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You want a fishing kayak. We don’t blame you. They are getting more and more advanced and can revitalize your love for fishing. You can access new areas, gain a more intimate experience with the water and be challenged by a new adventure that requires more planning and precision.
Chances are, if you’ve made it here, your social media algorithms are feeding you fishing kayaks that are rigged in insane ways. You’ve spent hours online looking at fishing kayak videos, researching the different brands and daydreaming about the perfect setup.
As you now know, there are so many options, it can be overwhelming. There are a few questions you can ask to help you hone in on which kayak would be best for you. A few small factors can, at the very least, narrow down your choices to a specific set of kayaks. Simple questions like:
Let’s dive into some of these questions in more detail. We’ll also look at some of our previous write-ups on some of these subjects and look at a few different kayaks that fit each question. Be sure to explore the links in each section to help hone your selection further.
What Type of Water Do You Plan on Fishing the Most?
While most sit-on-top kayaks perform well in a variety of waters, there are some specific kayaks that are built better that others depending on the water you plan to fish on the most. Are you primarily a river angler who will be fishing in current and navigating ruffles? Do you plan to use your kayak off-shore in the ocean or on 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 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 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.
3 Best V-shaped Kayaks
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 not 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.
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.
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!
Big Water Kayaks
On big, open water, stability is key. This is where some of the larger, heavier kayaks can shine. However, even on this type of water, there are a few different ways to go and factors to consider.
Keep our talking points from the River Kayak section in mind: Longer, v-shaped hull kayaks will ‘knife’ through wakes/waves and track better through the water. But, v-shaped kayaks have less stability when at rest. So, if you are going through the surf, the suggested kayaks from the river section will also cut through big waves and wakes better than pontoon-style kayaks.
Pontoon-style hulls, however, offer you maximum stability when at rest. This is important when you are on big water and not actively moving. You’ll be able to take on bigger waves and wakes when at rest without feeling like you’re about to capsize.
3 Best Pontoon-Style Kayaks
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.
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.
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 accessory 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.
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.
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
Planning for Your Accessories & Setting Your Budget
When you first make your 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:
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!