5 Best Kayaks for Bay Fishing – Complete Guide Here!

Bay fishing, also known as inshore fishing, is an introductory option for anglers who are still learning the ropes of fishing on a vessel. Unlike ocean fishing, bay fishing utilizes shallow waters. It’s a safer and simpler option while enjoying better fish varieties and bigger catches. Also, the waters close to the shore are calmer and easier to traverse with a kayak. For this post, I reviewed five options for the best kayak for bay fishing that you can choose from. Unlike large boats or dinghies, kayaks are easier to bring anywhere you want to.

KAYAKBRANDEXPERT RATINGCHECK PRICE
 Our Top Pick 

Lifetime Tamarack
Angler Kayak
Check Price
Perception Pescador
Pro 12 Fishing Kayak
Check Price
Wilderness Systems ATAK
120 Angler Kayak
Check Price
Pelican Sentinel 100X
Fishing Kayak
Check Price
Malibu Kayaks Express
Fish Kayak
Check Price

I know that not all of us can afford a fishing boat worth hundreds and thousands of dollars. Even if that’s the case, there are other alternatives you can try to experience fishing on the waters.


Why go kayak fishing?

As an avid angler, I’ve tried a lot of methods before. I’ve fished on a commissioned boat, a dinghy, a pontoon, and now, a kayak. Each one requires a specific technique and style. For kayaks, it’s a matter of balance and mastering the art of casting your line.

I’ve seen a lot of anglers topple on their kayaks. It’s something I’ve experienced before, and it’s really a part of the learning process. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you will surely enjoy the following:

✔️Finding more fishes

Pier fishing is fun, but it will soon lose its appeal once you’re hungry for more fishes. Bay fishing is an excellent way to satisfy this craving without going too far from land. This way, you can escape the competition and get the chance to catch more fishes.

✔️No fuel needed

The best thing about bay fishing with a kayak is you don’t need to fuel up a trolling motor. You simply paddle your way into the shallow waters. It’s more eco-friendly, and you can go anytime you want as long as the weather permits.

✔️It’s more convenient

Kayaking on the bay to catch fish is much convenient than having a boat in tow. You can go on your own, or you can purchase a two-seater fishing kayak to tag along with your friend. Kayaks are very easy to store, too.

✔️It lets you approach fish quietly

Kayaks cut through water swiftly so you can approach the fish without driving it away. This is the biggest advantage of kayaks for bay fishing, unlike using noisy trolling motors.


Some disadvantages

Just like any fishing method, bay fishing on a kayak poses some limitations. First of all, there’s a limited room, so you have to cut back on the equipment you’re going to bring. Such limited space also means you need to go back to shore once you have a large catch.

Another thing about kayaks is that you have to master your balance. If you got carried away while spinning your reel or casting a line, you might fall on the water, or your kayak may capsize. Kayaks have lower stability, but since bays have calmer waters, it’s less of an issue for many anglers.


Bay fishing vs. gulf fishing vs. deep sea fishing

One of the things I often get asked is the difference between bay fishing and gulf fishing. The confusion probably stems from the difference of a bay from a gulf. If you’re confused too, here’s a quick difference:

A bay is smaller than a gulf and it is surrounded by land. Bays have a smaller entrance than a gulf and have shallower and calmer waters.

On the other hand, gulfs have a wider opening and surrounded by land on three sides. This body of water is deeper than a bay, and the waters can be pretty rough, depending on the location.

With this, bay fishing is ideal for those who want a more predictable condition. It’s also the ideal body of water for kayaks. Although you can always sail into a gulf with a kayak, it’s not safe, and fishing will be very difficult.

On the other hand, some newbie anglers ask me about deep sea fishing. This method is done on the ocean, which, as it’s called, on very deep waters. It’s often done on the Atlantic Ocean where big game fishes are caught. Kayaks are not the vessels to take for these fishing trips. You need a fishing boat that can endure the strong waves.


Fishes you can catch while bay fishing

The tricky part about bays is it could feed on both saltwater and freshwater so the water can be brackish. One example here is the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia where the water from the Atlantic Ocean mixes with freshwater from rivers and streams.

