It’s that time of year. It’s been a cold winter and people have had a chance to sit inside and dream of the spring. This is also the season when people start thinking of boats and kayaks. Every winter the kayak fishing Facebook Groups light up with requests about how to pick a kayak to buy, which one is for them, and myriad other questions.
So which kayak should you pick? It’s not that simple.
You may as well ask which one main dish your town would like to eat every day for the next year. It just isn’t that simple. People have different expectations for everything. We are all unique individuals with very specific things we are looking for. Kayak fishing is no different. So, what do you do? No one will give you the perfect answer. What now?
Here are a few steps to help make the right-for-you decision as you pick a kayak.
#1 Pick a Kayak: Make a List
You need to make a list of all the things you are going to do in the kayak and how it will be used.
Are you fishing in big lakes, the ocean, rivers, bays or all of the above?
Do you want to troll, drift, sit, stand, paddle, pedal or use an electric motor of some sort?
Are you fishing for bass, crappie, cats, specks, reds, flounder, anything you can catch or all of the above?
Who will be using the kayak? Will it be just you or will others be sharing it?
How will you transport it? Do you have a truck, trailer, car, van? Or do you have a roof rack? Do you have cross bars on the roof rack?
How much storage do you want the kayak to have?
Do you fish in the cold much?
Or do you fish in the wind much?
Where will this kayak be stored? How much room is in that place (size limits)?
Do you have any health issues that will play into your decision (bad back, bad heart, arthritis, etc)?
How much weight can you lift above your head? Raise to your waist?
How much does the heaviest person weigh that will be using the kayak?
Of the people using the kayak, what is the height of the tallest one?
What weight capacity, gear and people, will the kayak need to have?
This is by no means the full exhaustive list but it will get you in the right frame of mind to discover what you need.
#2 Pick a Kayak: Consider Your Budget
This one is tough. Most people decide they want to get into kayak fishing with a max cap of $500. Some have a smaller budget than that. The problem with that number is that will usually only get you a kayak. Let’s say you go to Academy and pick a kayak that is entry level. It’ll cost you $500. After tax you are already over budget. Now you need a paddle, lifejacket (PFD), and whistle just to be legal and able to go to the lake. This adds another $60 if you get the absolute cheapest stuff that’s made. Throw in tax and your $500 budget is now at $670.
This is when most people start to look at used boats and settle on a boat in their price range. Usually, the kayak doesn’t fit that list of things you wanted and often, your $450 you spent on a used kayak turns into a loss because now you are selling the used kayak and stuff for $350 on Craigslist because kayak fishing just isn’t for you.
Don’t blame the kayak. If you take a date out to McDonald’s and tell her to order off of the Dollar Menu only, do you think you’ll get a second date? Rarely. When you buy a used boat on the cheap that you’ve done little research on and doesn’t meet your needs, your time in kayak fishing is usually, not always, but usually short lived.
Make a realistic budget for what you can do and stick to that but make sure it meets your list. If it doesn’t meet your list, save up more money to expand your budget or keep waiting. Trust me here. A boat that meets all your needs rather than just the desire to get on the water will make you much happier in the long run.
#3 Pick a Kayak: Demo, Demo, Demo
Before you make a purchase, demo lots of kayaks. Technically speaking, there are demo days almost every day of the year. Lots of dealers will meet you at the lake or river with a few boats you want to try. Meet up with folks who have the kayak already and give it a try. Please don’t buy a kayak without trying it first. It usually ends in heartbreak. Take your list and check off how many of your desires each boat has. If it is out of your budget, look for a used one or save some more money and get the one you really want.
#4 Pick a Kayak: Research
Talk to people who have the kayak you have narrowed it down to. Do some web research. Look at the manufacturer’s website. Join a Facebook Owners Group. What would they change? How did they rig their kayak for fishing? Would they buy the kayak again? Make an informed decision.
Even if you follow all these steps, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll pick a kayak that is perfect for you. It will improve your chances of loving kayak fishing though.
Chances are, you’ll change boats a few times in your life and that is good too. As your preferences change, possibly so will the type of kayak you need. But the chances you’ll pick a kayak that is perfect for you the first time without any of the above steps is not a very likely scenario.