Do you want to expand on your fishing abilities? Perhaps have greater access to fishing locations? Then maybe it’s not your skill as a beginner but your equipment that needs to change. When it comes to fishing, there are all types of boats on the market. Ranging from powerboats to little dingy boats, fishermen use all sorts of means to get to their prey. However, kayaks have always been preferred. They are cheap, lightweight, and easy to handle and most importantly they are small-water friendly and can be used in all kinds of water bodies.
Fishing Kayak Buyer’s Guide for Beginners
What’s the best kayak for you? If you have decided to enhance your fishing experience or perhaps even start fishing by purchasing a kayak then this is a question you will be asking yourself. It is important to be careful about making the right choice for yourself, especially if you are a beginner to kayak fishing. Remember, there is no one kayak that is a one fit for all but is something that is highly dependent on individual needs. Picking the best fishing kayak for yourself depends on what type of water body you’ll be paddling in and your specific needs. Here is a guide of all the things you need to know before making an informed decision.
When you are fishing, you don’t just take yourself on a kayaking trip but lots of equipment as well. It is important for a good kayak to have a versatile space for storing all sorts of gear. There should be pointing points, waterproof compartments and a place to strap a cooler to the back.
Of course this is dependent on your style of fishing. Some have a minimalistic approach and with a single rod and a bag of bait they are good to go. But others feel more comfortable having multiple rods, every hook, and multiple bags of bait and so of course they need more space. It’s crucial to judge the amount of stuff you will be taking with you and how you would like to carry it when you go fishing, this will make it easier to decide if you want a small kayak, a large one with dry compartments or tow-behind storage.
While most kayaks are built to fit in both you and your gear in, each model has its own unique dimensions. Some are wider, some are longer and while we will get into the advantages and disadvantages of this size later. Comfort is primary!
If you don’t feel comfortable maneuvering the kayak then it is not a good fit. It’s important to take into consideration one’s own build and height before deciding on a kayak size. If you are well-bodied and choose a smaller kayak it will probably be a tight fit resulting in a displeasing experience. On the other hand, if you are short-heighted and have purchased a 13ft large kayak it will be almost impossible to manage. There are specially sized kayaks for kids as well.
The person who the kayak is meant for impacts the buying procedure as much as its use. Make sure to buy a suitable size that not only provides seating comfort but is easily managed as well.
Before buying a kayak it’s important to check the weight carrying capacity. If the kayak you are purchasing can’t even support your own weight how will it support the weight of all the fish you are planning to catch! Check the maximum weight restrictions of the kayak to ensure it can hold all your gear, catch and of course on yourself. A common rookie mistake is buying a cheap kayak without making sure if it will even be able to support their own body so don’t fall trap to low prices when you won’t even be able to use the kayak!
The reason kayaks are preferred over canoes and other small-water boats is because they are portable. The entire charm of owning a kayak is simply being able to load it onto the roof of your car and go to the lake whenever you have a couple of hours. It is perfect for spontaneous plans. So when buying a kayak it’s always a good idea to check how much the kayak itself weighs and if you’ll be able to lift and pack it up by yourself.
Of course there are many modern kayaks which are inflatable, this makes them portable on a whole different level. Choose a kayak based on your current transportation situation, after all if you are someone who relies on a bike or public transport then a hard-shell traditional transport will be nothing more than a decoration piece for the home, so an inflatable kayak is the only logical choice. However car owners have the extra mobility to experience a traditional kayak because it can easily be loaded onto the car top, especially if it has a lightweight built.
Thinking ahead is always an appreciated quality that your future self will always thank you for. If you are determined then buying a beginner kayak is only a temporary situation and you will soon need to upgrade to a more expert fishing kayak. On the other hand maybe you are only looking at this as a temporary hobby and would like to get rid of the kayak after you are bored. Either way, discarding the kayak is not a practical option but of course reselling and getting some of the money back sounds way better to the wallet.
Try to find a kayak that holds its value on the market which will help you get a better price in the future. Of course taking good care and maintaining the kayak while it is in your ownership is imperative to this plan.
Body of Water
Each body of water has a different current and so it needs a different kind of kayak. For a calm lake or river kayaking, recreational kayaks are preferred but for ocean fishing, out at sea or in the great lakes, experts recommend using specialized sea kayaks. Larger bodies of water are more dangerous and recreational kayaks stand no chance against their might.
