Kayak Fishing vs. Boat Fishing – Which is Better?

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

When it comes to fishing, there are many ways of getting out on the water in the hopes that you catch a keeper. Two methods of fishing will get you up close and personal with the fish – either on a boat or on a kayak.

Each method of fishing has its benefits, but kayak fishing offers you a way to connect with the activity in ways that boat fishing cannot. 

Kayak fishing is better than boat fishing because you get more out of it. You get a total body workout. You can fish a wider variety of areas with easier access to more water. Boat fishing can be more thrilling, and it’s less physically demanding, but it will be a much more expensive hobby.

Both fishing activities have benefits that are unique, and which method you prefer is ultimately up to your personal preferences. Keep reading to learn more about each of the benefits of kayak fishing and boat fishing. Maybe you’ll be persuaded to try a new hobby! 

The Benefits of Kayak Fishing

Kayaks have been in use for thousands of years as a method of transportation and food gathering. They were first used for fishing by Native Americans in the arctic regions of the world and were used on the icy rivers, lakes, and oceans. 

These primitive kayaks were often made from driftwood and sealskin, which were stitched together and stretched over the wood to provide the buoyancy needed to glide across the water.

The modern kayak, composed of fiberglass and resin, was introduced to the world in the 1950s. From there, the designs of kayaks have advanced for specific purposes like white water rafting, fishing, and more. 

There are several benefits to kayak fishing, including the great workout you get while doing it, the relatively low initial investment for gear and supplies, the relaxation it offers, and the fact that you can kayak almost anywhere that there is water. 

Let’s go into greater detail about each of those benefits. 

You Get a Better Workout Kayak Fishing

Kayak fishing as a way of exercise is the total package. It checks every box – from strength training to cardio, it gets your heart pumping and promotes healthy weight loss. Also, who doesn’t like to have a little fun while they’re exercising? 

Strength Training

Kayak fishing is an excellent way to build strength because it works almost all of your major muscle groups at one point or another. This action of working multiple muscle groups and two or more joints with a single exercise is what is known as a compound exercise.

A compound exercise is the best for general strength development and will aid with the overall pushing, pulling, and lifting activities of daily life. 

Back Muscles

Your back muscles are primarily used when paddling through the water or when casting and reeling with your fishing rod. The lats help to stabilize you, as well as giving you the power to paddle through the water or when battling strong currents.

Your traps also help in the power production department, contracting your shoulder blades down as you push through the water. Your rhomboids become activated at the end of a paddle stroke, contracting your shoulders down. 

Arm Muscles

Your arm muscles are also sure to get worked while kayak fishing, acting as accessory muscles to your back, and providing power to the pushing and pulling movements of paddling, casting and reeling. Your deltoids and biceps become activated as you pull the paddle towards you, while the triceps stretches to receive the next paddle. 

Your rotator cuff also plays a big role in paddling and casting, helping to stabilize your arm and provide ample rotation. The constant flicking back and forth of your rod will also activate the rotator cuff, strengthening the four muscles that comprise it.

Rotator cuffs are prone to injury so any exercise that strengthens them is going to be beneficial to your overall fitness level.   

Core Muscles

The muscles of your core will work to stabilize you as you sit in the kayak, waiting for your next bite. The external and internal obliques will help you to rotate your trunk back and forth as you paddle and when you cast your rod out into the water. The transverse abdominal muscles will help you to reel in your catch. 

Leg Muscles

Although you’ll be sitting the entire time you’re kayak fishing, your legs will still get a workout while you’re out on the water. Your legs will help you brace yourself against the kayak as you paddle, assisting in stabilization and enhanced power production as you paddle.

Your quadriceps and gluteus maximus will activate as you paddle, providing stability and support. 

Cardiovascular Training

Kayak fishing is also a great cardio workout because it gets your blood pumping. To move through the water you need to continuously paddle, which will elevate your heart rate over time. This helps build up the muscles of your heart and lungs, improving your cardiovascular endurance.

It Can Help You Lose Weight

Because you’re working all of the major muscle groups as well as your cardiovascular system, kayak fishing is a great way to shed some pounds while doing something you love.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that adults participate in 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly to promote weight loss. You could easily be out on the water for longer than that during a single kayak fishing outing. 

Kayak Fishing is an Inexpensive Hobby

Another one of the many benefits of kayak fishing is that it is a substantially less expensive hobby than fishing on a boat. Alternatively, there are a lot of expenses you’ll need to consider if you decide that you’d prefer to fish on a boat, especially if you are looking to own one. There are many things to consider, including the amount of equipment needed, the initial investment, and the additional costs associated with boat fishing. 

Less Equipment Involved

With kayak fishing, you only need your kayak and a fishing rod to start participating in your new hobby. While there are kayaks specifically designed for fishing, they aren’t mandatory. You could start with a standard recreational kayak and fishing rod. 

With boat fishing, you’ll need at minimum a boat, a trailer, and a way to transport these items to and from the water, whether you launch your boat and remove it from the water every time you go fishing or if you keep it in the water for the season.

Depending on where you fish, you may also need specific rods built for that type of water – like deep sea fishing rods, for example. 

Boats are a Large Investment

Owning a boat requires a substantial amount of money up front. Fishing boats can start at $10,000 and go up to the hundreds of thousands very quickly, depending on what you plan to use it for. Even the trailers used for boats can be expensive, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand. 

Once you’ve got the initial equipment covered, you’ll need to account for additional costs like gas, boat insurance, regular maintenance, repair fees, storage fees, and more.

The average size of a gas tank on a standard fishing boat is approximately 25 to 50 gallons. If you’re out all day, you could easily go through a full tank. That expense can add up over time, especially if you’re going out multiple times a week. 

