Recommended kayak for Great Lakes/Lake Superior

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Recommended kayak for Great Lakes/Lake Superior

Postby RoundRiver » Tue Oct 04, 2016 10:00 am

Hi. I'm new to the forum and moved to Duluth this past May. I have fished numerous times out of our recreational Wilderness Systems Pamlico, but I know this is an accident waiting to happen but if I get caught in a quick wind/wave change. I am considering a sit on top, but not one that peddles or has a motor. The two that seem to be the best from what I have read and seen on YouTube for big water is the Jackson Krakan (13.5) and the Wilderness Systems Thrasher (14). Oh, and I do plan to get a dry suit for the shoulder seasons.

All that said I would greatly appreciate and consider your perspectives and opinions, or lessons learned in regard to choosing a kayak for fishing the Great Lakes, and/or Lake Superior specifically.

Thank you.
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Re: Recommended kayak for Great Lakes/Lake Superior

Postby fisheater » Tue Oct 04, 2016 9:36 pm

Welcome RoundRiver,

I don't keep up with the latest and greatest in kayaks. There are a lot of new features that make rigging easier, but the right hull is what you are after. You will want something in the 14 to 16 foot range. I paddle a 16 foot solo canoe on the Great Lakes. The hull I paddle does not have any rocker. I think you would want an inch to two inches of rocker. A little rocker helps the kayak to slide a bit through the waves. My straight hull does get "grabbed" a bit by wave action. Rocker for lack of a better term is a bit of banana shape, but remember I am only recommending an inch or two. Not that many SOT's have more rocker, excessive rocker would effect tracking. I think you should consider paddling efficiency as well.as a general rule, long and skinny, paddles better than short and fat. Another thing overlooked is that a rounder shape to the hull is also more efficient. Of course everything needs to work together. A round bottom would flip over easily. Kayaks beyond a certain length require more power than a paddler can provide to reach any efficiencies.
So I can't help you pick out a brand or model, the above are some of the things I would consider. I would suggest you find a dealer that will let you paddle before you buy. I know of a kayak that is really popular today. When it first came out, I remember people on other forums trashing it, because they thought the design would be prone to flipping easily. Well, I fished in some pretty snotty water with guys in those kayaks, and that hull sure does handle the rough water. So you never know until you paddle it. Good luck
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Re: Recommended kayak for Great Lakes/Lake Superior

Postby RoundRiver » Wed Oct 05, 2016 3:07 pm

Thank you Fisheater. First, thank you for the info. I am primarily a canoe paddler so I am familiar with all you were mentioning. As to your approach to GL fishing: very interesting! So you go out on the big lakes in an open canoe ... with no rocker? What canoe? I see your picture is a WeNoNah. My primary inland wilderness canoeing and fishing boat is a Nova Craft Pal. It is 16 feet long and has a little rocker and is symmetrical and stable. But I had no thought I could safely go out in Lake Superior in that (other than really calm days). I look forward to hearing back from you.
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Re: Recommended kayak for Great Lakes/Lake Superior

Postby fisheater » Wed Oct 05, 2016 9:32 pm

RR,
I fish out of a Solo Plus. Back when I was looking, I wanted a kayak that would fish solo or double. My son was young then, and I wanted to be able to take him with me on my river adventures. The was an open SOT by Native that could be configured solo or tandem called the Magic. I was sure that was the one, until I paddled it in a farm pond. That was all the paddling to convince me it was not for me. The Ultimate was much better, but I wasn't falling in love. There were a couple guys on a national forum telling me to try a Solo Plus. There was a demo on Lake Erie that had a Bell Morningstar, I took my son, and he immediately vetoed the Morningstar. It lacked the initial stability he required (he didn't say it like that!). I drove up to Tawas and found a Solo Plus. As soon as I paddled it, I knew it was what I was looking for.
The reason I mention all that is because one of the guys recommending the Solo Plus was a gentleman from Ontario, that fished Lake Ontario in a PAL. Now if you were to ask me for my ideal canoe for Great Lakes fishing, I would say it only exists in my mind. It would be a strip canoe built on a Winter's hull called the Kite, but it would be decked like a Wenonah Canak. The Canak is not rockered either. As much as I like them, they are too expensive to be missing rocker: and besides I would rather build one myself out of "popsicle sticks" and Elmers.
As for my approach, I prefer winds under 10 knots, from the right direction (depends on the Great Lake and port). I also prefer to be within 3 miles of shore (which is about an hour). I really enjoy fishing a little closer, and have been out further, but that is my approach. I also prefer to have a partner, but sometimes I fish solo. I am lucky to have met some great fishing partners, and good men through this site. I admit that I am very fortunate, I have the opportunity to fish with a partner more often than not. As for my canoe being open, it is affected by wind more than a kayak. I think by spring I may have a cover. There a some people around here that sew boat covers, that may be less expensive than the expedition type covers I see.
Be sure to post some Lake Superior photos, it is always nice to see other places.
Bob
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Re: Recommended kayak for Great Lakes/Lake Superior

Postby Jim_MI » Fri Oct 07, 2016 12:58 pm

RoundRiver wrote:I am considering a sit on top, but not one that peddles or has a motor.

