No doubt having the ability to leave the shore behind opens a whole new world of angling opportunities. You are no longer constrained by how far you can cast, whether wading is possible or forced to target only those species calling the shallows their home. But what are the best means of getting off the beach or shoreline? Should you invest in a traditional boat or opt for a fishing kayak? Let's look at both and see which option is best for you and your fishing style.
Boat & Kayak Advantage
The most significant advantage of having either a boat or kayak and the reason most anglers leave the shoreline for open water is the ability to access new places. Whether it is that area just beyond where you can cast, the other side of a pond with no trail or miles offshore. Being able to get to different locations allows you to target new species, bigger fish, or just someplace you have never been. But each offers a different type or level of access.
Boats allow you to travel farther, faster, and without much physical exertion. You can travel miles offshore or get across to the other side of the lake in minutes. Kayaks may be slower, and your distance is limited to how much paddling or pedaling you are willing to do, but there are other advantages to consider. Kayaks are much better at accessing shallow areas and can be used in locations where motorboats are not allowed. Plus, you can launch almost anywhere while a boat requires a ramp or marina.
You need to ask yourself, "where will I be fishing?"
Boats Offer Room & Comfort
It is no secret that a boat will provide more room and increased support. Even the best kayak is cramped compared to even a basic motorboat. The benefit of a boat allows you to be more comfortable, bring along more gear (or friends). However, kayaks are advancing every season, and manufacturers recognize the need to cater to anglers rather than strictly paddlers. Advances such as pedal drive systems, optional trolling motors, improved seats, and an almost limitless number of accessories may not be increasing the room in your kayak. Still, they are advancing the level of comfort.
The solo angler can find or customize a kayak that is well suited for longer trips and even overnight trips. If you generally fish with friends, family, or your favorite canine, a boat is still the best choice.
Like it or not, your decision will most likely be made by your wallet and how much you can afford to spend. While it is possible to break the bank on either a boat or kayak, especially when you add up the cost of customizing your new purchase. The overall expense of purchasing, maintaining, and using a boat is generally far more than that of a kayak. Aside from initial purchase price, you need to consider the costs associated with maintenance, fuel, docking or launch fees, insurance, registration, the trailer, and even the possible need for an additional vehicle capable of towing a boat.
Kayaks require minimal day to day maintenance, and most of what is needed can be a DIY project. There are no fuel costs, and all but the largest kayaks can be transported on a roof rack or in the bed of your truck. On the other hand, you cannot spend the weekend on a kayak, and taking the whole family requires purchasing multiple vessels, which will include an increased cost. Something to also consider, if you have numerous kayaks, you will probably have to invest in a trailer of some sort for easy transport.
Ease of Use
The ease with which you can go from deciding you want to fish to just being on the water is something many buyers forget to consider. Will your boat be tied to a dock behind your house or at a marina miles away? Are the waters you like to fish suitable for paddling, or are they too dangerous for a small unpowered craft? Have you considered how willing you are to paddle, potentially wearing yourself out on a hot summer day, before even getting a line wet? Regardless of which choice you make, if you are unable or unwilling to take advantage of it regularly, has it benefited you at the end of the day?
I highly recommend that you visit a kayak or outdoor shop that allows for water testing. Doing so will let you see all the minute things that you can't see or feel unless on the water. We also suggest purchasing necessary accessories such as a rudder and peddle drive if you can afford to. The convenience factor triples when adding these two accessories. Stay tuned for our recommended lineup of kayaks. Here is a video of Chris and me venturing over to St. Pete to water test a few of the kayaks before making a purchase decision:
Before you hurry to the local marina, outdoor shop or boat show and plop down your hard-earned money, take some time to consider what you want to get from your new purchase. Consider whether a boat or kayak will best achieve those goals. Think about how much time and money you want to invest in the life of the purchase, not just the upfront cost. Be sure to do your research so that you can make the right investment and be happy with your decision. Either way, getting away from the shore will open a new world of angling adventures from day one.