January 29, 2023 7 min read

Fishing kayaks buyer’s guide for the best day out

how to choose a fishing kayak correctly

Hoping to get out on the water with a fishing rod and a boat? You are going to need the right fishing kayak for the job to optimize your haul and have the best day out. But how do you choose from all the fishing kayaks?

From length and dimensions to drive power, there are some key elements that will affect the decision-making process. Finding the best fishing kayak is in your interest after all… Having the right fishing craft under your seat is the foundation for having the best day fishing from a kayak.

Let us help you by outlining how to choose a fishing kayak in this specific guide. We will talk about the different types of kayaks, the importance of hands-free fishing and paddling, and answer your questions on how to choose the best fishing kayak

Types of Fishing Kayaks

As with every sport, there are different types of equipment you can use when kayak fishing. There are main two basic types of kayaks – sit on top and sit inside kayaks. Then you can begin to consider solo or tandem, inflatable or hardshell, pedal or paddle. The list goes on! 

Don’t sink in all the options! We have outlined the perks and drawbacks of each kayak type, starting with the time-old debate of sit on top vs sit inside

Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak

How To Choose A Fishing sit-on-top Kayak

Sit-on-top kayaks are perfect and will meet your fishing needs. The open deck space allows you to spread out your gear and gives you the room needed when catching fish. Also, any water that comes on board from caught fish will quickly drain off through scupper holes or simply just off the side. 

The main advantage of a sit-on-top type is the seat position. You sit much higher than a sit-inside type, aiding in viewing and sighting where the fish are. When choosing a fishing kayak, sit-on-tops have to be your first criterion.  

Sit-Inside Fishing Kayak

How To Choose A sit-inside Fishing Kayak

Sit-inside kayaks are a choice for whitewater paddlers and winter warriors wanting to use neoprene spray skirts. However, they are not the best type of kayak when it comes to fishing.

Water will stay inside the vessel until the end of your session if you get splashed. They are difficult to recover if you get flipped. And most importantly, cargo space is severely limited, which is no good for anglers and their gear! This does not mean there are no sit-in kayaks for fishing options available though.

Inflatable Kayak or Hardshell Kayak

How To Choose An inflatable Fishing Kayak

Hardshell fishing kayaks are bulky and heavy. This can be challenging for some people in terms of handling, transporting, and storing. Inflatable fishing kayaks are a good lightweight option for great portability and even lower budgets.

Overall, inflatable kayaks offer more benefits than hard shells with the downside that they need inflating and deflating each time. But it ultimately comes down to personal preference.

Inflatable Kayaks Hardshell Kayaks
Weight: 25+ lbs Weight: 55+ lbs
Materials: rubbers or PVC Materials: wood, fiberglass, or composites
Cost: $$ with cheap repair options Cost: $$$ with expensive repair options
Super portable and easy to store Needs roof racks and space to store
Good quality will bounce off rocks Super durable and can handle rocks

Paddle Kayak or Pedal Kayak

Similar to inflatable or hardshell, pedal vs paddle is another personal choice. However, when it comes to fishing, controlling your kayak hands-free is a huge benefit! Some kayaks are also compatible with trolling motors, adding a secondary propulsion system to assist in getting around. 

Pedal kayaks allow you to use your hands for your fishing rod and gear. So if you want to maximize your day out on the water, opt to go for pedal-powered kayaks!

Fishing Kayak Dimensions and Shape

The size and shape of your fishing kayak will affect your paddling experience. 


How To Choose A Fishing Kayak by length

A shorter kayak is good for quicker turns and higher maneuverability. A longer kayak cuts through water more efficiently, especially over longer distances. Fishing kayaks can be anything from 10’ to 15’, the length depending on where you are often choosing to fish. Keep in mind that you need enough room, so a longer kayak may be preferable.


Weight has a direct effect on durability, speed, storage, and transport. You also need to think about the weight of your fishing equipment that will be added to the kayak weight. The heavier the load, the more strength, and energy it will take to paddle. 

Therefore, you also need to look into the weight capacity of the kayak. Work out how heavy you and your gear are collectively, then look at kayaks that fit this weight. 

Hull Shape

How To Choose A Fishing Kayak by shape

A kayak hull is the bottom “floating surface” that is in direct contact with the water. How this is shaped will directly affect how the kayak handles and performs. There are several different hull shapes, all of which influence the speed and glide, tracking and maneuverability, and stability of the kayak.

