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Tips for Selecting a Fishing Kayak

Posted: 06.12.2014

kayak fishing

Here are a few quick tips from two fellow Wilderness Systems Pros.

Key question to address typically are: How much weight capacity do you need? Do you want to stand? How much speed and/or maneuverability do you need? To compliment the video, I wanted to talk a little more about selecting a river fishing kayak and some specific attributes that I look for when paddling moving water.

I tend to lean more toward maneuverability however I still want my river fishing kayak to have decent tracking. Decent tracking allows me to line up with the current nicely to slow my drift and keeps “spinning” to a minimum when fishing. That’s why you’ll see me in the Tarpon series or the Ride series kayaks most of the time. The kayaks offer enough speed for most river fishing applications, great tracking for a short kayak and enough maneuverability for most easy class I and II rapids.

In terms of maneuverability, I like shorter kayaks for river fishing so I like kayaks under 13.5 feet long. I also look closely at the hull to make sure that it has some “rocker”. This means the the hull has a slight “banana” type bend. If the kayak is sitting on a flat floor, the rocker will result in the front and the back of the kayak being slightly off the floor while the middle of the kayak rests on the floor. What this means to the paddler is that when you try to turn or spin the kayak in moving water the front and back of the kayak will be “less involved” in the water allowing for easier maneuvering. Too much rocker though can be detrimental allowing the kayak to spin way to easy creating positioning problems while trying to fish.

Contrary to popular belief, tracking is also very important to the river angler. Tracking is basically the ease at which a kayak can maintain a straight line without a lot of corrective paddling strokes. Tracking is at the heart of  many of the position holding and drift techniques that I each in my Guided Kayak Fishing Classes. For example if a boat has good tracking, I can line it up with the current pointing the boat upstream to slow my drift past some fish holding targets along the bank allowing me to increase the number of casts that I can make to a targeted structure. Good tracking will decrease the amount of corrective paddle strokes I need to do in order to keep the kayak pointed up river because the kayak will have less tendency to try to spin the bow downstream. I look for kayaks that have a bit of a center line keel. They tend to track much better than rounded hulls.

I’m most familiar with the Wilderness Systems line-up of kayaks so I’ll give you some examples from their stable of kayaks. Again, there are more kayaks in the Wilderness line that are suitable for river fishing but these are the ones I’ve come to rely on most.

  • The Tarpon Series Kayaks (100 & 120)
  • The Ride Series Kayaks (115, 115X, 135)
  • The Commander Series Kayaks (120 and even the 140)

There are a number of other considerations as well and many of them are covered int he video below… enjoy!