With the growing popularity of kayaks, new types and subtypes are being introduced as we speak. Other than sport, kayaks are also evolving for serving specific functionality like fishing, camping, diving, etc. In this article, I’ll talk about the differences between a fishing kayak and a regular kayak.
Kayaks are fun to use and simple to understand. Although it can be a little bit tricky to master the art of kayaking, they are smaller and lighter than many other types of water vehicles, except for canoes. The differences are marginal, but that’s not our topic of interest for the time being.
While a regular kayak and a fishing kayak are fundamentally the same, it is just tailored to meet the needs of fishing better. They are usually a little shorter and wider than other types of kayaks and have more carrying capacity.
But the big difference is rod holders. It is obvious that they are redundant for a recreational kayak but are essential for fishing kayaks. It is too obvious, right? So, what makes a fishing kayak? If they are fundamentally the same, what makes them stand out? Let’s explore this more in detail.
What Makes A Fishing Kayak?
In my opinion, the main difference is its shape. Fishing kayaks tend to be between 10 to 14 feet in length and more or less 35 inches in width. Although the dimensions may vary from person to person based on personal preferences, however, these dimensions usually perform the best.
A fishing kayak is intended to be stable on the water. They are neither expected to traverse long distances nor to move super-fast. They need to provide a platform for the person to stand or sit comfortably and cast the line. Hence stability is a key factor of a fishing kayak.
One big requirement of a fishing kayak is that it needs to be able to carry all the gears that the fisherman may need for the whole trip as well as all the fish he’ll (hopefully) catch. Some extra carrying capacity is more than necessary for a fishing kayak.
Rod holders are another important add-on. A fisherman will not hold the line in his hand during the whole expedition, right? Also, more than one line is cast at a time for efficiency. Thus, rod holders are a necessity.
Comfort at sitting and paddling/pedaling is a big factor for any type of kayak. However, it plays a bigger role in fishing kayaks since a fishing expedition is meant to last for a few hours at the very least and the deck is the only place for the person to be.
Unlike other types of kayaks, tracking is less important for a fishing kayak, because it is meant to be stationary for the most part. Both primary stability and secondary stability are much more important.
A Fishing Kayak Vs. A Regular Kayak
The kayak is a versatile medium of transport. They can be as short as 8-foot long or as long as 23-foot. A short kayak turns easily. They are best for whitewater adventures. A long kayak, on the other hand, has far better tracking and much higher speed making them perfect for exploration or long-distance traverses.
A fishing kayak falls in the middle, slightly on the shorter side. You don’t want to race with the fishes, do you? You just need to reach the fishing spot. A lighter kayak will be far easier to carry. Thus, fishing kayaks tend to be shorter than touring or recreational kayaks.
A fishing kayak is usually between 10 to 14 feet long. The length of a kayak helps in determining the tracking of the kayak. What is tracking do, you ask? When you paddle, with a stroke on the right side, the kayak tends to turn left, or right. Tracking is the characteristic of moving the vessel straight instead of turning.
In short, tracking is the efficiency of each stroke when you are paddling. It matters when you paddle for a long time, like explorations, or when you are kayaking in the ocean. Thus, you may choose 14-16 feet or, in extreme cases, an even longer 20-feet kayak.
The width of the kayak balances its stability and speed. The width of a typical fishing kayak is about 35inches. It can easily be considered “too wide” when compared to a touring (22″-25″) or recreational (26″-30″) kayak.
A wider hull means more stability and less speed.
Buoyancy is a big deal for kayaks. More so for a fishing kayak. With the wider deck and lesser circular hull, a fishing kayak offers plenty of buoyancy to support the fisherman and his gears.
Depending on the structure, Kayaks can be divided into two main subtypes.
SIKs (Sit-Inside-Kayaks) and SOTs (Sit-On-Top kayaks). SOTs offer a wide variety of seats, which is great for a fisherman. SIKs, on the other hand, offer better fixation, which works well in whitewater or racing kayaks.
Although a SIK can be used for fishing, they are underwhelmed by SOTs. The reason is, SIKs can be tiring for the fisherman because of being stationary in the same place for hours. SOTs offer more space and flexibility to move and rest your feet.
However, SIKs are not underwhelmed at all by a recreational kayak or whitewater kayak. Instead, they can be even more useful. SIKs have an overall lower center of mass and offer more stability by nature. For fishing, a comfortable seat is preferable than it is for other types of kayaks.
Fishing kayaks have a raised seat that makes it easier to get in and out of the boat. They also come with larger fishing decks, making them ideal for catching bigger fish.
Kayaks designed for touring or recreational use are usually not as seaworthy as fishing kayaks, so be sure you choose the right model for your needs before buying one.
