How to Choose A Fishing Kayak: A Beginners Guide

how to choose a fishing kayak

Kayaks offer a unique fishing experience. They can reach waters a regular boat cannot; they put you closer to the water and are less expensive than a traditional boat. For these reasons and many more, people are rushing to purchase a fishing kayak.

Determining how to choose a fishing kayak is overwhelming if you’re new to kayak fishing. The countless options and styles ranging from a sit on top or sit-in kayak, rigid vs. inflatable kayak, determining the right size and which features offer the best fishing experience are daunting. 

This article will guide you into choosing a good kayak for fishing.

How To Pick a Fishing Kayak

When purchasing a fishing kayak, size, stability, and customizability matter. Whether you choose to buy a sit-in kayak or a sit-on kayak, these are the three most important factors to consider.

Size matters because it will determine how your kayak handles different bodies of water and how much gear you can bring on your fishing trip. All kayaks are limited in the amount of space available to the angler, so choose a kayak that maximizes the space available.

Stability is the most important for safety reasons. If the kayak you choose easily flips, then you not only risk losing your fishing gear but also poses a serious safety hazard. Stability is also essential because specific kayaks are stable enough to stand while fishing. Standing will give you, the angler, an advantage while fishing. 

Customizability matters because everyone has a unique fishing style. You will want your kayak to fit your style. Trying to force yourself to adapt to the kayak will only cause unnecessary frustrations while you are fishing. 

Pro Tip: Visit your local kayak shop and ask to demo several different kayaks before purchasing one. The kayak shop will be happy to help you find the fishing kayak that best fits you! You can read an endless amount of reviews online, but until you experience the kayak on the water for yourself, you will never fully know if you’re going to like it or not. 

Sit On vs. Sit-In Kayak For Fishing

Kayaks are primarily available in two different styles, sit on top and sit-in. Several brands also offer hybrid models, a mix of both types. You can fish from either kind. It ultimately comes down to your preferences. Below, we have constructed a list of pros and cons for each style.

Sit on Top Kayak ProsSit on Top Kayak Cons
* More Comfortable Seating
* More Customizable
* Stable
* Offers The Option To Stand
* Easier To Get In and Out
* Easier To Fish From
* Often Higher Priced
* Requires More Balance
(Especially When Standing)
* Heavy
* A Little Harder To Paddle

Compared To:

Sit-In Kayak ProsSit-In Kayak Cons
* Lightweight
* Easy To Paddle
* Less Expensive
* Stable If You Are Seated
* Less Comfortable Seating
* Usually Not As Customizable
* You Can Rarely Stand and Fish
* More Difficult To Get In/Out
* It May Be More Difficult To Fish From

Now that you know the pros and cons of each style, it’s time to determine what size of kayak will best suit your needs. Both types come in multiple different sizes.

Best Size Kayak For Fishing

There is no single best-size kayak for fishing. If that were the case, companies would only sell that one perfect size. Instead, they offer multiple sizes because each angler has specific needs, and the length affects how the kayak handles the water.

You might be limited on storage, so you need a smaller 8’-10’ kayak. Or you might plan to fish the ocean, in which case you will want a larger 12’+ kayak. Many factors go into what the best size kayak for you is. Use this pros and cons list as a guide:

Small Fishing Kayak ProsSmall Fishing Kayak Cons
* Easier To Store
* Lighter In Weight
* Ideal For Small Bodies Of Water
* Easy To Transport
* Easy to paddle
* Less Space Available
* Only Room For One Person
* Sketchy On Big Bodies Of Rough Water

Compared To:

Large Fishing Kayak ProsLarge Fishing Kayak Cons
* Ideal For Large Bodies Of Water
* Sometimes Offer Two-Person (tandem) Fishing Kayaks
* More Space Available
Handles Rough Water Better
Often More Stable and Safer
* Heavy
* More Difficult To Store
* More Difficult To Transport
* Harder To Paddle
sit on top kayak for fishing

Smaller kayaks excel when fishing small bodies of water, such as streams, small rivers, and ponds. Larger kayaks shine when fishing large bodies of water, such as lakes, large rivers, and the ocean. 

