Choosing a Fishing Kayak
If you haven’t tried kayak fishing yet, or if you are looking to upgrade to a kayak better suited for your fishing needs, what are you waiting for?
Kayak Fishing is one of the hottest trends in outdoor sports. Whether you’re a shore-bound fisherman getting into a kayak to reach new waters and distant fish, a recreational kayaker looking to bring your passion for fishing aboard your plastic vessel, or a boat fisherman who recognizes fishing kayaks as an exciting and relatively inexpensive way to get out on the water, there’s something in kayak fishing for just about anyone.
If you’re intimidated by the thought of fishing from a kayak, you should know that kayak fishing is a lot easier, and safer, than it looks. For the past decade, manufacturers have been constructing kayaks specifically for fishermen, and most of these craft are remarkably stable and comfortable. They are available with features like rod holders, tackle hatches, anchor systems, and even livewells. With all of the options out there, there’s a better chance than ever that you can find a kayak that will fit your needs and work for you.
Which Fishing Kayak is Right for You?
The bottom line in choosing the best fishing kayak for your needs is that there is no one-size-fits all. Before you make a decision on purchasing a kayak for fishing, the most important thing you can do is to take stock of where and how you plan to do most of your paddling and fishing. Identify your needs: Will you be fishing in freshwater ponds for largemouth bass? Navigating streams and rivers to catch smallmouth bass and trout? Poking around saltwater harbors, estuaries and flats for striped bass and bluefish? Or do you plan to venture out into the open ocean and launch through surf? Also, will this kayak be strictly a fishing vessel, or do you plan to use it for relaxation and recreation with your family?
Once you’ve thought about what you want from a fishing kayak, it’s time to select a handful that appear to match your desired criteria. At that point, try them all! Always demo a kayak before you buy it!
Before you can evaluate the fishing kayaks at your local paddlesport shop or marina, it’s helpful to understand some of the important characteristics of kayaks. Most fishing kayaks can be used for a variety of activities, but understand that no one kayak excels at every activity. Choosing a kayak, like choosing a boat or a car, means mulling over a long list of specifications and deciding what features are “must-haves” and which ones are compromises. Once you understand your options, you can start down the path of choosing the right kayak for your intended purposes. These are some of the basics to consider before you buy your first, or next, fishing kayak.
SIK or SOK: Most fishermen prefer self-bailing sit-on-top kayaks (SOK), especially for saltwater fishing. They are inherently safer, since they can roll over without filling with water, and they give the angler more room to move around or even throw a leg over the side for stability when dealing with a fish. Sit-inside kayaks (SIK) are preferable for moving waters and in situations where a lighter-weight craft is desirable. They also provide a drier ride than a sit-on-top kayak.
Propulsion: Most basic kayaks are propelled with paddle power, but pedals are an option in several kayak lines now. The Hobie Kayak Mirage Drive line has been the standard in leg-powered kayak, which are popular with anglers because they free up the hands for fishing. Old Town entered the market this year with the Predator PDL, which is a pedal/propellor drive. THey also offer an electric-motor-powered kayak, which is an increasingly popular option.
Length: In general, the longer the kayak, the faster it will be and the more easily it will cover distances. The trade-off is a loss of maneuverability in tight spaces and difficulty in transporting the kayak to launch sites.
Width: In general, wider kayaks are more stable and can support more capacity. However, width is far from the only factor that affects stability.
Weight: Consider your cartop capacity and what you can carry when choosing a kayak. A heavy kayak might require a wheeled cart to move it down to the launch site.
Storage and Extras: Consider how much storage you’ll need on board your kayak. Will you be keeping fish or a change of clothing? Is live-bait storage important to you? Will you be doing any kayak-camping?
Seat: Less expensive kayaks have molded-in seats or basic removable seating pads. More fishing kayaks are now offering adjustable “lawn chair” style seats with excellent back support.
Stand-and-Fish Capability: Extra-wide and stable kayaks allow an angler to stand and sight-cast to fish in the shallows.
Eddyline C-135 Yakattack
eddyline.com – $2,599
The C-135 offers the serious kayak fisherman a lightweight alternative to a heavy polyethylene kayak. Acceleration is quick, and just a few strokes will bring you up to speed. The Cloud10 Seat provides durable, breathable, water- and sun-proof comfort, and the hull has been designed to accept a variety of trolling motors, stakeout poles, and various aftermarket accessories including a casting bar.
Length: 13’ 5” | Width: 34” | Weight: 69 lbs. | Capacity: 450 lbs.
