There’s nothing quite like slicing across a glassy lake in the predawn light, the anticipation rising in your chest like the mist off the water – today you’ll land a monster.
Kayak fishing is becoming massively popular with a wide range of anglers, and it’s not hard to see why. It is in turns relaxing and exciting and adds a whole new dimension to fishing. It’s relatively inexpensive to get set up and usually doesn’t take a person too long to to get the hang of it.
What’s best about it, is you’re not restricted by land access or boat ramps as you are when fishing land-based or from a motorboat – provided you can get to the water’s edge, you have access to the whole waterway.
What’s more, you can channel your inner-hunter by stealthily paddling up to structure that is inaccessible by land and motorboat. It’s a great feeling to silently glide over a submerged object like a tree and land a nice trout or bass on your first cast.
What to look for in a fishing kayak
No doubt you’re keen to get out on the water – it’s a truly awesome pastime – but before you rush out and buy a fishing kayak there are a some key considerations you should look at.
Stability is arguably the number one factor to look for when selecting a fishing kayak. You’ll often be moving around to swap rods, change tackle, or reach for the lunch you stowed in the front hold – so stability is important for more than just landing a fish.
The trade off is that stability is often directly proportional to width, which in turn makes the kayak harder to push through the water. That’s not to say all fishing kayaks are murder to paddle but it can be frustrating trying to move through the water in an ill-designed boat.
Many modern kayaks use channels running underneath the boat to provide stability while keeping width to a minimum. Also, as you increase the length of the kayak, it becomes faster and easier to move through the water. The trade off here is that longer kayaks will be heavier and less maneuverable, so it’s all about finding a balance that’s right for you.
What kind of waterways do you intend on fishing? If you’re headed for the open ocean, speed and stability should trump maneuverability. If rivers are more your style, a short boat that can turn on a dime is probably a better fit for you. The longer and narrower a kayak is, the faster it will be. This can be important if you plan on covering significant distances in your kayak. If this is the case, you should look for a kayak over 13ft long.
How heavy are you and how much fishing gear do you want to carry? Are you happy with a couple of rods and a backpack, or do you want to have your entire arsenal with you at all times? The capacity of a kayak is usually proportional to its size and weight, with lighter boats often having reduced capacity.
When deciding on your minimum capacity, think about whether you’ll be taking it out on your own and if so, how much weight you can lift and carry comfortably. Will you be heading off on long expeditions, or are you just planning to take it out on the odd afternoon?
Some kayaks are wide enough to enable the user to stand up and fish in the boat. This allows you to fish by sight and to target a wider area directly around your boat. However, the extra width needed to make a kayak stable enough to stand up on will generally make the kayak slower. So have a think about what’s more important to you.
A rudder makes it easier to turn the kayak but will really come into its own when you’re tracking straight, as it will keep the kayak on course leaving you to concentrate your efforts on gaining speed.
It does add an element of complexity to using and maintaining the ‘yak though. Rudders are controlled by foot pedals and often need the tension and position adjusted.
Pedal vs paddle
If you really want to get serious about your kayak fishing, a pedal kayak can offer a range of benefits. Pedal kayaks work similarly to a bicycle but instead of turning a wheel, they turn a small propeller that sits below the kayak.
This allows you to move around without a paddle, leaving your hands free for fishing. Pedal kayaks to tend to be on the heavier end of the spectrum though and, because the propeller is sitting below the kayak, fishing in shallow waters can be problematic. They are also often more expensive than their paddle-driven counterparts.
What to take with you
While some kayak anglers out there will bring their entire fishing kit along with them, we are firmly of the belief that, when it comes to kayak fishing, less really is more. Ideally you want to have everything you need and nothing more.
It might take some trial and error to get it right but after a while you’ll work out what’s right for you. It helps to have a think about where you’re going and what species you plan to be targeting and only take what you need for that fishery – there’s no point bringing a box of squid jigs if you’re going trout fishing.
In most states and territories in Australia it is a legal requirement you wear a life jacket whenever you’re in the kayak. So make sure you get one that adheres to Australian standards. There are many lifejackets that are purpose made for fishing and double up as a fishing vest with heaps of handy pockets.
Next to rods and tackle, a dry bag is arguably the most important piece of kit you can take with you . A waterproof dry bag is designed to do one thing and do it well: store your valuables and keep the water out.
Most dry bags use a roll top system to ensure that no water can get inside. The key is to make sure that you roll them at least three times over before fastening them closed with the buckle or Velcro strap. This will ensure that they are completely water tight.
It’s a good idea to pick a dry bag that is a suitable size for your adventure. If you are only heading out for a short trip to catch a few fish, you might just need a small five-litre bag for storing items like your phone, keys and wallet. However, if you are out on an extended expedition, you might need a bag as large as 20 or 30 litres to store your spare clothing, accessories, and camping gear.
A net is an indispensable piece of kit for the kayak angler. Because you are stuck in your seat, it can be a real feat to bring in a decent sized fish without a net. You’ll be trying to secure the rod back in the rod holder while your prize fish flips around the kayak and more-than likely goes back into the water. You can pick up a decent net for under $20 and, in our opinion, that’s money well spent.
There’s no doubt about it, if you enjoy fishing you’ll likely love kayak fishing. It keeps you fit, lets you explore a fishery like never before and is fun whether you’re alone or in a group.
With a little bit of research you can be sure to get a kayak and kit that is suited to you. If you try your new kayak and decide you’ve made a terrible mistake, many retailers will let you bring it back for an exchange – just pose the question before you buy.