Which Kayak for me…….? Part 3, the Seat.

Last week in part 2 Bill Dunn explained the in’s and out’s of Kayak Hulls. This week it’s Part 3 and probably the most important part……….the Seat.

Traditionally, Kayaks didn’t have much in the way of a seat, and even todays state of the art competition kayaks still don’t have much, and that’s how it started with kayaks that were modified to become fishing kayaks.

The seat is important to how your day pans out on the water. Let me ask you, which chair would you rather use watching a movie on TV, a plastic ‘party’ type chair – or your comfy arm chair or lounge. If you are fishing from a kayak, you will likely be on that seat for a considerable time.

A basic sling seat fitted to a Sit On Fishing Kayak

A basic sling seat fitted to a Sit On Fishing Kayak

Kayaks can come with a simple ‘recessed area’ were you can park your rump – that’s probably your most basic option – in regards to roto moulded kayaks. I recently had the use of one of these on a trip and after half an hour of paddling, my back and shoulders were really feeling it, and when I got out of the yak after about an hour and a half, I wasn’t able to walk properly – onlookers probably wondered why a cripple was trying to pull a kayak up onto the beach. Kayaks are still sold this way – in there most basic form.

Most manufacturers today have realised that fishing from a kayak is not as simple as just paddling a kayak – and have started putting thought into how to improve their yaks. The smart ones have really thought about it, and realised that having ‘the best seat’ is a way of having a point of difference between themselves and the rest, hence most better quality fishing yaks today have really good seat options.

Apart from a simple moulded recess, you can have an improved option which is a foam padded seat covered by fabric, that clips into the cockpit with adjustable straps, and will have a backrest – and very big improvement. You get a measure of support for your back with these, and you will need that. Adjustable straps are also very important – getting the support in the right places is key.

Kayak Seats

Some manufactures offer a similar seat design that is fixed to the hull – this is usually an improvement – as the seat doesn’t move, and therefore has the ability to offer more support if adjusted correctly.

There are the ‘deluxe’ versions of the clip in seats, with better padding and a larger, more supportive back rest. These can be purchased separate to the Yaks.

Wilderness AirPro seat set the standard for many years – extreme comfort

Wilderness AirPro seat set the standard for many years – extreme comfort

Back in the mid 80’s, when the first roto moulded yaks were appearing, a seat like this was a real luxury, and not much changed until the mid 90’s, when Wilderness Systems released the first of the AirPro seats into their kayaks. These seats were a game changer, and the Wilderness Yaks quickly gained a reputation for comfort. The Airpro seat went through more changes, improvements mainly to adjustment systems, then later on versions that slid back and forward. The Wilderness boats had a reputation for being able to be used all day long, with little ill effects. The seats were comfortable, supportive, and totally self-draining as well as quick drying – no one else could match that. By now that seat, or versions of it, were fitted to just about any Wilderness Kayak – fishing or not.

Early this decade, Jackson Kayak, a well known specialist manufacturer in the USA decided they wanted a specialist fishing Kayak, and enlisted the services of Drew Gregory, well known on the US Kayak bass fishing scene. He, along with the Jackson designers came up with a yak – that was not only a great fishing platform, but also had an innovative chair – rather than a sling seat or moulded seat in the hull – this was more like a camp chair, and in fact could easily be removed for just that purpose. This seat was subsequently improved upon over following years, to make it even more comfortable. Around 5 years on, and all the main players offer this style of seat – as in a chair. Wilderness Systems, in late 2014, announced their new seat – also a chair, called the Airpro Max – since then Native and then Hobie have followed. Today – even Chinese kayaks are coming with copies of this style of seat.

Modern kayak ‘chair’. Extreme adjustment, Hi and Low settings and comfortable

Modern kayak ‘chair’. Extreme adjustment, Hi and Low settings and comfortable

Most of the good designs allow for the seat to be moved back and forward, as well as up and down, have adjustable back rests, are of a quick dry material and adjustable straps for fabric tension and support. The down side to all this, is that the seats gradually got heavier over the years – adding weight to what you were propelling through the water, let alone lifting off your car.

So, once again, if I was making a pro’s and cons list to buy a new kayak for fishing, I would very definitely have the seat on the list – for 2 reasons, 1/ Comfort and 2/ ‘Fishability’. Again if you are going to spend your hard earned, then you may as well spend it wisely. I would recommend buying a kayak that has the best possible seat that you can afford.

So, by now you should have shortened your list of candidates to a manageable number. You have determined your budget, the type of water you will fish most often, the type of hull that you need, and the sort of seat that fits into the budget. All you need to do now is look into the ‘fishability’ of the kayak, in other words, is it set up for fishing, or can it be suitably set up for fishing, and how well will it perform that task for me.

For example, a well laid out deck space will put things that you need at arm’s reach, whilst not crowding you. It will have attachment points, mounting tracks, or flanges that allow you to mount rod holders, fish finders, drink and phone holders, leashes, flags and various brackets or clamps that can hold rods, paddles, nets and so forth. Sometimes, when looking at fishing kayaks, you tend to lean toward the ones that have as many of the above accessories already fitted up – only to find after using the kayak for a while, that one of more of the accessories is perhaps not in the ideal location to suit your needs. In other words, the more easily adapted it is to your personal needs, the better it will be. Often, you will find the very best of the fishing kayaks don’t come fitted with the accessories – which seems a little cheap, when you know that lower priced offerings sometimes do, but the people and companies that make the higher end products are not being cheap or stingy, they have learnt that our fishing kayaks become an extension of our selves – and that we like to personalise them as much as possible, besides most of these people are into yak fishing as well.

The deck space of a state of the art fishing kayak – extremely customisable

The deck space of a state of the art fishing kayak – extremely customisable

So a kayak that doesn’t come with many accessories is not always a bad buy, in fact it may be the better buy – if it is built to be easily customised, try to imagine landing that fish of a lifetime, and think what the deck will be like in front of you when you do, will it help or hinder.

So now  I hope you can go in search of that ‘ultimate fishing kayak’ armed with some more knowledge. Always remember that you need to be able to handle the kayak – off and on the car, or trailer – and have a plan for that. But you will also need to handle the kayak when on, or even in the water, so your choice should also reflect that. If you get all this right, then you are going to love your time on the water – and the fish you catch will be the icing on the top.

Good luck and be safe.

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.

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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.

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