This is the first of a multi-part series about safety and comfort while fishing from a kayak. In this article, we’ll take a look at clothing and comfort.
With kayak fishing and kayaking in general, as in any sport there are certain types of clothing that are preferred. Generally speaking, I prefer breathable clothing made of synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester. Whatever you do, stay away from cotton clothing. Cotton does not dry quickly and wet clothing is uncomfortable and can lead to hypothermia.
In the summertime, I generally wear a long sleeve fishing shirt with long zip-off pants. Some may find the long sleeves and pants counter-intuitive, but consider that you will be on the water, so you can wet your clothing at any time to cool off and the materials these are made of dry quickly and provide sun protection.
Shoes typically worn by a kayak fisherman can range from a cheap $5 pair of water slippers to a pair of crocs to wading boots and everything in-between. Whatever you use, be prepared to have them immersed in water for prolonged periods. I have been using a mid-priced pair of river shoes that I picked up from Bass Pro Shops and they have held up well for a year now.
The photo below shows a typical wading boot. These work well for kayak fishing and are inexpensive.
Don’t forget to wear a hat and sunglasses. The hat will protect you from the heat in the summer and from cold in the winter. Sunglasses serve several purposes. Properly tinted polarized sunglasses will enable you to see a little bit into the water, which can be beneficial for seeing what’s down there. They also help reduce the glare off the water. Another purpose they serve is for when you miss that “Bill Dance” hookset and send your jig flying toward your face at full speed. The last thing you need is to turn a fun day of fishing into a tragedy by losing an eye.
Many fishermen are turned off by the idea of sunscreen and choose to wear a buff instead. A buff is a piece of cloth that is essentially a scarf which goes over the face from the neck to the eyes and can cover the ears and head as well. Many are given a UV rating and serve to protect the face from sun. The idea makes sense since most sunscreens repel fish when you accidentally transfer it from your hand to your lure. Buffs also protect your face from the cold when fishing in the winter.
In this photo, the angler is wearing a buff to protect his face and ears from the cold.
During the winter, I choose the same type of clothing, but I generally wear breathable waders over my pants and an undergarment with a wicking type of fabric such as Underarmour underneath. I prefer breathable waders to neoprene for the fact that they are more comfortable and if you should start sweating, the breathable fabric doesn’t trap in the moisture like the neoprene does. This also depends on the areas you fish. I generally fish very shallow water close to a shoreline. If I were to fish deeper water in the wintertime, I would use a wetsuit underneath my regular clothing and go without the waders. If waders are used in deep water and the belt is not tight, the possibility exists that the waders can get water in them, making reentry a little more difficult. Many kayak fishermen are fishermen first and kayakers second, and would probably have a difficult time reentering their boat on a good day, there’s no reason to take the chance of not reentering on a bad day. If you’re in water that’s deep enough where you can’t just hop back on the boat, wear a wetsuit.
Here is a kayak angler all prepared for a winter's morning on the water. Note the waders, the shirt, the hat, glasses, buff, and wading boots.
Comfort in a fishing kayak is sort of a relative thing. Keep in mind that you’re in a kayak and not a recliner. You’ll want a properly fitting seat. On some kayaks, a seat is molded into the boat with an attached backrest. For these kayaks, a seat pad is the minimum I would suggest, but you may consider an aftermarket seat if you’re still not comfortable. On some brands, there is no seat at all. For these kayaks, there are a vast number of seats on the aftermarket that offer good back support and comfort for long duration trips. Some of these seats even come with rod holders or tackle bags.
Shown below is the Surf to Summit GTS Elite kayak seat. This is an excellent seat for any SOT kayak and works well for fishing.
Comfort also comes from the deck arrangement you have on your kayak. For instance, I use a milk crate for my tackle, extra drinks, and lunch because it is not easy or comfortable for me to access the very back of the tankwell (where these things eventually end up) while on the water. The milk crate keeps everything close at hand. The ideal deck arrangement will come from trial and error and you’ll eventually find a system that works for you.
One of the most important items to have as far as comfort goes is a good paddle. I have tried a few inexpensive paddles and found them to fit together sloppily, the blade flexes a lot in the water and they are heavy. This leads to a lot of inefficiency in your paddling and can really be exhausting.
To a kayak fisherman, a good, lightweight paddle is worth more than its weight in gold.
Lastly, in order to be truly comfortable in your kayak take a paddling and safety lesson. These will usually cover basic paddling technique, deepwater reentry, and some general paddling safety tips. The technique will reduce any fatigue, and the safety lessons will increase your confidence and lead to a more comfortable experience overall.