Tales from the Tupperware Navy By: Bruce Butler

Welcome back Yak fans. This month’s story is a continuation of last month’s “Finding the Right Kayak” and looks into the current evolution and kayak design. Pedal, power or paddle, choose what’s right for you and the type of fishing you do–by that I mean the type of water you normally fish. As a disclaimer, my opinions are based on my personal prejudices due to where I primarily fish, Florida’s pristine Nature Coast, which means lots of super skinny water fishing.

So, onto pedal power. When it comes to pedal kayaks, for me, the first name on the list is Hobie, though several other manufacturers are producing them.

What do they offer? First is hands-free fishing. This is a huge benefit, but it comes at a cost.  Second is speed and the ability to cover long distances. Third is the ability to stand up. Another plus is ample storage, including rod holders and equipment racks. Now the downside. First is price. You can sink several thousand dollars into one of these in a New York minute! Second is weight. A loaded Hobie, as well as others, can weigh well in excess of a hundred pounds. Throwing them up on a roof rack isn’t for the faint-hearted. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, and I’ve got a load assist device from Malone Racks. I strongly suggest using a trailer or a pickup truck for the heavier kayaks. My biggest drawback is both the blessing and the curse of the drive system. I’ve fished ultra skinny many times, and I literally put my foot over the side as an anchor–and the drive system won’t easily go that shallow. Also, oyster bars will take out a drive system in a heartbeat–and that gets expensive! I know the drive system lifts out, but then most pedal drives paddle like a log wagon. Having said that, on the other coast, I found them to be an excellent platform. Deeper bays, rivers and lakes are where this type of boat really shines.

Next is powered kayaks. These serve their purpose very well in the same applications as a pedal drive. With several hours of range and good speeds, these can make cruising a pleasure. The drawback is that every time I’ve fished with someone with a motor, they want to fish like a flats boat–always cruising. In my way of thinking, that’s not kayak fishing–it’s not wrong, it’s just different. The weight and price of these can vary widely, depending on whether it’s an integrated system (in other words built in) or an add-on. One thing to note once you put a motor on, you will be required to register it and put numbers on it. Just so you know!

And next is paddle kayaks. This segment of kayaks brings many models and manufacturers to the table and has evolved rapidly over the last decade or so, to say the least. When I first started kayak fishing, around 1980, you basically had three choices–fiberglass, wood or inflatable. True, there was the original, but I didn’t know any Eskimos. The angler model kayaks are available to fit almost any budget and can be set up with all the usual equipment and mods. Again, there are models that you can stand up in and, with the new seating, that’s now available. They are a lot more comfortable than in the past. Portability is excellent, as we’ve all seen out on the road–sometimes we wonder how it stays up there.

One important point. Be sure to match the yak with the task. In this case, size matters. I recommend a 12 to 14-foot. Even a 14-foot yak is easy to throw in at your favorite spot along the road. Well, that’s it for this month. Happy Fourth of July y’all. Till next time, Bruce.