Kayak Fishing

What kind of fishing are you interested in?
A kayak will get you off the shore and out into the water. What kind of fish are you going after? Are you getting into kayak fishing because you can get to places that boats can't go, or do you want to trailer a kayak to the launch ramp?

Launching kayak from a rocky beach

Where are you going to be fishing?
Will you be fishing on a lake or river? Big river or small river? Ocean, bay or lagoon? Will you need to carry the kayak and your gear to the water or launching from a boat ramp?

What is your physical condition?
Kayak fishing is something that requires physical activity. Even before the kayak touches the water, you will have to get a kayak that weighs at least fifty pounds(22.7kg) an all your gear to the water's edge. Many kayak fishermen transport their kayaks on top of their vehicles, so you have to be able to lift the kayak on the roof of your car or truck. Kayaking is great exercise, but it would be a good idea to make it one part of a regular exercise routine.

Do you have any related experience?
If you are already a fisherman, you probably have the gear and experience to be a successful kayak fisherman. If you are a current or former boat owner, you will have a head start regarding launching, watercraft operation and "on the water" knowledge.

Early morning kayak launch

How often will you go fishing?
Will you be kayak fishing every other day, once a week, once a month or once a year? How much time will be spent fishing versus time spent upgrading the kayak?

Kayak Information

SIK (Sit In Kayak) vs SOT (Sit On Top)
A sit in, or sit inside kayak(SIK), is a traditional kayak configuration where the kayaker sits inside the kayak hull. The kayaker sits low in the kayak, which makes it more stable. This is the type of kayak used for white water kayaking. The main drawback with this type of kayak is that it can fill up with water if capsized making re-entry difficult and potentially dangerous. Sit on top(SOT) kayaks are, by far, the most popular kayak design for fishing. There are many different paddle and pedal SOT configurations and personal modifications. Sitting on top of a sealed hull, if the kayak should capsize, flip it over and climb back on.

SOT fishing kayakSIK touring kayak

Length and Width
Generally speaking, longer means faster and wider is more stable. Most fishing kayaks are a compromise between the two. The "bigger" the water, the longer the kayak. 10'(3.05m) kayaks are OK for small lakes and mellow conditions, but if you're headed out on the ocean or large body of water, especially if there is wind, you should be looking in the 12-14'(3.66-4.27m) range.
Fishing kayaks have have a weight capacity. This is the weight a kayak can carry and still float. The weight includes the kayaker and everything else on the kayak. If you are a bigger person, or carry a lot of gear, you may need a longer and/or wider kayak. If you are near, or at the kayak weight capacity, the kayak's handling is probably going to suffer.

SOT paddle kayakHobie SOT Mirage Drive pedal kayak

Paddle or Pedal?
Until Hobie came out with their popular Mirage Drive pedal kayaks, this was not a question that needed to be asked. Now, there are several kayak manufacturers that have leg driven propulsion systems in addition to the traditional paddle driven kayaks.

Ocean Kayak Prowler paddle kayak

Paddle Kayaks
The traditional setup where the kayak is moved through the water by a paddle with a blade on each end. Paddle kayaks are at the lower end of the fishing kayak price spectrum. Expect to spend $350-$1000USD for a sit on top(SOT) paddle fishing kayak. Most novice kayak fishermen will start with a lower priced SOT paddle kayak, experienced fishermen will likely end up at the higher end.
Paddle kayaks are the lightest fishing kayaks. A top line paddle fishing kayak will probably be about 60-70 lb(27.22-31.75 kg). If you have to carry your kayak to the launch or lift it up on the top of your vehicle, this is an important consideration.
Without a drive system, there is more below deck storage. This is important if you fish in wet weather or go through breaking surf. With scuppers in place, a paddle kayak can be completely dry.
The draft of a paddle kayak is only a few inches so it can navigate very shallow water and glide over seaweeds. An experienced kayaker can quickly maneuver the kayak in very close quarters in all directions.

Hobie Revolution Mirage Drive kayak

Pedal Kayaks
Pedal driven kayaks have become very popular and the drive systems get better all the time. These kayaks are great for "hands free" fishing and long trolling sessions. You have to control the rudder with your hands, but your legs do most of the work. Pedal kayaks are fast, fit pedallers can cover lots of water.
Pedal kayaks are more expensive and generally heavier than paddle kayaks. Expect to shell out $1000-$4000 for a pedal driven kayak. The largest of the pedal kayaks can weigh well over 100 lbs(45.36 kg) and would be difficult for one person to lift on to the roof rack of a car, truck or SUV.
The pedal drive systems have moving parts. Some have cables and/or chains. Rudders, which are required to steer pedal kayaks, have moving parts and cables. These parts require adjustment, maintenance and replacement due to wear. The pedal drive can fail at inopportune times.
Pedal drives stick out below the kayak. The drives should be stowed for beach launches and landings to avoid damage. Care must be taken not to damage the drive in shallow water, or water with submerged obstacles. Seaweed and fishing line can get tangled in the drive.
The pedal drive passes through the hull and allows water in the kayak. Seats are higher to avoid sitting in water, this raises the center of gravity. The drive placement reduces dry storage below deck.

