This topic is a quick overview of some of my favorite high performance fishing kayaks designed for paddling. In my opinion, and for the style of fishing I do I find the vast majority of fishing kayaks to be terrible, with too much emphasis placed on stability so performance suffers.
With a few smart design decisions, kayaks can be both fast and stable enough to handle almost any weather condition. For most kayak fishermen, unless standing there is very little benefit for an ultrawide (30-inch plus hull). Even in choppy conditions and gusty wings, I, as someone who stands 6’4″ and weighs over 200lb can seat comfortably and drift side onto the chop while fishing in a 24-inch hull. It would be even easier for anyone with a lower centre of gravity.
One of the biggest contradictions I find in fishing kayak design is that the most stable kayaks are usually designed to fish in the calmest of water. While a skinny tippy ones are designed for going offshore. When trout fishing, the conditions are often like a mill pond, so I place very little importance on stability.
Some words about stability
Some people are more stable than others, I know some people who seem to capsize every time they head out, no matter the boat they are paddling. While, I have only capsized once in about 15 years of kayak fishing when I got caught in horrible storm conditions and my kayak got flipped over vertically (enormous wave).
I personally believe stability is as much mental as it is physical.
If someone believes their boat is unstable, they are going to feel more unstable and are likely to over adjust and find themselves in the drink.
I started kayak fishing in 15ft long, 27 inch wide Prowler 15, it was stable but a little wobbly when the winds picked up. A few years later I upgraded to a Stealth Fisha 550, it is 18ft long and 24 inches wide it was stable but a little wobbly at times.
Just for exercise, I purchased a racing Stellar which was 16 inches across and felt very unstable. But after spending some time in the Stellar, both the Fisha and the Prowler lost all of their twitchiness. They feel rock solid in any condition.
Likewise, I used this knowledge when I was teaching my wife to kayak, I made sure to put her into a rather unstable boat to begin with. Later, when she started paddling my Stealth Fisha she found it to be very stable even in rough conditions.
There is one exercise I like to do with people who find their kayaks a bit unstable. I put them into the most unstable kayak I have access to (Maraton K1), I get them to seat in the K1 in just a couple of inches of water, I then take the paddle away and get them to just balance and push themselves around their hands.
Yeah, to begin with the K1 tries to capsize constantly, but the paddler can easily recover by pushing themselves back upright. After 30 minutes to and hour, most people have found their balance and can just float their quite relax. When they move back to their fishing kayak, it feels rock solid.
Anyway, I will now give my recommendations on some of my favorite fishing kayaks to paddle.
Why paddle faster, kayak fishing is not a race.
I agree kayak fishing is not a race, and being the fastest on the water is not normally important. But, with that said, getting somewhere faster for less effort is always nicer than going slow and hard.
I also sometimes travel long distances in my fishing kayak, for example I often use my kayak to fish from the shore, or to walk up tributary streams at the head of a lake. Some of these streams are quite small, and really only have enough water for one fisherman. So, if I am launching at 4:30 am on a Saturday morning I want to maximize my chance to get there before a guy with outboard launches at first light. So, being slightly faster is sometimes helpful.
One final advantage of a faster kayak is that it makes getting home into a headwind much more enjoyable. I hate paddling into the wind, It is slow, tiresome, cold and quite repetitive. I have even been blown to a standstill more times than I care to remember.
If I was in a slower, low performance kayak. I probably will get blown backwards in such conditions, which will make for an even more miserable trip back home. People drown every year when they take kayaks, that are not able to handle the conditions far from shore.
Moderate-fast fishing kayaks
- Ocean kayak prowler 13 or 15 (discontinued)
- Wilderness system tarpon 14
- Viking reload
I will start with the most stable and benegeer friendly models. In many ways they still paddle like barges, but these designs have not thrown all efficiency out of the window and I know people who can easily paddle 15 miles in a day of fishing.
A strong paddler, might be able to cruise along at 3.5mph in calm conditions but it is nearly impossible to get much faster simply due to the barge like hull design.
Fast fishing kayaks
Swell Watercraft Scupper
If you want a high performance fishing kayak, then one of the best options is the Swell Watercraft Scupper 14 that retails for $1,299.00
The Scupper is an exciting kayak based on the design of the original sit-on-top fishing kayak.
Not only is it faster than the Prowlers or Tarpon’s in my opinion it feels more stable thanks to the much lower sitting position. (To be honest, I find both are rock solid, but new paddlers might find them a bit twitchy)
I consider the Swell Scupper to be one of the best paddling fishing kayaks currently on the market, and probably the best plastic kayak. It comes in two lengths, 12 and 14ft. The more maneuverable 12fter is better in tighter rivers and creeks where the length of a longer kayak can be a headache. While the longer length of the 14 makes it reign supreme in open water.
It also has quite a bit of storage, and should be a good boat for shorter camping trips also.
I do not own one myself, because at 6’4” tall my legs are slightly too long to fit in the cockpit without excessively bending my knees. For anyone of normal height, it is an excellent high performance fishing kayak.
Stealth based out of South Africa makes a large range of different fiberglass fishing kayaks. My favorite is the fastest of the bunch, the Profisha. Heavier paddlers might prefer the fisha that has more buoyancy.
If I have one complaint, is that Stealth kayaks can be hard to buy at times, the dealer network in the US is quite sparse. Although they (and the similar looking kaskazi kayaks) do show up second hand from time to time. (I have never owned, or even seen a Kaskazi kayak in person, I heard good things about them but can not really offer any info that is not taken from online sources)
The Stealth Profisha line of fibreglass fishing kayaks mean performance, I paddle an older generation Fisha 550 which was the predecessor of the Profisha line. The current Stealth Fisha lineup are quite a bit wider, still good boats but less special.
First speed, I have little difficulty chasing down people in pedal kayaks. While I actually think the Swell Scupper hull is slightly more optimize for speed, the longer length and thinner width does give the Profisha a slight edge. They really are among the fastest fishing kayaks on the water.
It will probably be slower than a motor-kayak at full throttle, but that drains the batter surprisingly fast.
How fast, does the Profisha go, well in calm conditions with neutral currents, paddling hard I have managed 10km (6.2 miles) in just over one hour. This basically means, 6mph is sustainable. Now that was using an euro blade paddle, rather than the more ‘powerful’ wing blade so it should go slightly faster than even that. If just cruising, I typically go around 4mph.
How does that compare with pedal kayaks. Online, I have read a lot of people claiming amazingly fast speeds from pedalling fishing kayaks. I have personally never seen someone repeat such speeds on the water. When cruising alongside pedal kayaks in my experience, most pedal kayaks cruise around 3.5-4mph, plus they can go faster in short bursts.
My biggest problem with my Fisha is that it is my wife’s favorite kayak now, she really likes the combination of good stability and performance. So I am often forced to take out the prowler.