If you’re like me, you’ve loved fishing since you were a boy.
I remember my Pa taking me out to the river near our home and teaching me how to fish.
More years have passed than I’d like to count, but the love of fishing that my father instilled in me never went away.
There are many ways to go about fishing, and believe me: I’ve tried nearly all of them.
In the years since I’ve retired, I’ve found that kayak fishing is a fantastic way to relax and really enjoy the excursion to its fullest.
But, how do you know which kayak is the best for fishing?
I made a few mistakes when I first tried to buy a fishing kayak, and today I’d like to share those mistakes with you, as well as what I learned from them. I’ll also introduce you to 5 beautiful kayaks that are perfect for the modern fisherman.
It’s time to find you the perfect kayak for fishing.
I Didn’t Have A Kayak That Suited My Needs As A Fisherman
At our summer home in Muskoka, we had already purchased kayaks for the family. And a lot of my fishing buddies had mentioned kayak fishing, and how much they were enjoying it.
So, the summer after I retired, when we traveled up to Muskoka, I took one of the kayaks we had in storage and my favorite rod out to Algonquin Park to try it for myself.
Unfortunately, that day did not go as planned:
When I got home, I was wet, tired, and frustrated.
My poor wife lent me a sympathetic ear, and I rattled on about all the things I didn’t like about kayak fishing.
What I didn’t realize that day, however, was that the kayak I had used was not designed for fishing.
It was only meant for recreational kayaking, and did not include many features that are essential to a fishing kayak.
After doing a bit of research, I quickly realized my mistake:
To suit my needs as a fisherman, I needed to find a kayak that was meant for fishing.
As A Fisherman, I Needed A Kayak For Fishing With These Essential Features:
This is absolutely one of the most important points for a fishing kayak. When your fishing kayak is stable, it gives you the ability to handle your equipment and your catch without feeling like you’re going to tip over.
Wider kayaks tend to be much more stable than narrow kayaks. And while wide kayaks tend to sacrifice speed for stability, this is a reasonable tradeoff for a fisherman.
A kayak that’s wide enough will also give you the stability needed to stand up and fish, leading to even more options in your fishing ventures.
- Storage Space
When you’re fishing, you’re obviously going to be carrying a lot more with you than when you’re going for a lazy kayak ride down the river.
You need to be thinking about your rods, tackle, bait, snacks or drinks, your catch, a cooler to keep it nice and fresh, besides whatever specialty tools or gadgets you personally like to bring along.
For this reason, fishing kayaks are often designed with extra storage space for all the fishing equipment that you need and more.
- Rod Holders
One rod is just never enough, especially for those of us who have grown far too used to boat fishing. I may have one favorite rod, but I never leave for a fishing trip with less than 3 rods.
So, how do we deal with our compulsion to bring multiple rods with such limited space?
The key is rod holders. While you can buy them aftermarket and install them yourself, many angler kayaks come with multiple rod holders pre-installed.
At least one rod holder is absolutely necessary for a fishing kayak, as you’ll need a place to put it down when you’re using your hands for something else, like paddling.
- A Comfortable Seat
When you’re spending a lot of time out on the water, you’re going to need a comfortable seat.
I remember that first day when I tried to use one of our recreational kayaks to fish. My back was sore for at least a day or two after. The longer that you spend on the water fishing, the more you’ll need a comfortable seat.
Let’s face it:
We’re not as young as we used to be. If you really want to relax while fishing, it’s worthwhile to invest in a kayak that has a very comfortable seat, or purchase one aftermarket.
Many fishing kayaks do include a seat that is meant to keep your back happy, even after spending hours on the water.
Choosing Your Propulsion
That’s right, paddling is not the only option for fisherman in kayaks.
There are now kayaks with pedals installed, or ones that allow you to mount a small motor.
So, which form of propulsion is right for you?
This classic kayak propulsion is probably what you’re used to.
But, for fisherman, paddling is not always convenient. When you’re trying to manage a paddle, multiple rods, plus the rest of your equipment, it can easily feel like you need some extra arms to handle everything.
However, one of the benefits to paddling is when you are frequently fishing in very shallow waters, or in places where there are submerged objects that could get in the way of our other two options. In this case, a fisherman might see the need to stick with a classic paddle kayak.
As another benefit, paddling does offer easy steering.
Foot pedals have become increasingly common in fishing kayaks, and they offer you a way to free up your hands while you propel your kayak forward. This gives you better range of motion, and means that you don’t need to lug a paddle with you.
Some pedal kayaks even include reverse paddling, which can be a very handy tool to have.
The downsides to pedal kayaks is that they are normally steered using a rudder system, which many times is controlled by hand. This means that you’re only freeing up one of your hands by changing to this system.
However, it still offers good control and easier handling.
Another recent development in kayak fishing has been the possibility to add a motor to your kayak to propel it.
