What’s Your Type? Fishing Kayak Guide to Make the Best Decision

A good fishing experience can be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences of your life, but the success of this adventure depends on the right kind of kayak. A good unit will not only let you enjoy in the water but will also ensure you get to experience a comfortable environment. Whether you are a professional or a beginner who has just started fishing in kayaks, it is important to know a couple of things before you make an investment.

Number of Users

Smaller kayaks usually allow one person to ride them; however, there are some options available that are more diverse and allow either two or three people to sit in them.

Tandem Fishing Kayaks

Most tandem fishing kayaks allow two people to ride them. However, there are some models available that allow for a greater number of people too.

Place of Use

Over the years, kayak fishing has gained a lot of popularity, and many people who want to fish in freshwater tend to invest a lot of money on good kayaks. There are two major categories of kayaks: the ones used in freshwater and the ones used in saltwater. Here is what you need to know about each type.

Freshwater Fishing Kayaks

freshwater kayak type

Freshwater bodies include all the lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. They also include streams, ponds, and any human-made canals. Any water body that contains less than 1000 milligrams per liter of dissolved solids is considered in this category. Here is what you should consider.

  • Skills: When it comes to freshwater fishing, it is very important to have a good skill set. You need to practice angling and kayaking separately, and each of these skills is equally important. This is because learning each skill at the same time will result in you not getting proficient in either.
  • Understanding freshwater: You need to realize that freshwater fishing is done on both moving and still water. The former is like a river, and the latter is more like a lake. For the former, you need to have a very stable kayak with a large base. It should also offer you good flexibility if the weather and currents change. For the latter, you can have a smaller sit-on kayak too. It should, however, allow for greater speed and efficiency.
  • Safety: This is imperative to success in the water. It is recommended that you always opt for stability rather than efficiency. There are rarely any good units that provide you with both. Moreover, it is important to have a safety kit in your kayak at all times. A good unit will allow for more storage space. This includes things like marine whistles, flaring signals, extra water bottles, and throw ropes.

Saltwater Fishing Kayaks

saltwater fishing kayaks

For saltwater, it is important that your kayaks are very durable and allow more resistance against impact. A saltwater body essentially contains a large amount of salts and other dissolved minerals. Here are some important considerations for saltwater fishing kayaks.

  • Size: Most anglers who fish in saltwater ride a 12-feet kayak or longer. This is because the longer the unit, the easier it is for you to handle and maneuver it. It is also much easier to keep a straight path when you are driving a longer kayak. You will also need a seat that is situated in the lowest possible position. This will not only provide greater comfort but also ensure greater safety in the water.
  • Duration: Your choice also depends on how long you intend to stay in the saltwater. If it’s for a shorter duration, you may also want to invest in a long kayak that measures 36 inches in width. This not only provides greater stability inside the water but also ensures you enjoy your adventure. The more recommended form is the one with a pontoon-style keel rather than a less accurate sharper reel.
  • Sit-in or sit-on: For saltwater bodies, this is a major dilemma that anglers have to face. A sit-in model does not allow for more flexibility or comfort, so they are not recommended for long-duration trips. As for capacity, it is difficult to find drinking water out there, so you should ideally have a large storage compartment for keeping water and food items.

Body Position

Most differences in kayak types occur because of the seating position. You can either sit in the kayak, on it, or stand on top. The ease of usage provided is also different for each type.

Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayaks

As the name suggests, these kayaks require you to sit on the kayak and occupy a major portion of the space. These are more suited for fishing lakes and calm that follows large rivers. Sit-on-top kayaks have gained massive popularity over recent years. Here is what you should know about them.

Sit-on-top kayaks structure


  • They are self-draining, which makes their maintenance and cleaning very easy
  • They allow more room for fishing than a normal sit-in kayak.
  • They are very comfortable because you can move around a bit
  • They are very easy to launch and allow you to quickly get in and out of any major fishing spots


  • They are heavier than other types of kayaks and hence lead to difficulty in portability
  • They don’t come with a large storage compartment and hence don’t provide much space for keeping important fishing gear

Sit-on-top kayaks used for

Sit-Inside (Cockpit) Fishing Kayaks

Just as they sound, sit-in kayaks require you to sit inside the unit. Your legs are either fully or partially inside the kayaks. Here is what you should know about these units:

Sit-Inside kayaks structure


  • They move swiftly inside the water and hence allow for greater speed
  • They ensure greater control during paddling and hence are ideal for streams and fishing rivers on larger lakes and water bodies
  • Their higher efficiency means that you are less likely to feel fatigued on longer trips
  • They come with ample storage compartments that are enclosed and hence allow for greater space and protection.


