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$200 Kayak — The Best Money You Could Ever…

Nov 27, 2023Nov 27, 2023

Forget about refinancing your house to purchase a new, fully rigged $70,000 bass boat. Instead, spend $200 on a lightweight kayak and get back to the basics.

During spring 2023, the author has spent many days bass fishing from his new $200 kayak, leaving his four other boats at home gathering dust.

This is not a misprint: For many years, I’ve owned four boats for fishing, and recently bought a fifth — a $200 kayak — and it's the best money I ever spent for catching bass. Before I get to my newest purchase, let me quickly detail the rest of my fleet.

The 12-foot jon boat works well for dumping into lakes with carry-in-only access, but it's a two-man job. Yes, I can unload/load the jon boat into my pickup without help, but because it weighs nearly 150 pounds, I can't drag it up a steep roadside ditch; it's similar to the 13.2-foot Predator PDL (122 pounds) in this regard.

I added boat No. 5 to my fleet for those times when I wanted the ability to access fishing honey-holes solo with difficult access (i.e. a steep roadside ditch). After a bit of research, I chose a lightweight, 9-foot 7-inch kayak, specifically a Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Sit-In Kayak. FYI: Sun Dolphin produces this kayak for a large box store in the upper Midwest called Menards, which renames it the Viper. Menards’ regular price was $225, but it was on sale for $200, then because I purchased it during one of the many weeks where the retailer has its 11% mail-in rebate program, I also received a rebate coupon (later in the mail) for $22 to use on future purchases.

The sit-in kayak weighs only 40 pounds so it's easy for me to carry alone. It has adjustable foot braces, a padded back rest (more on that later), water bottle holder, and a small storage compartment in the back. The kayak is only 29 inches wide, but I’ve had it out several times this spring on lakes that are a half-mile across in winds of 15 mph, and it's seaworthy. It's rated for paddlers up to 250 pounds; I weigh 175. (Note: In my home state of Minnesota, boats measuring 10 feet or less don't need an annual boat license, which is another reason I wanted to purchase one no longer than 10 feet.)

Soon after bringing this kayak home in the bed of my pickup, I decided to see whether it would fit in my Toyota Corolla; as you can see from the photo below, it does! I fold down the back seat, cover the seat with a tarp, then slide in the kayak. To ensure the kayak doesn't slip backward out the trunk, I attach a bungee cord around the kayak's front handle and wrap the cord around the folded seat's headrest; simple and effective. I use a strap to hold the trunk as far down as possible, and place a tow flag (old red shirt on a carabiner) on the kayak's front handle.

The benefit of transporting the kayak in my car is my son Elliott often uses our pickup when fishing with his buddies in his 14-foot Alumacraft. Now he can go on his fishing adventures and I can go on mine.

Travel tip: The first time I headed to a lake with the Viper in my car, I didn't realize that the "trunk open" warning signal would beep during my 20-minute drive. Annoying! I’ve since learned (thanks Google!) that I can manually move the trunk attachment lever to the closed position before driving away, which fools the car's computer. To close the trunk after launching the kayak, I simply move the trunk's emergency release to the side.

The Viper's cockpit is small, so it's best to travel light when heading out on the lake. I carry a couple 1-gallon Ziplocs filled with basic bass and pike tackle. And I pack one 7-foot medium-action baitcasting rod with a reel spooled with 14-pound mono. Unlike getting ready to go bass fishing in my Skeeter, when I’ll bring a few large tackle boxes loaded with lures, and up to 10 different rod-and-reel combos, it's fun to get back to the basics — one rod and a handful of lures.

If you’re new to fishing from a kayak, you’ll soon learn that wind is generally not your friend. Sure, you can use the wind to your advantage at times, but if you wish to remain relatively stationary for casting and retrieving a lure, you’ll need to find the quiet side of the lake, or rig your kayak with a small anchor. I’ve found good success by keeping my kayak close to shore and in the weeds themselves (lily pads, pencil reeds, etc.) and then casting parallel to shore rather than perpendicular to it, as I would in a larger boat that's rigged with a bow-mount trolling motor.

YouTube is filled with videos featuring kayak modifications, and thus far I haven't changed a thing on my Viper. One suggestion I will pass along, however, is the kayak comes with a thin padded backrest but no seat cushion. I found this backrest to be too short (low on my back) to be comfortable.

My solution in to pack a thin seat cushion (a pad designed for kneeling gardeners) as well as a turkey hunting vest that has an adjustable back support (think stadium seat). Turkeys don't care about scent, so I don't care about bringing the hunting vest fishing. I put the seat cushion down first, then place the turkey vest on it. This system is lightweight and greatly adds to the comfort while paddling and fishing.

The YouTube video below shows the Viper/Aruba in action. It's a bare bones kayak, but due to its weight and length, it just might become the most used fishing boat in my fleet.

16.5-foot Skeeter 14-foot Alumacraft 13.2-foot Old Town Predator PDL 12-foot Fisher jon boat Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Sit-In Kayak