FeelFree Moken 12.5
feelfreeus.com – $899
The Feelfree Moken 12.5 is stable enough for standing and fast enough to handle larger lakes and coastal waters. Features include the quick-release modular Uni-Track system and Easy Seal hatch. An optional rudder helps with steering on windy days, and Feelfree’s Wheel in the Keel makes rolling it to launch nice and easy.
Length: 9’ | Width: 29.75” | Weight: 42 lbs. | Capacity: 195 lbs.
Feelfree Move Angler
feelfreeus.com – $499
The Move Angler is the perfect kayak for kids and smaller paddlers getting into the sport of kayak fishing. It comes equipped with all the great features paddlers have come to expect in a Feelfree kayak: molded-in handles, recessed fittings, and the patented Wheel in the Keel. Its “tri-hull” design offers great stability and efficient tracking while paddling. The hull weighs only 42 pounds, making it very easy for a solo paddler to maneuver on or off the water—even a younger paddler.
Length: 12’ 8” | Width: 32” | Weight: 72 lbs. | Capacity: 419 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Outback
hobiecat.com – $2,499
The Hobie Mirage Outback provides a stable platform for anglers with its beamy design and comfortable Vantage CT seat. New for 2017 is the Hobie MirageDrive 180 that allows full-power reverse propulsion by pulling the shift cable to pivot the fins 180 degrees. Simply pull the other shift cable to pivot the fins back around for forward propulsion.
Length: 12’ 1” | Width: 33” | Weight: 96 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 400 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Revolution 13
hobiecat.com – $2,499
This offshore-capable hull is designed for quick moves and chasing down schools of fish. The Vantage CT seat allows for comfortable all-day fishing, and the MirageDrive keeps hands free for fishing and rigging. As with all 2017 model year Mirage kayaks, the Revolution comes with the MirageDrive 180.
Length: 13’ 5” | Width: 28.5” | Weight: 91 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 350 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 And 14
hobiecat.com – $3,449
The super-stable Mirage Pro Angler is designed to handle fishing conditions from small ponds to the open ocean. It allows for easy stand-up fishing, ample storage, and comfortable pedaling from spot to spot.
Length: 12’/13’8” | Width: 36”/38” | Weight: 129 lbs./151 lbs. | Capacity: 500 lbs./600 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 17T
hobiecat.com – $5,699
Vantage XT seating allows the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler to be fished tandem, face-to-face, or solo. The roomy platform is perfect for teaching a young one to fish, bringing along a non-fishing family member, or fishing hard with a buddy.
Length: 17’ | Width: 43.5” | Weight: 244 lbs. | Capacity: 900 lbs.
Jackson Kayak Cuda HD
jacksonkayak.com – $1,899
Jackson Kayak has taken all the recent improvements to hull design and deck staging, and added it to the Cuda HD. A new longer and slightly wider size gives the Cuda HD additional stability plus increased tracking and speed. The deck has been completely reworked with padding, a new hinged center hatch, tubular tip covers, and YakAttack tracks in all the convenient places.
Length: 12’10” | Width: 33” | Weight: 85 lbs. | Capacity: 425 lbs.
Jackson Kayak Big Tuna
jacksonkayak.com – $1,799
The Big Tuna can be paddled either as a tandem or a solo fishing kayak. It has many different seating options, allowing for traditional tandem positions, face-to-face, and a good variety of solo positions, making it a great platform for fishing of all kinds. The Big Tuna’s stability, logical accessory positioning, rudder option, and speed make it a serious fishing vessel in all water types.
Length: 14’2” | Width: 35” | Weight: 92 lbs. | Capacity: 500 lbs.
Ocean Kayak Tetra 10 Angler
oceankayak.com – $849.99
The easily-stored, easily-transported Tetra 10 Angler packs a lot of fishing potential into a small package. Ample storage, two flush-mount rod holders, and a Mod Pod II center hatch allow an angler to transport all the gear needed to catch and land the big one.
Length: 10’8” | Width: 29.5” | Weight: 47 lbs. | Capacity: 275 lbs.
Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL Angler
oceankayak.com – $1,099.99
This tandem sit-on-top kayak is specifically designed for fishing, with its two rod holders and four deck mounts. It’s perfect for bringing along a buddy or a young angler eager to learn how to kayak fish.
Length: 13’4” | Width: 34” | Weight: 74 lbs. | Capacity: 450 lbs.
