fishing kayak ergonomics

A barge fishing kayak is not a microskiff

Anyone observing the evolution of the common fishing kayak in the past decade has noticed that the high-end tier (not better, just more expensive) of this class of watercraft has grown bigger, that is longer and excessively wider.

Why is that? -The main drive has been the need to provide fishermen with more stability, as many of them have come to realize that sitting for hours in an unstable craft isn’t fun, and certainly not productive. After all, reeling in and landing a big fish on board is hard work, and when you work hard you don’t want to worry about capsizing your boat, do you?

As for the increase in length, it was the result of two problems: The first is the decrease in tracking capability as the kayak gets wider –  Short and wide (‘chubby’) mono-hull kayaks track more poorly, and outfitting them with rudders makes them less attractive to users as well as more expensive. The second problems is the need to offer more buoyancy, since kayaks that offer too little buoyancy ride too low on the water, and not many people like to get constantly splashed by waves and even just eddies.

So SOT and sit-in fishing kayaks have grown bigger and heavier, and this is how the term ‘barge kayak’ was born (see article: http://wavewalk.com/blog/2011/04/15/the-barge-a-new-class-of-fishing-kayak/. This increase in overall size, and especially the increase in width made those kayaks harder to paddle, this decreasing their suitability for long fishing trips. In addition, some models have become so heavy that car topping them became nearly impossible for one person.
Some anglers had hoped that pedal driven kayaks would solve the propulsion issue, but most of them got disappointed, mainly due to an increase in ergonomic problems, and mostly back pain and premature fatigue. Moreover, the pedal drive made ordinary fishing kayaks heavier for car topping, and it turned the optional rudder into an absolute necessity.
At this point, some owners of those big and bulky kayaks started transporting them on trailers, which was in a way a sign of defeat, as anyone can understand that a kayak that must be towed on a trailer defeats the purpose of both kayaking and kayak fishing.

Once the term ‘barge’ was coined, the next logical step was to compare those huge and cumbersome kayaks to small skiffs, and ask the question “if this kayak is already almost as big as a small skiff, why not fish out of a real skiff?” – a good question indeed, to which vendors offered yet another propulsion solution: electric trolling motors.
Considering the fact that the combined weight of an electric trolling motor and battery can top 70 lbs, as well as the fact that electric trolling motors offer a limited range of travel, this solution was no match for small skiffs outfitted with gas outboard motors.
From the standpoint of a fisherman who fishes out of small motorboats, an electric SOT and sit-in fishing kayak was not even something worth considering – a sub par solution, and even more so because all those huge kayaks are not really suitable for stand up fishing as far as normal people fishing in real world conditions are concerned.

In other words, the SOT, sit-in and hybrid fishing kayaks hit a brick wall on their way to replace the small motorized skiff, known as ‘Microskiff’. The solution to the challenge of ‘stay small and get motorized’ came from the W kayak, which is perfectly suitable for motorizing with small outboards, and offers existing owners of small motorboats a way to downsize and upgrade at the same time, as the motorized W kayak (a.k.a. personal microskiff) is not just a smaller microskiff or a better fishing kayak – it is a new class of small watercraft with special attributes, offering better performance and convenience, and a whole new level of fishability.

Fishing kayak design – the best and the rest

People looking for a kayak to fish from could get confused and think they face a broad and perplexing variety of kayak types, brands and models to choose from, while reality is much simpler and easier to address.
This article suggests a number of ‘go or no go’ criteria that anyone can apply in the process of eliminating fishing kayaks that are not worth consideration.
To make a long story short and save the reader’s time, there is currently just one kayak that normal people can use to fish from without sooner or later regretting their purchasing decision, and this is the W kayak.
The reason why there is only one such kayak and not a plethora of designs is because its design is based on a a utility patent (proprietary invention) which prohibits manufacturing or selling it without the patent owners’ permission.

What makes a kayak angler’s life miserable?

