Take The Stress Out Of How To Choose a Fishing Kayak

Kayak fishing at lake. Fisherman caught pike fish on inflatable fishing kayak
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Fishing kayaks are the hottest thing in the fishing community right now. Over the past few years, anglers have decided to ditch the powerboats for kayaks.

Why?

It’s mainly down to their lower cost, ease of transportation, launching, stealth, and they can penetrate shallow waters.

In today’s article, we’re going to be discussing how to choose the best fishing kayaks, what type makes the best fishing kayak, the pros and cons of paddle vs. peddle, and much, much more.

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, don’t go anywhere because this article will explain it all!

How To Choose The Best Fishing Kayak For You

A man on a fishing kayak

Choosing the right fishing kayak for you is the key to having a pleasant experience while you’re out on the lake.

There are several things you should be thinking about before making any decisions. In the sections below, I’ll be walking you through the factors you should be looking at if you want the perfect purchase:

Consider The Type Of Kayak You Need

Anatomy of sit on top kayaks

There are two main styles of fishing kayak you’ll be looking at sit-inside and sit-on-top. If I’m honest, you shouldn’t even consider a sit-inside fishing kayak; it just won’t offer the stability you need to fish effectively. 

To make things worse:

When you tip, it can make it extremely hard to recover the boat and your equipment. 

Ideally, you should be looking at sit-on-top kayaks. They are much more controllable in all kinds of water conditions. And the scupper holes at the bottom of the kayak allow water to drain out quickly and efficiently.

But here’s the best bit:

The open design of the kayak means you have more room to store extra equipment and mount accessories.

If you plan to go with your children or friend, consider getting a tandem kayak so you can share the space. You can even alter some models to go back and forth from two seats to one.

Another thing you should be looking out for is how to power the boat. For this, you have three options:
1. Paddle
2. Peddle
3. Mini motor

Which one you go for is your choice; at the end of the day, it comes down to whatever you’re comfortable with using.

But be warned, even though fishing kayaks are cheaper than getting a powerboat, they can still push into the $3-4,000 mark, depending on the model.

Consider The Stability 

Illustration of V hull and Flat hull kayak bottom

The stability of your fishing kayak is vital unless you fancy going for a swim every time you catch a fish. Landing a fish takes a lot of twisting and turning around, making a V-shaped hull design very tippy for novice kayakers.

So, what are you looking for?

You want to look for a hull design with a flat bottom to ensure you have reasonable stability. But that’s not all.

Take a look at the width of the fishing kayak. The best fishing kayaks should have a minimum width of 30 inches, but to be honest, the wider, the better.

If you’re fishing on choppy water, there’s one more thing you should take into consideration, and that’s the length.

Small kayaks can get chucked around easily with waves, which obviously reduces the stability. 

TIP:
If you’re planning on using your fishing kayak on the sea, you should be looking for a longer kayak to help cut through the waves.

How Easy Is It To Transport

2 people carrying a kayak

One of the problems with fishing kayaks is they can get cumbersome due to all the additional features. Because of this, it can make them pretty tricky to transport back and forth from the lake.

Before making a purchase think about how you’re going to transport it. For example, are you going to be using a roof rack? Have you got a trailer? Do you drive a truck?

Knowing how you will transport your kayak will allow you to put the proper safety equipment in place.

Used Vs. New Kayaks

Should you buy a used sit-on-top fishing kayak, or should you look for a nice shiny new one? 

It’s a question a lot of new-time buyers go through, and I want to explain my opinion on the matter.

My view is unless you’ve fished in a kayak for an extended period, you should probably buy a cheap used fishing kayak to get yourself started.

You see, unless you’ve been fishing for an extended period of time in kayaks, it’s unlikely you’ll know what features are important to you and which aren’t.

Now, if you have experience and know what you like and what you don’t, you’re probably ready to purchase a new fishing kayak.

This way, you can look for the features that applied to you, and maybe some you like the sound of for your perfect kayak. 

