How hard can fishing from a kayak really be? The sport simply involves applying your skills as an angler to your skills as a kayaker—right? That’s fine for beginners, but kayak anglers with higher ambitions require a rock-solid sense of balance to make the most of every opportunity. Here’s how you can get a firmer footing.
How to Balance On Your Kayak
1 Choose the Right Platform
My choice for true balancing perfection is the Wilderness Systems ATAK 140, a versatile boat that handles and excels in many different environments you might run into while kayak fishing. I’ve had the ATAK four miles offshore, in moving water, in big bodies of water and in small honey holes. Having a boat that you trust underneath you allows for multiple applications across many environments.
If you’re in the market for a super stable boat, flip the boat over in the store and look at the hull. Whether the boat is a sit-on-top or a sit-inside, the hull design is what dictates the stability, you can find a stable platform in both categories. Look for a boat that has catamaran-style or tunnel hulls, those will be the most stable.
Also, make sure to look for a boat with a deck that has plenty of space for you to comfortably stand and fish. There’s no point in getting a stable boat if you don’t fit in it!
2 Take the Boat for a Test Ride
Balancing in a kayak is one of the first things seasoned kayak anglers test when they are searching for a new boat. For me I put the ATAK through the wringer and fully tested the capabilities of this boat. I have even stood from and caught fish on the ATAK specific, AirPro 3D seat. When you’re testing out a new boat, make sure to get it on the water and try a few maneuvers before you pull the trigger on a new purchase.
Find the Primary Stability
First, while sitting down in the kayak, tilt your hips (do not lean!) until you feel the boat fall onto its secondary stability, or the point where your boat gets on edge. This is the stability that you’ll feel the most in your day to day fishing, so make sure it instills confidence. Once you’ve become confident finding the boat’s boundaries of its primary stability, test it while standing.
Find the secondary stability
Once your boat pushes past its primary stability, the secondary stability engages. A fishing kayak that you can trust to stand in any conditions should have strong secondary stability. To put it simply when comparing primary and secondary stability, a jon boat has great primary stability, but no secondary stability. Once the jon boat passes beyond its boundary for primary stability, the boat is going to flip. On the flip side, a sea kayak has much less primary stability, but it will hang on its edges of the secondary stability very well, until you try to roll. Again, once you’ve become confident finding the boat’s boundaries of its secondary stability while seated, test it while standing.
Find its limits
If you want a boat that will let you walk all around the deck and fish while standing on the bow, then make sure you can do that in the kayak that you’re paddling at a demo day. Even if you don’t get it the first time (it usually takes some getting used to), you should still have a pretty good idea whether or not a kayak will eventually let you walk around the boat. If that is past the boat’s stability capabilities, you’ll get know it very soon once you start pushing its limits.
3 Brush Up On Your Balance Skills
There are a few things beginners should take into consideration when standing up in a kayak, at least at first. Most importantly, take it slow. Start by standing straight up, using your kayak’s stand-assist strap (most boats will have these, but you can also rig your own) or if you do not have one, brace yourself with your hands and feet firmly on the deck and sides of your kayak. Sit back down again before you lose your balance and keep practicing until you can stand confidently.
Once standing, try not to look straight up in the air as you might feel a slight sense of vertigo and take a dip in the drink. Next, make sure your body always remains perfectly aligned and streamlined. Slowly start shifting your weight side-to-side and front to back and see how your kayak feels beneath you. Make sure your head never goes over the edge of your kayak. Wherever your head goes, your body will follow. Imagine a wall extending straight up from both sides of your kayak. Your head should never go beyond that barrier.
Once you become a master of your kayak’s stability threshold, you can become more comfortable on your kayak than you could ever be on a different kind of boat. Try sitting side-saddle, landing fish while standing, turning around in your kayak while standing and more tricks!
Be Prepared to Take a Stand
Standing in a kayak takes fishing in a kayak to another level—literally. Do your research and purchase the right kayak for you, the first time. Decide if standing up is something you have to do for your type of fishing.
Remember to take it slow, practice as often as you can, and always wear your PFD!
Having a boat that you trust underneath you allows for multiple applications across many environments. | Feature photo: Mark Vlaskamp