Kayak Fishing Paddles - Size, Shape, Materials Explained
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Kayak Fishing Paddles - Size, Shape, Materials Explained

Kayak Fishing Paddles - Size, Shape, Materials Explained

Traditionally, kayaks were propelled by a paddle and many of our popular fishing kayaks are powered by a kayak paddle.  With the recent popularity of pedal and powered kayaks for the fishing markets, you might think the traditional kayak paddle would become a rarity for a fully rigged fishing kayak. We’d argue, and our BHO Pros will tell you, there are distinct advantages to carrying a paddle in your boat regardless of the main source or propulsion. 

Safety and Backup Propulsion

Inevitably there will be a time when your battery runs low or you break a propeller and you’ll find yourself in need of a way to get back to the boat launch and/or finish your day on the water.   For this reason, we always recommend carrying a paddle, even on pedal and power-propelled kayaks.  Kayak paddles are light, easy to store, and in a pinch can really get you out of a bind. Paddles, especially brightly colored or reflective kayak paddles, are an excellent signaling device.  Passing boaters or people on the shore are sure to see a bright colored paddle waving in the air.

BHO Pro’s Tip:  Always carry a paddle... With the amount of time we spend on the water, we’ve all been in situations where breaking out the backup paddle was necessary.  Even if it was just to try and free a hook from a submerged log, my paddle has been a fixture in all my boats over the years. Still not sold on carrying a paddle on your pedal or powered kayak?  The Backwater Assault Hand Paddle is a good alternative.  Not only does the product name sound cool, it’s a functional tool to have on the boat.  While it might not be as helpful for flagging down a tow and it will for sure take you a long time to get home with this paddle, it will supply a very basic form of propulsion amongst its many other functions.

Sizing a Kayak Paddle

Selecting the correct size (length) kayak paddle makes all the difference, especially for a long day on the water.  A paddle that is too short will have you reaching for each stroke to avoid hitting your hands on the side of the kayak.  Too long and you’ll be moving more weight with each stroke, creating added fatigue in your shoulders and arms.  Choosing the correct fit for a fishing kayak paddle comes down to some pretty simple factors:  your height and the width of the kayak. General kayak paddles come sized in centimeters and start around 220cm and will go up to 260cm.  Most manufacturers will offer 10cm sizing increments between this range creating paddles to fit kayakers of all sizes.  All that said, fishing kayaks are the widest kayaks on the market.  This width provides a stable platform for the fisherman to stand comfortably in the boat.  On top of that, fishing kayaks usually feature seating that is higher off the water to aid in casting and visibility.  All of this adds up to the need for a longer paddle length.  Our fishing kayaks generally will require between a 230cm and 260cm paddle length.

Carlisle, one of our paddle vendors, offers this fit chart that helps with paddle sizing.


Kayak Width
Height Range 23 - 28 inches 29 - 32 inches Over 32 inches
Under 5'5" 220 220 - 230 230 - 240
5'5" - 5'11" 220 - 230 230 - 240 240 - 250
Over 6 feet 220 - 230 230 - 240 250 - 260


BHO Pro’s Tip:  For the Old Town Sportsman series of kayaks we never sell a paddle that is narrower than 240cm.  The determining factor here is the width of the boat at over 33.5” (larger than the chart above depicts).  

Kayak Paddle Material Choices


Most of our fishing kayak paddles are made from high-impact resistant polypropylene, plastic material.  This material is durable, inexpensive, and a great option especially as a backup paddle.  Polypropylene blades hold up to the abuse anglers put them through and will flex instead of crack when hitting rocks, the dock, or other obstructions. Serious anglers, especially those who paddle as the primary source of propulsion, will benefit from blades made with a combination of fiberglass and polypropylene.  These blades feature the durability of the polypropylene blades with the added benefit of lighter weight and stiffness provided by the fiberglass inlay.  Stiffness in the blades provides a more efficient paddling stroke, with all the power you put into the paddle being transferred to forward motion as the blade pushes through the water. At the highest end are blades made from carbon/kevlar materials.  These are the lightest and stiffest blades available and those making a commitment to paddling their fishing boat will benefit greatly from a paddle like the Backwater Assassin Carbon Hybrid Full Paddle.  The carbon material helps reduce the swing weight of the paddle greatly, which in turn reduces overall fatigue.


Like paddle blades, not all shafts are created equal. Basic paddles will feature aluminum or polypropylene shafts while the higher-end models will have a carbon shaft.  The same benefits of stiffness/efficiency that apply to blades also apply to shafts.  Remember, you are moving the water but also the weight of the paddle.

BHO Pro’s Tip:  Materials come down to a cost/weight decision.  If you are just looking for a backup paddle to store in your boat go for the low cost, heavier option.  The avid paddler will greatly benefit from a lighter, stiffer paddle, provided the cost/gram factorial fits your budget.  

Kayak Paddle Options


Look for a kayak paddle where the ferrule (connection point) on the shaft can be adjusted to offset the blades.  Paddles can be feathered on the right or left. Most kayak paddles will have the option to be feathered at 60 degrees while others may have a few different positions between 15 and 60 degrees. The basic idea is that one paddle is in the air while the other is in the water.  Without feathering the blade that is in the air will be pushing directly into the wind.  With the paddles feathered, the blade that is in the air will be cutting through the air on the forward motion.

BHO Pro’s Tip:  If you are paddling downwind run your paddles in the normal, unfeathered, position.  This will give you the benefit of the wind pushing against the blade that is out of the water providing a bit more speed.  Paddling into the wind, try feathering the paddle at 60 degrees to cut through the wind with the airborne blade.  

Shaft Handle Grips

One question we get quite often is in reference to the flat side on the handle of the Carlisle paddles we sell.  No, these kayak paddles have not been damaged in shipment. Carlisle paddles have a flat spot in the hand grip area and this is a built in feature for comfort.  The flat area gives you more surface area to grip and a reference point for the position of your paddle blades.  

In Conclusion

Kayak paddles are generally found on all our BHO boats regardless of propulsion type.  If you are looking for a paddle with added features specifically for Kayak fishing we have options for you. The Carlisle Magic Angler features cutout in the blade that is used to free snagged hooks and the ruler on the shaft can be used to measure your catch!  You can checkout our complete selection of Kayak Paddles and if you have any questions on size or paddle selection please give BHO a call.

Since 1999, Black Hall Outfitters has been southern New England’s premier kayak fishing and paddle sports destination. From kayak accessories, lighting, and transport, to bait, tackle, and marine gear, BHO has everything you need to make the most of your on-water adventures. For more information, stop by either of our two locations in Westbrook or Old Lyme, Connecticut or visit us online at blackhalloutfitters.com

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