April 20, 2023
When I grew up, fishing was a huge part of my childhood. Even to this day, fishing with my dad is the best way we can connect. However, we were not fortunate enough to have a proper bass boat. We would rig up a Jon boat and bank fish to our hearts’ content.
The game was changed when I got a kayak. When I could experience brand new water and target bass more intimately, it was an awesome time. Then, my dad built his bass boat. This was a similar experience to that of kayak fishing as a whole new world of opportunities was opened to us.
These two ways of fishing can be super fruitful and fulfilling to you as an angler. And they can also be profitable… just ask the two students who recently won an amateur bass fishing tournament and took him $2 million.
But that doesn’t mean fishing from a bass boat is best for every situation out there. Knowing the differences and similarities will give you a good sense of what your options are and how to get started. Throughout my experience, I learned a lot about the differences between kayak fishing and bass boat fishing. Here, I outline all major differences - along with their pros and cons.
Not sure which one is right for you? Let’s find out! 👇
Fishing from a kayak is a unique way to catch bass because you can access areas that nearly no one else can. So, what is kayak bass fishing? This is targeting bass from a kayak often in remote areas or spots that bigger boats cannot access.
Kayak fishing is also a great option for anglers on a budget. These are way cheaper than other vessels, so you can get a boat fishing experience without the price tag that is usually involved. Being able to connect with nature more intimately is something that kayak bass fishing supplies. While there are a number of tips for bass fishing from a kayak that need to be kept in mind, the mobility and stealth advantages are second-to-none when it comes to bass fishing on the open water.
Fishing from a bass boat is seen as a luxurious way to catch fish. Bass boats are often outfitted with top technology, plenty of storage, fish finders, trolling motors, and ultimate comfort. But having these tools isn't sufficient. You really need to know how to use a trolling motor if it's going to bring success out on the water. This just adds to the investment anglers need to make - it's not just buying the equipment, it's a matter of investing the time to learn how to use it properly.
Bass boat fishing starts with a pretty sizable investment as boats can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000. The more bells and whistles, the higher the price tag.
Next, you need a place that can hold a fishing boat. Ideally, there is a boat ramp and plenty of space to move around without disturbing the wildlife. The deeper the water, the better. Then, you can angle yourself parallel to the shore to target drop-offs and structures that provide shade and other forms of cover for bass.
Bass boats are specifically made to have a low profile and maximize your chances of catching a nice fish. They do this in the design of the boat and the additions added to it.
There are some key differences and similarities between these two types of fishing. Knowing how the two compare will help you along your bass fishing journey.
Being in a boat allows for far more room and storage than with a kayak. When you can hold more lures and presentations, the chances of hooking up by adapting to the situation are higher. If you want to be like Aaron Mardis, who caught the state record largemouth bass in Arkansas, having a bass boat increases those odds due to having more storage—meaning more equipment and more lures—available.
There is more movement allowed in a bass boat. This is in terms of both you as an angler being comfortable and you moving around a lake or other body of water. In a kayak, you are stuck in one or two physical positions. In a bass boat, you can walk around, sit down, stand up, and do a little bit of everything. You can also access other hotspots very quickly thanks to the motor.
There are many different types and price ranges with bass boats. If you have more disposable income, there are a lot of options. If you are on a budget, you could still be covered.
There is more preparation required with a bass boat. Gas is an expensive cost, and there are more things you need to do before hitting the water.
Bass Boats are also expensive. Yes, there are budget options, but that’s all relative. Even the budget bass boats are a big chunk of change.
There is also the hassle of getting started on the water. You have to launch your boat and make sure everything is secure rather than just throw it in and go. If you are an angler who likes to fish by yourself, these aspects could be a struggle. Knowing how to prevent a boat launch failure is imperative.
With well-designed fishing kayaks, you can access more remote areas where bass boats simply wouldn’t fit. This provides you with interesting access to areas without bank fishing nor boat fishing. You can fit into small places and launch a kayak where a fishing boat would not dare.
Kayaking is also very affordable. You can buy a decent kayak without breaking the bank. Plus, there are no fuel expenses, and there are fewer add-on costs.
