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Choosing a fishing Kayak

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It is early morning and the ocean waves are smooth as glass. The wind is still and there’s a silent peacefulness about the world. You watch that red ball slowly rise above the hazy horizon as the new day dawns, when suddenly the silence is broken by a reel screaming in protest as a powerful game fish takes off with your Rapala firmly clamped in its jaws.

That’s kayak fishing at its best and anyone who tries it will agree. The kayak fishing fraternity has grown exponentially in the past 5 years and there is a never-ending hunger for information

Throughout this series I hope to bring you everything right from the basics to some of the most expert advice. The world of kayak fishing has very little educational information out there and my aim is to not only educate you but turn you from a novice to a master angler.

The sport of kayak fishing has been around for a fairly long time however it has only been in the last five years that we have seen a huge influx into the sport and along with this growing interest some serious advancements in kayaks, tackle and techniques.

Kayak fishing is not just a sport; it’s a lifestyle and a healthy one at that. One of the great things about kayak fishing is that it will take you to some of the most beautiful places

What is kayak fishing?

In simple terms it is the use of a kayak to go and catch fish. The angler sits on a kayak and fishes from it. Taking a leisurely paddle on a lazy summer’s day, enjoying the spoils the ocean has to offer is really what it’s all about. Watching the dolphins playing just off the back line, turtles diving over the deeper reefs or whales cruising by are all just added bonuses. Knowing that, it’s easy to see why there is so much interest in the kayak fishing lifestyle.

The simplicity and cost-effectiveness of the sport has also definitely aided in its growth. With the sudden influx of new participants, it’s very encouraging to see the technological advances in the crafts in particular. Fishing kayaks have come a long way since the days of fishing off the rescue crafts from the lifesaving clubs. They’ve evolved into the serious fish catching machines we have available today.

At first it may seem like a difficult way to fish however the success rate of kayak fisherman far exceeds most other types of anglers. From many years ago the big heavy two man Crocker skis kayak fishing has evolved into the very serious lightweight advanced kayaks of today. These kayaks have been designed and adapted in many ways to make fishing from them a pleasure and a lot of fun. Not only have they been improved but they are also a lot lighter and far more manageable than their predecessors.

The Beginning

I remember around 17 years ago when we used to fish from our racing surf skis. These were super unstable and very difficult to balance on and to stay sitting on never mind even fishing from them. It was back here that we first talked about trying to make a ski more suited for fishing than just racing. From using lifesaving surf skis, to rescue skis and now to the evolvement of our current day fishing kayaks The kayaks we use today are far more suitable in every way…

Getting started

Getting started with kayak fishing is not just buying a ski and off you go - one needs to choose a kayak and a range of equipment wisely.

Lets start with the most obvious and of course biggest decision.

Choosing a kayak

The biggest mistake I see many people making is thinking that any kayak with rod holders makes it a fishing kayak. This is most definitely not the case.

There are a lot of kayaks out there in the marketplace now. Some of these have been adapted to be used for fishing by just adding some rod holders and similar adaptations - however if you are a serious about your fishing I hope to help you make the right decision in choosing the correct an most suitable kayak for you.

A recreational kayak that has been adapted is nowhere near as easy to fish off as a purposely-designed fishing kayak - and, after all, the easier it is to fish off a kayak the more fun and enjoyable it is

Lets run through the design of a fishing kayak and what makes them so much more suited for fishing than just any kayak.


The biggest difference between a surf kayak and a fishing kayak is your stability. The more stable your platform, the easier it is to fish.

A simple explanation is that a fishing kayak is a kayak that is designed for a complete novice to fish from taking maximum stability into account. Where as a surf or racing kayak is a kayak that is designed for a paddler to go as fast as possible with stability as a secondary priority - merely an afterthought.

Modern day fishing kayaks are extremely stable and suited to absolutely anyone, and it really doesn’t matter if you have never even tried to paddle before. Good Stability can be the difference between enjoying your fishing and battling to balance all the time.


