Kayak fishing is becoming very popular, very quickly. Both new and veteran fishing enthusiasts are finding that kayak fishing is an excellent way to get out onto the water without making an investment in a larger fishing boat. Understanding the types of fishing kayaks available is the best way to find the right vessel for your needs. We have compiled a whole bunch of fishing kayak reviews that we think you will enjoy.
Which Fishing Kayak Should You Choose?
There is no one kayak that will work for everyone, so the first thing to consider is where you will be fishing. If you are catching fish in freshwater ponds, there are certain boats that will help you to navigate the waters and catch largemouth bass.
If you need something that you can steer through streams to catch trout, you will require features that only certain kayaks provide. If you are planning to fish out on the ocean, you will need a kayak that helps you to paddle through the surf. If you plan to use it for recreational boating with family, there are other needs to consider as well.
When you have taken these factors into consideration, it pays to take one for a “test drive.” Experts recommend trying them all to see which one fits best.
Selecting the Right Kayak by Type
SIK or SOK: The majority of kayak fisherman go for the sit-on-top kayaks. These are very useful if you plan to go saltwater fishing. SOK kayaks can maneuver and roll without taking on water, and they give you more room to move around to get the best angle. If you’re reeling in a big catch, you can throw your leg over the side to brace yourself safely.
With the sit-in kayak (SIK), you will be better able to fish in rapidly moving water. These kayaks are ideal for river fishing and are also helpful for times when you need a lightweight vessel. SIK kayaks keep you drier since your legs aren’t exposed, which is a bonus if you fish in colder water.
Although some more advanced level paddlers navigate offshore waters in sit on top kayaks, these require more effort and maneuvering skill than the SIK kayaks. They also increase the chances that the fisherman will be exposed to the elements while paddling. More experienced fishers tend to prefer sit-on-top kayaks despite the fact that they require extra effort from the paddler and expose him to the elements. Sit on tops are the preferred choice for inshore fishing, and more people use these than any other type of fishing kayak.
Unlike sit-on-top kayaks, recreational kayaks have larger, enclosed cockpits. They are tough and heavier than their lightweight SIK counterparts. Most recreational kayaks lack bulkheads, and re best used for fishing on calm, still waters. Many fishermen install air bags to prevent them from capsizing. They have a high degree of stability and range from 8-14 feet in length. They are also an excellent choice for fishing in moving water.
Pros: Recreational kayaks are relatively inexpensive while providing a higher degree of stability than sit-on-top kayaks. Because they have an enclosed cockpit, they provide protection from the elements and keep the pilot relatively dry.
Cons: They are slow and don’t do well in rough waters. They are heavy and require extra paddling effort. Novice kayak fishermen may find them slightly harder to use.
Day touring kayaks are longer and slimmer than recreational kayaks. They are long and slim and range from 14 to 18 feet in length. They are also faster and easier to paddle than both sit on top and recreational kayaks. They are, however, less stable than their counterparts. They are a great choice for fishing both inshore and offshore on still water and offshore fishing in saltwater.
They are built to withstand rough water and for long distance travel. They feature watertight compartments and bulkheads that make them safer in the event of a capsizing.
They also provide additional space to store your dry gear. They can range in weight from lightweight models to heavier ones and often feature more comfortable cockpits. Most fishers who use day touring kayaks report a greater level of control over them.
Pros: They are easier to paddle and better for novice fishers. They allow for greater control and often have more comfortable cockpit seating.
Cons: Day touring kayaks often have smaller cockpits and can feel a bit cramped. They are also more expensive than recreational kayaks.
Factors to Consider
Cost: Cost is a major factor when making your kayak purchase. The least expensive type of kayak is the sit on top model. Recreational models are slightly more expensive. Some enthusiasts choose to buy plywood kayak kits, which are similar in price to recreational kayaks. These kits require about 40-60 hours to assemble. Composite kayaks, a favorite of advanced fishers are about two times the cost of plastic kayaks.
Propulsion: Most people want both hands free to ensure they get their catch. For the most part, you will have to paddle your kayak. Some models are propelled with foot pedals, similar to a bicycle. These foot pedals power a motorized propeller that leaves you with both hands-free. One of the newest innovations in kayak fishing is kayaks that are powered entirely by an electric motor.
Length: The length of the kayak will largely determine its speed. You will cover more distances with a longer kayak, but it will be harder to steer in tight spaces. Longer kayaks may be slightly more difficult to transport to your launch site. If you have a larger vehicle, a longer kayak is often a more desirable option for following rapidly moving waters.
Width: This matters when it comes to selecting a fishing kayak. Wide kayaks are slower but have more stability and greater surface area on the bottom. Narrow kayaks have less stability but are faster and easier to maneuver. Long, narrow kayak bodies are the fastest but lack the stability and maneuverability of their shorter and wider counterparts. The short and wide kayaks the most stable and best for rapidly moving water.
