For those of you who want something special - tailored to your needs, and you can tell one end of a hammer from the other, why not consider building your own kayak.
When I was looking to upgrade my kayak I had a list of requirements that I just couldn't find in one 'off the shelf' product:
1. A very stable fishing platform with enough storage for all my fishing gear in easily accessible places.
2. A kayak that would accommodate enough gear for an extended multi-day kayak camping trip as well as the above fishing gear.
3. Must paddle efficiently enough for long cruises when fully loaded.
4. A kayak I could adapt to sailing that would handle ocean going conditions.
5. Something that could be repaired relatively easily if it was damaged.
6.Something that would fit into my very limited budget of under $2,000 all up.
Obviously, try as I might I couldn't find anything that met all of the above conditions. The closest I could find was the Hobie AI, but the budget would be well and truly blown.
So after trawling the web I came across several sites and forums on self-building kayaks. I don't consider myself a real DIYer, so I was a bit hesitant to consider that option, but after reading and communicating with some people who had been successful even in their first attempt, I started to look seriously at building my own. I decided that the best options were from JEM Watercraft in the USA. Plans and all the gear for building either the Sabalo or the Wadefish, my two preferred options, would cost me about $700, and I estimated all of the accessories and fittings would be about another $500. This was within my budget, but I was still a bit unsure about whether I could build something that detailed. Both the models I preferred were among the more detailed and exacting of the range they offered.
In the end I was encouraged by the members of the JEM builders forum, so Idecided to go ahead. I went ahead and ordered the plans for the 'Wadefish' and started to prepare a list of what I was going to need. I was still a bit unsure of whether this model or the Sabalo would be the better one, but either were going to meet my requirements.
A lucky break came my way when a local guy messaged me that he had all the gear needed to build a JEM Sabalo 'Stitch & Glue' fishing SOT but wasn't going to go ahead, and offered the whole lot for $300, including the plans. So with a trip out to see him, and with deal done I came back home loaded up with plywood and all the necessaries to start building. I still had the other plans on the way, which arrived the next week, but I decided to go ahead with the Sabalo, and off I went.
To cut a very long story short(er), I finished the build around November 2011, and have since completed fitting her out with a sail, outriggers and all the accessories I need.
As far as performance goes, it has exceeded every expectation. It paddles very easily and quickly even loaded up. It sails very well with the outriggers I also built, and there is heaps of storage space for an extended camping trip. I even built in an insulated icebox right behind the cockpit for fish, or cool beverages .
For those who have unlimited funds, or if you have neither the time or space to take on a project like this then obviously there are plenty of options in the factory-built range available. But for the sheer experience and satisfaction of building your own superior fishing machine, don't overlook the DIY option!
You can see a thread showing my progress at http://www.akff.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=49999