Kayaks provide an inexpensive way of getting off the shore and having fun fishing out on the water. They have come a long way in recent years and you can find some great options specifically designed for fishing.
Initially, there was problems with stability, trying not to slip off whilst fishing but that has all changed. Today, many of the best fishing kayaks are so stable that it is even possible to fish while standing which is great if you are planning on spending a few hours out on the water.
Similar to any other small boat, fishing kayaks are also not the typical, one size fits all units, in fact, they are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and lengths which you can choose from.
This guide will help you to understand all about fishing kayaks and will help you to choose between different models of kayaks available depending on your requirements and budget. There are kayaks for long trips and there are some for simple, basic and recreational fun.
Below you will find the best ones available, based to their features and design.
- Best Fishing Kayaks for the Money Comparison Table
- 1. Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 – Best small fishing kayak
- 2. Perception Pescador Pro 10 – Best quality
- 3. Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 130 – Best budget option
- Other Kayaks Worth Considering
- 4. Malibu Kayak Stealth 14 – Biggest fishing kayak
- 5. Hobie Mirage Outback – Best river fishing option
- 6. Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem – Best fishing kayak for under $500
- 7. 350fx Fishing Explorer – Best inflatable fishing kayak
- Which Angling Kayak is Best for You?
- Fishing Kayaks Complete Buyers Guide
- Sit on top v Sit in Kayak
- Easy entry and exit
- Ability to Accessorize
- Food for thought
- Benefits of fishing with a sea kayak
- Q: Is it okay to buy a cheap kayak?
- Q: What is the best kayak for a beginner?
- Q: How much storage space should my kayak have?
- Q: Are fishing kayaks safe?
- Q: Where to keep the catch?
- Q: What if I fall into the water while using a sea kayak?
- Q: How to take care of the kayak?
- Q: How can I know if I can use a kayak in the sea for fishing?
- Kayak Fishing Safety
- Final thoughts
Best Fishing Kayaks for the Money Comparison Table
Click the ‘More Details’ buttons above for detailed specifications for each product, or read each of our reviews of each of the top 6 fishing kayaks available in 2020.
1. Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 – Best small fishing kayak
Not only is it affordable but it is also well equipped and very easy to operate by yourself. It is ideal for solo anglers who would prefer a simple kayak.
It weighs less than 50lbs and is 9 foot in length.
Even though there are plenty of models available which are equipped with a wide range of features and are three times the price of this one, they struggle to compete with the quality and the execution of the Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90!
It is definitely one which should be top of your list, but if you are looking for a few more details, checkout the video review below and our run down on all the features for this great angling kayak.
- Compact – The Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 is small, which means you can easily fish solo without requiring another person.
- Easy to transport – It can easily fit in the back of most cars, pickup trucks and SUVs since it weighs only 90 pounds and is equipped with 4 handles for carrying. As such, you can take it almost anywhere.
- Easy to use – A smaller kayak is easier to handle and operate in the water as you can easily maneuver it and have it tires your arms out less by having less weight to paddle from place to place.
- Spacious – Even though the kayak is small and compact, there is a seat with a backpack built in which gives enough space for storage behind and for keeping your essentials. It also has two dry bag storage compartments.
- Positioning fishing gear – There is space for stowing your fishing gear, as well as 4 rod holders and enough space for a fifth if needed.
- Comfortable – Even though it is small and compact in size, it is very comfy to sit in and is equipped with a molded foot rest which provides you with plenty of options for adjusting the position to something comfortable for your height or weight.
- Durable – It is highly durable and long lasting since it is made with high quality materials and construction.
- Great customer service – Vibe provide great customer service with online tutorials that can help users to get started and much more. Delivered with a life time warranty and a year’s coverage for parts.
- Factory seat – The factory seat is not made of high quality materials and some customers have complained of broken seat straps. Also, since it is not well padded it may not be very comfortable for some folk.
- Easy to transport
- Easy to use
- Great to setup fishing gear
- Great customer service
- Factory seat
The Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 is a great kayak but since it is quite small and compact, it may not be suitable for all sizes and may not be ideal if you intend on catching bigger or lots of fish. Those who are into fishing for chase bass may want to consider a fishing kayak that is larger, as long as they can handle the transport and its operation on their own. You would however not be able to go as fast in a longer sized vessel.
More DetailsIf you are looking for more space in your kayak then you can consider Perception Pescador Pro which is also a great choice in terms of better tracking and higher speeds.
2. Perception Pescador Pro 10 – Best quality
Those who are familiar with the Spanish language would know from the name of this kayak that the Perception Pescador Pro is built for one purpose and that is fishing! For those who need to fish on a budget, it is a great choice and is one of the best and the cheapest fishing kayaks in our list.
- Midsize craft – It suits both the new paddlers as well as the experienced ones. It is quite manageable at 12ft and you can easily move it by yourself as long as you are strong enough!
- Comfortable – It is quite roomy and spacious which makes it quite comfortable and not too hard to get into and out of the water, which gives it the right balance between space and size for the price and quality.
- Affordable – Basically, a re-branded and cheaper version of the Wilderness Systems Tarpon, this kayak is a great price and has been one of the most popular options for years. Pescador have maintained their quality, stellar design and performance for people looking for a great fishing kayak on a budget.
- High performance – It provides great tracking for such a compact vessel and has good performance overall, being much speedier than a lot of the competition, while maintaining the stability which is needed for angling. In fact, it can be used on rivers, lakes and even on coastal water without much effort.
- Ideal for fishing – You will find included all the features that are needed for a fishing kayak. It can store tackle with its day hatches at the stern, bow and center. It also includes two flush mount rod holders as well as a caster rod holder. As such, it can be compared to the Vibe Skipjack and just a gaining hatch and a rod holder absent.
- User friendly – It is a great choice for both professionals having all the necessary features and it is also affordable and simple enough for novices to have fun with.
- Affordable but not cheap – Even though this kayak is quite affordable compared to the other options in our list, this however does not mean this is cheap since it is good quality and includes all the necessities.
- Missing features – It does not include bait storage or all the dry compartments which can be found in kayaks like the Stealth 14. Neither does it have the cubby and the hatch options to choose from which were on the Hobie. There is also no rudder either which is on the Skipjack.
Just how stable is the Perception Pescador Pro?