The largest of the current models of pedal driven fishing kayaks are more like boats than kayaks. 150 lbs(68 kg) and wide enough to easily stand and fish. Many of these kayak owners have trailers to transport the kayak and a cart to get it to the water. You can carry a lighter kayak and launch anywhere you can get to the water. A larger pedal kayak/boat will mostly be limited to boat launch ramps, beach or mellow launch area.

Some kayaks can be fitted with electric motors. These watercraft blur the lines between "kayak" and "boat". These boats are very heavy and most likely would have to be transported on a trailer. In many states, any watercraft with a motor would need to be registered. If you are unable to manage a paddle or pedal kayak, a motorized kayak would be an option.

Mirage Adventure Island sailing kayak

Sailing Kayaks
Some kayaks have an option to use a sail. Sailing is fun, but a kayak is not a sailboat. Kayak sails are options on kayaks that have reinforced mounting for the sail's mast. A sailing kayak may also require the use of outriggers, also called "amas", to stabilize the kayak. The hull shape and lack of keel or centerboard will limit kayak sailing to moderate winds.

When you have an idea of what kayak you might want, do a little research on the internet to check all the details. If at all possible, visit a dealer to check out the kayak you're interested in and take one out for a demo. It's worth driving a little to get the kayak you want.

Buying A Kayak

What is your kayak fishing budget?
For many aspiring kayak fishermen, this is probably one of the most important questions. Owning a kayak is cheaper than owning a power boat, but it may not be as inexpensive as you think. Fishing kayaks cost anywhere from $350USD to over $4000USD, so you need to figure out the kayak that best suits your needs.
If you are going to go kayak fishing a few times a year on a small lake, a kayak from a local MegaMart or sporting goods store will probably be fine. If you upgrade to a better kayak later, you can take a friend fishing and let them use the old kayak, or sell it. Generally, these "discount" kayaks don't have a huge resale value, so keep that in mind.
If you are going to do a lot of fishing, or fishing in a large body of water with currents and wind, it's best to get a higher quality kayak. For a serious beginner, you'll probably be looking at a kayak about 12-14'(3.65-4.27m) in the $500-$1000USD price range.
You may need to buy a few safety items like a Personal Flotation Device(PFD or "Life Jacket") and maybe a few accessories, so keep that in mind when you price things out. You may need roof racks for your vehicle to transport the kayak, they can cost more than you might expect. You may need to buy weather appropriate clothing or immersion gear.

Buying a Used Kayak
Buying a used kayak is a viable option, especially if you're just getting started in kayak fishing. Kayak fishing has been around for a while now, there are plenty of used kayaks out there.
When buying a used kayak, check carefully for cracks that would cause leaks. This is especially important for pedal kayaks where the drive attaches to the kayak. Also check scupper holes that can be damaged by improper scupper kayak cart use. Scratches on the bottom of kayaks are common, but if the kayak looks beat, you might want to keep looking.
If you want to see what a well used ten year old kayak looks like, check out this video.
Kayak Fishing Gear

Besides a Kayak, What Else Do I Need?
A personal flotation device, or PFD, is mandatory for any kayaker. A PFD and signalling device are required by most state's boating regulations. Don't head out without a dependable, sharp knife, first aid kit and some kind of bailing device. A multi-tool can come in handy. If you are on the water at night, you should have a navigational light. You may add gear depending on where and when you fish. If there is the slightest chance of getting lost, you better have a GPS and VHS radio along with your mobile phone.

Salmon trolling rigBass fishing gear

What Kind of Fishing Gear Do I Need?
If you are already a fisherman, start with what you have now. If you're new to fishing and most of the fish you are going after are less than ten pounds(4.54kg), an inexpensive spinning setup should do the job. As you gain kayak fishing experience, it will be pretty clear what gear you should use.

Kayak fishing wear

Kayak Fishing Wear
Depending on where and when you go fishing, you may need to look into appropriate clothing for being out on the water.
Upgrading Fishing Kayaks

Install a fishing rod holderInstall a fishfinder

While some fishing kayaks have fishing rod holders built in, many kayak fishermen install additional rod holders. Fishfinders are helpful. There is an endless supply of kayak accessories, if you go kayak fishing a couple times, you'll know what to get. There are a number of internet kayak fishing forums to see what other kayak fishermen have done.