Kayak Fishing: A Complete Beginner’s Guide

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Kayak Fishing: A Complete Beginner’s Guide

If you’ve stumbled across this guide, we can assume some of the following may apply:

  • You are at least somewhat familiar with recreational fishing
  • When fishing, you are either casting from the shore or from a kayak that you are looking to upgrade
  • The price and/or practicality of owning a boat at this stage of your life simply isn’t feasible

If any of the above hold true, then you might be one of the tens-of-thousands of American anglers who find themselves investing in a fishing kayak each year.

For numerous reasons, kayak fishing has exploded in popularity over the past decade. Of those reasons, many anglers cite convenience, affordability, and versatility as the biggest factors in switching from either the shore or a boat to a fishing kayak.

In this Premier Angler exclusive, we will look at the pros, the cons, the challenges, the advantages, and the practicality of fishing from a kayak. From beginner advice and safety tips to modifications and product resources, you should find plenty of helpful information in this article

Before we get started, however, we would like to thank our friends at Texas Fishing (especially tournament anglers KD Kidd and Lance Tyree) for collaborating with us on this exhaustive piece.

Kayak Fishing: History, Modernization, and Composition

Over the past decade, an increasing number of anglers have taken to kayak fishing on rivers, streams, creeks, lakes, and ponds. More daring and experienced anglers will even take their kayaks on the ocean and other saltwater bodies.

As big-box retailers have added lines of kayaks specifically engineered with anglers in mind to their catalogs, these floating contraptions have provided a cost-effective alternative to fishing enthusiasts wanting to fish on the water as opposed to from the shoreline.

The kayak itself, however, is not a modern invention. Archeologists have found evidence that indigenous peoples of the arctic region have been using some variation of the kayak for roughly four thousand years.

Origins of the Kayak

Worlds Oldest Remaining Kayak
The world’s oldest-known kayak, from the State Museum of Ethnoloy in Munich, Germany

As we mentioned above, some iteration of the kayak has existed for at least four millennia. Kayaks were traditionally used for hunting (more so than fishing) by inhabitants of coastal areas around the Bering Sea, North Pacific, North Atlantic, and the Arctic Ocean. The early incarnations were developed largely by the Inuit, Aleut, and Yup’ik peoples.

Depending on the particular use for each kayak, the design and construction would vary. Typically, however, they involved stretching seal skin over a frame constructed of either wood or whale bone (depending on which resource was more readily available).

The term kayak can be translated to mean either “hunter’s boat” or “man’s boat.” This translation is particularly interesting as early kayaks were designed specifically for their owners. Each hunter’s measurements were taken, and the design was crafted to offer him maximum maneuverability. Generally, the hunter’s wife would sew the seal skin to the craft’s frame.

Early designs also held very particular specifications. For instance, early kayaks were designed at a length that was three-times the outstretched arms of the hunter. This usually measured somewhere in the range of 17 feet. Additionally, the cockpit width measured the width of the hunter’s hips plus “two fists.” The depth was the length of one fist plus an outstretched thumb.

Inuits also wore a tuilik — a watertight jacket — for quick and safe recovery in the event of capsizing. When worn properly, the tuilik prevented the hunter from getting wet or getting excess water into the kayak.

While it would be a long time before kayaks were used for fishing, they were effective at helping Inuit peoples hunt caribou, seals, and even whales.

The Modern Kayak: Reinvention and Recreation

While early incarnations of the kayak confused European designers (due to the variance in dimensions), modifications for uniformity were eventually made.

Many Inuits still use seal-skin to cover their kayaks, but modernity has led to a series of alterations. Up until the 1950s, the most popular styles were all-wood kayaks and wood-frame kayaks covered in fabric.

With the introduction of fiberglass boats in the United States and inflatable rubber boats in Europe, designers were forced to find a way to make kayaks smaller, lighter, more uniform, and more affordable.

The kayak industry benefited from the advent of rotomolding (or rotational molding), which was developed in the early 1950s. By 1973, the process — which had been limited to a small number of plastic products early on — was able to smoothly and efficiently translate to kayak creation.

Over the past five decades, the technology has increased considerably, and adjustments have been made to accommodate a growing (both in terms of number and physical stature) population.

