first tme river fishing kayak

I need advice on which kayak to buy for river fishing. I will be fishing rivers in Virginia and Tennessee mainly for smallmouth. I am 5’11" and 215lbs. I am confused as to which would be the best for me either a sit on top or sit in. I am also considering the possibility of a tandem, but can’t afford both.

Both will work
The SOTs are easier to get on and off of. They also allow you more movement around the boat. Like scooting forward or sitting sideways. Since they are self bailing, there is less possibility of a catastrophic swamping.

The SINKs are drier and work very well when properly outfitted. They are more stable as they have a lower center of gravity and can be narrower for the same reason. Narrower can mean lighter and faster for the same length.

Also consider when you want to fish.
An SOT may limit your season a bit when the air/water temps turn cold. A drysuit costs as much as a typical rotomolded kayak, SINK or SOT.

Also consider where you’re taking your yak. A tandem of either variety is going to be heavy to carry/cartop and slow to paddle.

I’d suggest you decide on more details about these issues before jumping in to something that doesn’t work well for you. On the other hand, I started paddling for the same reason, to fish, and I haven’t wet a line in over a year, have four boats now (after selling one) and much prefer paddling trips than fishing . . . .

Good Luck!


Tarpon or Manta Ray
I don’t know about Tennessee rivers, but for Virginia smallmouth rivers, Wilderness System Tarpons or whoever is making the darned Manta Rays are what you want.

10’ or 12’. Get the shorter one if you’re going to do float trips. Get the longer one if you’re going to paddle upstream and float back down.

There’s a million other boats that will work, but these two are the most pedigreed, well-loved smallie fishing kayaks in Virginia rivers. Folks use them on the New, the James, the Shenandoah, the Rappahannock, and the Potomac, and probably other rivers too but I just haven’t heard about them.

I fish from a Sit-In-Kayak (SinK), a Dagger Approach. I love it, but recognize that for fishing purposes an SOT is better suited to the job.

  • Big D

What Big D said…
for downriver float trips, you might wanna take a look at the Dagger Approach as well. Especially if any whitewater is involved. Great boat, Just over 10 feet. The hull profile is WW inspired and has a drop down skeg for those long flat-water sections to keep it tracking straight. Pull up the skeg and it handles more like a creek boat in the lumpy stuff.

If I was in the market, I would be looking to get one of those. If I had it to do all over…I’d own a Tarpon 120 and a Dagger Approach instead of the 2 Loon 111s I have right now.

The Tarpons are a wet ride
compared to the Manta Rays, especially at 200+ lbs. Even the Tarpon 14 had a couple of inches in the footwells with my 220 lbs. My Manta Ray 14 rides about 3 inches higher and unless I do a good lean, I stay dry.

The Tarpons track better, but almost to a fault if you ask me. If you’re doing tight twisty areas, I’d try a Manta Ray 12 or 14.

The Synergy is also a decent option. No scuppers and a little more maneuverable than the Manta Rays.

All good fishing platforms though.