Fishing Kayak Buyers Guide

Kayak fishing is relatively new for a lot of anglers with me being included. My interest in kayak fishing grew around the same time my interest in fishing reignited. I had grown up a beach angler spending many weekends and school holidays at the mercy of the rising and falling tides. However as I grew older and the four-wheel drive was sold my connection to fishing disintegrated. A trip to the south island of New Zealand inspired me to pick up a rod again. Even though all I managed to catch was a duck the seed had been planted.

During the trip I noticed some kayakers in one of the lakes, with what I thought were fishing rods. Upon returning to Australia I started to research kayak fishing and was surprised to see that indeed there was a form of fishing from a kayak and that it had a really strong community behind it. Being a university student at the time, a low income, no four-wheel drive or desire to be at the mercy of the break wall, kayak fishing became something I wanted to be involved in.

Now I am by no means a professional or an expert in kayak fishing, and I have only owned two kayaks, but I did my research when it came time to purchase my first. When I first started reading forum posts, articles and reviews I gathered that there were very few fishing specific kayaks and canoes around, and that most people would retrofit rod holders, milk crates and bungee cord to any vessel that could be paddled and would float. Several years later this has changed with many manufactures realising the emergence of this potential market and supply the quickly growing demands.

It is of my opinion that one does not need to go out and purchase a Hobie or the like to partake in this sport. Though at the same time I do not condemn anyone who chooses to do so. The point I am making is the type of kayak or canoe you choose to buy will not magically entitle you to catch more or bigger fish, just make things a little easier. In saying this when choosing a kayak or canoe to buy there are some factors you may wish to consider.

I would like to take the time here to mention I am by no means affiliated with any of the brands or websites that I post. I would also like to mention when going out and buying a kayak make sure you pick yourself up a PFD, and research and understand the waterways laws that are in place in your state or territory.

Intended fishing environment

This is one of the most important factors that I feel needs to be considered when purchasing a kayak. There are some models of kayak such as Hobie, and Native that employ a pedal system. This pedal system needs at least one foot of water to operate in, which rule these kayaks out of Skinny water.

Plastic kayaks are a great choice for skinny water.
Plastic kayaks are a great choice for skinny water.

It would be ill advised to attempt to go offshore with a short kayak, as it would not offer a safe, stable or energy efficient fishing platform 2-3 nautical miles out to sea. So keeping this in mind we can get into some other factors that need to be considered.

Transportation

I have recently spoken to someone who owns a 4.1 metre offshore kayak and without releasing traded their station wagon in for a sporty hardtop convertible, as far as I am aware they are still yet to solve the problem of transporting the kayak since there is no tow bar or space for roof racks.

Like your intended fishing environment, available transportation of a kayak or canoe can generally be overlooked in the equation. Transporting a kayak or canoe is generally on roof racks (or Ute backs), however since kayaks and canoes have been getting larger, purpose built trailers are viable.

There are many other novel ways to transport a kayak or canoe these are just some of the common ways. Also don’t forget it is handy to have a kayak that you are able to lift by yourself, with some new monster kayaks getting about it is useful to be able to carry you own kayak without help.

Budget

The last factor I am going to cover before we get into the technical aspects is affordable budget. As I have previously mentioned do not feel as if you need to go out and buy a fully fitted fishing kayak straight out of the show room. Devising and fitting a kayak can be fun and satisfying experience as you are able to customise it for your specific needs.

I have purchased both my kayaks second hand, my first was off eBay (www.ebay.com.au) and my latest was off Gumtree (www.gumtree.com.au). Other places I kept an eye on was the classifieds on fishing forums, word of mouth (there are a lot of kayaks in sheds out there), and the humble local newspaper classified section. I generally steered away from the Trading post (www.tradingpost.com.au) since it is generally full of advertisements for wholesalers and disturbers. I must also give a honourable mention to the franchised fishing, camping stores such as Anaconda (www.anaconda.com.au), Ray’s Outdoors (www.raysoutdoors.com.au), and BCF (www.bcf.com.au) as sometimes they do have some really amazing catalogue sales on kayaks.

Length

The length of your kayak does matter greatly as it determines how much stowage is available, as well as the kayaks performance such as speed, tracking and manoeuvrability. Longer kayaks 3.5 meters plus will generally have better speed and greater tracking.

Tracking refers to the ability the kayak has to go in a straight line. This is something you want when you are paddling into a headwind across a body of water. With poor tracking you will find yourself zigzagging with every paddle stroke. As you can expect you will exert a lot of energy attempting to move in a straight line.

Longer kayaks will generally have less manoeuvrability than a shorter kayak, this will however not be an issue as longer kayaks would typically be used on open bodies of water such as dams, lakes, estuaries, harbours and the open ocean.

Hobie Tandem Adventure Islands (http://www.yakangler.com/kayaks-and-gear/item/177-hobie-announces-tandem-adventure-island)
Hobie Tandem Adventure Islands (http://www.yakangler.com/kayaks-and-gear/item/177-hobie-announces-tandem-adventure-island)

Shorter kayaks have poor tracking but are compensated by having great manoeuvrability. This manoeuvrability is very useful if you are planning on paddling down small streams, creeks and rapids.

Australis Barra (http://www.australiscanoes.com.au/fishing-canoes-kayaks-sitons.php)
Australis Barra (http://www.australiscanoes.com.au/fishing-canoes-kayaks-sitons.php)

As you can expect, a longer kayak is bound to have more stowage space compared to a short kayak. This can be often over looked. If you are one of those people who take their entire supply of tackle with them on a fishing trip then consider a longer kayak.

