The Complete Buying Guide for Fishing Kayaks

Are you interested in kayak fishing? Are you buying a kayak for fishing for the very first time or you want to upgrade your current one? Either way, the more you know about kayaks for fishing, the easier is going to be for you to decide which model fits your needs and skills (no pun intended) the best way.

Is kayak fishing a new thing?

Many don’t know it, but kayak fishing dates back to the early Eskimos and Native American tribes. Therefore, kayak fishing is anything but a new type of fishing.

The stealth nature made them useful for hunting, and it was after some time that people realized the kayaks make it an excellent choice for fishing.

Nowadays, fishing and hunting from kayaks has become quite an adventure and many see it as an extreme outdoor activity. However, you should be aware that many of our ancestors used to do it regularly. Funny enough, kayak fishing is indeed somewhat new in the fishing industry.

Why is kayak fishing so popular?

There are many reasons for which kayak fishing industry has exploded and here’s why:

  • They don’t need gas nor batteries
  • They’re lightweight and dependable
  • They’re not that expensive (the basic models anyway)
  • They’re easy to take care of
  • They’re silent so sneaking up on fish is easy
  • They’re easy to store and move around

Even if several brands are controlling a big part of the kayak market, most of the kayaks out there are easy to custom to your personal needs, for more efficiency.

Finding the Right Kayak for Your Fishing Needs

Buying the best fishing kayak is not an easy choice to make as there are thousands of models available today. However, don’t be too disheartened, it can be very simple to find the right fishing kayak when you know what to look for. The following guide is a useful option you may want to use to help you buy the best rated fishing kayak.

Educate Yourself on the Different Types of Fishing Kayaks

When you are searching for the top fishing kayaks you have to understand what they are and how they work. These are very much similar to regular water kayaks but there are major differences when you want to use one for fishing. You can’t in fact use a regular kayak to go fishing, not if you plan to take fishing equipment along with you. It just isn’t possible because regular kayaks are designed for one person and usually nothing much else.

If you know nothing about fishing kayaks you can easily end up choosing the wrong one which could potentially cost you a great deal of money. However, if you learn about the different types of kayaks available to use when fishing, finding the best fishing kayak can be much simpler.

Sit In Or Sit On Top Fishing Kayaks?

First of all, there are two main types of fishing kayaks; there is the sit-in kayak and then there is the sit-on-top kayak. Both types of kayaks are very good and reliable but it really comes down to what you feel best suits your needs.

The diversity of models of kayaks out there can become overwhelming, and you should start with the basic, choosing one of the two main types of kayaks: the sit-on-top and the sit-in kayak.

Sit-on-top kayaks –are an excellent choice for fishing for the following reasons:

  • They’re self-bailing- once water gets it, it goes back in the water, eliminating the risk for flooding
  • They’re easy to get in/out of in all situations
  • They provide you the ability to stand up
  • You sit high in them, which gives you a better view of the water
  • You can customize them and add accessories
  • They offer a lot of storage options
  • Many come with seating options for increased comfort

Sit-in kayaks- aren’t the no.1 choice for fishing on account of the following aspects:

  • The risk for flooding is high, and once the water gets in, it has nowhere to go but in the kayak
  • Getting in/out of them isn’t very easy
  • Customizing it is a bit more difficult
  • They present a shallow vantage point sitting below the surface of the water

You shouldn’t scratch out the sit-in kayaks completely off your shopping list. They’re still able to give you an excellent speed on the water, and they don’t empty your wallet either.

The sit-in kayaks, also known as SIK’s, are quite traditional in their design. They look like a regular kayak and the seat is located within the hollow part of the kayak, usually in the center. However, the seat is installed within this part and storage can be either in the front portion of the kayak or in the back. In some cases, extra storage can be near the feet compartments.

Some say they sit-in kayaks are much better simply because they are a lot more stable. However, the SIK’s can be great for a variety of reasons including the fact they are lighter and much easier to move around and they can be fast as well. When you use the sit-in kayaks you can in fact be a little more sheltered from the elements, especially the water since you are within the center. Though, some may find the sit-in kayaks to be a little uncomfortable but usually this is down to the wrong seat being chosen or that the kayak doesn’t have sufficient room for them to stretch.

On the other hand, the sit-on-top or SOT’s kayaks can be just as great. However, when you are using the SOT’s you will find the seat is located on the structure of the kayak rather than inside it which can be good for many anglers. It is probably a lot easier to get on and off the kayak when the seat is on top rather than within but again, this every angler’s preference.

