Designers: Why is Every New Fishing Kayak for Fat Guys?

An open letter from Uncle Scupper

According to Uncle Scupper, every fishing kayak produced in the past decade is a plodding tanker.

According to Uncle Scupper, every fishing kayak produced in the past decade is a plodding tanker.

Designers: Why is Every New Fishing Kayak for Fat Guys?
An Open Letter from Uncle Scupper

This anonymous rant came wrapped in a rotten mackerel slipped under the hatch of my well-used first-year Revo. Kayak Fish welcomes comment from our readers. Next time drop us a line via our Facebook page. It’s easier on the nose. -KF

No offense to the big boy kayak fisherman but come on. I’ve recently seen sneak peeks from two premier US kayak companies. Both new boats are variations on the yacht, kayaks that are big, slow, dry and not much fun to paddle.

RELATED: Wilderness Systems Teases New Offshore Fishing Kayak

First: We all know it’s a water sport. Anyone afraid to get wet should take up cross-stitch or video games. The last decade has seen an endless line of high-sided, wide, slow paddling monstrosities that shouldn’t actually be called kayaks. We understand no one wants to go back to a wet butt 24-inch wide SOT design, but the US market surely does not need another 30-inch plus kayak.

Second: Freeboard. Stop it. Coastal regions tend to be burdened with a four-letter word. Wind. Wind, aside from being the enemy of all toupees is the archenemy of freeboard and every time you add another inch of freeboard to add volume you add more surface area for the wind to slap your boat around. Seriously.

RELATED: Jackson to Release the Kraken Big Water Fishing Kayak

Stop demoing your kayak on a test pond and go paddle 10 miles against a 20-knot wind. At mile five stop and rest. Pull out your cell phone and snap a selfie as you are getting blown backwards. Now, when you get back to the office laser print that mother flipper on an 8×10 glossy and pin it above your computer. Look at that pic and the pain etched on your gob every day. Then, think about adding more freeboard.

Finally, consider the metrics. The average weight of a US male over age 20 is 195. That means there is a huge (Dude, I am so not referencing body weight) demographic that has not had a kayak designed for them by any US manufacturer in the last decade. The under two-hundy crowd is begging for a new line. At this point, the non-fat kids are importing kayaks form Europe, Canada, and New Zealand at a premium because no US manufacturer is paying attention.

Really! What gives? I’ll trade you a center hatch and raised seat for something 15 feet long and less than 28 inches wide. Easy on the freeboard please.

And btw… just to be clear… if I wanted pedals I’d buy a Schwinn.

PS – We don’t care if there’s a little water in the boat.

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August 31, 2014 8:31 pm

I was able to demo the Cuda 12 and the Big Rig this weekend. I feel comfortable on the Big Rig. I could not enjoy fishing on a fishing Kayak that was to unstable. I’m fishing ,not exercising.

steve crawford
August 11, 2014 5:53 pm

A rant that has very good points for us paddlers under 200 lbs. I being 150 lbs….
Like with all the designs for 250 lbs. displacement, what added freeboard is there with 80 lbs. less weight?
A skin boat 30 lbs. me 150!
This is why I went to kayakfoundry……

L. Darby
July 22, 2014 4:01 pm

While I see there are people on this site who want to poke fun and ridicule bigger guys because they feel they are kayak purist I would like to point to the fact that you don’t own the sport. It’s good that the big guy wants to get out and paddle a yak and if your little skinny ass ever gets in an emergency while out on your yak maybe ole big boy could be your saving grace. I have been kayak fishing since the mid 90’s and 20 yrs later I have come to appreciate the evolution time has on your body. I am not as strong or well balanced at 50 as I was at 30 but I still love to yak fish. So don’t take that joy from someone else because your some prick that thinks he or she is so much better than someone else. I do recall them selling yaks for purist as well as anglers and for little sawed off punks as well as full grown men and heavier set guys in the shop. There is something for everyone and no man is an island.

Tom Masty
July 2, 2014 5:18 am

The article is a little slanted and hostile. As a big guy, I find that most of the kayaks are for smaller people! So I guess it all depends on your perspective.

I am happy to be able to participate in this sport and want to thank the author for making me feel like a welcome member of the community.

Thank you.