Use: If you are going to be fishing on moving water, most experts recommend the use of recreational kayaks. Most fishing kayaks are fine for fishing on calm and inshore waters. You will also want to consider how many people you want to fit on the kayak. If you plan on taking out a buddy or a family member you might want to looking into tandem kayaks.
Weight: Weight is a large factor to consider when it comes to purchasing a fishing kayak. If you are transporting it on top of your car, you will need to ensure that your car can support the weight of the kayak. Heavier kayaks may require the use of two people and hand carts for transport when you reach the launch site.
Storage and Extras: How you will use the kayak makes all of the difference in the type and model that you choose. Will you need to store your bait? Will you bring along large coolers or a change of clothes that you want to keep dry? Do you plan to camp on your kayak as well? These are all factors to consider when choosing the best fishing kayaks for your needs.
Seat: If you need additional back support while fishing, take note of the type of seat that your kayak provides. Most fishing kayaks feature a folding chair style of seat that is made from hard plastic. If you need additional back support, consider a seat with more padding for additional comfort or purchase a pad for your kayak’s seat.
Stand-and-Fish Capability: If you want to sight-cast and fly fish, you will need a wider, more stable kayak that allows you to stand. Anglers usually look out for the widest kayaks possible, giving them additional leverage to stand and cast a wider line.
If standing is not necessary for your needs, a standard kayak is fine. Since many fishermen engage in both standing and seated fishing, it is best to buy the kayak more suited for standing and allow it to do double duty.
Added Accessories: Many of the sit on top kayak models come with included accessories that enhance the fishing experience. You can find models with cooler wells, bait compartments, rod holders and racks, anchor trolleys and paddle parks. These fully loaded models are quite popular with sport fishermen.
If you want a kayak that comes equipped with all of the accessories you need, you can find the right ones. It is worth noting, however, that you can outfit these accessories onto your existing kayak and choose your features individually, buying only the ones that fit your needs.
Sponsons: Sponsons are a pair of long inflatable airbags that are placed on either side of your kayak’s cockpit. These airbags give you the best of both worlds—a sleek appearance, high hull efficiency and stability. You can deflate and inflate these at will while enjoying extra speed without sacrificing stability. Sponsons allow you to enjoy the speed you get from a touring kayak while still getting the stability you need for other types of fishing. Learn more about inflatable fishing kayaks here.
Selecting Your Kayak Fishing Gear
To get the best use out of your fishing kayak, you will need to choose the right gear.
Paddle — The jury is still out about what paddle style is best for fishing kayaks, but everyone agrees that you will need a paddle to propel your vessel. You can use either a single or double bladed paddle, though most fishermen prefer the double blade. Taller fishermen will require a longer paddle, as will wider kayaks.
Narrower kayaks can be efficiently used with paddles of almost any length, but the longer the paddle, the less effort you have to expend to propel your kayak. It is for this reason that many people choose long paddles when looking for a relaxing fishing experience.
If you are entering the surf zone, engaging in races or navigating rapids, the shorter paddle gives you more power and speed.
Paddle park — If you want to securely hold your paddle out of the way while you fish, consider adding on a paddle park. A paddle park is a small plastic clip that mounts to the deck of your kayak and holds your paddle when not in use.
Spray skirt — a spray skirt protects you in a sit-in kayak by providing a neoprene barrier between you and the water. It seals the cockpit so that high waves will not enter. A spray skirt will keep you relatively dry, even when launching or fishing in rough waters.
Cooler — Many of the sit on top models come equipped with molded wells where you can store a small or medium sized cooler. If your kayak does not come with a standard cooler well, you can easily add one by purchasing one from a sporting goods store and welding it on yourself. These coolers can be used to store both food, bait and fish.
Anchor — Unlike a traditional fishing boat, you don’t need a heavy anchor to hold your vessel in place. You can find collapsible anchors that are unique to kayaks and will keep yours firmly anchored.
Drogue — Also called sea anchors, drogues are designed to create drag and slow your kayak down instead of holding it in one place.
Casting net — For fishermen who are fishing with live bait, a casting net will allow you to approach schools of fish and capture them quickly.
GPS — A marine-quality GPS is a useful tool for kayak fishermen. Not only do they keep track of your position on the water, but they also allow you to keep track of any good fishing spots so you can return to them later. They can also be useful in the case that you are in need of emergency rescue.
Sonar — These units, also called fish finders, give you a picture of what’s below your boat and make it easier for you to locate the best areas that are teeming with fish.
When considering how to choose the best fishing kayak for your specific needs, there are many factors to keep in mind. How you will use the kayak, where you will be fishing and what type of maneuverability you will need will all factor in what kind of kayak you will ultimately purchase.