What To Look For In Bass Fishing Kayaks
Modern bass fishing kayaks have evolved from animal skins stretched around bone and wood frames into sleek carbon fiber designs weighing less than 20 pounds. Our current models are distant cousins to small, narrow boats that indigenous people used in the Arctic regions for thousands of years.
Kayak comes from the Inuit indian word ”qayaq”, which means “a small boat of skins.” This narrow vessel was once used exclusively by men using a double-bladed paddle for propulsion.
The traditional Inuit kayak was a lightweight, nimble craft for use in the harsh Arctic environment of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. The kayaks were coated with animal fat to waterproof the skins and prevent them from becoming brittle.
Many Eskimos wore a tight-fitting waterproof jacket called a tuilik when paddling their vessels. The buoyant coat was laced around the cockpit’s raised rim and acted as a spray shield. It also cinched tightly around their wrists and faces, allowing them to flip upright if the boat rolled over. In addition, they placed air-filled seal bladders inside the front and rear of the hull to provide extra buoyancy.
Eskimos used kayaks for hunting, fishing, and transportation due to their stability, speed, and maneuverability. In addition, the Inuit refined a rolling technique to right their kayaks if they capsized, an essential survival skill in rough, frigid Arctic waters.
Kayaking has become a popular sport and recreational activity around the world. Newer designs and better materials have resulted in more stable platforms widely used for fishing in lakes, rivers, and saltwater. In addition to fiberglass and plastic, carbon fiber and Kevlar are also used in their construction.
Bass fishing kayaks come with rail mounting systems, storage, and propulsion that rival small bass boats. In addition, everything is operator-convenient, with plenty of room for the latest electronics.
Pedal Drives vs. Paddle
Do you really need the pedal propulsion drive? The short answer is no. That answer also assumes you have good upper body strength and stamina. Hobie and Jackson’s Kayak’s pedal drive options offer convenience and speed while reducing fatigue.
Non-powered traditional kayak shapes are agile and better suited for rapids, including whitewater. In addition, many younger kayakers enjoy paddling and the weight and cost savings are substantial compared to mechanical or electric-driven models.
Several companies now produce kayaks designed for bass fishing and the past ten years have seen a dramatic increase in their popularity. These fishing platforms have open cockpits, and their sit-on-top design provides better storage and easier entry and exit.
These larger, stable bass kayaks also offer stand-up casting, comfortable, adjustable seating, rod holders, tackle storage, rail mounting, pedal drive, and more.
Bass Fishing Kayak Dealers
I reached out to Jeff Chappel at Buck’s Island Marine, located on the Coosa River just south of Gadsden, Alabama. Chappel is in sales and their go-to guy when it comes to kayaks. He explained how he helps match customers with a boat that fits their needs and experience level.
Chappel views his job as that of an Outfitter rather than a salesman. Standing 6’5″, Jeff can quickly alleviate any fears that kayaks are only for small or regular-sized people.
Chappel pointed out that how a prospective buyer answers a few questions helps him to determine a customer’s best options.
“With a budget in mind and how they’ll be using it, finding the right model and accessories is easier,” Chappel noted.
Buck’s Island has an extensive inventory with models and features for anyone looking to upgrade or buy their first fishing kayak and Chappel pointed out that Buck’s stocks models for kids, whitewater enthusiasts, and the professional bass angler.”
Best Bass Kayaks
Hobie and Jackson Kayaks have been two of the industry leaders in transforming the kayak platform into something resembling the marriage of a canoe and a traditional “sit-inside” kayak. While Buck’s Island sells several brands Hobie and Jackson are what serious anglers prefer.
Hobie and Jackson offer pedal-drive propulsion systems mounted into a shallow well near the seat. Each utilizes pedals that look and function similarly to a recumbent bicycle, and steering knobs attached to wired rudders allow easy maneuvering when using the pedal drives.
Chappel said that besides purchasing a good paddle, a premium model Jackson bass kayak is ready to launch and begin fishing and that Hobie includes a paddle with their package. He recommends Bending Branch paddles as an excellent lightweight option for any kayak model.
Taller folks and those carrying a little extra weight in their bass fishing kayaks can choose between several models that provide comfort and stability for anyone up to 350 pounds. Two-person models are also available.
Hobie Pro Angler – At 13’8″, their Pro Angler model has an adjustable seat that provides all-day comfort for anglers up to 350 pounds. A 600 pound weight capacity and 38″ beam provides comfort, stability, and enough rod and gear storage for tournament fishing men & women. In addition, it can handle big water and inshore saltwater equally well.
Anglers can choose between two pedal-drive options with forward and reverse and accessories that include live wells, well & stern-mounted Torqueedo trolling motors, a sailing kit, and more.
Outback – With a fitted hull weight of 85 pounds and a seating capacity of 275 pounds, this lighter model is one of the most popular kayaks in the water. Its 34″ width and 425 pound weight capacity offers a lightweight package for easy transport and plenty of speed with the pedal-drive options.
Jackson Knarr – Jackson designed this model to address the challenges of the wind and waves on larger lakes and even the ocean. Its wider hull and taller gunnels help prevent overspray, and its new patented pedal drive makes the difficulties of navigating shallow water a snap due to its hinged design.
At 13’9″ with a 37″ width, it has a 425 lb. weight capacity and weighs 140 lbs. this model checks all the boxes for the serious angler.
Chappel said that Jackson developed an electric motor option compatible with their Flex Drive-equipped boats. The Flex-drive E quickly interchanges with the pedal drive unit, weighs less than eight pounds, and stores within the boat’s hatch with a lithium battery. A single knob controls forward-reverse and speed, so converting from pedal to electric drive is accomplished in mere minutes. At five mph with a range of up to 41 miles, it’s a great choice when traveling greater distances.
Coosa FD – Jackson offers another slightly smaller pedal-driven option for larger lakes and reservoirs but is still stable enough for inshore saltwater fishing. At 12’7″ and 35″ wide, it has a capacity of 450 pounds. with a weight of 107 pounds.
Knowing where to begin your search or what kayak you need for bass fishing can be daunting, especially if you’re new to the sport.
I suggest beginning your search for a new or used bass kayak with a phone call to Jeff Chappel, an Outfitter who works for Buck’s Island Marine. He can answer any question about kayaks for bass fishing, review your choices, and even set up a test ride to see what kayak works best for you and your entire family.