Consider Your Body Type

Having a comfortable kayak while you’re fishing is vital if you want a good experience. So, what should you check for?

You need to look for adjustability with the kayak. For example, does the kayak seat adjust? Can you move the foot positioning? Does the seat sit slightly elevated?

Asking yourself these questions will help you decided if the kayak is suitable for your body type. 

If you can, try and go down to a showroom so you can test out how the kayak feels and if it’s suitable for your body type.

Does it Have Enough Storage?

Let’s be honest; most fishermen have far more (fishing) gear than they actually need, which can make fishing on a kayak tricky. For that reason, you have to think carefully about the storage options it offers and how much weight it can take. 

Some kayaks have integrated storage spaces into the kayaks walls, while other models have external storage space. 

To ensure you get the right kayak for you, visualize what you want to take with you and where it can all fit in.

Do You Need An Anchor?

Kayak Anchor

This really depends on how you like to fish from a kayak. If you want to go with the drift, there’s no point getting an anchor system in place; it just takes up to much extra weight, which you could use for additional gear.

But if you like to hang around in one spot, an anchor system could come in very handy. 

Other Things You Should Take Into Consideration

  • Think about the color of your kayak, a bight-colored kayak won’t scare the fish away, but it will give you visibility to powerboats that might whizz past you.
  • Do you need a kneel to help keep you on track, or is your kayaking ability good enough to deal without it?
  • Can you attach electronics like fish finders to the kayak easily? (If you want to use one)

Types Of Fishing Kayaks

So, in the previous section, I spoke about considering the type of fishing kayak that is best for you. But I didn’t really explain what options you have available to you.

And this is what I’m going to do below; by the end of this section, you’ll know what type of fishing kayak is best suited for you:     

Inflatable Fishing Kayaks

Inflatable fishing kayak

Inflatable fishing kayaks are very popular because they’re lightweight and can pack down relatively small. This makes them a perfect option for people that don’t have much space to store or transport their kayak.

The downside is having to pump them up every time you need to use them. And to make things worse, they can pop if a sharp material pieces them. Though, they have multiple air chambers so it will take a while before your punctured kayak runs out of air.

Pros
  • Very lightweight and easy to carry
  • Transportation is simple
  • Some are stable enough to stand up in
Cons
  • Not a rigid as other kayaks
  • Some don’t paddle very well
  • Can rupture from sharp objects

Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayaks

sit on top fishing kayak

The rigid material used to design sit-on-top kayaks make them very popular among anglers. You don’t have to worry about anything piercing the sides or breaking through the bottom.

They are generally more stable, which allows you to stand up and fish if you need to. Another benefit is they have a self-bailing system, so you don’t have to worry about water coming over the edges and flooding the hull.

But’s here’s the problem:

They are a lot heavier and more challenging to transport/store. You also have more chance of getting wet due to the holes at the bottom and the lower sidewalls.

Pros
  • More stable so you can stand up
  • They have a self-bailing system (scupper holes)
  • Easier to access your storage compartments
  • You sit higher, so you get a better view of the water
Cons
  • You’re likely to get wet, which isn’t good in colder climates
  • Heavier than inflatable kayaks
  • Harder to transport

Sit-In Fishing Kayaks

sit inside fishing kayak

Sit-in kayaks aren’t really recommended for fishing. You don’t have a lot of storage room, and moving around is difficult.

On the plus side, they do keep you dryer than any other style of kayak. If you want to stay dry while fishing, it might be a good choice for you. This might come in handy when fishing in colder weather.

Pros
  • They’re a lot easier to paddle
  • They have covered gear compartments
  • You stay dryer
  • They help to insulate the bottom half of your body
Cons
  • Harder to access your gear
  • You sit lower in the water, making it harder to see fish ahead
  • It doesn’t self-bail
  • You can’t move your body around easily

Should I Get A Paddle Or Pedal Kayak For Fishing?

One of the biggest dilemmas you might go through is deciding whether you want a paddle or pedal fishing kayak. 

