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What kayak is right for you?

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  • What kayak is right for you?

    Let me start by saying this may take several posts to cover the topic:

    While there are whole books written on the subject, I will try and cover the basics in this post. Please excuse me for being a little technical. First let’s talk about kayaks in general. There are three basic types. Sit inside kayaks (SIK sometimes SINK), sit on top (SOT), and hybrids (a cross between the two).

    Sit inside kayaks are the type most of you are probably familiar with, the type you see those people riding down white water rivers in, flipping over and looking like they are having a good time? They have a hole that you get in with your legs inside and they pretty much cover you up except for the upper part of your body. Sit on top kayaks are the kind you may have seen people at the beach playing on. You sit on top of them like a big float. Hybrids are more like a short canoe but paddled with a kayak (double bladed) paddle.

    There are sit inside kayaks designed to fish from and they have their benefits. They are warmer in the cooler weather since your body is not so expose to the elements. They actually paddle a little easier. They feel like they are more a part of your body so they turn easier. If you use a spray skirt like those whitewater guys wear, you can learn to roll yourself back over if flip upside down. Without the spray skirt, it will fill with water and that is a major disadvantage in getting back in the kayak especially in deep water.

    The most common type of kayak used for fishing is the sit on top. SOTs offer lots of advantages over the other types. One of the most important things in a fishing kayak is a stable platform so that you can fight the fish and not turn over. SOT’s are generally more stable than SIK. A SOT allows you to get in and out of the kayak quicker and easier, a huge benefit in a river. SOTs allow for more sitting positions. You can sit facing forward or you can throw your legs over one side and sit sideways to fish. Some SOT’s are even stable enough to stand and fish from. SOTs usually have more deck space to rig the kayak with all the stuff you need for fishing. But the biggest benefit, at least to me, is SOT kayaks do not fill up with water when flipped. If you do happen to flip over, you just flip the kayak back over and jump back on top. They have scupper holes that allow water to drain out of the cockpit area when turned upright so no water is inside the kayak. That is a big advantage when in deep water or out in the ocean.

    Hybrid kayaks are growing in popularity. Hybrids are easy to get in and out of. Hybrids are fairly stable and many also allow standing to fish. But like a canoe, if you turn one over, you have a boat full of water. If you are in deep water, you have to drag it to shore to dump the water out or have a pump. In rough water, they can take water over the side and fill up. Learning to get back in a hybrid in deep water takes lots of practice. I would not recommend a hybrid in rough water or offshore.

    Now that you know about the basic types of kayaks, let’s talk about kayak performance. By performance I mean stability, turning, tracking, and efficient paddling. While hull design plays an important role in performance, generally the wider the kayak the more stable it will be while narrow kayaks track better and are more efficient to paddle. Remember that stability is one of the most important factors to fishermen. Tracking is how straight the kayak “tracks” with each stroke of the paddle. The straighter it tracks, the more efficient your paddling will be but it is also harder to turn. Generally long narrow kayaks track better and paddle easier than short wide kayaks, but short wide kayaks are generally more stable and turn easier.

    Now that you know about the different types of kayaks available and a little about kayak performance, which one is right for you? The first two things I usually ask when someone poses me that question is what kind of fishing are you doing the most and how much do you weigh? The type of kayak you need depends a lot on these two questions. The kind of fishing you do most will determine what kayak you should purchase first. Since there is no perfect kayak for every fishing situation, you will probably eventually want another kayak or two or three. I have 15!

    What kind of fishing do you do the most? If you fish big flat water reservoirs, you probably want a kayak that tracks a little better. It won’t blow around as much out in the open water and you may find yourself paddling a little farther in big water. Paddling a kayak that does not track well across open water is very inefficient and tiring. If you fish rivers, especially rivers with shoals, stability may be more important and being able to turn a kayak easily will certainly take precedence over tracking. If you fish in the ocean, you want a fast, easy to paddle kayak so you can paddle a couple miles or so off shore. Yes we do go out that far, sometimes more. Remember short and wide is stable, long and narrow is fast and easier to paddle.

    What do you weigh? Yes I know that question is not politically correct and can even get you slapped, but how much you weigh effects the performance of a kayak. Most manufacturers post a “maximum weight capacity” in their literature for each kayak they make. My experience has been that most of these maximums are an exaggeration. Yes it may float if you put the maximum weight in it but that may be all it will do. The more weight you have in the kayak the lower it rides in the water which will affect stability, tracking, turning and paddling efficiency. In my experience, you should look for a kayak with a maximum weight capacity of about twice your body weight. You will be adding some weight with fishing tackle and putting much more than half the maximum capacity listed will begin to effect performance.

