There are a lot of reasons why so many people are turning to kayak fishing. One, it offers anglers a fresh perspective and a new dimension of excitement. It puts them closer to the action, and battling a fish, whether it’s a crappie or tarpon, while sitting or standing nearly on the water’s surface is a thrill unlike any other. In a kayak an angler can also stealthily fish places that are inaccessible to traditional fishing boats. Plus, the entry and maintenance costs associated with a kayak are minimal, compared to those of a typical boat.

Whatever the reason, if you’re considering buying a kayak and joining the fun, brand ambassador Jason Kincy recommends taking stock before making a decisions — to ensure the kayak you end up in is the one that suits you best. Host of the website Kayak Fishing Focus, Kincy is a dedicated ’yak angler who regularly competes in fishing tournaments in his home state of Arkansas and elsewhere. The right way to start your search, he said, is by asking yourself a few questions.

1. Where will I use my kayak most often?

The answer to this question will largely determine the size of the kayak that fits your needs. For the most part, fishing kayak models range from about 10 feet to 16-foot sea kayaks. Longer kayaks are generally faster, but less maneuverable, than shorter kayaks. So, if you plan to fish large bodies of water that require a lot of paddling between fishing spots, something in the 13- to 15-foot range might be the best choice.

“For ponds and small- to medium-size lakes you can certainly choose a smaller and lighter kayak,” Kincy said, “which is especially helpful if you are transporting it on the roof of a vehicle or in the back of a pickup.” If you will be spending most of your time on rivers and streams, he added, a shorter more maneuverable kayak is the better choice.

2. What will I take with me on a fishing trip?

Capacity and stability are important considerations. A kayak must be able to hold and safely transport you and all your gear, so you must consider your body size as well as everything you think you’ll carry on a typical trip.

“As a rule of thumb, I would suggest adding 25 to 50 pounds for gear to your body weight if you’re considering a midsize kayak,” Kincy said, “and 50 to 75 pounds for a larger fishing kayak.”

Wider kayaks are more stable, which might add to your comfort level, and is especially important if you intend to fish while standing. But keep in mind that your skills and confidence will grow as you gain experience. What you see as a “comfortable” kayak might, in a few weeks, seem slow to you.

“Kayaks designed specifically for fishing generally are a bit wider and are more stable than a non-fishing kayak and this can really matter in waves caused by wind and boat wakes,” he added. “And be sure to deploy a visibility flag if you are on a lake or river used by power boaters.”

3. Should I get a pedal- or paddle-type kayak?

Both types are human-powered, and offer a great opportunity to incorporate some exercise into your fishing, Kincy noted. For recreational fishing, he prefers the paddle-type because it’s generally more maneuverable and offers a more pure “kayak” experience.

 “It’s also the better option when fishing smaller rivers and streams,” he said, "because you’ll want a kayak that can clear a shallow bottom, or can be easily dragged over a gravel bar or other obstacle if necessary.”

When selecting a paddle, remember that its length will depend on your height and the width of the kayak. A taller angler and/or a wider kayak will require a longer paddle. “The main thing is to buy the best paddle they can afford,” he said. “It will be in your hands most of the day and a lighter weight paddle with a flexible shaft made of carbon fiber or similar material will be much more forgiving on your shoulders and joints. I use the Angler Ace and Angler Pro models by Bending Branches.”

Come tournament time, however, he moves to a pedal-type kayak for its fishing efficiency. Pedal-powered ’yaks offer advantages worth noting, the angler added. “Fishing in current on a large river can be challenging with a traditional kayak and paddle, whereas a pedal kayak can really help you maneuver,” he said. “It’s also easier to travel into the wind with a pedal-type kayak, and it allows you to continually generate forward motion, or hold position, in wind or current.”

4. What other equipment will I need?

In addition to a good paddle, a quality personal flotation device is mandatory. Kincy uses an MTI Helios 2.0 Inflatable pfd (manual) because its halter-type design doesn’t restrict arm movement when paddling or casting.

As for other accessories, an angler can go as simple or as complex as desired. Rod holders, both for fishing and carrying multiple rods, are recommended, as is an anchoring system — a stake pole for pinning the kayak down in shallow water, a collapsible anchor for deep water, or both. A storage crate can keep tackle trays organized and secure, but may not be necessary depending on the volume of tackle you carry. Likewise, sonar equipment is optional, and should be based on personal preference and fishing style.

The best way to shop for a fishing kayak is to try out as many as possible on the water. Kayak dealers frequently hold demonstration days where people are free to “test drive” various models. “It’s always best if you can sit in a kayak before you buy it,” said Kincy, “just to be sure you can reach the cupholders, storage bins or other areas easily from a seated position.”

Think about your answers to all the questions posed above, too, as they will guide you in the right direction during the selection process. And don’t hesitate to ask questions; the professionals on-site will be able to offer specific advice based on your size, fitness level and transportation requirements.