Back to size, but now instead of capacity we will look at performance. The length of a kayak is something you should decide while keeping in mind what kind of water you will be using it in. Smaller kayaks (less than 11 feet in length) offer a wide range of maneuverability. Experts recommend such kayaks for small ponds, creeks, and backwaters because here rather than speed you’ll want to be able to make quick turns. Longer kayaks (more than 12 feet in length) offer more speed.
For fishing in bigger lakes and rivers and even the oceans, speed is of the essence because you want to cover more distance as you fish and maximize on the catch. However, keep in mind the size of kayak should primarily cater to comfort and then any other features.
The width of the kayak provides overall stability. The greatest fear when it comes to kayaking is getting unbalanced and getting tipped over into the water. So you would think stability is crucial and start searching for the widest kayak out there, but this can be a double-edged sword. Wider kayaks, although stable, limit maneuverability. This is especially hindering to beginners because they are just learning how to handle and paddle with a kayak. Make sure to weigh the type of kayaking you will be doing and then selecting one based on width. If you plan on fishing while standing, you will definitely need more stability in your kayak than most, but if you plan to cover a lot of distance in one day then narrower kayaks are easier to paddle and move along.
Make sure that your kayak offers safety. A safer kayak is inclusive of a lot of features mentioned above. The most important of which is a good fit! Make sure to choose a kayak that can handle your weight and won’t collapse mid-trip. The seating should be comfortable so your muscles don’t cramp and of course you kayak should be stable. You don’t want to tip over into the water from just angling your rod at a possible catch.
A keel is an extension of the kayak. It has the shape of a fin and sticks into the water from the hull. Its general purpose is to improve speed and to keep the kayak from turning side-to-side. Many kayaks come with keels, some have retractable keels (can be equipped depending on requirement), and some come without any keel at all. Of course buying a kayak with a keel is completely dependent on need; for those who expect to be ocean fishing, this will provide a superior paddling experience but in shallow water if you are fishing standing up then it’s better to go without the keel.
When you are out fishing in open water, having an anchor can be a fantastic benefit. Sometimes even in backwaters, you may just like to anchor in your kayak and lay back and have a peaceful fishing day instead of an active hunt. But for those anglers who like to fish while drifting with the current in their search for prey, owning an anchor will just be additional costs and weight.
Types of Kayaks:
Sit on Kayak
These are a modern kind of kayak. These are easier to get into and won’t fill up with water. These are often referred to as sea kayaks as well because the very built allows for greater stability. Professionals prefer these kayaks when it comes to fishing because you can mount a lot of your fishing gear to it (there is a lot of space to install additional mounting points), however, there is no internal dry storage.
However if you are squirmy about getting wet, then this isn’t the kayak for you. Preferably use these in warmer weather because they don’t provide much protection against the cold. There is more leg-room when it comes to sit-on kayaks and they are easy to get in and out of. These have built-in scupper holes that let out the water, making sure the kayak never fills with water. We also recommend these for people who want to go kayaking with their children or pets.
Sit in Kayak
Just like the name suggests, this kind of kayak has an enclosed cockpit surrounding the user so only the waist above portion of the body is exposed to the elements. These have a more traditional shape, and experts often refer to them as recreational kayaks. These are built to weather against the waves. They keep the body safe and warm in cold weather and can even be equipped with a spray skirt that provides additional protection against the wind and the waves. The very shape of the kayak means there is less drag and it will be easier to paddle. And if you don’t want your gear to get wet, there is a below deck storage that will keep your equipment dry.
When it comes to fishing, however, these kayaks tend to be a little more obstructive. While the shape offers the protection it also limits mobility. There is also space for mounting up your gear for easy access. As you can guess, these are often used in cold climates where you don’t want to risk getting wet when fishing.
Quite obvious from the name but these kayaks don’t have a hard shell instead are pumped up with air right before a trip in the water. Perfect for people who have limited storage and transportation, these are a common type of kayak now. While modern technology has given these kayaks the stability and paddling qualities of the traditional kayaks, the material just doesn’t make it ideal for fishing. After all you can really use hooks and knives with freedom when there’s fear of puncturing the only thing keeping you afloat!
These are made to be portable and ideal for people with limited storage. But unlike the inflatable kayaks, these have a rigid structure that simply folds in on itself. These are easy to unfold and launch into the water and come very close to a traditional hard shell kayak, but still have portability. So if you want to go fishing with all your sharp knives and hooks but are in need of a portable kayak, folding is definitely the way to go.
