Fishing Kayak: Buying Guide
There are primarily two types of kayak: the sit-on-top kayak and the sit-in kayak. Each style of kayak has its own set of advantages for fishing.
The sit on top variety of kayak are quite new for kayaking and for fishing too. Most people picture sit-in kayaks when they think of the vessels. They are more practical for fishing in many ways as you are at a good height for casting and reeling.
Sit in kayaks are what people usually think of when asked to think of kayaks. They provide the added assurance of being within the boat so that, in the event of it tipping, you can stay closer to the boat. They have a hollow area for your kit (and your legs). They give greater paddler performance as they can take more weight and provide more options for mounting and storage. The sit in kayaks that are designed for white water are not at all practical for kayak fishing.
If you don’t like fishing on your own, then a tandem kayak is a good bet if you or your pal don’t have two kayaks. It means you stay together too. The stability does depend on how experienced both kayakers are though.
- Motorized and Pedal Kayak
Motorized and pedal kayaks give the advantage of being handsfree and without the need for a paddle so that you can concentrating on catching fish. They do tend to be more expensive though.
An inflatable kayak is a good option for if you have little room to store a kayak at your home. They are also a cheaper option too. Having said that, you’ll need to be careful not to get a puncture, although they are usually very robust in their design.
2. Material & Quality
There are many materials from which kayaks are made. Let’s have a look at the options:
Plastic is what most entry-level and beginner kayaks are made from. Polyethylene is most common but there are some manufacturers that use polycarbonate too. It handles impact well but can scratch fairly easily. If it gets broken, it’s difficult to repair.
This is a fiber-glass-embedded resin. It is resistant to scratches in an improved way compared with standard plastic. They are easier to repair. But they don’t handle impacts all that well.
This is the same material that makes up a bullet-proof vest. It is basically a fabric that has been very tightly woven. Due to this, it is not only stronger than other materials such as fiberglass, but it is lighter too. The downside is that it can flex AND it is really expensive.
Once, all boat types were made from wood. Wooden kayaks are pretty rare these days. Having said that, wood is typically strong and lightweight, but the quality is not always adequate.
The weight of a kayak is usually due to a few different factors:
a) The dimensions of the boat
Larger kayaks need more materials so weigh more.
b) Added features
Propulsion mechanisms, fish finders and heavy seats all make kayaks weigh more.
Kevlar is the heaviest material, then plastic and then fiberglass.
How long your kayak is will impact on what type of water you can use it on. If it’s shorter than 11 feet it means it is more maneuverable, but it does mean it won’t be as speedy as longer kayaks.
This is an important thing to prioritize. Think about your own body size and shape when looking at kayaks. Will you plan on fishing whilst standing for example? Wider kayaks offer greater stability to larger people. But, if you’re just going to troll the water and not stand, then narrower will be more easily maneuverable and faster.
Pedal or Paddle: it’s that debate again! Pedal propulsion means that your hands are kept free, which is an advantage, and they can allow shorter boats to track better. You also don’t get as tired if you’re out all day on the water. But they are more expensive and heavier too.
7. Type of Water
The type of water has an impact on which fishing kayak you should look to buy. Do your research and make sure you know whether your kayak of choice can be used in rougher ocean waters such as with saltwater fishing, or whether it can only handle calmer, freshwater areas.
8. Loading Capacity
You will need to consider your own weight as well as that of your kit to before deciding which kayak to buy. The last thing you want to realize is that you can’t put everything you want in your kayak, or that you and your friend are too heavy together for your tandem.
There are many different ways of storing things in a kayak. There may be internal hatches or Portable Accessory Holders (PACs) or even a tow-along! Whatever there is, you need to mentally calculate what you would need on your fishing trip and see if there is enough space to store it all. A sit-in kayak often has more space available as you are sitting in the hull itself.
10. Speed vs Turning
Longer kayaks get through the water better and are therefore faster. Shorter kayaks are much easier to turn than longer ones. So, both of these need to be factored in so that you get the right balance. The keel, if rounded, will mean it’ll turn better too.
Shorter kayaks don’t tend to track as well when paddling and create a bit more of a ‘wag’ as you propel each side in turn. This effect is not as strong if the kayak is longer. If it is over 13 feet, the kayaks should track well. Rudders or skegs help with tracking in all kayaks, especially when it is windy.
12. Number of Seats
This is important mainly if you are considering tandem fishing. Many kayaks hold two people and some even hold three!
You need to consider how you will get your kayak to the water. If you’re carrying it alone, weight is a really important factor, as are the carry handles. Sit on models tend to be heavier, as do those with pedal systems,
14. Keel or No Keel
Some fishing kayaks have a keel. This is a fin-shaped bit usually made from plastic which is in the water at the hull and improves the tracking and speed. If the water will be deep, you should have a keeled kayak. If fishing in shallow or rocky water, no keel is best.
15. Stand-and-Fish Capability
Think about whether you prefer to fish standing up or sitting, or a combination of the two. For standing and fishing, you’ll need to make sure that the kayak will be stable enough to manage it.
Budget is what holds most of us back. There are kayaks that fall into every kind of budget, as you would expect. Specialist kayaks or ones with pedal systems tend to be the most expensive. Firstly, work out your budget and then look at kayaks within that range. It is pointless paying over the odds for a kayak if you won’t use it much or if you really cannot afford to.
Dry storage is important if you want to take things like a phone, camera or keys, out in the water with you. Usually, dry storage containers are small so will only take these little items, but some kayaks do have larger, sealed dry storage areas.
