Choosing a PFD for Fishing

Coast Guard statistics make a clear point; most boating fatalities could have been avoided if the victim was wearing a PFD (Personal Floatation Device). With that being said lets assume that you need to get a PFD for your fishing kayaking needs. Choosing the right PFD can be a little confusing. First lets discuss the different Coast Guard Ratings;
The US Coast Guard's Federal Requirements state, "All recreational boats must carry one wearable PFD (Type I, II, II, or Type V) for each person aboard... [and that] any boat 16ft and longer (except canoes and kayaks) must also carry one throwable Type IV PFD."

PFDs should be Coast Guard approved and in good condition. They must also be the proper size for the intended user. State laws vary on PFD use, but units must be readily accessible in case of an emergency. In some states children must wear PFDs in certain sized boats or for specific boating activities. Furthermore, adults accompanying children should also wear PFDs at all times to immediately assist a child in an emergency situation. Federal, State, and local park authorities may also have regulations regarding PFDs in their waters.

Types of PFDs

· Type I : Provides the most buoyancy. It is effective for all waters, especially open, rough or remote waters where rescue may be delayed. It is designed to turn most unconscious wearers in the water to a face-up position.

· Type II: Intended for calm, inland water or where there is a good chance of quick rescue. Inherent buoyant PFDs of this type will turn some unconscious wearers to a face-up position in the water, but the turning is not as pronounced as a Type I. This type of inflatable turns as well as a Type I foam PFD.

· Type III: Good for conscious users in calm, inland water, or where there is a good chance of quick rescue. It is designed so wearers can place themselves in a face-up position in the water. The wearer may have to tilt their head back to avoid turning face-down in the water. The Type III foam vest has the same minimum buoyancy as a Type II PFD. It comes in many styles, colors, and sizes and is generally the most comfortable type for continuous wear. Float coats, fishing vests, and vests designed with features suitable for various sports activities are examples of this type PFD. This type inflatable turns as well as a Type II foam PFD.

· Type IV: Intended for calm, inland water with heavy boat traffic, where help is always present. It is designed to be thrown to a person in the water and grasped and held by the user until rescued -- It is not designed to be worn. Type IV devices include buoyant cushions, ring buoys, and horseshoe buoys. There are no inflatable Type IV devices.

· Type V: Intended for specific activities and may be carried instead of another PFD only if used according to the approval condition(s) on its label. A Type V PFD provides performance of either a Type I, II, or III PFD (as marked on its label). If the label says the PFD is "approved only when worn" the PFD must be worn, except for persons in enclosed spaces and used in accordance with the approval label, to meet carriage requirements. Some Type V devices provide significant hypothermia protection. Varieties include deck suits, work vests, and board sailing vests.

So what does this all mean for the person who just wants to get on the water? Well for the most kayak anglers, the PFD types that you should be concerned with are type III and Inflatables.

· Inflatables: Inflatable PFDs can be seen as the new generation of lifejackets. It must be worn to qualify as a PFD. These devices come in automatic or manual inflating models. Manual models are inflated by pulling a tab. They can also be blown up with an included tube if for some reason the tab doesn't operate properly. Automatic models are inflated via a C02 cartridge. Inflation is generally triggered by a dissolving bobbin when it is immersed in water. They also can be activated manually by pulling the tab. Inflatables are less bulky than inherently buoyant PFDs because they are only inflated when an individual is in the water.

· Type III: This PFD type is designed to be worn, so it might not give you the same lift and floatation of other types, but again, you need to get something that is comfortable so you will wear it on the water. freedom of movement is what you get here.

· Hybrids: New to the scene are Hybrid PFD's, these are not Coast Guard Approved yet but have been becoming more popular, they give you a small amount of floatation even when not inflated, then after activation they give you maximum floatation.

Over the last few years it has become popular for manufacturers to make Type III PFD's that have "high back" or "mesh back", these are made to work with the seats of sit on top kayaks. It has been a major improvement not having the padding of the PFD making contact with the kayak seat.

Taking the padding away from the rear of the PFD does not come without cost, that floatation material has to be put back in the PFD somewhere and is usually added to the front of the PFD. Another major improvement of the new PFD's is their adjustability, many coming with 3 or 4-point adjustable straps this insures a good fit that can work for a wide variety of body sizes. A poor fitting PFD is almost like not having a PFD on at all.

Other Considerations
· Some kayakers in warmers climates tend to lean toward a less bulky inflatable PFD's
· You might want to consider a PFD with higher visibility especially if your kayak is not a visible color.
· Many PFD's are now made with great pockets and storage, this can be very helpful to kayak fisherman who need quick access to gear. Having a place for pliers, whistle, flyboxes and PFD knife makes life much easier on the water

The bottom line is that you must wear your PFD and you wont wear it if you buy a cheap version, a few extra dollars spent will give you comfort and piece of mind on the water. Please visit our selection of what we feel are the best PFD's for Kayak Fishing.