Checkout the stability tests of the Perception Pescador Pro both standing and sitting, so you know how far you can push it before you get out on the water!
- Midsized craft
- High performance
- Ideal for fishing
- User friendly
- Affordable but not cheap
- Missing features
This is a great choice and the best out of all the mid sized kayaks we have reviewed. It provides the perfect balance between speed and tracking as well as maneuverability and compactness.
More DetailsThere are more expensive options available but that does not necessarily mean better quality. This craft is great in terms of quality and durability and can easily handle scrapes and bumps without much issue. However, if you are looking for a more roomy option, then you might want to consider the Sea Ghost mentioned below.
3. Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 130 – Best budget option
Our recommendation to those who like a big deluxe fishing kayak is definitely the Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 130 which is also a sit on the top kayak, designed especially for a spot of fishing, similar to the Skipjack and the Pescador Pro.
This kayak provides plenty of room for both catches and gear. Moreover, it moves at high speed, which a smaller kayak simply cannot compete with.
Even though most may require another person to help them get this to the water, at the end of the day it is surely well worth it. The Sea Ghost is the ideal choice in the market for those who are passionate anglers and is the longest of our top three pick kayaks and our recommendation for those who want a large vessel for their fishing adventures.
Checkout the video review and features guide below for a closer look.
- Large and useful – The Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 130 provides excellent tracking, at high speed and also really good stability along. Moreover, there is plenty of room, probably more than most would need. It is pretty good in performance but it is not as unwieldy as something which is 14 feet plus.
- Outstanding performance – The performance of the Vibe Kayak Sea Ghost 130 is simply outstanding. It is cheaper than the Malibu Stealth series, yet it surely out performs that model in performance. This vessel provides the perfect balance between the ease of a small craft and the agility as well as stability and tracking advantages of a large kayak all in one!
- Integrated rudder system – The Sea Ghost 130 has an integrated rudder system which is basically the main difference between this kayak and the smaller / cheaper picks we have mentioned above. A rudder system like this helps you to stay on track even when the conditions are such that the crosswind and current are at play. For those who have used a kayak with a rudder would surely relate to this as they would know how useful it can be. For those who have not used one before, basically this means that you can use it anywhere!
- Easy controls – It has easy to use controls, you can steer with your feet using the toe controls and can retract the rudder if you want. The toe controls provided on the vessel are intuitive and convenient.
- Good for coastal water – This kayak may not be as easy as the smaller options we have recommended previously but it is quite easy to use and a good choice for coastal waters where the improved rudder and the tracking comes in handy! You may not be able to maneuver it as quickly as the small ones but this one would surely stay on course and will be able to tackle the longer paddles easily.
- Stand on the kayak – This is a great choice if you like to stand on your kayak to fish. Even though many people may try to stand on some of the previous recommendations, the Sea Ghost 130 is the only one that we can say that you can stand on safely. Even those who are a bit on the large side can safely stand on it with full stability.
- Spacious – Not only are there performance advantages when it comes to a longer craft, the Sea Ghost 130 also provides additional space which is not there on smaller options. Not only does it easily fit in all the possible gear and all your tackle, there is also quite a lot of space for a dog and a cooler!
- Gear mounting options – It provides plenty of options for the user to mount their gear as it has two flush mounted rod holders as well as four integrated gear tracks. There is no doubt the design of this kayak is well thought out and is made especially for anglers with fish finders. It contains a transducer port which is preinstalled already and has mounting points along with a protective lid component.
- Comfortable seat – As compared to the Slipjack, the seat of the Sea Ghost 130 is excellent. Not only is it adjustable but it is also well padded. Which means there is no need to buy anything aftermarket for the seat since it is comfortable enough.
- High quality – The Sea Ghost 130 is known for its high quality and durability and there are certainly no quality control issues with this one. It has a lifetime warranty on the hull and a one year warranty for the attached components.
- Expensive – Even though this fishing kayak is high in quality and contains all of the essentials, it still costs a grand which may not be affordable for a lot of people, even though there are plenty of other kayaks which cost much more than this. This kayak is thus only recommended to those who are committed and serious anglers and are sure to get their money’s worth.
- Requires help to lift – The Sea Ghost 130 is quite heavy weighing around 80 pounds and 13 feet in length. It is quite large for a single person to lift up or for transportation from one place to another and as such additional help is required in the form of a kayak rack or another helper.
- Not easy to handle – Not everyone is equipped to handle this large kayak and it requires a bit more muscle to master it on the water as compared to the Slipjack or the Pescador Pro. However, it is still nimbler than many other 13 feet kayaks we have reviewed!
- No folded rests – It is a great feature to have the rudder in the Sea Ghost 130 which is great for tracking and for maintaining stability, yet it means you would be required to use the adjustable footrests as opposed to having the flexibility of the molded rests which are in the Slipjack and the Pescador Pro.
Adding a Motor to the Sea Ghost 130
It doesn’t have to be all about paddling, adding a motor to you kayak is actually pretty straight forward.
- Large and useful
- Outstanding performance
- Integrated rudder system
- Easy controls
- Good for coastal water
- Stand on kayak
- Gear mounting options
- Comfortable seat
- High quality
- Requires help to lift
- Not easy to handle
- No molded rests
More DetailsEven though the Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 130 is a bit more expensive than the other fishing kayaks we have discussed above, it still remains quite affordable when you consider its features and high quality, especially when you compare it to other fishing kayaks which are twice its price!
Other Kayaks Worth Considering
The above mentioned were our top three picks when it comes to fishing kayaks. There are however, still some great options which are worthy of consideration, such as the Stealth 14 which are not very well known because of their size but are good to consider as alternatives for those that are fond of larger kayaks. Plus, there are others such as the Hobie, which are ultra premium and paddle driver ones which are superb but unfortunately above the price for an average person as they are quite expensive!
The other Kayaks which we think are worth considering are reviewed below.
4. Malibu Kayak Stealth 14 – Biggest fishing kayak
The Malibu Kayak Stealth 14 is yet another great kayak which is packed with a wide variety of useful features but cargo space and stability are the greatest features of this kayak which makes it shine.
This kayak should be called the “Cadillac” of fishing kayaks and is also the largest of all our recommendations. It is a great option for those people who prefer to use larger vessels that have a lot of space and higher potential for speed as compared to the ones we have mentioned previously.
