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THE REEL DEAL ON SELECTING A FISHING KAYAK

by

DUSTIN HILL

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During the past five years, kayak fishing has become quite popular in Florida.  This can be directly attributed to rising vessel and fuel costs, increased numbers of slow-speed and no motor zones, and the need to find fishing spots that are more inaccessible to the growing number of anglers on the water.  While kayaks definitely have their disadvantages in comparison to motorboats, they do provide unparalleled stealth, shallow draft, and most of all, an easily portable and extremely cost efficient way to access waters that receive little to no fishing pressure.  Kayaks have evolved greatly in recent years to accommodate the needs of fishermen.  Choosing the right kayak can be a long and involved process, especially considering the sheer number of different models available.  In this article, Iíll discuss some of the most important issues for selecting a kayak that best fits your fishing needs. 

 

Sit-On-Top (SOT) Vs. Sit-Inside

The vast majority of kayak manufacturers now make models especially designed for fishing.  More often than not, these are SOTís.  As opposed to the traditional sit-inside kayak design where the paddler sits on the bottom of the boat with his or her lower body actually inside the hollow of the kayak, SOTís are constructed with a cockpit that is molded in to the top of the kayak.  Each variety has its advantages.  A sit-inside kayak will always be drier, and typically a bit more stable than a comparable SOT due to the lower center of gravity.   For colder climates, a sit-inside is optimal.  SOT kayaks are wetter than the sit-inside models in choppy water, but most have scupper holes in the cockpit that drain overboard above the waterline, making the kayak self-bailing.  It is much easier to get in and out of an SOT kayak than a sit-inside, which is often important over the course of a day of fishing.  In the warm water environment of Florida, a SOT is perfect for fishing the majority of the year.

 

Length, Width, and Stability

The most important choices you have to make when selecting a fishing kayak are the length and width.  Length and width dictate the speed, maneuverability, and ease of transportation of a kayak more than anything.  Most kayaks designed for fishing are 10-16ft. in length and 26-34in. in width.  Without getting into the physics of it, a long (14-16ft.) and narrow (26-29in.) kayak will move the fastest through the water with the least amount of paddling effort.  These same attributes make the longer kayaks more difficult to turn and handle in the wind.  In contrast, the shorter (10-12ft.) and wider (30-34in.) fishing kayaks require considerably more effort to paddle and maintain speed.  However, they will turn on a dime.  The type of habitat you most frequently fish should dictate which combination of length and width you select.  For open waters where range is important and tight turns are not in abundance, the longer kayaks are ideal.  Small creeks, lakes, and more protected areas are perfectly suited to the shorter kayaks.  The most common misconception regarding fishing kayaks (or kayaks in general) is the lack of stability.  While touring models can be quite tipsy, most fishing models are extremely stable.  With the exception of getting caught in very rough water, it is actually very difficult to flip a typical fishing kayak.  In fact, it is quite easy and comfortable to stand up in many of the shorter models. 

 

Options and Accessories

Kayaks designed for fishing come in many different configurations from a layout standpoint.  If longer, overnight fishing or camping trips are a possibility, a kayak with two dry storage hatches (fore and aft) could come in handy.  Many fishermen opt for models with a forward storage hatch and an aft tank well.  A tank well is simply a depression molded into the back deck of the kayak that is meant to hold a scuba tank.  A tank well can be used to carry bait buckets, cast nets, tackle boxes, and any other assorted fishing gear that can get wet.  Most fishing kayaks also come standard with two molded flat spaces behind the seat to mount rod holders and another at the front of the cockpit for a compass or other accessory (depth finder, GPS, etc.).  Many fishermen choose to add a rudder to their kayak to aid in turning and tracking straightly in a crosswind.  A rudder is especially helpful on longer kayaks.  

 

There are many manufacturers that sell kayaks specifically meant for fishing.  Several of the most popular brands are Wilderness Systems (www.wildernesssystems.com <http://www.wildernesssystems.com>), Ocean (www.oceankayak.com <http://www.oceankayak.com>), Perception (www.perceptionkayaks.com <http://www.perceptionkayaks.com>), Hobie (www.hobiecat.com <http://www.hobiecat.com>), Cobra (www.cobrakayaks.com <http://www.cobrakayaks.com>), and Necky (www.necky.com <http://www.necky.com>).  Most fishing kayaks are made of polyethylene (a super tough plastic) and range in price from $500-$1200.  They will last a lifetime and are easily customized to fit your fishing needs.         

LINKS TO DUSTIN'S ARTICLES

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