For fishing, Kayak or Canoe

I have an Old Town Discovery 158 canoe. I dont really like paddling it myself from the rear seat, and I dont like sitting inside on the bottom. I was looking at a Wilderness Systems Tarpon thinking this might be a better fishing platform. I like to fish for bass and panfish with a spin rod and occasionally a fly rod on slow rivers and lakes. Any advice?

You could install a center seat. It’s a wide boat to solo from the center seat, but you could use a double-blade paddle.

Another option would be to replace the bow seat with one you could sit “backwards” in. That’s how a lot of people solo canoes. Use a 5-gallon bucket of water in the other end to trim it level, and it’ll handle a lot better than soloing from the stern seat.

The best way to know if you’d like a Tarpon is to try one. Sit-on-top kayaks seem to be love-or-hate boats.

I never could understand sitting low, …

– Last Updated: Mar-10-10 5:07 PM EST –

... among other things when fishing from a kayak.

You say you don't like sitting on the bottom. That makes perfect sense to me. What I don't understand, is how sitting on a sit-on-top can be all that much better. Sure people do it that way, but it seems like the hard way. Sit-on-tops make up for crappy seating position by having certain other advantages that may or may not apply in your situation.

I've done almost all my fishing from small boats of one type or another. One thing that happens all the time unless the boat is anchored, is that the boat never remains pointed in a particular direction, or at least not in the ideal direction, as soon as you give up boat control and start casting a fishing rod.

Here's the way I suggest comparing various boats and sitting styles.

1. Sit on a low cushion on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, and see how many directions you would be able to cast. Hold a fishing rod in your hand if that helps you imagine this. This replicates sitting in a sit-in kayak or on a sit-on-top kayak. Your butt is barely any higher than your feet, and your lower body must by necessity always remain in the same position. Your ability to face different directions for casting and playing fish is entirely dependent on your ability to twist your upper body.

2. Now try this. Kneel on the floor with your butt on something about 10 inches high (a six-pack cooler is perfect for this, and I know one guy who uses one of those as a boat seat most of the time). Now see how much larger your upper-body range of motion is compared to before, and how much larger a circle of accessible casting directions you have. This replicates kneeling in a canoe, and there's really no comparison. Remember that even after casting, the fish that you get on your line may swim off in some other direction, and it might be nice to be able to face that direction.

If you can't kneel, a canoe seat still allows plenty of range of motion for casting. You can change your position to face a little bit to the right or left as long as your legs are bent so your feet are close to you, because that lets you swing your legs through about 60 or 70 degrees of arc (your legs are not forced to line up with the length of the boat the way they are when you sit on a sit-on-top).

Most of my fishing has been done in small boats that allow me to face more than on direction, and I find that that is exactly what I do, constantly change sitting positions so that I can face the proper direction when casting even though the wind keeps changing the orientation of my boat. I find a canoe to be just about as good, since when kneeling, I can cast in any direction except within a few degrees of arc directly behind me.

Sit-on-tops are popular on the ocean coastlines, but on small bodies of inland water, there's almost always a need to cast in a particular direction, and to be able to see where your line goes. You can drop anchor every time you stop to fish, but then there's a new problem. With a sit-on-top it wouldn't be convenient to tie-off the anchor line to any of four different locations on the boat, which is nice if you want the wind to position the boat (mostly) in some particular direction. With limited tie-off locations for your anchor line, odds are you won't be able to make the boat face the direction you want when anchored. In a solo canoe, you can do that with ease (you have four thwart ends within arm's reach), plus you can tie-off closer to the bow quite easily, or even to the stern with some imagination. Sit-on-toppers usually use clever mechanical gadgets just to attach their anchors so that they can do what a canoe can do in its bare-bones state.

Lastly, there's the gear-storage issue. That's pretty self evident.

It really comes down to the water on which you paddle and fish. Sit-on-tops have their place. I'd say get a sit-on-top if you are paddling big water and need to be able to make good speed in spite of strong winds. If you are on smaller waters, stick with a canoe (and maybe consider getting a solo canoe for much greater paddling ease) for comfort, less-limited casting ability and convenient access to all your stuff. Every boat is a compromise of one sort or another, and you have to figure out what features you value most at the expense of something else.

SOT Anchoring Problems…
…can be solved with an anchor trolley. Limited tie-off problems are also solved by adding pad eyes or jam cleats wherever you want.


– Last Updated: Mar-10-10 7:29 PM EST –

That's what I meant when I said "Sit-on-toppers usually use clever mechanical gadgets just to attach their anchors so that they can do what a canoe can do in its bare-bones state." To clarify, I simply made a comparison between the need for more gear versus nothing extra.

The fact remains that a canoe is much easier and more versatile when it comes to anchoring. An extreme example would be fishing for trout at night with lanterns hung on the boat on a 40-foot-deep lake. To do that, the boat must be rock-solid in the water between two very heavy anchors placed quite far apart (if the boat sways around, you won't catch anything). Carrying two 15-pound anchors with big flukes (plus a couple of 90-foot lengths of quarter-inch rope, each on its own plywood "carrying spool") in a canoe is no hardship at all, nor is tightly tethering the canoe end-wise between them. That's an extreme example, but it simply shows that when it comes to anchoring, whatever a SOT can do, a canoe can do with less fuss. All boats have strengths and weaknesses, but the "strengths" of a SOT are not related to fishing, but to paddling the boat in conditions that would be difficult in a solo canoe.