Anyone can understand that being small, frail, unstable and uncomfortable craft, kayaks are not necessarily a fisherman’s first choice. This still doesn’t disqualify a kayak from serving as a fishing boat, but it does raise a few red flags –

Safety – this means mainly stability

Kayaks, including those designed for anglers and hyped as being very stable, must be stable indeed, since marketing hype may get you to buy a kayak, but it won’t prevent it from overturning when you’re inside. Furthermore, hype can make you feel good about your kayak’s stability, but it no longer works to this effect once you start fishing out of the kayak, unless you’re a young, small size, lightweight and athletic dude… In case you are, you may stop reading this article, and go get yourself any fishing kayak out there that fits your budget…  But if you’re an average guy, or middle aged etc. – you’d better get a kayak that’s stable enough for you, and that means in real-life conditions – or you’d suffer and put that thing for sale on Craigslist after some time.
And what is the definition of a stable fishing kayak? Simply, a kayak that makes you forget you’re fishing out of a kayak even when the wind is blowing and eddies are hitting you, even in moving water, even when you’re standing up, and even if you’re an average guy and not a young, small-size athlete. In other words, a kayak that’s really stable, in real world conditions, and for a real-life people.

Protection – this means mainly staying dry

One may argue that getting wet is part of any paddle sport, and it’s also part of fishing from kayaks. We think differently, and we think most fishermen would take our side in this debate. In other words, we maintain that any boat that’s used for fishing, including kayaks, should provide its passengers with sufficient protection from the elements, including wind, spray and waves. In other words, if you have to fish out of a kayak, it should be one that features enough free board to keep you dry. No sit-in, sit-on-top (SOT) or hybrid kayak out there offers this feature, and the passengers of such kayaks are over-exposed to wetness. The only difference between these kayak types is that a SOT won’t get filled with water if it’s washed by eddies and waves, while a sit-in or hybrid kayak would. The only kayak offering an angler to fish out of and stay dry is the W, since it’s the only one featuring enough free board to protect its passengers.

Ergonomics – this means mainly comfort

In case you haven’t heard, kayaks are notoriously uncomfortable, which is why fishing out of one is a challenge for most people and can turn into a torture for some – unless of course you’re young, fit, not too big (see suggestion in previous paragraph)… The comfort criterion rules out practically all kayaks except one. This is due to the fact that except the W kayak, all other kayaks force their passengers to paddle and fish with their legs sticking out in front of them, in a position nicknamed the L position. What this position does to you is get your legs to continuously push your back against your seat’s backrest, and sooner or later, this pressure starts generating growing discomfort, and later pain. This painful condition is nicknamed ‘yak back’, and in the long run it can become chronic if you don’t slip into something more comfortable, such as a W kayak. The latter is the only kayak offering its passengers to ride a high saddle, in a position similar to the one offered by All Terrain Vehicles, Jet-Skis, Snowmobiles, etc. In other words, a position that’s powerful, comfortable, and creates neither pressure nor stress on any part of your back.

Design considerations

Nearly all fishing kayaks out there belong to one of the following common basic designs:

1. Sit-in kayak (traditional)

A kayak design inspired by aboriginal kayaks. You sit in the L position, close to the water, with no protection from spray, eddies, waves, etc. Bottom line – You’re unstable, uncomfortable, and unless the weather is perfectly calm and sunny, you’d be wet and probably cold too.

2. Sit-on-top kayak (SOT)

A kayak design whose name is somehow misleading, since a SOT kayak is little more than a paddle board outfitted with a seat and footrests. Sitting higher than in a sit-in kayak makes you less stable, which is why SOT kayaks are usually very wide, and this also makes them hard to paddle as well as slow. In other words, most SOT fishing kayaks are ‘barges’. Some readers might be surprised to learn that contrary to the common belief (hype), SOT kayaks are not self bailing, and like any other watercraft, SOT kayaks can capsize.

3. Hybrid kayak (shallow canoe)

The hybrid kayak design is a crossover between a canoe and a kayak. Essentially, it’s a shallow canoe offering little free board. The hybrid kayak is smaller than common canoes are, which makes it possible for a passenger to paddle it from its middle part with a dual-blade paddle instead of a single-blade (canoe) paddle. Hybrid kayaks can be used only on flat water, and they become impractical on windy days. Regardless of its hull’s form, a hybrid kayak isn’t and cannot be noticeably stabler than a canoe of similar size, and no amount of hype could change this basic limitation on its stability, and therefore on its overall fishability – Anglers intuitively understand the meaning of this word.

4. Pedal driven kayaks

A pedal driven kayak can be a sit-in, SOT or hybrid kayak outfitted with a pedal activated propeller. The pedals can be either rotated or pushed, and the propeller can feature blades swinging left and right, or rotating. In any case, the operator of such kayak sits in the L position, and pushing or turning pedals with their legs exacerbates the discomfort and back pain because their legs push their back against the seat’s backrest more vigorously than they would in a paddling mode.

