Not all kayaks are created equal, fishing kayaks are designed and accessorized for the sport, allowing anglers to customize them with motors, pedal drives, rod holders, fish finders and coolers.

Other accessories include dry storage options, GPS systems and other electronics, fishing tools, safety gear, paddle holders, and anchor systems.

With dozens of makes and hundreds of models, anglers are faced with tough choices. Before choosing a kayak, consider where and how you will fish. And, be sure to think about how you will move and store the boat.

Do you want a kayak ready to fish off the shelf, or will you add rod holders, electronics and other accessories?

Whatever your wishes, the kayak genie will grant them. Here are some considerations when first choosing a fishing kayak.

Sit-On-Top kayak


The history of modern kayak fishing begins with the sit-on-top kayak. Sitting on top of a rotomolded hull makes it easy to enter and exit the kayak. Sit-on-tops are almost impossible to sink and easy to paddle. The open-top design also allows infinite rigging options. The topside will feature a tankwell for gear storage, cockpit where the paddler sits and bow hatch or well for more gear.

Sit-on-top kayaks fall into two categories: inshore and open water. Inshore boats are shorter and wider for improved turning and stability. They usually sport adjustable frame seats. The design appeals to folks fishing backwaters, ponds, lakes and easy rivers.

Favoring stability and comfort, inshore boats are perfect platforms for most fishing. Anglers looking to cover miles turn to an open-water boat. Open-water boats are longer, narrower and lower to improve speed and tracking.

An open-water hull has less primary stability, allowing it to rock and roll through rough seas. A slight upward curve in the keel, called rocker, lets the bow lift out of the water for quicker turns. Open water boats are sportier and often lighter, even if the design is less comfortable.


It all started with sit-inside kayaks. Examples date back hundreds of years and sit-inside kayaks continue to be a top seller, today. Sitting inside the hull puts the paddler lower to the water and out of the elements.

Sit-inside kayaks are lighter than a similar sit-on-top. On the downside, they can be less stable and more difficult to enter and exit. The bow and stern decks will accommodate simple rigging but limit reachable area compared to a sit-on-top.

Also, any water entering the kayak has to be pumped out. For fishing, look for a sit-inside with a large cockpit. A shorter waterline is more maneuverable, and a wider beam keeps the boat more stable.

Sit-insides are great for anglers looking to load the boat with camping gear or car-top to a sheltered fishing hole depending on the models chosen.

Inflatable KayakInflatable

Inflatable boats and boards are the fastest-growing segment of self-propelled fishing vessel. Combining the convenience of easy storage with creative rigging, these boats and boards are great for casual anglers with limited space.

Puncture-proof vinyl makes inflatables darn-near indestructible, a big draw for river anglers. Drop stitch floors and multiple air chambers increase rigidity, safety and performance.

Kayak Fishing Pedal Drives
Pedal systems offer hands-free fishing and easy operation.| Photo: Roberto Westbrook

Kayak Fishing Pedal Drives

Anglers love pedal drive kayaks for hands-free fishing. Propelling the boat with your feet leaves your hands free to rig, cast, troll or eat a sandwich. For the most part, pedal drives are more efficient than paddling, so anglers can go farther and faster with less effort.

Realize the pedal system takes up cockpit space and the lower unit will reduce draft. Pedal systems are popular with anglers who are more interested in fishing than paddling.

They are also a great choice for people with limited ability or experience. From newbies to tournament pros, pedal systems are a popular choice for a fishing kayak.

Motorized kayaks

Motorized kayaks are the most recent evolution of the sport. Many manufacturers offer factory-rigged models, and there are many options for adding a motor to existing boats.

Most motors are electric with modern units running off a light, compact lithium-ion battery. Choose a long boat with plenty of capacity. Look for a flat stern to accommodate the motor mount.

Consider how you will run the wires and steering system. The advantages of easy power and unlimited range outweigh the added weight and gear. These boats are popular with tournament pros where allowed and offer freedom to anglers with limited ability.

Inshore kayaks are stable for standup fishing. | Photo: Roberto Westbrook


  1. Nice article. However, the draft of the kayak will increase, not decrease, with the addition of a pedal system’s lower unit.


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