How to Buy a Fishing Kayak

Updated on August 13, 2019
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Yak Man has several years of experience fishing using different kayaks.

Fisherman in sit-on-top Hobie kayak.
Fisherman in sit-on-top Hobie kayak. | Source

So you are looking to start kayak fishing. In today's market, the number of kayaks geared towards fishing is overwhelming. This how-to guide will help you work through the various options in a methodical manner, asking the right questions and considering all the options.

1. Decide How Much You Want to Spend

Kayak prices run from as low as a few hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars. The price point you're willing to pay will largely determine the quality and functionally of your kayak. If you only want to spend $500, you will be purchasing a low-end kayak with minimum functionality from a store such as Dick's Sporting Goods. The only additional decisions you need to make if you're on a limited budget is what type of accessories you want based on what is available for the kayak.

2. Determine Whether You Want a Sit-on-Top or Sit-Inside Model

Next, you need to determine what type of kayak you want to fish out of. The two major types of kayaks are sit-on-top and sit-inside. Sit-on-top kayaks are the far more popular option and are largely considered superior for fishing. As a result, the sit-on-top kayak selection options are more extensive. The main benefits of sit-on-top kayaks are the ease of use for a beginner, and more stability. The main benefits of sit-in kayak is the weight of the kayak; sit-in kayaks are much lighter than most sit-on-top fishing kayaks. Due to the stability of the sit-on-top kayaks, they are also safer since these are very hard to sink, as compared to the sit-inside which are easier to sink. The added stability of the sit-on-tops also enables the user to stand on many models. This is a must have for serious fishermen since it facilitates flipping, etc.

3. Consider How Heavy of a Kayak You Want

Consider whether you will be transporting the kayak solo or if you will have help, and how you will transport it. If you are limited to transporting the kayak on top of a vehicle, you will want a kayak that weighs less. However, if you are transporting the kayak in the back of a truck or on a trailer, you have many more weight options. Generally, the more stable and more accessories your kayak has, the heavier it will be.

4. Determine if You Want a Pedal Drive System

The more expensive kayak models offer pedal drive systems. These are very nice and easily propel your kayak just like you are riding a bike. Traveling long distances in a pedal kayak is considerably easier and faster than paddling. Each kayak brand has their own pedal drive system. There are not generic pedal drive systems that can be used with any kayak. Likewise, a kayak must be built to accept a pedal drive system since not all kayaks are built to accept these systems.

5. Consider your Kayak Tracking Needs

Tracking is important when paddling, as this helps ensure your kayak stays in a straight line. Reviews and dealers can help you evaluate this option. Wind, current or weight distribution can make going in a straight line difficult. Some kayaks have skegs while others have rudders to help with this problem.

6. Consider Whether You Want a Rudder

Some kayaks even have a rudder which helps with maneuverability. When you are drifting, rudders can be used to help with positioning, etc. Some kayaks have rudders that are locked in place and can be damaged if something is hit. Other rudder systems are designed to pop back up into the kayak to limit damage. Again, reviews and dealers can help you evaluate this option.

7. Determine if You Need a Motor solution

Some kayaks are designed for electric motors to be dropped in. Brackets can be added to other models that trolling motors can be attached to.

8. Evaluate storage needs

This is largely a personal consideration and some users demand a lot of storage where others are indifferent. Serious fishermen typically need more storage space. As you're looking at kayak options, you will notice that some kayaks have as few as one storage compartment where some kayaks have significantly more storage options. Storage options include external and internal storage. Only a few kayaks have rod storage, however, this is different than what you might be accustomed to in a boat, as the rod storage simply secures and protects the tips vs. the ability to put rods completely inside the kayak. Having rod storage in a kayak is very nice feature you should consider. This allows the angler to have extra rods out of the way and protected.

9. Determine Your Accessories Needs

There are numerous kayak accessory options. Many sit-on-top kayaks are equipped with various types of rail systems that allow accessories to be added as you go. Additionally, kayaks can have rail systems added. Likewise, the kayak brand will have numerous accessory options to choose from. It is recommended that you start small, don't go out and buy numerous accessories until you get some experience with your kayak.

Some of the more popular accessory options include:

  • kayak carts
  • rod holders (these are a must-have accessory that you will want on day one)
  • gear boxes or buckets
  • dust covers
  • flag/lights (this is highly recommended for low light situations)
  • Power Pole kits
  • fish finders
  • livewells
  • anchor trolleys

As you can see, there are many things to consider when buying a fishing kayak. This "how-to" guide will help you through the many decisions you need to make to ensure you are happy with your kayak for years to come.

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