Kayaking is the go-to adventure sport in Southeast Texas. It’s relatively cheap to get into, you don’t have to buy gas and you don’t have to pay a boat registration fee each year.
The kayak craze began over a decade ago in Texas and has swept across the state with a tidal wave of enthusiasm. It’s really became popular in East and Southeast Texas because we have so many places to use them. Some of the top spots are Keith Lake, McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge, the Neches River, Village Creek, Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend.
So where do you start with a kayak? For the fisherman and hunter, you want a well-rounded kayak that adapts to a variety of conditions by combining small kayak maneuverability with long kayak speed and plenty of storage. For example, let’s take a look at the Ocean Kayak Trident Angler. It’s 13 feet long and weighs 56 pounds. You can buy this yak in camouflage or khaki colors. It comes with a comfortable seat, two flush mount rod holders, adjustable foot braces, a large bow hatch and a large tank well behind your seat. Buy this yak and you’re ready for trout and reds along the coast, and bass, crappie and catfish on the lakes and rivers. And with the camo model, you’re good to go for duck hunts on the lakes and the coastal marshes.
There are a few things you definitely want to pay close attention to when buying a kayak. They include a comfortable seat, plenty of storage, a good paddle and a rudder.
Seat comfort tops my list. An uncomfortable seat will drive you crazy and leave you with an aching back at the end of the day. Remember this – when kayaking, you’ll be doing lots of sitting. My favorite kayak and the one I’ve had for a number of years is the 12 foot Native Watercraft. I like it for various reasons, but topping the list is its first-class seating. It’s almost like a lawn chair. It’s built with a suspension mesh stretched over a lightweight aluminum frame. You can actually remove it from the yak for sitting around a campfire or having a shore lunch. Also, while in the boat, your butt will stay dry.
Another kayak that has taken comfortable seating to new heights is the Nucanoe Frontier. You can actually clamp a padded swivel seat into the cockpit. Sweeeeet!When it comes to storage, you’ve got two options. One is a covered hatch; the other is an open tank well. The Tarpon 140 Angler comes with fore and aft covered hatches. That’s good, but makes getting to fishing tackle cumbersome. The best option is to go with a forward hatch and open tank at the stern. Or you can go with the Native Watercraft option, which is like a canoe – wide open. The only disadvantage to an open cockpit is that if you roll over, you lose some gear.
You might think that a paddle is well, a paddle. NOT! They are kind of like fishing poles. Some are high-tech, lightweight and a joy to use. Others are like swinging a mud-filled bamboo pole around all day.
One of the best I’ve used is the H2O Performance Paddle. This is a lightweight high tech paddle that can be broken down into two pieces. The best paddle manufacturers push the envelope using the latest materials, processes and design innovations to produce the most efficient and reliable kayak paddles. This is where you don’t want to go cheap – buy the very best paddle you can afford. And while you’re in the buying mode, don’t forget a good pair of gloves.
A rudder is your best friend on a kayak. It keeps you going straight when paddling from point A to point B. In short, don’t buy a yak without a rudder. It used to be that most kayaks were sold with rudders. Nowadays it’s an option that might cost a couple hundred bucks. Pull the trigger on the rudder and you’ll be much happier. You can control the rudder with hand or foot controls.
What I’ve come to depend upon when yaking is to stuff most of my loose gear in a waterproof zip up bag. In that bag I’ll have a towel, flashlight, GPS unit, a change of dry clothes, mosquito repellent, sun screen, cell phone, camera, first aid kit, flare kit, an extra hat, munchies and, of course, toilet paper. I don’t leave home without that bag. It’s a lifesaver.
Something else that kayakers have picked up on are the soft sided coolers that can be used for stashing water and energy drinks. They also make handy coolers for transporting fish.
That’s enough to get you started. Other gadgets you might want to check out include an anchor, running lights, a paddle leash, racks for transportation, a GPS holder, depth finder and the list goes on and on …
Robert Sloan can be reached by e-mail at sloan288 [at] aol [dot] com.