Ocean Kayak Trident 13 Angler
oceankayak.com – $1,299.99
The Ocean Kayak Trident balances speed, stability, and maneuverability to handle rough seas and strong currents, making it an excellent choice for the saltwater angler. New for 2017 is the ACS2 Seating System featuring an ergonomically designed backrest plus adjustable thigh and leg support.
Length: 13’6” | Width: 29.5” | Weight: 79 lbs. | Capacity: 355 lbs.
Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game II
oceankayak.com – $1,399.99
The Prowler Big Game II was designed for the angler looking for a high-capacity fishing kayak. Its six strategically placed mounting brackets allow the user to outfit the boat without having to drill into the hull.
Length: 12’9” | Width: 34” | Weight: 70 lbs. | Capacity: 550 lbs.
Old Town Predator PDL
oldtowncanoe.com – $2,799.99
The Predator PDL provides hands-free forward and reverse propulsion with a brand new pedal drive that installs quickly and tips up instantly for shallow-water docking. The Predator PDL’s specially-designed hull combines the perfect balance of smooth pedal stroke-speed and stand-up stability.
Length: 13’2” | Width: 36” | Weight: 117 lbs. | Capacity: 500 lbs.
Old Town Predator 13 & MX Series
oldtowncanoe.com – $1,399
Engineered above and below the waterline to be the perfect platform for fishing, the Predator series can tackle everything from small-pond largemouths to rough-seas stripers. The Predator comes loaded with features including a slip-resistant deck and comfortable Element Seating System. The Predator MX, or Mixed Water, features a slightly more rounded hull that’s designed to handle moving water conditions without sacrificing stability and performance.
Length: 13’2”/12’ | Width: 33.5”/34” | Weight: 86 lbs./82 lbs. | Capacity: 425 lbs./400 lbs.
Old Town Predator MK
oldtowncanoe.com – $2,999.99
The Predator MK bridges the gap between fishing kayaks, bass boats, and shallow-water skiffs. The combination of the Minn Kota motor and foot-controlled rudder system allows truly hands-free fishing while holding your place in current, working a shoreline, or following a school of feeding fish.
Length: 13’2” | Width: 36” | Weight: 117.5 lbs. | Capacity: 600 lbs.
Pelican Premium Enforcer 120X Angler
pelicansport.com – $599.99
The Pelican Premium Enforcer 120X Angler is a self-bailing fishing kayak engineered for comfort, stability and speed. Built on a multi-chine flat-bottom hull, it is designed for safety on larger bodies of water. This kayak is 12 feet long and features ample storage, large deck space, adjustable footrests, and a comfortable, removable folding seat with a large backrest. The Enforcer 120X Angler is made of RAM-X Premium, a multi-layer polyethylene with an advanced resin, providing significantly more rigidity than standard polyethylene, ensuring it will last for years of kayak fishing outings.
Length: 12’ | Width: 30” | Weight: 67 lbs. | Capacity: 350 lbs.
Pelican Premium Catch 120 NXT
pelicansport.com – $599.99
The Catch 120 NXT is an evolution of the Catch 120. Built on a tunnel hull platform, it is stable, maneuverable, and provides excellent tracking. Made of ultra-durable RAM-X Premium, this sit-on-top kayak features adjustable footrests, an Ergocast dual-position seating system, anti-slip carpet, a stand-assist strap, and rigging traps.
Length: 11’8” | Width: 34” | Weight: 69 lbs. | Capacity: 400 lbs.
Pelican Sentry 100X Angler
pelicansport.com – $599.99
The Pelican Sentry 100X Angler sit-on-top fishing kayak is built on a twin-arched, multi-chine hull, and is the ultimate in efficient design. It features adjustable footrests, knee pads, and an adjustable Ergoform padded backrest with seat cushion for increased comfort. Swivel and flush-mount rod holders, plus a tank well with bungees, keep fishing gear secure and handy. Made of RAM-X impact-resistant material, the Pelican Sentry 100X Angler is built to last for years of lake and river fishing.
Length: 10′ | Width: 30” | Weight: 45 lbs. | Capacity: 300 lbs.
Perception Pescador Pilot 12.0
perceptionkayaks.com – $1,799
The Pescador Pilot 12.0 features the Pilot Drive pedal system, which is ergonomically optimized for all-day, hands-free propulsion. This sit-on-top kayak features a captain’s chair with easily adjustable gear tracks and tension knobs, four molded-in rod holders, two YakAttack accessory tracks, a transducer scupper, and two storage consoles for mounting electronics. The best feature? A price that propels the Pescador Pilot into a class all its own.
