Secrets IN Kayak fishing: Quickly becoming my favorite sport in the world
My beginning to kayak fishing!
Like a lot of people I have sold my boats and found myself transitioning to kayak fishing: Hence why it is quickly becoming my favorite sport in the world. I have been fishing ever since I was a child. I have traveled the Pacific West coast from Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California, and fished their lakes, rivers and oceans. It didn’t take long for me to learn as a kid that fishing and the outdoors was the place I wanted to be. Growing up with my fishing family and friends, it became a way of life not just a hobby. I worked on a marina in high schools and fished daily for bass, catfish, crawdads and rainbow trout. I fished the ocean one day, and the high mountain lakes of the Cascade Mountains the next.
Out of high school I joined the United States Coast Guard. It kept me close to the water I loved so much. The Coast Guard took me to the Puget Sound where I fished for Dungeness Crab, Salmon, rock fish and freshwater trout. My Coast Guard Cutter took me to Alaska where I deep sea fished for rock fish, Kodiak Salmon and Halibut. The mission took me to Carolina where I fished for bass and sun fish, and back to California where this story begins.
In California I bought a boat and learned quickly they are expensive and a waste of money. I sold it. Later I began to hear about fishing kayaks. Not being a fan of Southern California fishing I decided to buy a kayak and give it another try. A new approach. Since that time i’ve met Central Coast Kayak Fishing website creator, owner of Youtube’s Fisheye Channel, Pro Kayak Fishing owners, and the San Diego’s Hero’ on the Water staff. I’ve bought a kayak, then another. I now tournament fish regularly in fresh and saltwater and have found a new love for the outdoors.
When I started thinking about fishing from a kayak, I began by researching and found there are many different shapes, sizes and types available. For several months I browsed through hundreds of websites, blogs, articles, forums, and videos to understand the most important factors when looking to invest in a fishing kayak.
Finding the perfect fishing kayak can be a daunting task. In truth, a book could cover this subject! This blog has been written to share the experience and knowledge on many kayak fishermen from all over the world. Read it and consider the different steps to consider for anyone hoping to become a fishing kayak owner.
Which fishing kayak is right for you?
Choosing a kayak is like choosing a boat or a car. It means creating a long list of your wants and desires, and deciding what features are “must-haves,” and which ones are compromises. Remember, sometimes the options of the kayak are directly related to the need of the body of water you are going to fish. Lakes, rivers, bays, and oceans all have different needs from you and the kayak.
Once you understand your options, you can start down the path of choosing the right kayak for your intended purposes. Sit in, sit on, and the new inflatable kayaks all serve different purposes to different people. These are some of the basics to think about before you buy your first fishing kayak.
Storage is something you will find many kayak fishermen and websites discuss. I am fortunate to live in a location that was ideal for me to be able to store my near 12’ Malibu Kayak. This is considered a normal/medium length fishing kayak used by many anglers on freshwater and saltwater. It allows for easy access to the water, not too hard to put on top of a vehicle and can be spatially optimized for the individuals fishing needs.
There are racks, stands, pulleys or covers for just about every storage situation. Since most people don’t want a plastic coffee table that’s 12 feet long, the new addition to the family will probably sleep outside or in the garage. Just always remember that plastic doesn’t like prolonged direct sunlight and heat. Also remember not all garages are the same dimensions and your kayak may have to hang above your car.
There are multiple types of kayaks. The two major fishing types are sit on, and sit in types. Most recently people have talked about the inflatable but in my mind they are not for the serious fishermen yet. Each of these come in different sizes, shapes and weights, depending on their manufacturer. But for fishing, sit in kayaks are the best and most popular.
What is liked about sit on Kayaks:
- They are easier to get in and out of when launching your kayak from shore or from dock, or from when you fall into the water.
- They have scupper wholes throughout the floor for self-bailing. When water gets in, which it will, it goes right back out and keeps you from flooding. Keeps the bum dry….
- In use, you sit higher above the water than a sit in type.
- More storage options and access to your gear throughout the kayak.
- Ability to stand up on most models.