The following are some of the fishes you can catch while bay fishing, depending on the location:

  • Shads
  • Sturgeons
  • Croakers
  • Halfbeaks
  • Menhadens
  • Bass
  • Catfish
  • Bluefish
  • Herrings
  • Bluegills
  • Trouts
  • Mackerels
  • Pikes

These are just some of the edible fishes you can catch while bay fishing on a kayak. Take note that the population of these fishes vary per bay.


Types of kayak for bay fishing

Now that you know what to expect when bay fishing, it’s time to look for the right vessel. The following are kayak types that you can choose from:

🚣‍♀️Sit on top kayak

A sit on top kayak has an open surface, which offers better stability. It’s also easier to paddle, and you can move around with ease. The hull of this kayak is sealed, and there’s a molded seat to keep you comfortable during your bay fishing trip.

A sit on top kayak has a wider room, so it’s more stable than other types. However, since the hull is wider, it’s a tad slower than slimmer types. Anyway, if you’re fishing on the bay, speed isn’t the goal since you’re not really going too far.

This type of kayak is a favorite of anglers because it lets them work on their gears on the leg area. It’s also easy to get on and off. However, if you’re the angler who doesn’t want to get wet, this isn’t the best kayak for you as a sit on top doesn’t have a spray skirt.

🚣‍♀️Sit in kayak

On the other hand, a sit in kayak has an enclosed structure. It’s similar to a sit on top, except that you have to slide your legs inside the cockpit. This design makes a sit in kayak limiting in terms of movement. Somehow, your body becomes a part of the kayak.

This is a good option for anglers who want to keep the water off the cockpit. It also shields the lower body against the wind, which is a big plus if you’re cruising the bay on a cold day.

The downside to sit in kayaks is it’s difficult to recover once it capsizes. The cockpit will be filled with water, and it stands the chance of sinking.

🚣‍♀️Sea kayak

Sea kayaks are made to cut through the water efficiently. It has a longer yet slimmer body. It’s also called touring kayaks as it’s made for paddling sports on open waters like bays, lakes, and even the ocean. You can also incorporate a spray deck in this type of kayak.

🚣‍♀️Fishing kayak

Due to the increasing demand for portable fishing vessels, boat makers also produced a dedicated fishing kayak. This type of kayak has rod holders and other features that make angling an easier job. It can be in a sit on top or sit in design, depending on what you prefer.

Some fishing kayaks are pedal-powered to free your hands to hold the rod. You can also find a model with a GPS holder and extra mounts.

🚣‍♀️Inflatable kayak

Inflatable kayaks are lightweight and easy-to-carry options. However, it may not be ideal for anglers. First of all, inflatable kayaks use thinner materials than inflatable dinghies. When your hook accidentally gets into your kayak, it will puncture and deflate. The rest is a wet and splashy catastrophe.

Anyway, if you’re just fishing for fun and not getting too far from the shore, an inflatable will work. Still, you’ve been warned about potential downsides.


How to choose a fishing kayak

When it comes to the best kayak for bay fishing, you must look for specific features to suit your bay trips. The following are some of the essentials I recommend.

🚣‍♀️Propulsion

Propulsion refers to the type of movement used to operate the kayak. It can be pedal, paddle, or motor. The following are the differences between the three:

Paddle. The most common propulsion method is through paddling. Most kayaks come with a pair of paddles, which is the traditional option for most anglers. It’s more affordable and easier to operate.

Pedal. If you want to keep your hands free, you can opt for a pedal-powered kayak. As it’s called, this kayak is fitted with a pedal that lets your leg propel the vessel while you hold your rod. This can be tricky to operate for beginners.

Motor. Lastly, there are kayaks with a battery-powered motor. This can slice through the water efficiently and cover more distance in a short period of time. However, this type of kayaks are cumbersome, expensive, and may scare away the bay fishes.

🚣‍♀️Water type

Another thing you should keep in mind is the type of water where you’re going to use your kayak. For saltwater bays, you need a kayak with a solid build and durable hull material. It should endure the harsh waters without breaking.

The good thing with saltwater kayaks is that it’s also useful on lakes, ponds, rivers, and other freshwater bodies of water.

🚣‍♀️Hull design

Next, you have to factor in the hull design of the kayak. This part will affect how well the kayak can navigate on the water. The following are the most common options.

