Here is how it starts:
Talking heads (yes, me included), start telling you about all these cool new kayaks that are coming out. We show you fancy pictures. Then maybe you find a walk-through video. "Man, that's a cool kayak." You see some pretty cool features you like. "I might buy one of these!" you think, while you try to figure out when the next lump sum of cash is coming in. Tax return? Christmas cash? Returning all the crappy gifts you got for your birthday and the three extra blenders from your wedding gifts?
Then you go look at the fishing forums. “I wonder what the kayak guys think of this boat?” So maybe you ask the question, but you ask it too vaguely. Typing in ‘What do you think about a Great Fork Spearyak 13?’ is too vague. What do you want to do in the kayak? What limitations do you have? I could go through a big long checklist here, but I have already created it. Check it out:
Think about these questions, and think about the answers specifically regarding the kayak you think is so cool. Does it fulfill your wants list? If so, it could be great. If not, better keep looking.
At this point, you may be too deep in the hype and advertising to even listen. I know I was. I had decided that even though it wasn't everything I wanted and it might not deliver, I was going to buy Boat X. So I did. I bought into all the pomp and circumstance surrounding it. While it is a very good kayak for some people, it was awful for me. I hated it. It didn't do what I wanted it to do, I felt some of the things talked about were oversold, and the hype sucked me in. I was more attracted to a brand name than the function.
What could have avoided this entire headache? A demo.
I should have paddled the kayak first. That would have told me everything I needed to know, but I didn't. I was anxious, in a hurry and didn't want the deal to get away. Whoops.
People who own a certain brand will inherently recommend the kayak they paddle (or pedal). It says they really enjoy the kayak they have, and it fits what they want to do. A little quieter are the people who don't really like what they are in but made a HUGE ordeal when they bought Boat X, so now they are a bit bashful. Somewhere in that mix are people who are looking for something else, but don't want to say anything because they so highly recommended a different boat.
The plain truth is, sometimes when you think you know what you want, and then you go paddle it, you change your mind. The time to change your mind is BEFORE money changes hands. Getting recommendations will be easy but it will be diverse. If you are going to ask questions on a public forum, make them as specific as possible. "How does the Spearyak 13 handle in wind on large open water?" That is a direct, specific question.
Additionally, make sure the person giving you the advice/opinion has actually paddled the kayak you are talking about. I've had a couple dozen people ask me about the Old Town “Predator”. I have looked one over, but have not paddled one. I am very upfront with that info, and recommend whenever possible a person to talk to about it.
I now find myself with a primary kayak that not a ton of fishermen in Central Texas are paddling. I own a Malibu “Stealth 12”. It met more of my wants and needs than any other kayak I looked at. I think several eyebrows were raised when I didn't get another Hobie or a Wildy, but for the fishing I do across the state - salt, fresh, the way I transport, the specific places and ways I fish - this was the best kayak for me right now. Will I always be in it? Don't know. Was it a better decision than one I would have made three or four years ago? Dang skippy.
All of that to say, if at all possible, please demo a kayak before you buy. If you need to find someone who can help with that, message me on Facebook. I'll try to do my best to find you a shop or person within an hour or so that has that kayak. If nothing else, I can find you someone to talk to about it.
Be smarter than I was, and be happier in your kayak. Don't make a peer pressure kayak purchase.
About the Author: I've been fishing over 30 years and the majority of my time on the water has been spent in Texas with the occasional trips out of state. In 2003 I bought my first kayak and a new era in my fishing life was born. I learned the ropes quickly about gear, paddling, fishing, packing, safety and got a degree from the school of hard knocks with a major in kayak fishing. I learned a lot of ways to not do something. I love kayak fishing. That's the bottom line. See more of my writing at paynespaddlefish.com