A Guide to Selecting a Fishing Kayak
Whether you want to go fishing on a slow-moving river, or on a still lake or pond, a fishing kayak can help you gain access to remote or hard-to-reach fishing spots that may not be accessible by larger boats or on foot. Unlike a motor boat, they won’t disturb the fish. And fishing kayaks are equipped with special compartments and bungee cords to hold fishing gear and tackle. Some even have a stand to hold your fishing pole for you, so you can fish hands-free!
We’ll see that there are a few options among fishing kayaks, whether you prefer fishing standing or sitting, and whether you want to sit with back support or not. Fishing kayaks will also vary in their dimensions, as well as their portability. You can opt for a one-piece hardshell kayak or an inflatable or foldable model. Even if you don’t actually catch anything, a kayak can provide you with a more intimate and relaxing connection with nature! Whether you’re an experienced angler or a casual fisherman, a fishing kayak can provide you with an unparalleled outdoor experience!
What’s the difference between a kayak and a canoe?
They differ significantly in their construction and use.
The number of people they can fit: For example, in the Lifetime Kodiak Canoe, we see that it can seat three people, while a kayak (such as the Lifetime Tamarack Kayak pictured below) will only fit one or two people.
Legroom: You’ll typically sit in a canoe with your legs close to your body. In a kayak, there’s enough room for you to ride with your legs extended.
Enclosed top: A canoe is totally open, while a kayak has an enclosed top.
Room for accessories: The enclosed top in the kayak allows for additional storage ideas. For example, fishing kayaks can have bungee cords on the bow (the front of the kayak) and stern (the rear of the kayak). You can use the bungee cords to secure items. Kayaks can also have rod holders to hold your fishing rods in place, as well as paddle keepers to secure your paddles.
Lifetime Kodiak Canoe with 2 Paddles (left), vs. the Lifetime Tamarack Pro Kayak
Types of Fishing Kayaks
Looking at the Best Reviews Guide list of the most popular fishing kayaks, we see that they differ in how you sit:
Sit-on-top kayak: A sit-on-top kayak usually has a removable seat, allowing you to either sit or stand. You’ll also have a good amount of legroom. There’s a bit of depth to this type of kayak, to allow you to store crates or fishing gear. An example is the Perception Pescador Pro 12’ Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayak.
Perception Pescador Pro 12’ Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayak
Sit-in kayak: This design isn’t so popular among fishing kayaks, since they offer less storage space. When you go fishing, storage space is essential: you need room for fishing gear, food and drink, and other accessories. When you go into a sit-in kayak, the lower half of your body is enclosed inside the kayak. That makes it harder to get in and out of the kayak. But it also protects you from the wind and water, and there is an option to add a “skirt” around your seat, to keep water out. A sit-in kayak also provides better support for your back and arms. It also can allow for storage space that can keep your things dry. An example is the Perception Sound 10.5’ Sit-Inside Kayak for Fishing and Fun.
Perception Sound 10.5’ Sit-Inside Kayak for Fishing and Fun
Fishing kayaks will also differ in their materials and construction. There are three main designs:
Hardshell: Most of the fishing kayaks in the Best Reviews Guide list are hardshell kayaks, made from polyethylene, fiberglass, Kevlar, or even wood. Hardshell kayaks tend to be heavy, but that makes it easier to control them when paddling.
Inflatable kayaks: These are more portable than the hardshell kayak, and will usually be less expensive–around half or even one-third the price! They can be constructed from neoprene, PVC, or polyurethane-coated cloth. They’re incredibly durable, to be able to withstand getting punctured by hitting rocks or other sharp objects. They also can have multiple air chambers, so that if one does get punctured, you’ll still remain afloat with the remaining chamber. An example is the Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak. It can seat 2 people and has a weight capacity of up to 470 pounds, including people and equipment.
Folding kayaks: These are also called “origami kayaks”. They’re usually made of sheets of polypropylene on a fiberglass frame. They can weigh from 28 - 41 lbs, and have a weight capacity of anywhere from 250 to 500 lbs! An example is the Oru Kayak Foldable One-Person Kayak.
Oru Kayak Foldable One-Person Kayak
What reviewers say
Here are some customers’ impressions about the fishing kayak that they purchased:
For use on saltwater: You might want to use your kayak for saltwater fishing as well. But then you should check that the kayak’s material won’t corrode from exposure to saltwater. The Old Town Sportsman Salty PDL 120 Pedal Fishing Kayak is called a “salty” because it’s made from plastic and aluminum, which won’t be damaged in saltwater.
Old Town Sportsman Salty PDL 120 Pedal Fishing Kayak
Safety with an inflatable kayak: Despite the durability and tear-resistance of most inflatable kayaks, customers say that sharp rocks, sea shells, or barnacles can compromise the bottom of the kayak. It’s best to play it safe and use it on still water. Also, one customer experienced his inflatable kayak filling up with water all the time. He later discovered an open seam in the bottom! A hardshell kayak wouldn't have that problem.
Here are some features to look for when choosing a fishing kayak:
Seats with back support: There are sit-on-top kayaks that come with a seat that offers you back support, which could be a necessity if you fish for hours at a time. They also come with a mesh back, to allow for air circulation, so that you won’t feel hot and sweaty.
Paddles, pedals, or power: The conventional way of moving with your kayak is by paddling. But you can find kayaks that allow you to insert a motor drive or pedal drive. One such model is the Wilderness Systems Radar 135 Sit-on-top Fishing Kayak. But other kayaks don’t allow for these other options. And some kayaks require that you purchase the paddles separately.
Wilderness Systems Radar 135 Sit-on-top Fishing Kayak
Scupper holes: Kayaks have very low sidewalls, so unfortunately water could get inside. But most kayaks have scupper holes on the sides, allowing water to drain out. You can unplug these scupper holes if any water gets inside, and plug them up to keep your gear dry. There are also special bilge pumps that you can use to get the water out more quickly if your kayak gets filled up with water at any point.
Weight capacity: Take note of the kayak’s weight capacity. When it says that a kayak has a maximum capacity of 450 lbs, take into account that the kayak itself can be of considerable weight, especially if it’s a hardshell kayak. So you may be left with only 350 lbs of weight for yourself and your gear.
We went through some of the features of the best fishing kayaks. Looking at their features, you can see that they’re not just “another type of boat”. They have special bungee cords, hooks, handles, and storage compartments to let you take along everything you need for a fishing trip. All you have to do is decide which model suits you the best!