The reason why the Malibu Kayak Stealth 14 did not make it to our top three list is because of its extra large size and the fact that it is quite expensive, considering that the model is also quite old and buyers are surely better off with the Sea Ghost mentioned above. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a large sized fishing kayak, then the Malibu Kayak Stealth 14 is definitely a winner!
- Large Size – With its large size, it is very smooth and steady and provides a similar ride as a big boat car. It is big and deluxe, being 14 feet long, 4 inches deep and 32 inches at its widest point. Moreover, the hull shape makes its very stable and the stealth tracks really smooth making it easy to paddle for as well.
- Works well in all conditions – It can be used quite easily in most conditions, whether it is flat lakes, rivers or the choppy surf. Since it is big in size, it can easily cut through any condition so you can fish wherever you want to!
- Stability – It is more stable than the Pescador, due to its extra girth. You can stand on the dedicated platform right in the middle very easily without rolling it over. Moreover whereas many kayaks compromise on maneuverability for stability and and speed, this one has the perfect balance as it is able to cut through the water with stability and can easily turn in any direction, which is also one of the reasons why the extra length is good. This makes it a great navigable choice as compared to other clunkier models.
- Storage space – There is so much space on this fishing kayak, that you no longer have to decide which equipment to bring along with you and what to leave behind. Moreover, it is equipped with ports on both sides where the gear, supplies, snacks or tools can be stored. There is also a Gator hatch that is on the bow, that can double as a seat for children and a bungeed well at the stern which can hold a bait bucket weighing 5 gallons!
- Live bait tank – One of the best features of this kayak is that it can store live bait in the center. It has a container along with a plug which allows the water to filter in and flush out, which means you can keep your live bait ready and at hand. This container can also be used alternatively, as a water tight storage space if you leave the plug in. As such, it is quite an innovative and a convenient feature no matter which way you decide to make use of it. Keep the beers cold?
- Ideal for beginners and professionals – Whether you are a beginner or a professional, this kayak can be used by all. With its smooth ride and stability, it is easy to get the hang of, and with its durability and high quality, you are likely never going to need to replace it.
- Leaks – Even though we simply couldn’t find any negatives about this great kayak, there are however a few reviews online by customers who have complained that the cargo hatches on their 14’s had a tendency to leak. However, this was a problem with the older models Malibu Kayaks and apparently this has been fixed in the new models.
- Large Size
- Works well in all conditions
- Storage space
- Live bait tank
- Ideal for beginners and professionals
- Reported leaking issues
More DetailsThe Malibu Kayak Stealth 14 is a great one time investment. It is not just well made, the hull is rigged and it also has a great track record of high performance for years even after regular use. Moreover, it is also covered by lifetime warranty which means you can be sure of its use as long as you have it.
5. Hobie Mirage Outback – Best river fishing option
This model, although it is from 2017, has won plaudits from pro reviewers as well as from amateurs.
It is surely one of the best paddle driven options that is available on the market and if you have the money to spend and are serious about your fishing, this is one of the finest options that will just as good in years to come as the day you buy it.
- Pedal drive system – Even though there are quite a few striking features to the Hobie Mirage Outback, its pedal drive system is surely its distinguishing one. Even Many people may think the pedal drive feature will make this slow, but it is actually a great feature on this kayak. It has quite a good speed and is also very convenient for getting around which means it leaves your hands free for fishing. After all, it is pretty hard to cast a line when you have paddle in your hands!
- The pedal is also a good choice for those who want to fish in a river and not drift downstream as you can easily pedal the kayak as you fish and it provides a convenient way for moving against high winds.
- Comfortable seat – The seat on the Hobie Mirage Outback is well designed and another great feature which is worth noting. It is adjustable which means the users can have it in the most ergonomic position for pedaling or for paddling. Moreover, the seat is also equipped with lumbar support, which is a great feature for those fishermen who have back problems or suffer from back pains. It is quite a comfortable design and much better than a lot of models in the market and even from seats which are available in the aftermarket.
- Stability – This kayak is also quite stable. Even with the pedals, it is still a sit-on-top design and as such it can easily handle currents and wakes with ease. The extra weight of the Outback also comes in handy here.
- Use it anywhere – The Mirage Outback can be used anywhere, even though many people do not prefer to use the pedals at sea. It has good tracking and can handle the surf and it is not too bulky for the longer lake trips. The retractable rudder is quite helpful in the rough waters and it has good tracking and maneuverability.
- Great features – It is equipped with useful features which include rod holders, a cargo area as well as a gear bucket. In fact, if you plan to change up your on water routine, the Hobie Mirage Outback also has a sail mount!
- Space – With ample cargo space and features like rod holders, pockets, cup holders of different sizes, bungee pockets, cubbies which are on top of the hull as well as some additional hatches that are throughout the body. Additionally, there are also long running shelves and a rear well which is for general storage. With this model, you can bring everything you want for your kayak trip since it is wide and quite spacious.
- Expensive – The main drawback of this kayak is obviously the price which is quite expensive and out of reach of an average consumer. In fact, one can buy several Pescadors kayaks for the price of this single Hobie Mirage Outback!
- Peddling model – For many people they may find the nontraditional system of pedaling not very appealing and it is only a must have feature if you fish in a river, or if you enjoy the workout for your legs! So those who do not like pedaling systems, you might want to check out the Stealth 14 or the Pescador as alternatives.
- Heavy – The Hobie Mirage Outback is a bit heavy, due to the hull material which is heavy duty and the pedal driven mechanism. So having to paddle long distance can really prove to be a chore. Furthermore, its weight also makes it a bit difficult to move on land by one person and the help of a friend may be required.
Hobie Mirage Outback vs. Pro Angler
Which is better, the Outback or the Pro Angler? Maybe this side by side will help you decide which is best for you.
- Pedal drive system
- Comfortable seat
- Use it anywhere
- Great features
- Pedaling model
More DetailsThe Hobie Mirage Outback is a great kayak for those who like to fish in rivers and prefer to pedal instead of paddle. Overall, with its features and its durable high quality it is a great buy, as long as you are willing to spend a considerable amount of money!
6. Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem – Best fishing kayak for under $500
If you are looking for a fully functional fishing kayak for under $500, and do not mind a few quality control issues and cheaper quality build, then this is for you, especially if you are on a tight budget.
Big enough for 3 people and all your gear, it might be a smaller sized kayak but it is big enough for most fishing trips.
However, with that size comes weight and this is one of the heavier options out there, so you will need 2 people to get it in and out of the water.
If you are looking to get into kayak fishing, you want to test the waters, so to speak, the Lifetime 10 foot sport fisher tandem is not a bad choice.
It may not have made our top 3 but is still worth looking at in our opinion.
- Low price – This has quite a low and affordable price which makes it easy for an average consumer to buy. It is also the cheapest fishing kayak that we are recommending in this review so worth a second look.
- Comfortable – The Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem is quite comfortable. The seats are higher up off the water as compared to other fishing kayaks, which means you can stay comfortable and dry while out on the water.
- Spacious – This Sport Fisher Tandem is quite roomy as well, even though it is small in size. It can hold up to three people and can be paddled by a single person. It includes three rod holders, padded backrests and a six inch storage hatch. Additionally, it also has paddle cradles and clips for times when you are not paddling.
- Ideal for beginners – The Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem is a great choice for the inexperienced kayaker as it is quite steady and hard to tip over, yet small in size that it is able to turn quickly in case of danger. It is also an ideal choice for families since it is a multi-person kayak safe for family fishing trips.
- Stability – The stability of this kayak is not restricted to beginners and the more experienced angler can enjoy standing up on this fishing kayak, even though with most low priced kayaks there is not enough stability to stand.
- Heavy – This kayak is a bit on the heavy side, weighing around 80 pounds when it is empty. This makes it difficult for a single user to carry alone. In the case of weight vs design, you definitely get what you pay for!
- Built for slow water – This kayak is not a good choice for tracking or for speed. In fact, it is a better choice for slow moving currents or for flat waters and does not perform too well compared to most recreational models and touring kayaks. As such it is not a very good choice as an all-purpose vessel.
- Quality control issues – There have been instances of quality control issues with the Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem, which is not something that should be taken lightly as you should not have to deal with leaks or cracked hulls.
- Low price
- Ideal for beginners
- Built for slow water
- Quality control issues
More DetailsThis a great choice even though most of the other kayaks mentioned above are better in performance than the Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem. The best features remain its price and its ability to accommodate a different variety of body types with ease and comfort and the fact it stays steady with multiple people on board. However, with the many quality control issues and reports of defects, we are unable to fully recommend this kayak with full confidence.
7. 350fx Fishing Explorer – Best inflatable fishing kayak
This fishing kayak is from the Sea Eagle fishing explorer series. It is a robust and fully accessorized unit which is designed for avid fishermen. This kayak is known for its sturdiness and its toughness.
- It is double layered
- Strong and sturdy – nearly indestructible!
- 2,000 Denier reinforced protective layers
- It has 6 built in rod holders
- Forward and aft spray skirts
- Equipped with accessory belt to hold tools, hooks
- Flexbrace – which is a fully adjustable foot brace
- Maximum load capacity: 575 lbs
Which Angling Kayak is Best for You?
If you are looking for something that is compact or if you are simply on a tight budget, then the Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 is a great choice. It is quite manageable on the water and on the go for solo anglers. It is also easy to handle and quite well equipped, being a small sized vessel and being inexpensive. You should not expect speed or for it to track well, for that the larger vessels would be our recommendation. It is also worth noting that many people may find this size a bit too compact for their needs.
For the larger vessel, we would suggest the Vibe Kayak Sea Ghost 130 as our number one pick as it offers value for money for the expert as well as for beginner kayakers. Not only is it roomy but it is also very stable in the water, reasonably spacious and fast, it is also quite affordable as well. So if you are a dedicated paddler who wants a versatile yet stable fishing kayak that has plenty of available space, then we would recommend the Sea Ghost 130 to you!
For an average buyer, we would recommend the Perception Pescador Pro, as we consider it as the best choice for the right balance between the deluxe model kayaks and the compact ones. It is quite manageable for a strong paddler who can easily carry it by himself and it gives the user the best of both worlds. Moreover, it performs well in almost all conditions and the quality and build of this kayak is first class. The only limitation is the lack of rudder and its size.
For those who have a larger budget may want to buy the Hobie Mirage Outback, which is a great choice for fishing in rivers and has pedals built in. It is also has great storage space and superb stability which is why it is one of the favorite options of the most experienced fishing kayakers. We would not recommend this to the casual user as this is a better choice for those who will make good use of it and enjoy the overall experience.
Fishing Kayaks Complete Buyers Guide
While you decide which is the best fishing kayak for you, there are a few things which you really should consider.
- Do you require space for a cooler?
- Would you require mounts for your rod, or would you be doing everything manually?
- At a given time, how many lines will you be using?
- Will you be fishing with a friend or by yourself?
- Will you need room for your dog?
- Will you need space for your lunch?
- Where do you plan to keep your supplies and your bait?
- Do you need to think about the options for transport or do you have a place to store the boat near your fishing location?
- How many times do you plan to be out on the water?
- Will your kayak be used for catching fish or for recreational trips?
Firstly, you need to decide how you would like to sit on the kayak and if there is any particular gear that you would need access to easily. Various factors should be considered, such as your familiarity with paddling, your skill levels and more specifically, how good or bad you are at kayaking.
You should consider various factors such as how long you plan to go out for, how far do you plan to go and what is your potential catch since you would also need to carry it back.
You must also consider all of the tackle and gear that you would require and how much of that you need to have in easy access, the answer is generally “all of it”.
Many of the models have the sit-on-top style which means you would not be confined within the kayak, it would give you the freedom to move around freely. There are however many who would still prefer to use the traditional models of sit-in systems.
Like the many different things that needed for a particular purpose, there are also different attributes and features that are made for each and every fishing trip. If you know exactly what to look for and what is the ideal product which can save you time, disappointment and frustration will get you to your goal easily. During our research, we put our focus on the things which are important and which suit your needs. Some of these things are:
This is quite important for all types of watercrafts. The stability however becomes more important when you are casting, moving around, bringing the catch in, accessing your gear and even when you are tossing out nets. With this in mind, clearly the sit on the top models or the open top options are best. The hull design is generally wider in size and has less draft, as compared to a kayak which you would need to climb in to.
