Kayak Fishing

How to Choose a Kayak Paddle for Fishing

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paddling kayaks with kayak paddles

Choosing the right fishing kayak paddle is almost as important as choosing the right fishing kayak. There are lots of options to consider. And no one paddle is perfect for all anglers. Everything from length to material matters and even the shape of the blade can make a big difference in your maneuverability and comfort on the water. 

Choosing a kayak paddle

As a kayak angler we often choose the best possible fishing equipment to take with us that will help us catch fish. The same is true for the performance of our paddle if we choose to go this route. Basically, there are three ways to propel your fishing kayak these days. You can paddle, pedal, or a small electric motor. 

With all three methods of propulsion a paddle is still a necessity when getting in and out of tight spots on the water. In this article we will discuss how to choose a kayak paddle that best suits your needs.

What to consider when choosing a paddle

You have already chosen a kayak that best fits your comfort and the type of kayak fishing you are pursuing. The next most important resource is the paddle which will have a great impact with your traveling and maneuvering on the water. Choosing the proper paddle will give you better efficiency, reduction of noise level, and the ability to sustain on longer trips.

When choosing a kayak fishing paddle there are a few things to consider first.  Just like any product out there you basically get what you pay for. High performance paddles will come with a higher price but also a greater efficiency on the water. So your budget may determine what you can afford. Many anglers just want to use a paddle that will get them to their favorite spots on the lake. 

kayak paddle sizing chart

PADDLE LENGTH

One of the most important things to consider in a paddle is the length. This can easily be determined by two things. The width of your kayak and your personal height. A wider kayak will require a longer shaft and your height is the other factor in choosing the right length. The taller you are the longer the paddle you will need.  

Something to take note of is that most paddle companies measure their paddles in centimeters while boat width is measured in inches. One important thing to consider is that when an angler purchases their first kayak they tend to choose an economical kayak paddle that is usually around 220 centimeters. These are very common on the store racks and tend to be heavier as they are made of plastic blades and an aluminum shaft.  

What I’ve seen happen is that due to the shorter shaft this paddle will bang on the outside edges of the kayak while paddling thus disturbing the environment, startling the fish in the nearby area. Utilizing a simple chart to determine your paddling needs can help you choose the correct length of paddle.  

An example would be if you are 6’ tall and you are paddling a kayak that is 34 inches wide you would be better off with a 250 centimeter paddle. Just about every paddle manufacturer and supplier has a simple chart that you can use to determine the most efficient paddle length for you personally.

Marty Hughes with his kayak paddle

THE KAYAK PADDLE SHAFT

Like I mentioned before when choosing a lighter weighted paddle you will also pay more for its performance. You will seldom ever see a plastic shaft paddle for kayaks. The most economical paddle shaft would be one made of aluminum. They are very durable in just about any environment.  

One downside would be that they can get very hot in the sun or cold in the winter months. Gloves are often the best method to protect your hands when this happens. 

The shaft on these aluminum paddles is usually a bigger diameter as well and people with smaller hands tend to have difficulty gripping it. The next level up would be a carbon or fiberglass shaft which are also very durable. I have never had a paddle shaft bend or break in all the years I’ve paddled a kayak.

They are also very light if matched with a lightweight fiberglass or composite blades. The price is definitely higher but well worth the investment if you are looking for performance on the water. It would be the same as an expensive rod and reel combo which are much heavier than the higher end composite rod and reels. Your shoulders and arms will let you know the difference immediately.

CONSIDER BLADE CONSTRUCTION

Very seldom do we put much thought into the shape of the blade of the paddle but this can also greatly affect the performance of your fishing trip. Each time you lift your paddle out of the water and above your head you expend energy. The heavier the blade the more fatigue you will eventually experience as you travel on the water. 

More economical paddles that will fit most budgets are made of plastic. One drawback here is that plastic is heavier and has some give when moving water. Another drawback is that a plastic blade does have the capability of cracking with use when left in the sun for long periods of time.  

A carbon-fiber or fiberglass blade is much lighter and much more efficient. If you have the budget and want the best performance possible the paddle with carbon-fiber blades is a great choice. 

A fiberglass blade will chip but will usually not crack. If you want the very best paddling performance then a carbon-fiber paddle would be your best choice. They are very durable and very stiff which provides the best transfer of energy in each stroke you take while kayak fishing.

From my personal experiences the longer and narrower blade seems to be more efficient, especially if you are covering a lot of water on a trip. There are lots of variations of blades to choose from these days.

kayak paddle blade shape

PADDLE BLADE SHAPES

The simple and basic blade type would be a symmetrical shape where both sides of the blade have the same shape. This is a better choice for the beginning paddler as it doesn’t matter which direction you hold it and it’s less strenuous to use. This paddle blade is most used by White-water enthusiasts.

The asymmetrical dihedral blade is not symmetric on the shaft of the paddle. One side of the blade is different from the other side. This blade type will give you more power and maneuverability as the blade runs deeper into the water. This type of blade is usually used by touring kayakers. 

With the dihedral angle on this blade water flows easily off of it which will minimize flutter and give the proper gripping effort to overcome this flutter. This will decrease the stress on your wrists and arms.

There is also a difference in the angle of the blades. A high-angle blade is designed for White-water paddling as the top hand of the paddler reaches forehead height for more aggressive and powerful strokes. The blade itself is wider and shorter.

The low-angle blade stays more horizontal with the top hand reaching about shoulder height during each stroke. These blades are longer and narrower for a slower, more relaxed paddling stroke. This type of blade will allow for longer periods of paddling without fatigue setting in quickly.

kids paddling in fishing kayak

Settings for paddles

Most paddles have three pegged holes for adjusting the blades to a feathered position.  I’ve found that on windy days the feathered position works best paddling into the wind. In this position the paddle blades are offset at angle thus creating less wind resistance when raised out of the water. You will have much greater efficiency with this position.  

If you adjust the paddle to the bottom hole on the shaft this will give you the feathered position you need. If you want to stay in the “matched” position you will usually use the center hole with your peg. Most of the time you just push the peg down to adjust the paddle.  Some of the newer paddles use a cam to keep the paddle shafts and blades where you want them.

Some kayak paddles are equipped with a little notch in the blade for easy hook removal when your lure gets hung up on a branch below the surface. You can guide the blade down the line from your fishing rod and easily push the hook off of the structure that is snagged on.

There is also a smaller paddle called the “Backwater Paddle” which is used by a lot of anglers in tight spots or to stay extremely stealthy while fishing. It is basically a small plastic hand paddle that easily stores anywhere in your kayak.  

This paddle will give you the ability to push off of trees, rocks, or grab branches with it. It also floats as do most paddles. It was designed by a retired U.S. Navy survival instructor and can be purchased at most kayak outlets or online kayak stores.

Some anglers like to add a small camera on their paddle which can help record your day on the water. Others might use a paddle leash to keep their paddle within reach in rough water or windy days while fishing.

backwater assassin kayak paddle

Choosing the Best Kayak Paddle

Purchasing your paddle can be a daunting task without an informed decision. Here are several of our personal recommendations on the best kayak paddles for anglers to go with your fishing kayaks.

YakGear Backwater Assassin Paddle

If you are looking for the “Swiss Army Knife” of kayak fishing paddles, the Backwater Assassin Kayak Paddle offered by YakGear is your best choice. 

It offers incredible stealthiness, mobility, and with a patented hook-and-teeth blade design can help you get through those backwater tight spots with its unique teeth design that can grab, snatch, or pull you through the tough stuff.  It has an adjustable carbon fiber shaft and a 100% guarantee. Its price point is an affordable $159.

Old Town Carlisle Paddles Magic Angler Paddle

Old Town Carlisle Magic Angler Paddle

Another good all purpose paddle is the Magic Angler from Carlisle Paddles.  With a powerful blade and very durable aluminum shaft along with fiberglass-reinforced nylon blades this paddle will give you a stiffer yet efficient stroke. If you are looking for durability and strength this paddle is a good choice. A great value at $119.

Bending Branches Angler Pro Kayak Paddle

Bending Branches Angler Pro Kayak Paddle

If you are looking for the “Best of the Best” in kayak fishing paddles then you can rest your choice on the six-time Paddle of the Year, Angler Pro from Bending Branches Paddle Company.  If I were to put a stamp on a kayak fishing paddle this would be it.  

The Angler Pro was designed by the ProStaff Bending Branches fishing team, and its “GlowTek” feature offers the visibility anglers are looking for with a performance that is second to none. One of the most trusted kayak angler products out there is also extremely lightweight. It is available clear up to the 280 centimeter length. It is a bit pricier but well worth the penny at $299.

Other fishing kayak paddles worth checking out:

It’s always good to check out the reviews of any brand of paddle you are choosing a good kayak paddle. For a quick method in determining the quality of a paddle just pick up an aluminum paddle from the store rack and then another composite paddle. You will immediately feel the difference. The best advice I can give on paddles is to choose one you feel will keep you on the water without major fatigue and give you the quality paddling you will need to reach your destination.