You can also be far quieter in a kayak than in a bass boat. Because most do not have any sort of motor, the only real noise is you. This adds stealth to the experience.
Transporting a fishing kayak is much easier and more affordable when compared to that of a bass boat.
It takes forever to navigate a water body in a kayak. Because you are the motor, your speed is very limited. You have to plan for more paddling and having to experience fewer spots.
The amount of fishing gear you can bring on your kayak is very limited. We’ll get into more of this later, but know that you will have to condense your gear dramatically to fit it all.
Kayaking is a workout. Whether you are fishing or not, it requires a certain level of physical excursion. If you are not in kayaking shape, be prepared to be gassed after the first time out.
There are a couple of main water bodies when bass fishing. Ponds, lakes, and rivers pretty much make up all of them. Applying different fishing strategies to specific bodies of water is important.
Kayaks are fantastic for rivers, ponds, and small lakes. Because you cannot cover a ton of water in a kayak, you will not be able to navigate the big lakes with ease. That's why river fishing with a kayak offers a number of serious advantages when compared to a much larger lake.
A big lake is where a bass boat thrives. They also do well in lake and river systems where miles and miles can be covered. While you can always put a trolling motor on a kayak to increase its fishing range, it simply doesn't compare to the speed or distance you can travel in a bass boat.
Both kayaking and boating require a certain amount of equipment to help you fish successfully. Plus, there are some optional pieces that will help your fishing journey along depending on the vessel type.
The equipment needed for a fishing boat, when compared to a kayak, is more expensive, and there are more safety requirements. There is also more equipment needed for fishing boats because the stakes are higher and there are more variables at play.
Some aspects that are unique to fishing boats include a trailer, motor, and all the add-ons related to that, gas, electronics, and more. There are a lot of moving parts because there are more things involved in running a boat.
Kayaks require far less equipment, but there are a few aspects unique to this vessel. First and foremost, there is the paddle. The paddle you use is super important as it directly affects what you do on the water. Most kayak paddles are the same, so there are no crazy obstacles in the buying process.
If you have a kayak with foot pedals and a rotor, a paddle is not a high priority. Other than this, your kayaking adventure will require a high-quality paddle.
You also need some sort of rod holder or rod storage device. On a fishing boat, there are rod lockers and plenty of room. Both of these aspects are gone on a kayak, which is why your kayak fishing setup is so important. Some kayaks have built-in rod holders so you can have two or three on deck. Others require you to mount rod holders yourself. These can be attached right to the side and allow you to have more than one rod on you.
Because you are still fishing, there is a fair bit of crossover when getting all of your equipment ready. First and foremost, both need a lifejacket. Many places will require you by law to have a lifejacket on board, but you should have one in all circumstances to practice safe and ethical boating. For example, Illinois requires everyone under 13 to be wearing a life jacket and all vessels need to have one at least on board.
Depending on the time of year, you may need to bring plenty of extra clothes, gloves, hats, and other weather-related gear. If you love to take on a fall bass bite, you should keep some extra clothes on hand when you can to make the experience more enjoyable.
Another constant is all of your fishing gear and equipment. A fishing boat will allow for more items to be brought because of the room provided, but you will need the fishing basics for either option. Your baits and lures are super important, so they will be included in both. One of the benefits of using soft plastics in this case is that they’re easy to store and harbor lots of bites.
Believe it or not, there is a bit of crossover in the electronics used. Kayaks can be outfitted with the same fish finders and electronics as a fishing boat. Although there is less open space on a kayak, there can be electronics on brackets to still provide that level of insight on the water.
If you are switching to a different medium of fishing, whether it be temporarily or permanently, you will find some discrepancies between the two. In this case, if you are switching from a bass boat to a kayak, the change might be difficult. Here are some things you might overlook when making the shift.
Right when you get into the kayak, your stability will become a concern. When fishing from a bass boat, this is not an issue. When on a kayak, you need to position yourself in a way to paddle and cast without rocking or tipping too much.
Especially if you have a smaller kayak, standing up is not an option. You need to get used to casting, catching, and landing a fish all while not tipping yourself over. This is a learning curve, but it has to be conquered.
There are different types of stability, and understanding the basics before hitting the water is a good idea. If this isn’t understood properly, kayaks can be very dangerous.
