Choosing a Fishing Kayak
Choosing a fishing kayak can be a big decision. Often these water craft are costly to the buyer and knowing which one to invest in can take lots of thinking and research, particularly for those new tokamak fishing. Of course you can jump straight in and buy the first one you see but chances are you will find yourself wanting to upgrade when you see other models that are available that may have been more suitable for you. It is worth taking some time to think about what exactly your requirements are. Questions one should be asking should include:
There are many, many more considerations to think about when selecting a kayak, and one of the big ones is how much are you willing to spend!
How Much to Spend
Of course, for most, the price of a fishing kayak is the biggest dictator of what kayak one will eventually end up buying. This is a tricky point to discuss as everyone differs in what they are prepared to spend. I know for a fact that you can get a fishing kayak with a few basic essentials to get you on the water for less than £500, that is not to say that you should though. Some fishing kayaks cost in excess of £2500 and once kitted out with a fish finder, GPS, VHF radio, drysuit/paddle clothing, anchoring gear e.t.c. costs can runs into the £1000's.
As a minimum i would recommend putting aside a budget of £1000-1500 if you are looking for your first fishing kayak set up. This sort of budget will allow you to purchase a kayak, paddle, seat, buoyancy aid, perhaps some paddle clothing and safety equipment along with a few more bits to get you on the water. Importantly, this should allow you to buy a kayak that will last you several seasons before you may wish to upgrade, thats if you want to at all. Taking the time to research the right kayak for you will save you needing to upgrade soon after purchasing the wrong kayak and losing money. Those who are upgrading kayaks are likely to be more flexible with their budget as they will know what sort of kayak they will be wanting to upgrade too and how much one is likely to cost before choosing to upgrade.
What to Avoid
As i mentioned, the fishing kayak market is a minefield....there are things that you are going to want to avoid. Lets take a look at what not to buy....
Cheap / Low Quality Imported Kayaks
A quick search on various online auction/selling sites will show a huge quantity of cheap kayaks that are imported from China and sold under little-known brand names that often hint at being associated with well-known brand names. They are often direct rip-offs of well-known and respected fishing kayak hull designs. The problem itself is not that they are manufactured in China. The Chinese manufacturing industry can make some top quality products.... when instructed to do so within a viable budget. The trouble is that manufacturing a kayak and then shipping it across the world to be sold for a couple of hundred pounds means that compromises will be made to the quality and construction of that kayak. Their low price tag is often a magnet for those new to the sport but before committing to buy there new a number of things to be aware of....
These kayaks are typically made from LLDPE - Low Linear Density Polyethylene. This is a low grade of polyethylene that is not as durable as higher grades of polyethylene such as Medium Density (MDPE) and High Density (HDPE) polyethylene that are used by the major brands within the kayak manufacturing industry. It is cheaper to buy and also cheaper to mould as it melts at a lower temperature. What does this mean? Well LLDPE is certainly more prone to scratching and warping than MDPE and HDPE. At the end of the day, the lifetime of the hull is going to be less. The components and fixings used within the manufacture of 'cheap import' kayaks are usually low quality too, and this may result in them failing. It all comes down to the old cliche saying "you get what you pay for" and this couldn't be more true for kayaks! "Buy cheap, Buy twice" also comes to mind.
Despite being of a lower quality, one of the biggest reasons to avoid the cheaper kayaks from little-known brands is resale value. When it comes to selling your kayak a lower quality kayak just wont hold its value like a kayak from a well-known quality brand will. This is an important consideration because there will come a time when you will need to sell your kayak - either because you are giving up on kayaking, or because you want to upgrade to a better or newer craft. Steer clear of the cheap stuff and you won't go too far wrong.
The fishing kayak market is littered with kayaks that although advertised as 'suitable for fishing', they are in fact far from being suitable vessels for the vast majority of kayak anglers and the conditions they will most likely be paddling and fishing in. These short kayaks are often models from the cheap import brands. I would recommend avoiding kayaks less that 10ft in length. They are just too short to be efficiently paddled in all but the calmest of conditions and their size does not lend themselves to providing much storage space, nor capacity within the hull to carry a kayak angler and his gear safely. They have their place though - a 9ft kayak is ok for pottering around a lake or very calm estuary waters with one rod and a small amount of gear for a few hours. If you are looking at taking up kayak fishing as a regular pastime, it really is advisable to go beyond the 10 foot mark.
A sit-in kayak with an enclosed cockpit does not lend itself towards being a comfortable craft for fishing from. It is not impossible, it's just not easy. There are a few examples where large open-cockpit sit-in kayaks can be suitable for fishing in calm inland waters but for the vast majority of anglers a sit-on-top fishing kayak is the way to go.
Hooks.... Inflatables..... need i say anymore? They are also severely affected by the wind too so it really is not worth looking into these as a craft to fish from.
