What is a kayak for fishing and do you need one?
Almost every angler has been there: stuck on the beach, desperately throwing your gear as far as it will go while watching your kayak cruise by only catching one fish after another. leeeetle Farther than you can tell. It is truly an exercise in patience.
The good news is that kayak fishing is becoming easier every day, even if you think you’ll never be able to join the ranks of those lucky kayak anglers. There are options for everyone, including apartment dwellers, people with limited mobility, and anglers targeting different species in almost any environment.
There are so many to choose from that it can be hard to know where to start, so we’ll help point you in the right direction.
What is a fishing kayak?
You can certainly go fishing from any kayak, but modern fishing kayaks are specifically designed to help you with your fishing experience rather than a sea kayak tour or whitewater kayak, for example. Fishing kayaks tend to be of the sit-on-top type, which is better because it gives you plenty of room to handle the elements (hopefully fish) in your lap area. They also raise you high above the waterline, allowing you better visibility while adding extra width for added stability (you can stand up easily in many fishing kayaks).
Fishing kayaks also offer more options for movement, which may expand new fishing options for you. More traditional methods are powered with familiar paddling paddles, but pedal-powered kayaks have recently exploded onto the market as well. This movement provides agile hands-free movement and is best for trolling and for people with limited mobility. More recently, some manufacturers have been designing kayaks around small trolling motors, blurring the line between kayaks and their larger watercraft cousins.
However, there are plenty of reasons why you might want to stick with a kayak for fishing instead of upgrading to a boat with a larger motor. They are cheaper and require less maintenance and paperwork. They are quieter and can go into shallow water, allowing access to new areas and fish that are not intimidated by sound. It’s more portable, takes up less space, all of which translates into a better fishing experience for you.
Best kayak for fishing
Many fishing kayaks are relatively versatile, moving from shallow freshwater lakes to nearshore saltwater with minimal difficulty. The way you go fishing, the species you target, the type of water you’ll be traversing, and your storage options at home all play a role in what type of fishing boat is best for you.
1. Best pedal-powered tank: Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12
Hobie was the first brand to revolutionize pedal fishing kayaks, and they remain the best to this day. Hobie offers several pedal-powered fishing kayaks, but the Pro Angler 12 in its Mirage line offers the best maneuverability of any kayak. It can make a full 360 degree rotation in place, allowing precise movement.
2. Best budget pedal drive: Pelican The Catch 110 HyDryve II
Kayaks for fishing are expensive, and rightly so. However, if you are a beginner, this does not leave a lot of cash for the number of kayak accessories available, let alone your other fishing gear. The Pelican The Catch 110 HyDryve II is a good compromise, allowing you to learn how pedal motors work at half the cost of other fishing kayak models with “starter” pedals.
3. Best Engine: Old Town Sportsman Autopilot 120
If you want fishing boats that are so futuristic that you can control them like a remote-controlled toy boat, your dreams may come true. This kayak with a built-in motorized trolling motor allows you to anchor yourself in one fishing spot without deploying an anchor, and adjust motor speed and direction on the fly to handle wind and currents. However, be aware that you will generally need to register it as a motorized watercraft in your state.
4. Best Budget: Pelican The Catch 100
If you’re new to kayak fishing and don’t have any specific target fisheries in mind, the Pelican The Catch 100 offers a good compromise. It’s a fishing boat through and through, but it’s a fraction of the price of higher-end models. This kayak is best for inland lakes and gentler waters, allowing you to test the waters (pun intended) before investing a lot of money in a new hobby.
5. Best tandem: Jackson Kayak TakeTwo
Tandem kayaks often look better on paper than they do in practice. (How often do you exactly need space exactly Another person, after all?) The TakeTwo gives you the option of using it with two people, or you can still easily paddle it alone and have extra storage or space to bring your dog – your call.
6. Best Inflatable: Sea Eagle Series 385fta FastTrack Angler
The hooks and inflatable boats don’t seem to mix well together, but you don’t have to worry about that too much with the Sea Eagle 385fta. Even if you somehow disassemble it, its four-chamber design still allows you to return it safely to shore, where you can easily repair it. It’s more portable than a regular fishing kayak, weighing in at just 45 pounds and packing into a sleek 36″ x 15″ x 20″ package that can fit in the back seat of anyone’s car.
7. Best for folding: Oro Inlet
First launched as a Kickstarter campaign, this company offers sturdy and surprisingly beautiful folding kayaks aimed at general paddlers with limited storage or transportation options. There are many models to choose from, but the Inlet offers the most open cockpit similar to modern fishing boats as long as you are willing to sacrifice a little stability and maneuverability.
8. Best Saltwater: Old Town Saltwater PDL 120
Most types of kayaks handle salt well too, depending on what you’re targeting. But once you’re there, it’s tempting to go further – and Old Town Salty PDL lets you do just that. It has the stability that allows you to get past reef breakers if you’re really adventurous, and its pedal motor provides the speed needed to travel long distances safely, such as offshore areas.
9. Best All-Purpose: Hobie Mirage Outback
Not sure what you want in a kayak? The Hobie Mirage Outback is a good jack of all trades, with a good balance between maneuverability and durability. The pedal drive system allows you to move around and cover a lot of ground more easily, and the wide support base provides a stable platform to stand on while fishing. This boat wasn’t one of Hobie’s best-selling fishing boats without good reason, after all.
10. Best Indoor Session: Perception Sound 9.5
If you’re not yet ready for the full sit-down experience or just prefer a recreational-style kayak, Perception Sound is an excellent, budget-friendly option. It offers plenty of space mounting points to customize your accessories for your basic hunting setup. The cockpit is more open than a sea kayak per se, but again, this gives you more room to store fish.
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