Whether you’re taking up kayak fishing or just kayaking in general your safety should be your top priority. Kayaks these days, particularly fishing kayaks, are very advanced and built for stability, but even the most stable kayaks and experienced kayakers can still have accidents that won’t come with much warning. Most accidents happen so quick and are typically not at the anglers’ fault but simply crazy circumstances that you probably aren’t planning for. Having your PFD on is not only required by most state laws but is highly recommended to ensure your safety and should be taken seriously. However, when you are fishing from a kayak, you’re performing tasks that require mobility and flexibility, so choosing the right PFD is essential to not only your success on the water but also your comfortability. Let’s walk through the different options.
Vest Style PFD
These styles of PFD’s have many benefits to them and depending on the brand are built to offer the angler storage capabilities in the form of zippered pouches and accessory attachment points. The design of these PFDs are also equipped with floatation material built into the vest itself, so upon entering the water you are immediately supported and will float back to the surface. The benefit of this is if you are unconscious or otherwise uncapable of managing yourself the vest needs nothing to do it’s job and keep you afloat until you are able to regain yourself back on your kayak or dry land. All vest style PFDs come with multiple adjustment points to suit your specific body size. A lot of anglers prefer these vests as well because of the storage opportunities. In the event you are tossed overboard you may lose contact with your boat, especially if you are in current, so having a pouch to store your phone could be critical in the event you need to call for help. Always consider that the worse thing possible could happen at any point in the blink of an eye and being prepared ahead of time could potentially be the difference maker in you regaining your safety. If you are a beginner kayaker or otherwise do not have much experience in water, I would highly recommend this style of vest for the benefits mentioned.
Astral Designs, NRS Chinook, Hobie Fish Thinback
The inflatable PFD is designed with an internal inflatable compartment that uses a c02 cartridge to fill it. To inflate the compartment, you have two options. Depending on the make and model you can set the PFD to auto inflate when water is detected, or you can utilize a draw chord to pull and engage the cartridge thus inflating the PFD. Right off the bat the inflatable PFD is noticeably leaner in its design than the vest style. They still offer multi point adjustments, but you lose the storage capabilities of its competitor. The appeal to these types of vests are mostly the lack of bulk resting on your chest and back. When fishing from a kayak you are performing tasks from the seated position mostly, so some anglers find that the inflatable PFD allow them more mobility to perform these tasks. As mentioned above when accidents occur, we unfortunately don’t get to choose the way these situations unfold and what they intel. Hazards that result in you falling overboard aren’t only due to your surrounding circumstances, they can come in the form of medical emergencies as well. Dehydration or unknown developing medical conditions can present themselves at unknown times and the time frame you are on the water is no exception. The auto inflate option is a nice feature and, in my opinion, should be utilized due to the added safety benefits it presents. If you are unconscious this feature can save your life.
Onyx AM/24, Hobie Inflatable, Mustang MIT 70 Manual and Automatic
Either route you go having a PFD on is making your safety your priority and that’s the most important take away here. It’s not a bad idea to have both on hand also. I will often times use the vest style in colder water conditions just to add a little extra warmth but also the initial shock of cold water can be very overwhelming so in that event your mind and body may be distracted with that shock vs. remembering to pull a chord. Determine what is best for you and your needs and always remember to have it on when you leave the bank. You never know when you may find yourself in the drink.
Article by - Justin Patrick