So lets take a look at what you should be investing in when buying a kayak.....
Recommended Fishing Kayaks
There is a huge range of kayak models available on the market with more models being introduce each year and current models continually having design updates to keep up with the latest developments within the kayak fishing world. Some models are great all-rounders, whilst others are designed for specific waters or styles of fishing, be it saltwater, inland waters, calm waters or rough conditions. Some models are stable platforms with shed loads of features and deck space for custom rigging. Other models are designed to be fast and perform well in rough conditions. You won't find a kayak that does everything really well but some of the top-end models certainly get close.
One of the easiest ways to categorise the vast array of sit-on-top fishing kayaks on the market is to divide them up into size categories. This also lends itself to discussing them in terms of performance as in general the longer the hull, the more efficiently that hull can be paddled through the water thus making it a faster kayak to paddle.
The 30+ kayaks listed below are based on what the majority of UK saltwater and freshwater paddlers are using to kayak fish from. I have paddled several of these kayaks myself, some more extensively than others, but have observed many on the water, spoken to owners of practically all of these kayaks and in most cases have looked over these kayaks in the flesh in great detail. They all have pro's and con's and they all have their place in the UK kayak fishing scene. There is a lot of choice but hopefully this article may help you narrow down your search for your first or next fishing kayak. Approximate prices are included (correct as of 2018) but they are only a rough guide as often retailers will have special offers or sales, particularly in the winter, where some great deals can be had. Specifications are also included as per manufacturers websites, for easy comparison between models.
So lets start at the short end of the scale and work our way up.....
10-11 foot Fishing Kayaks
These shorter kayaks are fine for those planning on fishing lakes, slow moving inland waters and calm sheltered coastal conditions close to shore. They are fine for pottering around over short distances but are hard work paddling over longer distances. Their shorter size means that they aren't going to be fast through the water so if you are planning on fishing exposed stretches of coastline where you may be at the mercy of the wind, swell and tide or large open inland waters, take a look at the longer fishing kayaks as these smaller kayaks will struggle. They may be the only option to those with limited storage space but be aware of their limitations. They are also great for those who are new to the sport and want to get a taste of kayak fishing in calm conditions before deciding on whether to pursue it further, perhaps with a longer fishing kayak that may be more suitable to the kayak fishing they intend to do.
There are a few well known fishing kayak models at this size....
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100
Feelfree Moken 10 Lite
Feelfree Moken 10 Angler
Ocean Kayak Tetra 10 Angler
Ocean Kayak Trident 11
RTM Abaco 3.60 Luxe
12-13ft Fishing Kayaks
The kayaks in this size category are what many people choose for their first fishing kayak, particularly those who will be paddling and fishing on the sea. At this size they are suitable for moderate coastal conditions, as well as inland waters, and will paddle reasonably well through choppy conditions and against a bit of wind and tide. These larger kayaks will also take a larger paddler and more gear more comfortably than the shorter kayaks. There are a wide array of hull designs in this category - some designed to be lightweight and speedy, others designed to be more solid and stable fishing platforms loaded with all the latest features. There are a number of models that make excellent fishing kayaks for the first time buyer.....
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 Angler
Ocean Kayak Tetra 12 Angler
Feelfree Moken 12 Angler
Feelfree Moken 12.5 Angler
Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game 2
Perception Triumph 13
Ocean Kayak Prowler 13
Ocean Kayak Trident 13
Viking Profish 400
Jackson Kraken 13.5
RTM Abaco 4.20 Luxe
14ft+ Fishing Kayaks
These kayaks are often the models that anglers will upgrade to once they know exactly what they are looking for in a fishing kayak to suit their style of fishing. At 14ft+ you get the speed and performance that will take on open coastal conditions, offshore conditions and the rough stuff more comfortably than shorter hulls, particularly if you will be covering greater distances on the water. They still have their limits and some models are more performance orientated than others but they all make good saltwater and inland fishing kayaks. These kayaks also tend to be at the expensive end of the scale but in return they are usually well kitted out with the latest features. At this length they all track well (keep a straight course when paddled) and most come with the option of having a rudder, which can help with manoeuvrability and make handling easier in windy conditions for hulls of this length.
If you go along to one of the big kayak fishing events you will see mainly kayaks from this category as these tend to be the kayaks used by those who are really into their kayak fishing. If your a first time buyer and are taking up kayak fishing with a view to be going regularly in a range of conditions then it may be worth biting the bullet and getting one of these kayaks that you may eventually upgrade to anyway in the near future!
There are several excellent fishing kayaks in this size category.....
