In nearly 20 years of kayak fishing, I’ve seen the boats radically change. These days they are purpose-built for angling and much more stable and forgiving. On the other hand, the thinking on what makes a good kayak rod has scarcely evolved. There’s been little need.
For most applications, off-the-shelf gear made for the general fishing market works fine. A standard bass or flats quiver will suit you well whether you’re fishing from a ’yak, a powerboat or the shore, although the adjustable butt of Manley Rods’ offerings is a nice feature. It’s only when you get to the big game that the need for specialized kayak sticks is magnified.
Let’s cover the big exception: the rod tip. When landing a fish from a kayak, you’d do well to have some glass for shock absorption. High-sticking is almost inevitable.
Most big game kayak anglers fight their fish while sitting. An intermediate length butt is an advantage, something on the order of 12 to 13 inches, about 2 to 4 inches shorter than normal. That’s just right for tucking into your belly while seated.
A strong backbone is a plus for easier fish management, particularly when the battle is in its closing stages. Rod length is a matter of preference. It’s nice to have enough reach to get the tip around the bow, but it isn’t strictly necessary. If you’re hooked up and you point your rod tip at the bow, the fish will pull the kayak around to face it.