The best fishing kayaks offer anglers an affordable way to enjoy fishing in the ocean or on a calm lake. These kayaks are available for a fraction of the price you’d normally pay for even a small fishing boat, and some of them are built just as tough. Because they’re so affordable, there has been a major boom in demand. This increase in demand has led to manufacturers releasing new, bigger, and better models each year.
The styles range from your typical hardbody kayak, to inflatable models that are available at reasonable prices. Some kayaks are specifically designed for ocean use, while others are a perfect fit for fishing at your local lake.
Considering there are now so many models to choose from, pinpointing the model that’s right for you can take plenty of time and research. If you’re a beginner, then you probably don’t know what features to even look for, or how to tell the difference between a good kayak and a model that will only last for one season.
We’ve made it our mission to find the five best-selling models of fishing kayaks on the market. There are many styles and designs to choose from, so we made sure we included a model from each category, ranging from the best fishing kayak overall to models designed for beginners. We even found some great tandem kayaks, and models that are budget-friendly.
A Site You Can Count On
We want you to think of this site as a fishing kayak resource. Which is why we’ve not only reviewed the leading models of angling kayaks, but we’ve also included a buyer’s guide that will give you the rundown on what to look for in your next kayak, the must-have features that can enhance any fishing experience, and what you can expect in regard to performance based on style, length, and more.
If you’d like to learn more about kayak fishing, we also offer some great reads on kayaking in waves, for anglers who want to learn how to fish in open waters, and an article on how to get water out of kayak, so you’ll be better prepared in the event your kayak begins to take on water.
Basically, we’ve made sure we have all the information you need to find the type of kayak you’ve always wanted, so you can get the most out of your next kayaking experience.
We’ll begin by introducing our top-rated model by Vibe Kayaks.
|Sun Dolphin Journey||10 ft||250 lbs|
|Sea Eagle SE370K||12 ft.||2||500lbs|
|BKC UH-TK181||12.5 ft.||2||450lbs|
|Vibe Skipjack 90||9 ft.||1||300lbs|
|Lifetime Tamarack||10 ft.||1||275 lbs|
Best-Sit-on-Top Fishing- Kayak-Sun Dolphin Journey 10-Foot Sit-on-top Fishing Kayak
The Journey is a fun, easy to use fishing kayak by Sun Dolphin. It’s reasonably priced and weighs a mere forty-four pounds so it’s easy to haul and transport. The kayak is designed with beginners in mind, which is why it’s so simple to steer and offers better than average tracking ability. Did we also mention it’s pretty roomy? Bring along all the gear you want and need in this solo kayak that has a high fishability rating.
Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak-Sea Eagle SE370K P Inflatable Kayak with Pro Package
A tandem that’s incredibly stable and easy to maneuver, even when at capacity, this model is a solid buy for anglers who enjoy hauling a lot of fishing gear or spending the day on the river with their fishing buddies. Additionally, since the kayak is inflatable, it’s easy to transport, store, and haul it out of the water. Riding solo, you can remove a seat and bring along all the gear you want. This roomy kayak will get you where you need to go, thanks to its excellent tracking ability.
Best Tandem Fishing Kayak-BKC UH-TK181 Sit On Top Tandem Fishing Kayak
This tandem kayak offers plenty of storage space, excellent tracking, and impressive durability, which is why it’s our top-rated tandem. It’s also very versatile, allowing anglers to enjoy both flat water and whitewater angling. At home in the ocean or on a calm river, this model will allow the angler to enjoy the best of both worlds with a kayak that’s durable, powerful, and equipped with some great extra features. Because it’s so easy to use, it’s a good choice for beginners, but seasoned anglers will also love it for its versatility, extra storage space, and durability.
Best Fishing Kayak-Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 Fishing Kayak
The Skipjack 90 by Vibe Kayaks is versatile, tough, and designed for users of all skill levels. Measuring in at nine-feet long, this kayak’s main focus in on stability as opposed to speed, which is a huge plus for an angler who prefers to stand when casting. This model also has a reputation for excellent tracking, allowing anglers to finally reach those out of the way fishing hotspots that simply weren’t accessible with a traditional fishing boat. Loaded with some great features and designed to last, the Skipjack 90 has a lot to offer beginners and seasoned anglers alike.
Best Angling Kayak for Beginners-Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak
This budget-friendly kayak is also an ideal choice for beginners. It’s best suited for flat water conditions and features a compact design that adds to the kayak’s overall stability. It’s also covered by a five-year warranty, so you know this model is built to last. While it can’t quite handle whitewater conditions, anglers who prefer fishing on lakes and rivers will love how this kayak handles.
