Over the last few years paddle sports have invaded the outdoorsmen’s world and there is no sign of the sport slowing. Kayak angling in particular has grown exponentially as people realize convenience, cost, and accessibility can be found in an otherwise expensive hobby. No longer are motors that require maintenance and a hefty price tag needed, nor licensing fees for both vessel and trailer, or even a truck that can costs as much as a starter home to hit the waters and find the lunkers.
However, all kayaks are not made equally. North Carolina offers all types of waters due to its geographical landscapes from mountains, to coastal waters, and everything in between. Therefore you need to know what type and design works best with the type of water you plan on fishing.
Here are a few tips in what to look for when entering the kayak market:
There are two types of basic designs to a kayak; the sit-on-top and the sit-inside. The sit-on-top can be used for multiple activities and has become a favorite design for angling. Unlike the traditional sit-inside kayak, the sit-on-top allows the paddler to sit on top of a deck that is above the water line. Many are stable enough to stand on as well, allowing for sight fishing. Because of the increases possibility of water splashing on top of the deck, there are scupper holes embedded throughout that allow the water to self- bail. Plugs are used in the scupper holes to prevent water from coming from under the deck, and one way plugs allow water to run out but not come in. The decks may provide many orientations with hatches for storage within the hull, attachments for rod holders, paddle holders, and electronics, and even open areas for standing or crate and cooler storage.
Rivers and streams in North Carolina usually include both running white water and dormant still water areas. Drew Haerer, who was involved with collegiate kayak fishing at Duke University, ideally likes a kayak that is both fast for the slower sections of rivers, yet maneuverable through the rougher waters in order to avoid obstacles. “Another feature I want is a large bow that can take on the waves formed by rapids and also plenty of hull storage, so that I can carry gear for weekend long paddling-fishing-camping adventures” Drew explains.
The hulls are usually crescent or banana (called the rocker) shaped to allow for quick turns with little drag through the water. They also have few tunnels or channels that run along the hull.
Small lakes and ponds offer open flat water in a more confined area. Ideally, a kayak for this type of water is both stabile and can track well in straight lines. While the hull is similar to the river style kayak as far as the shape, the rocker is less curved and the bow and stern tend to be more aggressive. This helps keep the kayak from turning with small winds or wakes. The kayak will often be between 12 to 14 feet long and wider.
Daniel Seaman of Rocky Mount prefers a wide open platform and pontoon style hull to maximize stability. “I predominately use a fly rod, so I want absolutely nothing to get in the way of my fly line if I happen to hook a running fish. The pontoon style hull allows you to stand comfortably because your feet are below the water line, instead of on top like a typical sit-on-top kayak.”
On larger bodies of water such as the ocean, sounds, or large lakes, a long narrow kayak is a must; typically between 13 and 15 feet in length and around 30 inches wide. The purpose is to ease the effort of paddling long distances, keep the kayak tracking straight, and cut through the water quickly. The rocker is flatter than the other two styles which reduces maneuverability. Paddling and winds can turn a kayak, where this style is less affected.
Professional kayak angler Drew Gregory of Charlotte explains further, “what you want to look for is a boat that comes in really hard and sharp at the knuckles and contains less rocker in order to keep more boat in the water to prevent spinning.”
Dean Radford of Morganton regularly fishes both rivers such as the Catawba as well as the coast. One aspect he notes is “Having a larger more stable boat during anchoring around shoals is a big plus.”
In conclusion, there are many types of water and many styles of kayaks designed to navigate these waters. They offer a way to get to waters in which boats simply cannot, and are less expensive. Most of all though, it is just more fun.