*Where will you be fishing? Saltwater flats? Lakes and rivers? Offshore? That little golf course pond? Chances are, there’s a kayak for every one of these options. You wouldn’t want to try taking that little 9 feet long kayak offshore just as you wouldn’t want to use a pedal drive kayak on a 1 foot deep grass flat in Mosquito Lagoon. A lot of inshore saltwater flats fishing folks really like the Native Ultimate because it suits their needs, but you won’t see them taking it offshore because if it gets dumped, they’re in trouble. River fishers tend to prefer a kayak around 10 feet long because it’s easier to navigate the twisting and turning bends that they traverse, and it helps them stay put in the current….so you wouldn’t want to buy a 14 feet long Malibu X-Factor if you’re fishing rivers. If you’re still not sure, look into some of your local forums and websites and ask the folks who fish in your area what they use and why. Yakangler.com is a fantastic resource for beginners and veterans alike. There are members from all over the world there who are more than happy to answer any questions you might have….
*What sort of fishing will you be doing? Standing up and fly fishing for redfish? Live baiting with eels for stripers? Bass fishing lakes? Trolling for kingfish? One of the fun things about kayak fishing is rigging your boat. You can customize your ride with just about everything you can imagine – from livewells to rod holders to camera mounts to depth finders. Some kayaks come pre-rigged with these things and it’s advisable to get a kayak that has these options already built in. One of the things that I like about my Malibu Stealth is the center livewell hatch. Even though I don’t chuck bait, it provides the storage space for me to have what I need within easy reach. If I wanted to use bait, it wouldn’t take much for me to be able to put an aerator on it and have a tankwell full of live shrimp. If you’re primarily going to be sight fishing for redfish inshore on fly and want a kayak you can stand and fish with, then a wider kayak with a flat deck is preferable. Maybe you want to be able to stuff all of your camping gear in it in order to paddle out to that island and do a few days worth of dawn to dusk fishing adventures. You’ll need a kayak that has the storage space and the weight carrying capacity to accomplish this.
*Where do you live and how will you transport it? I know it sounds like a stupid question, but where you live does play into what sort of kayak you purchase. If you live in a 3rd floor condo with a spiral staircase, will you be able to get an 80lb Hobie Pro Angler up and down the steps? Will your wife let you have storage space in the garage? I live in a 2nd floor apartment and keep my kayak behind my couch. Vehicle doesn’t really matter as much as long as you don’t have a convertible. Just the other day, I saw a Mini Cooper with 2 Ocean Kayak Prowler 13′s on the roof, so you should be able to get your kayak out to the water on pretty much anything you drive.
*Budget? Yes budget! How much lunch money do you need to save to be able to afford the kayak of your dreams? That’s up to you. Too often, folks will say “I just want something that will get me out on the water.” and frankly, that’s the wrong attitude to have because, when you do that, you end up getting something that you don’t like and will suffer from kayak envy….wishing that you had that Native or that Diablo…..and eventually buying another one. My advice is to buy the best kayak that works for you that you can afford. If you’re thinking of getting that $300 kayak at the big box store, chances are, you get what you pay for. You’ll want to enjoy your time on the water, so think of it as an investment for years to come.
After you answer all of these questions and narrow down which kayak will work for you, the next thing I would suggest is to get out there and paddle a few. Many local kayak shops offer “demo days” where you can “test drive” many different makes and models. If you rent kayaks or go fishing with a guide, you might make note of the make and model and how it handled.
Here is a small list of kayak makers who make nice products that you should check out….in no particular order…..
About the Author: Rob DeVore is a Pro Staff Member at YakAngler.com and an outdoor writer from the Tampa Bay area. He writes for various fishing publications and is the host of BadBackcast Live Show at 8pm E on the Kayak Fishing Radio Network. Rob also is the author of ABadBackcast.com