Fishing is as competitive now as it ever was in the past, perhaps even more so. With the advent of sports fishing, people have flocked to the hobby, seeking to bag the biggest catch. However, the most important part of any aspiring angler’s tier would be a decent fishing boat or, in this case, a kayak. Paddled kayaks are ideal for silently entering a water body and not scaring away the fish.
Whether you are an amateur or a pro, we have prepared a list of the best fishing kayaks there are to suit your needs. There is no single answer for selecting the ideal model, but you will be able to pick one that fits you the best from the ten mentioned below. We have also included a buyer’s guide to help you make an informed choice, so let’s get started with buying guide first.
Best Fishing Kayaks Buying Guide:
We have prepared this buying guide to help you pick the most optimal kayak model for your fishing adventure. Remember that with kayaks, there is no single solution to all needs. The first thing you ought to do is to identify your needs. Do you plan on going solo, with a partner, or on an adventure with your kids? Where do you plan on taking the vessel? To a lake, river, estuary, or the ocean?
These specific requirements will help you narrow down your choices. However, certain features must be held into account before finalizing your decision and we have discussed them below:
Sit-on-Top or Sit-Inside-Kayak:
Depending on the seating arrangement, a kayak may be a sit-on-top (SOT) or a sit-inside-kayak (SIK). Both are preferable in different situations. SOT kayaks are considered much safer; in case they roll over, they do not fill with water and they provide the user with ample moving space. Most people prefer SOT kayaks, especially if they are out in saltwater. You may even balance the kayak by putting your leg over the opposite side when fighting against a tough fish.
However, if you are looking for a craft that will get you through moving waters or turbulent currents, a SIK vessel would be better suited. These crafts are lightweight, making them better portable and easier to control on the water. The deck also remains substantially drier in comparison to SOT kayaks.
Source of Propulsion:
All the options mentioned above are paddle powered, meaning that the faster you row, the faster the vessel goes. There are leg-powered kayaks too that are operated as if you were cycling in the water, allowing you to keep your arms free for casting the line. Motor powered vessels have also gained popularity over the years owing to the convenience.
How to choose? Simply ask yourself what you’re looking for. Is it something easy to transport, something compact? Do you want your vessel to be quiet and not scare away the fish when you enter their territory? Can you row effectively or would you rather use your legs or just let the vessel move on its own? If you answer these questions, you’ll be able to make the right choice. For instance, a paddled kayak is compact and stealthy but requires upper arm effort.
Water bodies differ from each other not only in salinity levels but also in the types of currents they can through at you. Generally, the larger the water body, the greater the risk of bigger currents and toppling over of the vessel. Some vessels are designed to withstand the perils of the open ocean while others are only suited for a fishing run in a serene lake. Rivers can be dangerous too, however, you can avoid problems by staying away from rapids and other choppy areas. If you are going to face turbulence, then opt for an option that can take it. For instance, the BKC FK184 is designed specifically to face all sorts of water bodies and is hence suitable for all of them.
Generally, longer kayaks are faster and cover more distance in the same time as a smaller one would. However, this superior speed comes at the cost of maneuverability, which becomes all the more important when traversing through tight spaces. The length of the kayak should henceforth be determined when deciding on which water body you will be using it in.
If you wish to paddle through small ponds, lakes, creeks, and backwaters, then a smaller vessel would be a better choice. A shorter kayak, less than 11 feet, will allow you to make swift turns and maneuver with ease through tight spaces. Conversely, if your fishing adventures are associated with vast open lakes, huge rivers, and the ocean, a longer vessel, bigger than 12 feet is recommended. The idea is to cover more ground in relatively less time.
Although the width is not the only factor that determines the stability of a kayak, it is one of the most important ones. The biggest fear that a fisherman or any sailor has to face is falling overboard. Stability henceforth is of paramount importance and hereby the width of a kayak is worth considering. However, wider is not better in all the cases, although width accounts for enhanced stability, it significantly cuts the maneuverability past a certain threshold point.
