A kayak is one of the simplest boat types in existence. However, kayaks come in a range of different styles. This article contains eight tips on how to choose a kayak for fishing.
Fishing is a time-honored way to relax, get some sunshine, and potentially catch a good dinner. If you want to fish correctly, you need a boat; you can’t just sit on the riverbank with a rod and reel. Therefore, it becomes a question of picking the right kind of boat. One of the best types of vessel is a kayak. It’s lightweight, easy to maneuver, and unlike motorboats, it makes no noise.
Best of all, the kayak allows you to access tighter areas than you might otherwise be able to reach. The kayak is a basic design that might not seem to lend itself well to fishing, but it can easily be modified into a formidable and affordable fishing vessel. We’re here to give you some tips on how to choose a kayak and how to customize and use it to your liking.
The most important thing you can remember about kayaking is that you need to have a space for sitting and for storing your gear. You should also keep in mind that unlike canoes and heavier boats, kayaks are far easier to capsize, which makes it likely that some of your fishing gear will float away. With that being said, here are some kayak tips.
Design Option: Sit-in vs. Sit-On
Two main kayak designs exist – sit-in, which features a hollowed-out body in which you can sit and store your belongings; or a sit-on-top version, which is more of a solid piece that you straddle as you go into the water.
It might seem like an obvious choice that you want a kayak to have room to sit inside when you’re fishing, but that isn’t the case. Sit-on kayaks have more room because they come in larger and thicker sizes. Also, most sit-on kayaks have a dedicated spot for fishing gear right behind the seat. It’s also easier to add mounts for rods and anchors.
A sit-on kayak is also more stable; it doesn’t take on a lot of water because it has holes drilled from top to bottom called scupper holes. These holes allow water to travel straight through the kayak without weighing it down. However, if you’re worried about getting wet, you might prefer a sit-in kayak.
Design Type: Lake Kayak vs. Ocean Kayak
Once you pick whether you want a sit-in or sit-on kayak, you then need to choose between a lake and an ocean kayak. It’s simple: one is meant for lakes and rivers, the other for the open sea. You likely won’t be able to do much fishing at sea, unless you know exactly where the fish are biting and have plenty of stamina to paddle back to shore, but we’ll address that later.
A lake kayak has a broader and shorter profile, meant to be able to maneuver easily around bending river passages and tight spaces. They are also slower, but since you’re not in a race and wouldn’t want to disturb the fish, then you don’t need to have a lot of speed. Lake kayaks are also steadier, whereas sea kayaks are easier to tip.
One thing to consider is that you can generally take a sea kayak on a lake and be fine, especially if it’s a large lake that you intend to fish. Sea kayaks are often about 24 feet long, whereas lake kayaks are 18 feet long. If you have a longer boat, stick to the lake’s interior. Otherwise, go with a shorter boat and stick to the shallows where fish tend to hide.
You should also consider the harness capabilities of your boat choice. Lake kayaks have wider hulls and more room to put things. Ocean kayaks, while longer, make it harder to access items in the interest of keeping them somewhat dry. For larger boats, a hatch is built in front of the seat. Granted, this sometimes doesn’t stop water from seeping through.
All in all, you’ll probably be better with a lake kayak unless you plan deep-sea fishing. Even if you do, a kayak isn’t the best choice for a boat anyway.
Inflatable Or Hardshell
This question comes down to durability or storage. A hardshell kayak consists of, well, a hard shell in the shape of the boat, with notches for seats and paddles. An inflatable kayak is made of a material that holds in air, letting you deflate it and place it in a closet.
Believe it or not, an inflatable kayak might be your better bet. Unlike rigid kayaks, if you should run aground, you aren’t as likely to damage the hull on sharp rocks. That may sound counterintuitive, but inflatable kayaks are not made of flimsy material. Instead, they’re made of reinforced rubber and other polymers.
They are usually fitted with multiple air compartments. Even if one area develops a leak, the other compartments should keep you afloat long enough for you to get to shore and make repairs.
Of course, your best bet is to pick a kayak specifically designed for fishing. These have several features that you may not see on other kayaks, including but not limited to:
- Raised swivel seat
- Built-in mounts
- Wide base
What Type Of Fishing Will You Do?