- Easy to customize and add accessories to, based on preference and intent/fishing style.
- Most sit on top kayaks for fishing are wider and more balanced/stable.
- Many seating options available for purchase, based on your preference. You’ll be more comfortable. Over the course of a long day you won’t get stiff from sitting in one position. This is especially important if your kayak doesn’t have a comfortable seat!
Pedal or paddle?
I’m a freshwater and saltwater angler, and this created a problem for me. I thought initially while doing some of my fishing on lakes, ponds, small saltwater bays, and open ocean sometimes, a paddle kayak would work for me. After multiple trips and then kayak fishing tournaments, I found paddling all day wasn’t giving me the freedom I wanted. It kept my hands busy with something other than a pole, and also slowed me down in covering fishing areas which I wanted to cover faster. So obviously my first kayak didn’t do everything I thought I wanted it to do, or meet my angling needs. It also showed me I wasn’t as willing to compromise in certain areas as i thought I was. As I mentioned before there are many types of fishing kayaks on the market, and I bought a cheaper paddle driven kayak right off of the bat. So, to help with me with my dilemma I bought a second kayak, a few years later. I chose a kayak with a pedal-drive system, the Hobie Outback.
What I have found is that I now have a kayak for longer distance trips which will work just fine, and I have the paddle drive kayak for everything else. If I am going someplace that does not allow easy access to the water like a rocky beach or steep embankment, I will use my paddle drive because I am not as worried about hurting it.
Pedal kayaks are a great way to ensure the sport is accessible, no matter what your ability level because they replace regular paddles with foot-paddles, using the strongest muscles in the body. These types of kayak are favored by those who want to keep their hands free for fishing and/or that want to cover a lot of fishing ground! Some of the guys I compete with easily travel 2-5 miles during tournaments.
Another important aspect to consider is your budget. Some might call kayak fishing an extreme sport. Kayak prices can certainly be extreme! From my experience they are as equally as expensive to a boat in some areas. This sport is growing by the day. To give an idea of the different options available I have listed some of the more popular pedal-drive models from the major brands on the market in the US, below.
I will start with the Kayak I chose to buy, the Hobie Outback W/180 fins. Despite being a bit pricy, it is a more universal fishing kayak than its more expensive relative below. The outback is a 12’ fishing kayak that delivers great value for money. Fully featured with a super comfortable and adjustable seat, a modern 180-degree pedal-drive system, multiple accessory tracks left and right, and a lot of storage options, its price is around 3100$.
Now, the Hobie market is a following. Many will say buy a Hobie once and do it right the first time. I’ve heard many call them the ‘Maserati’ of the fishing kayak world. The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12’ or 14’ fishing kayaks are just that, fishing kayaks. They are designed for no other purpose in life. These kayaks are unique and are truly a premier watercraft. Offering an option for every angler, the Hobie line also includes the Outback which is still a fishing kayak by design, and Hobie’s Revolution, Compass and Passport which are smaller, yet still customizable to the individual. Prices range from 1499$ to 5000$.
An example of mid-high budget kayak would include the Native Watercraft Titan and Slayer series Pedal Drive Fishing Kayak. Native offers a rockered bow design for easier operation in choppy water conditions. It offers a modified and raised seat for view and comfort, an extended rudder for control, and a forward and reverse pedal drive system. The Native Series offers a hands-free fishing platform for the serious angler with a price around 2100$-3000$.
Native Watercraft line here.
Another example of mid-high budget kayak is the Old Town PDL series fishing Kayak. Old Town offers a bike like peddle style, and their easily removable pedal drive offers easy shallow water docking. They offer built in gear tracks, instant forward and reverse operations, and EVA foam deck pads for safe and comfortable stand-up fishing. The Old Town Series offers a fishing platform for the serious angler with a price around 1900$-2600$.
A few more brands I would seriously consider are the Wilderness System series, Jackson Adventure series, and most recently discovered and worth mentioning, the Pelican series
Once you finally decide on which kayak is right for you, you’ll need to figure out a way to get it home and to the places you want to go fishing. For transportation there are some phenomenal trailers, roof racks and straps available. As with each there are pros and cons. Price will usually always dictate its quality and the damage it will do to your kayak or to your vehicle if used inappropriately. Choose carefully.