Unfortunately, I can’t make this decision for you, but I can explain what makes each option desirable. After that, it’s down to you to make your mind up; let’s break the two down to try and make more sense of the options:

Paddle Powered

sit on top fishing kayak

They’re usually more affordable than pedal-powered kayaks, which can make them more appealing to many people. Another benefit is they’re a lot easier to transport due to the lighter weight and more straightforward design.

If you’re planning to fish in shallow water, paddle powered kayak will also be more appealing. They don’t have a pedal drive system under the kayak, which reduces the depth they can handle without getting stuck on the bottom. 

Pros
  • Cheaper to buy
  • Functions well in low water levels
  • Easier to transport
Cons
  • Hard to paddle and control your rod
  • Harder to maintain a consistent speed

Pedal Powered

Pedal kayak

Pedal-powered kayaks allow you to propel the boat using your feet in a similar fashion to riding a bike. This will enable you to focus on fishing with your hands instead of juggling the paddle and your rod.

Another advantage is you can maintain a more consistent speed, which makes it great for trolling.

The problem with pedal-powered kayaks is that the added system adds to the price, making them very costly. The other issue is you can’t pedal in low waters, which limits your access.

Pros
  • Easier to control your speed
  • Let’s you concentrate on fishing
  • Easier to move forward and backward
Cons
  • Costs more money
  • Not good in low water
  • Harder to transport

Kayaking Features You Should Look Out For

Lake with wooden pier and fisherman in boat.

Okay, so we’ve looked at the things you need to think about before choosing your fishing kayak. We’ve also looked at what kayak styles make a great fishing boat and the advantages of paddle vs. pedal kayaks.

But now it’s time to have a look at some of the features the best fishing kayaks and what they actually mean for you.

Let’s get started.

Rod Holders

Fishing rod holder
Fishing rod holder

Rod holders are the key for any fishing kayaks, but they come in a few styles we should have a look at. Some rod holders are mounted or molded into the kayak, or some are grooves on the side where you can mount your rod to.

How many holders the kayak has depends on the model, so it’s something you should check out. Another thing to mention is some fishing kayaks even have an option to install extra rod holders if needed.

Seats

Kayak fishing seat
Kayak seat
Kayak seat

Finding a fishing kayak with a comfortable seat is something I would highly suggest. Chances are you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the kayak, so it pays to be comfortable.

You’re looking for a well-padded seat and has a suitable backrest to help keep you stay in the proper kayaking position. 

Some tandem kayaks even have removable seats so you can make extra room for your fishing gear when needed.

Motor Drive

Motorized kayak

If you don’t fancy getting your arms or legs tired while you’re out fishing, you can opt to get a motor drive kayak. The little motor gives enough power to move upstream without using up your energy.

Some motor drives will allow you to switch from pedal drive to motor quickly without any issues. But the problem is the extra price and weight having an engine brings.

Gear Tracks

Gear tracks allow you to connect extra storage to your kayak without drilling holes; this could be things like phone storage, fish finders, and much more.

If you’re fishing kayak doesn’t come with gear tracks, you won’t be able to connect anything without damaging your kayak. Drilling holes into your kayak isn’t suggested for apparent reasons.

If you are handy person or have a tight budget, then you will love the following video!

Standing Decks

For some people standing up in the kayak to fish makes all the difference, and without standing decks, this could become difficult. 

Look for footwells in the kayak, which give you a suitable place to stand and equally distributes your weight, so the kayak doesn’t tip while fly fishing.

Rudders

Rudders help you track in the wind easily. You adjust the rudder using the hand-operated lever’s or foot pedals, making it easy to quickly adapt to changing weather conditions.

Storage Options

As mentioned in previous sections, having the appropriate storage options is essential. Some of the storage options on fishing kayaks include enclosed hatches, dry storage, mesh pockets, large tanks, and bungee cord storage.

Consider what your needs are for the kayak; what gear are you taking? What needs storing safely?

