Fish From a Kayak, a Canoe, or a Portable Boat?

This article is mainly for anglers who fish in the northern regions of the United States, Canada, as well as in colder regions in other parts of the world. To these people, we also recommend reading this broad range, comparative Wavewalk review »

1. What’s the Problem?

For decades, the problem that anglers faced was choosing between different types of boats, all of which come with advantages and disadvantages –

Big motorboats are stable enough, and comfortable to fish from, but they don’t come cheap, and they take a lot of space on your driveway, or your backyard. Most importantly, they limit launching to boat ramps, and the most critical problem with them is that they work only with a motor, be it an outboard gas engine or an electric trolling motor, and their crew is prevented from paddling them effectively. This problem means that even if a big boat has a shallow draft, it is to going in water that’s not very shallow, and where aquatic vegetation is not abundant, and that’s too bad for bass anglers and anglers who go after other fish species that can be found in these productive waters.
In addition, an increasing number of attractive  fisheries are now closed to motorboats, and if an angler wants to fish in them, they need to use human powered propulsion.

Big motorboats include bass boats, large-size Jon boats, skiffs, to name a few, and a broad range of other types of boats.

Portable boats are neither as stable as full fledged motorboats, nor very comfortable to fish from, but they’re usually less expensive. Their smaller size and independence from transportation by trailer saves their owners plenty of space on their driveway, or backyard, which is convenient.
Being trailer-free also means freedom from the absolute need to launch in boat ramps, which is another advantage.
But a portable boat is still a boat, namely a vessel that’s not designed for paddling, whether in a kayaking or a canoeing mode. The operator or crew of such boats may be able to paddle them over small distances, in case of necessity, but overall, the range of paddling for common portable boats is limited.
Being small and not very stable also limits these boats’ comfort for crews of more than one person, and anglers who fish out of them know they need to be particularly careful in their movements, in order to avoid doing anything that could destabilize their boat.
Generally speaking, portable boats are suitable for fishing smaller bodies of water and other protected fishing grounds.

Portable boats include inflatable boats, folding boats, small-size Jon boats, and small dinghies.

Canoes and Fishing Kayaks are not stable enough to allow for worry-free fishing, and to say that they are uncomfortable would be an understatement. In fact, most people who try fishing out of kayaks give up the experiment due to physical problems ranging from back pain and leg numbness to excessive fatigue.
Storing a canoe or a kayak is convenient, and so is transporting and launching it. In general, canoes and kayaks are more stealthy than bigger boats.
However, in the real world, motorizing canoes and fishing kayaks is limited to less powerful electric motors, and this fact coupled with their instability limits their use to ponds, small lakes, slow moving rivers and well protected waters. The last thing you want is to fish out of is a canoe or a kayak on a big lake when the wind starts to blow, and white caps appear over the waves. Powerful, fast tidal currents are unwelcoming too for these small and under-powered vessels.

2. A Perfect Solution?

Perfection depends on the angler’s requirements, and anglers who practice a large variety of fishing styles in various types of fisheries and lack storage space at home put severe constraints on their search, and finding a perfect boat would be harder and perhaps impossible for them.
Some of the more important factors for choosing a boat are the crew size – solo, tandem or more, the type of water, range of travel, etc.
But there are near-perfect solutions, namely boats that more versatile and can deliver higher performance when important factors are considered. These near-perfect solutions are the Wavewalk 700 and the new Series 4 (S4) from this company.
These two patented twin-hull (catamaran) craft are similar in many ways, which are their ultra light weight (even by comparison to some fishing kayaks), extreme portability (both are car-toppers), unrivaled stability for their size, high level of comfort, and the high performance they offer in both motorized and human powered modes. Both are also well suited for solo and tandem crews.
The differences between them are mainly qualitative –
The 700 paddles better than the S4, and the S4 can be outfitted with a more powerful outboard motor and be driven at higher speeds as well as in tougher waters.
The 700 is lighter than the S4, and the S4 can take a heavier payload.
Both offer full comfort and stability to anglers who fish standing up, but the S4 features a stand-up casting platform at the bow, which is typical to skiffs and large-size Jon boats.
Since this article discusses fishing kayaks, it would be inappropriate to mention the world’s best ultralight fishing kayak, which is the Wavewalk 500.

The following collection of online videos (playlist) shows the 500 and 700 driven with outboard motors of various size, and electric motors:

 

 

The following video is a preview of the new S4 –

The S4 is offered in three colors – White, for anglers who fish blue water, Light Gray, for anglers who fish smaller bodies of water, and Mud Brown (dark brown) for anglers who are into stealth and camouflage.

A quest for the perfect bass fishing kayak: Comprehensive review by a New York fisherman

Some fishermen are perfectionist, and they won’t stop trying to improve the rigging of the boat they fish from, or look for other fishing boats if they’re not fully satisfied.

This is the story of Michael, a bass fisherman from eastern New York, who has owned and tested a broad range of motorboats including a skiff, a jon boat and even a bass boat, as well as motorized canoes and kayaks. Eventually, he found what he was looking for – a W kayak, and needless to say that he took the time to test it before he bought it.

Interestingly, after a successful and pleasurable fishing season, Michael decided to become a local dealer for this brand that he’s learned to appreciate for its unrivaled stability, comfort, dryness, mobility, range of travel, ease of transportation and overall ‘fishability’.
The review he published on his website is particularly interesting for anyone who’s used to fishing out of small motorboats, and may be reluctant to downsize to a kayak, for obvious reasons.

