Tips for choosing your first fishing kayak

With so many fishing kayaks on the market, choosing your first can be a daunting experience. Before you get caught up in the fancy brochures and sales pitches, it pays to take a step back and think about the fishing you will be doing. That way you will spend your money on the right kayak and equipment for your fishing needs.

For the purpose of this article, I will focus on sit-on-top kayaks which are the most popular and in my opinion the safest to use.

Fit for purpose

The first step is to think about the kayak fishing you will be doing. Some kayakers want to chase big fish offshore, others prefer the challenge of fishing estuaries and rivers. That’s not to say you will limit yourself to one type of fishing, but in most cases people prefer one or the other. So have a good think about your priorities as the starting point.

If most of your fishing will be in inshore (estuaries, lakes and rivers), I would recommend a pedal powered kayak. This will free your hands to cast lures, play and net fish. Hobie has the most extensive range and these kayaks are ingeniously designed for fishing – www.hobiecat.com.au

If most of your fishing will be offshore, have a look at the Stealth range of kayaks. These are designed for ocean fishing and are the best I’ve seen at getting through the shore break if your local launching spot requires it – www.stealthkayaksaustralia.com.au/index.php?p=1_1 

You can also look outside the dominant brands. I do all of my fishing from an Ocean Kayak (Prowler Ultra 4.7). Given its length and hull design it is great for offshore work or fishing on large inland waterways where strong winds can make life difficult. And despite its length, I have no problem fishing estuaries and medium-sized rivers – www.ocean-kayak.com.au/kayaks/fishingkayaks.html

Some kayaks, like the Hobie Revolution range, can handle both inshore and offshore fishing if you plan to mix it up. If you have the budget they are worth considering.

The centre console on my kayak is handy for storing gear during ocean launches and landings.
The centre console on my kayak is handy for storing gear during ocean launches and landings.

Pulling your weight

Chiropractors do well out of the kayak fishing community. Kayaks that offer the most features are the most popular, but also the heaviest. Particularly the stand-up varieties which are amazing to fish from but weigh a tonne. Kayak lifting devices do help and I highly recommend buying one , but there will still be times you feel the full weight of your kayak.

So be realistic about the weight you can comfortably lift. Know your limits because there’s nothing more frustrating than a new kayak and a strained back. Some kayak stores will allow you to trial a kayak before you buy, which is a great way to decide if it’s right for you.

Kayaks you can stand up in are great for lure casting, but they are also very heavy.
Kayaks you can stand up in are great for lure casting, but they are also very heavy.

Limit the bling

When I purchased my kayak I went overboard with accessories (excuse the pun). Every conceivable gadget was fitted. I can remember standing back, proudly admiring my new craft. Like a proud new father, I even took a few photos.

I arrived at my launch site early, keen to get on the water. I remember seeing an older fisherman getting ready for a paddle. He had a simple sit-on-top kayak, a rod, tackle box and landing net. Poor bloke, clearly a novice. I smiled at him and said good luck as he paddled off.

Fifteen minutes later, while he was out fishing, I was still attaching all my gear. Then I tried to lift my fully fitted kayak and came within a whisker of a hernia. When out on the water, my line kept getting tangled around all of my accessories which cost me what precious time I had left.

Over the years since, I’ve gradually refined my gear to what the old bloke had. Less is more when out on the water. So think carefully before burning the credit card on the multitude of kayak accessories available.

I would recommend you invest in a comfortable life jacket and a good set of kayak wheels. Your seat is very important so upgrade if the one that comes with your kayak gives you a sore posterior. A fishfinder is also worth considering, particularly if you plan to venture offshore.

So keep it simple at first. Over time, you will work out the equipment you really need through experience.

If your budget is limited consider a basic kayak. You'll still catch fish.
If your budget is limited consider a basic kayak. You’ll still catch fish.