Shorter and broader boats work well if you’re going to be stationary most of the day, especially if you plan to spend time standing. The broad base makes it less likely that you’ll tip over the kayak. However, they aren’t that great for paddling. If you want to move from place to place on the water, you should go with a slimmer and longer model because it’s more aquadynamic.
Choosing Equipment To Mount
If you want to know how to choose a kayak, you need to think about the opportunity you have to mount rod holders if they aren’t already present. Most of the time, rod holders or tackle box straps have to be riveted or screwed in place. You can’t do this on an inflatable kayak, but you can on a rigid model.
You should also look for a place to mount an anchor. Fishing sometimes involves staying in the same spot, and since you can’t predict where the current will take you, you need to have an anchor to hold the boat in place. Often, it’s possible to put an anchor mount on the bow or stern (that is, the front or rear) of the boat.
Don’t put an anchor at port (left) or starboard (right), because the extra weight is likely to tip you over.
Should You Buy A Kayak Online?
Unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, it’s a better idea to buy your kayak from a reputable sports/outdoor supply store. Ask the owner if you can have a trial run with the kayak of your choice. Many dealers will allow you to do this because there is no way to accurately judge a kayak’s performance without taking it on the water unless there is a generous return policy.
Test how it feels to get in and out, as well as how it is to steer, paddle, access all your gear, and perform all the normal functions that you’d expect of a kayak. However, if you must buy online, make sure it’s from a reputable dealer and that the kayak will be shipped safely. It wouldn’t do to have a hole knocked in it before you’re even able to cast off for the first time.
Essentials To Pack In Your Kayak
There are a few things you need to keep with your kayak when you’re going on the water, regardless of how long you plan to be out. These can include a life jacket, also called a PFD (personal flotation device), a supply of fresh water, some food, sunscreen, extra paddles, and your fishing gear.
By law, everyone on the boat must wear a PFD at all times. If you get thrown overboard and don’t know how to swim or get back in the boat, the consequences could otherwise be fatal.
You should also keep safety tips in mind. First, know what your kayak can do. If it’s a lake kayak, don’t try taking it out to sea. It isn’t built for it and will likely tip over. Next, make sure that everyone on board (for most kayaks it’s just you and one other person), is wearing their flotation device, or PFD. If you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it’s sized right.
Before casting off into deep water, stay in shallower water, deliberately capsize, and practice getting back into the kayak. If you have a sit-on kayak, this process is a lot easier than for a sit-in one.
Practice getting in and out several times, making sure that you can get a feel for how the kayak tips and responds to your weight.
Stay out of big rapids or currents. IF you don’t know where those are, watch the waves or the ripples on the water. If you’re on an unfamiliar stretch of water, stick to the shallows and keep a map or GPS app handy. Over a day, you could end up a long way away from where you started. Therefore, you need to keep an eye on your starting point.
Wear plenty of sunscreen, even on cloud-seeming days. This is because the sun’s UV rays could cause sunburn on exposure even if it doesn’t seem hot or bright outside. Apply it at regular intervals. Remember that the SPF measurement is not necessarily of strength, it’s of duration. SPF 30 lasts for 30 minutes, for example. SPF 60 is every hour.
Keep water on hand, and make sure you have the stamina to paddle your way to safety or safe waters. Rowing a kayak can be hard work, and you need to be able to do it without fatigue. If necessary or if you have another person, let them take over rowing duties while you continue to fish. As a final safety tip, keep any relevant authorities abreast of your location.
If should something go awry, they can know where to start looking for you.
Final Thoughts On Choosing A Kayak
These are just a few pieces of advice on how to choose a kayak and how to use it safely. There is undoubtedly more advice than what we’ve provided, but this is a good starting point. You can learn to tell the difference between a sea and a lake kayak, the different purposes of them, and what safety protocols you should follow.
When choosing your fishing kayak, it’s best to go for a dedicated fishing model, but if you can’t find one, then go with an inflatable lake kayak. It’s lightweight, cheap, and works great for freshwater fishing. It’ll be a rare thing to see saltwater fishing, or deep-sea fishing, done in a kayak, but it is possible.