Make sure you know the safety features of the kayaks that you are looking at. Stability is crucial if you are a beginner or novice kayaker. Wider is better in these cases.
Many people believe that the more holders the better, but not necessarily. Too many and your kayak looks cluttered and they get in the way. Two or three rod holders are plenty. Make sure there’s a deck-mounted as well as a flush-mounted holder if possible.
A trolling motor is more often found on an inflatable kayak. Most traditional ones don’t have the ability to have one. You can add one on yourself, but the manufacturer may not allow this as it may compromise the warranty and your safety.
An anchor trolley is rigged directly to the kayak. Most fishing kayaks already have these built in.
A GPS will help you to find your way if you drift and get lost. You can also signal for help should you need it.
So, Which Fishing Kayak is Right for You?
As we have discussed, the first thing you need to do is look at what your individual wants and needs are in a fishing kayak. You also should consider your budget as this usually puts a limit on what you can and cannot buy in terms of a kayak and its accessories.
Once you have decided on all of this, you need to consider where you would store a kayak and how you will get it from A to B. Think of the weight too, especially if you’ll be lugging it about on your own. If it’s a great kayak but you struggle to get it in the water, then it’s not all that great for you, is it?
Think about your own body shape and size. If you’re six foot six then a smaller, 10-foot kayak may not be long enough. If you’re heavier, or wider, you’ll need to take that into consideration too.
Care & Maintenance Tips
Before you set out on a trip, you should make sure that your kayak is fit for purpose and ready to go.
Look at the hull on the underside. Is it damaged? Are there any depressions in the plastic? If so, heat will usually do the trick and get the dents out. Keep it sheltered from sunlight too as sunlight will damage the integrity of the surfaces.
What about the rigging? Make sure all the bungee cords and lines are fit for purpose. UV can damage things over time so make sure you look it over.
- Check the rudder and skegs
If anything is worn or damaged, be sure to replace the old parts.
- Seat, Rod holders and accessories
Check that they are fit for purpose. Usually, accessories are easy to replace if they become damaged.
Ensure that you have all the supplies that you could need in an emergency such as a repair kit. A first aid kit that is freshly stocked is essential too.
Make sure you clean your kayak after you’ve used it to remove grime or salt that can corrode the materials or allow mold to grow. Ensure that you dry the kayak after washing it and unload all the gear that you don’t need from in the kayak.
Following these tips will allow your kayak to stay in the best possible condition for the whole of its hopefully long lifespan.
- Know how to be safe in the water
Firstly, you need to know how to be safe in the water. You might presume that you know what you’re doing, but don’t make any presumptions. Kayak fishing is very physically demanding. Making sure that you have enough left in you to paddle back to shore is essential. You don’t want to be in a rush to beat the darkness or the weather, so make sure you’re fit and well equipped to deal with these situations.
- Know what to do if you fall into the water
There are certain requirements in different states as to what safety equipment kayakers needs to carry or wear. This includes things like a lifejacket, whistle or torch. Make sure you know what the regs are near you.
- Plan your journey before you go
Make sure that others know where you’re headed. If you don’t come back, they’ll at least know where to start looking. Taking a GPS or mobile device is also a good idea if you have one.
This means having access to food and water if you’re a long way from where you set out.
After reading my reviews and guidance I hope that you feel much better informed about the choices that you can make in regard to your own kayak fishing journey. There are some important decisions to be made about what type of kayak you want to use as well as some restraints about what you can afford and your own ability to kayak fish.
If, after reading and digesting everything you’ve read so far, you still are undecided, then plumping for our number one choice is definitely a good shout. It won’t break the bank and is everything you can want in a good all-round kayak to get you started.
1. What is the difference between a fishing kayak and a regular kayak?
Ans: There is not always a lot of difference. Fishing kayaks tend to be more of the sit on top variety and have more accessories dedicated to fishing such as rod holders.
2. How dangerous is kayak fishing?
Ans: Kayak fishing is not a particularly dangerous sport as long as you follow safety advice and guidelines, ensuring you wear a lifejacket and tell others where you are going for example. Likewise, you need to be responsible and only go as far as you are able.
3. How wide should a fishing kayak be?
Ans: Fishing kayaks don’t need to be wide but, the wider they are the more stable they are, so it depends on what you need. Incidentally, if you’re a little wider than average, you need to factor that into your choice of kayak.
4. How do you fish in a river kayak?
Ans: In a river kayak you can fish in two ways: standing or sitting, depending on the capabilities of the kayak you’re in! Otherwise, it is pretty similar to fishing on the shoreline!
5. What should I do with live bait?
Ans: Live bait can be stored in appropriate containers on the deck of your kayak or in one of the storage compartments if you have them.
6. What color kayak is best for fishing?
Ans: Brighter colors are better if you get stuck or need help on the water as potential rescuers can see you! Of course, it remains to be seen whether fish are put off by brighter colors, though I suspect not!
7. Do I need to wear a PFD?
Ans: A PFD (personal floatation device) or life jacket is essential when out on the water, no matter how confident you believe you are. Anyone can get into difficulty. Some states insist that they must be worn, so check out the regs where you are.
8. Do kayaks flip easily?
Ans: Some sit-in kayaks can flip and are designed to flip and roll. But these kayaks are really not advised for kayak fishing. Of course, pretty much any kayak can flip, which is why caution should be taken to choose a kayak that is stable enough for your fishing ability.
9. Which is better - sit on or sit in kayak?
Ans: It really depends on what you need and want. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
10. Will I get wet when I’m fishing with a kayak?
Ans: You shouldn’t get too wet! But don’t be surprised if you get splashed occasionally!