As such, stability remains a very important factor and has becomes more important if you are heading offshore which has become quite popular with anglers nowadays. With semi closed inlets and lakes there is generally less motion or current in the water and you would want to have a stable kayak which would certainly not capsize if you are reaching or leaning too far out.
Getting a fishing kayak for yourself is similar to buying a pair of shoes, there is no size that fits all! Similarly, there is not just one kayak, but rather, a wide variety, and as such before you venture out to buy one, you should know what type of fishing you plan on doing, what is your overall budget and what is your fitness level. There are different kayaks, which may be good in one aspect and may not come up to mark in others.
As such, you should have a list of features which the kayak you plan to buy must have, should have, would like to have and also those features or items which you can do without.
By the time you have finished reading this article, you would have a fair idea of what kind of kayak you should aim for that best suits your needs and for that you need to know what kind of kayaks are available and what you should look for in a kayak.
Sit on top v Sit in Kayak
The two main types of kayaks that are available are the Sit-on-Top (SOT) kayak or the Sit-In kayak (SIK). The SOT kayaks do not take in much water or flood easily and can also be drained through scuppers, which can be quite noisy because of the drag. There are flexible options available as well for storage in the SOT. In the Sit-in kayaks, your gear is less likely to fall off and the kayak is also quite stable allowing you to stand if needed.
Since the lakes, ocean or rivers are all different environments, they all require different types of kayak designs and features. While the shorter kayaks have better agility for changing currents and are well suited for the rivers, the ocean requires longer kayaks to paddle longer distances and handle the wind and waves. The lakes on the other hand, require a balance between agility and speed.
The chair comfort is highly important if you want to sit and fish. On the other hand, if you plan to stand on your kayak, then the most obvious factor to consider here is the stability and the need for a wider kayak that has a flatter bottom that will reduce the possibility of tipping over. Having a standing pad is also a good idea for comfort and for traction.
The Sit-on-top models differ from the sit in fishing kayaks as it has an open and large cockpit. Additionally, the Sit-on-top models also have extra large cockpits and feature a high degree of stability and are quite easy to enter or to exit in case the boat capsizes.
They are also made with a double hull and enclosed air space between the inner and outer hulls that can trap air and as such these models are almost unsinkable. They are designed with scupper holes in the bilge which means that any water comes inside the cockpit to escape, keeping you afloat.
As a general rule, Sit-on-top kayaks are usually 10-14 feet in length and have a wide beam, which gives it sufficient initial stability and as such with its open cockpits these kayaks are one of the most popular available on the market.
When it comes to the negatives of the sit-on-top kayaks, you are directly exposed to the sun and the wind and may end up getting too cold or too hot. It is also worth noting that this model is also relatively slower than the SIK options and they do not glide particularly well since they do not sit much below the surface of the water.
The sit-on-top kayaks are relatively heavier in weight than the Sit in kayaks and are made with polyethylene, often in multiple layers for extra strength. An average sit-on-top kayak would weigh around 50 pounds and it may be quite a challenge for many people to lift it onto pickup truck or SUV racks.
The basic difference between the sit-in Models from the SOT models, is that these have a large and enclosed cockpit which makes it easy to enter and exit and provides a relatively dry experience due to its ability to add a nylon spray skirt. They generally range from 8-14 feet in length and have more efficient hull designs as compared to the sit-on-top ones. As such, these models are a good choice for paddlers who like a faster hull design and a dry ride.
These models are not very popular for the purpose of fishing but there are many people who still use them for that purpose. Apart from the position where you sit in the kayak, the other difference between these two models is the topside layout. The sit in models that are fishing specific are able to accommodate more of the tackle and the gear needed.
Since you will be sitting for quite a few hours in your kayak, as such it is really important for you to be comfortable in it, especially if you have any sort of back problems. The seat should not be a deal breaker for a kayak as you can find an aftermarket seat and fit it on your choice of kayak and keep the original seat the kayak was equipped with, for back up.
Easy entry and exit
Most people would want their kayak to be easy to use and as such getting in and out of the kayak should not be a chore. The SOT models in this case are better since they are easier to access and only require you to hop on. Another reason why the entry and the exit is important is in the event of the boat capsizing. It may be a challenge to get out of the boat, especially if it is a sit in boat as it will fill with water and this requires knowledge and skill.
Fishermen tend to take a lot of gear with them. Organizing this gear requires that the kayak you have chosen has adequate storage. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it’s nice to have a few different places to put your stuff. SOT kayaks have a double hull which means there is a lot of potential storage below the deck.
Depending on your needs this may be very important to you. Maybe you plan on camping or making long journeys in your kayak. This large relatively dry storage area may appeal to you. If you plan on launching your kayak through the surf this space will allow you to stow rods bellow deck which will keep them safe while you pass through the surf zone.
Many SIK have hatches that offer access to sealed-off compartments in the hull. Many of the SIKs used by fisherman also have large open cockpits that make it easier to get at gear you may have stored around you. Milk crates and other plastic containers can also be used for external storage They fit into the tank-wells of many SOT kayaks and can also be lashed onto the deck of SIKs as well.
The longer the kayak, the faster and the straighter it is be able to travel, however the longer ones are also less maneuverable since they are heavier than the short kayaks and are not easy to lift onto your vehicle or for carrying in the water.
There is more stability in wide kayaks compared to narrow ones, this width alone however is not the only factor for stability, a wide kayak can offer more room to move around in and more space for your gear.
Weight is surely something to think about not just on the water but when you need to get the kayak from your vehicle to the water and then back again. You may not have direct access to the shoreline, which you must also consider. Most of the models have an average weight of around 60-70 pounds, depending on construction and size.
Various other factors also add to the weight such as the accessories, mounted storage systems or any enhanced rudder systems and so on. Everything that you add on to your kayak will obviously add to the weight as well.
Kayaks are available for all kinds of budgets but the price that you do decide to pay must be based on your skill levels, needs, frequency of your use and obviously on your budget.
The price generally reflects the quality of the kayak and the more specialized it is, the more expensive it would be. Having said that, just because a brand name has a lot of features and is very expensive does not mean you need all those features and should pay a high price as you may not even require those features.
