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What Is the Best Kayak for Fishing?

Updated on August 18, 2022
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I've been a kayak fisherman for several years and have gone back and forth between kayak types.

How To Choose The Best Fishing Kayak

The choices out there for fishing kayaks are so numerous that it can be nearly mind boggling to try and pick just one. There are sit-in kayaks, sit-on-top kayaks, pedaling kayaks, inflatable and folding ones, and more. Which kind of kayak that's best for fishing really depends on your own situation. Just like a pair of shoes, there's no "one size fits all" fishing kayak that's right for everyone.

Advantages Of Sit-On-Top Kayaks For Fishing

You can fish from most sit-on-top kayaks, but if you want one that has places to store your gear, place your rods, etc., you should look at kayaks made specifically for fishing. Popular sit on top fishing kayaks include the Ocean Kayak Prowler Trident series, Jackson Cuda, Kraken and Coosa series and the Pelican Castaway. Sit on top kayaks are easy to clean, can't fill with water, and are usually lightweight.

Sit-In Fishing Kayak Advantages

Sit-In kayaks are also very popular with anglers who don't like getting splashed with water. These solve the problem of having a wet rear-end when fishing. For this reason, many fishermen think that sit-in models are the best fishing kayaks. Because your center of gravity is lower, they are more maneuverable and very stable. The downside to sit-in models is that they are a bit harder to clean out, harder get in and out of, and you may sit a couple of inches lower in the water which affects casting a bit. If using a sit-in fishing kayak featuring a full skirt, make sure that you take a kayaking class that teaches you how to do a "wet exit".

Inflatable Fishing Kayaks

The word "inflatable" might make you a bit nervous when it comes to something you are going to be using sharp fish hooks around, yet there are many people who fish out of inflatable fishing kayaks. Inflatable fishing kayaks don't perform as well on the water as rigid plastic ones do, nor do they last as long, but they can be a good option for people who live in apartments or who don't have a vehicle large enough to carry a large kayak.

One of the biggest makers of inflatable fishing kayaks is Sevylor. Accessories for these inflatable fishing kayaks include fast inflating pumps, patch kits, and directional skegs for more control. I personally avoid these, as I'm not fond of having to inflate and deflate something before going fishing, and I don't trust myself with sharp hooks in my only means of getting back to shore.

A Perception pedaling kayak.
A Perception pedaling kayak.

Pedaling Kayaks For Fishing

My own favorite fishing kayak is one that you can both paddle or pedal. What I like about kayaks that you can pedal is the fact that your hands are left free to cast. Also, since your legs have the strongest muscles in the body, you're able to do more work and travel farther with less overall effort.

One study that I read concluded that you use a full ten percent less energy in a pedaling kayak vs. paddling kayaks. There are models of pedaling kayak that use a small propeller, as the one in my Native Watercraft does. Hobie uses a system of flaps, and I've fished out of both. I will say that, although I like my Native Watercraft, the Hobie flap system is less prone to fouling from weeds.

Ascend hybrid kayak.
Ascend hybrid kayak.

Hybrid Fishing Kayaks

There are hybrid models that offer the advantages of a sit on top kayak combined with the waterproofing of a sit - in kayak. Models like the Native Watercraft Ultimate series are a bit like a cross between a canoe and a kayak. This is type is my personal favorite, since they don't make you feel as cramped as a sit - in type. If you fish in very choppy waters and want extra protection from spray, you can add a bow, stern or center skirt.

An interesting variation of the sit on top fishing kayak are ones that are a bit like a giant SUP or stand up paddle board. Using an ice chest with a cushion for seating, they are simply a flat, floating fishing platform that you can paddle. These are large enough and stable enough that fishermen can actually stand up on them and cast, which is a real plus for sight casting and fly fishing in general.

Although they are very stable, It does helps if you have good balance with this type of stand up fishing kayak. After having tried one of these I was disappointed with how difficult it was to paddle, due to the height of your body above the surface of the craft. Another disadvantage of these large stand up fishing kayaks is that they can be a bit hard to manage in high winds and choppy water. The larger the slab of plastic you have in the water, the more you'll feel the effect of the wind.

Final Thoughts On How To Choose The Best Fishing Kayak For You

Whether you choose a sit on top, sit-in kayak, or something in between, you should make sure that you feel good sitting in it, paddling it, and carrying it. What good is a fishing kayak that you're reluctant to use because it weights so much that you don't want to haul it down to the water? It's true that there are kayak dollies that you can attach to make portaging and moving it easier, but they don't help you load it on the roof rack or in the bed of your truck.

My own personal favorite kayak dolly system, after having gone through several kinds, is one called the Railblaza by CTug. It's been pretty much bomb proof for the last four years, and there are no flats to worry about.

Before buying any kayak, take a look at the various carrier systems and determine if they will work on your vehicle with the type of craft you are thinking of buying. You probably don't want to buy a 15' kayak if you have a tiny compact car.

Look for ones that have fisherman - friendly features such as rod holders, tie down straps, storage compartments, etc.

If you are in limbo, and can't decide what model of kayak is best for you to fish in, visit a local shop and ask if you can test paddle a few different models.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Nolen Hart


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