While it may seem as if folding kayaks have no downside and are the perfect solution that is not true. When moving in the water, the frame of the kayak has a weird flexibility that can be quite irritating, not to mention the extremely high price point. Of course, professionals argue that you get more bang for your buck when it comes to folding kayaks vs. inflatable ones.
Pedal / Touring Kayaks
Want to cover a lot of distance when fishing? Often we get really tired from just paddling away from shore and have no stamina or motivation left to actually fish. This is where the pedaling kayaks come in. The pedals in the kayak not only allow the users to travel long distances but also a unique hands free experience of chasing after their prey with rod in hand instead of a paddle. This gives you maximum freedom to hit the target.
However we would not recommend these to beginners because they are quite hard to manage especially when you still haven’t mastered traditional paddling kayaks. Also the price point is nothing to scoff at.
These are the longest kayaks on the market, at a shocking 18 feet to 24 feet long length. But this length is completely justified because tandem kayaks are designed to hold two! Perhaps you want to take your son out for a little bonding while fishing then tandem kayaking is the perfect way to go for it. Of course with two people in mind, these have more places for storage.
It is quite difficult to use (definitely not for beginners) because it requires synchronized movement. The learning curve for a tandem kayak is completely different to that of a normal one because it is nearly impossible to maneuver it on your own but requires a combined effort.
However if you don’t want to buy two kayaks but have two people this is a solution. It is also easier to store compared to the two individual kayaks and would cost less than two for sure too!
Top 10 Fishing Kayaks for Beginners
Despite having all this information actually deciding on a kayak can still be a difficult choice so we have included a rundown of different kayaks, each catering to a unique requirement.
1. Lifetime Youth Wave (Best Fishing Kayak for Kids)
If you are looking to introduce your kids to the world of kayak fishing then the Lifetime Youth Wave is a fantastic first kayak option. It is only 6 feet long and 18 pounds heavy making it easy for kids above 5 to handle on their own, a true grown-up experience. It is a sit-on kayak so there are mounting points for fishing rods. The kayak is equipped with multiple footrest positions so it offers more stability and even has a swim-up step which makes entry into it even more comfortable especially from the water. It has a weight capacity of 130 pounds so it’s not ideal for the chubbier child.
- Swim-up step
- Lightweight and easy to manage
- Beginners Kayak for Kids
- Limited weight capacity
2. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL Angler (Best Tandem Fishing Kayak)
Yes, that’s right, if you want to go fishing with your partner, friend or child we have picked out a perfect tandem kayak for you. It has a sit on design with comfort plus seats for a more leisurely experience. The Two XL Angler has a weight capacity of a whopping 500 pounds, which is above average even for most tandem kayaks. It is built to accommodate people of all sizes (not just the fit) for the perfect fishing experience. The kayak has a stable floor, because as you can guess from the name it is a specialized fishing kayak. It has a lot of additional gear storage to keep all your fishing supplies in.
- Accommodates 2 people
- Large weight capacity
- Specialized for fishing
- Inclusive of all body shapes
- Hard to synchronize
- Difficult to manage for beginners
3. Sevylor Quikpak K5 (Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak)
Of course, fishing in inflatable kayaks is hardly a comfortable experience so we would not recommend this ideally but if you must have a portable kayak, then this is a wonderful option. It takes only 5 minutes to inflate and deflate and is easily folded into the attached backpack. And what’s really nifty? The backpack doubles as a comfortable seat while you’re kayaking.
The Quikpack K5 is our pick for the best portable fishing kayak because it has a 24 gauge PVC exterior (hard plastic body) which makes it hard to puncture. Deliberately sticking your hook in will do the job, but you don’t have to be particularly careful like in most inflatable kayaks. It is also leak resistant thanks to the double lock valves so you don’t have to worry about the kayak suddenly deflating while you’re still out in the water.
- Puncture Resistant
- Leak Resistant
- Not ideal for fishing
4. Ocean Kayak Frenzy (Best Sit on Fishing Kayak)
A sit on kayak is a more ideal type of kayak for fishing especially in warmer weather. The Ocean Kayak Frenzy offers all the benefits of a typical sit on kayak and adds onto it with its lightweight and with its short length of just 9 feet it offers great maneuverability. Of course this length limits the people who can take advantage of this kayak, making it ideal for the smaller and more petite-built. But if you can fit into it is a great first kayak and provides a fast learning curve considering how easy it is to manage. It offers a shock-cord bungee system for tow-behind storage of all your fishing supplies.