At the end of the 1960s, the majority of paddlers weighed between 110 and 190 pounds. By the early 2000s, however, the average weight for American males rose to 190 pounds, whereas the average weight of females jumped to 163 pounds. Those numbers continue to rise today.

As such, kayaks have to be created with additional weight capacity, especially for anglers who are taking another 20-30 pounds of fishing gear with them.

Kayak vs. Canoe: A Quick Explanation of a Differences

While avid, experienced paddle-craft aficionados will be able to go into much more detail than we will on the differences between kayaks and canoes, the reality is that over ten thousand Americans search for answers to this question each month.

First, we should take a look at what kayaks and canoes have in common:

  • Both are relatively light-weight vessels meant to hold a small number of individuals (usually one, and almost never more than three) and limited cargo
  • Kayaks and canoes can both be used for a variety of recreational endeavors, from racing to exploration to whitewater adventure
  • Both kayaks and canoes are classified as “paddle crafts,” which means they are generally propelled using a paddle (though some newer models have foot pedals)
  • Canoes and kayaks are generally much cheaper to produce, purchase, and maintain than boats or other motorized water crafts

The differences between canoes and kayaks are often subtle, but vast.

  • Kayaks use a two-sided (or double-bladed) paddle, which riders dip into the the water on one side of the craft, then the other, without having the blades cross the vessel’s cockpit. A canoe, on the other hand, has a one-sided (or single-blade paddle) which involves dipping the paddle into the water on one side of the boat, then shifting the paddle across the cockpit to the other side, and repeating this motion
  • Canoes tend to have an advantage over kayaks in the following areas: stability (less chance of capsizing), load capacity (can hold heavier weights, from either the riders or the cargo), entry and exit (especially if you will be getting in and out of the vessel frequently)
  • Kayaks tend to have an advantage over canoes in the following areas: speed, maneuverability, navigating choppier water and rougher conditions

So, are kayaks or canoes better for fishing?

There will obviously be a subjective element to this answer, but keep this is mind: if you go to Wal-Mart, Academy, Dick’s Sports, Gander Outdoors, Tractor Supply, Cabela’s, or Bass Pro Shops, there’s a reason you’ll see dozens of fishing kayaks for sale, and likely no fishing canoes.

Speed & Maneuverability Vs. Stability

For many anglers, the first time they fish from a kayak is also the first they ever use a paddle craft. This initial experience can be somewhat daunting. Instead of focusing on landing some slabs, beginning kayak anglers simply worry about staying out of the water.

Part of staying safe (and dry) involves knowing some specifications of the craft you will be fishing from.

Lower-displaced kayaks will have a weight volume closer to that of the angler (plus any additional baggage). These kayaks will tend to maneuver more easily, and should generate higher speeds with less effort. They also make the “kayak roll” — a technique that involves using body weight and a paddle to correct a capsized craft — easier.

Conversely, a higher-displaced kayak will tend to float higher on the water. This will create more drag, making speed and maneuverability more labored. Further, these kayaks are often heavier than necessary and are not as easy to transport as lighter models. Anglers have also expressed physical discomfort from how higher-riding fishing kayaks catch both wind and waves.

The plus-side to using a heavier kayak, though, comes from a degree of comfort knowing that the craft is capable of holding your weight. Many anglers are also willing to sacrifice some elements of speed and maneuverability in order to have their craft remain stable in a variety of conditions.

Competitive kayak angler Lance Tyree told us that his early days of kayaking were in a small model meant primarily for paddling. Wind and waves were of particular concern for him. Switching to an Oldtown Topwater PDL model, however, offered increased comfort and stability.

Ultimately, there’s a lot that goes into buying your first fishing kayak, and even more that goes into buying the right fishing kayak.

Choosing the Right Fishing Kayak

Tyree’s experience is one many aspiring kayak anglers can relate to. It’s also an experience one can learn from.

Before spending anywhere for a few hundred to a few hundred dollars on a new kayak, a prospective buyer should be able to answer the following questions:

Do you want a kayak that will move quickly and effortlessly through the water, or a kayak that will offer you comfort and stability?

