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2018 Fishing Kayak Buyer’s Guide


What are the key questions you should be asking yourself as you begin your search for your ideal fishing kayak besides learning some kayak fishing basics?

Besides reading our great fishing kayak buyer’s guide, a short list of questions to help you determine your fishing kayak include – What type or category of a kayak is best for fishing? What do you need to look out for in a fishing kayak? What fishing kayak buyer’s guide to use?

These are some of the questions that will help you determine what kind of fishing you want to pursue because all kayaks come with different strengths and weaknesses.

The following guide specifically addresses the factors you need to consider before choosing a fishing kayak to buy.

Type of Water

This is the first thing you need to consider before you set out to buy a fishing kayak. The wrong type of kayak can make your fishing expeditions feel like hell. 

There are two different categories of kayak fishing. You have freshwater fishing and saltwater  fishing. Freshwater fishing is further divided into fresh moving water or fresh still water. Similarly, saltwater fishing is further divided into inshore fishing and offshore fishing.

The different types of water present different paddling conditions. It is, therefore, very necessary that you choose the right fishing kayak depending on the type of water you plan to fish on.

Freshwater Fishing

Freshwater Fishing on Fresh Still Water

Generally, fresh calm water (still water) can be a pond or a large lake. From our experience, we recommend that you go for a light and short kayak if you plan to engage in kayak fishing on a small water body like a pond. This is because such a kayak has a high degree of stability and an average degree of rocker.

Kayak fishing on a large but still freshwater such as a big lake presents a different experience and, therefore, requires a different kind of kayak.

Fishing on a large but still freshwater requires a kayak with sufficient speed in order to reach your fishing hotspots quickly. We strongly recommend that you go for a sit-in kayak  that is slim and long. This is a kayak with a lower degree of stability and rocker.

Freshwater Fishing on Fresh Moving Water

Unlike calm or still water, moving water can either be a fast or slow-moving river. Kayak fishing on moving water presents the challenge of different obstacles on your paddling path. Your Kayak also moves along with the current.

There are kayaks best suited for fishing in such a scenario. We recommend that you choose a kayak with a high degree of maneuverability. In this case, go for a sit-in kayak with a wide but short hull. Such a kayak is very stable and has a soft chine (a gentle curve between the sidewall and the hull).

Fishing on Saltwater

Kayak fishing on saltwater requires the use of a different kind of kayak. Note also that you may choose to engage in inshore or offshore fishing when fishing on saltwater. 

Inshore Saltwater Fishing

Inshore fishing restricts you to the shoreline area; an area that is normally of a depth of less than 70 feet.

Some of the challenges you will encounter when fishing inshore include moving inlets, creeks, and bays. You are also bound to paddle over a large area with possible steep waves and wind.

In order to handle and manage such challenges, we highly recommend that you go for a slim and long kayak. Such a kayak should also feature a high degree of rocker.

We also recommend that you choose a sit-on-top kayak if you are an established angler. This is because it does not sink easily. Furthermore, you can re-enter it easily in case it capsizes.

Offshore Saltwater Fishing

Offshore fishing involves fishing deep inside a lake or at sea where the depth certainly exceeds 70 feet. Some of the challenges you are bound to face include strong winds and high waves. You are also bound to cover long distances and you will certainly appear small from the shoreline.

The best fishing kayak for offshore saltwater fishing, in our opinion, is a slim kayak with an average degree of rocker.

Types of Kayaks

Ok. Now that you have determined the type of water you will be fishing in, it is time to determine the best fishing kayak based on the water type you will be fishing on.

There are different types of kayaks. These are sit-in kayaks, sit-on-top kayaks, recreational kayaks and, touring kayak.

Sit-In Kayaks or Sit-On-Top Kayaks

A sit-in kayak is traditionally designed to have a cockpit. You are restricted to sit in the kayak while fishing. It can be of any length and size but has limited storage space.

In contrast, a sit-on-top kayak does not feature an enclosed cockpit. Instead, it only features an open cockpit with a raised seat and sufficient storage space below. It also features drainage holes that allow the water that runs into the cockpit to drain off.

