How to Choose a Fishing Kayak

First decide on propulsion: paddle, pedal or power.

June 1, 2021

To choose which fishing kayak would work best for you, consider first how you want to move through the water. Paddle, pedal and power kayaks all have their advantages and challenges. Here are some details about each to help you choose the best kayak.

Motorized kayak illustration
Motorized kayaks save you from the wear and tear of paddling or peddling. Chris Malbon/Debut Art

Why You Need a Motorized Kayak

Motors deliver propulsion and range—all while sparing your quads and deltoids. Dial in trolling speeds, or set a GPS anchor to hold position. These are the mini microskiffs of the inshore world. Old Town builds its Sportsman Autopilot kayaks with an integral Minn Kota trolling motor (both brands are owned by the same company). Bixpy and Torqeedo each build lightweight aftermarket motor kits. Bixpy’s comes with a floating battery, wireless remote and countless mount options, and it delivers run times up to 10 hours. Most states require a fee and a manufacturer’s certificate of origin to register a motorized kayak. Check your local laws.

Pedal kayaks allow for casting with both hands
Hobie Compass, $2,349 Courtesy Hobie

Why You Need a Pedal Kayak

Sneak a peek at the underbelly of a pedal kayak, and you might find fins or a propeller. While neither signifies gender, the two styles still operate quite differently. Hobie first popularized the fins, and Native Watercraft first promoted the propeller. Now—post the patent period—other kayak-makers can employ either drive. Fins excel when fishing shallow waters and weedy areas with submerged structure. Props facilitate positioning in a current, and excel when fishing tight quarters around docks, where they transition quickly between forward and reverse. Some fin drives can switch to reverse with the pull of a cord. Most anglers appreciate pedals because they can use both hands to cast.

Paddle kayaks are versatile
Vibe ­Shearwater 125, $1,399.99 Courtesy Vibe

Why You Need a Paddle Kayak

Paddle kayaks scream versatility. Scull them in the shallowest of waters, chasing redfish over saltwater flats, or push them through beach swells to coastal waters. Unlike pedalers, paddlers can skim over the thickest marshes to target tailers. Paddle kayaks typically weigh less, so anglers can more easily manhandle them to fish remote off-road locations. Before purchasing your paddle boat, though, remember to budget for a lightweight, quality paddle in the correct length (typically 94 to 102 inches, or 240 to 260 centimeters). Your arms and back will applaud you.


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