V-shaped. A V-shaped hull is the most common among kayaks. It cuts through the water better and has a faster speed. However, the only downside is that it’s tippy and has a steeper learning curve.

Rounded. On the other hand, rounded hulls look like a torpedo-shaped bottom. It offers better speed due to less water resistance. Aside from that, rounded hulls are easily maneuverable, but it can be tippy, too.

Flat. Flat hulls are not just popular on kayaks, but also other vessels like inflatable boats. On kayaks, this hull offers maneuverability and stability. However, it’s a tad slower than V-shaped and rounded hulls. Still, it’s a smart choice if you’re worried about tipping on a kayak.

Pontoon. Lastly, there’s the pontoon hull. This one sports a tunnel-like shape with a concave construction. It offers topnotch stability and excellent tracking. However, this hull isn’t known for speed, which wouldn’t be a problem for bay fishing.

🚣‍♀️Width and length

After choosing the right kayak type and hull, the next biggest consideration is the length and width of the vessel.

The rule of thumb is that the longer the kayak, the faster it can navigate on water. However, long kayaks have poor maneuverability on tight spaces. Also, long kayaks are difficult to transport due to their size. To give you an idea, the following are the different lengths of kayaks in the market:

Recreational kayaks. This is 12 feet (or less) long and around 24 to 32 inches wide. It’s lightweight, stable, and suitable for beginners. However, since it’s shorter, it’s not known for speed.

Light touring kayaks. This one is around 12 to 16 feet long with a width of 22 to 30 inches. Its longer size is suitable for amateur kayakers and anglers. It has decent tracking and speed, too.

Touring kayaks. These are kayaks longer than 16 feet with a width of around 22 inches. Its longer yet narrower build allows this kayak to have more speed. It’s suitable for anglers who are cruising the bay on advanced weather.

🚣‍♀️Seat style

As mentioned earlier, kayaks can come in either sit on top or sit in types. You can find kayaks with a lawn chair style of seat that offers comfort and better back support. Cheaper ones use a molded seat or removable padding instead. An adjustable type is always a good option.

🚣‍♀️Rocker

The rocker refers to the curvature of the hull, starting from the bow to the stern. A kayak with more rocker has excellent maneuverability due to less resistance.

On the other hand, kayaks with less or no rocker excel in tracking since it has more resistance to the water.

🚣‍♀️Tackle storage

When it comes to the best kayak for bay fishing, there should be a storage for your tackle. You should always consider the amount of equipment you’re planning to bring on your fishing trips. Some kayaks are outfitted with storage hatches at the stern or bow where you can stash smaller tackle gears. You can also find models with storage slots along with the cockpit.

You should also look for bungee webbing where you can place fishing gears you need to keep handy. Aside from that, there should be ample space to place your catch.

🚣‍♀️Holders and mounts

One of the most important parts of a fishing kayak is its rod holders and extra mounts. Many fishing kayaks have molded-in or mounted rod holders. If there’s none, try to look for side grooves where you can place your rods horizontally. The kayak should also let you install extra mounts


Best Kayak For Bay Fishing – Top 5 Picks!

OUR #1 CHOICE

OUR TOP PICK: Lifetime Tamarack Angler Kayak
best kayak for bay fishing

Product Name: Lifetime Tamarack Angler Kayak

Product Description: If you’re looking for a fishing kayak that you can take on daily bay trips, you can count on the Lifetime Tamarac. This is a sit on top vessel made of high-density polyethylene with a UV protection coating. Whether it’s for storage, buoyancy, comfort, and more, the Lifetime Tamarack is a champ. At the cockpit, there are multiple footrests with different positions to suit different angler heights. There are a padded seat and back support that you can adjust for your comfort. For your tackle, there are two storage hatches on board as well as a front and rear bungee webbing. To make your fishing easier, this kayak comes with two flush-mounted rod holders and one top mounting rod holder. There are also two water bottle holders, paddle keeper, and self-bailing scupper holes.

Offer price: $$$

Availability: InStock

  • Buoyancy
  • Tracking
  • Speed
  • Extra Features
  • Value for Money
Overall
4.8

Summary

Moreover, this fishing kayak has a flat bottom for stability as well as a tracking skeg so you can maneuver the kayak easily. Its sharp bow also adds tracking and speed so you can enjoy the best of both worlds on a flat hull.