Another difference between a sit-in and a sit-on-top kayak is that sit-on-top kayaks are designed to have double hulls to create room between the hulls. The room created traps air, which makes it difficult for the kayak to sink.

Other factors you should be aware of include the weight of sit-on-top kayaks. These kayaks are normally constructed using molded polyethylene plastic, thus making them heavy and durable. They are also designed to have a wide beam for enhanced initial stability and can measure between ten and sixteen in length.

The heavy weight of these kayaks makes them slow compared to sit-in kayaks. So expect to spend a lot of energy to paddle. Unless you invest in a kayak propelled by your feet.

Sit-on-top kayaks’ open cockpit design and their high level of stability have made them the most popular kayaks for fishing these days. However, keep in mind that these kayaks have low secondary stability and are also short on the rudder, which is important in aiding a kayak back to its paddling path.

While sit-on-top kayaks are generally more suitable for fishing on still water, they are however more susceptible to high winds, strong currents, and large waves in moving water.

Nevertheless, sit-on-top kayaks are highly recommended because they are generally affordable, stable and durable. Furthermore, they are easy to exit and re-enter and they come equipped with live bait wells, trolling motors, and rod holders. All of these will enrich your fishing experience overall. 

Recreational Kayaks

Recreational kayaks are generally constructed in the same way that sit-on-top kayaks are except for a few differences. Like sit-on-top kayaks, they are constructed using molded polyethylene plastic thus, making them heavy but durable.

These kayaks feature a large enclosed cockpit and have an average degree of rocker and soft chine. Their single hull design makes them suitable for fishing on still water. It is also worth pointing out that recreational kayaks are very stable but with low secondary stability. As with sit-on-top kayaks, recreational kayaks provide easy entry and exit.

The kayaks are designed to have a length of between eight and fourteen feet. It is the type of kayak to go for if you prefer close-range fishing. This is because its hull is designed to provide a high degree of efficiency.

Recreational Kayaks are generally affordable. Their large enclosed cockpits also provide you with adequate protection. However, they offer low secondary stability. You also spend a lot of energy to paddle and thus not suitable for kayak fishing that involves covering long distances.

Touring Kayaks

Touring kayaks are traditionally long and slim in design. They can have a length of between fourteen and eighteen feet and are also designed to have an efficient hull. The biggest advantage of a touring kayak is that it is faster than the other types of kayaks. You also spend minimum energy to paddle and propel the boat.
Go for this type of Kayak if you enjoy long-range fishing on still water.

Touring kayaks are quite easy to handle because they are very efficient in rough waters and cover long distances effortlessly. They are also designed to have dry storage space for fishing gear, holds, hatches, and bulkheads. 

One main challenge with a touring kayak is that it features a small cockpit. You literally remain “cramped” in the kayak. Another challenge to be aware of with the kayak is that its high speed also compromises its stability. You can’t win everything right?

Other Fishing Kayak Buyer’s Guide Points To Stress

Kayak Rockers

The term rocker simply refers to the degree by which a kayak’s hull curves. You may want to look at a kayak’s rocker before you buy. 

Generally, a kayak hull designed with a straight keel has a minimal degree of rocker. In contrast, a hull designed with a curved keel has a high degree of rocker.

Kayak’s Initial Stability

Paying attention to the level of a kayak’s initial stability is equally important. The phrase “initial stability” refers to the level of stability you feel when sitting on the keel. Note that while a wide kayak offers a high degree of stability, a narrow one is less stable.

Similarly, kayaks with a soft chine are very stable compared to kayaks with a hard chine.

The term “secondary stability” refers to a kayak’s level of stability when you lean it on either side. While narrow kayaks have a high degree of secondary stability, the wide ones are less stable.

Kayak Hull

Lastly, it is very important that you take into account the distance you will normally cover when kayak fishing. Covering long distances requires that you choose a kayak with a long hull. This is because it is faster compared to one with a short hull.

In contrast, a kayak with a short hull is slower in speed. This is because a big percentage of its surface area gets in touch with water. However, it is stable (initial stability) than one with a long hull.

We hope this fishing kayak buyer’s guide has proven helpful to your search for your own special fishing kayak?  We will love to hear from you your recommendations for new anglers or experienced anglers looking to buy a fishing kayak.

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