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Choosing a Fishing Kayak
Which fishing kayak is right for you?
Confused about which fishing kayak you should buy? If you have never used a kayak before, you may not be sure which one you will need. Read on and we’ll try to break down the key differences to help you make an informed purchase.
There are basically 2 types of kayaks.
They are Sit On Tops (SOT) and Sit In Kayaks (SIK). Each type has models that hunt well. Before discussing the advantages and differences of each type, let’s first discuss fishing kayaks in general.
What makes a kayak a good fishing kayak?
Anglers often have needs that may differ from those of someone who intends to paddle exclusively. Some of the basic qualities that anglers prefer in a kayak are stability, compliance and enough flat surfaces to attach fishing accessories such as rod holders and depth gauges. Performance and handling, while important to many, may not be the primary factors when choosing your first fishing kayak.
Begin your decision-making process by answering a few basic questions to help you narrow down the kayak models that are best for you.
1. Consider you first.
What is your height, weight, measurements and general condition? If you are a large or very tall man, there are certain kayaks that will fit you better. It will actually make your decision easier as finding the right kayak will be more a matter of finding one that can handle your size and weight than anything else. Look for kayaks with plenty of legroom and carrying capacity to handle you and your gear.
If you are a small to average sized person, getting a kayak that is big, heavy and has a 600 pound capacity is probably not your best bet. But if you are going to fish in the ocean, a very small kayak would not be the best choice either. As you will see, choosing a kayak can be a bit of a compromise. As you read on, consider the various factors and consider them when making your choice.
2. What vehicle will you use to transport your kayak?
If you plan to transport your kayak in the back of a pickup truck, a larger, heavier kayak is not a problem. However, if you have a large SUV like a 4WD Suburban, you should be aware of the weight of the kayak, as getting the kayak onto the roof and dismounting from the roof of such a vehicle will require some extra effort. The bottom line is that if your kayak is easy to load and unload, you will use it more often.
3. Where do you plan to use the kayak?
Will your kayak be used exclusively in fresh water? If yes, where? Lakes, ponds, rivers and streams? Will you be fishing large, open bodies of water with lots of waves and chop? Do you plan to use your kayak in salt water? Do you plan to fish in the ocean and launch a kayak through the surf? How do you plan to get your kayak to the water? Can you simply drive it to the water and start, or do you plan to start in remote areas where you cannot drive the vehicle to the water’s edge? All of these factors are important when choosing your kayak.
4. What fishing methods do you prefer to use?
Do you only use one style? Do you use artificial lures, live bait fish, or both? If you are going to use bait, do you want to use live bait-fish or dead bait? Will you need room for a livewell on your kayak? Planning on anchoring and chumming? Do you fly fish? The type of gear you plan to hook up and take with you will influence your decision. In short, the way you fish can affect which kayaks will better suit your needs.
5. What type of fisherman are you?
Are you strictly a catch-and-release fisherman, do you like to bring the occasional meal home, or do you take fish home regularly? Where are you going to store your catch? Is there room in/on the kayak you chose?
What style of kayak is right for you? Sit On Top or Sit Inside Kayak?
Sit In Kayaks are a traditional type of kayak. When most people think of a kayak, this type usually comes to mind. They are similar to canoes in that you sit inside on the underside of the hull of the kayak. The seats offer more initial protection from the elements, but can fill with water in rougher conditions without the right accessories. In adverse conditions, they are usually equipped with a spray skirt. A skirt is a cover that goes around you and an opening in the kayak that prevents water from entering. When you use a skirt, you may inadvertently limit access to items that are inside the kayak, but if you’re a bare-bones angler, it might work for you.
Sit On Top kayaks are a newer type of kayak. They resemble a modified surfboard of sorts and you sit on them rather than in them. SOTs have so-called drain holes that allow water to drain from the cockpit. That way, when water washes over the kayak, the cockpit may flood briefly, but it drains quickly, so there’s no need to pump out all the water. This is especially beneficial in places like the surf zone.
Both styles of kayaks are useful for anglers, and in each style there are models that will suit you better than others. Let’s go back to some of the previous questions and see why they are important to help you choose which of these types of kayaks will be best for you.
Anglers do something in a kayak that most paddlers don’t—they catch fish. A relatively stable platform can therefore be very important, especially for someone who is new to the sport and kayaking. When kayakers discuss stability, they talk about 2 types. Primary and secondary. Initial stability is the side-to-side rocking you feel when you sit in the kayak. Secondary stability is when the kayak is approaching the tipping point and how much forgiveness it has before you actually capsize.