Fishing Kayak Buyer’s Guide
The best fishing kayaks will allow you to enjoy a leisurely day at your favorite lake, or they can safely guide you through rough ocean waters.
In the past few years, fishing kayaks have gained a lot of attention in the angling community. From salt to freshwater, you can’t go to your local fishing supply or sporting goods store without running into at least a few models.
This rise in popularity is mainly due to how affordable they are. Compared to fishing boats, choosing a fishing kayak can easily save you thousands of dollars. Additionally, the kayak’s compact design allows anglers to access narrow channels of water that simply aren’t accessible in a traditional fishing boat.
If you’ve decided that a kayak is the way to go, then your first priority is checking out length, style, features, accessories, and user weight.
Let’s begin our buyer’s guide by looking at length options.
The length of a kayak can have a major impact on how the kayak will perform once it’s in the water. Based on the type of water you normally fish in, you can determine the right length of kayak for your specific fishing needs. Kayaks that are shorter than eleven feet are much easier to maneuver and can handle a variety of water conditions, while kayaks that measure in at longer than twelve feet are said to be much faster. If you normally fish in lakes, backwaters, and creeks, then a kayak that’s easier to maneuver will be an excellent choice. If you primarily fish in the ocean or rivers, then a longer kayak is the best option.
Additionally, if you’re over six feet tall and close to three hundred pounds than you won’t want a kayak that’s smaller than eleven feet.
Ten years ago, an angler wouldn’t step foot in a kayak. But why? In the past kayaks didn’t exactly have a reputation for stability. But modern kayaks are incredibly stable and can even allow anglers to stand and cast without the fear of the kayak tipping over. On the other hand, a kayak that’s too stable can make it difficult to paddle long distances.
If you’re a larger angler, go with a kayak that’s wider, because they’re considered more stable. This design is a must for anglers who stand as they cast. If you mainly stay seated and stick to quieter rivers and ponds, then stability isn’t as important. A narrow kayak will be much easier to paddle but isn’t as stable. However, they can be an ideal option for anglers that cover a lot of water during their fishing trips. So, if you want to paddle to a far-off destination, go with a narrow kayak.
Most anglers are known for hauling way too much gear on each fishing trip, from a variety of rods, nets, lights, and other types of fishing gear, to snacks and drinks for the day and more. For that reason, if you’re a notorious over-packer then you’re going to need a kayak that offers a lot of storage space.
Some kayaks will have live wells and integrated storage. While others will come equipped with internal hatches. A sit-in kayak will have a hull that offers more open space that allows you to store all your gear.
Create a list of all the gear and equipment you normally bring on your fishing trips and keep this in mind when you’re shopping for a new kayak. Pay attention to any model that mentions it comes equipped with extra storage space.
What’s a Keel and Do I Need One?
The keel is a piece of plastic that’s fin shaped and works by sticking down into the water from the hull. It’s designed to improve both speed and tracking. Some models will have no keel at all, while others will have retractable keels or integrated ones. If you’re a beginner we recommend choosing a model with a keel, especially if you’re planning on trolling, fish in open water, or you usually fish in deeper waters. The keel can make paddling more efficient. If you often float around in shallow waters or fish in narrow channels, then a keel probably isn’t necessary.
Modern kayaks generally vary in weight from 35 to 50 pounds. This weight range is usually based on the style of kayak you choose. Sit on top kayaks are often heavier compared to sit inside models.
If you’re planning on using your kayak in waters that are a distance from the parking lot, then you’ll probably want a model that’s easy to drag and lightweight. You can also consider purchasing a kayak cart, which is a two-wheeled dolly that makes transport over the ground much easier. If you’re hitting the water straight from the back of your truck, then portability will be less of an issue.
Electronic or traditional anchoring systems can offer plenty of benefits if you often fish in open water or backwaters where you may want to set up and wait for the fish to come to you. However, an anchor system can add weight, which may negatively affect the kayak’s maneuverability and speed. Anchor systems can also be unnecessary for the angler who prefers to drift with the current when they’re fishing.
Do you plan on fishing in saltwater or freshwater? Slow moving rivers, ponds, cold water, warm water, or offshore? As we mentioned before, the type of kayak you choose will be based on a variety of factors, but ultimately, water conditions and water type will be one of the main ones that determine the overall style of kayak you choose.
Sit-in or Sit-on-top
Most anglers prefer the sit on top kayak because it allows them to get out and wade in the water, and it’s also perfect if you’re guilty of bringing along a lot of gear. Others like the sit-inside style of kayak for year-round fishing. These kayaks are perfect for fishing in colder waters and allow the angler to remain nice and dry. The angler’s center of gravity will be lower in this type of kayak since they will sit down inside the boat. This results in better stability compared to sit on top models.