Just curious - why would you rule out a peddle kayak? FWIW, I have fished Northern Lk MI from both SI and SOT yaks, both peddle and paddle, and MUCH prefer peddle. An 8-10 mile day of trolling (including dragging a downrigger around for part of the day) is no big deal in my Hobie PA14 but I would be totally exhausted trying that from my 16' paddle kayak. And the advantage of having your hands free for playing fish or tending lines / lures / downrigger / lunch / drinks / tunes / etc while still making way is pretty sweet. In addition to trolling, I also do a lot of deep water vertical jigging on Lk MI, and have targeted and pulled up lakers from as deep as 305 ft. In any sort of wind or chop it would be impossible for me to stay on top a pod of lakers or cisco 80-120 ft below without a peddle craft. It's relatively easy when you can just point upwind and feather the pedals enough to negate the drift while working the jig.

As Fisheater says, you need to demo a lot of yaks to find what is right for you, but I certainly would not exclude peddle craft right away. Just my $0.02.
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Re: Recommended kayak for Great Lakes/Lake Superior

Postby Johnny O » Sun Oct 09, 2016 10:18 am

Welcome to the world of big water kayak/canoe fishing! It's been by far the most satisfying and exciting form of fishing I've experienced. I started with a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140 SOT kayak about a decade ago and used that kayak for about 4 years, primarily on Lk Michigan for salmon and steelhead. Nice kayak with somewhat narrow lines such that it paddled well but was a bit unstable. Factory slide track mounts a nice plus for ease of installing and adjusting accessories. Switched to an Ocean Kayak 13' Prowler 5 years ago. It was wider which meant I traded some efficiency and speed for stability. I didn't have a rudder with either kayak. There were times it made paddling in the wind a challenge but on the other hand I never had my line wrapped around a rudder (definitely a concern when running two lines, especially if fighting a fish on one). Both kayaks handled the big water well and could be set up nicely (and easily) with an assortment of rod holders and sonar/GPS mounts. This summer I switched to a Hobie PA 14. I've not met Jim_MI but he provided some great insights regarding the benefits of a peddle craft in terms of them being more efficient (i.e. less fatigue-inducing) and allowing for tremendous hands-free capabilities. They are worth considering. I'm glad Fisheater Bob has already chimed in with his thoughts on big water fishing from a canoe as he's probably the most experienced person who routinely follows this forum that fishes in this manner.

In my experience, this is a "live and learn" sport. You'll end up buying your first fishing kayak and learn a ton thereafter. You might be the type to be happy with the first one you buy and never find a reason to change, or you might decide fairly quickly that it doesn't suit your needs and be looking for a new one in fairly short order, or you may like it perfectly fine and yet at some point decide to try something different just for a change of pace. I realized that I'm more of the latter in that I like changing things up after a few years. I also realized that when it comes down to it, I prioritize my fishing capabilities a little higher over my paddling experience. That and some shoulder issues led me to give up the paddle for peddles this summer (am in a Hobie PA 14 now). I do miss the aesthetics/sensation of paddling, but the various attributes that Jim mentioned (less fatigue, much improved hands free trolling) have made up for it thus far. But if your first love is paddling, and fishing is secondary, you might prioritize a fishing kayak that paddles particularly well. As Bob has noted, if you love canoe paddling, there's room for that approach and he's exceedingly effective at it.

