FAQ's on Kayak Fishing
By Jim Sammons La Jolla Kayak Fishing
As printed in Pacific Coast Sportfishing June 2006

Having worked in the kayak fishing industry for many years I have heard just about every question people can think of about the sport. Whether it is at a trade show, during a trip, or on my Web site, people come up with many of the same questions. I thought this would be a good place to answers some of the more common questions I hear.

What is the best kayak for me?
I could tell you the Ocean Kayak Prowler 15 that I use is the perfect kayak, and it is, for me. In reality, there is no perfect kayak for everyone. Think of it like shoes, there is no one shoe that fits every person, and there is no one kayak that every person is comfortable in. The best thing you can do is to ask some questions from people already involved in the sport; you can do this on one of the kayak fishing Web sites. Give them your height, weight, what you plan on fishing for, what kind of water you plan on paddling, plus any other pertinent info such as storage limitations. You likely will be given several kayaks, from different manufacturers, from which to choose. Find the shops in your area that stock these kayaks to demo, and take them for a test paddle. If you can take the kayak out on a day when the water is a bit choppy you will get a better idea of its performance. You will then be able to make an educated decision on which is the correct kayak for you.

Are these kayaks stable?
Don't over estimate the importance of stability, sure you don't want to feel like you are in a fight to stay upright all day but you also don't want to feel you are trying to paddle the dock out to sea. The learning curve for feeling stable in a kayak is rather short, you will learn to be stable but you cannot make a slow boat fast. The short answer is this; yes, even the kayaks that are considered tippy are stable, if you take the time to learn the how to be a good paddler. If you choose not to take that time, we can find you a kayak so stable that you can stand up and dance on it.

Do you have a kayak big enough for me?
The average kayak fisherman is actually a fairly large person and the kayak manufactures have addressed this with a variety of kayaks that will fit persons of all sizes, extra large or small.

Do you prefer a longer or shorter kayak?
The longer the kayak the better it glides through the water, so the less effort I have to put out to move the kayak through the water. Think of it this way: Have you ever peddled a bike with low air in the tires, then gone to the gas station and filled those tires up? That is what it feels like to go from a short kayak to a long one. You can still get there on the bike with low tires, but it is a lot easier once those tires are pumped up.

Should I spend the money on a Carbon Fiber paddle?
You will find paddles ranging in price from $49 to $500, with the carbon fibers starting around $200. Your paddle is your motor and I generally tell people to get the best motor they can afford. Would you rather have a Porsche motor or a Volkswagen motor? Carbon fiber paddles are lighter and stronger than lower cost paddles, so like the faster kayak, with the lighter paddle I will have to work less to move my boat through the water, all, day, long.

What do you do if a fish starts to pull you out to sea?
Sit back and enjoy the ride, and what a fun ride it is!

What happens if you catch a big fish, do they ever pull you off your kayak?
As far as I am concerned, the bigger the better, I love big game kayak fishing. If your drags are set properly there is no reason a fish would ever pull you off your kayak. If you do make a mistake and fall off your kayak, make sure you are wearing your PFD and have a cut away tool on your vest.

Do you ever tip over and what do you do if it happens?
People generally fall off the kayaks because they forget one basic rule: Where your head goes your body will follow. You should always keep your head down the centerline of the kayak, letting the kayak move under you. You should also know how to do a self-rescue, and practice it. The last thing you want to happen is to fall off your kayak a mile from the beach and realize you do not know how to get back on.

Where do you put the fish that you catch?
We practice a lot of catch and release, particularly with Calicos, but I do like to keep fish for the dinner table. When I am keeping fish, I want to keep them as fresh as possible, so I have an insulated game bag that fits into my forward hatch. I can keep my fish inside the kayak on ice. The other options would be a divers game clip or a gunnysack. I do not recommend hanging the fish off the side of the kayak, as this is just an invitation to unwanted guests.

What about sharks?
In all honesty, in all my years kayak fishing I have never had a negative encounter with a shark. I have caught quite a few Threshers, hooked a few Makos and seen a few others but that is it. If you are in a sharky area you certainly do not want to have fish hanging off the side of your kayak and I would think twice about bleeding my catch. I don't think you will find me kayak fishing near Guadalupe island either.

Can you fly fish from the kayak?
People fly fish out of float tubes all the time; a kayak is an even better platform. Fly-fishing off the kayaks has become a large part of the sport in other parts of the country.

Where do you keep the beer?
There is room for everything including the kitchen sink on most of the fishing kayaks on the market, so I am sure you will find room for your beverage of choice. Do remember this: In a kayak you do have to paddle back from where ever you are, and alcohol is a depressant and can make you tired and a bit lazy. I prefer to have my cold ones as I am cleaning my gear at home.

