Paddle Board vs Kayak: Which is Better for Fishing?

Oct 11, 2023 | 6 minute read
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Paddle board vs. kayak is a debate raging all over the internet. Forums and comments sections are full of anglers discussing the pros and cons of each vessel. Everyone agrees that both provide a more active, ecological way to fish. Beyond that, it’s difficult to find middle ground between team kayak and paddle board.

A turquoise stand up paddle board leaning on a pink SUP board and a yellow kayak with the sea in the background

Is it all just personal preference? Does it depend on where you’re fishing? Maybe it’s more a case of how you’re fishing. In this short guide, you can learn what advantages kayaks and paddle boards offer, and find out which one is best for you.

The Basics: What’s a Fishing Kayak and What’s an SUP Board?

Both kayaks and stand up paddle boards (SUPs for short) have been around for a long time. People have used them for leisure and for transport, but it’s only recently that they have caught on with anglers. These days, you can find ‘yaks and boards designed specifically with fishing in mind.

What is a Fishing SUP Board?

A man on a stand up paddle board holding a fishing rod with a large rock in the background

SUP boards have been adapted for anything from racing to yoga. Each style offers something a little different. Racing boards have a displacement-style hull to cut through the water. Long-distance boards are easier to paddle. Yoga boards have special holders for avocados and kale shakes. The essential adaptations.

Fishing SUPs are also specially adapted. They can come with seats and secure storage, as well as rod holders and coolers. They’re usually very stable, with plenty of room to move around as you fight your fish. That doesn’t mean that they never flip, but they’re a lot less shaky than your average board.

What is a Fishing Kayak?

A blond woman in sunglasses sitting in a white fishing kayak on the sea with a cityscape behind her in the distance

Unlike paddle boards, you can go fishing on just about any kayak. Kayaks designed for fishing do have some real advantages, though. They have lots of storage, with rod holders, tackle boxes, and even livewells. Some fishing kayaks are also pedal powered, keeping your hands free to focus on the fish.

The two main types of kayak are sit-on-top and sit-inside. Sit-on-top kayaks are open, giving you more freedom and making it a lot easier to get in and out. The big advantage with sit-inside kayaks is that they keep your lower half dry. They’re also slightly faster, as you have less wind resistance.

Pros and Cons

So which is better? The truth is that there is no one answer – life is never that simple. There are some real advantages to each vessel. Here are a few good reasons to choose one over the other.

SUP Board Advantages

  • Height. Standing up lets you sight fish better, increasing your chance of a hookup.
  • Weight. Stand up boards are small and light. You don’t need two people to carry them.
  • Easy to launch. No difficult maneuvering, just drop them in the water and climb aboard.
  • Great exercise. Using your whole body to move and balance gives you a full workout.

The biggest plus for paddle board fishing is that you’re standing up. This lets you see so much more than you do on a kayak. Sure, you can also stand up on a lot of kayaks, but you’re not always up and sighting the fish like you are on an SUP.

A woman carrying a stand up paddle board on a beach by the water
SUP boards are a lot easier to carry.

An obvious advantage of a paddle board is that it’s so much smaller. You don’t need help carrying it to the water and you can easily throw it in the back of your truck. On the move? You can even get an inflatable board which will pack into a suitcase.

Finally, stand up paddle boarding is a real workout. The whole time you’re on the water, you’re using your lower body to keep the board steady while your upper body powers it forward. This gives you more rounded exercise than kayaking and feels more “natural” to many people.

Kayak Advantages

  • Cheaper. Fishing kayaks often cost a lot less than specialized fishing SUPs.
  • Easier. You don’t need to be a ninja or a fitness nut to use kayaks properly.
  • More stable. Kayaks can handle choppy water and don’t tip over as often.
  • More storage. You can carry a lot more gear on a kayak, giving you more options.

Fishing kayaks are generally more accessible than SUPs. They’re cheaper. They’re more stable. They take less practice to get the hang of. It’s also much less demanding to power them and keep them steady. This means that older anglers or people who don’t have great balance can still enjoy them. Sure, they’re harder to transport on your own, but you should never fish solo on either vessel.

A man on a fishing kayak holding an amberjack fish
Kayak fishing is not limited to inshore waters!

Because kayaks are more stable and require less effort, you can use them in more places and conditions. SUP fishing is generally a no-go unless it’s a calm day. They’re also very tiring to travel long distances with. On a kayak, you can venture much farther without getting worn out. You can also fish on choppy waters without falling in all the time.

Finally, kayaks have way more space than paddle boards. You can carry more rods, more tackle, and more equipment without worrying about losing it. Some kayaks also have integrated dry storage for your phone, car keys, and anything else you don’t want to get wet.

Pimp My Ride: Add-Ons for a Better Experience

The great thing about both crafts is that you can customize them to your needs. Whether you want to keep your board from drifting or just keep your tackle safe, there is plenty of equipment out there to help you get the most out of your time on the water. Here are a few must-have items for each vessel.

SUP Add-Ons

A woman in a bikini and a hat holding a fishing rod on a stand up paddle board
One of the best additions to a stand up paddle board is somewhere to sit down!
  • Stabilizers. You can add an outrigger to keep your board steady. It also lets you fight bigger fish without fear of tipping the boat.
  • Seat. Some boards have a detachable seat so you can rest your legs when you get tired. If not, strapping on a cooler also works.
  • Drift chute. This is a small umbrella or parachute that trails behind your board, letting you slow your drift as you approach the fish.
  • Rod holders. You should try to pack light when SUP fishing. But if you can’t resist bringing two rods, add holders so you don’t lose them.

Kayak Add-Ons

A man in a blue shirt and a hat holding a fishing rod and a net on a fishing kayak on the water with land in the background
You can bring a lot more gear on a fishing Kayak vs. a fishing SUP board
  • Kayak cart. One of the biggest hurdles in kayak fishing is getting your ‘yak to the water. Collapsible carts make this a heck of a lot easier.
  • Live bait tank. If you’re a fan of live bait fishing, installing a livewell is a must. There are even online guides to learn to make your own.
  • Integrated tackle box. A secure box lets you bring all your favorite tackle and not worry about losing it. Some also have rod holders built in.
  • Kayak landing net. Fish are a lot harder to land when you’re sitting down. These special nets brace your arm to give you more strength.

Paddle Board vs Kayak: Conclusions

Boards and ‘yaks both have their advantages. There’s nothing more liberating than striking out on a board and nothing more exhilarating than trying to keep steady while reeling in a monster. Kayaks are much more of a reliable all-rounder, though, and can get you places where a board just isn’t safe.

A group of kayaks and stand up paddle boards on the water

At the end of the day, it’s down to your fishing style, physical ability, and personal preference. If you’re fishing calm waters and like a challenge, SUP fishing is a ton of fun. If you like bringing more equipment and don’t want to stand up all day, a kayak could be better for you. Whichever one you go for, one thing’s for sure – you’re in for a lot of fun!

Are you an avid ‘yaker? Do you love SUP angling (or yoga)? Are there any tips we missed? Let us know in the comments below, we’re always happy to chat!

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