Promising simplicity, versatility and access to new waters, kayaks are the ultimate fishing machines. Here’s how to get in on the action
#1 USE THE RIGHT BOAT
There’s no one-size-fits-all fishing kayak, so you need a boat that suits where and how you like to fish. With that in mind, the main factors to consider are: style, size, propulsion and budget.
The two main boat styles are sit-in kayaks (SIKs) with a traditional cockpit, and sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks, which resemble a surfboard with moulded-in seats and storage wells.
Most serious anglers prefer SOTs, which are self-draining and exceptionally stable. They also offer great freedom of movement. However, SOTs are heavier and pricier than cockpit-style boats. You’re also more exposed to the elements, and often need to wear a dry suit. SIKs designed for fishing are more stable than traditional kayaks, with larger cockpits and more accessible storage, but they’re still confining compared to wide-open SOTs.
Size is also crucial. Shorter kayaks manoeuvre better in tight quarters and rivers, while longer boats are faster and travel straighter (known as tracking). Wider boats are generally more stable, but they also take more effort to propel. And pay attention to the kayak’s weight if you plan to portage it or need to lift it onto the roof of your vehicle.
Pedal-drive kayaks travel faster and further with less effort, and leave your hands free, which many anglers love. However, pedal boats are bulkier, heavier and cost up to four times as much as comparable paddle kayaks. Most drive systems are very reliable, but they still require some care and maintenance. And any mechanical device can break down, especially if it’s used around water, rocks and sand. For all these reasons, a dedicated minority of kayak anglers (including me) still prefer the simplicity of paddling. If you choose to paddle, learn to use your powerful core muscles, not just your arms. Poor form will tire you out quickly; good form lets you fish all day.
Inexpensive boats offer a great start, but they have limited features. As boats go up in price, you get better designs, workmanship and accessories, including premium seats, which make long days a lot more enjoyable. Used boats are also worth considering, especially since you can see exactly what you’re getting, unlike more complex vehicles, which can conceal serious problems in their complex workings. (Check out some of the latest fishing kayaks at www.outdoorcanada.ca/2022kayaks.)