This is a 10-feet kayak with a 31-inch width. Overall, this can fit users of up to 6 feet in height and 275 pounds in weight. Also, the seat is also wide enough and can fit a 42-inch waist with extra breathing room. This kayak is considerably lightweight for just 52 pounds.

The Lifetime Tamarack is a great investment for anglers who want to explore bay fishing. It’s covered by a five-year limited warranty to protect your purchase. Also, you no longer have to use scupper plugs for this kayak, but you have to purchase the paddles separately.

Pros

Sharp bow for better speed

Lots of storage spaces

Additional tracking skeg

Cons

No paddles included in the package


RUNNERS-UP

Perception Pescador Pro 12 Fishing Kayak

best kayak for bay fishing

Another kayak that I recommend is the Perception Pescador Pro 12. This is a 12-feet kayak with a leak-proof and one-piece construction. It also has a built-in buoyancy to ensure that you will not sink.

Moreover, it comes with large rear and front storage slots with bungee webbing. Here, you can place your tackle and other gears you need to start fishing. There are also integrated accessory rails on each gunwale of this kayak where you can install fish finders, rod holders, and other fishing accessories.

The Perception Pescador Pro 12 is also has a seat with two adjustable levels for your comfort. It’s made of mesh material for added breathability on a hot day. You can lower or raise the seat for the right height when paddling or casting.

Onboard, there are mold-in rod holders and tank wells with mesh covers. Aside from that, there’s a five-inch deck plate and recessed tackle box storage so you can fish without the hassle. You will also enjoy an extra retract system as well as a transducer scupper where you can install your fish finder gadget.

This kayak is very stable, thanks to its hull tracks that let you paddle through the water smoothly. I also like the skid plate on the hull that lets users drag the kayak on the shore without worrying about damages.

With its 32.5-inch width, this kayak is very comfortable to use. It also has a higher weight limit at 375 pounds so even those taller or heavier anglers will have a great time fishing with this vessel. It’s a tad heavier at 57 pounds, but it’s reasonable for its features.

Pros
  • Mold-in rod holders
  • Wider cockpit
  • Adjustable seat level
Cons
  • You need to purchase the paddle separately

Wilderness Systems ATAK 120 Angler Kayak

best kayak for bay fishing

If you want a kayak you can convert with motor propulsion, you should get the Wilderness Systems ATAK 120 Angler Kayak. ATAK stands for Advanced Tactical Angling Kayak so you can expect speed and accuracy while cruising with this vessel. It’s compatible with the Helix MD motor drive that’s sold separately.

Moreover, this 12-feet kayak comes with a patented suspension-style seat that you can set in high and low as well as recline and seating positions. Also, there are adjustable foot braces to keep you comfortable while you fish at the bay.

Aside from that, this kayak comes with a large rear tank well paired with a bungee webbing. There are two security straps, too, to keep your gear from falling on the water. In addition to that, there’s a circular stern hatch where you can store more items. I like that I can put up a storage rig at the rear where I can stash long fishing gears.

Another highlight of this kayak is its Slide Trax that let you add and remove fishing accessories on the fly. It’s also equipped with the FlexPod OS where you can install a transducer, fishfinder, and other electronics. Everything that you need to fish is within your hand’s reach on this kayak.

Overall, the Wilderness Systems ATAK 120 is 12.3 feet long with a maximum weight capacity of 400 pounds. Remember, though, that this is a heavy kayak at 86 pounds so you may need someone’s help to transport this vessel.

Pros
  • Comfortable seat
  • Motor drive-compatible
  • SlideTrax for fishing accessories
Cons
  • It doesn’t come with a paddle

Pelican Sentinel 100X Fishing Kayak

Are you looking for a shorter kayak? If so the Pelican Sentinel 100X is a good choice. This is a 9.5-feet kayak with a sit on top design. It has a multi-chine flat hull to ensure excellent stability on the water. You can cast your line and reel your catch without worrying about flipping.

The Pelican Sentinel 100X is the perfect kayak for those who are looking for a vessel that’s easy to transport on a car. Although smaller, this kayak isn’t short of features.

