Not all reviews have value for prospective fishing kayak buyers. For a fishing kayak review to have any interest for you to read and consider, you need to see that it fulfills the basic requirements of Credibility and Relevance, and preferably have some Breadth and Depth.
You should never trust fishing kayak reviews posted by an anonymous person, under alias, a user ID, etc. That review may have been created and published by an individual who’s involved in a business relationship with certain fishing kayaks manufacturers, distributors, or retailers. Such relationship can include being a member of a kayak fishing ‘Team’, and getting paid by the manufacturer to promote their product directly and indirectly – both in an overt and covert manner. In fact, such review may have been posted directly by an employee of a kayak company, if the website on which it was posted allows posting without full and true identity disclosure. Unfortunately, some websites featuring kayak reviews in great numbers encourage such anonymous postings, which in its turn spurs kayak manufacturers to compete among themselves in posting countless favorable reviews of their own products, and sometimes even post unfavorable reviews of their competitors’ products.
Generally, you should be aware that many participants in online kayak fishing discussion forums are affiliated with kayak manufacturers and vendors, but they seldom disclose their affiliation, and most of them use multiple online identities. Kayak fishing websites often encourage users to post under multiple identities, because it increases the activity on their website, and generates more ‘action’ and interest for visitors, and potentially more revenues from advertising.
In other words, only a kayak review stating the author’s full name and state is worth your attention. A review posted by a kayak dealer who fully disclose their identity may be worth your consideration, since that dealer buys the kayaks before offering them for sale, which goes to show that they put their money where their mouth is. That dealer may be biased, but theoretically they could resell other brands of fishing kayaks, so at least they are sincere in their recommendation, and possibly know what they’re talking about.
Good fishing kayak reviews need to be written by regular customers, and based on their personal experience with the product. A good, reliable fishing kayak review should be the product of an unbiased mind, as much as possible. Therefore, you should look for the author’s full name and state of residence, and preferably for pictures as well, if possible.
Unfortunately, certain websites who publish kayak reviews won’t allow posting pictures, yet they allow posting reviews under an alias, or a User ID that hide the true identity of the person who posted the review. Both things undermine these websites’ credibility to a point where nothing published on them may be trusted.
The credibility criterion also goes directly to fishing kayak reviews written by fishing and paddling magazine staff writers. You, the reader, should realize that such magazines depend on advertisers’ dollars to survive, and therefore would never publish a negative kayak review, nor would they even highlight serious design or manufacturing flaws. This is especially true for fishing kayaks made by companies that are known to spend big bucks on advertising. A typical flaw in such reviews is the assessment of the reviewed kayak as being both fast and stable, which in sit-in and SOT kayaks are in fact two contradictory terms, due to the laws of physics.
As for the writers themselves, they are sometimes affiliated commercially with certain kayak vendors, whether directly or indirectly.
As for reviews of fishing kayaks posted on a manufacturer’s or vendor’s website, the reader should obviously apply critical reading, and even try to see whether the individual who wrote the review isn’t a member of that business’ official kayak fishing team… Reading between the lines is always a good rule to follow.
You should always ask yourself whether the review, or the perspective of the individual who wrote it is of any relevance to you personally. Some fishing kayaks may get enthusiastic reviews by people who have fishing styles that are totally different from yours, and benefit from a physical condition and skills that are considerably different from yours.
For example, a kayak fisherman of small stature and light weight has a noticeable advantage in using kayaks for fishing, compared to bigger and heavier kayak fishermen. When fishing from kayaks is considered, age and physical condition also play a critical role in the overall user experience.
Some flats kayak fishermen in the South use their fishing kayak just to get from one spot to another, and fish standing in the water once they get there. If you don’t like wading, or if you fish in deeper water, or if you’re planning to take your kayak on long fishing trips, a review from such a kayak angler might not be relevant to you.
Senior kayak anglers should be particularly aware of such issues, as well as anglers who big and heavy, or suffer from a back condition that could increase their suffering from back pain.
Kayak anglers who fish in colder regions, where both water and air temperatures are less pleasant and favorable, and can even be hazardous, should take these factors into consideration, and try reading reviews contributed by anglers like themselves, who fish in such colder climates.
It is equally important to make the difference between a review written by a novice and one written by a seasoned kayak angler, sine such different writers’ perspectives are likely to be totally different, and may not even be applicable to you. For example, if you’re a beginning kayaker, or kayak angler, you shouldn’t necessarily be impressed by a review posted by another angler who’s been fishing from kayaks for years, as they have long ago passed the stage called ‘learning curve’ that you should be prepared to go through.
3. Breadth and Depth
By Breadth we mean some comparison with other types of fishing kayaks, other watercraft, etc., and by Depth we mean a long personal experience in kayak fishing in general, and with the reviewed kayak in particular. Preferably, the fishing kayak reviewer should have both prior experience in kayak fishing, and experience with other fishing kayaks and other small watercraft, if possible. However, there is also an interest in reviews by ‘first timers’, since such customers are less likely to be affected by their prior knowledge and personal experience, and could report their raw impression. If this is the case, the reviewer, or editor, should put the review in perspective. For example, a seasoned canoeist who’s never been in a kayak before could write an interesting review of his or her new fishing kayak, but they should also explain where they’re coming from.
Similarly, a seasoned kayak fishermen who’s never been in a W kayak prior to buying it, should also remember to put his experience and report in the right perspective.
In principle, an experienced kayak fisherman can write an interesting review, based on comparative study of different brands and models. Such quality would be enhanced if the writer has been fishing out of other small watercraft as well, such as canoes, dinghies, jon boats etc. A broader perspective that’s not restricted to human powered watercraft is potentially more interesting in view of recent advancements in motorizing fishing kayaks.
Of particular interest are all changes and improvements the reviewer may have introduced in their kayak, whether it’s the way they rigged it for fishing, or outfitted for other applications, or for use in particular environments. The reader can often learn a lot from such details, especially if the review includes pictures. In some cases, a good review can and should include a short movie showing the kayak, preferably in action.