Is it hard to sit in a kayak all day if you have a bad back?
After the kayak and paddle, your next important purchase is a good seat. The better seats provide that much needed support and some even come with an air cushion for extra comfort. If you can sit in a lounge chair next to the pool, you can sit in a kayak. You should not feel like you are trapped in one place, on a sit-on-top kayak you can move all over the deck and even sit sideways when you need a change of position. Start with short days on the water and build up to the all day excursions, so that your muscles have a chance to get in shape for this activity.

What if you have to go to the bathroom?
Let's just say, yes you can, and let you figure it out from there.

Can I put a motor on my kayak?
Not if you are fishing with me, but if you must, search the Web and you will find directions on how to do it.

Are you that guy from the Thresher video with the hook in his chin?
No, I was not even there.

Have you seen that picture of the guy with the Marlin under his kayak?
Yes, that one was me.

Should I get a tandem or a single kayak?
If you are talking about two adults, get singles, you will be much happier. If you will be taking your child out with you, the tandem is a great way to get them on the water. If your spouse says, "If you get a kayak you have to get one that I can go on with you", think long and hard about the percentage of time your spouse will actually go. If you will be paddling the tandem as a single more than 50% of the time, I suggest getting a good single and renting the tandem for those times when your spouse goes out with you. Of course, you could always get both.

Why do you carry so many rods?
Just like any boat fisherman I want to have a rod ready for any type of fishing I may do that day, so I carry five to six rod with me on my kayak. The kayaks on the market today have plenty of storage so that is not really an issue.

What kind of rods and reels do you use?
I use all Shimano reels, they have just held up better for me over the years. If you choose to use good gear and want to keep it, make sure you have it leashed.

Can you keep bait alive in a kayak?
I have a live bait system on my kayak and will always have bait soaking in the water, even when I am tossing jigs. You can keep bait in anything from a Plano bait sled, a bait tube or if you want to hold a larger quantity of bait, a live bait tank. You can purchase a custom bait tank for your kayak or make your own.

Can you stand up on your kayak?
For our type of fishing, I really do not need to. I can do it but I am not doing it when my kayak is loaded down with Trinidad reels. For the most part, if a kayak is stable enough for me to stand on while fishing, it is a kayak that I do not want to paddle.

Do you wear a wetsuit when it is cold?
I am not a big fan of wetsuits, they are a bit confining and can get too cold if it is windy and too hot when the sun is out. I prefer actual paddling clothing such as dry pants and paddle jackets. These will keep you dry, warm, keep the wind out and are easy to peel off when it gets warm.

Should I take a class?
I have found the biggest problem with kayak fishermen is that they are fisherman first and kayakers a distant second. They never seem to want to learn to be a good paddler, which is a mistake because it would make them a better kayak fisherman. In my opinion you should at least take a class to learn to paddle correctly, how to self- and assisted-rescue and how to navigate the surf zone. An all day class with a guide will also help decrease the learning curve when it comes to kayak rigging and fishing techniques specific to kayaks.

Do I need to register my kayak?
In California, you only need to register your kayak if you put a motor on it.

What do I need if I take my kayak to Mexico to fish?
You will need a Mexican fishing license and you will need to register your kayak. You can do this at many of the So. Cal. tackle shops or the Mexican Pesca office. In the space on the form that asks for a registration number just write kayak.

Do I need a PFD on my kayak?
Legally you must carry a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) on your kayak, children are required to wear it. A PFD will do you no good when you need it if it is tucked down inside your hull. Get a PFD designed for paddling and you are more likely to wear it.

Can I put a fish finder on my kayak?
Most of the people that kayak fish a lot have a full spread of electronics on their kayaks, including fish finders, GPS and VHF radios. You can even put a waterproof stereo on your kayak if that is your thing. Be aware though that salt water and electronics do not get along and special care is needed if you want this equipment to last.

Where should I place my rod holders?
There is no right or wrong way to rig your kayak; some people want their rods in front some in back. Take your time setting up your kayak so you get it done right the first time. My kayak has ten rod holders on it, so I can place rods in different places for different situations.

Am I going to get wet?
This is a water sport and you will get wet, on some kayaks more than others. If you do not want to get wet, you are looking into the wrong sport.

What is the best color?
This is really a personal choice, if you want to be seen you should get the brightest colored kayaks such as yellow, orange, or lime green. I, on the other hand, prefer the duller colors like grey, olive green and blue-grey.

This is just a sampling of the questions that I hear about this sport on a regular basis, I am sure you can come up with some more. Of course, these answers are only my personal opinions, and I am sure if you asked someone else, you would get different answers. If you come up with more questions please feel free to post them on the forums on my Web site Kayak4Fish.com or send them directly to me at Jim@Kayak4Fish.com, I am always happy to help.