This will be bothersome to newbies who are just learning to paddle and maneuver a vessel. To make the best decision, it is important to consider how you are going to use your kayak. Will you be fishing while standing up or do you plan to use a vessel to cover the maximum distance? Depending on the answer, you may opt for a narrow or broader model.
Degree of Portability:
While a heavier model will be sturdier and be able to absorb maximum impact, a lightweight frame is easier to carry around. The whole concept of buying a kayak instead of a regular boat or a canoe is its portability. It is easier to move around and ideal to take along on a fishing trip out of the blue, no hectic preparations needed. It is important to consider the weight of the kayak before you go ahead and buy it. You must be able to lift and move the vessel by yourself if it is a solo model.
Inflatable kayaks and canoes offer superior portability but some people prefer to have something solid to use. Another factor to consider would be your means of transport, how do you get around? Do you have a car or do you use the public transport? Depending on the answer, you may either choose a solid model that goes perfectly on the roof of your car or an inflatable vessel that you can fold and carry with you.
Maximum Weight Capacity:
Rookies often fall into the cheap price tag trap and end up buying a model that can barely carry their weight, let alone accessories and catch. A cheap kayak without sufficient weight carrying capacity is as good as not having one since you will not be able to use it anyways. Make sure that you check the maximum weight-bearing capacity of the vessel before you buy it.
Most of the solo models mentioned in this list can carry around 350 pounds, which is enough to seat you, your equipment, and a hearty catch in one of them. For bigger vessels, those that support multiple people, the capacity should be considerably higher since all people involved maybe fishing. Make it a rule to check weight capacity first (and make the necessary calculations) and price tag later.
There is no definitive answer to the perfect storage capacity for a kayak – it depends on your fishing style. How much stuff do you intend to carry with you? How long will the fishing trip be? Do you plan on camping in the kayak? Some people tend to go minimalistic and just take a rod, some bait and that’s about it. But for others, fishing is more systematic than that. They use coolers, a wide array of accessories, multiple rods, and live bait.
If you are like the latter, you will need something with a rear compartment to strap the cooler safely and keep all the accessories in dedicated hatches. Ideally, these hatches should seal properly and be completely waterproof so that your stuff doesn’t get ruined. It suffices to say that for storage, the more the merrier is a perfectly valid answer given that the compactness of the frame is not sacrificed.
Seat and Lumbar Support:
Once again this is an area where rookies and newbies are likely to fall into the cheap price tag trap. Though the seat may not seem like something to bother yourself with, you will appreciate a decent lumbar support in long fishing trips. A molded-in seat or one with basic seating pads will ruin the experience as you’ll spend more time combatting back pain than fish.
Many models are incorporating lawn chair type designs with a breathable mesh making up most of the body. This offers decent support to the backbone and keeps you pain-free. These chairs can be adjusted into lowered and raised positions when paddling and casting, respectively. Some high-end kayaks offer chairs with a memory foam embedded in the padding, allowing for a more personalized lumbar support.
Some anglers prefer to stand and cast their line in shallow waters. This cannot be done on narrow kayaks as they will tip over if you lose balance. Wider kayaks let you do so, however, at the cost of lost maneuverability. If stand-and-fish is important to you then you’d be better off with a wider kayak, but this is not recommended for rookies who are just learning to paddle and maneuver.
Level of Comfort:
This is a more personalized problem as compared to the rest. Comfortable usage of a kayak is dependent on several factors, some innate, and others personal. If you are facing discomfort while maneuvering or paddling a kayak then there is no point in buying it, and it is for this reason that you should try out kayaking before buying one.
If you have a stockier build then buying a smaller model will coop you up, causing discomfort. Conversely, using a larger kayak if you have a short height will prove to be very difficult. Don’t fixate yourself on something base on what most people buy, consider your personal needs first.
