How to choose the best fishing kayak [Easy Guide]

How to choose the best fishing kayak [Easy Guide]

Fishing kayaks range in price from under 300 bucks to over five thousand dollars plus accessories. But more expensive doesn’t mean better for everyone. Ultimately, the “best” fishing kayak will depend on your individual needs and preferences. It’s important to do your own research and consider all the factors that are important to you before making a decision.

Some general tips for choosing a fishing kayak

Some general tips for choosing a fishing kayak
  1. Consider the type of water you’ll be fishing in: Different kayaks are better suited for different types of water, such as rivers, lakes, or the ocean.
  2. Think about the type of fish you’re targeting: Some kayaks are better for certain types of fishing, such as fly fishing or trolling.
  3. Consider the size and weight of the kayak: A kayak that is too big or heavy can be difficult to maneuver, while a kayak that is too small may not have enough storage space or stability.
  4. Consider your personal budget and preferences: Fishing kayaks can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. It’s important to find a kayak that fits your budget and meets your personal preferences.

Let’s take a look at all four of my fishing kayaks to see why there’s such a huge range in prices and what these different levels of kayaks offer.

Top 4 considerations when choosing the best fishing kayak for your next trip

1. Old Town Otter (9.5ft long, 42 pounds)

Old Town Otter (9.5ft long, 42 pounds)

I fished out of this super simple 9.5ft Old Town otter for over 15 years and cut everything from bluegills to muskies and salmon.

The kayak itself was about 250 bucks and I added about a hundred dollars worth of accessories to it. It’s lightweight, streamlined, and very easy to maneuver.

However you can’t stand in this kayak, you can’t carry much gear, it’s not all that comfortable for long trips and it’s best suited to calm water. These do make awesome kayaks for kids.

Some easy modifications can make a big difference on a kayak like rod holders, cleats to tie up a Stringer, or tying the kayak to a dock or a tree and bungee cords to hold some gear.

Basic kayaks usually have a little bit of storage for a small bag of tackle or some snacks and water. Sit inside kayaks like this one tends to have space behind the seat and also some space around your feet.

The seats tend to be very uncomfortable for a long trip so if you add some padding to the seat it can make a longer trip much more enjoyable.

One easy modification that can really improve a basic kayak like this is the addition of footrests. These allow you to keep your feet planted and it will greatly increase your comfort and your ability to control the boat, especially in rough water.

A paddle holder is also highly recommended because you’re really limited in space in these small kayaks. A basic kayak has the advantage of being very cheap and really easy to transport because of its small size and lightweight.

I would highly recommend a simple fishing kayak like an old town otter if you like to hop around to lots of small lakes, if you only spend a few hours at a time fishing or if you want to explore hard to get two spots.

2. Perception Hook Angler (10.5ft long, 55 pounds)

Perception Hook Angler (10.5ft long, 55 pounds)

If you move up in price to about 450 dollars you can get a specially designed fishing kayak like this 10.5ft perception hook.

Moving up into this category will get you features like molded-in handles a drain plug or a tri-keel Hull for better tracking and stability.

This kayak also offers a large tank well area with Scupper holes, plenty big enough to hold a fish and crate and other gear, molded flush mount rod holders, a more comfortable and adjustable seat, a molded dashboard for placing a few lures, a phone, rod holders or a sonar Mount and bungee shock cords.

The molded-in handles are far more secure if you’re locking up your kayak somewhere and believe me getting a lure stuck in a rope handle is a major pain.

If this happens when you’re out by yourself you have to cut the line or paddle to shore to get your lure out. If you add some rod holders and a basic fish finder to a perception hook you’ve got a very capable and affordable fishing kayak.

The perception hook also comes with a factory-installed anchor Trolley system, footrests, and a rod holder compared to the basic kayaks that offer a higher weight capacity and a lot more storage space.

At a weight of 55 pounds, it can still be carried on your shoulder, carried overhead like a canoe, or dragged through a shallow stream on the way to your favorite hidden fishing spot.

10 and a half feet is a really nice sized fishing kayak for small lakes and rivers, this one also can hold its own just fine on big water too.

There’s really nothing like catching muskies and salmon out of a lightweight kayak.

3. Old Town Predator MX (12ft long, 82 pounds)

Old Town Predator MX (12ft long, 82 pounds)

Now we move up into some serious fishing kayaks with a more serious price. The Old Town Predator MX is a 12-foot kayak with a weight capacity of 400 pounds minus the weight of the kayak itself.

This kayak can easily be stood up in and even paddle around like a paddle board. Other similar models would include the vibe sea ghost, the Bonafide rs-117, or the Old Town Sportsman line.