Price and safety are two other important factors that will (and should) influence your decision. I'm glad you have already indicated that you are aware of safety issues relevant to the sport, especially if fishing Lk Superior. A SOT and a dry suit make enormous sense as a starting point. A 13 to 14 ft kayak makes sense for Lk Superior. Most of the fishing kayaks are built to be inherently more stable than recreational paddling SITs or SOTs. Some are more stable than others though; reading reviews about stability and (better yet) trying them out with a dealer if you can will be beneficial. Price is dependent on your personal budget. Given your interest in fishing Lk Superior, at a minimum be prepared to spend enough money to not only purchase a quality fishing-oriented SOT but also the safety gear essential for big, cold water in potentially dangerous conditions. That includes the dry suit (or at least high quality semi-dry paddling gear), life jacket, marine radio, a flag/light combo, and an assortment of dry bags for extra clothes and safety gear. Keep on the lookout for used kayaks, especially if they are already partially rigged. That'll help with price. If you went the peddle route, Hobie's are at another level of price but you can find some used at a good deal (like the one's Jim and I both sold earlier this summer).

Hope this helps and that other's chime in, especially if they have first hand experience with the kayaks you are considering. Be safe and have fun!
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Re: Recommended kayak for Great Lakes/Lake Superior

Postby RoundRiver » Mon Oct 10, 2016 10:54 pm

Thank you Johnny O and Jim and Fisheater. I greatly appreciate your thoughts. I floated (no pun intended) the idea of open canoeing on Lake Superior with the Boundary Waters crowd on BWCA.com. Common theme was it is possible, but watch the weather and stay relatively close to shore. Several people do this regularly, including one that lives in my neighborhood and launches very near where I do.

I am not interested in a peddle craft at this time for several reasons: cost, I like to paddle, I will use the boat for recreation as well as fishing, and do not want an already heavy kayak being heavier. I see the points you have made, and can understand the benefits for fishing. Perhaps in the future, but not now.

I am with you Johnny O about changing ideas and situations. I research more than I should, get what I think is the best overall option that provides multiple use. Then after a couple of years I can see that perhaps there are better options, or my interests or situation changes (like moving to Duluth and being 2.5 blocks from the largest freshwater lake on planet earth!). Time to reconsider.

All that said, I absolutely plan to take my Nova Craft Pal out on calm days and fish the near shore for lake trout (my favorite) and loopers when they are in the shallow. But I am not sold this is the safest option for anything but the calmest days, and I know it will not be the most efficient paddling or provide some of the recreational opportunities a sit-on top will (e.g. on and off to swim in the summer while my wife is on a SUP doing the same, paddling to explore the coats, etc). A kayak will allow me to be out fishing more often than the canoe. I have seen a couple of decent kayak options on Craigslist, including a slightly older WS Tarpon 14. I like the price, but am not sure I want something that is a "bit unstable". If I can, I will try it out. In terms of a new kayak I am leaning towards two options: Wilderness Systems Thresher 14 and Jackson Kraken 13.5. Both were designed from the beginning for big water. I have not paddled either, but will be able to late next week. I am leaning towards the Thresher based on liking more of the features, but we will see how each paddles.

Thanks again. I will let you know.
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Re: Recommended kayak for Great Lakes/Lake Superior

Postby Boknows » Tue Oct 11, 2016 4:24 pm

I heard the Wilderness Thresher 140 is a great kayak! LOL..Oh and I happen to have one for sale. Coincidence? ...Just kidding..you are getting some solid advice from this crowd. Happy kayaking

In all seriousness, the Thresher is made for big water kayaking...worth having a look at.
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Re: Recommended kayak for Great Lakes/Lake Superior

Postby Johnny O » Wed Oct 12, 2016 8:22 pm

I'd meant to mention that a WS Thresher was posted in the classifieds. Am guessing the distance between Duluth and the Windsor area might be prohibitive ;)

I haven't research the Thresher but it looks like a cross between my Tarpon 140 (especially with their very comfortable 3 phase seat and the slide tracks) and my Ocean Kayak Prowler (that had the elongated center hatch/rod pod which is great for storing rods and spare paddles). If it paddled like a cross between these two kayaks I'd consider it a real nice compromise between paddlability (I think I just made up a word) and stability. The slide tracks might be nice for you as it makes it very easy to pull off all your rod holders for when you want it for recreational use. If that hatch up front is comparable to the one on my Hobie you'll find that very useful. In general I've been pleased with WS kayaks (I also have a Pungo 120) as they've been in the business a long time and tend to know what they are doing.

Enjoy your research and decision making, it really is half the fun.
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Re: Recommended kayak for Great Lakes/Lake Superior

Postby Gogu392 » Mon Sep 18, 2017 3:49 pm

Best kayak for handling big lakes and trolling is a kayak that can be motorised easily (electric or gas), it should have a good transom.
And that would be a Wavewalk S4 or Wavewalk 700.
These kayaks are used/tested in Florida on coral reef, big waves.
WaveWalk - the cataraman kayak
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