Length: 12’5” | Width: 33.75” | Weight: 85 lbs. | Capacity: 525 lbs.
Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K.
wildernesssystems.com – $1,649
The A.T.A.K. 120 features Wilderness Systems’ proprietary S.M.A.R.T. Hull Technology throughout the design, combining stability, maneuverability, acceleration, responsiveness, and tracking for optimal performance in a range of environments. Design elements include an increased rocker profile to better negotiate moving water, a defined keel line for better tracking, and a wind-shedding low profile. Its SlideTrax and plenty of open mounting space provide the ability for customization to each angler’s fishing style.
Length: 12’3” | Width: 35” | Weight: 70 lbs. | Capacity: 400 lbs.
Wilderness Systems Radar 135
wildernesssystems.com – $1,499
The Wilderness Systems Radar 135 is a unique tri-powered kayak that can be paddled, powered by the Helix MDTM Motor Drive, or pedaled with the Helix PDTM Pedal Drive. The Radar’s proprietary S.M.A.R.T. Hull Technology combines stability, maneuverability, acceleration, responsiveness, and tracking for optimal performance in multiple types of water, providing stand-up stability without increasing the width of the hull.
Length: 13’6” | Width: 34” | Weight: 95 lbs. | Capacity: 475 lbs.
Old Town Loon 126 Angler
oldtowncanoe.com – $1,099.99
The Loon 126 Angler features a sleek new hull design that is both quick and forgiving. With extra width for stability, plus the all-new ACS2 seat, it is designed to be the most comfortable sit-inside angling kayak on the water.
Length: 12’6” | Width: 31” | Weight: 57 lbs. | Capacity: 450 lbs.
Pelican Bounty 100X Angler
Pelicansport.com – $749
The Bounty 100X Angler is a stable fishing kayak featuring a bow quick-lock hatch and a large storage platform with a bungee in the stern. Made of incredibly rigid yet light RAM-X material, this sit-in kayak weighs only 39 pounds. The Bounty 100X also includes rod holders, cockpit knee pads, along with an adjustable padded backrest with seat cushion, and adjustable footrests.
Length: 10’ | Width: 28” | Weight: 36 lbs. | Capacity: 275 lbs.
Riot Kayaks Enduro 12 Angler
riotkayaks.com – $849.99
With two sealed compartments for fishing gear, the Enduro 12 Angler allows for easy maneuverability when stalking small ponds and quiet backwaters for your favorite freshwater and inshore gamefish. An anchor trolley system helps to easily deploy the anchor to stay on a spot once you find the fish.
Length: 12’ | Width: 27” | Weight: 60 lbs. | Capacity: 350 lbs.
Old Town NEXT
oldtowncanoe.com – $999.99
The NEXT is a totally fresh and uniquely fun solo experience that brings a century of expertise into one truly amazing personal watercraft unlike any other. Built for one, but designed for all, the NEXT represents a new generation of boating for today’s paddle, outdoors and fitness enthusiasts.
Length: 13’ | Width: 29” | Weight: 59 lbs. | Capacity: 450 lbs.
Old Town Discovery Sport 15
oldtowncanoe.com – $1,599.99
With a square stern, the Discovery Sport 15 can be paddled traditionally or motored with an engine up to 4 HP. Extremely versatile, it is designed with full-length stabilizing chines and a generous beam, providing a dry and confident ride. Whether rowed, paddled or motored, you’ll enjoy the Discovery 15.
Length: 15’3” | Width: 40” | Weight: 113 lbs. | Capacity: 850 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Eclipse 12
hobiecat.com – $2,599
Hobie has taken the powerful and efficient Mirage Drive and added it to a stand-up paddleboard. The board itself is stable enough to handle wind, waves, and boat wakes, while the handlebars provide additional stability. No paddle is needed with the Mirage drive—a simple stepping motion will get the board underway. Steering is controlled by squeezing the handlebars, and the durable rudder makes the board easy to maneuver, even around tight turns. Best of all, the Eclipse can be easily outfitted for fishing with the Hobie H-Crate.
Length: 12’ | Width: 32” | Weight: 42 lbs. | Capacity: 400 lbs.
boteboard.com – $1,759.20
The Rackham’s displacement hull technology allows this versatile board to be paddled effortlessly. The recessed standing platform and thick bow keep the paddler and gear high and dry. Its 400-pound capacity allows for plenty of gear to be brought along, while its stability allows for easy casting, fighting, and landing fish.
Length: 10’6” | Width: 33.5” | Weight: 54 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 225 lbs.