How to Choose the Best Fishing Kayak for 2016

Nothing beats an afternoon on the water on a warm summer day with nothing but your kayak, fishing pole and a cooler. The right kayak makes paddling effortless, so you can glide to the perfect fishing spot and hopefully, end the day with at least a catch or two.

Finding the best fishing kayak can be a tough task, especially if this is your first time buying one. Don’t worry – we’ll guide you through the process by explaining how to choose a kayak and what to look for. We’ll even share a few of the top models on the market, so you can be sure you’re getting a high quality kayak.

Choosing the Right Type of Kayak

Most kayaks share similar designs, which is part of the reason why it can be difficult to know which one to choose. You may also be surprised to learn that, despite their similar appearances, there are several different types of kayaks.

The right one for you will depend on what type of kayaking you’ll be doing. We already know that you’ll be fishing, so the ideal kayak for fishing would be a sit on top model.
Sit in style models can be used as well, but many anglers prefer sit on top.

Sit On Top Kayaks

A sit on top style kayak is ideal for fishing because it offers a stable fishing platform. Many models are self-bailing, too, so if the boat capsizes, the water will drain completely if you tip it upside down.

If you plan on fishing on the ocean (where you’re more likely to flip over), self-bailing is a key important feature.

Sit on top style models tend to be wider than other types of kayaks to compensate for the user’s higher center of gravity. The larger width makes these kayaks a little slower, and there’s no option to control the boat using your body.

Sit In Kayaks

Some anglers prefer to use sit in kayaks because their hull design is more efficient and they offer more storage space. This style also tends to be drier, and if the cockpit is fitted properly, you can control the boat with your body.

Vantage Seat Photo

When searching for kayaks, you may also find other types available, including:

  • Whitewater: As you may have guessed, a whitewater kayak is ideal for navigating through rough rapids. Their bodies are shorter and the bottoms may be rounded or have flat planing hulls. This type of kayak is not ideal for fishing because it can be a challenge to paddle in a straight line.
  • Touring: Ideal for long trips in the wilderness and carrying gear. Longer in size, touring kayaks are exceptionally stable and offer more storage space, but they can be tricky to turn. Some anglers use touring kayaks if they need to carry a lot of gear and plan on spending the whole day out on the water, so keep this in mind when you’re weighing your options.
  • Downriver: These kayaks are specially designed to move quickly through water, and are typically the preferred choice for racing. Long and narrow, downriver kayaks can tip very easily, which makes them unsuitable for fishing.

Hull Design and Stability

Stability is incredibly important when choosing a fishing kayak. You want to spend the day catching fish – not tipping over. And because you’ll be carrying gear with you, you need a kayak that will hold steady even with your pole, tackle box and everything else you have on board.

lifetimefishingFor fishing, you want a kayak with good primary, or “initial,” stability. A boat with excellent primary stability will be easy to enter and exit, and will also feel less “tipsy” when the boat is immobile. Because your boat will be spending a lot of time at rest while you fish, you need a kayak that has great initial stability to keep you from tipping over.

Hull design and stability go hand-in-hand. The shape of the hull will determine whether the boat has better initial or secondary stability.

Rounded hulls are better for initial stability.

Take a look at the V shape on the bottom of the boat. The more pronounced that V-shape is, the less initial stability it offers.

Storage Space

Naturally, you’ll want a kayak that offers enough storage space to haul all of your gear – including your pole. Some kayaks come with slots to hold fishing poles. Others offer plenty of room for storing gear on the front and back decks.

Top Fishing Kayak Reviews

Not sure which fishing kayak to choose? Our convenient comparison chart above (just drag and drop each model to compare stats) can help you get started, but we’re going to share our top four picks for the absolute best kayak for fishing.

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 Fishing Kayak

Mirage Pro Angler 14 PapayaIf you’re serious about kayak fishing, it doesn’t get much better than the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler. This is a true fishing kayak – and one of the most complete models on the market.

The pedal drive system allows you to propel the boat with your feet, keeping your hands free and making paddling more efficient.

The unique turbo fins allow you to move up to 10% faster, while the hull design provides both stability and quicker speed.

The Vantage seating system lets you sit for hours without feeling uncomfortable, and the Lowrance Ready system makes it easy to install a fishfinder.

With ample storage space (vertical and horizontal) for rods and tackle, the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler is the ultimate fishing kayak.

Click here to learn more about the Mirage Pro Angler.

Malibu Kayaks Stealth 14 Fish and Dive

Hatch-Seat-SandThe Stealth 14 Fish and Dive from Malibu Kayaks is sleek, stable and boasts a number of features aimed exclusively at anglers.

With a 14.4-foot length and 33” width, this kayak can hold up to 550 pounds. The hull is designed for maximum stability, and the center bait tank system makes it easy to store bait without needing extra gear.

There’s also a casting platform, 4 rod holders (2 in front and 2 in back), adjustable foot track and 45-degree rear hatch. Eyelets and nylon hooks provide even more storage, so you can bring all the gear you need for a successful day out on the water.

Click here to learn more about the Stealth 14 Fish and Dive.

Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game Angler

With a length of 12.9 feet and width of two feet, the Prowler Big Game Angler from Ocean Kayak is big – and stable.

The in-mold seat well makes this kayak comfortable to sit in for long periods of time, and a maximum weight load of up to 600 pounds means you can bring as much gear as you want.

The track foot brace system keeps the boat stable while you reel in your big catch, and the in-mold cup holder puts your favorite drink in arm’s reach. There’s a scupper system, too, so you can easily attach your fishfinder to find the best places to fish.

Click here to learn more about the Prowler Big Game Angler. (Full Review coming soon!)

Sun Dolphin Bali SS

Bali10ss_TANGERINETop__54328.1397760154.700.450On a tighter budget? The Bali SS is a great option for you. Offering maximum stability, this kayak was not designed exclusively for fishing, but it offers all the features anglers need.

The Bali SS has a portable accessory carrier that you can store gear in, and a dry storage compartment with shock cord rigging. An open cockpit makes it easy to get in and out of this boat, while the large, comfortable seat makes it easy to sit for hours without feeling uncomfortable.

Adjustable foot braces and a paddle holder make this kayak a great option for new anglers or anyone looking for a budget-friendly fishing kayak.

Click here to learn more about the Bali SS kayak.

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