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I see you out there… you’re hanging out on the Jackson site, reading the ramblings of all of us on the fishing team, so you’re either in the market for your first fishing kayak or you already have one and are looking to upgrade. Just about everyone in the kayak fishing world will have an opinion about what you should be buying, and we at Jackson are no different. We have a LOT of opinions about what you should be buying ,well actually only one opinion, but you knew that.

But what’s important is what do YOU want, and need, out of a fishing kayak.

My number one piece of advice and I tell everyone who asks; buy nothing in haste. I know too many people who bought the first kayak they came across on sale or off of ebay and you can cut the buyers remorse with a knife.

Warm weather is returning and very soon, Demo Days at local paddle shops will be popping up all over right along with the flowers. Most dealers, especially Jackson dealers, have websites and publish their demo days there. Go look for them and then go paddle as many different boats as you can. Even better…get down to your local rental place and rent one for the day and fish out of it. Do that several times with different boats. Find the one that feels the best to YOU and then, and only then, buy your boat.
Next, buy local at paddle shops staffed with people who own and paddle their own boats. You’re going to get good advice, personal service and most importantly: expertise that you just won’t get at big-box stores or national chain stores. But before you go out boat shopping, sit down and think about how you fish.

First where do you fish? Rivers…are they fast mountain streams, or pool/ledge type rivers in the Piedmont areas…or big, wide, tidal rivers near the coast? Big lakes with lots of wind are a popular destination. Others prefer small impoundments with lots of little inlets and points. What about offshore fishing? Do you like to get out in the open ocean and chase the big ones? Maybe you’re more the wide, expansive, salt marsh-type fisherman, chasing RedFish and Sheepshead …or Bonefish, Wahoo and Tarpon down in the ‘glades and even the Florida Keys. As an example of why it’s important to think about things like this, most of my boats sport thigh straps because I fish ledgey eastern slope rivers most of the time with the occasional class 2 rapid. The thigh straps helps keep me in the boat and give me the hip control that helps me steer and control the boat.

Do you change baits a lot? Where do you keep your tackle…in a crate or piled at your feet? Is easy access a priority? What kind of baits do you use most,…plastics or cranks, spinners or jerkbaits and jigs? It makes a difference because what you carry these baits in is generally shaped different and the number and sizes of those baits will dictate size and shape of the containers. How about your tools? Pliers, Boca grips, line cutting tools, thermometers, they all need to go somewhere on the boat where they are easy to get to.

What about live bait? You salt guys carry herring, mullet, sardines, lots of different live bait, you’re gonna need something to keep them alive and you’re going to need to store that container securely and if you’re keeping that bait alive, that aerator needs to be powered somehow.
How many rods do you carry? Do you like your rods behind you…or in front laying down, angled or straight up? How often do you put down a rod and pick up another? How, and where, do you keep them secured to the boat? Do you change TYPES of fishing on a single trip…say going from spinning to fly fishing or to bait-casting to even water-fowling in the Fall? Seriously, I know people who go on “blast and cast” type trips in a kayak. We have one pro-staffer who hunts feral hogs off the Superfishal!

Do you need or want a rudder on your new boat? How about electric motors or anchoring systems? The type of boats you choose and what it’s been designed to use can be a very important consideration in your final selection.

Where do you mount your electronics? Do you even NEED electronics? If you fish shallow rivers and salt marshes, you probably don’t need them. But if you’re on bigger rivers and lakes, it may be something you want to consider, just for bottom contour and finding drop offs and structure if nothing else.

Now, do you shoot video to document your trips, or maybe you just want to start doing that? Where are you going to mount that GoPro: facing toward you or over your shoulder or maybe even on an extension out to the side? Don’t forget that depth-finders along with electric motors and Power Pole anchoring systems need power and you’re going to need to think about how and where you’ll be mounting batteries. And speaking of cameras, where will you be carrying extra batteries for the GoPro cameras and even carrying cameras period? Unless those cameras are waterproof, you’re going to need some sizable water-proof boxes for them…especially if you’re a serious still photographer with big 35mm DSLR rigs and the lens that go with them.

Finally, a couple of personal questions you to need to consider. Being a member of the “Big Boys Club” and even someone who qualifies for the senior discount at Cracker Barrel, I know how important these next considerations can be. How much are you going to stand up in your boat? Do you even *want* to stand up? All of the Jackson fishing boats are designed to be stable enough to stand in with practice. Some of them you can stand up in almost immediately! The Jackson Big Rig is awesome for this with its leaning/standing bar. Secondly, do you have any physical limitations like back or knee issues? In my case it’s hips, this is why the Jackson Elite Seat is, hands down, the most important innovation in kayak seating to date in my opinion. I can get in and out of my Cuda with ease and spend all day on the water with no problems what-so-ever. I just push my Cuda out in about shin-deep water and sit down like I do in my recliner in the den. I get out the same way. And don’t even get me started on the standing strap that comes with all the Jackson fishing boats. Where they really help you out is sitting back *down*. You gently sit down as you lower yourself to the seat with it… instead of ‘fall’ that last foot or so.

I know, it sounds like a lot to think about. But remember, not all of this will pertain to you. Make a list of what you want *your* boat to do, what you will be doing IN it, and how you’ll use it (will you always be going fishing?…or do you just go paddling on occasion?) Think about it…then go paddle some boats and see how that list of ‘must haves’ fits each boat you paddle. I would almost bet a Jackson will be one of the boats that make the top of your list.
Lastly…enjoy the boat shopping. Once you’ve set the cash aside…shopping for the right boat is almost as fun as the first time you get in it and go fishing. Just go have fun.
Have some questions?…drop me a line here or on FaceBook, I’ll be happy to help you out.
Happy boat hunting.

Herschel Finch -Jackson Kayak Fishing Team