What Size Kayak Do I Need?

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Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts and welcome to my post discussing one of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to fishing in a kayak – What size kayak do I need? Choosing a good kayak for fishing is a critical aspect of success as I have discussed on many of my kayak related posts.

However, one critical aspect is size. Too big and you will struggle to control it, and too small and you will struggle to fit everything in it – not to mention safety aspects if you are heading out to sea. Hence, there are a few things to consider when choosing the right sized kayak for you.

Types of kayaks

Before we start however, I guess the first thing we should look at is the type of kayak that you may be looking at. These can have a bearing on the size due to their characteristics and includes the following:

Sit on top kayaks

As the name suggests, these are the style that you sit on top of as you paddle along. They are great as fishing kayaks as they are generally wider and more stable than some of the others as well as giving you the ability to swing a rod 360 degrees around the vessel with ease. On the downside, there is no protection from the water (you will get a wet backside) and they are also generally slow moving.

Shorter models are great for estuaries, rivers and lakes etc. where you might be maneuvering between logs, tree and other structures as they can turn quite quickly. If however you are looking to head out on the ocean or need to travel further to get to your fishing spot then a larger, longer option may suit.

Most move about via the traditional paddle method however some also have foot peddles and rudders to make fishing a little easier.

what size kayak do i need - man on yellow kayak

Sit in kayaks

These are the ones where you sit inside the kayak via the little ‘cockpit’ at the top. They can be just as effective for fishing as the sit on top models and work well in areas with stronger current. They do tend to be narrower and longer making them a little faster across the water however this makes them a little less maneuverable as well.

Most move around with paddles and do hold the added advantage of offering more protection from water spray etc. as well. The only real issues with them is a matter of real estate. Sit in models suffer from a definite reduction in accessibility to items such as tackle boxes and extra rods as if they do fit in, they have to be squeezed down beside you inside the hull.

Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable kayaks are pumped up with air for use and come in both sit on or sit in options. Many do come with fishing capabilities and can definitely be used in this capacity. They are also very good where storage and transportation space is limited (I.e. you don’t have a roof rack or trailer on which to carry the hard plastic versions).

What are you doing on it?

Ok, so the next thing to think about is what type of kayaking you’ll be doing most often. Due to the major themes of this site we tend to refer to kayaks for fishing so if this is the case, then you will need to ensure that it is large enough to fit all of the extra gear required for that.

However, if you are looking for something for more recreational purposes with a but of fishing thrown in occasionally, then you may not need one so big. In general, the following lengths may be worth looking into dependent upon your usage needs:

Short craft (8 – 9ft) – The shorter the craft, the easier it is to turn however not the fastest thing you will ever sit in. It will also not hold a glide over the water for very long and is very susceptible to anything other than flat water. Very good for lakes etc. where waters are not rough and maneuverability around trees and rocks etc. is required or estuaries with minor currents.

Medium craft (10 – 12ft) – In my research, I have found may articles where this is considered the perfect length for most uses. They can handle rougher water whilst maintaining stability with a little more speed. They are a little harder to manoeuvre than the short craft but a little faster with better water glide (a.k.a. tracking) to keep the craft moving forward with momentum. The perfect length for those looking to use in a number of areas and/or environmental factors.

Long craft (13ft+) – If speed a must, or are you planning to do a bit on the open ocean, then I would suggest a longer option. Maneuverability and turning is a problem here (think Titanic) however but if you are chasing fast fish – or need to travel larger distances to get to where you want to go – then good length is a must. Higher end models can also be fitted with foot pedals for faster movement as well however they are also a bit more on the expensive side.

what size kayak do i need - two men in kayak

How big are you?

Next, consider your own physical dimensions. This may seem obvious but a kayak that’s too small or too large will be uncomfortable and hard to maneuver. In general, you should be able to sit comfortably in the cockpit with your legs extended and knees bent at a 90 degree angle. If you’re taller than average, you may need a larger size kayak to accommodate your long legs. Conversely, if you’re shorter than average, you might want to consider a smaller size kayak.

Additionally, most kayaks are manufactured with weight categories and limitations as well. This means that if you are a little larger, then you just need to ensure that your kayak can handle your weight – keeping in mind that these limitations not only include you, but all of your gear as well.

Width also plays a role here too as the wider the craft, the more stable it will be on the water. Narrower boats tend to be faster and maybe a little more maneuverable but can come with lighter weight carrying capabilities.

What will you add to it?

And whilst we are looking at size and weight, the final thing to think about here is how much gear you’ll want to take with you on your kayaking adventures. If you’re planning on camping or fishing, you’ll need a larger kayak that can accommodate all your gear. On the other hand, if you’re just planning on going for a leisurely paddle, you won’t need as much storage space and a smaller kayak will suffice.

If you are planning on fishing, then the following are to be considered:

  • Rod holders – in my opinion a must for a fishing kayak – even if these are the only fishing related options on the vessel. I mean, where do you put your rod when you are paddling otherwise?
  • Storage – preferably with a dry bag but at the very least somewhere to store your, tools extra tackle, water, cell phone and car keys etc. – even the smaller length craft will normally have two of these.
  • Bait cavity – These are little sections in the top of the kayak where you can put your bait – some are round for drinks as well).
  • Netted storage – These are generally located at the very front or back of the kayak where you can put larger stuff such as a life jacket (if not mandatory to wear), tackle bags, drink coolers and so on…

And of course if you are planning to add electronics such as a fish finder or trolling motor to your vessel then you may need a longer option as well.


And there it is – my recommendation for when it comes to choosing the size of your new kayak. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences here.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time

Have fun


what size kayak do i need - Pinterest

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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.