  • They can lead to accidents since they capsize easily

Sit-Inside kayak used for different activities

Stand-On Fishing Kayaks

These aren’t very popular when it comes to fishing. This is because stand-on kayaks tend to be difficult to maneuver. But that is not the whole story. Here is what you need to keep in mind before investing in this type:


  • They come with a wide base that gives you added stability in the water
  • They have a strong hull that provides the needed power to move the kayak
  • They have a non-slip standing area to avoid accidents
  • There is ample storage space to keep fishing equipment


  • They require practice before you can perfect the technique
  • They are not suitable for deep waters

Material and Structure

The material used in the construction of your kayak will not only influence its durability but will also impact its strength. It is hence important that you look for reliable material. Kayaks are generally made with three materials. Here is a short description of each.

kayak materials

Plastic Hardshell Fishing Kayaks

When one hears plastic, durability is the last thing that comes to mind. However, plastic proves to be much more durable in the construction of kayaks than many other materials. Since plastic is lightweight and relatively more compact, it tends to be much more efficient.

Plastic kayaks can also last for more than ten years and hence provide good value for the money. Polyethylene is commonly used to provide greater flexibility and robustness to the unit. Resin pellets are also pulverized into a powder, and an adequate amount is then poured into aluminum to form a mold. Plastic models are also relatively cheap, which adds to their appeal.

Composite Hard shell Fishing Kayaks [e.g. fiberglass, Kevlar]

Kevlar and fiberglass are some of the strongest materials that exist in the market, and they are mostly used in the construction of bullet-proof jackets for army personnel. Their strength is unmatched, but these materials are also very expensive, and hence kayaks made with Kevlar are less in demand. They are opted by only professional anglers who have a good budget.

The material is layered to give greater strength. The layering is done either with the same material or is blended with others to give greater diversity. Fiberglass molds also come with an outer layer of coating that adds to the appeal and provides greater strength.

Moreover, gauze or foam panels are sometimes added to reinforce the hull and the deck. All the layering is vacuum bagged.

Inflatable Fishing Kayaks

The name is pretty self-explanatory. Inflatable kayaks offer multi-layer construction and are primarily designed for people who crave good portability. They also provide higher resistance against abrasion and ensure good optimal puncture. As for durability, that depends on the unit’s price and size, but in general, the construction allows for good strength.

Inflatable Fishing Kayaks

The price of such a boat is much lower. They are also sturdier as they are made of redundant air chambers that reduce the risk of tear and leaks. Since these units need to be inflated, they aren’t very heavy. Their compact size also ensures good and easy handling. Inflatable technology also keeps improving day by day, which adds to their appeal.

Mode of Propulsion

You can have one of the most durable and efficient kayaks, but if you don’t use the right mode of propulsion, you are likely to get irritated halfway through your journey. Here are some ways of using a kayak:


Paddling kayaks require relatively fewer steps to get your boat deep into the water, and they also often require less maintenance. They are also very simple and are hence easier to manage. As compared to a propeller, these are also less disruptive than motorized boats. Here are some major pros of paddles:


When you are getting into the water with this type of propulsion, you will need relatively less number of steps. The design is also very simple, which means you won’t need professional skills to indulge in this type.

Less Disruption

The biggest advantage of a paddle is that it is relatively quieter than other propulsion types and hence causes less disruption inside water. This is majorly because you have full control over how hard you have to paddle. Moreover, you get to enjoy higher visibility, which ensures you don’t lose sight of what you are doing and where you are going.


This is probably the biggest benefit of kayaks with paddles. On average, a pedal kayak will cost you more than $2000. However, a traditional kayak that comes with a paddle will cost less than $500.


There aren’t many cons of this; however, the major drawback is that it requires you to juggle your paddle with the help of your fishing gear. This has to be done when there is wind or current. Your arms will hold the reel in this situation, and you will have less control over your paddle. This makes propulsion slightly uncomfortable and, at times, very difficult.


Kayaks with pedals are relatively faster than traditional kayaks. These not only go faster but are also more suited for the needs of professional fishermen. Here are some of the most noticeable pros of investing in such a unit:

Hands-free Control

If you have ever been on a kayak, you know losing control is quite common. But investing in a model with pedals will give you better control. With a good pedal system, you will be able to maintain control over your legs and ensure a more accurate rudder adjustment.

Speed and Efficiency

This matters more to professionals than amateurs. For most anglers, speed determines success in the waters. But there is a catch. Most kayaks are unable to provide control at higher speeds, which leads to accidents. With such a unit, you will be able to cross larger bodies of water in relatively less time.


There are many pros of such a unit; however, like most other models in the market, this one will also come with some drawbacks. The most prominent ones include:


For people who don’t have a large budget, investing in such a unit can be quite problematic. This is because these kayaks, on average, cost more than $2000.

Additional Clearance

Another major issue of such a unit is that it requires additional underwater clearance in order to use the pedal drive. You will then be able to flip your fins up against the unit and pull your drive. You will also be compromising on storage space when you buy such a kayak.


