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Fishing Kayak Hull Guide: 3 Best Kayaks for Rivers, Lakes & Open Water

Fishing Kayak Hull Guide: 3 Best Kayaks for Rivers, Lakes & Open Water

Fishing Kayak Hull Guide: 3 Best Kayaks for Rivers, Lakes & Open Water

You’ve been searching the internet for weeks now. Pandora’s box has been opened and you are flooded with options. You know you want a fishing kayak, but there are so many to choose from that you are having a hard time deciphering what is right for you. How long does it need to be? Which accessories do you need? Will you need a pedal or power drive?!

More importantly than any of these questions, however, is what type of hull will be best for the type of water you’ll be on most frequently? Kayaks and their hull shape vary and each shape has its pros and cons.

What is a Hull & What Do I Need to Consider?

Simply put, the hull is the bottom of your fishing kayak. The shape of your hull largely dictates your speed, tracking (how straight on your course you stay), turning/maneuverability, and your overall stability.

As you try to absorb every possible detail about fishing kayaks, ask yourself: Will I primarily be on rivers and moving through lots of current; will I be taking on bigger waves and open water on big lakes or seawater; or will I be fishing multiple types of water?

Bottom of Hull

Let’s take a look at some different fishing kayak hull shapes and the three best fishing kayaks from Eco Fishing Shop in each category. While we go through them, keep in mind the type of water you think you will fish most frequently.

Two Main Hull Shapes for Fishing Kayaks

V-shape Hull

Like its name, a V-shaped hull comes to a deep V from the sides of the kayak to the hull point. The defining characteristic of V-shape hull kayaks is straight line speed. Due to the V shape, these kayaks ‘knife’ and ‘cut’ their way through the water with minimal drag. When taking on rougher water, this kayak hull shape performs well by knifing its way through choppy water. Paddlers looking to reach higher speeds with less effort and excellent tracking will like kayaks with this hull shape.

What these hulls offer in speed and efficiency they sacrifice in stability in calmer water. If you are new to kayaks, you may find that v-shape kayaks feel ‘tippy’ when you first sit in them. Much like riding a bike, these types of kayaks feel more stable as you gain more speed. If you will be fishing water that is typically calm or has very little chop, a V-shaped hull may not be for you. V-shape kayaks are also more difficult to turn.

V Shape Hull


  • Moves through rougher water more easily
  • Fast and easier to paddle
  • Tracks and maintains its line very well
  • Great for longer trips that require lots of paddling


  • Less stable when at rest and in calm water
  • Does not turn easily
  • Difficult to stand and fish

Poontoon-style Hull

As you probably gathered, the pontoon-style hull mimics that of a pontoon boat. Pontoon hulls are sometimes also known as ‘tunnel’ hulls because underneath they have two channels for the water to move through. Pontoon hulls are popular on fishing kayaks because, much like a pontoon boat, they offer incredible stability. Many anglers prefer to stand and cast from their fishing kayak. With a pontoon-style hull and more stability, anglers can stand with more confidence.

To obtain that level of stability, however, pontoon-style hulls sacrifice speed and precise maneuverability. Like a pontoon boat, pontoon-style kayaks take an extra paddle stroke or longer pedal stroke to turn.

Pontoon-style hulls are good all-around fishing kayaks that provide stability in multiple water conditions such as rivers, lakes and open water. They can handle bigger waves, but they sacrifice speed and do not ‘knife’ through rough water as well as a V-shaped hull.

Pontoon Style Hull


  • Extremely stable
  • Great for dropping anchor or casting in one spot
  • Can stand and fish in most pontoon-style kayaks
  • Great for calm rivers, lakes, streams and protected coastal bays


  • Not known for top speeds
  • Moderate tracking, but not as good as V-shape hulls
  • Handles waves when still, but doesn't 'knife' through rough water like V-shapes
  • Requires more effort to paddle when relocating, especially in current or choppy waters

Additional Considerations


While it may not seem obvious, longer kayaks tend to offer better tracking and more speed. This may seem opposite of what you’d think. However, the longer the kayak, the more evenly spread your weight and power output (paddle, pedal or power) will be.

s a beginner, many might think that a shorter, more compact, fishing kayak will be easier to manage. This isn’t always the case because shorter kayaks may not track as well meaning you’ll need more course corrections. Finding the sweet spot is key. For many beginners, it is in the 11-13 foot range.


The wider your kayak, the more stability it offers. Keep in mind the wider your kayak goes, the more water it must push out of the way when moving. As a general rule, the more width you have offers more stability at the cost of speed and efficiency. Again, keep in mind what type of water you will be on, how you will be propelling your kayak and how far you think you’ll want to travel on an average fishing trip.

3 Best V-shaped Kayaks

Old Town Sportsman BigWater 132 PDL

Old Town Sportsman BigWater PDL 132

Length: 13' 2" | Width: 36" | Weight: 96 lbs | Carrying Capacity: 500 lbs

At just over 13 feet, the engineered tri-hull (modified V-shape) design provides the efficiency desired in more open water and the stability required when you stand. While note a traditional pure V-shaped hull, the tri-hull adds more stability by adding additional outside hulls.

