How To Choose A Kayak
Updated: Feb 10, 2019
Are you dropping hints that a Kayak is in your future? Expecting a Kayak in your stocking? Let me help you out. Everybody has a budget to work with, they have personal tastes of style and comfort. Some people have biases around brands- both good and bad. So given all this, how do you advise someone on choosing a kayak? Based on my experience, I tell people to first, ask yourself what kind of fishermen you are. Are you a once or twice a week fisherman? A once a month angler? Are you building up to be an everyday tournament junkie, or is your interest more of a novelty- get one for the cabin to supplement the boat or something to be used for the occasional summer river float? There is no wrong answer, but your answer should guide your purchase.
Once you have established your outing frequency, ask your self the estimated duration of a typical outing. Will it be for a few hours each time, or are you wanting to trek down a river for a few days of fishing? Will you be in your kayak for the entire day, or will it just be for short bursts followed by wading? Each of these questions will define the type of Kayak that best fits these preferences. Finally do you anticipate using it on smaller rivers, lakes and ponds, or are
you a big water paddler- large rivers, big lakes, back bays and, perhaps, even an ocean goer?
Let me share the evolution of my experience. My first kayak was a 10-foot pelican sit-in. I picked it up for a hundred bucks when I was 17. It had no rod holders, no waterproof storage compartments, no extra features like sonar, power, or anchor trolleys. The stability was questionable, and the seat got pretty hard after a long day on the lake. It was simple, as was my fishing style at that time. But what it provided me was a HUGE
benefit- the ability to see what was around the next bend, the excitement of discovery. This led to a lifetime passion for kayaking. Today I'm using a 10' Old Town Vapor, and I find myself drooling over the new models with all the bells and whistles.
For me, buying the Old Town Vapor was a game changer. The anchor trolley kit allowed me to remain in one area and target offshore points and deep structure. Being rigged for sonar allowed me to find things I thought only anglers on bigger boats could see. I started catching more, and bigger fish. Once you start matching your gear to your fishing style you will take your fishing to a new level. For me, it took me into the world of fishing tournaments.
Once you get to this level there are some definite things you need. The choice of a “sit
in” kayak means you are limiting your space. If I wanted to pack the hull with camping gear and supplies for a long trek down the Red River, I’d be ok for space. The Vapor still has good load capacity, and has done well on this type of adventure. However, in the world of fast paced tournament fishing, where organization and easy access to all of your tackle and gear is important, I would recommend a kayak with a wide body, and plenty of storage options. A rail system, as well as other features, are easy adds if you have a roomier platform.
Another limitation of a sit-in like mine is limited visibility. It can be challenging when you are sitting with your head only 3' above the water. For this reason, I think it is important to have a standing option on my next kayak. This will come in handy for spotting fish on beds or for surveying key points of cover, along with being able to better use techniques like flipping. It will also allow me to more easily handle longer rods. Other considerations as your fishing gets more serious are hands free features like pedal drive.
Clearly there are choices as you build up to your level of interest. You certainly don't have to go all out if you don't want to. You have to be careful you don’t get yourself into “too much” kayak- some things can get in the way for a less experienced angler. The key is to get a boat you can fish the way you like to fish. Get one you can afford that will get you off the bank. This is a part of the industry that will evolve rapidly. I foresee a lot of change in the next decade in the market for small watercraft and their accessories. Changes could even bring a televised professional fishing league solely for kayak anglers. I’m happy to have gotten in on the ground floor. Hope this article will get you started Living The Passion of Kayak fishing.
Zachery Warren is a Kayak Bass angler originally from Albany TX and now residing in Denison, TX. He often fishes across the boarder in Oklahoma. He has a real passion for the no motor, limited electronics nature of kayak angling. He has fished a number of online tournaments to test his skills and he is now moving to local and state tournaments along the Texhoma border. We appreciate Zach sharing his favorite tricks and tactics with the 360Nation.