I have managed to load and unload the 90lb kayaks onto big/tall pickups myself. A much smaller vehicle would be much easier. Some of the larger kayaks can be much heavier and it’s worth keeping in mind you’ll need an extra pair of hands to help with loading and unloading. There are some devices on the market you can buy that mechanically make this process easier. I haven’t seen any of these in mass production or in use so I cannot comment on their versatility. Be open minded and maybe crafty, and you will figure something out.
The bonus with Kayak fishing is that you could have the smallest of cars and find a way to transport the biggest of kayaks.
Try before you buy
Once you’ve thought about what you want from a fishing kayak, it’s time to select a handful that appear to match your desired criteria. At this point, try them! Always demo a kayak before you buy it! Before you can evaluate the fishing kayaks at your local paddle sport shop or marina, it’s helpful to understand some of the important characteristics of kayaks. Most fishing kayaks can be used for a variety of activities but understand that no one kayak excels at every activity.
Kayak fishing essentials
A life jacket is the most essential item you can have that will keep you safe on the water while kayak fishing. It will help you to stay afloat if you find yourself in the water. This is another item to become familiar with before you buy. Make sure it fits and is comfortable. Don’t buy online and expect a perfect life jacket.
Clothing in the Pacific South West is different than the North West, Gulf, and east coast, not to mention ponds, lakes and rivers scattered throughout the country. I am currently writing a blog on just this subject matter.
Suitable clothing is a must. Depending on the time of year you’ll be fishing proper cold weather gear is a must during the winter months, and waterproof and windproof clothing is required all year round. Don’t be cheap in this area and don’t buy it expecting to know how to wear it. Dry suits and waders kill so many people each year because they are incorrectly used, and/or are not worn by individuals trained in their use or knowledgeable about their dangers.
Here on the Southern Californian coast I wear water wicking pants, a sweatshirt with a rash guard top underneath, and diving booties. With my life jacket this combination offers me enough sun protection, warmth, coolness, and quick drying power in any weather. When I go to the mountains, I dress much warmer but very similar.
Remember, even tropical water can cause hypothermia. Dropping the bodies temperature below its operating temperature starts the hypothermia process. It might take longer than the cold high mountain lakes, but it is still possible. On the flip side you have to be worried about being hot. Heat causes its own problems. Find the balance!
As with cars or other hobbies there is the possibility to customize your kayak according to your preferences. I rig my kayak so that it is easy for me to access the fish finder, cameras, fishing lures and other accessories quickly and easily. You can choose from different rod holders, camera sticks, lights, coolers, life wells, and a many other accessories to suit your budget and need. The options are not endless, and they go on and on until you are satisfied.
Do a search of YouTube or Google and you will find an endless amount of discussion on how to do everything and anything to a kayak, of do it yourself builds, or even reviews on accessories you might want to buy.
One of the most exciting things about kayak fishing for me have become the competitions and the relationships I have made! I have managed to participate in many kayak fishing competitions since 2018. I know the sport is growing daily and to prove it I am seeing new competitions pop up daily on my applications and on the internet.
With plenty of Competitions to choose from I have so far only participated in 10 – gaining a lot of valuable experience and achieving great results as a beginner. I have managed to place in the top 10 in multiple tournaments and have learned I have training to do for others. With COVID hopefully drawing to a close and people learning how to isolate so competitions can continue, I am looking forward to new competitions and new relationships.
Now all that is needed is Sunday morning kayak fishing with Bill Dance and Rolland Martin. Maybe some Walkers Kay Chronicles via kayak. I totally just aged myself……..
I hope that this has touched on the most important aspects that will help you make the best decisions in getting started kayak fishing. Don’t forget you have unlimited information on the internet, but I’ll be more than happy to help if you need more information or tips.
I want to say thank you to Bogdan Pascaru for being a cowriter and strong influencer in this article. Please see his blog at http://anglingtrust.net .