Are you looking for a kayak that is strictly meant for fishing, or will you also be taking it out for other recreational activities?

In terms of species, are you looking for smaller panfish, crappie, and trout? Are you tackling bass? Will you be hunting down walleye, muskie, and pike? Maybe you’re looking for something even bigger…

The considerations an angler makes before choosing the best fishing kayak for his particular style are numerous. Some of the particulars will come with experience (or through trial-and-error), but having a game plan in place will go a long way toward having a great kayaking experience.

Perhaps the biggest consideration when purchasing a kayak is the decision to choose either a Sit-in kayak or a Sit-on-Top kayak.

Sit-in Kayaks vs. Sit-on-Top Kayaks: The Difference, Pros, and Cons

Sit-In Kayaks
One of the major decisions an angler needs to make is deciding whether to get a sit-in kayak vs. a sit-on-top kayak (photo via Christian Schultz/Premier Angler)

From the names, it should be fairly easily to tell the difference between sit-in kayaks and sit-on-top kayaks.

Aside from the body’s position in each variation, however, there are a lot of factors that go in to deciding whether to sit on or sit in.

Sit-on-Top Kayaks

As a matter of convention, sit-on-top kayaks tend to be a more popular design for anglers. While a comprehensive list of differences between sit-on-top and sit-inside kayaks is better served for a more specialized article, some of the pros for sit-on-top kayaks include:

  • Wider Seats: It’s not lie that a lot of larger folks enjoy fishing, and larger bodies require larger seats. You wouldn’t want to be crammed on a bus or a plane, and you won’t want to feel constricted while fishing.
  • More Leg Room: If you’re an above-average-sized angler or simply don’t like feeling “boxed in,” this additional leg room can be a real difference maker during a long day of fishing. I have always felt like sit-in kayaks were the equivalent of squeezing into a sardine can — certainly not the ideal conditions for a full day on the water.
  • Ability to Stand: If you have reasonable balance and conditions are favorable, many mid-and-higher-range kayaks will allow anglers to stand if they choose (weight capacity on these models tend to be higher). This allows anglers, once comfortable, to explore a vertical option that simply isn’t available on sit-in models.
  • Modifications Galore: This doesn’t mean you can’t modify a sit-in kayak, but sit-on-tops kayaks are designed with DIY’ers, tournament anglers, and aspiring entrepreneurs in mind. If you are looking to rig your ride up with electronics, gear and tackle, and even camera equipment, then a sit-on-top kayak might be the better option.
  • Easy In and Out: On a hot day, you might want to hop out of the kayak and take a quick dip. If you’re stealthing your way through wood or weeds and need to maneuver around, it is often easier when your lower body isn’t stuck in a tube. We’ve all had that snag or tangle that is easier to remove the closer you can get. General entry and exit is also considerably easier. Reentry is also much easier if you happen to capsize.
  • Straddling: While you have additional leg room using a sit-on-top kayak, you might want to stretch your legs out or simply dip your feet in the water. You can do this from a sit-in kayak, but for those without a ton of flexibility, this is safer and easier when sitting on top of a kayak.
  • Easier Rigging: This ties in with the whole theme of “more room,” but my experience has been that rigging a line from a sit-inside kayak is a claustrophobic’s nightmare. Discussions with fellow anglers lead me to believe I’m not alone in think that, either. Having more mobility and an open hull can be a real blessing, especially if you are setting up an involved rig.

Sit-in Kayaks

Make no mistake — there is absolutely a market for sit-in kayaks. Plenty of anglers still use them when fishing, and that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

If you show up at any local, regional, or national kayak fishing tournament, though, you’re likely to see a lot more sit-on-top kayaks.

That said, if I’m leaving my rod at home and just going for a drift down the creek or a paddle on the lake, I’m going to want a sit-in kayak. Some sit-ins are better equipped for fishing than others — if in doubt, many companies will include “angler” in the name — but they almost always have the advantage when it comes to pure recreation.

