Kayak fishing provides some excellent opportunities to access spots you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to from land. It’s also significantly cheaper and easier than owning a boat. The popularity of kayak fishing has grown tremendously and there are tons of options to choose from – sometimes too many.

This guide will offer advice and discus some of the key considerations when picking out a fishing kayak. At the end of the article you’ll find reviews of some of the best fishing kayaks currently available on the market.

best fishing kayak

The first part of this guide is full of advice on what to look for in a fishing kayak. If you already have a good idea what you’re looking for, you can jump ahead to the reviews section for the top picks.

Fishing Conditions

Where will you be fishing?

One of the first and most important questions you should ask yourself before picking up a fishing kayak is where you’re going to be fishing. Knowing the type of water you’ll be fishing in will go a long way toward helping you hone in on a kayak that’s well suited to that style of fishing.

Smaller lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers

In these environments you’re not likely to be covering as much distance as you would in open water. Generally speaking, you’re probably better off with a boat that focuses less on speed and more on maneuverability so you can cruise along the shoreline or duck around obstacles.

Large lakes and coastal waters

In larger, more open bodies of water you’re likely to be coving more distance on the water. In this case, having a kayak that is faster and tracks straighter through the water can be a real advantage. If you plan to launch into surf, look for a boat with an upturned bow that’ll punch through the waves as you paddle past the breakers.

Sit-in vs Sit-on-Top

Sit-in vs Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayaks

The choice between a sit-in or a sit-on-top fishing kayak is largely one of personal preference. Having said that, most anglers prefer sit-on-top kayaks for three reasons:

Sit-on-top advantages

  1. Freedom of movement – You’re not confined inside a cockpit so you can move your body as needed when bringing in fish or accessing gear.
  2. Easy access to gear – The open deck of a sit-on-top gives you easy access to gear so you can quickly swap out tackle.
  3. Easy capsize recovery – If you do manage to tip a sit-on-top, they’re much easier to recover than a sit-in. All you have to do is flip it over and scramble back on.

So, why would you go for a sit-in kayak?

  • Shelter from the elements
  • Better performance

The major downside of sit-on-top kayaks is you’re almost guaranteed to get wet. Sit-in kayaks offer more protection from the elements and you’re much less likely to get wet.

If the water you’re fishing in is cold, getting wet can be a drag. You can deal with it by wearing waterproof clothing and neoprene booties but if the water is cold enough, you may be more comfortable in a sit-in kayak.

Another point in their favor is that sit-in kayaks tend to be faster and offer the paddler more control over the boat. You can brace your thighs against the inside of the cockpit of a sit-in kayak, which makes for more efficient paddling.

Generally, speed isn’t the most important quality in a fishing kayak. But if you plan to do a lot of recreational paddling as well as fishing, a sit-in kayak may be a good compromise.

Kayak Size

Kayak Size & Why it Matters

The length and width of a kayak have a direct impact on how it performs and handles in the water.

Length

Longer kayaks will generally be faster and track straighter through the water, while shorter kayaks will tend to be slower but more maneuverable. Most fishing kayaks are between 10-16 feet long.

Shorter boats tend to do better in smaller bodies of water or rivers that require a bit more maneuverability. Longer kayaks are better for longer distance paddling and in open water where you’re more exposed to wind and waves and need better tracking.

Width

The width (beam) of a kayak primarily impacts its stability on the water. Wider kayaks offer better stability but create more drag as they move through the water, so they’re slower. Fishing kayaks generally run between 30-36 inches in width.

Most anglers are quite happy to sacrifice some speed for added stability and most fishing kayaks wider compared to standard kayaks.

Transportation

When you’re amped up to hit the water and start bagging fish, it can be easy to forget about the logistics of kayak fishing.

It’s a fairly obvious point but easy to overlook – the larger your kayak is, the heavier and more difficult it’ll be to to transport.

While a large kayak may make a great fishing platform, it won’t do you much good if it sits in your garage because it’s too much of a pain to load up and launch.

Anglers can and definitely do fish out of larger kayaks but, with some of the heavier ones weighing in at close to 150 pounds, they require some extra logistical planning and effort.

Stand Up Fishing

To Stand or Not To Stand

Some fishing kayaks are built so you can stand up in them. Fishing from a standing position offers a few key advantages.

Standing Advantages

  • Better casting accuracy and longer casting distance.
  • Higher vantage point and increased visibility into the water for locating fish.
  • Better position for setting the hook and fighting fish.
  • Change between sitting and standing can help you stay comfortable through the day.

With all the advantages of stand up kayak fishing, it’s important to recognize that it’s not for everybody. It’s definitely a bit more precarious, so you may want to give it a pass if you’re not that confident in your balance.

Standing up also isn’t as advantageous in deep or exposed water like you’ll find in a lot of coastal fishing. In these conditions, the fish are often too deep to see even if you are standing. And any wave action can make standing a challenge even for the most sure-footed anglers.

