flats for striped bass and bluefish? Or do you plan to venture out into the open ocean and launch through surf? Also, will this kayak be strictly a fishing vessel, or do you plan to use it for relaxation and recreation with your family?
Once you’ve thought about what you want from a fishing kayak, it’s time to select a handful that appear to match your desired criteria. At that point, try them all! Always demo a kayak before you buy it!
Before you can evaluate the fishing kayaks at your local paddlesport shop or marina, it’s helpful to understand some of the important characteristics of kayaks. Most fishing kayaks can be used for a variety of activities, but understand that no one kayak excels at every activity. Choosing a kayak, like choosing a boat or a car, means mulling over a long list of specifications and deciding what features are “must-haves” and which ones are compromises. Once you understand your options, you can start down the path of choosing the right kayak for your intended purposes. These are some of the basics to consider before you buy your first, or next, fishing kayak.
SIK or SOK: Most fishermen prefer self-bailing sit-on-top kayaks (SOK), especially for saltwater fishing. They are inherently safer, since they can roll over without filling with water, and they give the angler more room to move around or even throw a leg over the side for stability when dealing with a fish. Sit-inside kayaks (SIK) are preferable for moving waters and in situations where a lighter-weight craft is desirable. They also provide a drier ride than a sit-on-top kayak.
Propulsion: Most basic kayaks are propelled with paddle power, but pedals are an option in several kayak lines now. The Hobie Kayak Mirage Drive line has been the standard in leg-powered kayak, which are popular with anglers because they free up the hands for fishing. Old Town entered the market this year with the Predator PDL, which is a pedal/propellor drive. THey also offer an electric-motor-powered kayak, which is an increasingly popular option.
Length: In general, the longer the kayak, the faster it will be and the more easily it will cover distances. The trade-off is a loss of maneuverability in tight spaces and difficulty in transporting the kayak to launch sites.
Width: In general, wider kayaks are more stable and can support more capacity. However, width is far from the only factor that affects stability.
Weight: Consider your cartop capacity and what you can carry when choosing a kayak. A heavy kayak might require a wheeled cart to move it down to the launch site.
Storage and Extras: Consider how much storage you’ll need on board your kayak. Will you be keeping fish or a change of clothing? Is live-bait storage important to you? Will you be doing any kayak-camping?
Seat: Less expensive kayaks have molded-in seats or basic removable seating pads. More fishing kayaks are now offering adjustable “lawn chair” style seats with excellent back support.
Stand-and-Fish Capability: Extra-wide and stable kayaks allow an angler to stand and sight-cast to fish in the shallows.
Eddyline C-135 Yakattack
eddyline.com – $2,599
The C-135 offers the serious kayak fisherman a lightweight alternative to a heavy polyethylene kayak. Acceleration is quick, and just a few strokes will bring you up to speed. The Cloud10 Seat provides durable, breathable, water- and sun-proof comfort, and the hull has been designed to accept a variety of trolling motors, stakeout poles, and various aftermarket accessories including a casting bar.
Length: 13’ 5” | Width: 34” | Weight: 69 lbs. | Capacity: 450 lbs.
FeelFree Moken 12.5
feelfreeus.com – $899
The Feelfree Moken 12.5 is stable enough for standing and fast enough to handle larger lakes and coastal waters. Features include the quick-release modular Uni-Track system and Easy Seal hatch. An optional rudder helps with steering on windy days, and Feelfree’s Wheel in the Keel makes rolling it to launch nice and easy.
Length: 9’ | Width: 29.75” | Weight: 42 lbs. | Capacity: 195 lbs.
Feelfree Move Angler
feelfreeus.com – $499
The Move Angler is the perfect kayak for kids and smaller paddlers getting into the sport of kayak fishing. It comes equipped with all the great features paddlers have come to expect in a Feelfree kayak: molded-in handles, recessed fittings, and the patented Wheel in the Keel. Its “tri-hull” design offers great stability and efficient tracking while paddling. The hull weighs only 42 pounds, making it very easy for a solo paddler to maneuver on or off the water—even a younger paddler.
Length: 12’ 8” | Width: 32” | Weight: 72 lbs. | Capacity: 419 lbs.
hobiecat.com – $2,499
The Hobie Mirage Outback provides a stable platform for anglers with its beamy design and comfortable Vantage CT seat. New for 2017 is the Hobie MirageDrive 180 that allows full-power reverse propulsion by pulling the shift cable to pivot the fins 180 degrees. Simply pull the other shift cable to pivot the fins back around for forward propulsion.
Length: 13’ 5” | Width: 28.5” | Weight: 91 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 350 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Revolution 13
hobiecat.com – $2,499
This offshore-capable hull is designed…