Some advantages include:

  • Speed: The design of sit-in kayaks tend to be more streamlined, which means you’ll accrue more speed (and distance) per paddle. If you are fishing areas where you know you’ll be covering miles of water, sacrificing some of the accommodations of a sit-on-top kayak might be worthwhile in some cases.
  • Staying Dry: One reason people choose a sit-inside kayak is that your body (and your accessories) have a better chance of staying dry. The deep, covered hulls of the sit-ins also function as convenient storage for your gear between uses. While it may be harder to retrieve these items form your kayak while actually on the water, many anglers make adjustments and find out quickly what setups work best. This all becomes moot, however, if you capsize your vessel.

Style, Design, and Price: Choosing the Right Look at the Right Price

We have established that choosing a kayak based upon preferences in design and seating are major factors for anglers.

But what about the actual “look” of a kayak?

Visit any kayak website or big-box retailer, and you’ll see countless options. Some are nice, plain, and simple. Others offer elaborate color schemes. You canfind some that have a rugged, outdoorsy look to them, and some fitted with loud, neon colors.

When various models typically run from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, you’re looking at a decent investment. You’ll want to make sure that you choose a design that you’ll be happy with in a few years.

This means avoiding an impulse buy.

Later in this article, we will link to some of the most popular kayak brands. To get an idea of what type of kayak you want to choose, you can do a few different things: Spend time reading additional articles, watching YouTube videos, and checking out product reviews. See what people like about each craft, if any consistent issues are noted, and what the general consensus seems to be.

Online fishing and kayak groups can also be your friend. See if someone has the same fishing kayak you are looking to purchase. If you can see the kayak in person, that goes a long way.

Lance Tyree, who has competed in kayak tournaments for several years, suggests that keeping it simple is a great start for beginners.

“I would highly recommend getting out and getting a demo of a few different brands first. That way, they can find what they’re most comfortable and satisfied with before buying one,” said Tyree.

KD Kidd, another success kayak tournament angler out of Texas, shares similar sentiments.

“Take your time and enjoy the ride. You don’t need to go all out on gear and an expensive kayak. Get related to being off the bank and using your fishing skills to adapt while enjoying this great natural scenery Mother Nature blessed us with,” said Kidd.

Getting Started with Kayak Fishing: Tips, Techniques, Pros, and Cons

Now, here comes the hard reality that you might not want to hear: to get good at kayak fishing, you first have to be good at fishing.

From the bank, you will always be limited by the available shoreline. From a boat, you have much greater access to secluded areas that aren’t easily accessible or under constant fishing pressure — but you will also be assuming a considerable cost.

While kayaks, in many ways, are the best of both worlds, you still have to be able to physically and mentally handle the challenges of fishing from one.

Rigging Up Ahead of Time

I haven’t met many anglers who genuinely enjoy rigging up their lines. This becomes even less enjoyable if you are fishing elaborate rigs, running leaders, and tying multiple knots before casting.

If you are the type who gets frustrated easily, fumbles or drops your tackle regularly, or struggles with fine motor skills for any reason, getting comfortable on your kayak before trying any fancy rigging may be a good idea.

While the jury is split on this technique, some anglers also tie their lures to a leader ahead of time. This isn’t a kayak-exclusive workaround, but it is one that can be both a time and stress saver. I’ve used this option myself, usually when fishing for smaller species, by running braid line with a 12-18 inch fluorocarbon leader on a barrel swivel.

This technique has been a life-and-time-saver from a kayak, and cut my stress levels down considerably.

Within Arms’ Reach

If you have never fished from a kayak before, and you haven’t figured it out by now, here’s a helpful tip: kayak fishing is not like bank fishing or boat fishing.

The first time I took a fishing kayak out — a simple mid-afternoon excursion for panfish — I grossly underestimated how important it was to have my essentials readily accessible and within arms’ reach.

This foray was in a small sit-in kayak, and I had my fishing tackle bag (which held almost all of my gear for the day) nustled comfortably between my feet. The problem is, when it came time to re-hook, I had a monster of a time getting to it as I wasn’t comfortable with my vessel yet.

Whether its your tools (pliers, knife, scissors) or terminal tackle (hooks, swivels, bobbers), having a safe and easily accessible area for these is going to save you considerable hassle over the long run.

Be careful, though, because resting small items on the top of the kayak can make them prone to falling in the water without notice.

Can You Catch Big Fish from a Kayak?