Safety is of paramount importance for any vessel. You need to make sure that the kayak can handle your weight, will not collapse mid-water, and have enough stability to keep it from toppling over. Safety is also dependent on the construct of the product, if it is made up of high quality and durable material then there is nothing to worry about, however, this cannot be said for cheaper products. There are no universal safety features except those that avert the risks you may face, i.e. a kayak designed to face the ocean should not be bothered by the currents.
Most people overlook the importance of the warranty period but this is one of the most defining factors of a model’s excellence. If a manufacturer has offered a five years warranty, as is the case with Lifetime, then this number reflects the confidence of the makers in their product. Warranty translates as the commitment of a seller about the excellence and durability of their product.
This is not to say that if the warranty policy is not clearly stated then there is a problem. You can always contact the manufacturer and ask for the warranty details. If a seller refuses to offer a warranty (written) then you should generally avoid buying their product as it shows that they will take no responsibility if it fails you.
This is another personal parameter, one that limits your options drastically. However, there is no need to frown, you can always make the best of what you have. Instead of compromising on quality, consider the best options available under your price tag. You should list down the features you need (not want, need) in a kayak. Will you be taking it out to the ocean? How many people would be on board? Can you manage with a lawn chair type seat?
These questions will help you narrow down your choices and help you pick something that falls under your price range. A general rule of the thumb is to save up as much as you can from the money you set aside to buy something in case you might need it for something else.
The 10 Best Kayak For Fishing
Although all of the products mentioned in the top 10 list are equally impressive and boast amazing features, we have a few recommendations that are meant for specific needs. If you are an amateur and need something to get started with, then the Perception Pescador Pro 12 is a decent option to look at.
However, for the pros, an ideal one-seater would be the Lifetime Tamarack Angler. The Lifetime Tandem Fishing Kayak is a decent double-seater option while, if you are looking for a three-seater, you can try out the BKC TK181.
1. Lifetime Tamarack Angler Fishing Kayak:
The Lifetime Tamarack Angler is a highly versatile and durable kayak that is ideal for fishermen of all levels. The model is made up of sturdy and UV-resistant high-density polyethylene, making it ideal for the challenges of the harsh environment. The bottom is flat, imparting a great deal of stability to the kayak, allowing you to row with ease and without worrying about the kayak toppling over. The stability is further emboldened by the action of stability chine rails, making the kayak perfectly safe for use.
The model also offers several footrest positions so that you can ride it with ease irrespective of your height. The seat is padded, comfortable and may be adjusted to suit your lumbar needs. There are three fishing rod holders, two of which are flush mounted and mounted on top, allowing you to cast the line from multiple directions.
Twin storage compartments (each 6 inches), one in the rear and one in the center, allow you to store quintessential items so that you don’t lose hold of them. You can also keep you paddle nestled safely inside the paddle keeper equipped with shock cords. Overall, the Kayak is of a durable and highly functional construct, earning its name “Lifetime” with a solid 5 years warranty.
- Durable construction.
- UV resistant and high density material.
- Storage compartments, fish rod holders, and multiple footrests built-in.
- 5 years warranty.
- Not available in multiple colors.
- Compartments are not very spacious.
If you are looking for a versatile, durable and safe-to-use product, look no further – the Lifetime Tamarack Angler is the one for you. However, we have listed several other impressive models as well, so please scan through them all before making a decision.
2. Sun Dolphin Journey Fishing Kayak:
Sun Dolphin Journey is a decent option for a fishing kayak, especially if you want to take it out for a ride in a river or a lake. The model is designed specifically for use in freshwater bodies and is perfect for facing the challenges of a rough ride. Anglers seeking to gain a stealthy entry into bass territory may find this easy and silent kayak to be the perfect option.
If you need to carry the kayak across inhospitable terrain or through a landmass (on foot) before you can finally take it to the water, don’t sweat as it is perfectly portable. The kayak has a lightweight frame and is extremely convenient to carry around, mostly thanks to the retractable carrying handles and portable accessory carrier.
