The skinny (and wide) on choosing a kayak
Kayak fishing has blown up into a huge market and all the kayak companies see its potential. In my mind one of the most important pieces of equipment for kayak fishing is...the kayak. Otherwise, you're just fishing. When it comes to kayaks it's apples and oranges, everyone has their opinions and preferences. What it comes down to is, are you looking for a wider, more stable platform or a sleeker, faster one that tracks better in the water.
Let's start off with the wider, more stable kayaks. There are a lot of guys out there that are going over to the more stable boat for bass fishing. One of the main reasons for this is simply because sight fishing is huge in the sport of bass fishing and you will have an upper hand if you have a higher point of view. Being elevated makes it so that you can better see those spawning bass on their beds.
Even if you are not standing on your kayak looking for those fish, having a stable kayak is just more comfortable and gives you a little more confidence when you are side saddling to get equipment you need out the back or to get that money shot of you and your catch.
Some other positives of having a wider kayak is not only having more surface area to make it more stable but it also give you more places to store your gear on top. The wider kayaks tend to have more options when it comes to storage both standard when you buy your kayak and aftermarket parts you can pick up at your local kayak shop or online. I love the kayaks that have usable center storage because anyone who kayak fishes understands the possibility of rolling your kayak while on the water and in the sport of kayak fishing that can mean losing some gear. Being able to store your gear such as tackle means it is tucked away safe and ready for those unforeseen moments known as a "yard sale".
Another plus with the wider kayaks is they have more options for adjustable seats. Again I think it is due to having more room to work with. These newer, stadium-style seats are very nice if you plan on fishing long days like I do. The last thing you want is to be uncomfortable. Having a seat that is off the deck of the kayak helps get you into a more natural sitting position and helps relieve some pressure off your backside and back. Lifting the seat off the kayak's deck also keeps you high and dry as long as you don't fall in. One downside of lifting the seat higher is that it changes your center of gravity which can make the kayak a little more tippy.
Let's look at some of the downsides of a wider more stable boat. The number one complaint I hear is that they tend to be slower due to having more surface area and also they tend to be heavier because of the extra materials. I also find that wider kayaks are awkward to load on a vehicle, they are to wide to grab and lift on to the your vehicle compared to a narrower kayak. I always shake my head when I see my fishing buddies pick up and throw their kayak on the top of their cars like their a rag doll. For this reason I own a kayak specific trailer.
On the other end of the spectrum you have the sleeker, skinnier boats. There are still a lot of anglers that lean towards these types of boats because they have less resistance and tend to cut through the water better which means they are faster with less effort. These boats also cut through surf a little better because they are more streamlined. Look at it this way, if you had a samurai sword and sliced it through the water you would have very little resistance compared to if you attempted the same thing with a softball bat.
One of the other reasons people like the skinnier, longer boats is that they tend to track better on the water depending on how much of a rocker the hull has. This occurs for a few reasons, one of them is the kayak acts more like a giant rudder and the second is their is less surface area for the wind to press against to throw you off course. These kayaks tend to sit lower to the water which means it's less of a sail. Another plus of being lower in the kayak is your center of gravity is lower which helps with stability especially when launching and returning in the surf.
The downside for me with the narrower kayaks is the comfort level. I find that you tend to lose that natural sitting position, plus you sit low in the water which means you will more likely be sitting in water for most the day. Again I fish long, multiple days so comfort is a big deal to me.
Before buying a new kayak I always recommend talking to the professionals at your local shop. Explain to them in detail what you plan on primarily using your kayak for and they will lead you in the right direction. The next thing I recommend is to demo as many kayaks as possible. That way, before you buy you know what to expect. Most shops have rental and demo programs, classes on proper paddling techniques, and more importantly safety courses.
PRO Kayak Fishing Prostaff