Choosing a Kayak Bass Fishing Paddle

You will take thousands of paddle strokes for every mile you cover in your kayak. As you spend more time on the water, your kayak paddle will become your best friend or your worst enemy. Before committing to any kayak bass fishing paddle, let me tell you what choosing a kayak bass fishing paddle is.

Choosing a Kayak Bass Fishing Paddle

Five Keys to Choosing a Kayak Bass Fishing Paddle

First, get the length right. A tall paddler that sits high in a wide kayak requires a long paddle.

Next, select a paddle made of materials that allow for comfortable swing weight. 

Then, select a blade style that is consistent with your paddling activity and technique.

 Finally, choose a paddle shaft that fits your hand size, feels comfortable, and allows for adjustment.

In practice, kayak paddles are slightly more complex, and understanding their various characteristics can help you choose one that best suits your particular needs.

Select a Paddle That is The Correct Length

The length of the kayak paddle you require is determined by the width of your boat, how high you sit in that boat, your height, and to some extent, the type of kayaking in which you plan to engage.

The wider your kayak, the longer the paddle that you require. Wide, stable kayaks are typically used by recreational paddlers out for a pleasant day on the water. They require a little more reach to immerse the paddle blade in the water fully.

As a rule of thumb, you want your blade fully immersed in the water when you paddle. If your blade does not fully submerge, your paddle is too small. You will need to go longer.

If your blade goes all the way in the water and a significant amount of the shaft, then your paddle is too long. Go shorter.

However, a paddle that is too short results in inefficient energy transfer. This means that you’ll go through all the work of paddling but won’t get nearly as far as you would with a properly-sized paddle.

A paddle that is too long carries an excess weight that will fatigue your muscles over time.

If you have short legs and a long torso, you might require a slightly shorter paddle than a standard fitting chart suggests.

This refers to the angle at which you hold your kayak paddle as you execute a stroke.

Low Versus High Angle Stroke

A low-angle stroke is considered more relaxing. The paddle is held close horizontally with only enough slope to insert a blade into the water.  Recreational kayakers often use this stroke to maximize pleasure at the expense of speed. Also, a low-angle stroke is common with touring paddlers that want to cover significant distances while conserving energy.

A high-angle stroke is more aggressive. The kayak paddle is positioned much closer to vertical as the stroke is executed close to the boat. High-angle strokes are used by paddlers that require rapid and powerful propulsion.

The angle of the paddle blade is a key factor when determining the optimal length of a kayak paddle.

Similarly, if you spend all of your time in a sit-on-top fishing kayak with an elevated seat, then you should add some length to the baseline estimate to reach the water from your elevated perch.

Hold a paddle in front of you with your elbows bent at 90 degrees. Your hands should be on the shaft about one hand-width from where each blade begins. If this is so, then your paddle fits reasonably well.

Choosing a Kayak Bass Fishing Paddle Constructed of Lightweight Material

Manufacturers construct different kinds of kayak paddles out of several different materials.

When you are selecting a paddle, focus principally on swing weight. The term ‘swing weight’ describes how heavy the shaft and blades feel in your hands.

When you lift a blade out of the water, does it feel like a softball or a golf ball? The paddle that feels like you are lifting a golf ball has a lower swing weight. After taking 3,000 strokes over three miles, would you prefer your next stroke to feel like lifting a softball or a golf ball out of the water?

I’m sure you get the drift.

The lighter the paddle, the more comfortable (and efficient) your paddling experience and the longer you can stay out on the water.

However, lighter materials cost more – at least when you shape them into a kayak paddle. So it would be best if you were thinking about the dollar value of a great day on the water and how much money you want to invest in future great days.

In the meantime, let’s discuss the various materials from which paddles are typically constructed.

Aluminum Paddles

The lowest-quality paddles are typically constructed with an aluminum shaft and some plastic or nylon blade. This is the kind of paddle that a dealer will throw in for free when you purchase a kayak.

Low-end paddles do the job.

Aluminum Kayak Paddle

They are reasonably solid, and their blades are less prone to damage because they are flexible.

The downside is that they are heavy, so you’ll tire out sooner.