The Best Fishing Kayak Reviews: Exploring Different Styles

Now you know what makes the best type of fishing kayak, it’s time to look at a few options you should consider. I’ve picked three different styles:
Inflatable Paddle
Pedal Power
Motor Power

I’ve made a list of three fishing kayaks for you to take a look at to give you an idea of what you can expect from each style.

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak, Professional Series Inflatable Fishing Kayak

The Intex Excursion Pro kayak is an excellent inflatable fishing kayak designed for two people to paddle in tandem. The two inflatable bucket seats can be removed or adjusted as your like, which means you can make extra room for your equipment. It’s not just the seats that are adjustable; you can move the footrests and back forth to match the length of your legs. 

The inflatable kayak is made with a 3-ply super-strong construction of high molecular PVC. The material itself is resistant to oil, gasoline, and saltwater. What makes it even better is the constriction is resistant to UV damage. They’ve attached two flush mount rod-holders at the rear of the boat for you to troll along with you. They’ve also attached a mounting bracket, which you can use to house your fishfinder or an extra rod; the choice is up to you.

On the bottom of the kayak, you can place a skeg to help you move forward in a straight line. They’ve included two skegs to the pack, a short one for low water levels and a longer one for deep water. It all comes with several extras, including a pressure gauge, two aluminum paddles, a hand pump, an inflatable booster pad, a repair kit, and a travel bag to store it all in.

Overall the inflatable kayak is designed to carry a combined weight of 400 lbs without putting it under too much strain. 

Pros
  • Works well in shallow water
  • Great load capacity
  • Easy to setup
  • Easy to transport
  • It comes with everything you need
Cons
  • Not great in rough water
  • Paddles are cheap quality

BKC PK12 12′ Single Propeller Pedal Drive

It’s one of the best models in the BKC fishing kayak series. The design is well laid out; you can tell they gave it a lot of thought. To power the boat, they use bicycle-style pedals, which turn the high-efficiency propeller. Because it uses a pedal system, it allows the user to concentrate on their fishing instead of paddling. To steer the kayak, you can use the hand-operated rudder, which helps you track and enhances your steering capabilities. 

The sit-on-top kayak features three built-in rod holders, which you can use to troll the line behind you. The kayak comes with an aluminum paddle in case you want to make slight adjustments. And at the side of the boat, it has paddle holders so you can slot it away to concentrate on fish. If you have any accessories you want to take with you, like a fish finder or a GPS, they have an accessory slider to mount them to. 

Storage isn’t a problem with this kayak; it’s very well designed, so you have an ample amount of space to store your gear. This includes a hollow area at the front of the boat with a waterproof seal perfect for storing your valuables. At the rear of the sit-on-top kayak, you have an area to store your tackle box, which is secured down with bungee cords.

One of my favorite parts of the sit-on-top kayak is the EV stepping pads, which make it possible to stand up and fish without the fear of falling in. 

Pros
  • You can use a pedal drive or paddle power
  • Easy to stand up and fish
  • Plenty of storage
  • It can hold a lot of weight
Cons
  • Hard to transport

Old Town Sportsman 106 Powered by Minn Kota Motorized Fishing Kayak

If you’re looking for a motorized fishing kayak, this might be the perfect option for you. It’s powered with a 45 lb thrust 12V Mini Kota motor. The motor is saltwater ready and can go back and forth with no problems. One thing to note, the battery is not included with the purchase, so you’ll have to get the battery before you get it in the water.

The seat is made with a premium dual-layer Textilene mesh seat, which helps you stay comfortable for long days on the water. The seat is removable and adjustable to help you get a perfect position. To make your fishing experience more comfortable, they added cushioned floor pads, which also help to add an extra level of grip. 

The fishing kayak features an extra-large rudder which helps steer the boat effortless through tight gaps and rough water. This gives you excellent control going forwards and in reverse at all times.