The sit-on-top kayak is really quite modern. You can customize the kayak however you like and often it is much easier to stretch out when sitting for long periods of time. They are heavier than the sit-in kayaks but if you aren’t heading too far out from shore this shouldn’t be an issue. However, they can be a little less stable since you are balancing on top rather than sitting inside but again, this comes down to what you prefer. You may like the sit-on-tops for more space or you may want the sit-in’s because they are much more stable.

What is the best fishing kayak? Well, this part is down to you but it is a choice you have to make very carefully. Sit-in kayaks can be great but so can the sit-on-tops; you just have to decide which you feel most comfortable with. You could even look at renting fishing kayaks are a few hours and see how you feel using sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks. This could be a great idea if you aren’t sure which way to turn.

What Type Of Propeller System Do You Want To Use With Your Angling Kayaks?

When it comes the time to buy the best fishing kayak, you have to think carefully about the type of propeller system. The propeller system is what is going to get you from the shoreline to the right fishing spot and while you might not think the propeller is important, you’re very much mistaken. The reason why you are kayak fishing is so you have the ability to find the best fishing locations and sometimes, they are in the places you can’t reach.

One of the top rated propeller systems is the paddle system. Now, this can be a perfect option for those who want a simple yet very inexpensive option and despite its lack of cost it really is one of the best. You do not need to spend money on fuel to run it and all you need is a regular kayak paddle. Though, be warned; paddling can be a bit tiring so if you are using this method you may want to stick close to shore.

If you plan to travel further out then you may want a motorized kayak instead. These are really good and very impressive for serious anglers. However, if you are going to look into the motorized kayaks you will find them to be more expensive than paddle kayaks but they are still good quality and worth the money. This is probably more suited for regular kayak fishermen rather than occasional users since it costs more and you have to also ensure the motor is running smoothly.

Are pedal-drive kayaks an excellent choice for fishing?

A popular option among anglers nowadays are the pedal drive kayaks. You use your legs for “pedaling” this type of kayaks. They’re a lot like the sit-on-top kayaks, and they come with ups and downs as well:

The pros:

  • They cover more water and distance
  • They ensure hands-free operation (you only need one hand for controlling the rudder when turning)
  • You may stand up as they’re wide and stable
  • They present both forwards and reverse abilities (which are great when fighting large fish, fishing in current or trolling)
  • They’re more comfortable for people dealing with back, shoulder or arm problems

The cons

  • They’re not the ideal choice for shallow water. You need to pull the pedal system up and use the paddle when fishing in a foot/less than foot water. It’s not very easy to do it, especially since the kayak is heavy and bulky
  • Using the paddle isn’t that easy
  • They sit on the heavyweight side. A paddle kayak ranges from 40-80lbs, whereas the pedal drive kayak starts at 100lbs. (no gear including)
  • They’re not that cheap, and prices begin to $1800, going up to even higher than $3000.

You could always look at the pedal kayaks. These are really great because it is your feet which do all the work leaving your hands free; this means you won’t get tired so easily which is perfect because you are there to fish. The pedals are installed a little away from the seat so that your feet can reach them and you can find the best fishing spots.

The propeller system is quite an important feature because you want to ensure you find the best fishing spots without being too tired when you get there. Again, this is down to personal choice and what you feel more comfortable with. Of course, if you don’t ever plan to stray too far from the shoreline then paddle may be best.

What counts when selecting your fishing kayak?

There are many to take into consideration when selecting your kayak for fishing. Scroll down for the details:

  • Length

The length of your fishing kayak is essential for its performance on the water. You need to know which type of water you’re going to use your kayak on.

A short kayak (less than 11 ft) is easier to handle, whereas a long one (longer than 12ft) is going to give you better speed.

When the local waters are mostly creeks, backwaters, or small pons, it’s better that you go with better maneuverability and not speed. Fishing on bigger lakes, rivers or even ocean is going to require kayaks that are faster, making the longer kayaks a far better choice.

Don’t forget to take your body weight into the equation. When you’re 6ft4 and 285pounds, you should never go for with anything shorter than 11ft, no matter where you’re planning to fish.

  • Good storage space

If you’re an experienced fisherman (or an entry-level one), you know that carrying too much gear is always going to be a problem. It’s why you should select a kayak that provides you enough storage space for all of your items. Some kayaks come with built-in storage, and live wells. There are also models that include external storage space (coolers or milk crates).

Typically, sit on top model come with molded internal hatches, whereas sit-in models have more open space in the hull so that you can store your fishing gear. Go over your fishing gear and see if the model you’re planning to buy has enough storage space for it.

