Gear: The Right Stuff

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Paddle Fishing Gear

One of the number one questions asked by the new kayak angler is where they should budget their funds, into the kayak, the paddle, a good seat?  My answer is always the same and involves the most important piece of equipment that is usually last on their list.  My advice would be to get the best PFD you can get based on your intended use and wear it.  It may very well save your life.  Everything else is replaceable.

In Florida, on a kayak the rules regarding a PFD are simple.  You must have one PFD per person on the vessel and they must be readily accessible and in serviceable condition.  A moldy old vest in the front hatch is neither readily available or serviceable.  It’s best to simply wear it and forget it, especially if kayaking alone, in rough conditions, or cold or deep water.

Pfd’s come in a variety of types and specializations and are usually classified by the The United States Coast Guard. The most common for kayakers paddling inland waters is the type III. Some of these PFD’s are simple belts that inflate when needed using co2 cartridges while others are more traditional passive systems made of buoyant materials.

When selecting your PFD, Make certain is is USCG certified, is right for the particular activity you are using it for and that you test it out.  Also, rules may require particular   classifications of PFD’s depending on its use.  The device should fit snugly and allow you to float comfortably with your face out of the water.  If you can’t lay back, relax and breathe, go for something with more flotation.  Also, remember that the device will not work the same under rough conditions.

Note: The Coast Guard is working with the PFD manufacturers to revise the classification and labeling of PFDs. See the USCG website for more information

There are specialty type III PFD’s pfd for kayaking that allow greater range of motion for paddling and storage for all of the essentials of an active life on the water.  These tend to offer more comfort for long days of paddling and casting with oversized armholes, high cut backs and loads of accessible storage pockets.  I often head out with flies, tipet, a waterproof pill bottle filled with hooks and some soft plastic lures tucked neatly in the pockets of my PFD.  And there is still plenty of room for more goodies like power bars, handkerchiefs, sunblock packs and mosquito repellant.  For fishing in Florida’s lakes and saltwater flats, a USCG certified PFD cut for the kayaker with plenty of storage makes a great piece of equipment on cramped small craft while self inflating pfd’s will do the job nicely as well for those uncomfortable in the traditional types.  Remember, the best PFD is the one that you will use!

Caring for your PFD will ensure its in good condition should an emergency arise.  And remember, you PFD must be serviceable to be useful and legal . According to the USCG, the following guidelines will help keep your personal flotation device in tip top condition,

Get a PFD that fits an do not alter it

Don’t put heavy objects in it or on it and don’t squish it.  This can reduce it buoyancy.

Let you PFD drip dry and store in a well ventilated area.

Don’t leave your PFD stored inboard for extended periods if not in use

Never expose your PFD to direct heat such as drying over a fire or radiator.

Inflatable PFD’ may require additional maintenance.  Be sure and follow the manufacturers guidelines for their care.

Nothing good happens quickly on the water…all the good stuff starts with a plan.   Odds are that if you actually need you pfd, you’d better be wearing it or you will wish you had been.  I’ve heard all the arguments and I’ve seen the bitter results.  Your actions will find more safety than any words will muster.  Kayakers have woken in the water after passing out from heat exhaustion, had boats blow away in the wind faster than they can swim to retrieve them and even realized, much to late, that their PFD does not fit or won’t float them while their boat slowly sinks miles from shore with no help in site.  Finding oneself in this circumstance is no accident.