The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Fishing Kayaks

August 20, 2023

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Fishing Kayaks

From inflatable fishing kayaks to stand-up paddleboard fishing, discover the best solutions for your outdoor adventures. Get all the tools and advice you need with this comprehensive guide.

As an angler who loves the serenity and adventure of kayak fishing, I've tried my hand at various fishing kayaks over the years.

Whether you're a seasoned pro or a newbie looking to get started, choosing the right fishing kayak can make all the difference in your experience on the water.

In this comprehensive guide, I'll share my insights to help you navigate the world of fishing kayaks and find the perfect one for you.

Understanding Your Needs

Before you dive into the vast array of fishing kayaks available, I've found it essential to take a step back and understand my own needs and preferences. Here are some of the questions I asked myself:

Where Will I Be Fishing?

The type of water you plan to fish in can greatly influence your choice of kayak.

  • Calm Lakes: If you're like me and love the tranquility of calm lakes, you might opt for a stable, flat-bottomed kayak that's easy to maneuver.
  • Fast-Moving Rivers: On the other hand, if you're drawn to the adrenaline rush of fast-moving rivers, you might need a more streamlined, robust kayak designed to handle currents and obstacles.
  • Coastal Areas: If coastal areas are your preferred fishing spots, a sea-worthy kayak with good tracking and stability in waves would be ideal.

What's My Budget?

Fishing kayaks can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, so determining your budget before you start shopping is essential.

  • Budget Considerations: I've found it helpful to remember that while higher-priced kayaks often offer more features and better performance, there are also plenty of affordable models that offer great value for money.

How Often Will I Use It?

Your frequency of use should also factor into your decision.

  • Frequent Usage: If you plan to use your kayak frequently like I do, investing in a higher-quality model could pay off in the long run. These kayaks tend to be more durable and comfortable, enhancing your fishing experience each time you head out.

By asking yourself these questions, you can narrow down your options and make an informed decision about which fishing kayak will best suit your needs, just like I did. Happy fishing!

Types of Fishing Kayaks

There's a wide array of fishing kayaks available, each with its unique advantages and potential drawbacks. Let's delve deeper into the different types:

Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayaks
Sit-on-top fishing kayaks are incredibly popular among anglers for a variety of reasons.

  • Ease of Movement: The open design of sit-on-top kayaks allows for unrestricted movement, making it easier to cast your line, reel in fish, or access your gear.
  • Features: Many sit-on-top fishing kayaks come equipped with angler-friendly features like rod holders, gear tracks for mounting accessories, and dedicated storage areas for tackle boxes.
  • Self-Bailing: These kayaks often have scupper holes, which allow water that splashes onto the kayak to drain out automatically, keeping you dry.

However, sit-on-top kayaks can leave you more exposed to the elements, which might not be ideal in colder weather or rough waters.

NRS Kuda 12.6 Inflatable Fishing Sit-On-Top Kayak

The NRS Kuda 12.6 Inflatable Fishing Sit-On-Top Kayak is a game-changer for kayak fishing enthusiasts.

Its inflatable design makes it incredibly portable and easy to store, yet it doesn't compromise on stability or durability. With its wide deck and adjustable seat, it offers an impressive level of comfort and maneuverability, making long fishing trips enjoyable.

The integrated Scotty Mounts are perfect for holding rods and other gear, enhancing the fishing experience.

Although inflating it requires a bit of effort, the overall convenience and performance this kayak delivers make it a worthwhile investment for any keen angler.

Pedal-Powered Fishing Kayaks

Pedal-powered fishing kayaks offer a hands-free fishing experience.

  • Hands-Free Operation: The pedal system allows you to propel and steer the kayak using your legs, freeing up your hands for fishing.
  • Efficiency: Pedal kayaks are typically faster and more efficient than paddle kayaks, making them great for covering large distances or battling currents.

The downside? Pedal-powered kayaks tend to be more expensive and heavier than their paddle-powered counterparts.

Point 65 N Kingfisher Angler Modular Fishing Kayak

The Point 65 N Kingfisher Angler Modular Fishing Kayak is an exceptional piece of equipment that stands out in the market.

Its innovative modular design allows for easy transportation and storage, making it a practical choice for those with limited space.

Despite its segmented construction, it maintains excellent stability and speed on the water, providing an enjoyable and efficient paddling experience.

The spacious cockpit, comfortable seating, and ample storage options cater well to anglers, offering plenty of room for fishing gear.

While initial assembly might take some getting used to, the overall performance and convenience of this kayak make it a top pick for fishing enthusiasts.

Inflatable Fishing Kayaks

Inflatable fishing kayaks offer a blend of portability and performance.

