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Fishing Kayak vs Recreational Kayak

A kayak is a kayak is a kayak, right? Well, no. Believe it or not, there are a number of substantial and functional differences in the kayaks on the market. And one of the major factors to consider is what you want to use your yak for. Choosing between a recreational kayak versus a fishing kayak makes a big difference with what kind of kayak you get.


Kayak Structure

Fishing Kayak

  • Sit-on-top - Almost all fishing kayaks will be of the sit-on-top style. This allows for seating choices (comfort for long days on the water, flexibility) as well as ease in casting (raised for a good angle and body motion.) Also sit-on-top kayak allow you the flexibility to stand for casting, as well. Fishing kayaks can be paddled or pedaled. Pedal kayaks can have advantages in “handsfree propulsion” so you can cast as you move.
  • Color - Fishing kayaks are often offered in muted and camouflage colors to be less distracting to the catch.

Recreational Kayak

  • Sit-in or sit-on-top - Recreational kayaks can be either sit-in or sit-on-top. Both sit-on-top or sit-in are used for kayakers who are just looking to tool around the water, since it doesn't matter if you are casting or not. However, sit-in kayaks are often more popular for touring/recreation because they offer a lower center of mass and good fixation which can make for more efficient paddling for longer periods.
  • Color - Recreational kayaks come in a variety of colors, often bright and obvious to be seen in all different conditions, for safety.


Kayak Size

Fishing Kayak

  • 10-14 feet long, 30-35 inches wide - Is the optimal range for a kayak that balances speed and stability. A fishing kayak doesn’t have to be particularly speedy, but it must be stable. The wider width helps the yak remain balanced for casting, hauling, etc.
  • Weight - A fishing kayak needs to be able to bear more weight than a recreational kayak. By nature of the activity, fishing requires equipment - bait, tackle, rods, nets, tech, not to mention any catch you bring home at the end of the day. In addition, a fishing kayak might be outfitted with a trolling motor or other equipment that adds pounds.

Recreational Kayak

  • 6-23 feet long, 25-30 inches wide - The wide range of length in a regular kayak depends on what you are using it for. Kids need smaller yaks. Those looking for racing or battling ocean waves might want a long thin yak to cut through the surf and track well.
  • Weight - A recreational kayak does not need to have the same carrying capability as a fishing kayak. In fact, recreational kayaks used for short trips might not need to carry more weight than their operator. This helps with speed, as well.

Stability of Kayak

Stability is the kayak’s ability to resist tipping/capsizing. Stability is a vital aspect of fishing kayaks.

Fishing Kayak

  • Primary Stability - The ability of the kayak to resist capsizing when water is flat. The hull design (flat or pontoon) and width of a fishing kayak are focused on making sure that the platform for fishing is wide and stable. This allows for the fisher to cast and stay balanced.
  • Secondary Stability - Refers to the ability of the kayak to not tip side to side during rough water. Fishing kayaks tend to have chine designs which provide excellent stability in choppy water.

Recreational Kayak

  • Primary Stability - Recreational kayaks can have any number of hull designs that can make the kayak move more efficiently through the water (v-shape or round). This helps the kayak to track and move more quickly. Stability actually increases with speed, so they are better for touring/distance than the wide platform of a fishing yak.
  • Secondary Stability - Recreational kayaks often have hard chines that can create a sharp edge good for carving turns that allow you to gain speed.


Kayak Storage

Another big difference between fishing and recreational kayaks is the amount of storage found on your yak.

Fishing Kayak

  • Sealed hatches/bulkheads - Fishing kayaks are built with all kinds of options for storage, from sealed bulkheads to nets to space for coolers.
  • Rod Holders/Gear tracks - Most fishing kayaks have tracks for attaching tools like fish finders as well as built-in rod holders.

Recreational Kayak

  • Sealed hatches/bulkheads - A recreational yak may or may not have sealed storage options. It isn’t as vital to have these options for a yak used primarily for touring although many recreational kayakers still like these options as well so you can find them on all sorts of yaks.
  • Drink holder/nets - While a recreational yak might not be built to hold lots of equipment, many will still have drink holders, bungee nets, or pockets to hold at least a few vital things.


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