I get it. You love your kayak. You think it's the best. And here's the thing: For you, it might be! But let it be said once and for all: There is no perfect kayak for all people, in all situations. People with bad backs will need a lighter kayak or a trailer. People with only $400 to spend can't afford the Hobie “Pro Angler 14”, so stop suggesting it. People who want a river boat may not want the Native Mariner, especially in low water conditions.
I get it. You are loyal to your favorite brand. That's good. Please understand, however, not all kayaks fit all people and situations the way they might fit you.
To grow the sport, the most important thing we can do is encourage people to demo as many boats as possible. Sure, you might encourage a certain brand - I think we all do. But please, whenever possible don't encourage someone to buy a kayak "dry". If a person has never been in a kayak, and you are encouraging them to buy the XR34, you are rushing. Asking lifestyle questions will lead you to a handful of kayaks to choose from.
Hey, new guy! Does picking your first kayak seem overwhelming? I've been there. I bought the only one I could afford. It got me on the water, and that was good - but it could be very frustrating, and I almost died once because of a bad kayak choice. Please, new guy, be patient. We understand you are super-excited to try this cool sport. We love it, too, but we have all made different mistakes. I made a really bad one that almost pushed me out of kayak fishing all together.
About five years ago, I purchased a kayak, sight unseen, “dry” with no demo. It was such a good deal I couldn't believe it, so I bought it. Later that week I took it for its maiden voyage, and almost turtled a dozen times. I hated that kayak. I felt like I was fighting it the whole time. It was awful - I sold it a month later, and lost money.
Since then, I have purchased several kayaks for different purposes. I have a small-water/buddy kayak, a big-water kayak, and a family kayak (tandem). All three are different brands, and I like them all. If anyone told me I could get all of my wants in one kayak, it would seem a fairy tale and, frankly, unrealistic.
I fish a wide variety of situations. Most people do. If you only fish one set of ponds or one stretch of river, you might be able to find one kayak that works well, and it could be perfect for you. That doesn't make it perfect for your buddy, or that new guy on the forum.
Lots of places around the country have kayak dealers who specialize in kayaks, not just a bait store or grocery store that sells them. Ask for a demo. Almost all have staff who specializes in kayak fishing, and who have paddled all the different brands they carry. Take a look around and see what you can find. If you can’t find a shop nearby that offers demos, ask on the local fishing forum. Lots of people would be happy to let you try their kayaks. I take new people out all the time, just to share the kayaking experience with them.
So, new guys: demo, demo, demo. Only you can choose for you. Kayak addicts: encourage the new guys to demo. Don’t just be boat pushers.
So how do you start narrowing it down? Check out this form: