My personal criteria for a serious fishing kayak
Over the last 6 months I have done a great deal of research on YouTube and kayak fishing blogs into exactly what I need to look for in a serious fishing kayak. This is a one-time purchase that needs to be perfect for my fishing ventures big and small. By checking out the set-ups of many other kayak anglers (and suffering some serious kayak envy). I had put together a list of top criteria in my head to base my kayak shopping around.
Top criteria for me is a fairly large kayak (in terms of both hull volume for stability and also storage space), hard wearing build and materials, and also with the potential to modify (added extras and accessories in the future like fish finders, GPS, anchor trolley etc). The kayak also has to be very stable, but with the ability to glide through the water efficiently.
Wow! The Concept Explore was stood alongside other high end fishing kayaks in the showroom, and my eye was drawn straight to it. It certainly looked like the kind of vessel that would handle the fishing expeditions I have been dreaming about for so long. There is plenty of room in the cockpit (good for the long hauls) with plenty of leg space and lots of storage. Lets take a look under the bonnet.
Length = 365cm (11’11″)
Width = 78cm (2’6″)
Height = 33cm (1’1″)
Kayak Weight = 27kg (60lbs)
Max Load = 150kg (331lbs)
Colours = Yellow / Sand / Forest Camo
The thing that immediately caught my eye was the mass of on-board storage space, which included a large storage well at the stern (36″ x 18″) with zig-zag bungee cord fastening, this will easily carry a large fishing box, anchor, and an additional dry box /crate. In front of the seat there is a large centre console (with Scotty compatible fittings for instruments and attachments), and a large oval shaped sealed hatch at the bow with tons of usable space and a large lockable lid (including fitting to attach a large dry bag). Storage was high on my list of priorities, and the Concept Explore certainly provides enough to hold all of my fishing gear + with a maximum weight load of 150kg, enough to store my catch too.
- Multi Function Centre Console (for mounting Scotty rod rests and accessories) – The console itself runs through the middle of the leg area (measuring 28″ x 7.5″) with 7 x star shaped “Scotty Compatible” holes, aswell as a number of re-enforced screw holes for attaching additional rails or brackets. It also has a cup holder (very useful for an avid tea drinker like myself), but also a useful storage area for various bits of fishing tackle. The lid of the centre console is held firmly in place with straps with a handy storage area underneath (for more fishing tackle, phones, keys etc). The design of the console is really intuitive with space for any instruments you may need to add, and positioned to allow easy access without it getting in the way when paddling. There is even a measuring scale (in cm and inches) to measure fish size.
- Carry handles on sides, bow and stern (side handles are centre balanced which allows single person to carry one handed). The front and back handles are useful for lifting the kayak onto the trolley wheels.
- Kayak trolley (available separately)
- Flush mounted rod rests (with covers) – The rod rests are easily accessible, although I only use them for storing rods in transit. When fishing I like to use a rod rest that sits in front of me. The centre console will easily hold a number of rod rests.
The Concept Explore also has a rudder system, also seen on other high end fishing kayaks. The rudder system is controlled with foot pedals, and helps with maintaining direction in conditions where the kayak is turning into the wind (also known as weather cocking). Normally the kayaker is forced to paddle furiously on one side to keep the kayak straight, but the rudder will allow extra control over the steering.
The rudder can be raised or lowered when required using the haul lines situated on the right hand side of the kayak. The rudder system is well constructed and can be assembled in minutes ready for use. I was a bit concerned (as it was a new gadget that I had never used before), but I sat in the kayak and pushed the pedals back and forth for a few minutes, with some of my previous kayaking experiences in mind I decided that a rudder system was definitely a good idea.
Handling and Comfort
The kayak performed even better than expected. I took it out for its maiden voyage from Porth Beach across to Newquay harbour and back. I am 6 feet tall and weigh approx 95kg (quite a lump). With all of my gear the load would be around +120kg and I have been close to the maximum load on smaller kayaks before (impairing their glide through the water). But the Concept Explore sat in the water really nicely, and steered through a cross-wind (approx 15-20mph) with no problem at all. Half way across the bay the wind was a little bit stronger with a bit of chop to the sea, the Explore cut through it just nicely, but I decided that it was an ideal time to test the rudder system. The rudder worked exactly as expected and after a couple of minutes getting used to the pedals for the first time, I was able to perfectly counter balance the push of the wind and maintain my course without having to paddle furiously on one side.
At 30 inches wide, the Concept Explore felt really stable in the water. I stopped paddling for a while and allowed the Explore to drift sideways into the waves. I sometimes end up in this position while drift fishing and this is the point where you are most likely to get tipped by a wave. Compared with other kayaks I have used, the stability of the Concept kayak is loads better, and as the kayak was sitting relatively high in the water I didn’t take much water over the sides.
The positioning of the 6 x scupper holes in the cockpit of the Explore allows the water to drain downwards to the lowest point (the foot area), with the ability to plug them up if preferred meant that I had a very dry ride. Many times I have had to sit in a puddle of water in other types of kayak (especially if the kayak was sat very low in the water). I found that the adjustable foot pedals can be finely adjusted to the perfect position, and can be easily tweaked whilst out on the water. The “Ultimate” kayak seat that I got with the kayak is easily fitted and feels very comfortable, although made of lightweight material, the padded back and seat felt very plush and offered enough support to lean back into the seat whilst paddling. All round an extremely smooth and comfortable ride.
Manufacturing and materials
My number 1 priority (over and above storage capacity) is quality construction, after all I will be putting the kayak through some tough conditions and it will get something of a battering while travelling to some of my favourite bass fishing spots (not to mention the occasional bump or knock when putting it on the roof rack). Concept Kayaks are rotation moulded from the highest quality LLDPE (linear low density polyethylene). LLDPE is very durable and is impact resistant, unlike HDPE (high density polyethylene) which is prone to denting and cracking (also used to make plastic garden furniture which I break all the time). After speaking with the manufacturers, they confirmed that LLDPE was indeed the best possible material for the construction of kayaks, of which they sourced the very highest quality LLDPE from ExxonMobil. This was used to make the hulls of all of the Concept Kayak models.
The LLDPE used to make the Concept Explore also contains UV inhibitors to reduce UV damage while the kayak is being used (which will degrade plastic over the years making it brittle), I will still store my kayak under cover though when not in use.
It should also be noted that all of the metal fixings in the Concept Explore are made of 316 marine grade stainless steel (suitable for use in both freshwater and seawater). I have seen other kayaks that claim to use “marine grade” stainless steel where in fact using 304 which can corrode over time when exposed to salt water. There is also no use of rivets at all (which have been known to come loose and cause leaks over time).
High Quality Build - Lifetime Warranty
Concept Kayaks offer a lifetime warranty on the hull of the kayak as standard (which speaks volumes to me in terms of confidence in their construction). The Concept Explore kayak comes with a moulded serial number that I used to register the warranty on the website. The kayaks are individually inspected before being shipped as part of a stringent 10 point check and comes with a certificate of quality assurance. (I can’t argue with that).
This is certainly not just any old leisure kayak (with a rod rest stuck on for good measure), the Concept Explore was designed specifically with the serious touring fisherman in mind, and when put alongside some of the other high end fishing kayaks, the Explore still ticks all of the boxes for me. This kayak is built to the highest quality, with many years of experience poured into the R&D at Concept Kayaks who are based right here in Cornwall.
Price isn’t the main consideration for me when choosing a good quality fishing kayak (this is a serious hobby for me), but the Concept Explore retails at £358 (at the time of publishing this), which simply cannot be ignored when comparing to prices of other kayaks of the same specifications, and so out of my £500 budget, there is enough change to buy some more fishing tackle. Win Win!