Which Kayak for me…….? Part 2 – The Hull.

Probably the first decision when buying a Yak is choosing the hull. Bill Dunn explains the in’s and out’s of hulls to help you decide.

So, hopefully you have read my previous article titled “Which Kayak for Me” and decided to look further into what you are about to buy. Maybe your thinking they are not all the same, well, you would be right. The question is, what makes each Yak different?

As I have already explained, the vast majority of fishing kayaks out there today are what are termed Roto moulded. This refers to the method they use to manufacture them, which requires the addition of a large bag of plastic balls to be dropped into a hull mould or shell, generally then the other half of the mould is screwed to it, and the whole lot attached to something akin to a rotisserie, then it is put into a very large oven, and heated up, whilst being rotated. After it is removed and cooled, the mould halves are separated and there you have it, a Roto moulded kayak. All it requires now is trimming and fit out. (For those interested there are some great you tube clips of how this works). It is actually pretty cheap to produce one of these craft, once you have the mould. So why the large discrepancy in price between brands?

Well-known brands such as Jackson, Hobie, Native, Viking and Wilderness all spend large amounts of time and money designing and testing new yaks before they hit the market. They all have significant in-house design teams, and employ the services of “Pro Staffers” who initially come up with ideas and suggestions about yaks, but then do a lot of the shakedown tests before a design is finalised. Often these people are well known yak Fishers that have reputations for knowing what they are doing, as well as a technical mind.

An example below of how Roca works for kayak hulls

An example below of how Roca works for kayak hulls

The bottom of the hull is critical to any yak. It determines how the yak tracks – straight or does it veer to the side. Good hulls will track straight but the straighter it tracks, generally the slower it turns. The length as well as the hull design will affect both these areas as well as speed, for example the longer the yak – the straighter it runs and faster it is, but the harder it is too turn, the shorter the yak, the quicker it turns but slower. A really short kayak, is often a real pain in the backside to paddle any distance because it just wants to do donuts on every paddle stroke, but a cleverly designed hull may help overcome that. The reverse is also true – a longer hull can be made to turn easily.  All hulls have what’s termed Roca – simply imagine the hull shaped like a banana – curved up at each end for example – a yak with the middle ¾’s constantly in the water and the bow raised will have a reasonably hi roca. By moving your balance back or forward you can, on a yak with a lot of roca, help it turn – or not as the case maybe be, like leaning into a corner on a bike. This would help in a river were you could get some length to help distance paddling, whilst retaining a high degree of manoeuvrability, which can be a huge benefit tackling rapids.

Example of a 10 ft Fishing kayak with a relatively flat hull – these are difficult to paddle in a straight line long distances, but nimble and light, really good for mucking around in small rivers.

Example of a 10 ft Fishing kayak with a relatively flat hull – these are difficult to paddle in a straight line long distances, but nimble and light, really good for mucking around in small rivers.

The sides of the hull also have a large effect on the kayak. The sides are heavily influenced by forces like water, wind, the waves, rapids and things like tree limbs and rocks. The side of the hull will influence how slippery the yak is in the water – therefore how much effort it is to propel and the speed, they will also affect stability. The ability of the hull to shed wind will also affect how the craft handles. A curved side to the hull helps with strength when bouncing of rocks as so on.

This kayak has pronounced pontoons either side, which have pronounced curves, making it strong and very stable, it also has a full length keel line – helping it track well when paddled, ideal Yak for fly fishers or people into sight casting to fish

This kayak has pronounced pontoons either side, which have pronounced curves, making it strong and very stable, it also has a full length keel line – helping it track well when paddled, ideal Yak for fly fishers or people into sight casting to fish

The underside and sides will affect the stability – width and length- as in more of both also increases the stability, whereas more length helps get more speed but more width will make for harder paddling – or decreased speed. But the designs of both affect it as well, for example some yaks are designed with pontoon style sides to the hull – making them more buoyant on the sides – like a catamaran, but sometimes at the compromise of manoeuvrability, like in a boat, a clever design utilising all the above will generally make a better hull.

The deck is the last part of the hull, and it goes a long way to aiding strength as well as comfort, drag (wind again) and storage. Sit in kayaks – which are more like traditional kayaks, have a cockpit, usually with some type of seat in it, – hence the name. The lower centre of gravity aids stability, and large cavities forward of your legs, and behind you allow for lots and lots of storage, making them ideal for trips and expeditions. They are not as popular today as the SOT, or sit on top kayaks, but if you are interested probably one of the best examples of a modern SIT fishing yak is the Jackson Kilroy.

Jackson Kayaks Kilroy – a dedicated Sit In fishing kayak

Jackson Kayaks Kilroy – a dedicated Sit In fishing kayak

SOT’s are by far the more plentiful today. Compared to Sit in’s, they can’t be easily swamped (the water runs off) they are very strong (but heavier), and can be easily righted and re-entered should you capsize, which is difficult with a Sit In. The down sides have traditionally been less storage, cramped deck space and not as stable and noisy. Today – Modern Sit On kayaks have come a long way in addressing all these things.

So, looking at all of that, what should I be considering when I want to upgrade or get into a really good fishing yak – and are the premium ones better than the rest in terms of hull design. In 2016, the most common purpose built fishing kayaks are a sit on design. Advances in mould and hull design have meant that you can now get a purpose built sit on fishing kayak, that is stable enough to stand on and fish, has enough storage space above and below decks to cater for most requirement’s, and can navigate around most tricky obstacles, or shoot rapids, or cover long distances and break through surf with ease. You can also attach pretty much any accessory you want, and carry almost as many rods as a bass boat can. Hull slap – or Noise has been addressed in the hull design, but there are also sound deadening products that can help insulate the noise from a pair of pliers hitting the deck and spooking the fish. The better fishing kayaks will be able to tick almost all those boxes, and that’s the design quality difference and what you pay for when you buy one of the premium brands compared to a cheaper kayak brand. But just to confuse us, some of the bigger companies have other brand names that specialise in producing Yaks that are an older model of the premium brand – for less money.

But at the end of the day, you really do get what you pay for, however it can be confusing when shopping around. Last year, when I was looking around to replace my Yak with a newer model, I made myself a Pro’s and Cons list, which left me with only a couple of contenders, it then came down to what was available at the time. Just about everything I listed above went into that list.

A simple list to consider when buying a fishing kayak would include:-

  1. Budget
  2. Most common water where the Yak will be used
  3. Maximum distance on water to be travelled
  4. How long will I be in the seat for
  5. How heavy is the yak – and can I lift it
  6. Or do I need a trailer
  7. Most common fishing scenario – lure or bait
  8. What am I fishing for (sharks are not trout).

So that’s it – well not entirely – you see that’s only the hull. There is I believe 1 more thing you need to consider, and add to your list – the seat…………….

Bill Dunn

About Bill Dunn

Me....well my first fishing memories are at lakes Entrance and Bright, both in Victoria with my family when I was about 10-12 years of age. Since I have always taken a rod and reel when away,and whilst never been good at it, i find it very relaxing. Yak fishing started for me when i was in my early 20's on the rivers and coastal areas around the ACT, I would take my fibreglass slalom kayak and a rod, tent etc.

About 6 years ago I got a bit more serious and started looking into yak fishing again and it didnt take me long to realise it was a fast growing version of the sport.

These days, I still live in Canberra, and a few kayaks on, I still find it theraputic and at the same time challanging. More recently I have been helping new comers into the sport with advice and tips on kayaks and set up, the fishing I leave to them.

Previous Lively Lures : Try This With a Normal Lure
Next Tackle Talk : Jewie ( Mulloway ) Techniques

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