If you plan on using your kayak primarily for fishing, then an elevated seat is essential because it gives you more stability when casting and reeling in your catch.
Elevated seats can also make sitting in the sun much more comfortable because of their shading capabilities.
If all you plan on doing with your kayak is cruising around scenic waterways or lakes, then a traditional sit-on-top design will work just fine.
If stability is key to enjoying a leisurely paddle down a river or stream – whether targeting trout or bass – consider investing in an elevated seated watercraft like a fishing kayak.
Sporting high seating positions provide greater support while underway (versus lower seated boats) resulting in steadier paddling and improved accuracy when landing big gamefish offshore.
Fishing kayaks come with a variety of rod holders, but regular kayaks don’t typically have any. You can buy a holder for your fishing rod that attaches to the boat or you can use one of those little hooks on the side.
If you want to be able to move your boat easily from spot to spot, then look for an adjustable holder that allows you to do so without taking off your gear.
If storage is not much of an issue and portability isn’t either, consider getting a mount that screws onto the transom or deck of your kayak.
This will keep everything organized and close at hand when you need it most A good way to store extra rods if space is tight is by storing them in baskets attached near the cockpit, just make sure they’re out of reach if someone falls into the water while paddling.
Nowadays, fishing kayaks, as well as other types of kayaks, can be driven by either a paddle or pedal. But a pedal can be more useful for a fishing kayak, while it can become tiring for other types of kayaks.
Tracks For Mounting Accessories
Fishing kayaks come with tracks that make it easier to mount accessories such as fishing rods, nets, and fish finders.
On the other hand, regular kayaks do not usually have these tracks and require you to use clamps or a strap to hold onto the boat while docking or retrieving your gear.
If you are looking for an easy way to mount accessories on your fishing kayak, choosing a track-equipped model is the best choice for you.
Large Stern Tankwell
Stern tankswells offer a large amount of storage and are perfect for larger fishing kayaks, on the other hand, regular kayaks don’t have large stern tank well.
They provide more stability when you’re out on the water and can also accommodate heavier gear or passengers. Make sure to get a stern tank well that is compatible with your fishing kayak before purchase so you don’t have any regrets later.
The weight of a kayak does matter for all types of kayaks. But you usually need to be more watchful of it when buying a fishing kayak.
The reason is, you might be needing to frequent different lakes or ponds or fishing spots in general. Thus, you are likely to be needing to carry your kayak around by yourself a lot.
You’ll be using your fishing kayak more often compared to a recreational kayak or a touring kayak (unless you are a professional racer). It’s unlikely that all the fishing spots will have a convenient road connection or docks. Thus, a bigger, heavier kayak will be less convenient if not impractical.
Another factor to consider is weight capacity. If your kayak is heavy on its own, it cannot carry much additional weight. Your kayak needs to be able to carry you, and all your gears and still leave room for the fishes you’ll catch.
In general, a fishing kayak is able to carry more load than other types. The reason being a fisherman genuinely needs to carry more gear. A fisherman does not really go for a short trip.
They go for at least a few hours at a time. They usually stay in the same spot. That’s the nature of kayak fishing.
For that reason, on a fishing trip, the person needs to carry a handful of recreational gear beside all the fishing gear. Not to mention the catches he’ll need to carry on the return trip.
Other types of kayaks only carry relevant gears respective to their purposes.
A recreational kayak only carries recreational gear. Whitewater kayaks, touring kayaks, or racing kayaks barely have to carry anything. Thus, A fishing kayak is different from other types of kayaks.
Each kayak is made with its purpose in mind. Based on the purpose, each kayak is designed with a slight alteration in its structure. That affects how the kayak will behave. They are usually tailored to excel at their job but might not suit well in other conditions.
All the fishing kayaks are not the same. An ocean fishing kayak is quite a lot different from an inland fishing kayak. However, They all have a common tendency. A fishing kayak isn’t generally fast. They usually have lesser track and higher stability.
Primary stability can vary greatly among different models of fishing kayaks, but almost always, they have excellent secondary stability.
Also, read best tandem fishing kayak
Overall, kayaks are a very versatile medium of transportation, and they can be convenient in situations where you’d have to bother a lot otherwise. Even though there are significant differences between a fishing kayak and a regular kayak, It is possible to use either type for either purpose.
It’ll be alright to use a fishing kayak for recreation or a general-purpose kayak for fishing with some slight adjustments, such as adding rod holders. The practice of modding general-purpose kayaks for specific tasks is not uncommon.
However, for the best outcome and most convenience, it is recommended to use the appropriate kayak type. Generally, a fishing expedition is one person’s job. So, a fishing kayak should be such that it can be handled and operated by a single person.
A fishing kayak sacrifices a handful of perks like tracking, speed, turning, etc. in order to be best suited for handling by a single person in almost all circumstances.