You can bring your dog or your kid with you on the Predator MX and still have plenty of space and if you want to explore big water with fast currents or waves you’ll be able to do that with a stable kayak like this one.

It does weigh over 80 pounds though so plan on using a small cart or a second person to carry it around or you can launch it directly from a small trailer.

For the Hefty 1300 price tag it comes with a variety of factory features like molded handles, waterproof storage, a textured standing deck, footrests, removable mounting plates for accessories, an adjustable oversized seat, two Factory flush mount rod holders in the back, and large rear tank well for a crate and other gear.

This is a great kayak with a ton of factory features but it has a lot of room for customization to suit your fishing style in local conditions.

The removable mounting plates make it easy to mount accessories and even change the layout later if you want without putting any holes in the kayak itself.

One of the biggest advantages of a kayak in this category is that you can stand up. This gives you the opportunity to stretch your legs on a long trip but it also just gives you so much more space to move around.

Some types of fishing like topwater frog fishing, pitching jigs, or sight fishing are so much easier from a standing position.

The other huge Advantage is stability. You can walk around in a predator MX, lean way over, or haul a giant fish in the boat without any problem. If you fall out of a kayak, it’s also easier to get back in.

Sit-on-top fishing kayaks are more likely to dump you off than actually flip over and since they almost all self-drain through Scupper holes it’s pretty easy to climb back in.

4. Old Town Sportsman PDL 120 (12ft long, 116 pounds)

Old Town Sportsman PDL 120 (12ft long, 116 pounds)

Okay, now we’re at the top-of-the-line fishing kayaks with one example being the Old Town PDL series. We’ll take a close look at the Sportsman 120 PDL which costs twenty-five hundred dollars and has a 500-pound weight capacity minus the kayak’s 116-pound weight itself.

Count on using a small cart like a sea tug from rail Blazer to move one of these kayaks down a trailer across a parking lot. A small trailer or a truck will be needed to transport and launch a kayak.

I use a small trailer and back it right up to the water to save time. Other similar boats in this category would be things like the Hobie Pro Angler 12 and pro angler 14, the Bonafide ss-127, or the native Slayer Max.

Many of these come with pedal drive systems which are a total Game Changer when fighting big fish that like to drag you around. Several models in this category even have electric motors like the old town autopilot or Sportsman 106mk.

This category is also the most expensive, the heaviest, and the most difficult to paddle or Portage.

Let’s take a closer look at the Old Town Sportsman 120 PDL. For its high price you’re getting a lot of waterproof storage, a pedal drive system, soft deck pads for standing, Side Track mounts for accessories, an amazingly comfortable and adjustable seat, lots of space, a huge rear tank well for a fishing crate another gear, a Rudder and more.

The Rudders deployed and raised with a lever on the right side and a handle on the left side allow you to control the rudder position left and right.

You also get incredible stability for standing up, battling a giant fish, or heading out into rough water like Lake Michigan.

The Sportsman pdl’s Hall is carved out a bit behind the keel guard to accommodate a sonar transducer. Installation is really easy because the boat was designed to be used with a sonar system.

Many of the other kayaks in this category are also designed to be used with sonar systems. Pedal-drive kayaks come in bicycle-style drives and fin-style drives.

A fin-style drive system is pushed back and forth with your feet and it Powers a couple of long fins underneath the boat that moves side to side.

The easy back-and-forth motion on the Hobie Pro Angler 12 allows Sean to maintain Forward Motion while casting, drinking, taking a phone call, or whatever. The bicycle style spins an actual propeller which is very efficient and fast.

The prop is surprisingly durable too. I’ve broken one prop when I hit a stump at really high speed in really dirty water so I couldn’t see the stump.

Replacing a prop on the water only takes about two minutes with basic tools. The drive on the Old Town PDL Series has an instant reverse too. No need to pull or adjust anything to switch to reverse.

When you’re fighting a big fish with both hands and it’s yanking you into a down tree or a low bridge, you’re going to appreciate being able to backpedal using only your feet.

The biggest downside of bicycle-style drives is that a propeller is much more prone to loading up with vegetation than a fin-style Drive is.

Finns will get hung up once in a while but a prop can get hung up in pretty light vegetation. With any type of pedal drive system, you won’t be able to use the drive at all in thick vegetation. You’ll have to use your paddle or build up momentum to get into those areas.

Regardless of what you choose to buy kayak fishing is a ton of fun and you’ll have a blast. Be safe out there and happy fishing.

Fenil Kalal is a talented web content writer that specialises in health and fitness, fishing, travel, cryptography, and gardening. His skills and expertise in the field are the result of years of research and study. His passion in science, along with a bachelor's degree in information technology, gives him an edge and adds value to his work. Because he is fascinated by science and technology, writing high-quality content has become a virtue for him.

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