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How to Choose a Fishing Kayak! - A Common Sense Approach...

Kayak fishing has become very popular over the past years. Kayak manufacturers have noticed and are now making some great fishing kayaks to choose from. The question is which one is right for you. In this guide we’ll explore what you need to consider when buying a new or used fishing kayak. We hope that we can help you end up with a fishing kayak that is best for you considering how you fish, your health, your budget and realistic expectations.

Should I buy a new or used fishing kayak?

I often get asked which is better used or new? As an experienced fishing kayaker, my experience is that if they are serious about getting on the water and catching fish most people don’t end up keeping their first or even their second fishing kayak



If you are the type of person who likes to do research, buying a used kayak will allow you to try out whether a certain kayak will work for you and sell it for little to no loss. 


If you are not comfortable with buying used stuff or something expensive that has no warranty or guarantee, we recommend buying a new kayak from a dealer but talk with them because they can help you cover the pros and cons of the fishing kayaks you are looking at and help you buy the best kayak for you.



Whether you buy a new fishing kayak or used one no one should give you any grief. The only thing that matters is whether you can catch fish… and be safe while doing it! 


Buying used kayaks is for people who want more kayak for less but are also willing to risk whether they will find unexpected issues. Be aware of kayaks that may have a small cracks or collect water through hatches and covers. Most kayaks these days can be repaired if they leak.

What type of fishing kayak should I buy?

Sit-In, Sit-on-Top (SOT) or Hybrid? Each has their own pros and cons but it comes down to personal preference. If you have not had a chance to use each type of kayak, we suggest going to your local fishing kayak dealer and demo each type to learn which one you like the best. Sit-in and hybrid kayaks may provide more stability but many of the newer SOTs are wider and more stable. SOTs also get a little higher and provide a better ‘view’ of the water.


Sit-In Kayaks

When people who are not familiar with kayaks think of kayaks, they think of sit-in kayaks. You sit in the kayak with your butt is right on water. Sit-in kayaks are generally not the best for fishing because it is harder to store fishing gear, deal with your fish, etc. People start kayak fishing using an inexpensive sit-in kayak, but they quickly realize the challenges and upgrade to a SOT or hybrid kayak.



Sit-on-Top Kayaks

SOT kayaks are becoming the most popular type of fishing kayak. There are several reasons but mostly, SOT’s give you more room to store your fishing gear, are better when fishing for bass and inshore because it is better to be higher or standing, and many people feel safer because SOT’s are wider and less likely to sink. Many won’t sink even if you fill them with water.


Native Watercraft Ultimate FX 15 Tandem

Hybrid Kayaks

Some people are not comfortable sitting higher on the water and prefer being surrounded by the kayak. Hybrid kayaks are an excellent alternative to a sit it. Hybrids are canoe-like. They allow you to sit lower to the water while the kayak has more accessibility for storing rods, gear, coolers and fish. A great example of a hybrid kayak is the Native Watercraft Ultimate FX 15.


How much should I spend on my fishing kayak?

Which fishing kayak to buy

Whichever fishing kayak you buy, enjoy it and tight lines. As with everything, price dictates quality and features. The more you spend, the higher quality and more features you will get.

Lower price fishing kayaks typically hold less weight. Check the capacity of any kayak you are buying to be sure it can handle you, your gear and anything else you plan on bringing with you.

The hulls on lower cost kayaks will be thinner too but today’s kayaks should handle most things you encounter as long as you don’t drag them around too much or strap them down too tightly with ratchet straps.

If you think you will end up selling your kayak you may want to consider a more expensive one. More expensive fishing kayaks tend to hold value better than lower priced ones. More expensive used fishing kayaks will attract more discriminating buyers. Keep this in mind if you are buying a used fishing kayak which you think you will sell later on.

How to Choose a Fishing Kayak

How big of a fishing kayak do I need?

If you are buying your first kayak you may be wondering what size you should buy? There are several factors to consider. You can see that Jackson Kayaks offers a large selection. Other manufacturers do the same. You can expect that kayaks dedicated to fishing will start at 10′ and get bigger. Most cap off at 13′.  Which one is right for you depends on several factors but capacity should be your number one priority. If you are a big person, or you plan on using a trolling motor, you need a kayak that has the capacity to handle you, your gear and anything else you are bringing with you. Here are several important things to consider when trying to figure out what size fishing kayak to buy.

What size kayak do I need?

  • The bigger the kayak, the more weight it can handle (capacity).
  • The bigger the kayak, the harder it is to travel with (portage).
  • The bigger the kayak, the more storage space you need in your garage, etc.
  • The bigger the kayak, the more it weighs and the harder it is to lift and move around.
  • The bigger the kayak, the more comfortable you will be while fishing.
  • Bigger kayaks are usually wider, therefore less likely to tip over.
  • Bigger kayaks are better in rough water and waves.
  • Using a trailer makes traveling with a bigger kayak much easier.
  • Bigger (and heavier) kayaks are harder to put on top of your car or SUV.


