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Buying My First Fishing Kayak

Written by Tim on August 10th, 2015.      0 comments

It would be fair to say that kayak fishing is no longer just a fad. Like soft-baits, it has now become a permanent tool in a fisherman’s arsenal and for people like me it has also become a bit of an addiction. I had been begging and borrowing friends fishing kayaks all winter, as well as using my sea kayak, but it was apparent that I needed my own. Searching for the perfect fishing kayak was a process that I immensely enjoyed but I as I searched, I found that there was a general lack of solid information for the budding kayaker. Sure there are all the colourful brochures from the manufacturers, endless screeds of opinions on websites, and supposed experts in every sports shop, but I felt much of it was very brand bias and lacking in any solid facts...if not utter crap. It occurred to me that many of you may also be in the same ‘boat’ as I was, so in this article I thought I would share a few of my experiences and point out the hard truths to help you get out on the water this summer.         

Before I started off I wrote a list of desirable features and conditions for my dream kayak. These were...
 1. she must be relatively fast.
 2. she needs to be responsive and easy to handle in all conditions, especially surf.
 3. she must be able to carry a big load.
 4. she should have a well thought out design for equipment, tackle, rods and electronics.
 5. she should be robust and suited for New Zealand conditions.

So let’s look at my desired features in more detail.
1. The speed that a fishing kayak is capable of is mainly influenced by 4 factors: length, width, weight and design. Obviously a short and fat kayak is going to be much slower than a long and skinny one. I also considered the fact that a long and skinny kayak would also be extremely unstable and this doesn’t make it an ideal fishing platform. So I wanted something that wasn’t going to be a floating garage door, nor an Olympic sprinter...just something in between. I also considered my own fitness as this would play a huge role in how fast I could actually make it move. As a kayaking guide, I am very fortunate to have a high fitness level compared with most so I could afford to look at the bigger models. You may not be as fortunate with your fitness, but with the modern fishing designs available you won't have any trouble selecting a model that will see you moving just as fast as anyone else if that’s what you desire.
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2. Handling and response: these are two factors that are much harder to gauge in a fishing kayak just from looking t it. Right now I could go into a huge amount of detail on design features but for the average person I would suggest that your own experimentation is the best way to go. All the advice in the world means nothing if you just don’t think it feels right and to gauge this you actually need to take it out for a paddle - any quality kayaking shop will have demo models available. One simple piece of advice that I can pass on is always get a rudder. Yes they cost a little more, but the handling will be incomparable!. 
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3. Load carrying ability was an extremely important factor to me because I am a dedicated gear freak. I like to be able to take a range of tackle to target different fishing scenarios and still have room for the fish that I am likely to bring home. I also wanted to have the option of taking some overnight tentage or diving equipment (not all at the same time obviously). When I was looking at different kayaks, I always paying attention to things like front and rear gear wells/hatches and centre consoles. Little options like tackle pods or fish bins scored highly in my books. Keeping these sorts of things in mind, I was also considering weight - all extra features add weight and this slows you down once out on the water...trust me, an added one or two kilo’s can make a big difference over the course of a day.

4. Layout design for fishing equipment and electronics is one area that kayak manufactures are continually pushing the boundaries of. In the old days you would often have to install your own rod holders but these days many modern fishing yaks may come standard with six or eight. The centre consoles are the generally the party place on any fishing kayak so look at how you can attach all of your party favourites...things like gaffs, bait-boards, and knives. Then there is the placement of the all important fish finder. You need to consider how you are going to mount it, store it when not in use, get power to it, and attaching things like aerials or transducers. The top-end kayaks have generally had this sort of thinking done for you in their design phase but if you are buying second-hand or are have a lower budget you may need to ask yourself if you really need these options or could I add them on later with a bit of help?
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5. Designed for New Zealand conditions is one feature that thankfully I didn’t have to worry about too much. We are blessed with a range of local manufactures that happen to be producing some of the best kayaks in the world...basically if it can withstand NZ conditions it can handle anywhere! Modern rotor moulded kayaks are all pretty similar in construction, strength, and durability but when you first receive your kayak, be careful for the first week or two because the plastic takes awhile to harden up to full strength (if it' brand new). You should also check it for overall shape as it is possible for them to deform while cooling and this can play a major role in its performance on the water. If not buying NZ made (shame on you), be aware of the cheaper kayaks as their plastic will probably not handle our UV for very long and may fade or even crack if stored outside.  
    
Bearing all of these features in mind, what did I choose? I chose an Ocean Kayaks, Prowler Ultra 4.7. At the time this was before I was sponsored by Viking Kayaks and I felt that it was the best compromise of all of the features above. It was 4.7m long, capable of maintaining a constant 3.5 knots under most conditions, was incredibly stable, and with a carrying capacity of 250kg I could safely add another 160kg of gear fish and general clutter without sinking her. Five years down the track, the 4.7 is now considered a bit of a dinosaur in the kayak world and I amy now lucky enough to paddle the Viking Profish Reload. This is a great kayak and it more than covers all my desires as a fishing guide. 

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I hope this article has helped to give you an example/ideas for purchasing your first kayak. If you need any more help please don't hesitate to contact me at any time - I simple love to talk kayaks and fishing so I'm only too happy to help out.

Paddle hard everybody. Tim. 
 

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