Kayak Weight Limits Explained for Larger Anglers


Being a larger than average guy myself, when I first began looking into purchasing a kayak, I was just like you are, and weight limits were also a concern. What I discovered was eye-opening and saved me from spending my money on a kayak that wouldn’t be right for me, and possibly create a dangerous situation.

All fishing kayaks have weight limits. A ‘Weight Limit’ refers to the amount of weight a kayak manufacturer assigns to a specific kayak, which includes the bodyweight of the kayak angler along with any additional gear they place into the kayak.

After doing my initial purchasing research, it was apparent I needed to compare and stick with quality kayak manufacturers because safety was also a primary concern. Fishing offshore or out in the middle of a lake in a kayak, not rated for my weight limit, was potentially dangerous.

Quick Weight Limit Reference Table

If you are looking for a quick way to compare top brands of fishing kayaks, then the table below will give you a quick overview and be a great place to begin your search. The kayaks are listed with the higher weight limits at the top and descend from there.

After much reviewing and researching, I narrowed my choices to these top fishing kayak manufacturers based on quality, reputation, customer service, and value. Keep in mind these four companies were my personal choices, and many other fishing kayak companies do produce quality kayaks.

For my style of fishing, so that you know, I did choose a sit-on-top over a sit-in style of kayak and paddle over a pedal or powered kayak. Below are the kayaks I extensively looked into before making my purchasing decision.

Manufacturer /ModelLengthBoat WeightWeight Limit
Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K 14014′ 1″95 lbs550 lbs
Jackson Big Rig HD13′ 3″118 lbs550 lbs
Wilderness Systems Ride 11511′ 6″76 lbs 500 lbs
Jackson Big Tuna14′ 2″92 lbs500 lbs
Old Town Sportsman 12012′ 0″82 lbs500 lbs
Native Slayer XC12′ 2″87 lbs500 lbs
Wilderness Systems Radar 13513′ 6″90 lbs475 lbs
Wilderness Sytems Radar 11511′ 8″85 lbs450 lbs
Old Town Sportsman 10610′ 6″73 lbs440 lbs
Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K. 12012′ 3″86 lbs400 lbs
Jackson Bite Angler11′ 6″69 lbs400 lbs
Native Slayer 1212′ 2″62 lbs400 lbs
Wilderness Sytems Tarpon 14014′ 0″68 lbs375 lbs
Native Stingray 11.511′ 6″60 lbs375 lbs
Jackson Coosa11′ 2″65 lbs350 lbs

Sources: WildernessSystems.com, OldTownCanoe.com, JacksonAdventures.com, NativeWatercraft.com

How the ‘Weight Limit’ Affects the Kayak

The weight limit is an important consideration when purchasing a kayak, especially for anglers in the 250 lb to 300 lb range. Very often people will initially look for a kayak base upon price without regard to how much weight it can carry, or be called upon to carry. Overloading a kayak can be dangerous, and if not prepared, could lead to an unforeseen incident on the water.

Some of the things which will affect a kayak not rated for a heavy enough weight rating are as follows:

  • Diminished stability
  • Difficult to paddle and maneuver
  • Danger of capsizing
  • Loss of expensive fishing gear and electronics
  • Your safety is at risk

There is a considerable difference in handling characteristics of a kayak which is within its designed weight limit rating, or maxing out or exceeding the recommended ratings. The video below will give you a good idea of what this can mean to you.

So What ‘Weight Limit’ Is Right For you?

If you’re like me, you probably wear at least an XL shirt or larger. Now think about it, how many times have you purchased an XL shirt thinking since it says XL, it should fit you correctly? And then again if you’re like me, you have a few XL shirts that you don’t wear because the fit is different than what you expected!

The same holds when choosing a kayak weight limit for yourself. What may be a perfect it for a 250lb person, may not be a proper fit for a different 250 lb person. I break it down in short blocks below for you.