For people who weigh more than 250 lbs pay careful attention to the kayaks capacity. You will probably have another 50 pounds of gear, ice, drinks and food and if you are thinking about adding a trolling motor you’ll be adding over 100 lbs for it and the battery.

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What about kayak fishing safety?

If you don’t think it can happen to you, think again! Regardless of what type of fishing you do, don’t discount safety. We cannot express enough the need to always wear your PFD.  


Different kayaks are easier to tip and others are easier to get back into. Wider kayaks are less likely to tip over. Sit on tops are less likely to fill with water than sit-in or hybrids. Consider what the water conditions are that you fish in. Are you going offshore? Are you fishing a local pond or maybe you are fishing a big lake or river.


People drown in knee deep water if they are unconscious. That being said, when you are kayak fishing there is a lot of activity going as you go from the launch to your favorite fishing spot. People tip over-reaching for gear. People fall out dealing with fish. People fall out when standing up, they don’t plan for the wind and currents and they don’t realize they overloaded their kayak. Even the best end up in the water. Please be careful, always plan for going in the water and wear your Personal Flotation Device. Don’t worry about a PFD that can hold your fishing lures, buy a PFD that is comfortable, so you don’t mind wearing it every time you go out.



So what happens if you end up in the water? How do you back in your kayak? Practice it in your pool. Practice in shallow water. They key here is practicing and knowing what you are going to do and when it happens, stay calm.



Get yourself a paddle float, rope or something that is going to give you the leverage to get yourself out of the water so you can get into your kayak. There are plenty of videos and articles on the web showing you how to get back into your kayak if you fall out.

Choosing a fishing kayakHow often will you be going kayak fishing?

Do you fish every day or once every few months? Hopefully you are buying a fishing kayak so you can fish more often.


Traveling with a kayak and launching a kayak should be easier than towing and launching a boat. There should definitely be a lot more places to launch. Regardless, you may want to consider how often you fish when buying your kayak. If you don’t fish often, the question isn’t as much about which kayak but how much you want to spend on something you won’t use enough.

How to Choose a Fishing KayakI want to bring my kids fishing with me.

Are you planning on bringing your kids kayak fishing with you? Two person kayaks are great for adults and kids to paddle around in and have fun but if you are serious about fishing, it’s not so easy. 


Having your child with you is wonderful but helping them cast, put their bait on and catch a fish are harder from a kayak than it is on a boat. If your child is old enough to handle their own fish, they are probably old enough for their own kayak. So if you are planning to buy a two-person kayak for yourself and your child, buy something that will do the job but know that if your child likes to fish, it won’t be long until they want their own and you’ll be selling one and buying two.

What are some of the most popular brands?

There are several popular brands of fishing kayaks. Each has its own pros and cons. Popularity is often based upon whether there is local dealer or whether the kayak is sold by a major retailer. Brands are popular because they get used. Fishingyaks brings together all of the popular fishing kayaks brands together in one place but check with your local dealer to see what they recommend.




Should I invest in a pedal kayak?

Over the past few years, almost every major kayak brand that targets fishing enthusiasts has released a pedal kayak model. Pedal kayaks don’t necessarily go any faster than paddling but they shift the muscle use from your upper body to your legs.


Why do people want a pedal kayak? Because pedal kayaks free up your hands to do other things like catching fish. Shorter pedal kayaks require you to adjust steering often while longer pedal kayaks mean you don’t have to steer as often. If you want to troll or if you like having your hands free to do things other than paddle, you should seriously consider buying a pedal kayak.


Which pedal kayak should I buy? Only two brands have been selling pedal kayaks for years. Hobie Kayaks and Native Watercraft. Both brands have proven pedal units. Hobie are more push than pedal. Native Watercraft are more bicycle like. Other brands are now manufacturing their own pedal units. Although they may work well at first, be sure they have a guarantee that covers the first year and beyond.


Pedal kayaks will add a large cost to the fishing kayak. Before investing in a pedal kayak, be sure to demo or test the kayak that you are considering.

trolling motors

Should I get a trolling motor for my fishing kayak?

People have been modifying their fishing kayak for years by adding trolling motors. Everyone wants to go faster or make it easier to fish. While trolling motors are a great addition, they bring extra work and planning to the kayak fishing experience.

For people who need to travel a few miles to their favorite fishing hole, a trolling motor will make it easier and faster to get there. It will also make it easier to get back to the launch without wearing yourself out too much.


Installing a trolling motor is difficult. You can mount it on the side or on the back (stern mounted). People love to mod their kayak and adding a trolling motor is a great DIY project. Consider Kevin Dismukes page for aluminum trolling motor mounts or B&C Power Yaks who has several mounting and trolling motor options.


Be aware that adding a trolling motor will add a lot of weight to your kayak. It’s not just the motor, but also the battery.

Typical deep cell batteries are heavy and need to be placed in the right place on your kayak so it doesn’t increase your chance of tipping over. Although expensive, consider a lithium battery. They will last longer and get you more trolling time but also are supposed to last a lot longer than your typical deep-cell marine battery.


