This is a short and incomplete list of myths about fishing kayaks. Some of these myths were created and propagated by kayak vendors:
1. “A kayak is faster than a canoe”
–This statement is based on an erroneous comparison between some faster kayak models and the most common canoe models that are usually large and very stable, while in fact fishing kayaks are rather slow by nature and some racing canoe models are very fast.
2. “Kayaks are more stable than canoes”
-This statement is false, and canoes are still popular for fishing, mainly because they are usually wider and offer more stability. You can sometime see people casting standing in a canoe if water and weather permit, but have you ever seen someone fishing standing in a kayak? (in reality, not on a vendor’s website or brochure) -It is said that very small and lightweight people can, but this is certainly out of the question for the overwhelming majority of people. Try it (in shallow, clean and warm water…) and you’ll see for yourself.
3. “The Sit-On-Top (SOT) is a new type of kayak”
–Wrong. The first commercial SOT models were introduced on the US market in the beginning of the seventies. Native peoples all over the world have used small sit-on-top paddle crafts for millennia, often with double blade paddles.
4. “A kayak can get you where other boats can’t”
-This statement is not very accurate since those who claim so ignore a wide range of small water crafts including motorized and human powered pirogues, canoes, dinghies, rafts and more. Both whitewater canoeing and down river canoeing are still practiced by many, and so is fishing from canoes, dinghies etc.
5. “Kayaks were the fishing boats of choice for native people of the arctic circle.”
-In fact these people preferred large and stable canoes called Umiaks. Kayaks were used more often in protected waters, and mainly for hunting.
6. “Modern kayaks are both stabler and faster”
-Totally false: Paddle sports are generally slow, and the slowest kayaks are those designed for fishing. The reason for that being that the monohull design is constrained by the laws of hydrodynamics to a tradeoff between speed and stability, and since fishing kayaks are required to offer more stability than other kayaks they are slower. Furthermore, Sit-On-Top (SOT) kayaks are even slower than sit-in kayaks are since their scupper holes substantially increase drag.
7. “A good kayak seat is very important”
–The fact of the matter is that the original native people’s kayaks never had seats, and the whole concept of kayak seat is rather misleading since leg numbness is the result of bad circulation in the legs coming from being seated in the “L” kayaking position, which most of us stopped using since we were toddlers. As for lower back pains, they result from the legs pushing your body against the seat’s backrest (AKA ‘lumbar support’) in an attempt to prevent your body from sliding down. Expensive, cushioned seats advertised as being ‘ergonomically designed’ may delay these annoying and potentially dangerous physiological symptoms, but eventually they will appear simply because kayaks offer you just a single, unusual and non ergonomic and therefore problematic sitting position, without any option to switch to other paddling or fishing positions.
8. “Kayak fishing is a water sport and therefore you have to get wet!”
-Not acceptable. First of all kayak fishing doesn’t necessarily have to be wet if you use a sit-in kayak on flat water. Second, getting wet and staying wet for long hours is not an option in colder climates and waters, that is in about half of the US territory. Third, being wet for hours is unpleasant even in warm climates and waters, and can cause rashes and infections. Conclusion: You don’t have to listen to SOT manufacturers’ excuse for not having found better solution to “wet ride” and “soggy bottom” problems that are plaguing people who fish from SOTs, and are a main turnoff for those who want to fish from kayaks. And just for the record, you don’t really want to wear waders while in your kayak, not just because it’s uncomfortable but because it’s dangerous.
9. “Scupper holes drain the water from your SOT.”
-Yes but since kayaks are not static and they move both up and down as well as laterally the scupper holes also let water into your sitting space, which is the main cause for the infamous ‘wet butt syndrome’ that’s typical of kayak fishing and paddling from SOTs. In fact, scupper holes are structural elements introduced into the hulls of SOT kayaks mainly to prevent the deck from collapsing when a heavy paddler sits on it. They’re more likely to flood the deck from below than drain it…
10. “Kayak stability is important only for beginning fishermen.”
–Not when it comes to fishing kayaks, since the overwhelming majority of North Americans have neither the skills nor the physical attributes that Inuit and other native kayak fishermen had, and SOT kayaks are essentially less stable than comparable sit-in kayaks since their center of gravity (CG) is higher. Therefore, modern, recreational kayak fishermen are exposed to a much higher risk of capsizing than the original, native kayak fishermen were. You may get used to fishing from an unstable kayak until the inevitable moment comes when you’ll capsize in unsafe or unpleasant conditions. –Some people can ride a mono cycle quite easily but that doesn’t mean you should try it…
11. “SOT kayaks are more versatile than Sit-in kayaks.”
–Not if you would even consider fishing with a SOT in cold water and/or cold weather, -conditions that are common in much of the US and Canada, and present even in the South in winter. Also, SOTs offer you little or no protection in the surf, and are less maneuverable than sit-in kayaks, which elevates the risk of injuries and accidents even in warm waters (e.g. shark bytes, jellyfish etc.)
12. “You can roll a SOT.”
-In fact, the overwhelming majority of people who paddle kayaks nowadays can’t even roll a sit-in kayak, although it’s basically easier than rolling a SOT, so it would be a waste of time for you to try to roll a fishing SOT, considering the fact that in order to do so you’ll have to strap yourself to your boat, which is unsafe, especially in the surf where capsizing is more likely to happen.
13. “You can fish from a kayak standing up.”
-Do you really believe this one? Not too many people do, and rightfully so.
In fact, most kayak fishermen don’t even feel that confident just sitting in or on top their kayak.