  • Pontoon hull/double hull – good stability but compromises the speed and maneuverability. Very common in beginner sit-on-top kayak options. Also known as a W hull design.
  • Tri hull/cathedral hull – common in ocean kayaks providing good stability with additional tracking and maneuverability features. Also known as a V-shaped hull design.
  • Displacement hull – cuts through the water. Common for recreational, touring, and sea kayaks.
  • Planing hull – rides on top of the water, poor secondary stability. Good for beginners. 

Location Factors For Fishing Kayaks

How To Choose A Fishing Kayak depending on location

Open ocean or sweeping rivers? Large lakes or tight spaces? Kayaking anglers will have a clear idea of where they want to go fishing. The location may just be the deciding factor behind choosing a fishing kayak!

If you are planning on paddling in hard-to-reach nooks and crannies, then smaller kayaks will be a better choice. This will allow you to navigate the boat into small spaces. 

White water and choppy open water requires an incredibly stable kayak to help you out on your fishing excursion. Longer kayaks will give you this and give you more speed when paddling in between fishing sites.  

And then of course you have the accessibility to consider. Getting your kayak into the water is an important part of how to choose the right fishing kayak for you. Do you have a vehicle capable of transporting the kayak? Or do you need a compact inflatable type?

Specific Fishing Kayak Features

Along with the shape and size of the boat, a kayak needs specially designed features and accessories to make it suitable for a fishing trip. 

Convert Your SUP Into A Fishing Kayak

How To Choose A Fishing Kayak by converting SUP

Already got a SUP? Paddle boards are super versatile and can easily be converted into a comfortable kayak-type vessel with a simple addition of a seat and an extra paddle blade. 

There are certain perks of using a stand up paddle board for fishing over a kayak. The main being a SUP is lightweight and significantly easier to move about on land. This may be the perfect solution for you to get out on the water fishing!

6 Key Things To Know Before Buying A Fishing Kayak

things to consider before buying a fishin kayak

Take away these key fishing features before you head out and buy your next kayak:

  1. Length does matter. The longer the kayak, the faster you can paddle but shorter kayaks are easier to turn.
  2. Storage is important. Being an angler requires gear. Having enough room on your kayak is key. Sealed storage hatches are super cool to have as well.
  3. Do not compromise on stability. When you are tackling a big fish you need to rely on your kayak to stay strong underneath you.
  4. Use a keel/rudder if you are in open water. But in shallow rocky waters go without.
  5. Going lightweight is often a good idea. This is in regard to the kayak and all your gear.
  6. Get a fishing life jacket in your gear. With extra pockets and obvious safety features, a PFD is always a good idea. 


🏆 What is a good size kayak for fishing?

Most fishing kayaks are between 10 feet and 14 feet. If you are a lightweight kayaker, then you should be looking for a smaller kayak. If you are heavier, then you should consider getting a fishing kayak that is more toward the top end of this range.

👍 Does the color of the kayak matter for fishing?

Color does matter! Besides looking super cool, the kayak color does have an impact on your fishing success. Yellow acts as an attractant for fish, therefore making your chance of a catch higher. However, if you are also hunting waterfowl then a camo color will be better and more versatile.

🏝️ What is the difference between an 8-foot and a 10-foot kayak?

The two-foot difference will affect the weight, weight capacity, stability, and performance of the kayak. 8-foot is a small kayak that is best suited for petite kayakers and children, or experienced whitewater rapid riders. 10-foot kayaks are more appropriate for kayak fishing as they have more space for fishing accessories.

❓ Is a lighter or heavier kayak better for fishing?

Fishing kayaks tend to be heavier than regular kayaks. This is because they are bigger, giving you more space to carry equipment, which also makes them more stable. Typically, you will not be paddling at speed when fishing, so having a heavier kayak is not an issue when kayak fishing.

📦 Are sit-on-top or sit-inside kayaks better for fishing?

While you can use sit-inside kayaks for fishing, it is generally accepted that sit-on-top types are far superior for the job. They do not hold water on board like sit-inside types, while also allowing you to stand up and get a higher viewpoint. This is a good feature when it comes to kayak fishing.

Abi Leach
Abi Leach

Surfer, paddle boarder, and ocean lover. She loves traveling and discovering new destinations all across the world. When she's not writing, she's exploring the outdoors and enjoying fresh air.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in Kayak Expert Advice

White folding kayaks
5 Best Folding Kayaks and Buyer's Guide

December 05, 2023 13 min read

Read More
Woman cleaning the interior of her kayak
A Complete Guide To Cleaning Your Kayak

October 26, 2023 7 min read

Read More
Kayaks with rudder
Kayak Skeg or Rudder: What’s the Difference?

September 05, 2023 6 min read

Read More