Your next step should be choosing how you want to propel your kayak. You might be surprised to hear there are a few different ways to get your kayak moving.

Choosing How to Propel Your Kayak

Many people believe paddling is the only way to propel your kayak on the water; for many years, that was true. However, today there are many ways to make your fishing kayak glide across the water. The three most common methods are paddling, pedaling, and using a motor.

Paddle Propulsion

Paddling a kayak is still the most common way to move a kayak. We recommend always carrying a paddle with you, even if you plan on using a different method. You never know when your other methods might fail you, and it’s good to have a Plan B when Plan A goes wrong. 

Being stranded two miles from the boat ramp when your motor fails isn’t fun. Been there and done that! However, it would be a lot worse without a paddle.

You can purchase several different paddles. Several companies have designed a kayak paddle specifically for kayak fishing if you want to go that route.

Paddling and fishing at the same time are difficult because both require using your hands. You will need to learn to paddle one-handed or find an excellent spot to fish and stop paddling.

Pedal Propulsion

Pedal power has been around for years and continues to increase in popularity amongst kayak anglers. Many people find this method less demanding than traditional paddling. The reason being your legs are naturally stronger than your chest and arms.

Anglers prefer a fishing kayak with foot paddles because they can stay on the move and fish simultaneously. They can make quick adjustments with their kayak without ever having to set the fishing rod down.

Each company has a unique design for its pedal system. Some companies use angled fins, and others use a propeller. Not all pedal systems are transferable from one kayak to another. 

Motor Propulsion

Once thought to only be for larger boats, motors on kayaks have seen a steady increase in demand over the last several years. Fishing kayaks with trolling motors are popular for kayak bass anglers. In comparison, other anglers use small 3hp outboard motors to get to their favorite fishing holes.

Trolling motors are popular because you can still fish and stay on the move or reposition your kayak with little effort. 

Today companies are designing fishing kayaks to mount both motors onto the kayak. Some companies allow you to mount a motor to the back of the boat and a trolling motor onto the boat’s bow. 

Adding a motor adds a lot of weight to your kayak, so before purchasing a motor, check your kayak’s weight limits to ensure it can handle the increase in weight. 


Q: What size fishing kayak do I need?

A: The size will depend on what type the body of water you will be fishing most. A 10’ fishing kayak will handle most situations. However, if you are fishing large bodies of water, you will want to have at least a 12’ kayak.

Q: What are the best kayaks for fishing small inland waters?

A: A 10’ sit-on-top fishing kayak is a great place to start.

Q: What should I look for when buying a fishing kayak?

A: Stability, customizability, overall length, and weight.

Q: Is it worth buying a kayak for fishing?

A: Absolutely! Fishing from a kayak is one of, if not the best, way to fish. Kayaks are reasonably priced and are more versatile than a larger fishing boat.

Q: How much should you spend on a fishing kayak?

A: Get the highest quality kayak you can afford. Cheap fishing kayaks start at ~$200 and can get as expensive as ~$5,000.

Q: What’s the difference between a regular kayak and a fishing kayak?

A: The difference is in the features offered, such as rod holders, tackle storage, and gear tracks. The lengths and widths will also be different. Anglers are looking more for stability and less towards speed.

Q: Can you fish from a normal kayak?

A: Yes, you can fish from a typical kayak. However, it will lack some features that come standard on fishing kayaks.

Q: Is fishing from a kayak fun?

A: Absolutely! Fishing from a kayak is some of the most fun you will ever experience.

About the Author Wesley Littlefield

Wesley Littlefield is an outdoor writer, a lover of kayak bass fishing, husband, and father. When he is not writing, he is spending his time outdoors making lasting memories with his family.

Leave a Comment: