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The sport of kayak fishing has been growing exponentially over the last few years, and many anglers are looking to get into their first kayak. With so many options on the market these days, choosing the right kayak can be overwhelming, especially for the larger angler. Lucky for you, I happen to be the resident "Big Man" here at Black Hall Outfitters — and at 6' 2", 320 lbs, and with 20 plus years in a kayak, I just might be the authority on the subject.
Often enough, the plus-sized outdoors person is turned off from kayaking for fear of not being able to find a kayak big enough, buoyant enough, or stable enough to support our height and/or weight. A question I often get is, “Is there a kayak for me?” There’s always been a few options, but usually, they weren’t particularly comfortable and required some extra skill for a plus-sized paddler to operate safely and successfully. Fortunately, Old Town kept us in mind when creating the Sportsman line of fishing kayaks. They graciously took 90% of the guesswork out of choosing a kayak, and now the easy choice is that you can likely pick any kayak from the Old Town Sportsman line without fear of it being inoperable, and with the confidence to kayak comfortably, safely, and effectively.
I personally own the Old Town Bigwater PDL 132. Choosing that fishing kayak was easy for me because, well, it's right in the name: BIG-water! At just over 13 feet and with a weight capacity of 500 lbs, it can support myself, my gear, and my catch quite comfortably. I’ve kayak fished in 4 to 6 feet of surf for hours on end and haven’t felt unsafe or unstable, and I even managed to pull in some very decent fish despite the conditions. The design of the hull allows the kayak to easily punch through surf and to bob and weave with the ebb and flow of “sporty” conditions. It retains that same maneuverability on flat water such as lakes and slow-moving rivers as well. I can even stand while I cast, set hooks, and pull in fish!
Now don’t be fooled, the Bigwater isn’t the only one out there for us larger kayak fishermen and women. Recently, I was lucky enough to skip down to the Florida Keys to soften my gray winter blues and do a little kayak fishing. Until that point, I had tried just about every kayak in the Old Town Sportsman fleet aside from the 106 models. Always keeping my larger figure in mind, I assumed a tiny ten and a half foot kayak just wouldn’t have the legroom, let alone actually be able to keep my big butt afloat, even though it boasts a weight capacity of 450 lbs. I thought it just wouldn’t make the cut, but I was wrong, dead wrong. In the calm waters around the resort we were staying at, I was able to sit comfortably with plenty of legroom and fish quite successfully, reeling in 10 or 15 smaller fish. I even took it out into the mouth of the bay to bob around in some pretty windy conditions with about a 2-to-3-foot chop. After fishing though, came the moment of truth. The dock I had launched from was about 3 or four feet above the waterline. The only way off the kayak without going for a swim was to stand up, step off the kayak onto the ladder, and climb up. But hey, I’m in Florida! I don’t mind looking silly falling off a kayak and going for a swim, so let's give it a shot! Fully expecting to get dunked, I used the handle on the drive to pull myself to my feet. She didn’t even wiggle! I just stood for a moment in complete awe. This little kayak shattered all preconceived notions and performed like a champ! Would I take one out into the Long Island Sound for a 3–5-hour excursion? Probably not. But If I lacked a place to store a bigger kayak or a truck, or a trailer to transport it, the Old Town Sportsman 106 PDL would be at the very top of my list of fishing kayaks to buy.
The fact of the matter is that any paddler under 7ft and 380lbs can likely fit comfortably in any one of the Old Town Sportsman kayaks. Each boat I’ve tried has even left me plenty of room to adjust the seat or foot pedals. With that knowledge confidently in mind, choosing a kayak now allows us to ponder the same questions as every other angler looking to buy a kayak: Where are you fishing? How are you transporting it? How much space do you have to store your boat?
At Black Hall Outfitters, we stock plenty of great options for a wide range of body shapes and sizes. We look forward to helping you find your next kayak, visit us in-store or online to start shopping today!