Read the entire fishing kayak review entitled ‘The Journey’ >

kayak bass fisherman from eastern New York
Michael holding a 22 inch long bass.
Another good size bass caught by Michael

Are Hybrid Kayaks Suitbale For Fishing In Cold Regions?

Not really. Now that you know the answer, you may want to stop reading  🙂

Alternatively, you can study the following arguments:

The hybrid kayak (originally called hybrid kayak-canoe) concept came into being as a result of the need some manufacturers had to repackage the canoe as a kayak, that is a boat that passengers can paddle using double blade paddles (kayak paddles) instead of single blade paddle (canoe paddles). This is mainly because it’s often easier for a solo, inexperienced passenger to paddle with a kayak paddle than it is with a canoe paddle, and fishing from kayaks is done mostly by a crew of one.

Canoes are broader than kayaks, and perceived by many as more stable. Therefore, offering a fishing kayak that allegedly has some “canoe genes” may be a good selling point.

Technically, the hybridization was done by taking a canoe hull and shaving off its top part, which gives the canoe its high sides that act both as spray deflector and free board, that is a barrier that prevents waves from delivering water into the hull and onto the passengers.

The hybrid design offers little additional stability when compared to the SOT fishing kayak, which in itself is not very popular in colder regions, but at least features scuppers that drain its deck, as it constantly gets splashed.

Is it any wonder that hybrid kayaks are not popular in Northern, colder regions, while canoes still are? Obviously, no angler in their right mind would like to be constantly sprayed by cold water, and on top on this have to bail that water out on a regular basis…

Hybrid fishing kayaks have gained a market share in warm regions, and with people who are interested to fish in ponds, calm lakes and flats, where not too much paddling is required, and no waves are present, normally.

If you’re interested in reading more on this subject, the following article offers a complete review of the hybrid fishing kayak >>

Why Hasn’t The Kayak Replaced The Canoe As King Of Non Motorized Fishing In Canada?

In my opinion, we’re left with reality, and in reality, canoes offer better protection to their passengers than kayaks do, whether those are sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks, or more traditional sit-in kayaks (SIK). And why is this fact important with regard to fishing in Canada? Obviously because SOT kayaks and Sit-In kayaks are less practical for fishing in colder climates, where both water and weather require that boaters stay as dry as possible.

Tough question, especially if you’re a Canadian kayak fishing fanatic!  🙂

Common kayaks are lighter than canoes, and they’re less difficult to control under wind, and for these reasons they’ve replaced canoes as fishing platforms for the individual angler in some regions in North America, but not in Canada and similarly cold regions in the United States.

The inhabited parts of Canada aren’t that much different from most northern regions in the United States. Well, maybe they’re a little colder, but there are still enough places in the Northeast and Midwest that are about as cold as southern Canada.

Interestingly, anglers in those northern US regions haven’t adopted kayaks as fishing boats nearly as much as southern anglers have, and that may be a clue that could help provide an answer the the above question.

I’ve heard a theory saying that Canadians are more conservative about their canoes and canoeing, because those are part of the Canadian tradition and cultural heritage. While I believe it may be true, to some extent, I must say I don’t tend to accept this explanation, for a number of reasons, which are:

1. Kayaks are part of the Canadian cultural heritage as well. There shouldn’t be a ‘cultural barrier’ preventing Canadian canoe anglers that feel like switching to kayak fishing from doing so.

2. Canoes have been a part of the American cultural heritage as much as they’ve been so in Canada, and yet, some US regions have become markedly more kayak oriented than canoe oriented, as far as fishing goes.

3. Anglers are known to be practical people, with a developed sense for what works best for them. With all the hype around kayak fishing in recent years, Canadian anglers have had plenty of opportunities to think about the idea of fishing from kayaks, and try it in real life.

4. Even in the old days, native people of North America did not use kayaks for fishing as much as for hunting, and only in the very far north, in the arctic regions around the polar circle. Other native American people who lived south of the arctic regions didn’t use kayaks at all, although they had been exposed to their northern neighbors’ kayak designs for thousands of years. Interestingly, Inuit and other far-north peoples used canoes called Umiaks, as well as kayaks. The word Kayak means man’s boat, which ties it to its basic usage as a hunting boat.

So, if we rule out the cultural explanation, what are we left with?

In my opinion, we’re left with reality, and in reality, canoes offer their passengers better protection from the elements than kayaks do, whether those are sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks, or more traditional sit-in kayaks (SIK). And why is this fact important with regard to fishing in Canada? Obviously because SOT kayaks and Sit-In kayaks are less practical for fishing in colder climates, where both water and weather require that boaters stay as dry as possible. Well, the writer assumes that most people prefer boating, paddling and fishing while wearing regular clothes rather than dry suits and wetsuits…

Having said that, if you’re willing to accept the W watercraft as member of the kayak family of boats, and call it “W Kayak”, you’re likely to see a growing interest in kayak fishing among Canadian canoe anglers, as well as among northern US anglers, because the W kayak offers as much protection to passengers as canoes do, plus advantages that are typical to common SOT and sit-in kayaks, such as smaller size and improved portability.

On top of that, the W kayak offers a significantly higher degree of mobility, namely easier launching paddling and beaching, excellent ergonomics, in contrast with the common kayaks’ poor ergonomics that makes many kayak anglers drop out from the sport, and last but not least – improved control under the ever present wind, and a degree of stability unequaled by either canoes or sit-in and SOT kayaks, as well as by some other small boats.