RTM Tempo Angler
RTM Rytmo Angler
Wilderness Systems Thresher 140 and 155
Ocean Kayak Trident Ultra 4.3 & 4.7XT - Discontinued in 2017
Ocean Kayak Trident 15
Viking Profish Reload
Jackson Cuda 14
Jackson Kraken 15.5
Composite fishing kayaks are usually performance-orientated hulls constructed from fibreglass, and have narrower beams (width) than plastic kayaks of similar lengths. They are more aimed at experienced/confident paddlers over novices. A composite hull has a number of advantages over a plastic hull, primarily having a lack of any flex along the hull giving them great speed and performance when pushing through messy conditions. Their super smooth gelcoat hulls glide really well too. For paddlers looking at long distance trips at sea then glass kayaks are worth considering. Whilst having advantages they also have several disadvantages including higher price tags and a need for care when paddling around rocks and other solid objects to avoid damaging the hull.
Many experienced saltwater kayakers have turned to composite hulls to allow them to paddle further more easily and through rough conditions more comfortably. There are a few models that have become popular in the UK, from Kaskazi kayaks and Stealth Kayaks, both manufactured in South Africa. These are usually custom made to order with the buyer getting to select the colour pattern used on the hull. Kazkazi Kayaks UK even offer on-water training as part of any new kayak purchase for both new and experienced paddlers. Now that is what i call great customer service!
Kaskazi Dorado 2
Stealth Pro Fisha Range
Pedal Driven Kayaks
When is a kayak technically, by definition, not a kayak? Well, when its propelled through the water by anything other than paddle blades, such as in the case of pedal-driven hulls. There is great debate within the kayak fishing community as whether a pedalled hull is a kayak or not. It is a touchy subject as the outcome of this debate could potentially cause categorisation within competitions where there is currently none. Why would it cause categorisation i hear you ask?.... Well, a pedal-driven hull provides many advantages to the kayak angler that are not possible with a paddled hull.
With the hull being propelled through the water using some sort of drive system manually powered by your feet, your hands are left completely free to fish with! Wow... now that opens up a whole new world of possibilities such as trolling whilst holding the rod, holding position in a tidal run or in the wind whilst fishing, drifting a bottom bait when there is no tide, current or wind to assist you, moving the kayak whilst playing a fish.... and much more. These are huge advantages, particularly for lure anglers... advantages which are mostly unachievable with a paddled hull.
These advantages are why many kayak fisherman, lure anglers in particular, have opted for pedal-driven hulls. Are they kayaks? Well in my opinion i would still class a fish caught from a pedal driven hull as a kayak caught fish. Yes they have a number of advantages but the kayak is still being powered manually, just via your legs as opposed to your arms. There is nothing to stop these hulls being paddled too. If you have a fuel/electric powered motor then thats a whole different argument altogether!
There are a two major pedal drive systems: the Hobie Mirage Drive which operates using reciprocating pedals and fins based on the action of Penguin flippers, and several rotating drives based on revolving pedals and propellors such as the Old Town PDL drive, Jackson Flex Drive, Wilderness Systems Helix drive, Native Propel Drive, Feelfree OverDrive and Perception Pilot Drive systems.
Both the Hobie Mirage Drive 180 (below left) and the Old Town PDL drive (below right) have the ability to be pedalled forwards and in reverse!
So lets take a look at the popular players in the UK pedal drive kayak market....
Hobie Revolution 13
Hobie Revolution 16
Hobie Pro Angler 12 & 14
Old Town Predator PDL
That is a lot of kayaks!
The kayaks covered in this article are the models used by the vast majority of UK kayak fisherman. Each is different and each has its own place in the kayak fishing world. Some are great all-rounders, others are more specialist. Some are more suited to certain water conditions than others. Choosing the right kayak for your needs can be tough and take much research and thinking about but hopefully this article has helped to narrow down your your search for your first or next fishing kayak.
It can be difficult to decide exactly which model would be the best for you especially if you haven't seen many in the flesh. If possible, get down to your local kayak retailer and take a closer look at what is available. Often a kayak shop will only have a selection of kayaks looked at here but this will still give you a chance to look at some of them in close detail and begin to work out exactly what kayak is best for you. In the UK, the Canoe Shops Group have a great selection of the fishing kayaks mentioned here across their stores.
Another great way to see a variety of fishing kayaks is to go along to one of the big kayak fishing events, such as the Swanage Classic held in Dorset, the Ocean Kayak Classic held in Plymouth, or the Oxwich Kayak Fishing Championships held in South Wales. There are many more events held all over the UK and are often well attended by kayak anglers of all abilities. These events are great as often there are many different kayaks used by the competitors and this gives you a great chance to have a chat with the owners and take a closer look at how they are set up for fishing.
There are often many reviews of these kayaks online so it is worth reading through them to see what users opinions are. Often there are also videos of the kayaks in use too, so these are worth checking out to get a better idea about how they paddle and what they are like to fish from. There is plenty of info out there, it is just a case of trawling through it to get the info you need to make an informed purchase.
Once you have decided on the right kayak for you then bite the bullet and go and buy it! You'll soon be on the water and catching fish!
Any questions, just comment below....
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