Advice on selecting the best paddle for fishing kayaks.
There’s a world of difference between a well-made kayak paddle constructed with strong, lightweight materials and a paddle made to be sold cheaply. Trying to paddle a fishing kayak with a heavy, poorly made, ill-fitting paddle is not fun at all.
Materials – What the Paddle is Made of Makes a Difference
When it comes to selecting a paddle for a fishing kayak, weight equals cost. Or, to be more accurate, less weight costs more. Although a few ounces in paddle weight doesn’t sound like much, just consider how many paddle strokes are taken during the course of a kayak fishing trip, and pretty soon, a few ounces adds up to much more effort spent.
Courtney Ashburn of The Wilderness Way (850-877-7200, www.thewildernessway.net) a very good kayak shop in Crawfordville, Florida says, “The material which the paddle blade is made of makes a big difference in weight. Composite-molded plastic blades are heavier and less durable. Fiberglass blades are lighter and more durable. Carbon-fiber blades are the lightest and most durable blades.”
The shaft of the paddle is crucial to get optimum strength for lightest weight. Ashburn tells us, “Paddles from big box stores will almost always have aluminum shafts which are much heavier. Carbon-fiber shafts are much lighter and stronger.”
At The Wilderness Way, which sells a lot of fishing kayak paddles, the average paddle for a fishing kayak sells for $130 and weighs 36 ¼ ounces. The top-of-theline paddle costs $400 but only weighs 23 ¼ ounces.
Picking a Paddle That Fits
Perhaps the most important part of picking the right paddle for a fishing kayak is getting a paddle that fits the paddler. Take into account the height and arm length of each paddler. Also factor in the specific kayak being used and the kind of seat which is in the kayak. A good paddle must fit boat and paddler as a unit.
If we’re paddling a sit-on-top kayak with a regular seat, the following guidelines should get us close to the best paddle length:
If the paddler is from 5’ to 5’6” tall, a 220-centimeter paddle should work.
If the paddler is from 5’6” to 6’ tall, a 230-centimeter paddle should fit well.
If the paddler is over 6’ tall, a 240-centimeter or longer paddle should work.
Now, if we’re talking about fitting paddles to kayaks which have the elevated seats which many newer fishing kayaks do have, we need to factor in the elevation. For raised seat sit-on-top kayaks, the following guidelines should get us close:
For paddlers from 5’ to 5’6” tall, a 230-centimeter paddle should fit.
For paddlers from 5’6” to 6” tall, a 240-centimeter paddle should be tried.
For paddlers over 6’ tall, a 250-centimeter paddle should work.
But just like buying shoes, each individual is different, and what fits and works great for one 6’ tall paddler may not work at all well for another 6’ tall paddler. And this need for personal fitting brings up another vital point.
Where to Find a Proper Paddle
Any big box store which sells kayaks will also sell paddles. But we wish you luck when asking a salesperson at these big box stores if the paddles they offer are wellsuited for your needs. You won’t get much help.
For best fit and best-made paddle, it’s a smart thing to visit a local kayak shop and talk to the folks there. Many kayak shops will allow potential buyers to try out several paddles until the right one is found. FS
First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine December 2016