The hull design can tell you a lot about how a kayak is able to perform in the water. If the hull’s bottom features a rounded design, then it’s easy to maneuver but will be difficult to stand up in. If the hull has a nice pronounced long keel that runs down the center, then the kayak will track fairly straight.
Edges, chines, and other design features can affect a kayak differently, so take a look at the hull design before you buy.
When you’re checking out the hull design primary and secondary stability will be important. Primary stability refers to the amount of effort it will take to tilt the kayak onto its edge. Once a kayak is on its edge secondary stability refers to the effort needed to flip the kayak over.
Storage and Transport
Once you’ve decided on the right style of kayak, you’ll need to figure out how you’re going to transport it. For getting to the launch site, you can choose from roof racks or trailers. Roof racks are less expensive and lower maintenance, but trailers certainly makes it easier to load and unload your kayak. For transporting your boat from your vehicle to the water, you may want to consider a kayak cart as discussed previously.
Storing your kayak can made easy with the use additional accessories. Many gear shops carry covers that will keep your kayak protected against dings, dust, and debris. There are outdoor storage racks or strap systems for your garage that will keep your kayak off the ground and safely out of the way.
Basically, what really separates a traditional kayak from a fishing kayak are rod holders. Most models will come with at least one or two rod holders, while larger, feature-packed kayaks can come with as many as five or six.
Where are you going to be fishing? If you plan on spending most of your time trolling for fish on a calm lake, then you probably don’t need a kayak that’s stable and slow and designed for standup use. If you’re going to try fly fishing from your kayak on a flowing, wide river, then a skinny, long sea kayak isn’t the way to go. Determine how you’ll be spending most of your time in your kayak and where. Then you can choose a design that will meet most of your needs.
When it comes to your budget, if you don’t have much money to invest in a new kayak, your options are going to be more limited. Some anglers recommend considering what you can afford and basing your choice on a model that fits your budget. While that’s definitely a responsible way to shop, it’s much smarter to save up for a kayak that will last for years to come and one that offers the features, size, and extras that you actually want. Don’t settle for a low-priced kayak that can’t get you where you want to go. A fishing kayak is supposed to enhance your fishing experience. There’s no point in buying a cheap kayak that is less stable, difficult to maneuver, or doesn’t have the features you’re looking for.
Most types of fishing kayaks that you’ll come across will be made from rotomolded plastic. Many models use this material because it’s cheaper and easier to produce. However, this type of material is also impressively tough. It can handle rough water conditions like you wouldn’t believe.
Thermoformed plastic is another common material you’ll find on kayaks designed for speed. This lightweight material will make a kayak lighter and faster. It’s also produced with a beautiful shiny finish.
Wood kayaks are expensive and beautiful, but there aren’t many models of fishing kayaks that are made out of wood. However, there are a few top-selling sea kayaks that are.
What is Kayak Fishability?
Fishability is a term that’s used commonly in the angling community, but many beginners don’t know what it really means, even though it’s probably the most important aspect of a kayak. When it comes to angling, fishability is basically the make it or break it factor that will determine if a kayak is worth a second look. Basically, fishability involves all the features we’ve discussed here that will determine how well an angler can fish from a particular model.
As an example, a model that has a few rod holders is great, but the rod holders will be totally useless if the mounts are installed in an awkward spot or spaced too far apart. If you’re not able to grab a rod quickly, then you won’t be able to troll using that rod holder, or you won’t be able to easily grab a rod once you spot some active fish that are within casting distance. Knowing that you can effectively and easily fish using your new boat is basically what fishability is about.
The type of features that can truly add to a kayak’s fishability are great add-ons you can actually install yourself. Accessories include camera mounts, rod holders, tracking gear, mounts for electronics, new kayak seats, deck padding, and light mounts. All of these accessories can add to your kayak’s fishability and make it fun and more functional.
Other Fishing Kayak Buying Tips
If possible, ask your fishing buddies for a ride in their kayaks in order to get a feel for how it handles. If you’re a beginner, it can be hard to settle on which kayak is right for you, especially if you’ve never been in one before. Reading fishing kayak reviews and hitting up angling forums are great ways to give you an idea of how each model performs.
If you decide to buy a heavier kayak, save your back and purchase a kayak cart. Loading up all of your gear plus your kayak and trying to drag it across grass, sand, or a parking lot will have you exhausted before you even get the boat in the water. A good kayak cart won’t cost much, and it’ll definitely come in handy, making it easy to get your kayak into the water or back to your truck.
Fish as much as you can. The more time you spend in your new kayak the faster you’ll get the hang of how to handle and maneuver it. Bring along a fishing buddy that has experience with kayaks, so they can give you some pointers on how to steer and guide your kayak through rough waters or narrow channels.