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You've obviously found this blog because you are wondering if investing in a fishing kayak is worth your time and money. There are tons of options available to you and that in and of itself can be overwhelming. You've probably also thought, "should I just buy a boat?" (Don't do that). Let's have a quick and honest discussion about why, or why not, a fishing kayak would be right for you.
Chances are, if you’ve made it here, your social media algorithms are feeding you fishing kayaks that are rigged in insane ways. Or, maybe you’ve spent time scrolling through fishing kayak videos, researching the different brands and daydreaming about the perfect setup.
Before we get too far, here are a few quick questions you can ask yourself as you start to consider a sit-on-top/fishing kayak:
Answering these simple questions can help you hone on whether or not a sit-on-top (fishing) kayak is worth it. Let's look at a few of these questions in more detail.
What Type of Water Will You Use Your Kayak on the Most?
While most sit-on-top kayaks perform well in a variety of waters, there are some specific kayaks that are built better than others depending on the water you'll be on. Are you going to use your kayak primarily on a river and navigating ruffles? Do you plan to use your kayak off-shore in the ocean or on the big, open water of large lakes?
Before we dive into water types and some kayaks that work well in each situation, read our Hull Guide that explores how hull shape affects tracking, stability and maneuverability.
If you are someone who plans to traverse or fish on rivers frequently, there are specific kayak types that are going to be much better for you. Start by looking at the hull type. Longer kayaks with more v-shaped hulls track better and maneuver more easily than pontoon-shaped hulls. As you can imagine, tracking straight and maintaining your position is far more important on a river than a calm lake or pond.
Other small factors to consider are simple things like horizontal rod/paddle storage and how accessories and gear are stored. The likelihood of getting snagged on hanging debris or tipping over in shoals is higher on a river than say a small lake. Pick a kayak and plan your river trips as though you WILL tip over so that if it does happen, you aren’t going home with all of your gear sacrificed to the river. Before you set out on the river, read Pro Staff member Garrett Reid's River Fishing Guide.
Do You Want a Drive Now or in the Future?
Pedal Drive System
Pedal drives allow anglers to propel the kayak with a pedaling system much like a bike. Pedal drives require full circular revolutions just like a bike that spins the prop. Most pedal drives allow for forward and reverse by pedaling in either direction. This can offer a big advantage when in tight spots.
Fin Drive System
Fin drives, like pedal drives, are propelled using pedals. Two fins attached to the pedal system flap sideways to propel the kayak. Fin drives only require minimal pedaling forwards and backwards, not circular revolutions like the pedal drive and can be put flush against the bottom of the hull. Fin drives are a good option for shallow water and for operators who may have limited joint mobility. Not all fin drives are capable of reverse movement.
Check Out Some of the Best Pedal & Fin Drive Kayaks
Length: 12'3" | Width: 35" | Weight: 97lbs (without drive) | Carrying Capacity: 400lbs
Specifically designed to accommodate the Rapid Pedal Drive system that features the smooth steer system to provide maximum propulsion, the Seastream Angler 120 is fast. Keeping your hands free and fresh for fishing, the Seastream 120 PD also includes the EZ Rider multi-position wide seat for long days on the water.
The Seastream Angler 120 PD includes the UNI-Track accessory system, flush mounted rod holders, rod tip protection for horizontal storage, and stability for stand-up fishing. Fishing features, a fast pedal system and the Beaver Tail Rudder make the Seastream 120 PD a great pedal kayak for a fair starting price.
Length: 9' 8" | Width: 35" | Weight: 62lbs | Carrying Capacity: 419lbs | Propulsion Type: Fin or Pedal
Whether you're a drifting fisherman, a tournament kayak angler, or an avid recreational paddler; the Vanhunks Pike Fishing Kayak is the ultimate all-around kayak that will suit any water conditions. The Vanhunks Pike's maneuverable 9’8" design offers excellent stability and superior comfort. Combine this with the adaptability of the Tool Pod, and it becomes the perfect fishing companion.
And no matter if you are a novice or experienced paddler, this kayak is a great all-rounder for anglers wanting to get out on the water without breaking the bank. And with its sleek design and compatibility with either Vanhunks’ Fin Drive or Propeller Drive, it's for many accessory and upgrade options.
