|Matt Buck of Gander Mountain explains how to fish from a kayak without tipping over.|
Here are some of the suggestions from Gander Mountain's Matt Buck and Mitch Leppelmeier:
1. There are two types of kayaks: sit-on and sit-in. As you might expect from the name, you sit atop sit-on kayaks. You actually get inside of sit-in kayaks. (Matt Buck is using a sit-in kayak in the above photo. He is showing a sit-on in the shot below.)
|Matt Buck shows the drainage holes in a sit-on kayak.|
Buck said that sit-ons are more stable despite having a higher center of gravity and are probably a little better for fishing.
Also, if a sit-on flips, you can get back on it -- even in the water, Buck said. But if your sit-in flips, you're swimming that thing back to dry land; because the water rushes into the sit-in's cockpit and forms a vacuum.
However, sit-ins tend to keep your drier. (Leppelmeier stressed that no kayak keeps you completely dry. If you don't want to get any water on you, stay on land.)
Buck and Leppelmeier both use sit-in kayaks in their personal lives.
"I fish from a sit-in," Buck said. "I feel more secure."
A kayak -- whether sit-in or sit-on -- can run you between $200 and $1,300.
(Buck also mentioned a type of kayak called Hobie Cats that are similar to pedal boats, because you can pedal them with your feet. That makes them ideal to fish with because your hands don't need to handle a paddle and a fishing rod. However, they are on the pricey side.)
2. Kayaks also differ in weight and length. A shorter kayak -- a 10-footer, for example -- is extremely maneuverable and great for more enclosed or harder to reach areas.
But if you're in a lot of open water -- like, say, a great lake -- larger kayaks are much faster.
3. Picking the right paddle is just as important as picking the right boat, and the right paddle will depend predominantly on the height of the kayaker and width of his or her boat.
Try the paddle out before you buy it. See if it feels right. (Actually, that's good advice for anything kayak-related. There are a lot of places where you can rent kayaks around here. Rent a sit-on and a sit-in. Try them both before you decide what feels right for you.)
|Mitch Leppelmeier explains how to pick a paddle.|
It sometimes helps to have a more rigid paddle. (They can balance you when you're getting in and out of the kayak or can pry you forward if you get stuck on a stump.) But if the aluminum paddle is too heavy for you to use comfortable -- go with the graphite.
4. Speaking of must-have gear -- have a dry box, preferably one with a carrabiner that you can attach to the kayak. That way, even if your kayak flips, you'll still have your car keys and cell phone, and they'll still be dry.
Kayaks can also be outfitted with rod holders, fish finders and even outriggers.
5. You also need a life jacket.
"I wear a life jacket 100 percent of the time," Buck said. "I don't care if it's 90 degrees. I rolled my kayak several times, especially while fishing."
Before you buy a life jacket, try paddling with it. You don't want something that's going to rub your torso raw when you paddle.
6. Speaking of uncomfortable friction, take your wedding band and other rings off when you kayak.
"You will get calluses if you leave it on," Buck said. "Right underneath it. That's what dry boxes are for."
7. You also need registration to own and use a kayak. It costs $25 for three years. You can get it at BMV or the Mentor Gander Mountain store.
8. Fishing from a kayak presents some unique opportunities and some unique challenges.
"The great thing about fishing from a kayak is accessibility," Leppelmeier said. "You can reach places that boats can't get to. You can get to places that people on shore can't reach."
However, kayaks are lightweight and more tenuously balanced than a boat. If your body is rocking one way or another while trying to bring a fish in, then that can be enough to tip the kayak.
Buck stressed that the best way to stay afloat is to keep everything in front of you while fishing.
"Always fish in front of you. It will keep you dry. It will keep you safe," Buck said.
9. Also, kayaks don't have as much storage space as other boats, so fishers need to be practical about what they bring with them on the kayak.
"It's like normal fishing scaled down," Leppelmeier said of kayak fishing. "Don't take your giant tackle box with you."
Buck and Leppelmeier tend to fish catch-and-release when on their kayaks, but some fishermen bring a cooler with them to store their fish.
10. Watch the weather.
This is true whenever you're boating but especially important in a smaller craft like a kayak -- doubly so if you're on open water.
It's very difficult to paddle a kayak against turbulent water and a single Lake Erie wave can dump four to five inches of water into a kayak, Leppelmeier said.
"If the wind says 'north,' go home," Buck said of kayaking on Lake Erie.
11. Enjoy yourself.
Kayaking is about the atmosphere.
"The fishing is secondary," Buck said. "You're just paddling and having a great day in the water."
|Paddling in a parking lot is slightly less fun.|