Some models are built so that you can accommodate modern electronics. When you’re fishing on the ocean or big lakes, you may keep this in mind when selecting. That’s why, I have prepared a wide range to choose the best ocean kayaks, in this post.

  • Stability is fundamental

Gone are the days when kayaks were unstable and tippy; most of the kayaks nowadays are stable enough to ensure standing. Even if stability is essential, you don’t want to lose the maneuverability or the ability to paddle. A broad and stable kayak is a reliable option for a big guy, if you’re planning to stand up or to fish or if you go mostly on rivers and small pons. A narrow kayak that is less stable is a better choice for the anglers and trollers that stay on the water all day long. If you are looking for a stable kayak, take a look at this post.

  • Do you want a keel or not?

The keel is the piece of plastic (it has a fin shape), sticking down into the water from the hull, increasing your tracking and speed.

Some kayaks come with built-in keels, some present retractable keels whereas others don’t have keels at all.

Go with a kayak with built-in keels when you plan to troll, stay in deep water or fish in open water. You don’t need a keep if you’re kayaking on shallow rocky rivers, in close quarters or fish standing up most of the time.

  • Anchor or drift?

You may add a typical/electronic anchoring system if you use the kayak in open water or the backwaters when anchoring up for fishing. Keep in mind that they also mean more weight, which may slow down an angler that likes drifting with the current while fishing.

  • The portability

All that stability, storage space, and features turn the new models of kayaks into heavier models than ever. You should pay attention to the portability of your kayak.

If you like to take it a lot into new waters, you may have to go with a model that is easy to carry around. Don’t hesitate to add the gear and accessories you need when you take the kayak from the truck straight to the water. Just a reminder: the sit-in models are always lighter than the sit-on-top models.

Does the paddle matter as well?

Getting the right type of kayak isn’t enough, as you also need to pay attention to the paddle you’re using. The length and the weight of your paddles are the most critical aspects that matter.

Here are other tips to remember:

  • When the paddle is too long, you’re going to end up zig-zagging while paddling
  • When the paddle is too heavy is going to make you lose your energy a lot faster
  • You don’t want the paddle to be too short as you’re going to have to reach to put the blade in the water. You may also hit the knuckles on the sides of your kayak when the paddle isn’t long enough.
  • The wider the kayak, the longer your paddle has to be
  • Look for an all fiberglass paddle as it’s both lightweight and affordable. Never go cheap with it!

Think Where You Plan To Do Your Kayak Fishing

While most kayaks can be used in all bodies of water there are some considerations you have to think of. For example, oceans or larger areas of open water can at times be quite unpredictable meaning conditions change quickly and become very choppy. Light kayaks often struggle to deal with large swells which mean they aren’t really suited for oceans; larger, heavier kayaks may be required for rough seas.

However, a light angler kayak may be best for small rivers and streams. The lighter kayaks are a lot easier to maneuver around which is what you want especially if you have to move to different locations often. This will be something you want to consider though when searching for the best fishing kayak. You need to think very carefully about where you plan to fish so that you can ensure the right type of kayak is chosen.

Look At the Seat’s Comfort Rating

Most anglers tend to sit for hours on end waiting for the fish to take the bait and when you’re out on the water on a kayak you can’t exactly change position. You can’t stand up and move to another seat which means the kayak you choose must be comfortable. However, the kayak seat not only has to be comfortable for you to sit on for a few moments but for potentially a few hours. This is important to remember because it can soon frustrate you when you have an uncomfortable seat.

However, every kayak comes with a different seat. For instance, basic kayaks often come with a plastic fitted seat which can in fact be a little tough for your back after a short while. However, padded seats can be a little better for long haul sitters. You will need to take note of the amount of room available to stretch out should your legs become tired.

Be Wary Of the Cost

You really do want the best angler kayak for the money and there are quite a few of them out there. Yes, it can at times be difficult to know which is best but if you analyze what each offer, it will be a lot easier. However, you do need to think about how much money you want to spend and also what you have to spend. The best fishing kayak doesn’t in fact have to be the most costly or the fanciest but rather the one which rates highly in fishing kayak reviews.

Setting out a budget would be best if you have a certain amount available to you or if you have an idea of what type of kayak you want also. If you are totally new to kayak fishing and have no idea how much money to set aside you may want to have a scout at the local kayak fishing shops to see average prices. Some will be more costly than others but don’t be put off by that.

