How to Choose the Best Paddle for Kayak Fishing
Choosing the best paddle for kayak fishing is something newcomers to the sport often overlook. While any old paddle will do the job, there are certain paddle designs, materials, and features that make a kayak fisherman's time on the water much more effective and enjoyable. Before you go off and buy a new paddle, use this article as a guide to help you make the best paddle purchase.
Kayak Paddle Measurements
Kayak paddles come in lengths of approximately 210 cm to 260 cm. To achieve the most efficiency and comfort while paddling, your paddle must be sized according to the width of your kayak, the length of your torso, and your stroke style in general.
Your paddle needs to be long enough to clear the gunnels of your kayak. The wider the kayak, the longer the paddle. If your paddle is too short, you'll end up bumping your paddle on the gunnels. This is especially important when kayak fishing, as the sound of your paddle hitting your kayak could spook fish before you ever have a chance to cast to them.
The taller you are, the higher your arms will be off the water. Simply put, taller kayakers benefit from longer paddles; shorter kayakers benefit from shorter paddles.
There are two main styles of paddle strokes: high-angle and low-angle.
High-angle paddling is the stroke used by whitewater and more fitness-oriented kayakers.
With high-angle paddling, your paddle is more vertically-oriented when entering the water, which requires more force and a higher cadence.
This style is beneficial in fast moving water, or anywhere tight maneuverability is required. High-angle paddling is best performed with a shorter paddle.
Low-angle paddling is the preferred stroke for both kayak touring and kayak fishing. It is a highly efficient stroke with a more relaxed, slower cadence. Low-angle paddling is great for covering lots of water and gives you maximum distance with every stroke.
And, since most kayak anglers are in it for the fishing, not so much for the fitness, low-angle paddling is the preferred stroke for kayak fishing. Low-angle paddling is best performed with a longer paddle.
Types of Kayak Paddle Shafts
If you don't want to get locked into one stroke style, or if you want to use your paddle with multiple kayaks of different widths, consider buying a paddle with an adjustable shaft. Most adjustable shaft paddles have a range of about 15 cm to customize the length of your paddle accordingly.
Kayak paddles come with either straight or bent shafts. Both styles will work for kayak fishing, but bent shaft paddles may be slightly more angler friendly.
A bent shaft paddle is ergonomically shaped, making it easier to paddle for long periods of time with less fatigue. Bent shaft paddles are also easier to paddle with one hand, which can be especially helpful when fishing.
Another key benefit of bent shaft paddles is that they rest in your lap without falling off. Kayak fishing is very hands-on, requiring you to be constantly shifting from rod to paddle and back. While a straight shaft paddle is prone to slipping off your lap, a bent shaft paddle will stay on your lap without you having to think about it.
Paddle blades come in all shapes and sizes, and all have their different use cases.
For kayak fishing, you generally want the most versatile blade shape known as an "all purpose," or "recreational" style.
These blades combine the longer, narrower shape of a touring paddle blade, with the power and torque of a whitewater or surf style blade.
The term "feathered" refers to the alignment of the two paddle blades. Blades that are perfectly even and in the same position on the paddle shaft, are known as "non-feathered." Blades that are not on the same plane, mounted at different angles on the paddle shaft, are known as "feathered."
Feathered blades are designed to be highly efficient when paddling. When one blade is in the water, the opposite blade in the air is turned so that it cuts through the air with less resistance. This allows for more efficient paddling, but requires that one dominant hand be in control of the paddle, making single handed paddling much more difficult.
While slightly less efficient, unfeathered blades are usually the best option for kayak fishing. With a unfeathered blade paddle, you won't have to worry about having a dominant hand rotating the paddle as you stroke, and you'll be able to perform single-handed paddling with more ease. However, if you find yourself paddling long distances frequently as you fish, a feathered paddle may be a good option to consider.
The material a kayak paddle is made of affects its weight and durability as well as its price.
Most entry-level paddles are made with aluminum shafts and either nylon or plastic blades. These paddles are inexpensive and durable but are much heavier than higher-end options. Aluminum paddles will certainly get the job done, and can make a great first paddle or backup.
Fiberglass paddles are the go-to mid-range option for many kayakers. These paddles are very durable and are lighter than aluminum paddles. You'll have the most options in terms of price point, color, and style when shopping for a fiberglass paddle.
Carbon fiber paddles are the high-end, high-performance option for serious kayakers. They are incredibly lightweight, strong, and offer anglers significant advantages in both paddling efficiency and long-term comfort. Having a lightweight paddle can make a big difference when paddling long distance, and since your arms and hands pull double duty when kayak fishing, you want to treat them well.
When getting all set up for kayak fishing, your tab can add up quickly, and going with the least expensive paddle might seem like a good idea to save some money. But remember, your paddle will get more use more than almost any other piece gear on your kayak. Investing in the best paddle for kayak fishing that you can afford will pay dividends in your overall enjoyment on the water.