Many recreational kayaks have tremendous initial stability but have a very sudden secondary. When they reach their secondary limit, you are literally thrown out. Conversely, there are kayaks that rock like crazy but are very forgiving when they arrive at a dump site. Most recreational fishing kayaks have a good compromise of initial and secondary stability.
Since you are sitting on or near the SIK floor, they tend to look more stable. In SOTech, you sit on top of the kayak, and since it has a double hull, you sit even higher. This higher sitting position may initially make the SOT less stable. If you have SOT and SIK that are the same length and width, SIK is likely to be more stable. For this reason, SOT designers tend to make their kayaks wider. So no matter what style you choose, you will always find a model in which you will feel comfortable.
Initial stability may seem more important to beginners and secondary stability more important to seasoned kayakers. That makes sense. A beginner has not yet developed a sense of balance. It’s similar to learning to ride a bike. It’s new when you’re starting out, so think about it more. After a short while it becomes second nature and you don’t think about it at all.
Speed: In general, the longer and narrower the kayak, the faster it is. SIKs are usually faster, but there are also fast SOTs. Speed is only important if you need it. If most of your fishing is close to shore or in small sheltered areas, you probably won’t need a long, fast kayak. However, if you are fishing in a large reservoir, bay, sea or open ocean, the ability to cover distance can be very important to you. A SIK of the same size will usually be faster because it is narrower than a SOT of the same length.
If you’re going to be fishing in small creeks or narrow estuaries, you’ll probably want a kayak that’s easy to maneuver. A long fast touring kayak will be more difficult to use in these situations and can detract from your overall fishing experience. In these types of environments, you will be better served with a shorter SOT or SIK. On big water, a sharp turn is usually not critical, so a longer kayak is not a problem.
Suitable for accessories:
one of the joys of kayak fishing is turning a simple recreational kayak into a very efficient and compact fishing vessel. This is done by adding fishing accessories. The amount you add depends largely on your fishing style and your gear philosophy. Some anglers only bring a rod and a few lures, while others like to bring a lot of gear. Regardless of your preference, the simple addition of one rod holder will greatly increase the fishability of your kayak. Many flat surfaces are nice for mounting accessories.
Fishermen usually take a lot of tackle with them. Organizing this equipment requires that the kayak you choose has adequate storage space. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it’s nice to have a few different places to store things. SOT kayaks have a double hull, which means there is plenty of potential storage space below deck. Depending on your needs, this may be very important to you. Maybe you’re planning a camping trip or a long kayaking trip. This large, relatively dry storage area may appeal to you. If you plan to launch your kayak through the surf, this space allows you to store your rods below deck to keep them safe as you ride through the surf zone. Many SIKs have hatches that offer access to sealed compartments in the hull. Many SIKs used by anglers also have large open cockpits that make it easy to find gear you may have stashed around. Milk crates and other plastic containers can also be used for external storage. Fits into the tanks of many SOT kayaks and can also be tied aboard SIKs.
Kayak fishing takes place in many different environments, from large bays, sounds and even the open ocean, but many of us also fish in very small waters. A small, shallow river is very easy to fish with a short, light kayak. Such a kayak will make it easier to overcome obstacles such as logs, snags, rocks, waterfalls and overflows, fast water and rocky shoals. There will be times when you will need to carry or pull your kayak around, over or through these places. In these types of situations, a smaller, lighter kayak is a better choice.
Some kayaks to consider:
Kayaks suitable for large and tall paddlers:
1. Hobby Outback
2. Hobby revolution
3. Adventure hobby
4. Hobby Quest
5.Ocean Kayak Prowler Trident 15
6. Big Game Ocean Kayak Prowler
7. Heritage Okuník 14
8. The original manta ray 14
9. Native Ultimate 16
10. Wilderness Systems Tarpon 160i
11. Wilderness Systems Pungo 140
12. Riding wild systems 135
13. Malibu X-Factor
Kayaks suitable for average to smaller paddlers (average to smaller paddlers have few limitations and can use almost any sit-on or stand-up kayak that suits their needs. Below are some popular options):
1. Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120
2. Wilderness Systems Pungo 120
3. Original manta ray 12
4. Hobby Sports
5. Hobby revolution
6. Hobby Outback
7. Hobby Quest
8. Malibu Mini-X
9. Perception of Who
10. Perception Patriot Fisherman
Good luck with your decision – hope to see you on the water soon.
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