The paddles can be single or double and can be used for standing as well as for sitting. The time and the distance on the water can be limited by the arm strength. Paddler versions are generally lighter than pedal kayaks.
The propulsion (propeller or fins etc) is controlled by foot pedals and the rudder is used for track and turned by hand. It resembles the recumbent cycles which let the legs do the work but there is the limitation of just sitting and pedaling. You wouldn’t need to put your rod down or pick the paddle up for adjusting your position. With a pedaling kayak, there is still the option of paddling if you prefer.
This is quite helpful in paddling in open and in large water which is exposed to waves and the wind. The kayak’s length is quite important and longer kayaks are able to utilize a rudder for tracking which helps.
You must also decide which type of fishing you intend to do as some fishing kayaks are better suited for certain purposes compared to others. Fishing kayaks are divided into two categories consisting of those which are for fishing in saltwater and those for fishing in fresh water. Both of these present the angler with different conditions for paddling and as such different kayaks are required to meet the needs of these different conditions.
Ability to Accessorize
One of the joys of kayak fishing is converting a simple recreational kayak into a very effective and compact fishing vessel. This is done by adding fishing accessories. How much you add depends largely on your fishing style and your philosophy on gear.
There are many brands which can be customized according to your needs and may have options for storage attachments or modular designs which accept accessories as well as different types of gadgets such as the GPS or fish finders.
Some fishermen just take a rod and a few lures along and others like to bring lots of gear along. No matter what your preference, simply adding one rod holder will greatly increases the fishability of your kayak. Lots of flat surfaces are nice for mounting accessories.
The best kayaks use universal accessories or attachments and extras. It only takes a little extra time to search for additional accessories which may come in handy for any model you are planning to buy in the future.
Food for thought
Even though many of the kayaks are similar to one another when it comes to their structure or design, there are many differences between the models and the brands. There are however some key features which you must look for when you are making your decision to buy a kayak
- Standing pads and standing room
- Transducers and fish finders or at least a solid attachment areas that can be mounted effectively
- Adjustable seating. Should be able to raise you for easy sitting or standing, better reach and faster paddling as well as maneuverability of the upper body and the arms.
- Rod holders
- Drive systems, paddle, pedal, optional motors, rudder
- Specialized gear storage options and should be enough for your needs
- Tracking systems for extra gear mounting and accessory mounting
Other things to think about when you are deciding on the fishing kayak that is right for you is what type of kayak, where would you be fishing, what kind of fishing do you intend to do, do you want to be sitting or standing?
Kayak fishing takes place in many different environments, from large bays, sounds, and even the open ocean, but many of us fish some very small waters too. A small shallow river can be very easily fished with a short, lightweight kayak.
Such a kayak will be easier to negotiate around obstacles such as logs, log jams, rocks, waterfalls & spillways, fast water, and rocky shallows. There will be times when you need to carry or drag your kayak around, over, or through these places. In these types of situations a smaller lighter kayak is the better choice.
Benefits of fishing with a sea kayak
There are quite a few benefits of fishing with a sea kayak as mentioned below.
The best part about being out on a kayak is the peace and quiet. There are no other chattering fishermen, no sound of the boat motors and just the tranquility of the water lapping against your hull since it is just you and the water.
Apart from the benefit of the peace and quiet which is great for your mental health, it also helps fishing since the fish cannot hear you coming as they can if you are on a boat. While you are on the kayak, you can simply paddle right into the heart of the maelstrom! It is also quite a sight to witness the fish jumping around your kayak and the water splashing on your face. It is not unusual to catch at least a dozen fish this way but unfortunately, when the other boats show up, it drives away the fish!
Access To More Areas
While you may be severely limited when you fish from the shore, fishing from the kayak gives you the opportunity to be out in the main water and you can also get quite close to the reefs and the rocks which a boat cannot risk. You can easily get close to the rocks which the big fish love and place your casts right into the perfect spot!
Even though there are many kayaks which are very expensive, the average costs associated with kayak fishing is actually much lower than buying a boat for fishing purposes. There are plenty of options of cheap fishing kayaks on the market and for just a few hundred dollars you can get yourself a great fishing package that will easily get you started, which is not possible if you plan on getting a boat.
Furthermore, there are no high fuel costs and the only fuel you require are your carbs intake to keep your energy levels up and keep you paddling away! There are also the mooring costs associated with boats which you have to pay to moor your boat in the summer season while your kayak can simply be stored in your backyard, basement or the shed when it is not in use. Also there are no costs of insurance or any form of maintenance and no motor which requires maintenance and absolutely nothing that may require repair in the mid season.
When you are trolling for fish you must also use the speed of a fish. It is quite easy to maintain a slow troll in a kayak while in a boat sometimes it is hard to get your trolling speed under 2 knots an hour whilst in a kayak that is about the regular speed you would have at a normal pace and you can go even slower if you want.
Using a boat for fishing takes a much longer time. It takes time to get it in the water and much longer if there are more boats waiting in front of you. However, your kayak is more convenient and takes less time and effort. All you need to do is simply throw your gear in the back of your car, secure your kayak on the rack and simply drive off to find the right spot to park your car and put your kayak in the water!
Being level with the water makes it better to cast and retrieve. It may be harder to obtain the same casting distance as you can if you are standing on a boat but as mentioned already, you can get close to the fish using your kayak and you get more natural action from your lure once you cast at water level.
Q: Is it okay to buy a cheap kayak?
Regular or cheap kayaks would not have the specific features that are required from a fishing kayak that are equipped with built in features that are important and prove to be an effective tool for fishing. As such a cheap model kayak may not have everything you need.
Q: What is the best kayak for a beginner?
Kayaking requires skill and practice which develops over time and there are obviously many things that beginners would not know but will eventually get to know once they get a feel for paddling, maintaining stability and getting used to entering and exiting a kayak easily. Beginners must also be aware of how to handle situations where a kayak can capsize.
With the sit in model, it becomes filled with water when capsized and as such you must know how to handle such a situation. A stand up model on the other hand is probably a better choice for beginners. If it is capsized, you wouldn’t have much to worry about as long as your gear is secured. Additionally, the stand up model is also easier to get in and get out of and is also relatively more stable than other models.
Q: How much storage space should my kayak have?
