I was inspired by Brian Vincent over at Appomattox River Company (www.paddleva.com) to compile a list of what I feel to be my "must have's" when Kayak Fishing. Of course this list may vary for many of you, but I feel that I owe much of the success I've had to what I list below.
1. Quality Kayak
This one should be a no-brainer, but unfortunately it isn't always that clear. Don’t get caught up in all the hype about the next best thing, because as of yet there isn't a fishing kayak that can be classified as the "hands down best all-around" fishing kayak. Kayaks have strengths and weaknesses just like fishing techniques. I used to think that one day a company will come up with the "one", but as kayak fishing evolves, I have come to the personal realization that it will never happen.
What can you do to find the best kayak for you? The answer to that question is threefold.
- Talk to pro-staffers, ambassadors, or factory reps. These people will tell you the pro's and con's about the kayaks they paddle. When I am asked about a specific kayak, I will ask the individual the type of water they paddle, when they paddle, how often they paddle, the duration of their trips, and their fishing style. This will help me build off of my experience and recommend what I believe to be the best kayak for them, even if it’s not a brand that I represent. I and many of my counterparts do not want to see you in the wrong kayak. If I put you in one of my kayak's knowing it’s going to be wrong for you, you will not be happy, and an unhappy customer is a vocal customer. If a rep is not of this mindset, then move along, because they do not have YOUR best interest in mind.
- Ask people that own, and have paddled the kayak you are looking for. A great place to do this is your local kayak fishing forum. You will get opinions from a broad experience level, and from people who have paid full price for their kayak. I generally trust the opinion of a person who will tell you they have paddled a number of different brands and models. Diversity is a great thing!
- Visit your local paddle sports retailer. As they are the front line oftentimes for purchases, returns, issues, and praise. These are the people that want to see you in the right boat, so they can bank on you being a return customer for all your paddle sport’s needs. They are well versed by some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry, and have the most overall knowledge. Paddle sports is a laid back community, so if you feel pressured by sales staff, speak to a manager, or move on!
For me, I paddle the Hurricane Kayaks Skimmer line because they are Fast, Lightweight, Durable, and perform amazingly in a number of different conditions I fish in. There are downsides though such as a lack of storage for surf launches, and the Skimmer's not being a typical sight casting platform. Overall, they work really well for me, and allow me certain options to mitigate their shortcomings. Their Pro's far outweigh their Con's in the vast majority of conditions I fish in. Not to mention, they are the lightest fishing kayaks on the Market!
|Skimmer 128 rigged for fishing|
2. Salt Rated Fishing Reels
Kayak fishermen are hard on gear. Saltwater fishermen are in environments that will destroy equipment in a flash. If you are looking to fish inshore or offshore from a kayak, plan on dropping dough on quality reels (or replacing them often). I treat my gear rough, so rough that people think that I’m made of money. There are only a handful of reels that I will purchase now because I have put them through their paces, and know they will work for me no matter what.
- Baitcasters - I prefer and highly recommend the Abu Garcia Revo line. I have a handful of STX's and SX's. These things have 20+ lbs. of drag, are lightweight, are saltwater rated, and feel like they are solid in their construction. Other reels I have liked are the Shimano E series Curado's and the Non-CI4 Calcutta's. The G series Curado's and the CI4 Cronarch's are probably amazing reels if you are going to keep them away from the salt and baby them, but that’s not my style.
|Photo - Werner Paddles|
Spinning - For the money, the Shimano Sedona is an amazing reel and has a price point around $70. I have not had any issue with the Sedona's I have owned. I also like the Stratic FJ's and drool over the Saragossa, Sustain, and Stella, but have not owned one myself. They do have a great reputation in the inshore community though. I also own a Quantum Inshore Smoke, and a Diawa Ballistic. Both reels have been in my quiver for a few years now, and have held up fairly well. For some bigger rods, the Penn Spinfisher V has been bombproof, but the durability comes with the cost of weight.
- Conventional - This is where I have limited experience, but have still caught trophy fish on all three reels I cover. First is the Shamano Tyrnos. I enjoyed this reel, but didn’t use it as often as the others. The Issue I had is while it sat around, the grease pooled in one area of the reel, which required disassembly and re-greasing to make it operational. The next is the Diawa Saltist. I can’t say much more than "I love this reel". If I had the need I would own a fleet of these things. Smooth, great drag, light weight, and damn sexy. Finally, I have the Release Reels SG. My SG is a few years old and besides some minor servicing in its infancy, it has been super reliable. Unfortunately, not all SG's have the same reputation as mine. Wes and the Crew up in Reedville will take care of you and make things right if the unthinkable happens though. Keep that in mind when making your next purchase.
3. Amazing Paddles
In kayaking, the paddle is your outboard. You wouldn’t put a Daewoo outboard on a 27' Contender. Don’t skimp on your paddle. While you generally get similar performance form paddles in the same price range, I cannot in good conscious recommend any paddle other than a Werner Paddle. While kayaks are variable, the paddle really isn’t. I can’t badmouth any other brands, nor would I. When it comes to Werner, you get a paddle that is made in the USA, and doesn’t focus on gimmicks to sell. Werner lets the paddle speak for itself. I will be buried with my Kaliste when it is my day to meet my maker. Check them out at www.wernerpaddles.com.
With this purchase, no matter the brand, the more you spend the more performance you will see and the happier you will be. I have never thought to myself, I wish I would have bought the next line down. Each upgrade will increase your paddling enjoyment exponentially.
