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, 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 way to get out on the water, there’s something in kayak fishing for just about anyone.
There are many kayaks built 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. Think about what you want from a fishing kayak, narrow down your options, and visit a local paddlesport shop to check them out.
There is no one-size-fits all when it comes to fishing kayaks, but with all the different models being manufactured today, there’s a better chance than ever that you can find one to fit your fishing needs.
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.
Feelfree Lure 11.5
feelfreeus.com – $1,259 | $2,199 w/ Overdrive
The Lure 11.5 is designed for fishing trips on rivers, lakes, and oceans, and its variety of unique features include a removable multi-level extra-wide Gravity Seat, and Feelfree’s patented Wheel in the Keel. The new Feelfree Overdrive accessory offers forward and reverse pedal power.
Length: 11’6” | Width: 36” | Weight: 74 lbs. | Capacity: 425 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: 9’ | Width: 29.75” | Weight: 42 lbs. | Capacity: 195 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Compass
hobie.com – $1,949
The newest addition to Hobie’s fleet of award-winning pedal kayaks, the Mirage Compass combines a blissfully simple hull with Hobie’s time-tested MirageDrive pedal system. Outfitted with a breathable mesh seat, the Compass offers maximum stability, an oversized cockpit, and a flat deck for standing. A sharp turning radius makes this fishing kayak nimble in tight quarters, yet it’s able to speed over open water in stealthy fashion. Fishing features include molded-in rod holders, H-Track accessory mounts, and a transducer cavity ready for a Lowrance fishfinder.
Length: 12’ | Width: 34” | Weight: 87 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 400 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Revolution 13
hobie.com – $2,549
This offshore-capable hull is designed for quick moves and chasing down schools of fish, making it one of the most popular kayaks among striped bass fishermen. The Vantage CT seat allows for comfortable all-day fishing, and the MirageDrive 180 allows hands-free fishing and full-power reverse propulsion by pulling the shift cable to pivot the fins 180 degrees.
Length: 13’5” | Width: 28.5” | Weight: 88 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 350 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Outback
hobie.com – $2,549
The Hobie Mirage Outback provides a stable platform for anglers with its beamy design and comfortable Vantage CT seat. New models include 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: 99 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 400 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12
hobie.com – $3,399
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’ | Width: 36” | Weight: 129 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 500 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 them to the popular Cuda. A new longer and slightly wider size gives the Cuda HD additional stability plus increased tracking and speed. The deck has been reworked with padding, a hinged center hatch, tubular tip covers, gear tracks in all the convenient places, and comes Raymarine-ready.
Length: 12’ 10″ | Width: 33” | Weight: 85 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 425 lbs.
Jackson Kayak Coosa FD
jacksonkayak.com – $2,999
The Coosa FD adds a long-awaited Flex Drive system to this popular fishing hull, allowing for hands-free propulsion. Jackson’s pedal system offers forward and reverse operation and includes a unique articulating system for deep and shallow water navigation. A daggerboard-protected tri-blade propeller helps keep the system clear of obstacles and easy to clean.
Length: 12’7” | Width: 35” | Weight: 115 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 450 lbs.
Native Watercraft Titan Propel 10.5
nativewatercraft.com – $2,499
Native’s award-winning Titan is now offered in a 10.5-foot model, allowing easier transport in a truck bed while offering many of the same features as the 13.5-foot model. The Titan 10.5 offers a stable platform for fishing, horizontal rod storage, and elevated seating designed for comfortable transitions between standing and sitting. The Propel Pedal Drive System provides hands-free forward to reverse, and the Titan can be purchased with a transom-style motor mount.
Length: 10’9” | Width: 37.5” | Weight: 97 lbs. | Capacity: 500 lbs.
nucanoe.com – $1,549
The Frontier is an ultra-stable hybrid kayak designed for standing, sight-casting, and fly-fishing with confidence on its 20-inch wide deck. A customizable design lets you go solo or tandem, position seats where you want, and outfit the deck just how you like it.
Length: 12’ | Width: 41” | Weight: 77 lbs. | Capacity: 650 lbs.
nucanoe.com – $999
The Flint is a lighter, smaller offering from NuCanoe featuring the open deck design for which they are known. Angled flush-mount rod holders and an integrated measuring board slot keep things clean and organized.
Length: 11’3” | Width: 33” | Weight: 63 lbs. | Capacity: 400 lbs.
Ocean Kayak Tetra 10 Angler
oceankayak.com – $849
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 Trident 13 Angler
oceankayak.com – $1,299
The Trident 13 has the perfect balance of speed, maneuverability, performance, and stability. Its 13-foot hull performs especially well in breaking surf and rough seas, making it ideal for chasing stripers, bluefish, and false albacore in coastal waters.
Length: 13’6” | Width: 29” | Weight: 79 lbs. | Capacity: 355 lbs.
Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game II
oceankayak.com – $1,399
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 13
predatorkayak.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-sea stripers. The Predator comes loaded with features including a slip-resistant deck and comfortable Element Seating System.
Length: 13’2” | Width: 33.5” | Weight: 86 lbs. | Capacity: 425 lbs.
Old Town Predator PDL
predatorkayak.com – $2,799
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 MK
predatorkayak.com – $2,999.99
The Predator MK bridges the gap between a fishing kayak, a bass boat, and a shallow-water skiff. The combination of the Minn Kota motor and foot-controlled rudder system allows true 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 Sentry 100X Angler
pelicansport.com – $379.99
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 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.
Pelican Premium Enforcer 120X Angler
pelicansport.com – $579.99
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 – $879.99
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 Catch 100
pelicansport.com – $649
The Pelican Sport Catch 100 is the smaller version of the Catch 120, and while it is slightly smaller, it packs quite a punch. The wide tunnel hull and flat deck provide a stable platform that allows you to confidently stand up for sight-casting, fighting and landing your catch. It also comes with a new seat with extra padding and handy accessory pockets at the back. The Catch 100 weighs only 58 pounds (including the seat) and can hold 350 pounds.
Length: 10’ | Width: 34” | Weight: 58 lbs. | Capacity: 350 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.
Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K. 140
wildernesssystems.com – $1,849
The A.T.A.K. 140 features an open design that can be customized to meet the demands of any kayak fisherman and environment. The deck is highly walkable and stable yet remains nimble and stealthy. The low-profile, wind-shedding hull and comfortable seat will ensure enjoyable stretches on the water.
Length: 14’1” | Width: 34” | Weight: 95 lbs. | Capacity: 550 lbs.
Wavewalk Series 4 (S4) Kayak Skiff
wavewalk.com – $2,570
The S4’s patented twin hull together with its personal watercraft (PWC) saddle seat make it one of the world’s most stable kayak, and totally back-pain free. The S4 takes up to three anglers on board, and it offers 34 cubic ft (250 gallons) of storage space. The S4 works well both as a canoe and a kayak, and it can be powered with a 6 HP outboard motor, and driven offshore at high speed. The S4 features a skiff’s front deck for stand up casting.
Length: 13’ | Width: 38” | Weight: 98 lbs. | Capacity: 650 lbs.
Old Town Loon 126
angleroldtowncanoe.com – $1,099.99
The Loon126 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 kneepads, padded backrest with seat cushion, and adjustable footrests.
Length: 10’ | Width: 28” | Weight: 36 lbs. | Capacity: 275 lbs.