Fishing Kayak Buyer's Guide for Beginners
January 12, 2021
5 min

Before you decide on a kayak for your particular needs, you’ll first need to determine what kind of fishing activity you want to pursue because kayaks are not created equal, which means they have features that might or might not work for you and your chosen activity. Similarly, fishing activities are also divided into different categories. But, don’t worry because this fishing kayak buyer’s guide will provide you with the information that you need in choosing the best fishing kayak for your needs.

Factors to Consider

1. Type of Kayak

First, you need to be aware that fishing kayaks are divided into different categories based on their designs. These differences in design are important since they help determine whether they are suited for the fishing activity that you want or not.

A. Sit-On Kayak

The biggest difference between a sit-in and a sit-on kayak is that the sit-on models lack a cockpit that’s enclosed. They are also designed with drain holes located in the bilge, which will allow water that enters the cockpit to escape. They are also constructed using a double-hull design with an enclosed air space between the outer and inner hulls in order to trap air inside, making the kayak unsinkable. Most sit-on models are made using molded polyethylene plastic materials, which makes them incredibly durable and heavy. They range from ten to sixteen feet in length and feature a wide beam for a higher degree of stability, and because they’re equipped with open cockpits and have a reputation of being very stable, they’re probably the most popular type of fishing kayak. However, these models are known to have poor secondary stability and speed time, and lack a rudder that can work to aid them back on course. They also require a ton of effort to paddle due to their extensive weight. That is why they’re more ideal for calm waters. Nonetheless, it’s easy to re-enter and exit this type of kayak and often come equipped with rod holders, live bait wells, and trolling motors.

B. Recreational Kayak

A recreational kayak will differ from a sit-on model because they come with enclosed and large cockpits, a moderate degree of rocker, and soft chined hulls. Most models designed for recreation are made from molded polyethylene plastic and are pretty tough, but they’re also very heavy. Since they feature a single-hull design, they’re more ideal for fishing on calmer waters, but when this style of kayak is properly outfitted, it can become an excellent fishing vessel. Their bigger cockpits also make them easy to exit and enter, but they also have a reputation for a higher degree of secondary stability. This style ranges from eight to fourteen feet in length and offers a more efficient hull design than a sit-on model, making it a great option for close-range fishing activities. Additionally, their enclosed cockpits provide the angler with more protection than sit-on models and can make excellent fishing kayaks, but they are not designed for longer distances.

C. Touring Kayak

A touring kayak differs from recreational models in that they’re slimmer and longer and typically range in lengths of fourteen to eighteen feet. Since this style of kayak is slimmer and longer, it is equipped with a more efficient hull design compared to recreational and sit-on models. It also provides the user with a faster speed and requires less effort to paddle, so it is an excellent choice for long-range fishing activities. Designed specifically to manage rough waters and travel over long distances, this type of kayak is equipped with a very small cockpit. Additionally, it also comes with holds, bulkheads, watertight hatches, and dry storage space for gear. Just keep in mind that the smaller cockpit can make the angler feel cramped and it also has a lesser degree of stability compared to sit-on models.

2. Stability and Hull Design

  • Stability

Initial stability is a term used to measure how stable a model feels when the rider is sitting upright on the keel. A wide kayak will have a high degree, while narrow models will have a low degree. Soft-chined models have a high degree, and hard-chined kayaks have a low degree. On the other hand, secondary stability will measure how stable a model feels when leaned on its side. A narrow model will feature a high degree, while wide kayaks will have a low degree.

  • Hull Design

Kayaks with a long hull are faster compared to their short counterparts of the same width because they feature longer waterline lengths. Long hulls are not very maneuverable compared to kayaks with shorter hulls. A wide model is slower because they feature a greater wetted surface area, but they offer more initial stability. Rocker is the term that involves the measure of how much the hull curves. Hulls that have a low degree of rocker will feature a straight design along the keel while hulls that have a high degree will be highly curved in this area.

3. Type of Fishing Activity

Kayaking is divided into two general categories, which are freshwater and saltwater kayaking. Both of these categories are further divided into sub-categories. With that said, it’s also important to understand that each type of kayak fishing presents the fisherman with different types of paddling conditions, so you’ll need to determine which model is the best fishing kayak for your specific needs and style.

A. Freshwater Fishing

  • Still or Calm Water

Freshwater fishing on still water can be any type of body of water from the size of a small pond to one of the great lakes. When you’re paddling on smaller bodies of water, lightweight and short kayaks that feature a high degree of stability and a medium degree of rocker are typically the best choices. Both sit-on and recreational models usually require paddles to cover longer distances in order to reach fishing hot spots. When you’re fishing on larger bodies of water, the kayak’s ability for speed is often a priority compared to maneuverability or ease of transport. Hence, for this type of fishing you’ll want a sit-in, long, and slim kayak that has a lower degree of rocker and stability.

  • Moving Water

Kayaking on moving water can involve a swiftly flowing river or sedate black water. When fishing on moving water, you’ll be faced with a current that propels the kayak forward, and you may also have to deal with a number of obstacles in your way. Therefore, a kayak’s maneuverability will be a priority, and a sit-in model that’s wide and short with a high degree of stability and soft chines will be suitable for this style of fishing.

B. Saltwater Fishing

  • Inshore

Inshore fishing in saltwater involves all water that’s adjacent to the shoreline and has a depth of 70 feet or less. However, when it comes to fishing kayaks, this type of fishing usually consists of bays, inlets, and creeks in saltwater marshes. The user will be commonly required to paddle over large distances and can also be forced to face steep waves or stiff winds all throughout their trip. That is why a slim, long model that features a moderate degree of rocker will be a good choice for this fishing style. Keep in mind that most kayak anglers prefer sit-on-top models because they have a reputation for being unsinkable and allow the rider to re-enter the kayak easily should it capsize.

  • Offshore

Offshore kayak fishing is typically defined as fishing in all water that has a greater depth than 70 feet, which is an environment where the rider will feel pretty small. Hence, offshoring in a kayak will require the angler to paddle over larger distances, facing high waves and stiff winds. So, a slimmer kayak with a moderate amount of rocker will work well.

Enjoy but Be Safe!

Kayak fishing is a fun activity that allows you to enjoy the gift of Mother Nature. It also exposes you to some dangers since you would be traversing bodies of water that you have no control over. That is the reason why you need to have the right type of kayak for your chosen kayak fishing activity.


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