  • Portability: Lightweight and easy to transport, inflatable fishing kayaks can be deflated for compact storage and transport. This makes them a great choice if you have limited storage space or like to travel to different fishing spots.
  • Durability: Despite what you might think, many modern inflatable kayaks are incredibly durable and resistant to punctures.

The trade-off with inflatable kayaks is that they usually aren't as fast or efficient as hardshell models, and they require time and effort to inflate and deflate but the upside is that inflatable kayaks are constantly improving.

NRS Pike Inflatable Fishing Kayak

The NRS Pike Inflatable Fishing Kayak is a remarkable blend of portability and performance. Its inflatable nature allows for easy transportation and storage without compromising on stability or durability, making it an excellent choice for those who value convenience.

The kayak's design offers ample deck space and multiple Scotty Mount attachment points, which are perfect for securing fishing gear.

Despite its lightweight design, the NRS Pike provides impressive tracking and maneuverability on the water.

While inflating and deflating the kayak does require some effort, the overall ease of use, comfort, and fishing-specific features make this kayak a great investment for any angler.

Key Features to Consider

After identifying your personal needs and the type of fishing kayak that suits them, it's time to dive into the key features that can make or break your fishing experience.

Size & Weight

The size and weight of your kayak impact not only its performance on the water but also its portability and storage.

  • Larger Kayaks: Bigger kayaks typically offer more stability and storage space. They're excellent for longer trips or when you need to carry a lot of gear. However, they can be more challenging to transport and maneuver, both in and out of the water.
  • Weight Considerations: The weight of the kayak is another crucial factor. Lighter kayaks are easier to carry and load onto a car roof rack or trailer, but they might be less stable on the water.

Heavier kayaks can be more stable but more challenging to transport. Always consider if you'll be able to handle the kayak's weight by yourself.

Storage Space

When it comes to fishing kayaks, ample storage space is a must.

  • Gear and Personal Items: Look for a kayak with enough room to store all your fishing gear, including rods, tackle boxes, and nets. It should also have space for personal items like food, water, and additional clothing.
  • Catch Storage: Some kayaks come with built-in coolers or cargo areas specifically designed to store your catch. This feature can be particularly useful if you plan on fishing for extended periods or want to keep your catch fresh until you return to shore.


Comfort is a key factor, especially for those long fishing trips.

  • Seating: Look for a kayak with a comfortable, adjustable seat. Some higher-end models feature premium seats with excellent back support and cushioning.
  • Legroom: Adequate legroom is essential, especially for taller individuals. Make sure the cockpit or seating area gives you enough space to stretch out and change positions during your trip.


Stability is critical in a fishing kayak, as it affects your ability to fish effectively and safely.

  • Casting and Reeling: If you plan to stand up while casting and reeling, you'll need a highly stable kayak. Wider kayaks tend to offer better stability than narrower models.
  • Primary vs. Secondary Stability: It's also worth considering the kayak's primary stability (how stable it feels when upright in flat water) and secondary stability (how well it resists tipping over when leaned to the side).

Depending on your fishing conditions and style, one may be more important than the other.


Lastly, durability is a significant factor to consider. Your fishing kayak should be robust enough to withstand not only the rigors of fishing but also the harsh weather conditions you may encounter.

  • Material: Look for a kayak made from durable materials. Hardshell kayaks are often made from tough plastics like polyethylene, while inflatable kayaks should be made from puncture-resistant materials like PVC.
  • Construction: The kayak's construction also plays a role in its durability. Check the quality of the seams, hatches, and fittings. Reviews from other users can provide valuable insights into a kayak's long-term durability.

Remember, the best fishing kayak for you will balance these features with your personal needs, preferences, and budget.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it - the ultimate guide to choosing fishing kayaks. From the type of hull best suited for your waterway and kayak maneuverability considerations to the safety precautions you should always take, this basic knowledge can go a long way in helping you pick out the perfect fishing kayak.

Ultimately, having done your homework on all these crucial details is sure to pay off by enabling you to land an ideal kayaking catch each and every time!

Keep in mind too that choosing a fishing kayak isn’t just about acquiring gear; it’s about investing in yourselves and growing as recreational fishermen. You might even find yourself with an entirely new appreciation for the sport!

If so, there’s nothing like reeling in that well-deserved sense of accomplishment from catching dinner with the right equipment. Even if all doesn't go according to plan (which does sometimes happen), enjoy the journey - and keep striving towards those fish tales worthy of sharing! Happy fishing!

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Brian MasseyHead of Catalog ManagementBrian is a foundational member of the team at Outdoorplay. For over 25 years, Brian has brought his expertise and passion for paddlesports and the outdoors to bear on both his work and leisure time. He is an active member of the paddling community in the Columbia River Gorge and beyond. Brian enjoys multi-day rafting trips, kayaking and biking - any way to enjoy the outdoors with friends and family.