It’s been a weird year, to say the least. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and tumultuous economic, cultural and political environment, nothing is the same as it was only 12 months ago. So, how does all this upheaval impact the latest trends and innovations in the kayak fishing industry?
The past year has been a rollercoaster ride for fishing equipment and paddleboat manufacturers. Disruptions in supply chains, factory closures, canceled events and changes to virtual workplaces have challenged the people and companies who make and sell the gear we use. On the other hand, people switching from indoor to outdoor activities has increased demand and presented exciting opportunities.
The best minds in the business have been at work meeting the needs of anglers and paddlers. We dropped in on five industry experts for their prognosis for a brighter post-pandemic future for kayak fishing.
Top Fishing Kayak Industry Trends of 2021
Director, Fishing Business Development // Hobie
As far as trends in the industry, I feel like kayak fishing is going to continue to blossom with no signs of slowing down. The data points to more growth in the sport next year. We’ve looked at portability and accessibility as the biggest barriers to people buying kayaks. As a result, we’re redoing our inflatable line.
Changing a few things in the manufacturing process improves construction and materials for an inflatable that lasts longer and performs better. I can jump on a plane with an inflatable kayak or hike it into a distant fishing spot. Inflatables are also great for people who don’t have an option for a high-end kayak. We’ve added a new seat and improved the steering system to make our inflatables a high-quality, lightweight option people will use more often.
On the traditional kayak side, we’ve designed the new Lynx, a kayak and paddleboard hybrid with a seat and pedal drive. It’s super simple. We’re looking at anything we can do to reduce barriers to entering the sport.
Operations Manager // Scotty
The biggest trend we see for 2020 and 2021 is how COVID-19 has impacted the kayak fishing industry. People have had time to enjoy the outdoors and fishing has been a major outlet during social distancing. We are all very fortunate we have such an enjoyable sport we can do at a safe social distance.
Moving into 2021, we are very excited about the latest addition to our lineup, our new R-5 rod holder. Rods and reels have changed a lot in the past few years, and we didn’t see a rod holder fitting the latest generation of tackle. We designed the R-5 to be the most user-friendly rod holder. It will securely hold any spinning, baitcaster, level wind, spincaster or fly rod. We have spent a huge amount of time perfecting this rod holder. It has an adjustable tension feature and the easiest and smoothest rod retrieval we have come out with. The R-5 is hand assembled and built to the same standards as all of our products to last a lifetime.
Marketing Manager // Bending Branches
Last year might have been the most insane, unpredictable year in the history of paddlesports, or maybe even the history of history. Preseason orders are up in record numbers as dealers work to prepare for more demand while we hope not to lose sales like in 2020. We’ll likely begin to see a tapering of sales at the end of summer 2021 and some major simmering of the demand, as things slowly move back to normal.
The entire paddlesports industry will head into 2022 with more caution, as many dealers’ shelves remain occupied. The brands that continue to lean forward when others show caution will be most successful. Companies with resources have to innovate new products and online solutions.
More people may be paddling, but fewer customers will be walking into stores. We are looking at the online solutions we provide. We’re working on product walk-through videos, 360-degree photography, common questions and thorough answers, and quick chat options to help paddlers find the best kayak paddle.
Marketing Manager // Daiwa
I see the biggest trend in tackle is low- to medium-priced fishing combos. With eight million anglers joining our sport, rod and reel combinations were in huge demand.
Before the pandemic, air travel was the most popular way to reach a vacation destination. Now that people don’t feel comfortable traveling by air, they realize their own backyards have lots to offer.
Once a new angler catches a fish, he or she will be hooked. This is how each of us entered the sport we love. As new anglers learn more about fishing, they want better technology and more efficient ways to make the most of their time on the water. From beginning anglers all the way up to the advanced fisherman, Daiwa has the best technology available. The most challenging part is educating new anglers on how our technology will enhance their experience.
CEO // Vibe Kayaks
Talk about a crazy year. We’ve had no events and everyone is isolated, yet we’ve had a lot of new adoption. One of the big sporting-goods chains we work with had an average of 4.8 percent new paddler adoption last year. This year they are looking at 40 percent new kayak anglers
Of course, with fast growth will come a recession, but I think we’ll see more specialized kayaks. Right now, many people are buying general kayaks for their first boats. They’ll be looking to step up to a model better suited to the fishing they do. For example, we haven’t seen a new offshore kayak in years.
The tournament scene is growing in leaps and bounds. Anglers are figuring out they don’t have to dump $50,000 into a glitter rocket. With a kayak, they can have a competitive boat for a few thousand dollars and fish against the best anglers in the same sport.
According to a preliminary participation report from the Outdoor Foundation, freshwater fishing added 3.4 million participants in 2020, a gain of 8.6 percent. | Feature photo: Tim Allard