Kayak Fishing is More Relaxing

When you’re kayak fishing, you’re able to dictate your own pace. You can paddle as quickly or as slowly as you want, and you can even spend the day floating if you want to. This allows you to take in the sights of nature, creating a connection with the outdoors. 

Plus, when you exercise, the endorphin levels in your brain rise creating an overall sense of calm and serenity. This creates a mind/body connection, meaning that what your body does impacts your mental state. 

Another reason kayak fishing is more relaxing is that you can get up close and personal with the fish. Because kayaks sit low to the water, you may be able to spot your prey before they even know you’re there. 

You Can Fish in More Places with a Kayak

Since kayaks are much lower to the water than boats, you don’t need to be in deeper water to use them. This allows you a greater range of options when it comes to selecting a fishing spot. You can fish in rivers, ponds, lakes, and even the open ocean with a fishing kayak. 

As long as there are just a few inches of water so that your kayak won’t run along the ground, you can get out your fishing rod and have a great day on the water. 

The Benefits of Boat Fishing

There are many benefits that boating has to offer that kayak fishing cannot provide. When many people think of fishing, they often picture being out on a boat, either on the ocean or maybe even in a pond, looking to score a big fish. 

Some of the many benefits of boat fishing include the fact that it’s more exciting, less physically demanding, allows you the opportunity to catch bigger fish and in more locations per trip, and that you don’t have to own a boat to go fishing on one. 

Keep reading to learn more about the many benefits that boat fishing has to offer. 

Boat Fishing is More Exciting

When you’re out fishing on a boat, more often than not you’re with a group of your friends or your family. This is more exciting than being out on a river fishing alone because you’re sharing an experience with those closest to you. 

If you’re fishing out on the open ocean, there is a chance you could see local wildlife other than the fish you’re looking to catch, such as whales, dolphins, or maybe even a seal or two depending on where you live. 

Because you need to put some effort into planning a day out on the water with a fishing boat, you’re more likely to look forward to the event than if you were to spontaneously head out to a local pond for the day in your kayak. 

Boat Fishing is Less Physically Demanding

When you’re out in a kayak, you’re responsible for moving yourself through the water. You’ll need to constantly be balancing in the boat against the waves and the currents where you’re fishing.

If you manage to hook a fish, you’ll need to balance as you reel it in, which can be strenuous on your back and core. Paddling all day can be tough, and your muscles are bound to be sore after a day out on the water. 

In a boat, you don’t have to worry about propelling yourself forward to reach your next destination, that is what the engines are for. Depending on the size of the boat, you won’t need to balance nearly as much, which also eases the strain on your legs, lower back and core as you fish. 

With a kayak, you’ll also need to be able to haul the vessel in and out of the water, something that can be tiring if you’re going to multiple different spots in a day.

With a boat, you haul it in and out of the water with the help of a trailer and a vehicle that tows the trailer. If you’re docking your boat for the season at a marina, that means there is even less hauling in and out. 

You Can Catch Bigger Fish with a Boat

Because you can navigate to deeper waters with a boat than you can with a kayak you can catch bigger fish. This is mainly because larger fish don’t live in the tight inlets that kayaks can get to like they do in the open ocean. 

When you’re out on a fishing boat, you have the opportunity to catch giant fish like tuna, stripers, and even some species of squid. The possibilities are endless out on the ocean, and you never know what you’ll find. 

You can still catch bigger fish if you’re using a boat to fish on a lake, rather than in the ocean. Boats tend to be more stable than kayaks, so if you do happen to land a larger fish on your hook, you’ll be able to pull it in more easily than you would in a kayak. This will increase your chances of actually catching the fish. 

You Can Fish in More Locations Per Trip

Although in a kayak you can fish a more diverse pool of waterways, typically you’ll go out to one spot and stay there for the day. Dragging your kayak out of the water and into your vehicle or roof rack and then launching somewhere else if you don’t have any luck in a certain spot can be daunting and tiresome. 

As previously mentioned, much of the heavy lifting of getting around is taken care of by the boat itself. If you head out to a particular area and you find that the fish just aren’t biting there, you can easily move to another location and try your luck there. 

This can also increase the number of fish you catch in a day because you’re able to hit a greater number of spots in a single outing. 

You Don’t Have to Own a Boat to Go Fishing on One

Much of this article’s coverage of the benefits of boats has been regarding ownership of a boat. However, you don’t have to own a boat to go fishing on one. Because boats typically aren’t single person vessels, you can join a friend or two if they plan to fish for the day.

You can also rent boats, from small bass fishing boats for use in a lake or pond, all the way to a charter boat meant for fishing in the deep sea. 

This makes boating more accessible to a greater range of people because you don’t have to own any equipment at all to start your new hobby. 


There are several benefits to both kayak fishing and boat fishing that make them great options for getting out on the water in the hopes of catching some fish. Whether kayak fishing or boat fishing is a better choice is up to your personal preference. 

The benefits of kayak fishing are as follows: 

  • You get a better workout from it because it works out all major muscle groups and provides a great cardio workout. 
  • It costs less money because you need less equipment 
  • It’s more relaxing because it’s slower-paced and allows you to get out into nature and be self-reliant
  • You can kayak in a broader range of places because kayaks are smaller than boats

The benefits of boat fishing are as follows: 

  • It’s more exciting because you can go out with friends and is usually a planned event that you can look forward to
  • It’s less physically demanding than kayak fishing
  • You can catch bigger fish because you can go out into the deeper ocean
  • You can fish more locations on a single trip than you can kayak fishing
  • You don’t have to own a boat yourself to go fishing on one

Have fun and stay 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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