How Do You Choose a Kayak for Fishing?

6-minute read + 20-minute video

How do you know which fishing kayak is right for you? Aqua Bound Ambassador Ken Whiting goes over several tips for you to choose the right fishing kayak in this video…


Why Fish from a Kayak?

Whether you’re a kayaker who wants to fish, or an angler who wants to fish from a kayak, there are great reasons to love a fishing kayak:

  • The cost difference to buy, run and maintain a kayak vs. a motorboat is huge. Fishing from a kayak—even a high-end fishing kayak—is much easier on the budget than fishing from even the cheapest motorboat.
  • A kayak can launch in and access waters that are inaccessible for powerboats.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you consider a fishing kayak purchase:

Sit-Inside or Sit-on-Top?

Sit-inside kayaks have a couple major benefits over sit-on-tops. First, because your center of gravity is lower, sit-insides are typically a bit narrower. This means their performance on the water is better. They’re faster and easier to maneuver than a sit-on-top.

If you mainly want a kayak for recreational paddling, but also want to fish now and again, you’ll probably be happier with a sit-on-top model for its performance.

Second, because there’s less plastic involved, sit-insides are lighter. Often much lighter than a sit-on-top of the same length.

You can customize and accessorize a sit-inside model for fishing, especially if you buy a fishing-specific one.

Sit-on-top kayaks are definitely the most popular of the two with serious anglers. That’s because their wide, stable platform makes it easy (easier than with a sit-inside) to accessorize and make room for all your gear.

And many sit-on-top fishing kayaks are wide and stable enough to stand up on, as well as sit. Standing gives you a break from sitting, gives you a great view of the water and offers more freedom when casting.

 man kayak fishing

You’ll still want a good paddle with a pedal kayak! (photo courtesy of Ken Whiting)

Another benefit of sit-ons is their scupper holes. These are holes all the way through the kayak that let excess water out, making it impossible to swamp.

Pedal or Paddle?

Pedal kayaks—especially for kayak fishing—have exploded in popularity in recent years. These models use a pedal system to move forward and backward.

Pedal kayaks have two major benefits:

  • They give you the option of hands-free fishing while you move in the water.
  • Pedal kayaks are faster than paddle kayaks. So you can cover more water and get to your spots more quickly.

They also have several downsides:

  • They’re more expensive than paddle kayaks. Expect to pay about $1,500 more for a pedal-drive over a similar paddle kayak.
  • You still need a paddle and need paddle skills. Pedal systems are built well, but they’re a mechanical system that can fail.
  • The pedal system needs more clearance underneath the boat, so you won’t be able to access the shallowest spots like you can with a paddle kayak.
  • The pedal system gets tangled in weedy waters.
  • Pedal kayaks are much heavier than paddle kayaks because of the weight of the drive system.

Do You Have Transportation and Storage Limits?

If you’re limited with your transportation and storage options, maybe your only option is a portable model—an inflatable or folding kayak.

You won’t be able to accessorize your kayak as much as with a hardshell, but you can certainly still fish from one of these types.

If you decide to look into a folding or inflatable model, you’ll want to favor stability over  paddling performance. You want a boat you can feel confident in while you cast, reel and land fish.

What about inflatable kayaks and fish hooks?

Stay away from cheap inflatables. But quality models are extremely durable and aren’t in danger of getting pierced by a hook. The exception would be kayaks with a fabric-like cover. Fabric and hooks don’t get along!

 fishing kayak on the shore of a river, rigged for fishing

(photo courtesy of @kayakkevin)

Which Features Do You Want?

There are a few features to look for that really enhance your fishing experience:

Comfortable Seat

Kayak anglers typically spend more time on the water than recreational kayakers. If you’re going to be out there all day, you want a seat that’s super comfortable.

Sit-on-top fishing kayaks usually have seats that are several inches off the floor of the boat that put you in a more natural sitting position. Many also have a frame-and-fabric seat instead of a molded plastic seat. These make those hours in your kayak much more comfortable than sitting on the floor of the kayak in a hard seat.

Some have low-high adjustable settings. The higher seat also makes it easier to stand up and sit down, and to fish from a seated position. The lower position gets your center of balance closer to the water so you’re more stable when paddling or pedaling.


When you fish on calm water there are many benefits to being able to stand occasionally. You have a better view of the water and the area around you. Standing gives your legs and back a much needed break from sitting.

If you like the idea of standing often, look for a kayak with traction pads.

On-Kayak Storage

If you’re a minimalist, a sit-inside kayak will have plenty of room for one or two rods and a tackle box.

But if you love having everything with you, there’s more space for all your gear, several rods, your net, gear box, tackle bags and more on a sit-on-top model.

 kayak angler standing on his kayak looking over the water

(photo courtesy of @kayakkevin)


If you love electronics when you fish, there are plenty of ways to mount these gear items on a sit-on-top fishing kayak. Most quality fishing kayaks already have mounts installed, just waiting for your gear. They’re also easy to customize.

With pedal kayaks, you have even more options because you don’t spend as much time paddling. So the sides of the kayak are more open to mounted electronics without interfering with a day’s worth of paddling.

You still have options for mounting these electronics on a sit-inside, but these options are more limited.

Choose a fishing kayak wisely and it’ll last you for many, many years of angling adventures. As Ken points out in the video, there’s a very strong second-hand kayak market out there. Buy used first and see what you like and don’t like. You can always swap out later.

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

More for you...