Friday, November 20, 2009

What kayak is good for me?

So you have decided to get into kayaking and or kayak fishing.  Now you want to know what kayak is good for you.  Well one of the things that I have learned along the way is that it is best if you try out several kayaks before purchasing one.

My first kayak was a tandem SINK or in other terms a two person Sit INside Kayak.  I thought that this was a wise purchase because my wife expressed an interest in kayaking and fishing from the kayak and I figured that we could use it together or when I went out alone, I would just have more room to store all the stuff I carry with me.  This was good in theory but terrible in execution.  One sure fire way to drive your relationship into the ground is to get two strong minded people trying to both paddle and fish from a tandem kayak.

My second kayak was a SOT or Sit On Top single person kayak.  It was an Islander Moku.  It was about 12" long and not very noteworthy other than the price.  It was very inexpensive to me and as such I had to have it.  This freed me from the tandem SINK.  However, I am 6'5" and 250lbs.  This kayak was designed for someone much smaller than me and was a bear to use.  It was very wobbly so I was constantly adjusting to the waves and current.  I was EXHAUSTED after every trip.

Finally I got the kayak that I still use today.  It was a Wilderness Systems Ride135 SOT kayak.  It is designed for the kayak angler and is incredible for me.  It is a bit wider than most standard SOT's.  It is 32" wide at the seat and has a pontoon style hull which makes it more stable on the water.  And it has an incredible amount of storage.

Ok so why this walk down memory lane?  Well I wanted to detail some of my mistakes in purchasing which could have been remedied by some patience and practice.

First up, where can you get the practice.  Well this can be accomplished easiest through a vendor demo day.  These are popular in the spring with many vendors but they also have them throughout the year.  At a demo day, you can literally test out dozens of different kayaks and equipment.  They are usually held by the water, in a bay, or lake.  Also, vendors will bring their whole gallery of kayaks out.   In my area Appomattox River Company (ARC), Blue Ridge Mountain Sports (BMRS), and Wild River Outfitters (WRO) have annual demo days.  I would highly recommend going to one and trying out a bunch of kayaks.  Usually these are free, sometimes they will have a nominal fee which goes to cover things such as park fees or insurance needed for such an event.  If you can't find a demo day, look for local clubs.  I am active with the Pirates of Lynnhaven Kayak Fishing club and we regularly have people asking about what kayak to buy and without fail, someone is always there to offer to let the new kayak test out their kayak.  Dont be shy, jump onto one of your local kayak club's online forums and ask.  You will find that people are eager to help promote the sport.

Now you know where to get the practice, but what should you look for.  There are many theories as to what the best kayaks are.  I will not get into specifics on brands & models because most brands make solid kayaks, but sticking with one of the more popular brands will probably serve you well.  A few of the popular brands are Wilderness Systems, Native, Ocean Kayak, Hobie, Herritage, and Perception.  What I will do is detail 3 different types of kayaks and give pros and con's to each.


First up is the touring kayak.  This is a SINK style kayak.  These are designed for slow rivers and open waters.  They can also be referred to as a sea kayak.  They typically are long and narrow with a lot of internal storage in the bow and stern.  These are designed to cut through the water and are great if you are looking at long paddles on slow moving rivers, lakes, bay's or even in the ocean.  If you are looking at fishing from one of these kayaks, it is possible, but probably not your best choice.  I have known people to fish from them, but shortly they moved to a more fishing friendly platform.

Next up is the SINK or Sit INside Kayak.  This is a style of kayak where the seat is inside the cockpit of the kayak and there are closed walls around the cockpit.  The benefit of this style kayak is that it often provides a dry paddle for the paddler, especially if it is used in conjunction with a skirt.  They are excellent for lakes and protected waterways where the possibility of flipping over (turtling) is reduced.  They can be outfitted for fishing and often are.  However, if you plan on using your kayak to fish deeper water like oceans and bay's or in areas where the possibility of flipping is increased, you my want to avoid a SINK.

Third is the most popular style of kayak for fishing.  That is the SOT or Sit On Top kayak.  This is a kayak where the seat is on top of the kayak deck and there are recesses for your feet (foot wells) rather than a closed cock pit.  Also SOT's incorporate Scupper Holes.  This allows the kayak to self bail in the event of a capsize.  SOT's are much safer as a result.  Also SOT's allow you to easily position yourself in many ways to add to the flexibility needed when fishing.  It is very easy to sit forward, side saddle, or even stand in some cases and fish from your kayak.   You can easily use this style of kayak in virtually any body of water.  However, due to the scupper plugs as well as the lack of a cockpit, a SOT is typically a wetter kayak than a SINK.  Although, kayak manufacturers have been doing some really interesting things with their deck and seat design over the past few years to make them a drier ride. 

This is just a general overview of the different types of kayaks.  For more specifics, visit your local kayak retailer, or send me an email and I would be more than happy to assist in anyway I can.

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