This really depends upon your own personal needs and on the amount of tackle and gear that you usually haul with you including the kind of catch that you are planning to go for. The answer for this question is basically on your need to have list.
Q: Are fishing kayaks safe?
Fishing kayaks are quite safe. However, you must ensure you take advantage of all safety measures, such as wearing a life vest and not just keeping it handy in case you might need it. You must keep the life vest on as there is no guarantee that you will be able to get to if there is an emergency.
You should always inspect your kayak before taking it out in the water and look for any possible leaks and cracks and check the storage hatches to make sure they are well sealed. You do not want it to capsize and later find out that it was the hatch that did not close! Always remember to check the weather forecast before you head out.
Lastly, you should always use common sense when using your kayak. If you are a new user, then you should talk to others about how to keep it safe in the water, before you venture out on your own and always stay within your limits and do not get yourself involved in a situation where you do not know how to get out of.
Q: Where to keep the catch?
You can take your stringer along with you. Many people slip the line through the gill and mouth and tie the fish to the kayak to let it drift. Whilst others use a small bucket which they put in the rear well and throw them in there, as long as the fish are not too big.
Q: What if I fall into the water while using a sea kayak?
The best thing to do is to watch various tutorial videos which are available all over the internet and learn how to handle such a situation. You can even find a video that is about your specific kayak and practice so that you can learn, especially if you have a pool where you can pretend to fall and then use the technique to help yourself back up.
Q: How to take care of the kayak?
There are plenty of ways to take care of your kayak so that it can last for a long time. For example, if you take your kayak into saltwater, make sure that you spray it down after each use. Also, keep it away from direct sunlight and the heat as it can weaken the seals. Moreover, do no stack anything heavy on your and use a trolley to wheel it around so that you do not need to drag it around over a rough surface.
Q: How can I know if I can use a kayak in the sea for fishing?
There are certain models which are made specifically for that use. You can also look for particular features such as a flared bow as well as solid stability of the kayak along with some decent amount of storage as you may be further away from the shore if you are fishing in a kayak. It should also be spacious enough so that there is place for you to keep your catch.
Kayak Fishing Safety
This is the most important topic that can be discussed in relation to kayak fishing. Often we take it for granted but not anymore. Improper or undue respect for the elements can result in tragedy.
By bringing this topic to the forefront through regular EDUCATION, DISCUSSION, AND AWARENESS, we hope to eliminate/minimize any catastrophes occurring to any of our members or guests.
Many potential problems or tragedies can be avoided by exercising some forethought, planning, and a good dose of common sense.
Thinking of foreseeable threats, meeting these threats with a planned process/procedure along with any required equipment/materials may avert or minimize problems on the water. Capitalizing on the experiences and ideas of our contributors, we hope to raise everyone’s level of knowledge and awareness regarding safety resulting in an enjoyable experience on the water.
ULTIMATELY, SAFETY IS A VERY PERSONAL ISSUE. WHAT EACH OF YOU DO TO ENSURE YOUR OWN SAFETY IS ENTIRELY UP TO YOU AND TOTALLY IN YOUR CONTROL. ACCORDINGLY, KFS, ITS MODERATORS, AND PARTICIPANTS CANNOT/WILL NOT BE HELD LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGE OR PERSONAL INJURY RESULTING FROM THEIR ADVICE OR OPINIONS IN THIS ARTICLE.
We cannot stress enough that you must exercise caution. If in doubt don’t or seriously consider what you’re about to do.
First we want to say that we at Pickup Truck World are not the type of people who live in some calculated world where every move is considered, pondered and the risks of everything we do are considered.
We don’t drive a Volvo and don’t own gas masks. We do fish from kayaks and understand that there are some inherit risks in this mode of fishing especially when one considers the manner in which we sometimes participate in the sport.
We think the most important thing that a person can do before heading out on the water is have a fear of it, respect the indiscriminate power Nature possesses. Things can go wrong while being out in a kayak, throw in some hooks and unpredictable fish and you could have a recipe for disaster.
Now that we’ve scared you into heading for the party boats or grabbing your surf rod, let me say that with a little common sense and some well thought out equipment you can be ready when Murphy’s Law kicks in. You can be very safe kayak fishing with proper preparation however you can’t eliminate all risk.
Personal Floatation Device (PFD)
There isn’t a better place to start then with a Personal Floatation Device (PFD). WE highly recommend that you don’t choose this piece of equipment as a place to save money. A cheap PFD will feel like wearing a tire inner tube and you will never wear it. If you don’t wear it then you won’t have it on when you need it.
Spend a little more and get something that will be comfortable and do buy a PFD made for kayaking not just general boating.
The more comfortable the PFD the less you’ll know that you have it on. Our favorite, the Onyx MoveVent, is has a mesh back. We often forget that we have it on as it’s so comfortable and because of this its on when we will eventually need it. In kayaking we hear of tragedies periodically and the vast majorities of drownings could have been prevented if the victim had their PFD on.
All of the stories of drowning kayakers we’ve heard about over the years would have been prevented. The Coast Guard only requires that you have your PFD accessible however if something goes wrong you won’t have time to put it on while on or most likely, in the water – WEAR YOUR PFD ALL THE TIME!
As to PFD type we’re not in favor of the suspender types. The reason being is that you’re dependent upon a mechanism to inflate the PFD when it’s going to be needed. Should the mechanism fail you could be in big trouble when you most need it to function flawlessly. One of the scenarios where this could be very dangerous is in the surf zone. A miscalculation in the surf can result in a significant wipeout. There is the real possibility of the kayak hitting you on the head and either leaving you a bit dazed or unconscious. Should the auto-inflate of the PFD fail you would have a very serious problem.
Noise Making Device – Whistle or Air Horn for Offshore Fishing
The Coast Guard requires that you have a noise-making device such as a whistle or air-horn. Keeping one handy in the pocket of your PFD or attached to it is a smart move. You may never need it but it is required and may one day come in handy. An air horn as a backup to a whistle is a very good item to have along too. They’re much louder and this might be important someday.
If you intend to do any night kayak fishing, something we do a lot of in the summer season, you are not required to have navigational lights even though many kayakers rig them.
However the CG requires some type of white light like a lantern or a flashlight. This is insufficient in our opinion.