You can easily buy a fishing kayak for one hundred dollars but again, the prices range and you can spend anything from a few hundred to a few thousand. In all honesty, the cost comes down to how often the kayak will be used. For instance, if you don’t plan to use the kayak regularly then wasting thousands is a little unwise. It really is about how much you feel comfortable to spend and what you feel is best. Some are happy with an inexpensive kayak; it is your choice at the end of the day.

Look Closely At the Amount of Storage Space Available

Every fisherman is going to need a fair amount of storage when they take to the water. You not only have to bring along your fishing rod but also your bait and even a cooler to possibly store the fish in. Of course, seasoned anglers often take a small variety of items along with them to help pass the time and some take food out onto the water also. You will have your own fishing accessories but it will be important that the fishing kayak used will offer enough storage space.

Angling kayaks aren’t supposed to be oversized in any way but they are required to have sufficient storage space available so that your equipment and indeed you can sit comfortably without tipping over. This is something you have to remember and look at very closely because you do not want to set your equipment onboard the kayak only to find there is insufficient room for you or that it tips over.

Storage space isn’t just crucial for fishing comfortably but safety also. You do not want to stack everything up only to find that when you reach for something you or the equipment falls overboard. The best fishing kayak should offer comfortable space and enough room to move also.

What accessories do you need for your fishing kayak?

Many kayaks come with several rod holders, plenty of lights and any gear that helps you with your fishing. However, you should keep it as simple as you can.

Here are some of the most recommended accessories for inshore fishing kayak:

  • Rod holders behind you for storing some extra rods
  • Rod holder mounted in front of you
  • Tools: scissors, pliers, fish grips and landing net
  • Tackle storage
  • Anchor trolley
  • Anchor Pin

One last piece of advice!

There are many things to pay attention when selecting your fishing kayak. How you’re going to attach your equipment or how you’re going to carry it around are also essential matters.

You should do due diligence and never skip any of the essential aspects. After all, you don’t want to come back home empty handed for forgetting something at home!

Check Out Reviews

Lastly, when it comes the time to find the best rated fishing kayak you may want to consider looking at reviews. Now, there are a variety of sources for you to read reviews from third-party review sites to ecommerce sites and general internet forums and boards. You really have the ability to find out more about the fishing kayaks you want to buy and that is great because you can get a clear picture of how reliable the kayak is.

Also, when you look at reviews you avoid wasting money and even time on kayaks which aren’t really able to offer you the best quality. As most will know, very few will want to lose money on a kayak they don’t use or like. Even reading a handful of fishing kayak reviews may be beneficial when searching for the best and more importantly the right kayak.

Top 10 Fishing Kayaks

One of the top rated fishing kayaks is the Old Town Predator 13 Kayak. This is one monster of a fishing kayak but really an angler kayak for the professionals. The Old Town does cost more but it still offers good value for money and it has the ability to take over four hundred pounds in weight which is fantastic. It measures in around thirteen feet in length and is probably the best all round fishing kayak available.

Another of the top ten fishing kayaks and one of the best angler kayak for the money today is the Pelican Liberty 100X. This is smaller than the Old Town at ten feet but it still looks good and really offers a lot of quality for those just starting out with kayak fishing. The adjustable backrest which also comes with a cushion is a nice feature and there is plenty of space available as well.

The Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game II is a great option to consider. This is a sit on the top kayak but its price is just right and holds over five hundred pounds in weight. The load capacity alone makes it one of the top ten today because it means you have enough room to squeeze aboard along with your fishing gear and whatever you catch as well. This is important because you want a machine that can handle a lot.

The Perception Sport Pescador 12 is a wonderful little fishing kayak. The outer shell is very strong and it can be comfortable to sit on as well. The cost is fairly decent and something most will find acceptable. This is around twelve feet in length and is highly rated today.

The Malibu X13 fish and dive along with the Old Town Vapor 10 Angler are both very good choices to consider also. These are fourteen and ten feet respectfully and their costs are good as well. They are good for both beginners and experts. The KL Industries Sun Dolphin Journey SS which comes in at ten feet and the Lifetime Sport Fisher also ten feet look good and most will like their designs. Though, the Riot Kayaks Escape 12 Angler sit-on-top twelve foot and Ocean Kayak Trident 13, also thirteen feet are impressive. They not only look good but offer a lot of quality for most anglers also.

The Best Kayak for Fishing Isn’t Hard To Find

Finding the best fishing kayak can in fact be really fun because you have so many options available to you. While some will see this as a bad thing it actually can be quite good because it means you have a better chance of finding the right kayak. Don’t forget to check out fishing kayak reviews so that you can find the top fishing kayaks for your next fishing trip.