How Wide Is a Fishing Kayak?

Kayak Fishing Guide - Informative tips, articles and product reviews for the kayak angler.

Fishing from a kayak is a fantastic experience, but you need the right equipment to do it safely and to feel comfortable while fishing. One of the most critical parts of your equipment is the kayak you choose. But how wide should it be?

Fishing kayaks average between 30 to 42 inches wide. Stability will increase as your kayak becomes wider. A narrow kayak will paddle more efficiently while the wider kayak has additional storage areas and can carry extra weight. The wider kayak is preferable for fishing due to stability.

But why is width important? What else should you look for in a fishing kayak? To learn more about these essential bits of information, read on. 

How to Measure the Width of a Kayak

There are two ways to measure the width of a kayak. 

The first is by measuring the beam of the kayak. When looking at the width of a kayak, you should know that this number is not representative of the width of the kayak at all points, but just at the beam. The beam is the nautical term for the widest point of the kayak. So, you will be looking for a kayak that’s 30 to 42 inches wide at the beam

The second way is to measure the width of a kayak at the bottom (the part that touches the water). This area is usually narrower, but it’s essential to the stability of your kayak. 

Another important factor is the length to beam ratio. You can find this ratio by dividing the length of the part of the kayak touching the water by the width of the kayak touching the water — this is how this ratio is developed. 

The higher the number, the narrower the kayak. So, in that case, the sprint kayaks would have a ratio of 11.0 to 1, while a fishing kayak may have a ration of 6.0 to 1. 

Why Is Width Important With Fishing Kayaks?

Having a wide kayak is important when you’re fishing. Here are a few reasons why:

It Prevents Rolling

Well, you want to stay afloat and above the water — that’s one of the main reasons. The width of a fishing kayak is designed for you to easily prevent a roll on the side and becoming dumped into the water. 

It Increases Comfort

You will also be more comfortable sitting in it. Sprint kayaks, for example, are excellent for thrilling rides and adventures, but the fact is that you wouldn’t be able to sit in them comfortably for several hours. If you want fishing to be a relaxing experience, you need a kayak that provides comfort, and the wider the kayak, the better, in this case. 

It Lets You Bring More Fishing Gear

Fishermen also have a lot of gear. A narrower kayak can’t fit all of that in the cockpit. However, a wider kayak designed for fishing can handle all of the stuff you need. Wider kayaks usually have greater volume and storage space.

Volume is another factor you want to pay attention to — it’s a measurement that tells you how much the kayak can take in weight. So, make sure that you note that. 

It Increases Stability

The width of a kayak is also important for stability.

If you are fishing from a kayak, you’ll want to have ample stability, which is why fishing kayaks are wider than other types of kayaks. For example, a recreational kayak would be narrower at 28 inches, and touring kayaks would be 23 inches wide. Sprint kayaks are generally the narrowest at 19 inches wide. 

Two Types of Stability

You’ll find that there are two different types of stability in kayaks. For one, there’s primary stability, and then there’s secondary stability. 

Primary stability refers to how well the kayak can resist flipping on its side. This would tell you about the stability of the kayak in calmer waters. 

For example, if a kayak has good primary stability, it won’t flip over if you lean a little bit to the side. However, this shouldn’t be tested by leaning too far, since even kayaks with good primary stability will flip if you add too much weight to one side. 

If you want a kayak to use on a lake, a peaceful river, or any type of calmer water, the ones with primary stability should be your top choice. 

Secondary stability will tell you whether a kayak can resist flipping over if you lean a lot to the side — far over the edge. You would use this type of a kayak when you go out on rougher waters — typically the sea, fast rivers, etc. These kayaks are generally excellent for sport, touring, etc. 

Most people using a fishing kayak will be fine with one that has excellent primary stability. However, you should consider where you are going to fish and what you want the experience to be like before making a purchase decision. 

Want to know more about stability in a fishing kayak? I have a great article How Stable Is a Fishing Kayak? you can check out!

Other Factors to Consider When Choosing a Fishing Kayak 

There are factors other than width to consider when kayak shopping. Here are a few of the most important things to look for:


If you are going fishing, especially for several hours, then the kayak you’ll be sitting in during that time should offer you the utmost comfort. Otherwise, it would just be a poor experience for you.

So, before you buy a kayak, you should make sure that you test it out thoroughly. See if there is enough space for your legs in the cockpit. Your knees would hurt if you just keep them in the same, stuck position all day. 

Then, check if the kayak seat suits your back. Of course, you won’t be able to tell that well whether it works since you will spend hours in the kayak when fishing, and only a few minutes when testing it, but it doesn’t hurt to get a general idea of how it feels. 

Finally, check if you can paddle or pedal from your seat comfortably and see if the seat is elevated enough so you don’t end up splashing water on yourself the moment you go into deeper waters. 

The Ability to Add Accessories

A fishing kayak needs to have enough space for all of your things, but it also needs to give you a chance to add some stuff on. This would make your life a lot easier and even more fun. 

So, for instance, you should check if you can add a camera mount to the kayak and keep it stable. Next, check whether you could add cup holders or rod holders. All of this can make a big difference once you venture out. 

How Easy It Is to Transport the Kayak

Finally, you should look at how you’ll transport your kayak to and from your fishing location. 

Don’t buy a kayak before knowing where you’re going to put it when driving. You may have enough space on top of your car, in your truck, or similar places. Make sure you know where it will go before buying one. 


Fishing in a kayak can be a fun adventure. However, you need to make sure that your kayak is safe, stable, and comfortable by knowing which widths to look at, as well as other factors that affect its stability. 

A good recommendation would be to rent a kayak or buy a used one instead of investing a lot of money upfront. This way, you’ll get to test things out and know exactly what to look for once you decide to purchase a new kayak. 

If you’re looking to buy a kayak for the first time, you’ll want to check out my other article on How to Choose a Fishing Kayak (8 Basic Tips)!

Thanks for stopping by and be safe out there!

Mike Rodman

Mike enjoys fishing all year round, from fly fishing small streams in Wyoming's higher mountains to kayak fishing the lower altitude lakes and reservoirs. Mike also has a passion for ice fishing. When he has spare time, he'll be found at his rod bench building custom fishing rods.

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