Starting at $1,695
Length: 10'6"| Width: 35" | Weight: 110lbs (without pedals) | Carrying Capacity: 397 lbs
Take in the sights and sounds of the water with the 3 Water Big Fish 103 Pedal Drive Fishing Kayak. This stable, multi-purpose fishing kayak features a Trimaran hull design, flush-mounted rod holders, plus an EZ Rider Seat for supreme comfort on long and short paddles.
This kayak is perfect for pedaling around the lake, getting into tight spots, or making the most of ocean fishing. Forward and reverse capability allow this kayak user to cover great distance and get in and out of any jams by simply reversing their pedaling.
Length: 10' 6" | Width: 36" | Weight: 76lbs | Carrying Capacity: 450lbs
Quickly becoming one of the most popular fishing kayaks among enthusiasts, the Old Town Sportsman PDL (pedal) 106 is built for performance. At under 11 feet and less than 80 pounds, the Sportsman PDL 106 is easier to maneuver and load/unload than many larger kayaks.
Smaller and lighter does not always mean less durable or stable. With a DoubleU hull, the Sportsman PDL 106 has a comfortable stand-up platform. The included pedal drive is forward and reverse capable, helping anglers get in and out of their favorite fishing spots with ease. Other features of the Old Town Sportsman PDL 106 include rod and tackle management in an oversized tank well, dedicated horizontal rod storage, two 18" accessory tracks, universal transducer mounting system for a fish finder, and superior seating. Whether setting out for a quick fishing trip or hitting the water for an all-day tournament, the Old Town Sportsman PDL 106 is ready for whatever you can throw at it.
Length: 13'9” | Width: 37" | Weight: 140lbs | Carrying Capacity: 475lbs
Jackson's Knarr FD was designed specfically to take on the challenges of large lakes and oceans. With a team of experts on big water, big game, and big tournament anglers, the Jackson Knarr is built to take on the surf, currents, winds, tides, and any other elements you may encounter.
Featuring the new Flex Drive Mark IV that retracts when beaching or hitting underwater obstructions, the Knarr FD keeps the angler moving with speed and less effort. A fully-loaded kayak, the Jackson Knarr has too many features to list. Some of the angler-motivated features include flush-mounted rod holders, up-to six rods storage, patented TriTrack for accessories, EZ HiLo seat system, livewell plumbing ready, and the JK Multibox featuring Quick Connect. A serious kayak for serious anglers!
Starting at $4,199
Length: 13'8" | Width: 38" | Carrying Capacity: 600lbs
Everything elite anglers look for in a fishing kayak was meticulously thought out when building the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 360. Complete control, power, stability, performance, comfort and loaded with features, the Mirage Pro Angler 14 360 has it all.
A wide standing platform includes noise reducing EVA traction pads to keep anglers concealed from their prey. Sneak up on your fish from any angle using the MirageDrive 360 with Kick-Up Fin Technology. With a weight capacity of 600 lbs, the Pro Angler 14 360 is capable of hauling tons of gear. Multiple large storage hatches with pivoting tackle management systems mean you don't have to make tough choices on what gear to leave behind. Two H-Rail horizontal rod racks, live-well ready rear cargo area, retractable transducer shield, and molded in vertical rod holders set the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 360 as one of best fishing kayaks for experienced anglers.
Starting at $5,799
Can I Use a Fishing Kayak for Recreation?
Shortest answer to this question: Yes. Sit-on-top kayaks, even the ones built for fishing, make an excellent choice for a recreational kayak. There are multiple reasons why choosing a fishing kayak for a recreational kayak makes perfect sense. Here are just a few:
Like we discussed before, sit-on-top kayaks offer much more stability than traditional sit-in kayaks. You can traverse bigger water, or rivers, with peace-of-mind that you are not going to tip over as easily. A majore bonus of a sit-on-top kayak is that many allow you to stand. Being able to stretch without stopping and getting out of your kayak can lengthen your day on the water without the aches & pains.