We use a battery operated stern light that can be purchased at any marine store. We don’t rely on only one light though. We also have and use a very bright LED headlamp.
Not only does it make a great secondary warning light its great to use for changing lures, tying knots, releasing fish and anything else that requires direct light.
Another important light is a PFD light. This is a waterproof, 360-degree light that is attached to your PFD. Should you become separated from your kayak you can be seen for a couple of miles.
Extra batteries in a waterproof case are a must. A light with dead batteries isn’t going to do you much good.
The Coast Guard also states that any vessels operating between sunset and sunrise have pyrotechnic devises.
Flares being the must common used. Last year a kayaker got stranded on Execution Lighthouse rocks on a cold March night when the weather turned nasty. He couldn’t make the return paddle and was on the verge of freezing when he used his flare. Luckily someone on the shore noticed and called harbor patrol.
A Knife Might Come In Handy
We have covered what the Coast Guard requires you to carry as a non-motorized vessel, however other items are invaluable on the water if something goes wrong. Of course our considerations of how we access safety should vary dependant on where we are going to fish and when. However one must expect the unexpected and be prepared. It is far better to have an item and not use it then to need it and not have it.
A good knife is an important item to have along. There are several lines that are used in conjunction with kayak fishing and so there exists the possibility of entanglement. There are fishing, anchor, drift sock, rudder control, tethers, etc. all of which pose a possibility. Having a knife handy to cut line could be a lifesaver.
Weather is the single biggest factor that you must prepare for and be aware of. Don’t get fooled by it and get complacent as conditions can change suddenly. There are several variables when considering weather and each is important in their own right but combined become even more important.
- The first is wind. A fast kayak used for fishing isn’t going to allow you to travel at more then 5 knots sustained speed in light to non-existent winds. Factor in wind and rough water and you may not be able to do half that. Sometimes it feels like you’re not making any progress at all however we have confirmed that we do using a GPS but progress can be meager into a strong wind. Much depends upon the efficiency of the kayak you’re using. A paddler in reasonable shape can paddle against a 20 to 25-knot wind with an efficient hull but the same person may not be able to make any headway against a wind significantly lower in a less efficient kayak.
- Rain is always a possibility while on the water. A storm or squall can come up suddenly. Weather forecasting is a very inexact science and often a beautiful day with little or no wind turns out to be much different. We’ve had it happen to us on several occasions. Temperatures can drop dramatically and the combination of being wet, with wind will produce wind chill. This can cool your body quickly if you aren’t prepared. We experienced this is Florida in July when we got caught on an off shore key during t-storms. We had to wear our PFDs for warmth while we hunkered down underneath some trees in the jungle. Our teeth were chattering. If we had rain jackets and pants along we could have easily prevented it. Now they are items that we always take with us stored in a dry bag. This past summer we ran into a similar situation. The forecast called for a beautiful warm day and no expected precipitation until late at night to early morning. However a squall caught us as it came suddenly. We had enough warning to paddle to a nearby shoreline and put on jackets. We sat out the rain that only lasted a half hour at most and then got into some fantastic fishing.
- The temperature of the water is the most important factor that you have to deal with. Cool to cold water upon your becoming immersed in it, is a life-threatening situation. Water will quickly rob your body of temperature and make it impossible to function. So if the water’s cool you must prepare for it. You do this two ways. By staying dry and then having enough insulation to keep warm. The most dangerous time of year is the spring. The water is cold and the air can be very warm. Often in April in the northeast we’ll have air temperatures in the 80s while the water’s in the 40s. Should you become immersed in such water temps and you’re not properly dressed you only have seconds before you’ll succumb. You can’t change reality and this is one of the most important truths. Cold water will kill you quickly if you become immersed and aren’t prepared.
- You have to consider the sun and its affects too. There’s a tremendous amount of reflection occurring on the water. It’s a good idea to wear sun block and lip balm. Also have plenty of water along for drinking and be prepared for the possibility of getting marooned somewhere for a while. You can’t go very long without water so have plenty along as a precaution.
Make Your Life A Little Easier
Electronics and gadgets have become a vital part of our modern world. There are devices that add to our safety too. They aren’t a substitute for common sense but they can help to avoid trouble and should you find yourself in a situation they can help you out of it too.
1) A compass is a simple item that will help keep you on course. There are many types and it’s easy to have one along.
2) A GPS is a modern compass of sorts but it also provides additional information. It will let you know very accurately where you are at any given time. It also will let you know the direction you’re traveling at, your rate of speed or drift, etc. If you have a means of communicating you can let rescuers know where you are.
3) Communication devices are great to have along. There are several and each has its uses and advantages. A VHF radio is a very important item that may save either your life of one of the members of your group. Cell phones in a waterproof case are good to have too. So is an FRS radio for communication within a group of people.
So what should you bring along?
Some items are dependent upon the time of year and the weather but some are universal. Here’s what we recommend after years of experience.
- Extra clothing in a dry bag. This should include rain pants and jacket. There are sets that fold up into small pouches. Layers of clothing that are multifunction and insulate when wet and dry quickly. We always have a set of Mysterioso with us in a dry bag as it’s a modern miracle garment. Clothing should include a warm hat and gloves.
- Water and food. If you have the room it’s a good idea to bring a gallon of water. Food can consist of energy bars.
- A paddle tether or leash. There’s a saying that you don’t want to be up the creek without a paddle. Being on the water and loosing one can be anything from inconvenient to disastrous.
- A PFD that has a PFD light on it (for night time fishing) along with a whistle and a knife.
- Insect repellent might not save your life but you may think so if you end up in a situation where you need it. We’re glad that we had some along when we had to take refuge in a Florida jungle during a t-storm. We would have been eaten alive without it.
- Lights because you never know if you’ll end up being out there in the dark and that includes having a flare along.
- A compass and consider a GPS.
- Communication devices such as radios and a cell phone.
You may be an avid fisherman who wants to try something new and different or you may simply be new to fishing altogether! There may be a lot of motives why somebody wants to go kayak fishing and it is such a great sport that it cannot be recommended enough! Not only is it a lot of fun but also quite affordable and a great way of catching lots of fish! You can read up on our top picks for the best fishing kayaks to have an idea of what is best for you and the buying guide will surely help you to make the right decision.