Oldtown’s fishing kayak has three mounted fishing rod holders, two at the back and one at the front. On top of this, they have three through-hull wiring kits and a universal transducer mount. This allows you to connect your fishing electrics without having to drill holes. The fishing kayak also features gear tracks, so you can attach extra storage and a custom tackle box.

Pros
  • Motorized kayak
  • Holds a lot of gear
  • Three-rod holders
  • Easy to use
Cons
  • Motorized kayak
  • Holds a lot of gear
  • Three-rod holders
  • Easy to use

If you are interested in more, check out our reviews on affordable fishing kayaks and beginner fishing kayaks!

Which Fishing Kayak Is Right For You?

I can’t decide which fishing kayak is right for you because there is no one-size-fits-all option. You need to have an idea of what you’re looking for in the kayak, like where you plan to fish? And how you want to paddle?

Here are some questions you could ask yourself to help identify the best fishing kayak for you:

  • Are you planning to launch yourself into the ocean and through the surf? If yes, a long kayak with a pedal drive will be a good option.
  • Will the kayak be strictly for fishing, or will you be using it with the family? If you’re using it with the family, look for a tandem fishing kayak.
  • Will you be fishing in freshwater ponds? A small Paddle power kayak might suit you best on this one.
  • Will you be navigating rivers and streams? If you don’t fancy paddling upstream, you might want to go for a motor-powered kayak.

Once you’ve thought about what you want from your fishing kayak, you can start looking through a few that seem to match your criteria. 

Ideally, you should try them before you buy them. You can do this by looking at showrooms and attempting to find the models you’re looking for.

As with anything, buying the best fishing kayak should not be taken lightly, especially if you’re going to spend a few thousand dollars on it.

Check out the specifications of each kayak and decided what’s a must-have and what isn’t. Once you understand all your options, you can start narrowing down the best fishing kayak.

Once you’ve got your boat nailed down, it’s time to find the best kayak fishing rods.

Frequently Asked Questions

It’s understandable if you still have questions about the best fishing kayaks. It’s an expensive investment that you don’t want to get wrong.

This is why I want to answer some of the most commonly asked questions before we go:

What Is The Most Stable Fishing Kayak?


The best fishing kayaks tend to focus on stability due to the requirements of fishermen. Generally, the wider the kayak is, the more stable it is and can usually hold more weight.

It’s important to note that a wider kayak isn’t the sole factor for stability. The design of the hull also has a significant effect, which is why it’s worth trying them on a demo day.

What Kind Of Fishing Kayak Is Best For Fishing?


It really comes down to what you’re looking for. Pedal-powered fishing kayaks have become very popular over the past few years. And it’s no surprise why having your hands free to fish is definitely an advantage.

Electric motor-powered fishing kayaks are also becoming a trendy option due to you not having to waste as much energy paddling. The cheapest option will always be a paddle kayak; they offer simplicity and lightweight.

Can I Stand Up And Fish From A Kayak?


If you want to stand up in your kayak without the fear of it tipping over, you need to look for an extra-wide kayak. You should also look at the hull; usually, the flatter the hull easier to stand up on the kayak.

Some kayak models even offer standing decks, so you can fly fish off your kayak (check out some of our selection of the best fly reels).

Is A Longer Kayak Better For Fishing?


The longer the kayak, the better it is at cutting through waves; it will also tend to be faster than shorter fishing kayaks. The downside is they are a lot harder to maneuver through tight spaces.

You’ll also find it more difficult to launch from the shore and transport back and forth to the car.

Do I Need A Fish Finder On A Kayak?


A fish finder is always a helpful tool, but it’s not necessary for a fishing kayak. It really depends on what depth you’re fishing at and what type of fish you want.

Jason
Jason
Hey, my name's Jason, and before I was a writer, I worked as an outdoor activity instructor where I took groups kayaking and camping. Now I use my personal experiences to share tips and tricks I've learned over the years. For as long as I can remember, I've been passionate about the outdoors, and now I want to share that passion with my readers.

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