It has the ExoPak, a removable storage unit that’s molded into the tank well. Aside from that, this kayak has an additional flotation feature on the hull to ensure the best buoyancy.

For storage, there’s a large slot at the rear with a bungee webbing. At the bow, there’s a meshed sleeve where you can stash small gears. There are also two rod tie-downs, flush mount rod holders, and two accessory eyelets.

To ensure that the kayak will last for years, it’s made of a triple-layer RAM-X material, which is high-molecular weight polyethylene. This makes the kayak fast, stable, and agile on calm waters. This kayak is also self-bailing, so you no longer have to waste your time scooping water out every time your catch splashes onboard.

Overall, the Pelican Sentinel 100X suits all angling skill level. It has a weight limit of 275 pounds and 30-inch width. This kayak is also very lightweight for just 44 pounds.

But just like the other kayaks I reviewed here, this one doesn’t come with a paddle, so you have to purchase it separately.

Pros
  • Triple-layer material
  • Multi-chine hull
  • Very lightweight and easy to transport
Cons
  • A bit small for tall anglers

Malibu Kayaks Express Fish Kayak

For those looking for a longer kayak, the Malibu Kayaks Express won’t disappoint. This is a 14.6-feet vessel with a 27-inch width. Such long yet narrow build will let you gain better speed and tracking while on the water.

This kayak is made of lightweight yet durable polyethylene for fishing, surfing, and recreational use.

At the rear, there’s a shallow storage platform with a bungee webbing. This is paired with a storage hatch where you can secure other gears. The bow also has a webbed storage space.

Aside from that, this kayak has a molded cup holder, threaded eyelets, shock cord cleats, and an adjustable foot track system. The package also includes a drain plug. If you wish, you can purchase a rudder system to boost the tracking of this kayak.

This is a rather thin and flat kayak, so it’s not suitable for beginners with a poor sense of balance. You also have to purchase a paddle and a seat for this vessel. 

Overall, this kayak has a weight limit of 240 pounds on its 66-pound build. This has a flat hull that can glide through the water quietly and smoothly.

Pros
  • Excellent speed and tracking
  • Very lightweight
  • Outfitted for both surfing and fishing
Cons
  • Very thin and not for beginners

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Which is better, a sit in or sit on top kayak?

A: This depends on what you prefer. A sit in kayak puts you closer to the water, so you need a shorter paddle. Meanwhile, a sit on top has an elevated stance, so you need a longer paddle. But if you consider freedom of movement paramount, you will thrive with a sit on top kayak.

Q: What is the best kayak size for a beginner angler?

A: A 10-feet recreational kayak is ideal for beginner anglers. It has the right stability for leisurely bay trips. However, you should also consider the amount of gear you plan to bring and the condition of the waters. Overall, you may want to look for a kayak that’s built for stability and not much for speed.

Q: Why are fishing kayaks expensive?

A: Unlike other kayaks, those made for fishing have special features like mounts, holders, etc. It has a higher price point due to the premium material and excellent build that’s made to last. Fishing kayaks are made lighter but durable for the convenience of anglers.

Q: Is kayak fishing hard?

A: Fishing on a kayak can be difficult if you’re used on angling on a steady water surface. Casting a line on a kayak is challenging because you need to maintain your balance. Anglers use special techniques when fishing on a kayak as compared to using other vessels.

Q: Do I need an anchor for kayak fishing?

A: Yes, you should have an anchor when fishing on a kayak so that you wouldn’t drip away. There are anchors specially made for kayaks, which are usually bundled with the vessel itself. Take note that you should only drop a kayak anchor on the stern or bow and never on the side as it will cause the vessel to flip.

Q: How accurate is the weight limit of a kayak?

A: The rule of thumb is that you should subtract 25% of the kayak’s declared weight limit for your safety. So if your kayak has a weight limit of 400 pounds, the user should have a maximum weight of 300 pounds. This doesn’t include the gear weight that you’re planning to bring.


Final words

With the best kayak for bay fishing, you can now explore the waters for a better catch. Unlike bigger vessels, kayaks are lighter and easier to transport. Just make sure that you get one made for fishing. Also, the kayak should match your fishing level, sense of balance, and angling needs.