Kayak Fishing Gear for Beginners to Baby Boomers
For the new angler or the seasoned veteran there is a kayak fishing formula for you. Regardless of age, size or budget you can join the fishing kayak culture. Safety, success, exercise and excitement all await almost anyone willing to pick up the paddle. On the checklist a kayak that fits the person, places and target species. Next a lifejacket that’s comfortable and again allows freedom of movement to cast and paddle. Speaking of paddle, the correct paddle makes the trip easier and positions you for more fun, less fatigue and gets you to the fish and back to the take out point. As far as fishing equipment a minimal amount of terminal tackle is easy to assemble. Here’s a few tips for choosing and using each component.
Kayak – Depending on your size, the type of water you plan to fish and your essential safety needs careful consideration should be given to the choice of kayak. A reputable dealer will allow you to test “paddle” a few boats to give you a logical pick on your kayak. Look for stability (width and weight), handling (comfort in motion, turning getting in and out), width for rough water and the option of standing. Think about storage for paddle, tackle and fishing friendly creature comforts.
Lifejacket – I prefer a winter and a summer style life jacket. If your budget doesn’t allow go for the heavier cool weather model. Look for storage, zippers, pockets, comfort and if you have a paddling pal ask to borrow there lifejacket for an important test. Jump into shallow water or a pool to see how the vest performs. You don’t want to find this out under adverse circumstances. The lifejacket is no good if you don’t wear it, zip it up before you step out. I would suggest avoiding the pull to inflate type jackets.
Paddle – Think light, strong and just like the kayak and the lifejacket the paddle should literally fit you. Mere ounces turn into tons when you go for hours paddling and pitching baits. Consider the weight of the paddle, the width of the kayak, your height and your commitment to kayak fishing. Paddles lengths are communicated in centimeters. A 220 cm (just over seven feet) paddle is on the short side for a smaller paddler in a narrow boat. For a taller person in a wide boat more than 34 inches paddles top out a 260 cm almost eight and a half feet. From a cost standpoint Bending Branches offers entry level paddles (the Rise or Scout) at around $75-$100 up to the premium, light weight, 100% carbon models (The Angler Pro Carbon) that weight 26 ounces, (literally less than many fish I catch) priced at $399. In between is the Angler Ace at $200 and tips the scale at 34 ounces. Lots of choices. Again think of how often you intend to go, the quality most desirable along with the performance of the paddle.
Rods and Reels - Most kayaks will easily accommodate three rods. I suggest two bait casters and one spinning outfit. A seven foot medium heavy action rod with a 6.3:1 reel will allow for working soft plastics and jigs for bass and larger game fish. Another seven footer in a medium action baitcaster for versatility of spinners, topwater baits and cranking chores. Spinning, probably about six and a half foot with an open face spinning reel spooled with six to eight pound test line for lightweight lures, chasing crappie, bluegill, medium size bass, walleye, trout and other fish. Stock a couple of tackle boxes with soft plastics, spinners, cranking baits also selection of seasonal, or species specific and personal favorite fishing lures along with accessories.
All these items should fit comfortably in the kayak of your choice. With a few personal modifications you can be on the water on your way to fishing and fun. The addition of tethering items, electronics if you are the gearhead type and remember to address safety and fishing friendly concerns and you’re ready to push off and paddle to your own adventures.