1. A Comfortable Seat!
Comfortable, lawn-chair style seats help you stay out on the water longer without your butt going numb. They’re also easier to stand up from than more traditional sit-on-top kayak seats, so look for this option if you do a lot of sight fishing or fly casting.
2. Speed AND Stability
There’s nothing wrong with a cheap kayak if you’re just kicking around the pond in your back yard. But if you plan to fish bigger water where you have to paddle to get to the fishing you should look for an option that tracks well. Tracking measures a kayak’s ability to glide forward in a straight line after you stop paddling. The better your boat tracks, the less effort you have to put into paddling to your fishing spot.
The best tracking kayaks are long and skinny, not great for fishing. A good fishing kayak will feature decent tracking performance and a shorter, wider hull that’s easy to turn and won’t tip over easily. Kayaks with catamaran-style or “multi-hull” designs are designed to help balance these competing priorities. They are not as fast as long, skinny touring kayaks, but they won’t flip easily either, so you get the best of both worlds.
3. A Pedal Drive
Most serious kayak anglers who spend time in lakes, rivers, or ocean bays and inlets where the water is deeper than a couple of feet prefer a kayak with a pedal drive. There are two main types, prop drives (which you pedal like a bicycle, made by companies like Native, Old Town, Wilderness Systems, and others) and fin drives (which you pedal like a stairmaster, primarily made by Hobie). You can fish pedal boats in shallow water by popping up (or taking out) the pedal drive, but if you spend most of your time in very shallow water a paddle-only kayak may be a better investment.
Pedal drive kayaks are the most expensive kinds of fishing kayak, but they are cheaper to run than a power boat, and they let you catch almost as many fish. They’re very popular with kayak anglers because you can use your feet instead of your hands to move them around the water. This lets your hands stay free for casting, hooking, and fighting fish, and gives you the ability to fish in wind and current as easily as if you were using an electric trolling motor.
Buyer’s Tip: Just want a fun, cheap boat you can pack up and store easily? Here’s an interesting option. It’s not something we recommend for fishing (sharp hooks and knives don’t mix so well with this type of boat) but it would be a fun kayak to store up at the lake.