June 7, 2014 3:07 pm

Hello and thank you for letting me say my piece. I Do Not Own A Kayak Yet . But what I do own is a brain. And while I am deployed in Afghanistan I am a fisherman. I am 5.9 165 so not fat and 48 yrs old. I have been in the market for a Kayak for sometime
because I want to get out and fish . Sure I can buy a boat or even get a john boat but not my style. I have done a lot of research into Kayak fishing and I feel it is something I want to do . I have been all over the world fishing and I want to fish in my back yard of Va. I think that that this whole review is flawed , Because the person who wrote it is not positive about anything . I have been all over the yak sites trying to figure out which yak fits my style. And I am pretty sure about what I am going to buy . But there has always got to be an asshole .

May 9, 2014 3:10 am

Maybe some of us buy a $2-3,000 fat boy kayak rather than spending $2-300+ in fuel alone to fish from a skiff? I’ve got a Tarpon160i and a PA14, they each catch fish, but one seems to always catch more while also being easy to stand in (we can’t all sit and pee)!

Of course, you have to keep in mind that considering fishing to be an actual sport (even in a kayak) is like wondering why the U.S doesn’t have an Olympic Nascar team. If you’re getting physically exhausted peddling or paddling you’re doing the kayak FISHING thing wrong.

Now get off your high horse and stop belittling the majority of your readers, scrawny boy. We all know you have the need to talk yourself up because you never could quite make the team past warming a bench back in school.

6’3″ 195 lb. Fat boy

Russell McDonald
May 2, 2014 7:28 pm

They are filling a need for a new customer base that up to this point has had limited options. There are hundreds of kayaks out there for a 150 pound person who does not care for wide slow kayaks that a 300 pound man can stand in. If you don’t mind getting a little wet and you want something fast and nimble, well take your pick because they are there. Kayak companies are making new kayaks for new customers. Sounds Like you are just jealous even though you are already sitting on a stockpile of options.

April 15, 2014 7:27 am

I’m one of those guys who first and foremost is a fisherman. The kayak is a tool. I owned a Tarpon 120 for 9 years and as I’ve aged I’ve moved to the much larger Jackson Big Rig. It suits my fishing needs, I’m not worked up about being a “kayaker” and how fast is it and all that BS that makes no difference to the kind of fishing I do. I’m not out there to see how wet I can get or how many miles I can cover. If I get wet so be it but its simply not a factor in my kayak buying decision. How much time I spend on the water, my comfort etc are more important.

March 16, 2014 9:35 am

For a full day of fishing I would rather not be on a 24 inch wide kayak. I have paddled a scupper classic quite a bit and you are actually blown around more on the water than my bigger heavier Trident 13. The Trident 13 in my opinion is the perfect fishing yak. I would not want any wider. Maybe an inch narrower but then again i’m 6’2″ and 205 pounds. For fishing a shallow marsh would you really want a 26 inch wide 16 foot long kayak? I do agree with lots of points in the letter tho. The new predator is an abomination to kayak fishing and the Hobie Pro anger is even worse. What do most of the Aquahunter guys paddle? Tridents and Prowlers.

Tom Watson
March 13, 2014 7:15 pm

Interesting comments…”fishing” kayaks? Really? Natives fished from kayaks, modern blue water paddlers fished from their boats, too…yea, even the long, narrow ones-but they were just kayaks, no need to hype the activity to create some misnomered boat category. Today’s “fishing kayaks” are barely “kayaks”…If they were paddled with a canoe paddle they’d be calling them SOT canoes! If you want a long, narrow, skinny paddlers boat get a real kayak…like they’ve been building for decades…and from which kayakers have been fishing from for centuries!!!! It’s a business where consumer demand dictates the marketable style…light boats make it easier for women to carry, wide boats make it easier for big guys to sit comfortably. SOTs are great boats, a good stable platform for fishing, photograpy, etc. If you really want to paddle and experience the ocean – – get a real kayak.

Michael Childs
March 13, 2014 6:57 pm

If you don’t like them, don’t buy them. If you aren’t strong enough to carry them to the waters edge, get your wife to carry it for you. Stop acting like eleatist and expect everyone to conform to your likes. Be glad there is a higher demand for fishing kayaks. It adds more products and variety to the market place.

