The Perfect Kayak

Prospective kayak anglers have often approached me to ask what is the perfect boat out there. What they do not ask me, although I wish they would, is “Which kayak is best for what I intend to do?” Image Credit: Hobie Kayak Fishing/Flickr CC

More often than not, a prospective kayak angler falls for a particular kayak solely because of its aesthetic appeal or because it has a particular option to offer them, without giving any thought to the practical problems involved in kayaking, such as long distance paddling or moving through currents. Indeed, many buyers fail to realize that a particular boat may look beautiful when placed on the bed of a truck and still be unsuitable for its intended purpose.

An angler, told that such-and-such a boat is a fast one, may go ahead and purchase it, only to find that it lacks stability, which rules it out as a kayak for stand-up fishing. The cycle goes on until the angler either runs out of money or winds up selling all of his boats because he does not enjoy them.

This is exactly what I did — I settled on a boat that was decent at everything but excelled at nothing. Then it occurred to me: What I needed was several kayaks, each useful for a different purpose.

Yes, that’s right. I am here to tell you that unless you’re planning to fish in only one particular way, in only one kind of body of water, there is no perfect kayak for you. While there are multipurpose boats that are good in many arenas, the fact remains that a specialized boat will bring in more enjoyment for you, and with that enjoyment will come more time on the water — and, of course, more fish! I fish in areas with heavy current three miles from the shoreline at some times of the year; in areas miles from the launch site, with little or no current, where I have to stand; and in neighborhood ponds.

The first question that I ask of myself is: What do I want to do with this kayak? You need to be honest with yourself. If you’re bass fishing in a small pond, you won’t be needing the fastest kayak on the market; instead, what you should get is a short, stable boat in which you can stand and turn easily. I won’t go into detail about which kayak is best for which applications — many voices speak to that — but my suggestion is, always buy two kayaks built for what you want to do. Many will laugh at this idea until the time to go fishing actually comes. I’ll spend more time out there on the water enjoying myself and will most likely catch more fish because attitude makes all the difference. I cannot catch fish if I am struggling to maneuver my kayak.

If you can’t afford more than one kayak, look on the forums and take advantage of the angler who is moving on to another kayak only after using it a couple of times. Look on Craig’s List, at garage sales or even in kayak shops that have taken back a boat that they have just sold on a trade. I recently crossed the Chesapeake Bay on my kayak; I had a shorter one that could have made the trip, but I knew of another one that could fly with me sitting on top, so for a few months, I practiced on the shorter kayak. I purchased the new boat when I could afford it, and on the day I made my purchase, people asked me how I felt about it. I answered that I felt surprisingly good; I had the right tool for the job.