When considering a fishing kayak’s pros and cons, one question many people have is: can you catch big fish from a kayak?

The answer is: yes, definitely!

While the popularity of kayak fishing owes a lot to bass fishing, lots of anglers simply enjoy being on the water to fish for crappie, trout, carp, channel catfish, and even walleye. But it is possible to pull in decent-sized flathead catfish and even muskie from your vessel.

Now, there is a catch. You have to be comfortable in all elements of fishing (and in fishing from a kayak) before you should go out and start hunting down predators. If you wouldn’t bring a giant, toothy muskie into your fishing boat (or be equipped to properly and safely release the fish), you probably won’t want to target them from your kayak.

If you’ve got a sturdy and reliable craft, you are comfortable on the water, you have some buddies nearby to assist with any issues, and you are fairly close to dockable land, however, then big game fishing might be in the cards.

Multi-species angler Joseph Harrick of 50/50 Fishing regularly catches some beastly fish from his kayak. In the video below, he hauls in a massive 50 inch muskie.

The Pros: What are Some of the Advantages?

As we mentioned above, there are plenty of reasons to invest in a fishing kayak. Some of these reasons include:

  • Shore, No More: For starters, we should state that there is nothing wrong with fishing from the shore. I’ve caught hundreds of fish casting from the bank, and will probably catch hundreds more the same way. That said, the majority of fish I’m proud of came from fishing on the water instead of near the water. While a fishing kayak isn’t always as exciting as a fishing boat, it still gives you the ability to fish locations, structures, and angles that are completely inaccessible from the bank.
  • Cost (versus owning a boat): For those anglers stuck on the shore, the thought of being on the water is intoxicating. For those who currently or previously fished primarily from a boat, a kayak can seem like a considerable downgrade. The reality is that of the nearly 50-million licensed anglers who hit the water in America each year, only a small handful can afford the cost (and maintenance) of a boat. A fishing kayak, however, comes with a more gentle price tag. Also, the cost of maintaining and storing a boat, replacing motors, and any potential docking fees will pile up over a few years. For a kayak, however, regular cleaning and proper storage will help keep your vessel functional for the long haul.
  • Variety, Relaxation, Challenge, and Exercise: If you’ve fished from shore, it’s a game of paint-by-numbers. Yes, you will more fish or bigger fish on some days. Still, it becomes routine. You may hike to your favorite spot, but once you’re there, it is business as usual. In a kayak, you are not only facing the elements, but you are entering into a round of “man vs. nature.” As angler KD Kidd told us, “kayak fishing can be relaxing or a thrill ride. It gets you off the bank to find those elusive fish that hide away from pressured spots. It also gets you on the water for a great time away from the stress of adulting.”
  • Customization and Credibility: Since kayak fishing is a relatively new phenomenon — at least in terms of mass appeal — it’s hard to tell if the trend will sustain over the coming decades. Right now, however, there are a ton of great anglers who choose kayak fishing over shore and boat fishing. They invest a considerable amount of money into modifying their crafts with the top electronics, gear, and equipment. Many popular YouTube channels structure their content around fishing from a kayak, and there is a certain coolness to seeing a decked-out vessel. It’s hard to craft a real “brand” from the shore (though it can be done, with great success), and making commensurate modifications to a boat could rival the cost of a high-end kayak. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur looking to develop a sense of identity for your fishing brand at reasonable cost, then a kayak might be in your future.
  • Stealth Mode: Whether you are riding a sit-in or sit-on-top kayak, there is an advantage that you won’t get either by foot on from a boat — the ability to slide into even the tightest nooks and crannies quietly and with minimal commotion. I personally love weaving my way into a brush pile, heavily-wooden area, or shallow water that I would be apprehensive to approach from a boat. The light weight of a kayak (relative to even the lightest fishing boats) also allows for quick-and-quiet maneuverability while nustled into these locations.

The Cons: What are Some of the Disadvantages?