Its lightweight design should not fool you into thinking that the kayak is not formidable or sturdy – that it is. Sun Dolphin Journey is highly stable, it tracks and paddles with ease which makes it all the more convenient to use, especially in turbulent waters (however, you should avoid rapids as they are a hazard). The kayak has a maximum carrying capacity of 250 pounds, ideal for a solo angler. Two flush mounts and one swiveling holder make line casting super convenient.
- Lightweight and durable construct.
- 250 pounds carrying capacity.
- Retractable carrying handles and portable accessory carrier.
- Multiple fishing rod holders.
- Warranty details not specified.
- It is uncertain whether the material is UV resistant or not.
Sun Dolphin Journey is a decent choice for most kayakers and anglers who value portability and stability.
3. Lifetime 10-Foot Fishing Kayak:
This is the second Lifetime model on our list and is a testament to the quality of this brand. This two-person kayak can also be used on solo missions but it is best used by a dynamic duo. The design is highly versatile, not forcing you to use it a certain way and the beautiful camouflage theme makes it all the better.
The kayak is 10 feet long, which allows you to carry ample supplies and resources for a long haul. Despite its length, the frame is compact and the kayak can be carried with ease; however, do not expect it to be as portable as a smaller model like the Sun Dolphin Journey. The model’s construction is durable, as is expected from Lifetime. It is ideal for slowly paddling in fishing territory without spooking the catch and then unleashing your line on the unwary Pisceans.
Its rear storage hatch is well-suited for keeping all of your quintessential items on board in case you need them. There are three fishing rod holders, placed ideally to allow you to cast the line and hold it at any angle. The hull is designed specifically to assure you of its stability and safety, but remember that 500 pounds is the maximum carrying capacity. This model offers a 5 years warranty as well.
- 10 feet, two-person kayak.
- Ample storage space.
- The hull is stable.
- There is a five-year warranty.
- It is only available in camouflage color (although this is an amazing theme).
- It is not as portable as smaller models, hence if you always go solo then try a smaller model.
For all those angling dynamic duos out there, this kayak by Lifetime offers everything you’d want.
4. Sun Dolphin Excursion Fishing Kayak:
The Sun Dolphin Excursion is a sturdy yet lightweight model which is perfect for those seeking to excel in freshwater bodies like lakes and rivers. The second entry from Sun Dolphin is just as impressive as the first. It is built for freshwater bodies so you should avoid estuaries; however, this model would be the ideal choice for a river.
The biggest selling point of this model is its lightweight frame and highly portable design. The kayak can be carried on foot over considerable distances with ease. This will come in handy while traversing through rugged landscape before accessing your targeted lake. It is a solo rider for those who count on no one but themselves. Its lightweight frame should not deceive you – it is just as sturdy as a kayak can be, owing to its high density polyethylene material.
You can track and paddle this model without any sweat, allowing you to devote your energy to fishing instead. The kayak also offers superior stability, meaning that you don’t have to worry about it toppling over. But avoid rapids in rivers. Its three dedicated fish rod holders and UV resistant frame make the Sun Dolphin Excursion the ideal fishing companion.
- High density material.
- UV resistant.
- Multiple fish rod holders.
- Lightweight material and highly portable.
- Warranty policy not specified.
- Versatile features like multiple footrests are absent.
The Sun Dolphin Excursion is ideal for solo anglers who seek convenience and portability in a model.
5. Vibe Kayaks Skipjack Fishing Kayak:
If you thought it ended with a two-seater model, think again! The Vibe Kayaks Skipjack is a multi-person model and is suited for three riders. Whether you want two of your angler friends to tag along in your fishing journey or you just want an audience, this model is ideal for you. It is a 12 feet long kayak, weighing only 72 pounds; a highly durable and sturdy ride that can handle a maximum of 500 pounds.
