- General, Touring

Choosing a Fishing Kayak

Which fishing kayak is right for you?

Are you confused about which fishing kayak you should purchase? If you have never used a kayak before you may not be sure which one you will need. Keep reading and we will try to break down the basic differences enabling you make an educated purchase.

There are basically 2 types of kayaks.

They are Sit On Tops (SOT) and Sit In Kayaks (SIK). Each type has models that fish well. Before we discuss the merits and differences of each type let’s first discuss kayaks for fishing in general.

What makes a kayak a good fishing kayak?

Fishermen often have needs that may be different than someone who intends strictly to paddle. Some of the basic features that fisherman prefer in a kayak are stability, storage, and enough flat surfaces to bolt on fishing extras such as rod holders and depth finders. Performance and maneuverability, while important to many, may not be the primary factors in choosing your first fishing kayak.

Start your decision process by answering some basic questions which will help you narrow down the kayak models that are most appropriate for you.

1. First consider you.

What are your height, weight, inseam measurements and general condition? If you are a big or very tall man, there are certain kayaks that will suit you better. In fact, this will make your decision easier because finding the right kayak will be more a matter of finding one that handles your size and weight more than anything else. Look for kayaks with lots of leg-room and a weight capacity that will handle you and your gear.

If you are a small to average sized person getting a kayak that’s big, heavy, and has a 600-pound capacity probably is not your best choice. But if you are going to fish in the ocean a very small kayak would not be the best choice either. As you will see choosing a kayak can be a compromise of sorts. As you read on, consider the different factors and consider them while making your choice.

2. What vehicle are you going to use to transport your kayak?

If you are planning to transport your kayak in the bed of a pickup truck a bigger, heavier kayak does not present a problem. However, if you have a large SUV, like a 4WD Suburban, you should be conscious of the kayak’s weight because it will take some extra effort to get the kayak on and off of the roof of such a vehicle. The bottom line is that if your kayak is easy for you to load and unload you will use it more often.

3. Where do you plan on using the kayak?

Will your kayak be used exclusively in freshwater? If so where? Lakes, ponds, small rivers, and creeks? Will you be fishing large, open bodies of water with lots of waves and chop? Do you plan on using your kayak in saltwater? Do you plan on fishing in the ocean and launching your kayak through the surf? How are you planning to get your kayak to the water? Can you simply drive it to the water and launch or do you plan on launching in remote areas where you can not drive your vehicle to the water’s edge? All these factors are important when choosing your kayak.

4. What fishing methods do you like to use?

Do you only use one style? Do you use artificial lures, fish with live bait, or both? If you are going to use bait, do you want to use live bait-fish or dead bait? Will you need room for a live-well on your kayak? Do you plan on anchoring and chumming? Do you fly fish? The type of gear you plan on attaching and taking along is going to affect your decision. In short, the way(s) you fish can affect which kayaks are going to better suit your needs.

5. What type of fisherman are you?

Are you strictly a catch and release fisherman, do you like to take the occasional meal home, or are you regularly taking fish home? Where are you going to store your catch? Is there room in/on the kayak you have selected?

Which style of kayak is right for you? A Sit On Top or a Sit Inside Kayak?

Sit In Kayaks are the traditional type of kayaks. When most people think about kayaks this is the type that usually comes to mind. They are similar to canoes in that you sit inside on the bottom hull of the kayak. Sit ins offer more initial protection from the elements, however in rougher conditions they can fill with water without the proper accessories. In adverse conditions they are usually outfitted with a spray-skirt. A skirt is a covering that goes around you and the opening in the kayak that prevents water from entering. When a skirt is used you may inadvertently limit access to the items that are inside of the kayak, but if you are a bare bones type fisherman this may suit you just fine.

Sit On Top kayaks are a newer breed of kayak. They resemble a modified surfboard of sorts and you sit on them rather than in them. SOTs have what are known as scupper holes, which allow water to drain from the cockpit. This way when water washes over the kayak the cockpit may briefly flood but it will quickly drain eliminating the need to pump out any water. This is especially beneficial in places like the surf zone.

Both styles of kayaks are useful to fisherman and within each style there are models that will suit you better than others. Let’s get back to some of those earlier questions and see why they’re important in helping you choose which of these types of kayak will be best for you.


Fishermen do something in a kayak that most paddlers do not – they fish. Therefore having a relatively stable platform can be very important, especially to a person who is new to the sport and new to kayaks. When kayakers discuss stability they talk about 2 types. Initial and secondary. Initial stability is the side-to-side wobble that you feel when you sit in a kayak. Secondary stability is when the kayak is nearing its point of flipping and how much forgiveness it has before you actually flip.

