My need for this kayak was great! As a Kayak Fishing Guide, I want my clients to be comfortable with the kayaking part of our day so we can move on to catching fish. I've noticed over the last one and a half years of guiding that inquiries from the 250+ pound group are increasing and these are the exact anglers I want to target! Why? Because kayaking is a form of physical exercise and exercise is something we all need. I have a six-pack to prove that kayaking works and my core is stronger than it's ever been. Kayaking requires you to get outdoors, be active, and IT'S FUN!
LOOKING FOR A USED KAYAK
I've been watching closely for a used kayak with a weight limit of 500+ pounds. My Field & Stream Eagle Talon's 12' has a weight limit of 400 pounds, but for guiding I prefer 250 pounds or less on it. Some of my clients have prior kayaking experience and some do not, and 250 pounds or under is where I'm most comfortable. I recently ran into a local angler who weighs just over 300 pounds and he easily navigates the Eagle Talon, so this really does depend on the person. The more you weigh, the more the kayak is pushed into the water. As this happens, there is less and less space between the top of the kayak and the waterline, which means it's easier for the water to go over the edge and cause you to tip from a boat wake or your own movement on the kayak.
RESEARCH AND READ THE REVIEWS
My search lasted six months, but I finally found a used West Marine Cayman 11.5' sit on top kayak on Craigslist that I researched and the weight limit is 500 pounds. It's not often I see kayaks rated this high so I instantly started reading customer reviews. I quickly realized that the Cayman is no longer manufactured, but Perception Kayaks reinvented it as basically the same kayak, but now it's called the Perception Striker 11.5, which is currently being manufactured and sold. There were many good reviews from people over 250 pounds so I knew this would be a good kayak for my clients.
After some effort, I set up a time to look at the kayak and what I found was a used kayak in excellent condition. The first thing I look at is whether or not there are drag marks on the bottom. If there are, I'm not buying it. I never drag my kayaks because I know this causes unnecessary wear. I carry it or I cart it. Obviously, used kayaks will have some wear and tear, but overall this kayak was stored indoors and is in excellent condition. The seller said many others called in the last 24 hours who tried "low balling" him in the $300-350 range, but I was the first one who offered him the asking price. I know we all like bargains, but what difference is $50 when I also received the seat, a brand new paddle, life jacket, scupper plugs, and he threw in the kayak cart as I walked away. All of these items add up quickly when purchased separately. I also know I can easily sell this kayak to a few of my friends for the price paid for it and I've actually already had one offer!
TESTING A NEW KAYAK IN THE POOL
I was anxious to test the Cayman, which meant a quick pit stop to mom's house so I could use her pool. After a battery of tests, it passed with flying colors! I've had to say no to three potential clients this year who were in the 300-pound range and each time I knew I needed to remedy the situation. I'm absolutely thrilled I can now say YES to every angler!
I tested the weight limit by placing me and my oldest daughter on the kayak standing and combined we are close to 300 pounds. The first time when she boarded the Cayman at the edge of the pool, she grabbed me while I was standing and I tried holding her and me, but I lost my balance and we both fell in. She was all ready for work and everything (oops!!!), but we laughed and then we tried again. This time she entered without putting her weight on me and we both could stand and move around, but sitting was much more comfortable at this weight. When I was alone on the kayak at 150 lbs, I rocked it and found it more than stable enough to stand on. Different muscle groups are used when standing and this requires some practice as well. I will also test it on an actual body of water, but a pool is an excellent way to make sure there are no leaks and the kayak feels good before taking it up to the lake. And yes, be careful you do not hit your head on the concrete if you're standing! This kayak felt very stable when I alone was standing on it and I knew I wasn't falling in.
AFFORDABLE KAYAKS FOR BIGGER ANGLERS
The only comparable kayak I've tested is the Vibe Sea Ghost 130, but the Sea Ghost 13' is around $900 new and the Perception Striker 11.5' is closer to $600 new. I've tested both kayaks and recommend them both for stability in the 300-pound range, but the Sea Ghost comes out on top because the extra 1.5' in length makes it more streamlined and easier to paddle PLUS the weight limit is 550 lbs compared to the Cayman's 500 lbs. The Cayman is designed for stability and to hold larger anglers, but needs a stronger paddler if you intend to paddle long distances with it, which means I do not recommend it for a petite female, but that's not who it was designed for.
If there's a body of water I want to stand up to fish, I will take this kayak and of course now that my kayak fleet can hold anglers who are 300+ pounds, I can say YES when they call for a guided kayak fishing trip!