The kayak comes equipped with two journey paddles and two deluxe seats that not only look stunning but feel comfortable for your lumbar region as well. Even if your family members or friends don’t like fishing, they will enjoy the ride. The model offers two flush mount holders and several versatile mounting spots to help you fish with ease, according to your preferences.
There is ample storage space onboard, which means you can carry all that you need with you on a fishing trip. Two hatches, that seal perfectly, are ideal for housing smaller items while a rear storage area can store larger items. You can put the paddles safely in specialized holders so that you don’t forget them. Four carrying handles make portability and transport convenient so that you can invest your energies on the actual goal: fishing.
- Three-person seater.
- Ample storage space.
- Paddle holders.
- Deluxe seats.
- Carries a maximum of 500 pounds. This capacity could’ve been a bit higher.
- Not as portable as a smaller model.
The Vibe Kayaks Skipjack is ideal for a fishing trio or for someone who just wants their friends to tag along – a perfect three-person rider.
6. Perception Pescador Pro 12 Fishing Kayak:
The Perception Pescador Pro 12 is ideal for beginners, as the company itself advertises it as being “your perfect first fishing kayak”. The seat is comfortable, built in a lawn chair fashion with a breathable mesh that keeps you comfy all day long. You may also adjust the seat at two different levels.
The model has a solid one-piece frame which is leak-proof, lightweight, sturdy, and durable. A built-in buoyancy mechanism adds to the safety and stability of the kayak, making it ideal for turbulent waters. During paddling, you may lower the seat and raise it while casting the line; both ensure optimal performance.
The kayak is designed and produced in the USA. It has expansive storage compartments situated conveniently in the front and the rear, ideal for housing fishing gear, a cooler, and assorted items. Multiple rod holders and integrated accessory holders make the model ideal for its job.
- Ideal for beginners.
- Lightweight, sturdy, and durable.
- Expansive storage compartments.
- Comfortable and adjustable seat.
- Warranty policy not specified.
- Lacks advanced features.
If you are starting as an amateur angler, the Perception Pescador Pro 12 is an ideal choice. We admit that it lacks some advanced features advertised in other models, but it is perfectly safe and gets the job done thoroughly.
7. BKC TK181 Fishing Kayak:
Do you wish to take the kids along on your epic fishing adventures? Brooklyn Kayak Company’s BKC TK181 is ideally suited for just that. This three-seater kayak is great for paddling with multiple riders on board – the more the merrier. The model is packed with two deluxe comfortable seats that go easy on the back and let you enjoy the ride as you seamlessly paddle your way through a lake.
Two adjustable paddles, constructed from highly durable aluminum, are present on board to propel and guide the kayak through the water body. The model is equipped with two waterproof sealed storage compartments for housing all items you need. You can also use any of the six-rod holders to cast the line on your preference and store away the paddles in dedicated holders so that you don’t lose them.
The high density polyethylene material used in the construction of this model offers ultimate protection against leaks and is lightweight too. You may take the craft on the ocean, or row silently in a lake or river. The maximum weight bearing capacity is 595 pounds, and the model is guaranteed to remain stable even when you traverse through choppy currents.
- Three-person seater.
- Weight capacity is 595 pounds, which is highly appreciated.
- Includes ample storage space and holders for resting equipment.
- Sturdy and durable design.
- It is not suited for solo anglers, they would need a smaller model.
- It is not as portable as smaller models.
The BKC TK181 kayak is ultra-stable, safe, convenient, and ideal for your family fishing trip with kids on board.
8. Coleman Rio Fishing Kayak:
This is another solo model for those who like to take it to the water alone. The Coleman Rio, however, is different from the models we’ve considered so far: it’s an inflatable kayak. Do not let this deter you because inflatable kayaks and gas-filled balloons are very different. Not only is this model puncture-resistant, it offers kayak-like maneuverability but with a lightweight design.