Understanding Weight Limit Percentages

For ease of understanding, we will assume an angler bodyweight of 250 lbs and a kayak weight limit of 400 lbs using the Wilderness Sytems A.T.A.K. 120 from the table above.

You never want to max out the rating of the weight limit, and just because the A.T.A.K. 120 is rated for 400 lbs, doesn’t mean you can weigh 400 lbs and everything will be fine, and you’re good to go. There is an accepted rule of thumb to reduce the weight limits rating by 25% to 30% for safety.

This will bring the weight limit to a range of 280 lbs to 300lbs. (Some kayak anglers will even keep it around the 50% mark because a lighter kayak will handle easier – which brings it down to 200 lbs.)

If you weigh 250 lbs and to stay within the safety margins of 25% to 30% of 280 lbs to 300 lbs, you have room for 30 to 50 lbs of additional gear and added accessories, electronics, batteries, camera gear, water, lunch, snacks, etc.

Diminished Stability for Heavier Anglers

A kayak is designed to ride in the water at a certain level. If you overload a kayak, it will sit far too low in the water, and the stability of the kayak is compromised. An overloaded kayak is unsafe and can tip over or capsize quickly.

Many kayaks are designed with enough stability per the manufacturer’s weight limit, and you can easily stand up in them or walk around. Again, an overloaded kayak makes this an unsafe practice. A larger angler can push these limits if not careful.

Difficult to Paddle or Maneuver

If you utilize a 25% to 30% safety margin on inland lakes, ponds, and smaller slow-flowing rivers, you should be fine. If you’re planning on fishing offshore or faster-flowing waters, you may want to opt for closer to a 50% safety margin.

The reason being the closer you get to the Maximum Weight Limit, the kayak becomes more challenging to maneuver and paddle.

Capsizing Dangers

When you are close or exceeding the recommended weight limit ratings of your kayak, it will sit lower in the water than recommended. And if there is a good wind blowing up a few waves or white caps, they are more prone to washing over your kayak and capsizing it.

It’s the same with a faster flowing river or stream and being too heavy. If you are too low in the water and not able to paddle and maneuver efficiently, the water flow can come over the sides of the kayak. Capsizing is a possibility.

Loss of Fishing Gear and Electronics

If you are just now getting into fishing from a kayak chance are your gear will be somewhat limited. A few rods, reels, and maybe a couple of tackle boxes of baits and lures. This isn’t too bad to replace if you flipped over, and your gear went to the bottom.

Once you get more invested into the sport, you may find yourself with expensive fish finders, handheld GPS units, higher-end rods, and reels, and easily thousands of dollars of gear! Add in some camera gear like a good DSLR camera, GoPros, or other action cameras on board, and you see the dollars can add up quickly!

A kayak flipping over or capsizing can cost you thousands of dollars of lost gear!

Risk of Your Safety

The most important thing to understand from reading this article is your safety is paramount. Items and gear are replaceable; you are not!

Less expensive kayaks are used for fishing, but they are not designed as fishing kayaks. If you want to take a rod and a few lures out on the water, they are an excellent way to have some fun. Though be very careful and cautious with them. Most inexpensive kayaks have lower weight limit ratings as they are designed for just paddling around, not for carrying additional gear.

Larger than average guys who are approaching the 250 to 300 lb mark should take weight limits more seriously since we push them a bit harder. I hope this helps to explain the weight limits of fishing kayaks and make them a bit easier to understand and apply to your fishing situations.

The kayak I ended up choosing was the Wilderness Sytems A.T.A.K 120. Even though I am a bit larger than the average guy and weight limits were a concern, I also wanted to use it on reasonably small waters in the mountains as well. And it fits those needs perfectly. So choose a fishing kayak with a weight limit which is right for you!

Want More Information on How to Choose a Kayak?

If you’re looking for additional information on choosing a kayak, check out my other article How to Choose a Fishing Kayak (8 Basic Tips)!

Have fun and be safe on the water!

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 and is a member of Clam Outdoors Pro Staff. When he has spare time, he'll be found building custom fishing rods.

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