Choosing a kayak – Part 1

This Hobie Pro Angler 14 kayak is owned by Heath Panganiban of Yak Tribe.

Kayaks come in so many flavors and sizes which makes it very difficult for someone new to the kayak fishing world to know what kayak will work for them. When they ask others about it, they will usually get many suggestions but too often these suggestions are biased toward that individual’s preferred type of kayak, the brand they like, or even their own particular model of kayak.

While this is often good info, when you get 15 different people telling you their way is best, you still haven’t arrived at a conclusion. The next step people will tell you is that you need to go ride as many kayaks as possible because you can’t know what you want until you’ve ridden them.

This is more helpful, but still doesn’t truly fill the gap of knowledge enough to keep one from going to a kayak store and spending a whole afternoon riding every brand they have, only to find out that there are 10 more brands out there!   You might even go to a “Demo Day’s” type event like Austin Canoe & Kayak puts on only to come away still feeling the analysis paralysis kicking in due to selection and options.

Of course, there will be some wise guy who will say that you simply need to buy a cheap one and learn the ropes before you go spend your money on an expensive one, or even to go buy an expensive kayak and make it work even if it’s not perfect!  While this sounds good up front, most of us just don’t have the money to waste on a bad decision.

Why would buying any particular kayak be a bad decision? 

There are many reasons:

  • The kayak may not fit your leg length even if they appear to fit when testing.
  • The shape of the hull may slap the water when on very slightly choppy water causing your boat to be scaring fish.  This isn’t an issue on big water, but definitely can be on skinny water.
  • Heavier riders may struggle with certain models even if they are rated for more than their weight simply because kayaks ride much differently as weight is added.
  • Stability varies greatly among kayaks and some people are better balancing on a moving object than others. Some kayaks are great when sitting down but horrible when standing up!
  • Some kayaks are made for flat water, others for moving water, some for speed, and yet others will focus mainly on stability and be relatively slow.

All of the suggestions are almost always given by very helpful people who are well meaning but they often just don’t taken into consideration the things that you need to have the perfect kayak for you.

So how do you find the perfect kayak?

The single best thing you can do to find the perfect kayak would be to find someone who will let you ride their kayak for an afternoon. Maybe they’ll have two kayaks and will take you out fishing with

Heath Panganiban (left) helping out Xavier, a fellow Yak Tribe member.

them so you can get an idea of what you like or dislike about their kayaks.  One of the best ways to do this is to contact a group like Yak Tribe and ask if there is someone who can take you out for an

afternoon.  This group is huge and all over the country so someone should be around to help you out.

But even spending time in a particular kayak might not be enough information for you to make a decision simply because they may be doing something you’re not or don’t have the features you want. In this case there are some things you can do to prepare yourself for the kayak buying process.

The first thing you are going to need to do is to become familiar with all the different types of kayaks which we will cover in part 2 of this blog article.

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