Piggybacking off of the stability, sit-on-top kayaks typically provide seats with adjustable back rests. If you are planning a long day on the water, having a seat you can lean back on and stand up from with prolong your outing. Some fishing kayaks offer adjustable lumbar support and the ability to swivel 360 degrees. Even if you aren't fishing, staying comfortable makes any trip better.
Accessory Rails & Gear Storage
Sit-on-top kayaks offer more room for storage and accessory rails to add after-market items. While a lot of the accessories are built for fishing, they can be applied to everyday use as well. Cellphone holders, dry bag storage, tie-downs and cup holders are but a few accessories you can easily add to make a recreational paddle more fun and convenient.
Planning for Your Accessories & Setting Your Budget
When you first make your purchase, or you're considering your first purchase, your instinct may be to buy every cool accessory you see. While it may not behoove us to say it, if you are new to the sport, you may want to wait. Far too many beginner kayak anglers spend way too much on accessories they think they need but really don't. You'll learn quickly your first few times out what you do need and what you definitely don't. Take your kayak out a few times before you overspend on accessories. Check out one of our own's experience with this phenomena when they purchased their first kayak in our Beginner's Guide to Fishing Kayaks. Also, keep accessories and future purchases in mind when setting your overall budget.
Set Your Budget
We've covered A LOT of ground in this blog. Our kayak list is not all-inclusive in this blog, there are far more kayaks for every budget on our website. If you didn't see one in your budget or one that you like, there are more to explore. You may now have an idea on the hull type you need and whether or not you want it to be paddle, pedal or powered.
Now that you have a grasp of what you may need, set your budget. Don't just set your budget for your kayak though. Be sure to include accessories, licensing, transport and any other additional costs as part of your budget. With that in mind, let's talk about accessories.
Think about the accessories you may want to add with your purchase, or more importantly, in the future. Now, while thinking about the type of water you will be fishing on and the hull style you think matches your preferred fishing location, narrow your kayak choices down to the 2-3 you like the most. Look at those kayaks closely and keep these questions in mind while thinking about your accessory needs:
These are just a few questions you may want to ask yourself. There may be more. The main idea here is to start narrowing down your choice to match your water type, your preferred fishing style and one that you can continually upgrade over time. Buying a kayak for your current needs might not match the goals you have for yourself in the future. Think long and hard about where you see yourself going moving forward so that you get yourself in a kayak that will suit your needs as your experiences grow. Here are some accessory categories that may help paint a clearer picture of what is possible:
Is a Fishing Kayak Worth It?
Obviously, our answer would be yes. But, hopefully after reading through some of this guide and asking yourself some questions, you've come to that conclusion yourself. There are sit-on-top/fishing kayaks to match anyone's budget. You can enjoy the as a new way to fish, or you can enjoy them as a upgraded, comfortable way to recreationally cruise the water you prefer.
Kayaks offer a new way to fish and explore. You can reach areas otherwise unreachable on foot or by boat. You can find new "honey-holes" to fish or explore areas far away from the burdens of everyday life. No matter your experience, love for fishing (or not), or reasoning, a sit-on-top kayak is applicable to almost any scenario and any water type. If you're looking for a more intimate experience on the water, then yes, a fishing kayak is 100% worth it. If you're still unsure if it is worth it, just look at the passion amongst fishing kayak owners in our online community, Kayak Anglers Resource.
Ask Questions & Use Your Available Resources
If you find yourself overwhelmed or still unsure which kayak or accessories are right for you, check out some of our additional resources. A great place to start is by joining our public community, The Kayak Anglers Resource, where you can ask questions of members who have real experience. Or, check out our YouTube channels for reviews and how-tos: Eco Fishing Shop and Kayak Anglers Resource.
Learn from other kayak anglers who were in your shoes and asking some of the same questions. Here are some of their discussions you may find useful to jump in on:
Browse all of our blogs and Buyer's Guides to most of our brands below. To check out our full range of the best fishing kayaks and accessories we have to offer, available to you via free and fast shipping, click HERE. We are happy to help and answer any questions. Click the chat button, give us a call or ask your questions in the public community, we will be there to answer no matter how you communicate!