Comfort: I am by no means a fish whisperer; they don’t just come to me, I have to be out on the water for 3-6 hours to catch a limit. To make this long day bearable I have to have a comfortable seat. The lawn chair seat is all the rage and for good reason. A Jackson Cuda 14 is still in my garage and its seat is much of the reason why I still have it. I am not saying the lawn chair is the only way to go, there are many other comfy seats on the market, but it better allow me to spend a full day on the water.
My top choices for comfort: Native Slayer/Slayer Propel, Native Mariner 12.5, Ocean Kayak Big Game II, Old Town Predator, Jackson Cuda 12/Big Rig, Hobie Pro Angler
Stability: Unlike our pure paddling brethren, we are fishing and fishing requires movement about our boat. We have to get to our crate, make lure changes and hopefully drag in a big fish for a picture. We also like to stand up to sight cast to our favorite targets or chuck a fly out from a high seated position. All of this requires a purpose built fishing kayak to have a lot of stability. Stability for me is safety; I want to worry about fighting the fish on my line, not worrying about tipping over after I set the hook on a lunker. With a lot of kayak attributes, everything is a tradeoff. When you add stability that usually means width and width means the boat is in most cases going to be slower. So there is a fine line and each person has to determine how much stability they actually need.
My top choices for Stability: Native Slayer/Slayer Propel , Native Mariner 12.5, Ocean Kayak Big Game II, Jackson Big Rig, Old Town Predator, Hobie Pro Angler
Speed and Tracking: We chose to be in kayaks; therefore we are not going to win any races. With that being said I still want a boat that is easy to paddle, cuts through the water and stays on course even in a crosswind and some chop. There is always going to be some sort of wind wherever you are and nothing is more frustrating for me then paddling a barge into a headwind. I won’t get into the whole rudder debate, but having owned a boat with one it is not something that I will go without.
My top choices for Speed/Tracking: Hurricane Skimmer 128, Feel Free Moken 12.5, Native Slayer Propel
Rigging: There are kayak minimalists out there; I do not count myself as one of those. Rods don’t hold themselves, fishfinders don’t sit on the deck just anywhere and paddle clips don’t magically appear. Rails, RAM Balls and go pro ready mounts are great and all, but at the minimum I need some flat surfaces to mount some tracks or flush mount rod holders. I have never been fearful of drilling holes into my boat and I actually prefer the option to customize it myself the way I like instead of a manufacturer deciding where everything goes. To each their own.
My Target Boats for Rigging: Ocean Kayak Big Game II, Old Town Predator, Jackson Big Rig, Native Slayer/Slayer Propel, Hurricane Skimmer 128
Weight/Transportability: The workout should be out on the water, not from your vehicle to the water. I will say that a good cart is a lifesaver, but that adds complexity as well because now we have to transport that cart, plus fishing gear, plus a cooler, etc. Now the weight of the boat is not my sole concern here. Some heavy boats are actually easy to transport because they have been thought out and designed that way. I have come to the conclusion that no matter which boat I get a cart is mandatory. Car topping adds some difficulty to this equation, but for me, I use my truck bed and bed extender which makes loading quite a bit easier.
My Target Boats for Weight/Transportability: Hurricane Skimmer 128, Feel Free Moken 12.5 (wheel in the keel), Hobie Pro Angler (I know it sounds crazy, but I have seen guys flop them on their sides and slide in a scupper cart in two second).
9 long months of planning and research is coming to its end soon. I plan on doing demo days in May at Austin Canoe and Kayak and Fishing Tackle Unlimited here in central Texas. I will be using my new GoPro to document each boat I try and will share them all with the community. I hope my thought process will help future kayak anglers. My one piece of advice would be to determine the things you must have in your fishing machine and research your choices then go demo them and see how it works.