A kayak can change your entire outlook on fishing, and open up a new world of opportunities. It doesn’t matter if you live near the ocean shore or an inland pond, a kayak can be the ultimate fishing ride. They’re stealthy. You can paddle them right into shallow flats. They’re easy to transport, maintain, and store. They aren’t terribly expensive. And they come in different shapes and sizes that meet very specific needs and interests of anglers.
If you are considering a fishing kayak the most important concern is finding the boat that is perfectly suited for you. Start with your body. Each kayak is rated to carry a certain amount of weight. How’s your balance? Longer, more streamlined kayaks can be more tippy, though they track well through the water.
Go ahead and sit in different kayaks to find the one you’re most comfortable in. A seat that offers good back support is an absolute must in a fishing kayak, especially if you’re planning on spending many hours on the water. How do your legs feel? Most kayak systems are fully adjustable, but you want to be sure that a boat can fit your body perfectly.
Then ask yourself, where am I going to fish from a kayak most? Will you be in predictably calm, flat water the majority of the time, or will you likely encounter some choppy water? Are you going to be fishing in lakes, an ocean, or rivers, and what is the current like where you plan to fish? These questions will not only influence the type of hull you’ll choose, but also the propulsion and steering options you have. Some kayaks come with a pedal propulsion system and a rudder, which allows you to fish and move at the same time (obviously, fishing’s not so easy with a paddle in your hands.)
Lastly, you want to thing about your kayak’s “systems.” Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to rod holders, coolers, storage bins for tackle and other gear, as well as the choice of anchoring or tying off a boat. You can find kayaks tricked out with anything a fisherman might need, including small motors and high-tech electronics. Just remember that everything comes at a price, literally and figuratively. The more you carry, the more you weigh. And the more you weigh, the harder it is to slink around the water.
One last piece of advice: You should get to know your kayak well before you start fishing from it. Take some time to go paddle around, and learn how the boat behaves and responds. Get comfortable in it, and practice. Then take it out to fish.
The greatest attribute of kayaks is that they’re just plain fun to fish from. Hook up with something big, and feel it drag you through the water a bit, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large for Field & Stream, and the editor of TROUT magazine.