Choosing the best fishing kayak for yourself can be quite the task, considering there are hundreds of different kayak manufactures that all make quality kayaks. Kayak fishing is exploding into a full blown sport, and an extremely fun and rewarding experience. You probably are trying to figure out how to choose the best fishing kayak for you.
There are multiple types of kayaks ranging from sit in, sit on, paddle, peddle, motorized, and more. They range from lengths of 6 feet, all the way to over 15 feet long, with varying weights and shapes. I’ve thought about all of the questions I had when choosing the best fishing kayak for me. That will help me hopefully answer the majority of your questions.
Price – The first question most people have when choosing the best fishing kayak for them is the price of the kayak. In the kayak fishing world, you usually get what you pay for. This is not to say that you have to spend $5,000 on a top of the line kayak to have a fun experience, or even be competitive in kayak fishing tournaments.
Never the less, price is going to come into play no matter what size, shape, or type of kayak you get. What your money gets you with a fishing kayak are features that a cheaper kayak won’t have. Features such as the way the fishing kayak tracks, or the stability of the kayak. We will talk about these later in a section of their own.
Fear not if you are on a tight budget. A $200 fishing kayak from a big box retailer can be just as fun as the tournament level fishing kayaks. It really all depends on what your budget is, and what you are willing to pay out of that budget.
Paddle or Peddle – Your next step when choosing the best fishing kayak for you, is deciding if you are going to paddle the fishing kayak, or peddle the fishing kayak. Just a heads up, peddle kayaks are usually substantially more expensive than a standard paddle kayak. The peddle drive system alone is on average $1000 or more.
So now, lets talk about the differences in a paddle kayak and a peddle kayak. Some are rather obvious, while some are things you learn along your kayak fishing adventures.
First and foremost, a peddle fishing kayak is going to be substantially faster than a paddle kayak if they are both stock. This means the paddle fishing kayak doesn’t have any type of motor on it. To go along with that, the peddle kayak will be quite a bit less work to get around on the water in. It is also nice to be able to fight a fish and maneuver the kayak at the same time. This isn’t possible as much with a paddle fishing kayak because you tend to need both hands for fighting and netting the fish.
Next up, is a few draw backs of the peddle fishing kayak. The first drawback is that the peddle drive system will take away a small amount of space that the paddle fishing kayak will still have. A lot of kayak fishermen, who don’t use peddle kayaks, will put a landing net where the pedal drive system is on a peddle kayak. This is an extremely small drawback, never the less, a draw back.
The biggest draw back for me on a peddle fishing kayak, is the blades on the peddle drive system. Particularly the fact that they will get caught up in heavier vegetation, and won’t spin unless you clean them out. This is also true for shallow water. If you like to get into untouched areas on your chosen body of water, be prepared to bring a paddle along. A peddle drive system becomes useless in water less that a foot or so deep. Granted, the peddle drive system is extremely easy to lift up and out of the water.
Sit In or Sit On Top – Next I would like to talk a little about sit in fishing kayaks verses sit on top fishing kayaks. The vast majority, if not all higher end fishing kayaks, are sit on top. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t buy a sit in fishing kayak, but that most of the high end tournament fishing kayaks are sit on top fishing kayaks.
The primary reason is that it offers more room to move around and to store fishing equipment in more places. It also offers you the option to stand up in your fishing kayak. Standing in your fishing kayak will allow you to sight fish and get a better vantage point. Sometimes you just need to stretch your legs and you don’t want to stop fishing.
Best length fishing kayak – Choosing the right size fishing kayak can be an overwhelming choice. There are quite a few different lengths to choose from. We can narrow the list of choices down quite a bit by learning a little about kayaks in general.
Generally speaking, the usual rule is the shorter the kayak, the easier it is to maneuver. The longer the kayak is, the faster it will be. Though faster, it will be harder to maneuver. Now lets break it down even further to make it an easier choice when choosing your own personal best fishing kayak.
The vast majority of freshwater kayak fishing anglers have fishing kayaks between 10 and 14 feet long. I think this is most definitely the sweet spot of length when it comes to the best fishing kayaks.
Now to break it down a little more before we move on to the next topic. If you are primarily going to be fishing rivers or smaller lakes, a 10 foot fishing kayak is most likely going to be the best choice. Rivers and small lakes require more maneuverability than your usual kayak fishing spots.
If you primarily fish bigger bodies of water, fresh or salt, a 12 foot fishing kayak is the minimum length we would recommend. As said earlier, the longer the fishing kayak, the faster it will move through the water. If you kayak fish in the ocean, a 14 FT fishing kayak or longer is common.