Thus far, we have taken a very pro-kayak approach to this article, and for good reason. That said, there are always going to be some limitations. Some of the biggest negatives to kayak fishing include:

  • Speed and Maneuverability: When we discussed the difference between speed and maneuverability from a sit-in kayak vs a sit-on-top kayak, it’s clear that the sit-in model allows anglers to cover more area, more quickly, and more agilely. However, when compared to even a pontoon boat with a 9.9 engine, it’s a completely different story. A fit and experienced kayaker can cover around 3 miles per hour. After an hour of rowing, however, most of us are going to be pretty spent. If you are going to be covering considerable distances on the water on a regular basis, a boat might be a better option for you. This is especially true if you health and endurance aren’t up to par.
  • Harsh Conditions: There are a couple times I’ve been on the water (in a boat) and genuinely worried about making it back to land safely during a storm. From shore, it is easy to hunker down in a safe area. From a boat, you have the benefit of both an engine and a sturdier, heavier vessel. From a kayak, while you can dock pretty much anywhere, fighting through intense winds, whitecaps, and torrential downpour can be terrifying. While it’s sound advice for any angler, check your fishery’s weather report before hitting the water.
  • Storage: As we mentioned before, storage (and the ability to effectively use your cargo) can be a challenge from a kayak, especially at first. If you’ve ever tried to rig a line, eat a sandwich, or even unhook, measure, and snap a photo from a kayak, you know that the struggle is real. I’ve found that a sit-on-top kayak offers better agility in this regard, but even fishing from a 14-foot John boat will give you the room to move and store pretty much anything you want. Likewise, for the modern catch-and-release world, especially on the tournament scene, this is an adjustment that might take some time.
  • Thin Company: The rise in popularity of kayak fishing has also led to the formation of a tightly-knit community. As kayaking is cost-effective and more exciting than bank fishing, even smaller towns find themselves with a healthy number of kayak anglers. This means that there are always potential fishing buddies you can tag along with. However, can be a fairly lonely endeavor if you are out on the water kayak fishing by yourself,

Fishing Kayak Safety: How to Keep Yourself and Others Safe While on the Water

As we’ve mentioned in this and other articles, safety on the water is no joke! Each year, roughly 330 Americans die as a result of drowning from boat-related incidents. Of the 3,500 unintentional drownings in the country per year, a handful of others come from shore and kayak-related incidents.

Even the highest degree of safety won’t always stop fluke accidents. That said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this case, it could also mean the difference between life and death.

Choosing the Right Life Jacket/Personal Flotation Device

Kayak Fishing_PFD Life Jackets
Kayak Fishing with a PFD Vest (photo via Brandon McGraw/Camping Coyotes/Premier Angler)

Growing up, we were subjected to those thick, puffy, bright orange life jackets whenever we got on the boat. They were bulky, uncomfortable eyesores, but they would get the job done if needed.

Luckily, the PFD (or personal flotation device) industry has evolved over the past few decades.

This becomes even more helpful for kayak anglers. Numerous modern designs have been made to allow flexibility and comfort while adding practical elements — pockets!

When we said to keep your essential tools and tackle close, this is probably the most efficient method available.

Some popular and practical PFDs for kayak fishing include:

Line of Sight: Remain Visible at All Times!

For those of you who have taken their kayak on a lake with no horsepower limit (or on any decent-sized river), you already know where this is going…

When you are sharing the water with big, fast boats, there’s a reality that must always be kept in mind: not everyone is going to boat responsibly.

I’ve experienced boats leaving the river and ripping down the creek while I was kayaking near the shore. Not only is this uncomfortable, but it is potentially dangerous. While boaters are obligated to be responsible, you can’t always trust that they will be.

By remaining visible — bright colors, on both your body and your kayak, go a long way — you may give these boaters enough time to slow down and avoid either hitting you or tossing you around in their wake.

Also, if you are planning to go kayak fishing alone, being visible also lets boaters, other kayakers, or even folks fishing from the shore know you are there. In the event you capsize, there’s a chance someone was aware of your presence.

Anchors Away!

Many beginning kayak anglers want to know if it is safe to throw an anchor from your kayak.

As with many questions, the answer is: it depends.

In still water, or even with a gentle breeze, you can get away with throwing a weight-appropriate anchor from your kayak. For calm waters, these anchors can generally be as light as 1 pound. For slightly rougher conditions, you will find anchors up to 3.5 pounds.

