If you already know what you’re looking for in a fishing kayak and just want to compare makes and models, scroll down to the comparison table below. If you’re not sure what to look for in a fishing kayak, then read the following sections.
How To Choose the Best Fishing Kayak For You
The most common considerations when choosing a fishing kayak include paddle vs. pedal, sit-on-top vs. sit-in, fishing location and conditions, the amount and type of rigging, and cost.
Paddle vs. Pedal
I have to confess to being somewhat of a traditionalist when it comes to this matter, but don’t let my own close-mindedness stop you from considering a pedal-powered kayak for fishing. Many people find pedal-powered kayaks to be less fatiguing when traveling longer distances, and you can still use a paddle if you want to or need to. You’ll want to carry a spare paddle in case something goes wrong with the pedal drive system, but then it’s always wise to carry a spare paddle anyway. Note that you will have to pay extra for a pedal-powered kayak, as they can be considerably more expensive. Hobie is the leading manufacturer of pedal-powered kayaks.
Sit On Top vs. Sit-In
Most kayak anglers prefer sit on top kayaks. Sit on top kayaks generally allow for easier access to gear and also make it easier to get out and wade if desired. One downside of sit on top kayaks is that they can provide a wet ride, which can be uncomfortable or even dangerous if the water is particularly cold. The sit-in kayaks that would be most appropriate for fishing have very large cockpits to facilitate easy gear access and exit/entry while on the water. However, even with a large cockpit, it will be harder to get out of a sit-in kayak should you decide to wade.
Fishing Location and Conditions
Will you be fishing in slow moving rivers, ponds, lakes, or the ocean? Warm water or cold water? Will you be launching and landing through surf? Choose a kayak whose features are what you need for 90% of your trips, not the exceptions. As mentioned above, sit-in kayaks can be a more comfortable choice for particularly cold water. Kayaks that have more “rocker” (upswept bow and stern) will tend to do better in waves and current but won’t track as well (i.e., won’t go as straight) on flat water. Choosing any kind of kayak involves trade-offs. All else being equal, longer kayaks are generally faster than shorter ones and wider kayaks are generally more stable (and slower) than narrower ones. While it’s certainly nice to have a stable kayak for fishing, keep in mind that almost any kayak will feel more stable the more you use it. Therefore, unless you’re a particularly large individual, it’s probably best to avoid buying the widest kayak you can find in the pursuit of rock-solid stability, because you will quite possibly end up with a kayak that is slower than you would like and wider than you need. That said, you don’t necessarily want to get the narrowest one either! 😉
Ultimately, the only thing that separates a fishing kayak from any other kayak is a rod holder and other rigging. Many of the fishing kayaks on the market today are available in “angler” versions (with rigging designed so that accessories are convenient for most paddlers) or stock versions (add your own rigging). Stock kayaks are cheaper than rigged “angler” models so, if you’re relatively handy, not only can you save some money by doing your own rigging but you can customize your kayak to fit your own personal needs and wants. I think it is generally better to start with less gear and add the things you need over time, rather than to get everything you might need or want from day one. You can certainly get started with just a couple of simple rod holders, a paddle leash, a personal flotation device (PFD), safety whistle, milk crate, and a dry bag. Everything else can be added later.
Ideally, cost should take a back seat to the other considerations discussed above. However, if the fishing kayak you want isn’t in your budget right now, just buy what you can afford. You can always upgrade later. The most important thing is to get out on the water and catch some fish!
The Best Fishing Kayaks
Tips: Click on a product name for more information. Then click on the Comparison tab to find the best price.
Make and Model Propulsion Rigged For Fishing Length Width Weight Price
Hobie Mirage Revolution 13 Kayak Hobie MirageDrive (Pedal) Yes 13' 5" 28.5" 70 lbs. $2499
Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 Fishing Kayak Hobie MirageDrive (Pedal) Yes (extensive) 12' 36" 105 lbs. $3299
Jackson Cuda 12 Fishing Kayak Paddle Yes (extensive) 12' 6" 31" 74 lbs. $1439
Jackson Cuda 14 Fishing Kayak Paddle Yes (extensive) 14' 3" 30.5" 80 lbs. $1539
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 Angler Kayak Paddle Yes (extensive) 12' 3" 30" 67 lbs. $1119
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 Angler Kayak Paddle Yes (extensive) 10' 30.5" 61 lbs. $919