Some types already come with a motor whilst others allow you to make this excellent update. The biggest advantage of using a motor kayak is that you tend to feel less fatigue. It can also make kayaking relatively easier and much more fun. It can also help you bring gear that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise; thus, ensuring greater success in the field.

Another obvious advantage of motor kayaks is that they provide greater efficiency. You enjoy greater speeds and are able to save more time.

Other Considerations

We have covered most of the essential points that you need to keep in mind while making this choice. However, there are also some other considerations that might come in handy for you. We have discussed them in detail, so you make the best of your kayaking experience.

Level and skills

Many people see a big kayak in the market and buy it instantly. They don’t realize that most large and fast kayaks are difficult to handle and hence require some expertise. If you are still a beginner and trying to learn the skill, then it is important that you begin with a simpler design. It should ideally be compact and lightweight so you can tread the waters easily.

Moreover, it is important that you practice your skills in shallow waters and then gradually move to deeper waters. Another important point to note is that kayaks with stable bases are more recommended for beginners. You should also practice kayaking and angling separately and then combine them together in the water.

Type of Fishing

We have already discussed the things you need to keep in mind while fishing in fresh and saltwater. Both types of bodies come with different prerequisites. However, with freshwater, you need to keep in mind the frequently changing weather conditions too.

Another important thing to remember is the kind of fish you are catching. It is recommended that you use a large net to ensure success. This would require you to also have a large storage compartment in your kayak. If you are catching big fish, you will also need large coolers and other important gear. This will also need extra space.

Moving streams have water flowing at different speeds. This results in a lot of different hotspots for smallmouth and trout bases. If you are going in such waters, you will need a diversity of equipment to easily catch all kinds of fish.

Fishfinders and Live Baits

fish finder

Earlier, anglers had to go through a lot of trouble to ensure they were catching the greatest amount of fish. But that has changed. Many modern kayaks come with bait holders that allow you to keep fresh bait for as long as you want.

When you reach a good spot, it is time to use bait. Live bait is not only very reliable but also very powerful. It works best for large and fast fish that are difficult to catch. But handling such bait is quite difficult. Sometimes, you cannot hold onto them for a long time.

The containers in the kayaks will allow you to efficiently use the minnow. Not just that, but they will also come in a variety of different sizes and shapes to accommodate the different minnows of your preference.


It is vital to have a wide area dedicated to keeping fishing equipment only. The essential items you will need include a rod and reel, a GPS system, some dry clothes, a tackle box, and a multi-tool kit.

This might seem a lot, but going into the water can be quite unpredictable, and you can always succumb to changing tides and currents. So it is always recommended that you go prepared. There are many options for a kayak that will provide adequate space for keeping the essentials.

However, if you fish with a partner or you like to keep additional equipment with you, you may also need to invest in a relatively larger unit that offers good storage space.


You can have the best skills and techniques and still end up getting into accidents. This is because your kayak is not good enough and cannot provide you with the required stability and stability. This is a major drawback of many fancy units that aren’t strong enough to resist changing currents and weather.

Being in a kayak is going to expose you to water and all the elements in it. You will also not know what situation you may have to encounter in the water. Hence, it is suggested that you keep things like a first aid kit, some extra water bottles, and a flashlight for emergencies.


The importance of this feature cannot be stressed enough. Without good construction and durability, your kayak is not going to last for a very long time. And even if it does, you are less likely to feel comfortable and relaxed while fishing.

We have mentioned three major types of material that are used for the construction of these units. Brand reputation is also important because reliable brands tend to ensure that their kayaks have gone through the required testing. If you are looking for good portability, invest in a plastic unit; however, you should invest in a Kevlar body if you want greater stability.


This is an obvious consideration. However, the issue arises when people invest a lot of money in a kayak without understanding their unique needs. An angler who stays for hours in the water should not invest in a kayak with barely any storage space. Similarly, a person who catches fish for profit shouldn’t buy a kayak that is slow. He should invest in a faster and more efficient unit.

Another major problem occurs when people blindly follow the recommendations provided in reviews and buy the first unit that they like. This often leads to poor choices because brands often present a very appealing picture of their units, but there is little truth in their claims. This is why you should always look for the unit’s construction, quality, dimensions, weight, and price.


Fishing can be both fun and enjoyable with the right kayak investment. Anglers have been using this mode for transportation and storage for decades. However, it is only very recently that the market has become more diverse. There are now many options for anglers.

In this article, we have discussed the advantages, features, and cons of a variety of kayaks. These include sit-in and sit-on kayaks. Other major considerations, like the material of the kayak and the type of water bodies, have also been discussed in detail.

So while choosing a unit, remember it is more about your unique needs than anything else. So always do thorough research and don’t just trust advertisements. And remember, some patience goes a long way and ensures you end up with a model worth your while.