4. Top Notch Leader Material
My leader is non-negotiable. Never again will I buy the bargain fluorocarbon. Seguar Blue or Red label is the Jam. I have also had good luck with the Berkley Tournament grade. The fluorocarbon properties of decreased visibility by fish, abrasion resistance, quick sinking, low memory, and knot strength are better in Seguar than other brands I’ve used. Don’t skimp on this.
5. Comfortable and Functional PFD
A PFD, much like a kayak is something that you must be willing to trust your life to. God forbid, something happens on the water, a PFD may be your difference between life and death, no matter how strong your abilities are. Most brands like Astral, Kokatat, and NRS make products that will keep you alive.
Moving along, I need a PFD that I can wear all day long in 100 degree heat, and not feel the urge to take it off. The Astral Ronny, Ronny Fisher, and Veight have super breathable mesh inserts, vents, and plenty of storage for your gear. Vests like the Seawolf and Green Jacket have solid clamshell pockets and are tectonic in nature so they move with you while you paddle. The Seawolf and Ronny Fisher are my go to choices.
|Astral Ronny Fisher|
6. The Right Rods for the Right Situations
This one is simple. Don’t go after bull drum with a panfish rod. When you are chasing fish, you want a rod that is matched appropriately to your quarry; otherwise it is like taking a knife to a gunfight, or a hand grenade to a game of paper rock scissors. The right fishing rod ensures an appropriate fish which decreases the morbidity of released fish, but still allows you to enjoy the fight and get the fish to hand.
There are so many great rod makers out there, so to recommend one rod over another is ludacris. I like my Shamano Terez's and Crucial's, but that’s not to say that I don’t, or am unwilling to fish anything else.
7. Versatile Kayak Rigging Options
It pains me to list this at #7, but fact is, 1-6 are necessity, and this is a nicety. For rigging, I look no further than YakAttack. Luther, Dan, and the rest of the team are always on the cutting edge of the sport. They are a US Based Company that makes lights for fishing at night, tracks to mount fish finders, cameras and rod holders, and even storage options. There are other companies that have come after YakAttack, but while a few dollars difference may seem nice, the quality and customer support is not there. Furthermore, YakAttack gives so much back to kayak anglers in the form of tournament donations and financial support to HOW and PHW. If you want it, www.yakattack.us has it!
8. Rugged Footwear
Kick off those flip flops. They have no place on the water for a kayak fisherman. Hooks in the foot, broken tongues, and minimal security make them a poor, uninformed choice. Water shoes are where it is at. Brands like Columbia and Keen make great shoes, but only Astral makes shoes designed around the paddling experience. You need a shoe that you can walk on scorching hot sand, through mud fields, over oyster bars, in the parking lot, and kick off pilings with. You also need something that will drain, and dry quickly. My Brewers and Loyaks do just that.
|Astral Loyak - Astral Buoyancy|
For your PFD and footwear needs, I recommend www.astraldesigns.com
9. Durable Baits
There are few things worse than taking a pack of plastics out, and getting all the tails bit off by croaker or pinfish. This is not only costly, but it can prematurely end the day with a hot bite on a certain color, or for the minimalist. When fishing inshore, shrimp are often my favorite baits to use. The Egret Vudu Shrimp have a Kevlar weave tail which makes it damn near bomb-proof to those fish that commonly pick and peck at the tail of the bait. This lets you fish considerably longer with minimal loss. I also like to use the Egret Vudu Mullet and Wedgetials for these reasons. While the Wedgetails are not re-enforced, they are extremely durable and last longer than most anything else I’ve used.
|JP hammershad on an Aqua Dream Inline Spinnerbait|
For my larger baits, I love fishing with my Powerteam Lures 4.8" Swinging Hammer and the JP Hammershads. These baits are neutrally buoyant and can handle repeated catches of large, toothy speckled trout. Unlike a lot of other similar baits I’ve thrown, these don’t easily pull out of screw lock hooks which save me money!
|Swinging Hammer with a Healthy VA Citation Speck|
10. All Around Terminal Tackle
To close out this list, I chose something that I feel to be extremely important and would have expected to come out much higher on my list. Whether its hooks, jig heads, swivels or the like, this is one area I refuse to skimp on. If I am chasing sheepshead or other trophy fish, I will eat ramen and tuna for a week before I compromise on my terminal tackle.
Owner and Eagle Claw Trokar's are the only hooks I’ll use when I’m fishing bait. These hooks are strong, sharp, and reliable. I will fish Trokar's or VMC's when I need a swimbait hook or EWG for more of my inshore presentations for many of the same reasons above.
Swivels and connectors are another major part of my game. When tying Sheepshead, Spadefish, or Tautog rigs, I like the 50lb spro barrel swivels. These are small, yet mighty reliable to the point I've never had them fail on me. I will also add them to the split ring on my spoons to help avoid line twist. As far as connectors are concerned, I refuse to leave home without my Tactical Anglers Power Clips. I could write a whole post just on these bad boys. Quick lure changes, added action, and ease of use are just three of the many added benefits.
|50 lb TA Power Clip|
I have 2 main requirements for jigheads. They must have a strong, solid black nickel hook, and the hook shank must vary in length to correspond to the weight of the jighead. Egret, VMC, and Owner all make super high quality products, but for me, Jigheads are like shoes, and whenever I see something new on the market, I make it a point to pick up a pack or two.
I hope this top 10 list will help you when making your next kayak fishing purchase. For me, this is what works well. Keep in mind that many of the products I have mentioned here are from companies that I am sponsored by. I use their products, because for my style, I feel that they are superior to many others on the market. In the end though, its all about helping you figure out what works best for you and will give you the most enjoyment from your time on the water!