Many recreational kayaks have tremendous initial stability but have a very abrupt secondary. When they reach their secondary limit you’re literally dumped. Conversely there are kayaks that wobble like mad but are very forgiving when they come to the dump point. Most recreational fishing kayaks have a good compromise of both initial and secondary stability.

Since you sit on or near the floor of a SIK they tend to seem more stable. In SOTs you sit on the kayak and since it has a double hull you also sit higher. This higher sitting position can initially make a SOT seem less stable. If you have a SOT and a SIK that are the same length and width the SIK will probably be more stable. Because of this SOT designers tend to make their kayaks wider. So no matter which style you choose there will be a model that you will feel comfortable in.

Initial stability can seem more important to beginners and secondary stability more important to seasoned kayakers. It makes sense. The beginner hasn’t developed a sense of balance yet. It’s a lot like learning how to ride a bicycle. When you start out it’s new so you think about it more. After a short while it becomes second nature and you don’t think about it at all.

Speed: Generally, the longer and narrower a kayak the faster it is. SIKs are usually faster, however there are fast SOTs too. Speed is only important if you need it. If the majority of your fishing is close to shore or in small, protected areas, than you probably won’t need a long fast kayak. However, if you’re fishing a big reservoir, bay, sound, or in the open ocean the ability to cover distance may be very important to you. An equally sized SIK will usually be faster because it is narrower than a SOT of the same length.


If you’re going to fish in small creeks or narrow estuaries, you’ll probably want a kayak that is easy to maneuver. A long fast touring kayak will be more difficult to use in these situations and might take away from your overall fishing experience. A shorter SOT or SIK will suit you better if these types of environments. On big waters making a sharp turn usually isn’t crucial so a longer kayak is not a problem.

Accessory Friendly:

one of the joys of kayak fishing is converting a simple recreational kayak into a very effective and compact fishing vessel. This is done by adding fishing accessories. How much you add depends largely on your fishing style and your philosophy on gear. Some fishermen just take a rod and a few lures along and others like to bring lots of gear along. No matter what your preference, simply adding one rod holder will greatly increases the fishability of your kayak. Lots of flat surfaces are nice for mounting accessories.


Fishermen tend to take a lot of gear with them. Organizing this gear requires that the kayak you have chosen has adequate storage. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it’s nice to have a few different places to put your stuff. SOT kayaks have a double hull which means there is a lot of potential storage below the deck. Depending on your needs this may be very important to you. Maybe you plan on camping or making long journeys in your kayak. This large relatively dry storage area may appeal to you. If you plan on launching your kayak through the surf this space will allow you to stow rods bellow deck which will keep them safe while you pass through the surf zone. Many SIK have hatches that offer access to sealed-off compartments in the hull. Many of the SIKs used by fisherman also have large open cockpits that make it easier to get at gear you may have stored around you. Milk crates and other plastic containers can also be used for external storage They fit into the tank-wells of many SOT kayaks and can also be lashed onto the deck of SIKs as well.

Fishing Logistics:

Kayak fishing takes place in many different environments, from large bays, sounds, and even the open ocean, but many of us fish some very small waters too. A small shallow river can be very easily fished with a short, lightweight kayak. Such a kayak will be easier to negotiate around obstacles such as logs, log jams, rocks, waterfalls & spillways, fast water, and rocky shallows. There will be times when you need to carry or drag your kayak around, over, or through these places. In these types of situations a smaller lighter kayak is the better choice.

Some Kayaks to consider:

Kayaks suitable for big & tall paddlers:

1. Hobie Outback

2. Hobie Revolution

3. Hobie Adventure

4. Hobie Quest

5.Ocean Kayak Prowler Trident 15

6.Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game

7.Heritage Redfish 14

8. Native Manta Ray 14

9. Native Ultimate 16

10.Wilderness Systems Tarpon 160i

11.Wilderness Systems Pungo 140

12. Wilderness Systems Ride 135

13. Malibu X-Factor

Kayaks suitable for average to smaller paddlers (average to smaller paddlers have few restrictions and can use almost any sit-on or sit-in kayak that suits their needs. Below are some popular choices):

1. Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120

2. Wilderness Systems Pungo 120

3. Native Manta Ray 12

4. Hobie Sport

5. Hobie Revolution

6. Hobie Outback

7. Hobie Quest

8. Malibu Mini-X

9. Perception Koho

10. Perception Patriot Angler

Best of luck in making a decision – hope to see you on the water soon.