Probably the most obvious difference between fishing on a bass boat and a kayak is the act of paddling. On a nice bass boat, most of the work is done for you thanks to technology. At least with normal kayaks, you are the motor. You have to paddle while also fishing.
One of the biggest learning curves is managing your paddle, correctly positioning yourself, and fishing all at once. This is a hardship boat anglers do not experience in such an extreme way. Knowing how to paddle and actually implementing that knowledge is big.
A huge perk of using a bass boat is buzzing all over a lake and targeting many areas in one day. With modern bass boats pushing 70 miles per hour, they can access so much water in a short amount of time. Kayak fishing is the opposite.
With a kayak, you are paddling slowly compared to in a boat. So, you are a bit limited on what you can access. If you are on a large lake, you will need to stick to areas somewhat near the launch. Going out too far can overextend yourself and potentially create a dangerous situation.
And we all know that when it comes to fishing for largemouth bass, covering a lot of water is super important. So, having a strategy for largemouth bass fishing is crucial—especially if you’re boating.
Once you are on the water, or even in the preparation stages, you will notice that kayak storage is abysmal. Especially compared to a bass boat, you will hardly be able to fit any gear. This is a big deal, because anglers used to fishing out of a boat may have a ton of gear packed into it.
If you are not used to compacting all of your gear down, the transition may be difficult at first. You will need to figure out what lures and equipment are absolutely necessary and what can sit out. This all depends on your specific style of fishing and body water being targeted. One tip for making that transition is creating your go-to box. This is an always-ready lure tray full of your favorite and most versatile lures. Grabbing this and going is super easy.
If cutting down this much is not an option, there are some kayak storage gear you can buy. Plano, for example, makes an attachment that can increase the storage capacity.
When fishing with a bass boat, there is a lot of preparation involved. From the fuel, to the maintenance, to the launching, there are many factors at play. There are far fewer variables in the preparation when it comes to kayak fishing. Because it is simpler, the getting ready process is not as extensive. Before, you can spend an hour or two making sure everything is ready for your boat, and now, you can hit the water quicker with the kayak.
This may not seem like a big deal, but planning and time management are important aspects of the experience. This is not to say you should overlook preparing for kayak fishing, rather it suggests that less time needs to be allotted to prepare successfully. Especially when kayaking, you want all of your rods rigged up before hitting the water. For example, tying on a bass jig while already out on the water can be frustrating.
If you are on the fence about how to take on your next fishing journey, take all of the above points into consideration. There are some major differences and similarities between kayak fishing and bass boat fishing. Knowing how to navigate them and put yourself in the best position to catch bass is the name of the game. Good luck, and happy fishing!
Although kayak fishing is great, it is usually better to bass fish from a bass boat. This style of fishing provides you with more space for storage, better positioning, and quicker access to hotspots. When it comes to convenience, fishing from a bass boat takes the cake. If you want to access more remote areas, a kayak can be beneficial.
It is cheaper to fish from a kayak rather than a bass boat. Kayaks are much smaller and more affordable, so each time you fish, you will spend less than with a boat. Plus, boats require more maintenance and fuel, which both bring even more costs. Kayak fishing is perfect for anglers on a budget as the overhead is far less than with a proper bass boat.
It is easier to fish from a bass boat, for most people. Fishing with a kayak requires the management of a paddle and positioning, which can be difficult. Once you learn how to run a bass boat, this becomes easier and more convenient than fishing from a kayak. Kayaks do require less background knowledge, but when it comes to actually fishing, it is done much easier on a boat.
Fishing from a bass boat is safer, generally speaking. Although there are higher speeds and a few more features involved, you are far less likely to end up in the water than with a kayak. It is all about perspective, because the chances of going overboard in a bass boat are lower, but the chances of hitting something at a high speed are higher. But, the structure of a bass boat is designed to keep you safe as long as you practice boating.
Kayaks have the right of way over a boat because they are considered a “vessel under sail or not under power.” Because most kayaks are not powered by some sort of motor, they get the right away and respect of those on a motorized boat. Kayakers should still be respectful and ethical in the water, but much of the responsibility for safe boating will fall on the motorized boater.