- Easy to Maneuver
- Tow-behind storage
- Not comfortable for everyone
5. Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 (Best Sit in Fishing Kayak)
This kayak is perfect for cold weather and people who like to avoid getting wet, and is built with maximum comfort in mind. The seat of the chair has a fully adjustable back, thigh and knee padding, and a foot brace system to provide an ideal experience. The hull of the kayak has an ergonomic multi-chined V-hull which gives exceptional stability to the kayak and allows it to move faster in the water. It even has a unique dashboard design to store all your gear within easy reach and keep it dry. It is also extremely lightweight making it easy to load onto your car and manage in general.
- Dry Storage
- Easy to Manage
- Limited mobility in Sit in Kayaks
6. Oru Kayak Beach LT (Best Foldable Fishing Kayak)
Although this is definitely one the more expensive kayaks on this list, the Oru Kayak Beach LT definitely gives you its money’s worth. Despite being portable it retains all the qualities of a hard-shell kayak making it more stable and fast compared to inflatable counterparts. The Beach LT is our choice for the best foldable Kayak because it is also the lightest kayak on the market, making it easy to handle for beginners.
- Flexible sides while paddling
7. Sun Dolphin Excursion 12 SS (Best Fishing Kayak for Money)
The cheapest kayak on our list, this is definitely a more budget-friendly option for beginners getting into kayaking. This is a traditional sit in kayak great for light fishing, and offers mountable points for rods. There is also a bungee cord for tow-behind storage. The best thing about this kayak is that it comes in two different sizes so you pick the one best suited for your physique. The cheaper price point of course does mean it compromises on life span and will show wear, but great for beginners who want to start without a huge investment!
- Tow-behind storage
- Limited mobility in Sit in Kayaks
- Short Life-span
8. Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 SS (Our Favorite Fishing Kayak for Beginners)
It’s comfy, it’s spacious, and it’s tough. This is the most lightweight hard-shell kayak (the beach LT is lighter but not hard shell) on the market. This kayak is ideal for those out there who like to take every single piece of gear with them when they go out fishing because it has both dry storage and tow-behind storage! It also comes in different sizes for taller users, making it the perfect kayaks for all the beginners out there.
- Dry Storage
- Tow-behind storage
- Limited Mobility in Sit in Kayaks
9. Perception Pescador Pro 12 (Best Fishing Kayak)
If you are serious about fishing then this is a specialized fishing kayak for the kayaking beginners out there. The kayak has a specially designed hull and even a straight tracking keel attached to it that improves speed and the overall paddling experience.
The Pescador Pro 12 was built with both novices and fishers in mind so it comes with a removable seat that can provide the same comfort as a lawn chair when attached or you can remove it to amplify your storage space. It has mounting points, storage areas but most importantly it has dedicated tackle boxes for your fishing equipment that are easy to access.
- Specially for Fishing
- Dry Storage
- Removable Seat
10. Old Town Predator PDL (Best Pedaling Fishing Kayak)
Could a kayak run-down be complete without including our pick of these ergonomic pedaling kayaks? Of course the fishing experience that comes with a pedaling kayak is unmatched by any traditional kayaks because it allows for hands-free mobility. No need for paddles when you have your prey in sight just grab your rod and start pedaling!
The Old Town Predator is definitely an advanced kayak because the pedals take some time to master. The company prioritizes stability and control with speed when designing their kayaks. The kayak has a flip switch that allows you to pedal both forward and reverse with a simple flick of the wrist; the switch can also be locked into place giving the kayak additional stability as you combat your prey.
It has 6 mounting plates that can be removed and reattached based on conveniences, tow-behind cooler for all your fishing tackle, and even water-proof storage. And of course this storage can be used to its maximum potential thanks to the 500 pounds weight carrying capacity.
The kayak has a super wide deck for maximum stability which can support even the bigger users when they want to fish standing up. It is also very long in length (13 feet!) which gives it speed, but like we stressed earlier this is not a beginner kayak. It is hard to maneuver especially when you are new to the world of kayaks and is designed to accommodate more professional fishers.
- Hands-free Fishing
- Large weight limit
- Large storage
- Advanced Kayak
Shopping for kayaks can be difficult especially when you are a beginner. There are many professional kayaks with eye-catching features that you can’t wait to use but of course this means they are more difficult to handle. When it comes to being a novice kayaker you should opt for kayaks like the Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 SS or the Perception Pescador Pro 12 if you want a more fishing specialized kayak. It is important to consider your own individual needs and what feature is most suited to your style and personality before making any final decisions.