The aluminum tends to reflect the current ambient temperature as well. So if you’re paddling in the late fall, you’ll need to put on mitts because that aluminum blade will be chilly.

And remember those flexible paddle blades? They won’t break as easily, but their flexibility makes for an inefficient paddle stroke. You may find yourself wanting to break them, anyway.

Fiberglass Paddle

As you move up the quality (and price) ladder, the next material you’ll run into is fiberglass. Both paddle shafts, as well as paddle blades, are constructed with fiberglass.

Fiberglass is more lightweight than plastic. It is also more rigid, making each paddle stroke more efficient than whatever you produce with a plastic blade.

Fiberglass Kayak Paddle

While fiberglass might chip, it doesn’t crack all the way through. So, unless you lose it, the odds are pretty good that a fiberglass paddle will be around for a while

Fiberglass is a mid-price material. It does not craft the lightest paddles but provides a noticeable difference when advancing from an aluminum/plastic model.

Carbon Fiber Paddles

Both shafts and blades are constructed with carbon fiber. The material is super-light and ultra-stiff. Because of this, paddles constructed with the stuff provide top-of-the-line energy transfer. You can literally paddle further and faster with less energy.

Carbon Fiber Kayak Paddle

Carbon fiber can also be utilized in composite material to craft a really thin blade, allowing it to cut through the water with ridiculous efficiency.

Wood Paddles

As startling as it might seem, some very high-end kayak paddles are constructed with wood blades.

First of all, these things are works of art.

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The key benefit of a wooden blade, other than its slick looks, is its liveliness. Because wood has a natural buoyancy, when you finish a stroke, the blade is already trying to pop out of the water on its own. This feature serves to reduce your fatigue over longer voyages.

Among the downsides of wood are the air weight and the fact that you’ll have to spend time repairing chips, sanding, and varnishing the thing.

Wooden Kayak Paddle

While carbon fiber blades don’t have natural buoyancy, they can be injected with it artificially. In doing so, the same liveliness of wood can be had in the shape of a smooth, rigid carbon blade.

Similar to the wooden blades, the buoyancy of a foam core blade serves to pop it out of the water as you finish a stroke.

Breaking the Bank

The bad news is you’ll need to empty your wallet to purchase a kayak paddle with carbon foam core blades. This technology represents the pinnacle of what is currently available in the paddling world. As you might imagine, it comes with a lofty price tag.

The material of your kayak blade will significantly impact the quality of your paddling experience. If you are reasonably serious about kayak fishing and plan to allocate time and resources, choosing a kayak bass fishing paddle constructed of the highest-quality materials you can afford will keep the swing weight low and enjoyment high.

Bending Branches Paddles

In my view, Bending Branches makes some of the best kayak paddles on the planet. They are my favorite, anyway.

Bending Branches paddles are super-light, feel great in my hands and allow me to paddle efficiently while remaining well-balanced.

Most high-end paddles do, but I prefer Bending Branches.

Visit Bending Branches’ website for a lot more information about their paddles.

If kayak bass fishing is your thing and you like paddling rather than pedaling, check out the Bending Branches Angler Pro Snap Button.

Bending Branches manufactures several high-quality kayak bass fishing paddles that are probably worth more attention than I’ve ever given them.

Parting Thoughts About How to Choose a Kayak Bass Fishing Paddle

Choosing the right paddle is one of the most important decisions you’ll make before you hit the water.

It is important to select a paddle length that is appropriate to your body size as well as your kayak characteristics. Use a paddle-fitting chart and then bias the recommended size up or down according to the paddling you plan to do. 

Choose a kayak bass fishing paddle with the lowest swing weight and, yes, the highest price point you can manage. Remember, more carbon equals more smiles.

Take some test paddles out on the water to determine your preference for shaft features, blade size, and shape.

As a final thought, think about your overall kayak bass fishing paddle investment in terms of a 75%/25% split. If you have $1,000 to spend on a kayak/paddle combination, then direct $750 to the kayak and $250 to the paddle.

I have never met anyone that purchased a high-end kayak bass fishing paddle that complained it was too light and comfortable.