Roger Hammer
March 10, 2014 1:53 pm

Uncle Scupper rang a much needed bell. American-made fishing kayaks went from the old Scupper Pro and the Wilderness Systems Tarpon series to such behemoths as the Cobra Fish-N-Dive, the Ocean Kayak Big Game at nearly three feet wide, and the granddaddy of all, the Hobie Pro Angler that starts well over 100 pounds even before you fill up the bait well with 80 pounds of water and then park a 300-lb pedaler in the seat. Maybe a BowFlex Stair Stepper would have been a wiser choice. My first fishing kayak was a Hobie Outback. Too fat (the yak) and too slow. Plus I felt just plain silly pedaling merrily along while not really getting anywhere anytime soon. Then came a Malibu Extreme. I’m still trying to figure out why I didn’t just cut down a tree and paddle the trunk. I took it out three times and sold it to some poor hapless soul. Next I bought a Tarpon 160 and I still today think it’s one of the best polyethylene fishing kayaks on the market. But right when I bought the Tarpon 160 I ordered a South African-made Kaskazi Dorado. When it arrived six months later I thought I’d have two kayaks to choose from but it wasn’t long before I realized even the Tarpon 160 paled in comparison to the Dorado, so I sold it. I’m now on my fourth Dorado and my new boat is a carbon fiber/fiberglass Kaskazi Dorado II. I went out fishing once with a guy in a Hobie Revolution and in a 2-mile trip he was more than a half mile behind. The problem is that in polls the word “stable” is always at the top of the things Americans want from their fishing kayak, and American kayak manufacturers translate the word “stable” into “wide.” Price even gets rated higher than speed does in the polls. What they don’t realize is the word “speed” translates into “ease of paddling,” so you use less effort paddling a fast kayak than you do a slow, fat, log. Someone who owns something like an Ocean Kayak Big Game is fairly restricted in how far they can fish from the launch, which is probably about a mile, or maybe two. In a fast kayak, like a Kaskazi Dorado, five to ten miles one way isn’t out of the question. And, at just over two feet wide the Kaskazi Dorado is one of the most stable and seaworthy kayaks out there.

Jeff Barry
February 28, 2014 6:17 pm

Rants can be fun but this borders on elitism in sport based on fishing and camaraderie. There are two type of Kayak fishermen, kayakers who want to fish, and fishermen wanting to try the new platform. Anything that brings people to the sport is a good thing for Kayak angling. If you want to paddle 20 miles out and fish and paddle back… good on ya! If you have money and want to mother ship 30 miles out and kayak fish… good on ya!

Alot of these wide boats are made for inland bass fishing lake and rivers where none of your complaints apply. You aren’t going to bump into these guys out at the rigs so don’t worry. It’s all good. I’m in the neglected 190lb group muscling a Big Tuna because I needed the tandem since I have 5 kids and want a stable platform. I’m glad we have these options.

Don’t hate the player or the game. Tight lines!

Ross Kushner
February 16, 2014 10:09 am

I agree. A few years back, kayaks like the Scupper Pro, Necky Dolphin, Islander Ventura and others gave USA anglers a choice. Now, I am importing my kayaks from South Africa at a premium just to get something decent. It’s a shame. The only good USA craft are the Adventure and the Tarpon 160, and they’re both too heavy. PLEASE make us a decent USA fishing kayak. The lowest common denominator is not working.

Ollie Hughes
February 14, 2014 12:57 pm

I agree with Uncle Scupper and Cory. This sickening trend towards making yaks that track like stumbling tug boats with possessed rudders needs to be re-evaluated. When you put pedals on a dang yak it is no longer a kayak. I always smile at put-in and take-out when the ProAngler guys have to wrestle and cuss their monstrosities to their vehicles, while my amputeed self still manages to carry my 16′ Tarpon on my back. Look Ma, no gimpy yak cart to have to mess with! If you feel the need to carry 100s of pounds of gear/electronics on a yak, let me be the first to properly suggest you may well have picked the wrong craft to fit your needs. Who was the unrepentant redneck who dreamt up the lawnchair yak seat? If your butt requires such a cooshy seat, I suggest just paddling a couch. It probably tracks and drifts better than most of the designs currently offered. Me, I’ll be on the hunt for all the older Tarpon 160i’s I can find on CL.

jasper pons
February 14, 2014 12:26 pm

we have made the move to fishing kayaks designed around open ocean racing kayaks as used in the molokai surfski race. typical characteristics are: length over 5m, a chisel nose, almost no rocker , slim hatches, narrower width (still wide and stable though) and light weight. Big guys can use them ( I am over 6ft and 95kg), they are slightly more wobbly though.