Motorized kayaks are obviously the best choice for fishermen who plan on going further distances to find their perfect fishing spots. It gives the fisherman a much better range, allowing you to really get where you want to go.
Also, motorized kayaks help fishermen spend more time actively fishing. Getting to your favorite spot can now be faster than ever, and you can spend more time there without having to worry about the journey home.
That being said, fishing from a motorized kayak is very different to using a paddle or pedal style kayak. If you’re looking for calm, quiet relaxation on the water, like me, then a motorized kayak is probably not for you.
- Sit-In Or Sit-On?
Both sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks have their advantages and disadvantages for anglers.
With a sit-on-top kayak, the angler has much more freedom of movement. This style kayak is known for being more stable and easier to get in and out of. Sit-on-tops are also impossible to sink. The only downside is that it is easier for the angler to get wet, and there tends to be somewhat less dry storage.
Sit-in kayaks offer better speed and trackability, while protecting the angler from the elements. If you’re planning on fishing in cold weather or rough waters, a sit-in kayak might be a better option for you. However, they lack stability, give the angler limited access to storage when seated, and are not normally capable of stand-up fishing.
Depending on the type of kayak fishing you want to do, you’ll need to choose the right style for you. However, most fishing kayaks are sit-on-top style, as this is better suited in general to fishing.
The 5 Best Kayaks For Fishing On The Market Now
- Vibe Sea Ghost 130 Angler
Featuring multiple rod holder mounts, and preinstalled rudder system, and fantastic stability, the Sea Ghost is great for someone looking to buy his first fishing kayak.
This kayak is the king of storage, offering front and rear hatches that are easy to reach, holders for tackle trays, and additional storage in the center console.
It weighs 74 lbs., which is relatively lightweight, and has a capacity of 550 lbs. This is a sit-on-top paddle kayak, and even big guys like me have no trouble standing up to fish in it.
- 2017 Perception Pescador Pilot 12.0
While other Perception models were designed as a kayak with no frills, the Pescador Pilot is fully equipped for the avid angler.
This is a pedal kayak, allowing the angler to glide smoothly through the water with the built-in bicycle pedal system. With 4 rod holders and space to mount wiring and electronic equipment, this kayak was built for true fishermen.
The Pilot also features tons of storage that is all easy to access, including dry storage compartments in the bow.
Weighing in at 85 lbs. with a max capacity of 475 lbs., the Pilot truly is a great kayak for fishing.
- Advanced Elements Straitedge Angler
This inflatable kayak is a lightweight and portable option that is still durable enough to match the most adventurous fishermen.
A revolutionary idea in inflatable kayaks, this model is ultra-stable, allowing anglers to move around without feeling like they’ll tip over.
The only problem with this kayak is that it lacks many accessories for fishermen, such as rod holders and extra storage. It does include a removeable mounting rail, which allows for aftermarket additions of the gadgets and equipment mounts that you want. However, this will include extra purchases and time to mount.
As the lightest of our kayaks, the Straightedge weighs only 41 lbs., and has an incredible capacity of 300 lbs.
- Hobie Pro Angler 12
Coming from one of the most well-known brands of fishing kayaks, and the inventor of the pedal kayak, this model definitely stands out in our list. As a sit-on-top model with pedals that also go in reverse, the Pro Angler 12 gives fishermen exactly what they’re looking for.
Some of its features include utility trays, multiple rod holders, tackle storage on deck, and tons of places to put the rest of your equipment. It’s known for being extremely stable and maneuverable. It also features a comfortable seat that allows you to recline, as well as mounts to put a motor.
The Pro Angler 12 is one of the heaviest yaks on our list, coming in at 120 lbs. However, it has a weight capacity of 500 lbs., which is one of the highest on this list.
- Native Watercraft Slayer 13
Sleek and silent, this sit-on-top pedal kayak is perfect for relaxing and bringing home a good day’s catch, and includes reverse pedaling. The propel unit can also be stowed for fishing in shallower areas, and the unique hull design of this kayak gives it a very good amount of stability.
The elevated seat is designed to keep you comfortable for hours on the water, and allows you to stay dry if there’s any water inside the kayak. You’ll also find plenty of storage, including a 5” dry storage hatch, and an extra rod holder.
This kayak weighs 108 lbs. when fully rigged, and has a capacity of 500 lbs.
So, Which Is The Best For Fishing?
Honestly, all the kayaks above are great for beginning and experienced paddlers and anglers.
However, the Hobie Pro Angler 12 and the Native Watercraft Slayer 13 both stand out as very respectable options. Built for stability that is meant to last through thick and thin, these two are my favorites out of the list.
They both give you all the points we talked about above that are perfect for a kayak fisherman, including a comfortable seat, plenty of storage, rod holders, and pedal propulsion.
The top kayak for fishing is waiting for you to enjoy a perfect day on the water.
So, get out there and make it yours!