The right seating position or making sure you fit into the seating of the kayak is a vital part of making sure the kayak is comfortable and suited to you.

A basic rule is the three fingers or fist rule, which is a guide to establish whether the kayak is suitable for your body length. This rule works by checking the space under you knee with your hand when seated in the kayak.

Make sure you are sitting right back and comfortably in the seat and your heels are touching. You will find that by just sitting in a kayak you will feel whether the kayak is comfortable, taking into account that you could be sitting in your kayak for up to five hours while you enjoy a great days fishing.

A size that is too small can be terribly uncomfortable and also give your kayak a very false sense of stability, while a sizing that is too long can be very uncomfortable on your back and legs and feel very unstable as well.

Before buying your new - and especially before you buy a second hand kayak - make sure the kayak is the right size for you.

Modern kayaks are easily adjusted to make the size better suited to you while your older design kayaks are a fixed size and should be checked before purchasing.


Your next important item on a kayak is your hatches. A good fishing kayak will have two main hatches with a main hatch for fishing rods, and much more as well as a smaller dry hatch. When you are standing on dry land all hatches on your kayak look good, but the most important thing to note here is that when you are in the water they should be accessible and easy to use. If you can not reach them easily, they are virtually useless.

Your most important hatch is your fish hatch or centre hatch.

This hatch is the majority of your storage and even your rods and your gaffs and some of your tackle fit comfortably in here with more than enough storage for plenty of fish as well. A well designed fish hatch has a rod shoot to fit all your rods in comfortably and contributes to the overall strength. The hatch lid should also have a good seal. On a good day you may need to store over 80Kg of fish in your hatch.

The other important hatch is the rear hatch or " dry hatch". This hatch is situated right behind the seat and is easily accessible while out on the water. This hatch is used for the storage of extra tackle, lures, clothing as well as your cell phone or safety equipment. This hatch is a separate compartment from your centre fish hatch and really comes in handy in terms of extra storage. Although referred to as a "dry" hatch. it is recommend that anything that is valuable or important is stored in a waterproof pouch.


A good fishing kayak has a steering system with peddles and a rudder. What this system allows you to do is steer your kayak when you are paddling.

The real advantage to a steering system is not only that it allows you to control you kayak extremely well in surf conditions and waves, it is also ideal to use when fighting a big fish.

You can steer your kayak after the fish you are fighting and control the direction your kayak goes as the fish changes direction or continues to tow you. Keeping your kayak under control while fighting a fish is a must to make the fight a lot easier for you.

The rudder and peddle system is very simple but extremely effective.

Rod holders

Of course an important item to have on the kayak is rod holders. These are essential to make fishing a little easier and a lot more manageable. A standard kayak has two easily accessible 50 degree rod holders right behind the kayak seat making the rods easy to get to at all times.

Extra rod holders can be fitted to a kayak and these can be used to store a third rod or a even a spinning rod. It is also to used as a baiting-up rod holder. Make sure that your rod holders have a saddle or something similar so that your rods can be secured with leashes while in the rod holders.


Handles are nor really a necessity but makes carrying, holding or dragging your kayak a lot easier.


Extra webbing on the deck can also be quite handy. Although webbing on your front deck although looks good it is not accessible in the water. Extra webbing on the rear can be easily reached and has numerous uses.

Kayak design

One of the last items to look at when choosing your kayak is the kayak’s design and angler recommendation.

Kayak design is a matter of individual choice. Leading brands will offer you a range of options and you should check with the salesman to see which kayak suits you as an individual.

Brett Challenor represented South Africa as life saver for 8 years and earned multiple world championship medals. His kayak and surf ski designs have dominated many national championships.

It is also a good idea to check with owners of the kayak you are considering to get their opinion on the craft.

Go buy one!

Now you know what to look for in a fishing kayak. Go and get one!

Tight lines - and hope to see you on the water.

• Choosing a fishing Kayak •
• Kayak Sailie •

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