In today’s day and age, technology brought about a plethora of options when it comes to fishing kayaks. In fact, those of us who follow these water-based advances in equipment we can safely say we had never had so many options, features, and customization.
You can pick a fishing kayak with a paddle or pedals or with the combo of the two. You can also get track mounts and rod holders more than you can count, all for the best kayak fishing experience.
Now, with such a vast range of fishing kayaks, how do you pick one that truly has it all, and it worth the money?
Well, easily! You just follow this fishing kayak buying guide, and by the end of it, you will have a better idea of what’s available on the market and which fishing kayak is the right one for your specific needs.
You being here means that you are interested in taking fishing as a sport or you have already started, but you want to upgrade your fishing gear and skills. And that’s fantastic.
Now, if you already have some gear but you now want to buy a kayak and fish from it instead of a bigger boat, then the good news is that almost all fishing gear you have can be somehow adapted to work from a kayak.
However, if you are fishing from a powerboat at the moment, the good news is that fishing from a kayak will be much cheaper and more accessible as there are no insurance premiums, maintenance bills, storage and launch fees, and even boat loan payments. Kayaks make it all the easier.
With that said, let’s start with the basics so that we can determine which fishing kayak will be the right one for you.
This is to determine whether you will be fishing in freshwater, saltwater, farm ponds, huge lakes, slow-moving rivers, offshore, warm water, or cold water, launching through the surf, or from a dock, or a tiny opening in the shoreline, or maybe even a combination of all of these.
Also, determine whether you are someone who fishes with minimal gear or you want to take everything you have with you.
Basically, by starting with the end in mind, you will have a much easier time narrowing the list of choices. With that in mind, let’s begin with the narrowing.
Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak vs. Sit-Inside Fishing Kayak
Many of the experienced kayakers actually like the sit-on-top fishing kayaks because of the convenience. They can easily add accessories whenever they need something and can get out and wade faster.
While these types of kayaks may be convenient, they are tricky because the ride can wet sometimes, and this may not be such a problem in the summer, but late autumn or winter fishing trips are not the time you want to get wet and stay like that for the whole day.
This is why a sit-in kayak may be a better option overall. These are the cockpit-style kayaks, with the only difference being that fishing kayaks have a much larger opening.
Another upside of the sit-on-top kayaks is that they are much stabler since you are down inside the boat. This makes the center of gravity lower, so for those who are inexperienced or are fishing in water that they need better stability, a sit-on-top fishing kayak would be an optimal choice.
Just one last note, the downside of the sit-on-top kayaks is that they are somewhat tricky to get out of if you decide to wade.
Speed vs. Stability and Length vs. Width
There are some tradeoffs when it comes to different kayak constructions. It’s like you are getting stability but losing speed and vice versa, but that’s not really up to the manufacturers, but the laws of physics instead.
For instance, you have longer fishing kayaks that offer increased speed when compared to the shorter ones. Also, wide kayaks are more stable than narrower ones, but they will be slower, and you build your skills and get better.
Some kayaks are designed with a “rocker” also known as the upswept bow, and they are great for wavy waters and in currents but are not recommended for flat water fishing.
As time goes by and you have been fishing off of the same kayak now, you may realize how the kayak that seemed stable is now too slow for you. This is because you got better at balancing and kayaking in general, so now you need more speed to get a good experience.
Don’t buy off the bat!
Rushing things when buying something as permanent as a kayak is not a good decision. You need to try before you buy, and even though you are educating yourself here, you still need to talk to an expert and consult on which fishing kayak will truly satisfy your needs.
Many kayak dealers will give you a trial with the kayak before you buy, so don’t be shy and try out as many as you can so that you get a hold of what’s right for you.
After all, it’s tough to pick the right fishing kayak if you only read reviews online, or you try one kayak for a short paddle. You may think that fishing isn’t such a big deal, and you can do it from anywhere, but kayak fishing is something that you need to be as practical with as you can.
Transportation and Storage
One thing to think about parallel to which kayak characteristics will satisfy your needs is the transportation and storage of the fishing kayak you buy.
Namely, there are many trailers, roof racks, carts, and straps available on the market, and you can even make a rack for a truck yourself, but that’s only if you are handy with tools. If not, buying one is a perfectly acceptable choice.
Once you get your kayak home, you need to prepare a place where you can store it.
Ideally, you would have thought about this earlier before buying so that you are sure you can safely store your kayak without the risk of it being damaged or even stolen.
When buying it, you can also buy racks, stands, or covers for any kayak out there. However, depending on where you store your new kayak, remember that plastic doesn’t like prolonged direct sunlight and heat. So, keep it away from those elements.