5. Outrigger kayaks

This category encompasses all kayaks featuring outriggers, whether added or incorporated into the hull. Without discussing every model in detail, the bottom line is that such kayaks offer far less real-world stability than the hype around them suggests. This is because in order to be effective for stabilization, outriggers are required to be big, located in the middle section of the kayak, and at a sufficient distance from its main hull.  None of the outrigger fishing kayaks meets any of these requirements, and practically speaking, each one of them is an exercise in futility, to some extent.  In addition, fishermen don’t like outriggers since these have a tendency to snag fishing lines and interfere with paddling (range of motion), as well as impede the kayak.

One fishing kayak belongs to neither of these categories and presents none of the problems listed above. It is called the W kayak, and it offers numerous additional advantages that are not discussed in this article, since it is already a bit too long…

How to add a poling platform and a high saddle add-on to your W fishing kayak

Initially, the saddle bracket was introduced as means to improve the saddle’s rigidity, and through that increase its load capacity, as by that the load capacity of the kayak itself.
But progress never ends in W kayak design: – The same accessory can be used for outfitting the kayak with a poling platform, and a high saddle, as shown in this images:

Poling Platform for Flats Fishing

Sight fishing and poling platform for kayak - fig 1 and 2

Figure 1 – Two saddle brackets                         Figure 2 – Two support beams

A pair of saddle brackets serves to attach the base of this poling platform to the saddle. Then, a two longitudinal boards are added as a support for the angler’s weight, and finally, the platform is attached on top:

Sight fishing and poling platform for kayak - figure 3

Simple, effective, easy to make, and inexpensive.

High Saddle Kayak Seat

Similarly, a high saddle is added to the kayak, for leggy users, and simply to provide yet another paddling and fishing position. Riding this seat causes no stability issues, since this position offers the angler’s legs a good way to support the upper body:

High saddle seat for catamaran kayak

Read the full article >

Fishing Kayak With 2hp Outboard Motor – Offshore

Here’s a recently produced movie showing a W fishing kayak outfitted with a 2hp 4-cycle Honda outboard motor, at the beach.
In this configuration, this kayak is a car top motorboat, eliminating the need for a trailer. It can be dragged on the beach, as well as on dirt, rocks and grass, which in most cases eliminates the need for transportation wheels.
Passengers and gear can stay dry due to the high free board, in combination with the cockpit cover. The kayak seen here is outfitted with extra large flotation modules on both sides, so it it happens to capsize, it should keep floating, even with the outboard motor mounted on it.
launching this watercraft is easy from any location, due to the fact that it benefits from triple propulsion: motorized, paddling, and poling (with the W paddle).
This motorized fishing kayak can even take a second passenger on board, although they may occasionally get splashed, as the 2hp outboard drives the boat at a 7mph speed.
This unique, patented twin-hull watercraft offers enough stability without adding stabilizers to it, and the driver is seen standing up while driving it, even in the presence of mild waves.
Steering is easy and intuitive, through an articulated tiller extension. This is particularly effective with this Honda motor, because it is controlled through its tiller grip handle.

More information about motorizing fishing kayaks >

W500 Kayak Outfitted for Photography

By Paul Ekman, Iowa

I’ve had the kayak out a number of times now and am dialing in my photography setup. I found that splaying the tripod across the top of the cockpit is much better than having the legs inside. This way, I have more room for my own legs and cargo and I can slide in nice and close to the camera. I added some hooks to the inside so that I can keep the tripod nice and secure given the weight and expense of the photo gear. I can control the kayak and casually paddle while facing the camera with ease. I just lay the paddle across my legs while shooting which works well. If I have a long distance to cover and don’t want to take the setup down, I’ll turn the other way to avoid striking the tripod while paddling more aggressively.

Things are working out well! I’ve got some great photos of herons and pelicans already – much better than the past years of trying to get close by foot.

stable kayak for wildlife photography

camera with telescopic lens mounted on stable kayak for photography

camera tripod mounted on stable kayak for photography (2)

camera with telescopic lens mounted on stable kayak for photography (2)

wildlife photographer looking through telescopic lens in stable kayak

camera tripod mounted on stable kayak for photography