“No one likes to be stuck fishing from the shore and boats are not for everyone, so thank goodness for the kayak.” This quote is from a coworker who has been my go to person for all kayak questions. I have been picking his brain for the last month on everything I can. Kayak beginners can get overwhelmed quickly. I thought what better way to help my fellow angler than to share my experiences as I am among kayak beginners myself.
The scary part for me as a beginner was I’ve never been able to store a boat and don’t know the first thing about boat maintenance. I found this to be a common problem many anglers face leading them to a kayak purchase. With no electronics or motors, a kayak sounded like a sure bet. Kayaks are easy to store and require little maintenance. I’ve been putting off purchasing a kayak for several years for various reasons. However, one of the main reasons is my lack of knowledge regarding kayaks.
My story started about five years ago. Before moving to Central Oklahoma, I lived in South Central Kansas most of my life. Most of my favorite lakes, ponds and rivers were very friendly to a shore bound angler. I had not felt the need to own a boat prior to moving to Oklahoma. However, for a while now my coworker has been showing off pictures and telling stories about how much he loves his kayak. His comment, “Getting access to areas on lakes I’ve never seen or knew existed” was all it took for me. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I made the decision; I was going to buy a kayak!
Happy with my decision to buy a kayak, I had a few questions running through my head: Where do I go from here? What do I buy? Where do I buy it? What accessories do I need? As with any major purchase, it’s best to start asking around. Fortunately for me, I had a coworker who went through the same process less than a year ago. Discussion forums and social media sites are two great places to start. A simple search on Facebook for “Oklahoma Kayak Groups,” produced several groups with members in my area. Information was out there; I just had to look.
First on my agenda was to decide where to buy a kayak. Retailers such as Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s and Academy Sports are good places to start. These retailers will have several different models to look at and most importantly, sit in! Don’t forget to look at local boat shops. Craigslist ads are updated all the time with some excellent deals on used kayaks. Facebook’s ‘want to sell’ adds are another great place. In my case, I knew I was going to purchase a higher end model and was 100% sure I would be keeping it for some time.
Anglers on the fence about fishing from a kayak should buy a used one to keep the initial cost low. This way if it’s decided a kayak is not the right way to go, it can be sold for relatively the same amount. As with any water sport product, anglers will never get the new price out of a new item, no matter how little it’s used. The most important piece of advice from one beginner to another is to spend time researching a kayak. Don’t buy on impulse, and never buy the first one. Have fun doing this, don’t stress out and remember as a beginner it’s wise to take time and explore!
Secondly, after finding where to buy the kayak, deciding which kayak to purchase required some thought. To start with, how dedicated will I be fishing from a kayak? How often will I honestly fish from one? I was dead set on getting a kayak and planned to fish from it for the majority of my fishing. If anglers are not entirely dedicated to fishing from a kayak, I’d recommend the used kayak market as great way to test kayaking. Start small, because not everyone needs the biggest and most expensive to start out with. Buying a used kayak also brings a lot to the table in being set up for fishing. Most will come with accessories from the previous owner saving plenty of time and money.
Lastly, what else do I need to purchase to get me on the water. There are three must-have accessories before ever hitting the water with a kayak—personal flotation, signaling device, and a paddle. As with everything, safety is the most important. Personal flotation devices vary as much as kayaks do. Spend some time finding what fits best, snug, secure and with a large enough floatation rating. I chose the Onyx Automatic Inflatable lifejacket from Academy Sports. It is thin and can be worn the entire day with no restrictions. Be prepared to spend one hundred dollars or more for an automatic flotation device. Anglers can always start with a traditional lifejacket and save some money and upgrade later. Many states require some sort of alert device such as an air horn or whistle should trouble arise. It is a good idea to keep something like this on board whether required or not. Any kayaker must have a quality paddle. Paddles come in all sizes and colors. I chose one which color matched to my kayak and broke down for storage. Keep in mind the longer an angler’s wingspan is, the longer the paddle will need to be. Beginning kayak anglers often find after each trip there will be something they want to change or upgrade. This is the great part about kayaks, the customization is endless. I will discuss some of my upgrades in future installments.
I hope this article gives the beginner somewhere to start. Remember to take it slow and above everything else, have fun! You can follow my adventures and those of other Kayak owners on the Ultimate Bass forum dedicated to kayaks here – http://www.ultimatebass.com/bass-fishing-forum/index.php?board=539.0
Rock Chalk Hawg Hunting
Richard W. Gullotto