“I’m going to get a tandem fishing kayak and fish with my girlfriend,” a guy at the grocery store told me. There was a time when I would have tried to talk him out of buying one kayak for two anglers; I would explain how he might end up with too much kayak and no girlfriend, but the latest generation of tandems prove we can all get along.
In the old days, tandem kayaks focused on performance without offering space or amenities for fishing. Obviously, there are safety issues with two people swinging long sticks and sharp objects. Turns out, when it comes to fishing, two heads may not be better than one.
Why tandem fishing kayaks?
Roland Jimenez, director of marketing at FeelFree, has seen tandem kayaks grow more fishing friendly. “In the past, a tandem had two padded seats and maybe a cup holder,” he remembers. Jimenez says it’s important to offer a tandem kayak with the same comfort, design and accommodations anglers expect in a high-end fishing kayak.
Jimenz says versatility is the biggest trend in tandems. “People want to go from a single to a tandem and add pedals and motors,” he explains. FeelFree’s next generation Dorado has the same high-low, padded seat and super stable hull as their other fishing kayaks, along with the option of adding pedal or motor power. “It only makes sense tandems should offer the same luxuries available on other models,” he says.
Tandem fishing kayaks with pedals and motors
The downside: tandem kayaks are almost twice as big and heavy. Adding stability, accessories and gear further reduces performance. For this reason, the latest generation of tandems offer pedal or motor power. FeelFree’s Dorado offers both. “The masses are looking to have fun and fish while being comfortable without falling in the water,” Jimenez says.
Inflatable tandem fishing kayaks
Transporting and storing a tandem can also be a two-person job. For this reason, couples on the go have drifted towards inflatable tandem kayaks.
Ryan Pugh, marketing director at Advanced Elements, said versatility is at the heart of their most recent tandem inflatables. “Can it be operated with two paddlers, solo, with the dog riding in the bow or kids?” he asks.
Anglers want it all, still Pugh points to performance as a tandem inflatable’s primary design feature. With inflatables, rigidity is the biggest factor affecting speed and handling. To improve performance, inflatable kayaks incorporate stiff drop-stitch floors and multiple air chambers, Advanced Elements even adds metal supports to increase rigidity and provide a base to mount accessories.
Tandem inflatable paddleboards for fishing
Exploring the possibilities of versatility, Hawaiian Dan Dejkunchorn, pro staff at Sea Eagle, rigged an extra-large, inflatable standup paddleboard with two swivel seats, an electric motor and every kind of fishing accoutrement. “The inflatable offers more flexibility, portability and a cost advantage,” he says. Inflatables are also more buoyant to carry extra weight of two anglers and gear.
Hawaiian Dan and Ryan Pugh see most tandems going to couples and people with specific needs for a two-person boat. Pugh says, “They’re great for people traveling in an RV, because you can use one boat or board for two people and pack it into a closet at the end of the day.
Dan said he sees tandems going to people who need the extra space on the water, not at home. He discourages anglers from buying a tandem to paddle solo. The extra weight and length make it hard to operate. He rigged a SUP for two anglers so he could save weight and still use it as a single paddler.
Roland Jimenez from FeelFree warns, “Is your partner really in for the long haul?” Tandems offer cost savings putting two anglers on the water for the price of one. But if one partner loses interest the other could be stuck with an unusable boat.
Unless you’re Chris Debeers. The Hobie pro recently rigged a Mirage Compass Duo with twin Bixby electric motors. “When I saw the Duo, the first thing I thought about was offshore fishing potential,” he says. Debeers has removed the front seat to accommodate extra tackle and gear. “And I can get a huge fish bag in the bow.”
The electric motor drive makes it possible to operate the boat with one driver. “Placing more weight in the rear of the boat allows the bow to ride over waves,” Debeers adds.
When he’s not going for big game, Debeers can play the big guy, installing the bow seat and taking the kids fishing. “My five-year-old daughter goes with me every chance,” he says.
There was a time when tandems offered two boats in one but rarely delivered. The latest generation adds stability, comfort, motor and pedal power to allow anglers to have their cake and eat it, too.
Rig a tandem for one angler? Yes, you can. | Photo: Courtesy Feelfree