The garage is usually the ideal place for a kayak of any type.
Read more about inflatable kayaks that are very easy to transport and store
If you like tools and are handy, then you will live the life of rigging. Why?
Well, stock kayaks are much cheaper than rigged “angler” kayaks, so buying a stock boat instead of the rigged will save you quite a lot. Then, with the rigging, you can add a personal touch to your kayak. However, remember the saying:
Measure twice, drill/cut once!
Hmm, I don’t know if they drill or just cut in the saying, but when rigging your kayak, it’s important to be extra sure when doing either of those.
Also, don’t just cut or drill immediately after buying your kayak. Go for a sail first and get a feel for it before you make permanent installations and changes to your new kayak.
Since fishing takes a whole day, chances are you will be sitting on your butt for quite a long time, which brings up to the topic of buying a good quality high-back seat. Some of the sits on the market that I’ve stumbled upon even have rod holders and storage pouches for your utmost convenience.
Remember, do not disregard the sit as if it’s unimportant. In the beginning, it may seem like that, but fishing is all about sitting still and enjoying while waiting for your big catch, so investing in an excellent comfortable padded seat will be a smart move.
While you can put a motor on your kayak, for many people, the paddle is the motor of the fishing kayak. Now, I have written a whole piece about how to choose a kayaking paddle here , so it’s worth checking it out because paddles are no joke.
They are an essential part of your performance and your whole experience with the kayak generally.
Now, some cost quite a lot, and they are lightweight and great to handle, but if those are over your budget, just get the lightest one you can afford.
Also, don’t forget to invest in a paddle leash because accidents happen, and you don’t want to see your paddle floating down on the bottom of the lake at one point.
While each person has to find the kayak they genuinely like, one thing that’s sure for everyone is that having the weight capacity of your kayak to be able to store both the angler and the gear is super important. I mean, you don’t want to end up having a kayak that isn’t able to support all your preferred assortment of rods, lures, and tackle along with the catch of the day.
Just imagine how inconvenient it would be if your fishing kayak has the capacity for only 300 lbs, and the angler accounts for 295 of them. This leaves you with nothing to carry with you.
Now that you know a little bit more about fishing kayaks and how to pick the one that’s right for you let’s talk about the first steps as you are getting started in kayak fishing.
Well, this is my favorite part of buying a fishing kayak.
You need to know where your kayak stands in terms of stability and limits in general before you load it with gear and take it for a sail.
So, go into your empty kayak and push it to the limit of how far you can tilt it and get used to the stability of it. This is best done in warm weather when you can actually try to flip it and get in and out of it while you are in the water. Always carry your personal flotation device (PFD) at all times!
Once you learn the limits of your kayak, you will feel much more comfortable in it with all your gear tagging along.
There is nothing wrong with taking everything you have fishing-related and catching fish like that, but in the beginning, fish only with the basics, as you build balance up.
So, one rod, one small bag, or one small tackle box and stay fishing for a few hours at first.
This will teach you balance even more because now you have some equipment, but not everything, and you are starting to get a hold of what it would be like.
This way, you also get a sense of where you want to set stuff up. Because you see, kayak fishing is really a DIY project no matter the gear you possess. You basically build it yourself to your personal needs.
This is why it’s important to learn all about it but then listen to your needs when it comes to actually starting out. Everyone has a different method, and getting comfortable is the first step towards successful kayak fishing.
Now that you have created your minimal fishing routine and you have gotten used to the balance that comes with it, it’s time you start building it up.
First, start by getting a crate to store your tackle boxes in. Then, as you learned to use one rod, bring one or two more with you. This will depend on whether you are putting a few new rod holders on your crate, or you have several pre-installed rod holders on your kayak already.
After a while, you may even want to add a measuring board for the fish you feel immensely proud of.
So simply get used to adding a little bit more gear each time until you get fully comfortable with carrying everything you need onboard and staying like that the whole day.
And this brings us to the last step I want to give you for kayak fishing, and that is always to improve and optimize not only your skills but your kayak and fishing gear too.
At one point, you may feel super stable and comfortable when fishing, but that does not necessarily mean that you have perfected your fishing style.
You see, there are always new accessories and new methods to try out in order to learn something new and optimize your catch even further.
Now you can level up with some electronics and more rod holders and more tackle and other things you might see other people are using. How you approach kayak fishing will really change how you feel about it all.
So, future fishers, I hope this article geared you up towards knowing more about the best fishing kayaks. If you have additional questions regarding buying your first fishing kayak or anything else related to the matter, do not hesitate to contact me!
Also, as always, I invite you to connect with me on my Facebook and Instagram account for additional tips and tricks on everything water-sport related.
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