The canoe offers stable and safe rides even in rough and choppy waters, owing to its double-hull design and elevated bow and stern. You need not to worry about stability, safety, or convenience of riding this model as it guarantees all of it. From a separate but relatable quarter, inflatable canoes like these are used by military personnel due to superior speeds and maneuverability.
Coleman Rio has a tough and durable PVC framework that is covered with a 420D nylon fabric. Its bottom section is reinforced to provide extra safety. You may use the directional strakes to claim maximum command on the steering of the canoe while you row the paddles. Despite its deceptively delicate looks, this model can hold a whopping 350 pounds of weight (this is a lot for a one-seater) and comes with a year-long warranty.
- Inflatable, lightweight, and durable.
- Offers superior speeds and maneuverability.
- Sustains 350 pounds of maximum weight.
- Made from high quality materials.
- The warranty will only last for one year.
- Some people may be deterred from buying an inflatable canoe.
If you are looking for a lightweight yet durable option that offers better speeds and maneuverability, look no further because the Coleman Rio kayak is perfect for you.
9. BKC FK184 Fishing Kayak:
The BKC FK184 is Brooklyn Kayak Company’s top contender for the solo category. This model is packed with all that you need to embark on a fishing crusade all by yourself. Day or night, this kayak is ready for action at all times but the question is: are you? The kayak is designed and crafted to offer complete safety and stability to anglers who are undeterred by turbulent waters.
It has a deluxe padded seat equipped with extra comfortable memory foam, which offers the most personalized lumbar support during those long quests. The paddle included is made of aluminum and is completely adjustable to your preference, you can store it a dedicated paddle park when not using it. For storing vital fishing gear and special items, there are two sealed hatched with expansive interiors.
You can mount your fishing rod on any of the five holders spread out on the frame of the kayak and cast the line according to your comfort. The model is crafted from a lightweight yet highly sturdy polyethylene material, making it ideal for long term use. It can support up to 330 pounds of weight, and face the ocean, lakes, estuaries, or rivers. The best part is the stability which makes the kayak perfect for casting the line while standing still.
- Lightweight yet sturdy construct.
- Ample storage space included.
- It can face turbulent waters.
- The seat is equipped with a memory foam for personalized lumbar support.
- Warranty policy is unclear.
- Not available in multiple colors.
Those who rely upon nothing but the best when fishing on their own must choose the BKC FK184 owing to its durable and stable construct.
10. Old Town Predator MX Angler Fishing Kayak:
The name says it all; Predator is up for action, as long as you are. This kayak is ideal for fishing and rowing in sports events. If you wish to calmly paddle your way to the fishing arena without startling the fish, this kayak will be ideal for you. It offers a comfortable seating system, adjustable to high and low positions. Ideally, you should set it to a low position while rowing and high while casting a line.
The kayak is loaded with features that make it an ideal choice, for instance, the deck is slip-resistant, meaning that you will be safe on board. There are multiple fishing rod holders built into the frame to let you cast the line from wherever you wish. When not paddling, you can store the paddles in dedicated paddle rests, this way you won’t ever forget them home when you set forth for your fishing quest.
There is ample storage space onboard, allowing you to store all the necessary equipment without hassle and not worry about them. The biggest sell of the model is the reputation of the manufacturer, Old Town has been in the business for a long time and there is good reason in trusting their products.
- Stable, safe, durable, and comfortable.
- Slip-resistant deck.
- Reputed manufacturer brand.
- Ample storage space onboard.
- Warranty is not specified.
- Not available in many colors.
Old Town is a name worth trusting and the Predator MX Angler Fishing Kayak is just as impressive as the reputation of the brand itself.
Kayaks are among the most primeval vessels still in use, they are stealthy and easy to operate. The plethora of models listed above were selected based on their merits and by considering how they may add value to your fishing experience. It is important to use a model that helps you minimize the hassle and preserve your strength for the actual challenge, catching a fair-sized fish.