Choosing the Right Kayak

What type of kayak should I buy you ask? Sorting through all the different shapes and sizes of kayaks can be a daunting task. There’s long kayaks, short kayaks, inflatable kayaks, sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks, sit-insides, and all sorts of hybrids along the way. You want some reassurance you’ve made a good kayak selection before spending that hard earned cash money. Here we’ll try and help you sort through the options.

The most important factor in determining which type of kayak is right for you will be how and where you plan on using it. Think about where you’ll be doing most of your paddling, and what you’ll be doing during these times. Be realistic. Will you be in rivers and small lakes? Or larger bodies of water or maybe even offshore? Some kayaks are more tailored to fishing, while others are better suited for speed or rapids. Every style of kayak has its pros and cons. Your first big decision will come down to choosing a sit-inside or sit-on-top kayak.
Sit-inside Kayak: This is generally what most people think of when the word kayak is mentioned. The majority of the kayak is enclosed except for an area in the cockpit where you slide inside. A spray skirt can be attached around the seating area to keep additional water outside of the kayak. These kayaks can help to keep your center of gravity lower, and also keep you dryer in colder water. One drawback of sit-inside kayaks is that if they flip, it can be hard to right them due to filling up with water.

Sit-on-top Kayak: This is the preferred fishers kayak. The deck of the kayak is open and the kayaker “sits on top” of it. Although typically these kayaks have some sort of seat with back support as well. The open deck allows for more move-ability and plenty of easily accessible storage space for fishing equipment. These kayaks allow for easy entry and exit, even while in the water. A downside to sit-on-top kayaks is the absence of an enclosure and spray skirt – so you can count on getting in contact with a bit of water!

Choosing between a sit-inside and sit-on-top kayak is your first big decision. Since this is a website about kayak fishing, we’ll assume you’ve chosen a sit-on-top kayak to narrow your search. Your next question is probably “what length should I get”?


The longer and narrow a kayak is the faster it will go. But that speed comes with a price. Longer kayaks will not be able to turn as easy as a shorter kayak. A shorter, wider kayak will have greater stability and tighter turning capabilities. There are some fishing kayaks available which even allow standing up in the kayak. Along with speed and stability you’ll want to consider the bodies of water you plan on traveling. A general rule of thumb for the length of kayak required for going offshore is a minimum of 12-13 feet. For calmer waters and narrow rivers a smaller length would be desirable to navigate tight turns and bends.


Consider how you will be transporting and storing your kayak. If you will be lifting the kayak on top of a large SUV the weight of the kayak could become a major factor. Especially when trying to put up the kayak after a long day out paddling!

Other factors:

  • Ability to stand up in the kayak
  • Onboard storage space (covered, space for fishing rods, scuba tank, etc)
  • Colors available
  • Where will the kayak be stored when not in use?

Once you have a good idea of your intended uses, transportation method, and storage options you’ll be able to greatly narrow down your kayak selection. From there the fun part begins! Starting reviewing the unique options each potential kayak has and decide which one best suits you.


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