    Obviously there are lots of things to consider when looking for your first kayak, too much in fact for me to cover completely in this one post. At least now you know the basic types of kayaks available and what determines their performance and what to look for when purchasing your kayak. If you still have questions about kayaks, you can do some research on the internet. I recommend that you start at Georgiakayakfishing.com, a site that I hang out on a lot. When looking for your first fishing kayak, don’t forget to make sure that it has deck space to rig all the things on it you will need for fishing.
    I only envy those who catch more fish than me.-Issac Walton

  • #2
    Very informative post RiverPirate. I'm going to make it a sticky in the Watercraft Forum.
    Nothing is impossible the impossible just takes a little longer. So take your time and enjoy the experience.
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    • #3
      Thanks. If there are any questions, fire away.
      I only envy those who catch more fish than me.-Issac Walton

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      • #4
        ...

        Thank you for organizing this info, Randy.

        I know this is going to be difficult to answer considering there are kayaks designed for specific purposes; yet, what one kayak would you recommend for all-pupose use. If you could only own one yak and would want to use it in still water, rivers, and salt, what specific design would you have?


        Musselwhite
        Musselwhite

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        • #5
          A 13-14 foot yak that is stable enough to stand in yet paddles easily. Of course I am partial to the Ocean Kayak Trident 13 which is 13'-7." Of the 16I have, if I had to get rid of all but one that would be my choice. I can stand and fish from it, it is a pretty fast ride as well. Has lots of deck space. Has a rod pod hatch right between your legs to allow access to rods or whatever in the hull. Has the Sonar Shield for using and protectig your sonar.

          Others along that line are the Wilderness Tarpon 140, and the Native Manta Ray 14. Though I am not sure many would find the Tarpon 140 is easy to stand in.
          I only envy those who catch more fish than me.-Issac Walton

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          • #6
            I'll take a Wilderness Ride 135 over any out there.

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            • #7
              Musselwhite, add the Jackson Cuda to Riverpirate's good list.

              Riverpirate, might want to add sentence or two on initial versus secondary stability. Although I do realize your excellent article is aimed at non-paddlers. I still think some mention of the difference is helpful.

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              • #8
                Help on a kayak

                i am going to get a kayak to fish the hooch and get a bit of exercise. I am 5 11 and 210 lbs. I am in shape and agile but have never owned one. I live near paces mill. Would anyone have a suggestion about what I should get?

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                • #9
                  I am 6'3" 240 and I have The Ride 115. Fits me great. Great in Ocean and on the Hooch.
                  Best yak for do it all. Stand up or sit and fish

                  Note: I had The Ride 135 a yr ago. It is not as nimble or stable as The 115.
                  "If you aren`t fishing out West.... well you`re just plain fishing"

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                  • #10
                    You might also want to consider a solo canoe. Liable to find better quality, versatility and price in a canoe. Jim

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                    • #11
                      Super light weight kayak

                      Hi guys,

                      I am in the market for the lightest, cheapest fishing kayak I can find for fishing small ponds. I need to be able to carry it on my shoulder (more or less) for short distances to launch in small, isolated bodies of water.

                      Speed, stability, tracking don't matter much. Only the ability to get on the water cheap and easy. I have a 12 foot fishing kayak but it weighs 86lbs before gear. Too heavy to haul up and down hills and down paths to the pond/river!

                      Any guidance would be appreciated. Thanks!

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                      • #12
                        Craigslist is your friend.

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                        • #13
                          Oru Kayak

                          Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Dsaporsky View Post
                            Hi guys,

                            I am in the market for the lightest, cheapest fishing kayak I can find for fishing small ponds. I need to be able to carry it on my shoulder (more or less) for short distances to launch in small, isolated bodies of water.

                            Speed, stability, tracking don't matter much. Only the ability to get on the water cheap and easy. I have a 12 foot fishing kayak but it weighs 86lbs before gear. Too heavy to haul up and down hills and down paths to the pond/river!

                            Any guidance would be appreciated. Thanks!
                            I have faced this same question, and have come to the conclusion that there isn't a great option out there, but the best I can figure is a small cheap walmart or bass pro 8' sit on top (or inside) and then figuring out how best to carry a small amount of gear in it. it isn't very comfortable, or great to fish out of, but I can easily carry it by myself and it fits in the back of my SUV with some elbow grease.
                            Jackson Dockery
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                            Unicoi Outfitters

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Dsaporsky View Post
                              Hi guys,

                              I am in the market for the lightest, cheapest fishing kayak I can find for fishing small ponds. I need to be able to carry it on my shoulder (more or less) for short distances to launch in small, isolated bodies of water.

                              Speed, stability, tracking don't matter much. Only the ability to get on the water cheap and easy. I have a 12 foot fishing kayak but it weighs 86lbs before gear. Too heavy to haul up and down hills and down paths to the pond/river!

                              Any guidance would be appreciated. Thanks!
                              Float tube with a kayak paddle. Fishcat 4 LCS or Fishcat 5 would be my choice. Around 16 lbs, able to carry like a backpack while fully inflated.

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