What do I need for kayak fishing offshore?

If you plan on going offshore whether fishing or not, safety is very important. Be sure you have all the necessary safety equipment including an air horn and flashlight. Currents and winds can be unpredictable, and you need to be prepared for the worse.


Fishing offshore can be blast. Never go alone. Give someone you trust your float plan. Don’t forget your radios and check your batteries. Get yourself a Personal Locator Device for extra safety. You will also want to leash and tie down everything. The odds of tipping over increase significantly when going offshore which means no sit-ins without a skirt and no hybrid kayaks allowed.

How important is it to be comfortable while kayak fishing?

How important is it to be comfortable while kayak fishing?

Do you fish for an hour or two or all day? The longer you fish, the more comfort you will want. Fishing kayaks with raised seats are the most comfortable but will add to the cost of the kayak. Raised seats are only available on SOT or Hybrid kayaks.

Is it OK to buy a fishing kayak online?

Buying a kayak online is like buying anything online. Will you like it? Can you return it? Is it what you really want? Yes, it is ok to buy a kayak online but be sure you know what you want first. Kayaks are shipped wrapped in padding and doing as much as they can to be sure they aren’t damaged. If you buy a kayak from an online retailer be sure to unwrap your kayak as soon as possible to check for damage. If you have to sign for it, don’t until you unwrap it and inspect it for damage. If damaged, don’t accept it and have the delivery person take it back with them.


kayak trailer

Should I buy a trailer for my fishing kayak?

Are you good at driving with a trailer? If not, consider other using a bed extender or roof racks. If you are comfortable driving with a trailer, having one for your kayak makes it easier to load and travel with.

Kayak trailers make launching from a boat ramp easier as well as launching from places with enough room for backing up a trailer to the water.


Kayak trailers will cost anywhere from $600 and up depending whether it is aluminum, steel, or galvanized steel and how many kayaks it is designed to carry. Try to get one with a long trailer extension. Shorter trailers are much harder to back up with than longer ones.


If you’re trailering your kayak, do not leave anything in it that can fall out. You kayak is going to bounce a lot once on the road and anything that may fall out or vibrate out will.

Do you fish with live bait? Do you need a live well? Live wells are popular for people who like to use live bait and there are live wells designed for kayaks. Depending on the size live well you are going to be adding weight to your kayak. Be sure to plan accordingly.



Which roof racks should I buy for my fishing kayaks?

Most people travel with their kayaks using roof racks. Even people with trailers modify them with roof racks. Depending upon the type of kayak you have, you may also want to use J bars. Either way, be sure to secure your kayaks in three ways. Tie down your kayaks to your roof rack and through your windows as well as a front and rear tie down to keep the kayaks from sliding off the front or rear of your vehicles.


If you are in the market for roof racks, there are several brands to choose from. Be sure to look for brands and styles that fit your vehicle. If you have any reservations, let a professional install them for you. Remember, that roof racks have weight limitations. If you are loading up your roof racks with multiple kayaks be sure that you secure them to the roof racks and then strap the entire thing through your windows as an extra precaution.


It can be hard for people to load kayaks upon the roof rack. If you have a hard time putting kayaks on a roof rack, consider a Thule Hellavator or other kayak roof rack systems that makes it easier to life the kayaks up onto the vehicle.



Choosing a fishing kayak

Should I buy a bed extender for my fishing kayak?

If you have a pickup or suv with a hatch that lifts up, a bed extender is a ‘must-have’. Be sure to get one with a bend so you won’t drag it on the ground when pulling in and out of driveways, etc. Boonedox makes a great aluminum bed extender that is lightweight and won’t rust. If you don’t want to spend the money, there are several low-cost bed extenders on Amazon that have free shipping or are included with an Amazon Prime membership.

Time to upgrade… Selling your fishing kayak!

Check out the Guide to Selling Your Kayak.

Buying from a local fishing kayak store.

Wondering where you can find a fishing kayak within your budget and will match your needs. Your local kayak shop should have someone who can help point you in the right direction. Many stores have demo kayaks you can try. If you are trying a demo, please respect the boat and the shop and give them first dibs on your business. 

You can find  local kayak shop using our Kayak Store Locator below.

Enter the brand you want and your location.


Finding the right price for a fishing kayak!

So now that you know what type of fishing kayak you want, it’s time to figure out how to get the best deal. FishingYaks tries to give you the most information to help you with prices and deals across the web. Start by selecting a brand from below or shop around and call your local kayak dealers. Most dealers sell kayaks at the same price as the other dealers so it will be hard to get a deal on current model popular fishing kayaks. There is one option available to you. Besides getting deals on places like fishing kayaks on Amazon, try West Marine. They offer price matching now, even against Amazon.


Finding the right price kayak fishing gear and accessories!

Whether you already have your fishing kayak, looking for your next one or shopping for your first. Check out our selection of gear and accessories that we recommends.