The two kayaks I have owned have both been sub 3 meters long, and I must admit when I first started fishing off a kayak I would bring far too much gear. Now I have managed to fit everything I need for a full days fishing in a small camelback and a small dry bag. If I am going on an extended trip and I require more gear, I employ an additional large dry bag in the rear. I know with some novel thinking I could be quite capable of storing enough gear for multi day trip.

Sit in or Sit on Top

Kayaks come in two distinct styles: kayaks where the paddler sits on top and kayaks where the paddler sits inside. This initially may seem to be of no real importance, but there are some things to consider.

Sit on top kayaks are deemed to be unsinkable, since the kayak sits on a watertight cavity. This tends to be a safer alternative out of the two since getting back on after capsizing is much easier. Sit on tops also have more space on the deck for modifications. The inside of the kayak can also be used for stowing items that will be kept reasonably dry. However you will find yourself more exposed to water and sun on a sit on top kayak. Sit on top kayaks are generally used offshore, in bays, estuaries, dams and rivers with larger bodies of water.

Pacer 2.8 Kayak
Pacer 2.8 Kayak

Sit in kayaks are generally lighter than their counterparts, and offer a lower centre of gravity. Since the kayak is sitting lower in the water it will typically have better tracking as well. You will have less exposure to the water and sun. There is greater access to stowage, however there is a greater possibility for it to get wet. Once water gets inside of a sit in kayak, there is only a few ways to get it out. Tipping it upside down, using a bilge pump (like a old fashion water gun that sucks up the water and shoots it out) or a sponge. There is a greater possibility to sink a sit in kayak. I managed to fill mine up one morning when underestimating a small but rapid section of a creek. Sit in kayaks are generally used in alpine or colder waters, shallow and backcountry rivers, creeks or streams.

Mission Access 280
Mission Access 280

Plastic or Fibreglass

Kayaks are constructed out of two different types of material, Plastic and Fibreglass. These materials both have the strengths and weaknesses, and like every other factor is heavily influenced on the environment and type of fishing you are planning to use it for.

Fibreglass kayaks are light, slick, fast and fragile. Contemporary fibreglass kayaks are designed to cover large distances inshore and offshore. Older models I am personally not so sure about as fishing platforms, however I am always open to see people’s vessels. Joe uses a long fibreglass canoe, which is surprisingly rugged as long as you take some care where and how you take it. These vessels are fairly inexpensive and can be found at garage sales, ex-hire sales and when the local scouts are selling off their old canoes. Here are some websites of contemporary glass kayaks:

(http://www.kayakgroup.com.au/)

(http://kayakspecialists.com.au/)

Stealth Kayak (http://beachwheelsaustralia.com/the-kayak-cart-beach-by-wheeleez-wz1-kcb/)
Stealth Kayak (http://beachwheelsaustralia.com/the-kayak-cart-beach-by-wheeleez-wz1-kcb/)

Plastic kayaks have come a long way and if you are to purchase a decent model (not a cheap knock off) you will find that despite the kayak being heavier than a fibreglass kayak, it will still be considerably fast and slick, as well as strong. Plastic allows for the user to drill into nearly any part of the kayak and attach anything to it. Both the kayaks I have owned have been plastic; my current one has been dragged over rapids, rocks, bridges, through bushes, thrown in the back of the truck and is still in great condition. Plastic kayaks can be used in any situation, but are definitely nicer to have if you have some harsh territory with lots of portages ahead.

Ocean Kayka 4.3 Ultra (http://www.kayakfishingstuff.com/community/showthread.php?p=893144)
Ocean Kayka 4.3 Ultra (http://www.kayakfishingstuff.com/community/showthread.php?p=893144)

Paddle/Pedal/Sail/Motor

When it comes to kayaks today we have the luxury to ask the question of whether to paddle, to pedal, to sail or to electric motor. Indeed there are kayaks that encompass all of these propulsion methods. Pedal kayaks are popular as they allow the kayaker freedom to use their hands. Brands such as hobie (http://www.hobiecat.com.au/) and native watercraft have pioneered this (http://www.nativewatercraft.com/).

Native Watercraft Mariner 10 (http://www.rei.com/product/832988/native-watercraft-mariner-10-propel-sit-on-top-kayak)
Native Watercraft Mariner 10 (http://www.rei.com/product/832988/native-watercraft-mariner-10-propel-sit-on-top-kayak)

Sails on kayaks really help to harness that wind (http://www.pacificaction.com/). Strapping battery motors on kayaks has also become popular. I personally am not fond of the idea as it draws away from the kayaking and turns it into boating, but each person to themselves.

Pacific Action Sail (http://www.jervisbaykayaks.com/kayaking_accessories/kayak-sails/pacific-action-kayak-sail-1-5-sq-mtr)
Pacific Action Sail (http://www.jervisbaykayaks.com/kayaking_accessories/kayak-sails/pacific-action-kayak-sail-1-5-sq-mtr)
Ocean Kayak Torque (http://www.bestfishingkayakguide.com/ocean-kayaks-torque-review/)
Ocean Kayak Torque (http://www.bestfishingkayakguide.com/ocean-kayaks-torque-review/)

There are many other intricacies that I may have omitted, but I choose to outline the important things. Kayak fishing can be a really addictive recreational activity, I can’t think of many things that are better than gliding along at first light on a secluded stretch of water. So pick yourself up a kayak or canoe, and get out on the water.

Recap

  • Choose the kayak that best suits what and where you are fishing.
  • Be mindful that you need to transport your kayak, and lift it.
  • Second-hand kayaks catch as many fish as new ones.
  • Short kayaks manoeuvre better and track poorly.
  • Long kayaks track better and manoeuvre poorly.
  • Sit in kayaks = lower to the water, less exposure.
  • Sit on top = virtually unsinkable, more exposure.
  • Plastic is strong and heavier with utility of modifications.
  • Fibreglass is light, fast but fragile.

Richard (Big Dick).

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