Transportation – Next up on our list of how to choose the best fishing kayak for you is how are we going to transport it? This can quickly become the most important factor in choosing the best fishing kayak, especially if you don’t have a pick up truck or a trailer.
Thankfully, even if you only have a car, you have options. Some of those options include what we call, cartopping your fishing kayak. Cartopping means to transport your fishing kayak on the top of your car. This is easily doable on most kayaks under 60 pounds or so. Anything over that, we recommend buying some type of cartop kayak rack for added support, to make sure you don’t damage the roof of your vehicle.
If you are planning to transport your fishing kayak in a truck bed, you shouldn’t have any issue whatsoever with a 10ft fishing kayak. For anything over 10ft, we recommend a truck bed extender. A truck bed extender such as the MaxxHaul 70231 Hitch Mount Truck Bed Extender would give your fishing kayak the added support it will need on longer trips.
A fishing kayak trailer is another great option if you only have a car, or if you would like to keep your truck bed free for added storage and utility. A fishing kayak trailer will be light enough for even the smallest of cars to pull to your kayak fishing spot. There are multiple companies that design and build kayak trailers. A common DIY solution is to use an older jet ski trailer. They are the perfect size for most fishing kayaks. You may could be resourceful and come up with your own design.
Stability – When I was searching for my first fishing kayak, one of my main concerns was stability. If you talk to a non kayaker, the first thing they will probably talk about is flipping it over. I guess most people have tried cheaper kayaks and were put off by how unstable they were.
Here’s the thing with fishing kayaks; most, if not all, fishing kayaks over $800 will be incredibly stable when sitting down in them. Stable enough to be able to twist and turn to grab fishing gear or to fight a fish. What you should be thinking about, is if you would like to stand up in your fishing kayak at all. This really brings a whole new meaning to the word stability.
One of, if not the most important factors in the stability of the kayak, is going to be the width. Generally speaking, the wider the fishing kayak, the more stable it will be. This isn’t always the case, but it is usually a good indicator of the stability.
Tracking – The next factor when choosing the best fishing kayak for you, is going to be the tracking of the kayak. Another general rule of thumb for me is, that the longer the kayak, the better is will track USUALLY. This isn’t always the case, but it can be a good indicator.
My definition of tracking is just that. Tracking is how well your fishing kayak stays on a straight line path. This can be while paddling or while you are drifting. There isn’t much worse while kayak fishing than a fishing kayak that won’t stay straight while you are fishing. It makes it incredibly difficult to fish the spots you want to fish.
There are a few fishing kayaks in the 12ft to 14ft range that require a rudder addon to help them track straighter. The length rule isn’t always a sure fire way to tell. Just be mindful of the fact that ideally, you would want to demo the fishing kayak before you bought it. If that isn’t the case, I would look into potential rudder options if the need arises.
Mod Potential Of The Kayak – One of the final things I would like to talk about when choosing the best fishing kayak for you is going to be the potential mods you would like to have. More so, if it’s possible to have those mods on your specific fishing kayak.
Most fishing kayaks are designed with gear tracks, rod holders, and more for potential mods. Some fishing kayaks have more spots specifically designed for your choice of modification. Common mods on a fishing kayak are, depth finders, paddle holders, net holders, rod holders, gear boxes, tackle boxes, and trolling motors. The possibilities are truly endless and completely up to your creativity.
If you feel that you will be a serious kayak tournament fisherman, then you would probably want to look into a fishing kayak designed for a serious kayak fishermen. If you enjoy the bare minimum, then your options are increased more. I, for one, like the option of always having a spot to put another piece of equipment. If I never need the spot, at least I know it’s there when I do.
Favorite Kayaks – Here are some of our most recommended fishing kayaks. We aren’t affiliated with these companies in any way. So our opinions on these kayaks are our own.
Best Peddle Kayak – Hobie Mirage PA 14 – https://www.hobie.com/kayaks/mirage-pro-angler-14/
Best Paddle Kayak – Bonafide SS127 – https://bonafidekayaks.com
Best Big Guy Kayak – Jackson Big Rig – https://store.jacksonadventures.com
Best Budget Kayak – Old Town Topwater 120 – https://oldtowncanoe
I, myself, am a proud owner of the Bonafide SS127. I’m not affiliated with the company in any way, but absolutely love the fishing kayak. It could easily be in the mix on any best fishing kayak list. I do think that it is by far the best paddle fishing kayak on the market today.
All in all, whatever fishing kayak you choose is completely up to you. We hope that this guide will be a good starting point for you to go out and do your own research to find the best fishing kayak for you. Kayak fishing has become one of my favorite, if not my most favorite, form of fishing. There is something about being out on the water in your boat that you can’t get anywhere else.