When dealing with heavy chop or currents, however, you’ll want to keep the anchor up. The uneven weight distribution if the anchor is in the water can increase your chances of capsizing.

Choosing the Right Paddle for Kayak Fishing

There’s a school of thought that pretty much any decent kayak paddle will be able to get you where you want to go on the water.

And in many ways, that’s true.

If you are looking for the ideal length, material, blade design and angle, however, we recommend checking out this excellent breakdown from REI. Here, you will find out how to choose the perfect kayak paddle based on your height, the width of your kayak, and the conditions you will most frequently be encountering.

That said, if you are simply looking for some popular, highly-rated paddles to get you started, you may want to consider the following:

American Canoe Association’s Official Paddesport Safety Course

If you are serious about getting involved with kayak fishing and plan on making an investment of several hundred to several thousand dollars, you might want to add another thirty dollars to that tally.

The American Canoe Association offers a comprehensive paddlesport course online for those interested in becoming safer, more responsible kayakers.

While the course (or any, for that matter), is not required to take your kayak on the water, it is highly recommended and respected.

The course will cover everything from boarding and exiting your kayak to paddling, troubleshooting in the event of an emergency, and even provides a glossary of helpful terms.

You can find more information on the ACA Paddlesport Course here.

A Look at Some of the Top Fishing Kayak Brands and Models

By now, you have an introductory understanding of what a kayak is, how it differs from a canoe, when it was invented and how it became popular. You also have a better sense of how to make your kayak more efficient, especially when it is going to be used for fishing.

Now, we are going to take a look at several of the most popular fishing kayak brands and models on the market today.


Ascend Kayaks

Part of the same craft family as Nitro, Tahoe, Mako, and Tracker boats, Ascend has quickly ascended — pun intended — to the top of the recreational and fishing kayak industry.

Ascend’s stock kayaks (both sit-in and sit-on-top, with some hybrid models included) blend elements of popular design and aesthetics. Some models offer more elaborate designs with deeper colors, while others come in traditional, solid colors.

Owners regularly claim that Ascend excels as a cost-effective option for both seat comfort and stability. Getting in and out of the kayak (without winding up in the water) becomes much easier when your kayak is stable. Likewise, the ability to be on the water for hours without getting sore is a major selling point.

This is a great brand (with solid accessories, like paddles) to consider if you want a reliable craft from a reputable name at a reasonable entry price. Many large outdoors retailers also carry Ascend products, so they are pretty easy to find,

Some of Ascend’s most popular fishing kayaks include:

Old Town Canoe

As one of the oldest paddlecraft companies in the country — their origins date back to the late 1890s — Old Town Canoe continues to reinvent itself.

Not only does Old Town Canoe sport some of the most expensive fishing kayaks on the market — it also has one of the deepest collections. On the company website, you can find roughly two dozen fishing kayaks, ranging in price from $600 to $4,000. The collection offers options for both freshwater and saltwater kayak fishing.

While Ascend offers a nice, introductory fishing kayak, the reality is that Old Town’s models are designed, marketed, and priced for the most serious, competitive anglers in mind. They produce attractive, sturdy, angler-friendly designs with both comfort and stability in mind. Many options also include pedals, which takes a lot of pressure off the anglers to both fish and paddle while on the water.

Some popular models include:


Hobie Kayak

If you’re looking to make a serious investment into kayak fishing and the Old Town series isn’t for you, then Hobie might be your brand of choice.

With some of the sleekest, most stable and maneuverable fishing kayaks on the market, Hobie’s quality vessels come at a price that will likely intimidate many would-be-buyers.

If you can get past the sticker shock, however, the brand offers a wide range of options that are tried, tested, and highly regarded. While Old Town offers a couple pedal-based models, a considerable portion of Hobie’s fleet offers this technology.

Hobie also offers a variety of collections, including inflatable and traditional paddle kayaks.

Competitive kayak angler KD Kidd upgraded from a high-end inflatable kayak to the Hobie Pro Angler 12 and is happy with the investment.

“It’s an awesome platform with a great pedal system, TONS of storage and comfort. It has a fish finder, anchor trolleys and tons or other extras I have added,” said Kidd.

Some of Hobie’s top fishing kayak models include:

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