With instant forward and reverse, maneuverability and stability, you'll enjoy precise boat control while your hands remain free to fish. Our award-winning PDL Drive is the most reliable and easy-to-use pedal drive on the market. This kayak is great for hunting and fishing, tracks well, is stable enough to stand on and can handle more open water.


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NuCanoe Unlimited

NuCanoe Unlimited

Length: 12' 6" | Width: 41" | Weight: 80 lbs | Carrying Capacity: 600 lbs

A solid open deck with unlimited rig-ability, a remarkable hull design that is fast and stable, plug & play ready for pedals, power, and electronics – The UNLIMITED takes you to the future of kayak fishing and hunting.

The all-new Unlimited Fishing Kayak features a Tarpon Drainage System with 7 scuppers, On-Demand Storage with GearPod, WaterTight Hull Integrity, 22'+ of TopLoad Aluminum Track, 3 Wiring Access Plates, 4 ThruHull Wiring Ports, XL Transducer Pod, Rotating and Locking Stern Handle, and a 360 Fusion Seat.


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Jackson Coosa FD

Jackson Coosa FD

Length: 12' 7" | Width: 35" | Weight: 107 lbs | Carrying Capacity: 450 lbs

The Coosa FD combines the top-selling Coosa HD hull and deck layout with our innovative Flex Drive Mark IV System, which is uniquely engineered to retract the propeller into the hull when beaching or when running over submerged obstacles.

This hull performs beautifully on lakes, rivers, inshore, and even offshore salt environments. The combination of one of the best-designed all-around kayaks and the Flex Drive Mark IV makes this a leading combination for hands-free kayak angling in a wide array of waterways!


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3 Best Pontoon-Style Kayaks

3 Waters Big Fish 108

3 Waters Big Fish 108 Pedal Drive Fishing Kayak

Length: 11' | Width: 38" | Weight: 135 lbs | Carrying Capacity: 450 lbs

With a Cathedral trimaran hull design, the Big Fish 108 offers industry leading stability for standing and sight casting, pedaling through big chop or catching the biggest fish of your life. At 11' and a capacity of 450 lbs, the Big Fish 108 is the pedal kayak for those who want to fish with confidence relying on its unbeatable stability.

This kayak was specially designed to accommodate the Pro Fish Pedal Drive featuring the intuitive 8-ball steering system combined with the oversized Beaver Tail rudder for the ultimate propulsion experience.


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Hobie Pro Angler 12 360

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 360

Length: 12' | Width: 36" | Weight: 109 lbs | Carrying Capacity: 500 lbs

With the revolutionary MirageDrive 360 and Kick-Up fins, move through the water without constraints, going exactly where you want to go. Hobie’s patented Kick-Up Fins immediately retract on impact – even shallow areas are now entirely navigable.

The PA 12 is packed full of features including six rod holders, fully adjustable and ultra comfortable elevated Vantage ST seat with BOA lumbar support, Guardian retractable transducer shield, H-Rail for easy integration with accessories, front and center hatch with stain-resistant EVA grip pads, dual steering and extra wide hull for maximum stability.


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Old Town Sportsman 120 PDL

Old Town Sportsman PDL 120

Length: 12' | Width: 36" | Weight: 85 lbs | Carrying Capacity: 500 lbs

Ultra-stable DoubleU Hull glides quietly through water while providing a stable and comfortable stand-up fishing platform. The Sportsman 120 PDL takes the well known Topwater 120 and adds an upgraded seat, with instant forward and reverse, the award-winning PDL Drive is the most reliable and easy-to-use pedal drive on the market.

Multiple accessorry tracks, a non-slip EVA foam deck to provide added traction, oversized storage areas including dry storage, a universal transducer mount and flush mounted rod holders are but a few accessories to make the Old Town Sportsman a great fishing kayak.


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Final Thoughts

Once you’ve made your decision and you feel confident in the kayak you want, your next step is finding a dealer that can help you get your kayak. What many dealers won’t tell you is that there is no perfect kayak for every type of water. We highlighted some fishing kayaks that are good all-around boats, but there is no magic kayak that is perfectly suited for whitewater rapids one day and ocean fishing the next day.

No matter what kayak you choose, it will have its pros and cons and will fare better in certain types of water conditions than others. Think hard about the type of water you will be on most and what attributes you value above all else. While you certainly won’t be limited to the water that you frequent the most by selecting a certain hull type, it makes sense to match your purchase with your primary fishing choice.

Shop Fishing Kayaks & Accessories

We shared our three top choices for V-shape and Pontoon-style hulled kayaks, but they are just the surface. Each fishing kayak that Eco Fishing Shop sells is of the highest quality. When you've decided on the hull type, browse all of our fishing kayaks to find the best fit for you. The right kayak for your fishing preferences is essential to finding more fish and enjoying your outings more.

Have you already decided on your kayak and need accessories to rig out your new fishing kayak? Check out our large selection of ways to fully customize your kayak to your liking. Don't forget to check out our public community where newcomers and tournament anglers share all of their lessons and ask questions on the Kayak Anglers Resource.

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