This myth keeps being promoted on Internet forums in discussions about stable fishing kayaks, and some fishing kayak manufacturers go as far as claiming that certain models they offer enable it, and even show pictures. Technically speaking, children and small size adults can sometime stand in a kayak, usually a wide sit-in since it has a lower center of gravity than a SOT does, and always on perfectly still, flat water. However, no full size adult can stand in any monohull fishing kayak confidently enough to cast in full comfort and seriously fight strong fish. As hard as you may try you won’t be able to find any proof to substantiate such claims, because they are not true.
The problem is simple, and has a lot to do with ‘what if’: Some people can cast standing in large-size canoes, some can fish standing from kayaks outfitted with a pair of fairly big outriggers on both sides, and practically anybody can cast confidently and comfortably standing in a Wavewalk kayak, as demo videos and customer reviews prove.
So what? -Stuff happens (that’s the rule in boating), and sooner than later any stand up kayak fisherman is bound to find himself destabilized by a fish, a wave (or boat’s wake), wind or simply a wrong move in a moment of distraction – and things like that happen all the time, and to everybody.
Since neither SIKs nor SOTs offer any ‘plan B’ solution for such cases, such stand up fisherman is bound to go overboard, and is likely to do it while overturning his kayak. Such accident could be quite unpleasant, cause loss of equipment, etc. Even those rare daredevils who insist they can fish while standing on top of their wide SOTs admit they ‘go swimming’ from time to time, or in other words: have frequent accidents, which is not acceptable because sooner or later one of those accidents is likely to turn ugly.
In summary, you’d better trust your basic intuition and common sense in this case.
Things are very different in Wavewalk kayaks not just because they are overwhelmingly more stable than other designs are, but also because in case of destabilization while standing you’re likely to simply drop down on the 14″ high saddle, and find yourself in the Riding position with both your feet planted at the bottom of the hulls, several inches below waterline – as stable as possible.
14. “Rudders solve your tracking and maneuvering problems.”
–Although many would like to believe so, the reality is more complex and not particularly encouraging one to use a rudder: Native kayakers never used rudders but kayak manufacturers introduced rudders with the intent to improve kayaks’ directional stability (i.e. tracking) and maneuverability.
Keeping any monohull including kayaks going straight (i.e. tracking) is a problem, and zigzagging makes the boat go a longer distance. Constantly correcting the kayak’s course requires energy and time from you. Moreover, tracking becomes more difficult as water and weather conditions deteriorate. But looking only at (unpublished – one can only wonder why…) results of hydrodynamics tests shows that rudders increase total drag by up to 10%, and considering the constant mental and physical effort that manipulating the rudder requires from the paddler it is possible to say that rudders reduce effective speed by about 25%. Naturally, the more experienced the paddler the less effort is wasted, but the less the rudder is required the better.
As for maneuvering, a rudder can make a noticeable difference especially if the kayak is very long (e.g. 16’-18’ long sea kayaks) and the paddler inexperienced, but its effectiveness is dubious in shorter (i.e. more maneuverable) kayaks.
15. “Modern fishing kayaks are so stable you can hardly tip them over, even if you try.”
-This is an absurd falsehood: The only people who are not in danger of tipping a modern fishing kayak are small children who sit and behave nicely in their kayak. In fact, when you need to struggle with a big fish kayaks are impractical since they can offer little support to your pulling effort. Only few kayak anglers are capable of catching big fish from their kayaks without any assistance.
16. “Most kayak anglers fish at sea.”
–This image doesn’t fit reality, where most people who use kayaks for fishing tend to do it in protected waters such as estuaries, rivers, flats, lakes and ponds – and for obvious reasons.
17. “Kayaks are very mobile.”
-While this may be true compared to boats that require towing, it’s not necessarily true within the class of paddle craft since kayaks are more difficult to get into and out from than canoes are, and consequently also more difficult when it comes to launching and taking out.
18. “SOTs are stabler than SIKs.”
-Quite the opposite: SOTs offer paddlers to sit in the unstable “L” kayaking position on top of a deck, while SIKs offer them to sit it that same position at the bottom of the hull. This difference in the center of gravity (CG) height works against the SOT and needs to be compensated by a wider hull.
19. “Hatches offer practical means for storage.”
-Few thing could be further from the truth: In fact, hatches are small and you can’t access what’s inside them from your seat, and in most cases the hatches fail to be totally waterproof.
20. “SOTs are very safe kayaks.”
-This is partly true: SOTs are self bailing, which means they are designed not to let water in the hull even if the kayak is capsized. The problem is that eventually some water can get in through small cracks or mainly through holes made in the hull for attaching various accessories. When this happens you can’t notice the leakage until it’s too late.>
21. “Pedal activated pedal drives offer hands free kayak fishing.”
-…Unless you need to go somewhere, and then you’ll be required to steer using a hand activated rudder system, so you’ll be left with just one hand to hold a fishing rod.
But reality doesn’t stop here, and if you happen to observe pedal kayakers you’ll probably notice that in most cases they hold their kayak’s sides with their hands while they pedal, and that’s because recumbent pedaling (even in recumbent bikes) requires some kind of extra support and stabilization.
22. “Tunnel hulled monohull kayaks are stabler than other monohull kayaks.”
-Not really. In fact, most SOT kayaks have some kind of groove or tunnel (often more than one) at the bottom of their hulls. This reinforces the bottom and somehow helps correcting poor directional stability.
Such tunnels can be very narrow (1″) or wide (1 ft), but as long as the design is a monohull, meaning that it does not feature two distinctly, full size and fully separated hulls, the kayak will be unstable simply because nearly all its buoyancy is distributed along its longitudinal axis, where it offers minimal or no stabilizing effect.
Kayak fishing has become popular, considering the intrinsic limitations imposed by the size and design of common kayaks, but many people who fish from kayaks end up going back to more traditional forms of fishing because of the problems described here. Kayak anglers as well as people who are considering fishing from kayaks need to be informed, and we bring this information to you as food for thought.