What Is The Best All Around Kayak?

People love having more options. Questions around “The best all around kayak” come up frequently on paddling forums.

Consider the following question we took from one:

I was considering a closed kayak to paddle both rapids and flatwater. I would also like to do a spot of fishing. I don’t have a big budget, but I’d want a durable model.

This is not an easy question to answer, and we’ll now discuss why that is.

Which is the Best Kayak For Fishing & Whitewater?

After careful research and looking at many types of kayaks, there is not one that excels at both whitewater rapids and fishing.

You can always take a whitewater kayak on calmer waters, but fishing just might be a challenge due to the lack of space and maneuverability. This is because they are manufactured for one sport or the other rather than be “all rounders”.

Use-Specific Kayaks

Most whitewater kayaks are compact and designed to maneuver rapids easier. They do not turn well or travel in a straight line well. They are made to be carried by the water. Also, they do not have much space for fishing gear.

They do make fishing kayaks, which are designed with fishing in mind, or recreational kayaks, which are used mostly in ponds, lakes and calm flowing rivers. You can fish from a recreational kayak much easier than you can from a whitewater one.

Fishing Kayaks – Size Matters!

When it comes to kayaks – sizing is important! Most fishing kayaks are between 10 to 16 feet in length and have a width of 26 to 34 inches.

If your kayak is short and squat – say less than 12 foot and more than 30 inches – it will turn easily but be difficult to paddle and gain speed. Conversely, a longer and narrower model will be a sleek speed machine but a devil to turn.

This makes the longer designs ideal for ocean fishing. If you want to fish lakes or rivers, a shorter, wider kayak is your best bet.

Beginner On A Budget

Now, for a beginner on a budget, you might want to consider the advantages of an inflatable kayak for your first yak.

Inflatable kayaks are cheaper than their rigid counterparts and wider. The extra-width provides much more stability and this will come in very useful when fishing.
Also, there’s less of a learning curve as you won’t need to learn the eskimo roll.

If you take a look at a model like the Sea Eagle 330, you can imagine running rivers and fishing from it. It’s a good all round kayak and we reviewed it here.

The Sea Eagle is a convertible kayak, and this means technically it’s a tandem. If you remove one of the seats you’ll have a lot more room for fishing gear. You will have to seal the drainage holes to take it on the lake though (see below for more on this).

Lets look at some other types and see if we can find a better all-round kayak.

Self-Bailing Kayaks

Self-Bailers are mostly used in rapids. This is because they have holes, or drains, in the bottom of the kayak which allows water to drain out on its own.

When  paddling rapids, large amounts of water will splash inside.  Self-Bailers will drain the water from inside your boat. This will improve the handling and your comfort as nobody likes to sit in an ice-cold puddle for an extended time! Plus, you won’t have to bail out yourself, learning more time to enjoy yourself.

Unless you plug the drainage holes up, self bailing kayaks are not suitable for flatwater. This is because under a certain speed (ie going down river) water actually flows into the boat and not out.

To learn more about self bailing kayaks, check out our page “Self-Bailing Kayaks V Bucket Boats

Sit on Top Inflatable Kayaks

The Sit on Top Kayak is an open designed type of kayak. Most fishing kayaks are of this style.

This is great for people who do not like the feeling that they are stuck in an enclosed shell. They are easier to get into and back out of. This suits anglers who like to wade. They also have more storage capacity.

If you’re looking for a budget fishing kayak in this style that can do mild rivers, look no further than the Intex Challenger K2

Sit Inside Kayak

Sit Inside Inflatable Kayaks are more like the traditional designs you might be thinking of.

They have an enclosed cockpit which fits the body better than the Sit on Top variety. This means less water will be able to splash inside. These type of kayaks are better cold water kayaking because they help keep you drier.

A good example of a sit-in fishing kayak that can paddle rivers and lakes is the Sun Dolphin Excursion.

Canoe Style Inflatable Kayaks

A Canoe Style Kayak will have higher inflated walls and higher inflated seats. The Canoe style Kayak usually has two seats so this kind of kayak is perfect for two people! This kayak is suitable for two person fishing also!

A great example of this is the Coleman Colarado. It is a bit pricey but it’s a tough, durable angling kayak that will be at home in lakes or rapids.

Open Style Inflatable Kayaks

An Open Style Kayak has a higher wall but lower seats. This type comes with one seat or two seats and has more room than the other styles of kayaks. The open-style is perfect for fishing or photography trips because there is plenty of room for gear.

The Sevlyor Tahiti classic is a great example of this type of kayak. It’s very economical and you should be able to get the pump, paddles and rigged for fishing for less than $250.

How To Decide Which Kayak Suits You?

What I suggest is to consider carefully which activity you will be doing the most.

Read about all the uses for each kayak and go with your heart! If at all possible, get out and try to sit in a few to see how they feel.

The great thing about many of the kayaks we have mentioned is that they are less than $250. That’s why inflatable kayaks make great beginner kayaks as there’s less initial investment. You won’t be spending > $500 only to discover it isn’t fit-for purpose.

They are also wider and more stable than other types. This helps their claims to be the “best all around kayak”, especially for a beginner.

You can always upgrade to a different model later and be able to make more of an informed choice. The key thing is to get out and start having fun as soon as possible!

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