PART ONE OF A 3 PART SERIES
Is it Time to Start Fishing From a Kayak?
— By Billy Reynolds
There is no disputing that kayak angling has had a meteoric rise over the past few years. Kayaks bring new meaning to the term, “a whole lot easier.” They are “a whole lot easier” to store than a boat. They are (for the most part), a “whole lot easier” to afford. They are “a whole lot easier” to get to spots that you would never dream of being able to access in a boat. But is a kayak for you?
Well, hopefully I will be able to help you answer that question. One of the main benefits of a kayak is the relatively low cost. You can start your kayak angling adventures for as little as a couple of hundred dollars. This will allow you to buy a used, or sometimes even brand new kayak. Although at this price point, you will likely be looking at a recreational sit-in kayak and not the more preferred fishing platform, which is known as a sit- on-top. So what’s the difference? In simple terms, it is where you park your rear.
You basically sit on the floor of the hull in a sit-in kayak. This allows for a nice low center of gravity and tons of stability. Most people who fish from recreational sit-in kayaks do not use spray skirts to keep the hull watertight. With this in mind, kayaks get wet. So unless you are in the heat of summer or dressed in specialty gear, you might be spending more time dealing with your comfort level than concentrating on fishing. But since sit-ins are the traditional type of kayak and are readily accessible, they are a great place to start if you have a limited budget and want to see if you like kayak fishing before you make a large financial commitment.
This brings us to the most popular type of kayak for anglers, and that is the sit-on-top. Sit-on-tops have a seat, similar to a stadium seat, that is mounted on the floor of the hull and places you in an elevated seating position.
The advantages are comfort, a higher seating position to see those spots you are casting to and of course, you are out of the way of any water flowing through the hull. You will still get splashed by fish, and drip some water off of your paddle, but overall, it is generally a much drier ride than a sit-in without a spray skirt.
Since the popularity of sit-on-top fishing kayaks has grown so much, the manufacturers have had to up their game in regards to features and pricing. The number of brand new kayaks under $1500 that are fully capable of taking an angler from the local pond to national level events, is staggering. Online, you will often hear, “this one is the best” or, “I had one of those and hated it”. At the same time, someone else will be saying the same thing about another brand.
The bottom line is this; It is extremely difficult to find a modern fishing kayak that is a bad kayak. Some kayaks excel at certain things though, so you have to decide what is important to you. For example: A ten foot sit-on-top is generally a great river kayak. Easy to maneuver, lightweight when you have to portage, and quick turning. But it is rarely as stable as a 13 footer on open water and the longer kayak will also offer you more storage room and stability.
So which one is better? There is no right answer. That’s why it is always beneficial to demo kayaks if you can. Fortunately, many shops have demo kayaks and there are hundreds of friendly kayak anglers willing to allow you to demo their personal kayaks. Any pro staffer worth their salt will put a paddle in your hand and allow you to try out their kayak.
Being fortunate enough to have a pond behind my house, I enthusiastically handed the keys to various Vibe Kayaks (a brand I staff for) to dozens of potential new kayak anglers last season. There are plenty of guys like me out there.
Part Two - Coming Soon!
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Billy Reynolds is a St. Louis based competitive kayak angler who has fished local and national events since 2017. With over 150 competitions under his belt, Billy proudly represents TRC Covers, Vibe Kayaks, Fitzgerald Fishing, Skirmish Baits, and Swagger Tungsten.