Our fishing kayaks have got faster and faster over the years, and we always appreciate more speed for the following reasons:
1) its easier to get out in big surf. when the gap in the waves come you can accelerate out
2) while they are useless at riding waves back to shore, the increased speed makes it easier to catch a smaller wave and ride it all the way in , out-running the big waves
3) as mentioned above, when the wind and current starts pumping you can make headway and get back home
4) when the tuna are running its easier to chase the birds diving
5) you can pull halco’s and rapalas at close to their recomended speeds.
6) you can fish more spots in one session because you can get to them without getting tired.

the fastest fishing kayaks known to man are here :

Jim Dolan
February 13, 2014 6:07 am

Speaking from the big, fat boy seat , you are right on. It’s a wet sport. In Texas we actually like getting wet in the summer! And I’m tired of getting blown around by the wind or using 20 degrees of rudder to go straight. Don’t need an electronics platform. Or 10 rods. Couple of Ziploc bags, small box of hard lures and a 60lb boga. As we unload our yak or upload 16 with HOW, lighter is much better. Used to be able to grab one in each hand. Now I need wheels or two people move. No Routh, doesn’t have anything to do with age!!!! 🙂 Would like to see some of the new design and technology advances combined with lighter , stealthier boats. We don’t need to stand up in every yak made.

Douglas Gaxiola
February 12, 2014 8:01 pm

It’s always fun to let go with a rant, but let’s look at this issue realistically.

When I got my first fishing kayak back in early 2002 there were not many SOT kayaks that were truly suitable for fishing. Ocean Kayak gave you the choice of the Scupper Pro or the Drifter. If you weren’t under a buck sixty-five or a lifelong surfer with a well-honed sense of balance, your only choice was the Drifter. Being a big, fat guy I got a Drifter. Cobra wasn’t much better. You could get a Fish ‘n Dive or a ?????. Yeah, pretty much that was it. Malibu had the eXtreme. Hobie had a couple, but nothing with the capacity for a big guy. Wilderness System’s Tarpons were great if you were a jockey.

Early last decade kayak fishing was in its infancy and you had to make do with what was available. Then a great thing happened. Kayak fishing got popular and the kayak manufacturers quickly released many new kayaks. They tried to meet the needs of kayak anglers by designing fishing specific features into the new offerings. They worked with their customers and pro-staff to find out what features and types of kayaks anglers were looking for. By the end of the decade every kayak manufacturer had several different lines of fishing kayaks and most offered each of those lines in two or three lengths.

Now we are at a point where the popularity of kayak fishing has brought about kayaks designed for specific fisheries, water conditions and angler size. From what I’ve seen, the latest niche that kayak manufacturers are trying to fill is stand-up, shallow water fishing. They are designing kayaks that you can stand up on for sight fishing. While that is not my preferred type of fishing, it is obvious that it is very popular, especially in the South and along the Gulf Coast.
The manufacturers aren’t doing away with the long, narrow-beam, low-freeboard offshore specialty kayaks. What they are doing is trying to meet the needs of their customers. There is quite obviously a demand for the larger kayaks. The kayak manufacturers aren’t putting their R&D time and effort into a type of kayaking that is already well-served with many tried and true designs. They are opening new markets for anglers/fisheries that have not previously been served.

I, for one, am glad that there are now numerous different fishing kayaks from which to choose. When I think back to the choices I had when I started kayak fishing I am amazed at how far the sport has progressed. While I am not thrilled with many of the new offerings that are out on the market, I am glad that there are at least a half dozen different kayak models from different manufacturers that would suit my needs.

Jeff Little
February 12, 2014 1:05 pm

Sounds like you need a Tarpon. I personally agree with many of your points, especially on the wind! A lighter kayak would also be nice. We are constantly moving closer toward a boat that burns more calories getting it to the water than calories burned paddling it. But different anglers have different needs, and the big boats fill certain anglers needs. Certainly nobody needs to be blown off point when working an active school. Thanks for sounding off!

Cory Routh
February 12, 2014 11:42 am

I agree..the Original WS Tarpon 160i was one of my favorites. Even it got upgraded with volume and freeboard. The Hobie Adventure has taken its place. Yes it has pedals…but it will go with paddles too.

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