Whether or not a kayak is ‘standable’ has as much to do with the kayak as it does with the angler. If you’ve got particularly good balance, you might be able to get away with a boat other anglers would consider too unstable for standing.

If you do want to stand while fishing, look for a wider boat with a flat deck so you have a level surface to stand on.

Paddle vs Pedal

Paddle vs Pedal Power

Another key consideration is whether you want a fishing kayak that is propelled by paddle or pedal power.

Most fishing kayaks stick with tradition and use a paddle for propulsion and maneuvering. But there are a growing number of fishing kayaks on the market that use a pedal-powered system to get around.

The biggest selling point for pedal-powered kayaks is that you’ve always got your rod in hand and don’t have to reach for a paddle to correct your kayak’s position. This is particularly helpful if you’re fishing in areas that are exposed to wind or currents and your kayak tends to get pushed around while you’re casting or bringing in a fish.

Many anglers also find that they don’t tire as quickly with a pedal kayak, so they may be a good choice if you’re covering long distances while fishing.

Pedal Pros

  • Hands-free operation
  • Tire less quickly

Pedal Cons

  • Cost
  • Less space for gear
  • Heavier
  • Less maneuverable
  • Don’t do well in very shallow water

Despite the major advantage of hands-free operation, pedal-powered kayaks do have some drawbacks. And just because you have a pedal kayak doesn’t mean you don’t need a paddle – it’s still a good idea to bring one with you in case something goes wrong with the pedal drive.

Pedal driven kayaks are significantly more expensive than traditional kayaks and the pedal systems take up a fair bit of space that could otherwise be used for gear. They also add some additional weight to your rig, which can make transportation and launching more challenging.

Because the pedal drive systems extend below the bottom of the kayak, they don’t do well in very shallow water. You can raise the drive system out of the water and use a paddle if the water gets too shallow, but a pedal kayak may not be worth it if you plan to do a lot of shallow water fishing.

Features

Other Features

Rod holders & accessory tracks

Having a single rod holder is the bare minimum for any fishing kayak worth its salt. Ideally, you’ll want a couple so you have the option to stash multiple rods with different setups. This will allow you to quickly switch your gear out and try something different if the fish aren’t hitting your primary setup. It’s also nice to have a backup rod in case you run into any mechanical issues with your main rod.

If you think you’ll want to customize your rig in the future with additional rod holders, a fish finder, camera mounts, or other add ons, look for a kayak with an accessory track. It offers a lot of flexibility in getting your kayak setup just how you want it and allows you to move things around if your style changes down the road.

Seat

A comfortable seat is probably one of the most underrated features in a fishing kayak. It’ll allow you to spend hours on the water focused on catching fish rather than worrying about how your back is going to feel the next day (or how it feels while you’re on the water).

If your fishing trips will be short, it’s not as big of a deal. But your body will thank you for spending a bit extra on a nice seat if you plan to be out for more than a few hours at a time. Look for something that provides good support and can be adjusted to get a better fit for your body.

Onboard storage

Having a storage hatch between your legs is a nice spot for essentials that you need easy access to like extra lures, snips, pliers, or a secure spot for your cell phone.

Having a large tank well is ideal for holding extra tackle or a cooler for keeping your catch fresh. Another option for storing your catch is an insulated fish bag – most fit well at the bow of a kayak so you can easily lean forward and reach it without having to twist around to access a rear tank well.

Weight capacity

While you can load a kayak down to its maximum capacity, it’s generally not very good for performance – it’ll sit extra low in the water, which makes it slower and harder to maneuver.

A conservative rule of thumb is to give yourself 50% more capacity that what you expect to use. So, if you’re 175 pounds and carrying 25 pounds of gear, you’d want a kayak that has a weight capacity 50% more than 200 – or roughly 300 pounds.

Reviews

Best Fishing Kayak Reviews

Feelfree Lure 10

Overall Score: (4.6/5)

Feel Free Lure 10 Fishing Kayak 2016 - 10ft/Winter Camo

Specifications:

Length: 10’

Width: 36”

Weight: 69 lbs

Weight capacity: 375 lbs

Performance:

Stability:

Features:

Value:

Features: Padded standing platform, fully adjustable seat, large rear tank well with bungee tie downs, front dry storage hatch, center console, adjustable footrests, two flush mount rod holders, accessory track, keel wheel

Ideal for: Anglers that want to fish standing up.

 $999.00

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2018-11-30 at 01:05 – Details)

Review

If you’re looking for an incredibly stable kayak for stand up fishing and don’t want to break the bank, the Lure 10 could be a great fit. It packs in some great features and is designed for excellent comfort whether you’re standing or sitting.

The Lure 10 comes with the features that are standard for most fishing kayaks – lots of storage space, two rod holders, and an accessory track for customizing your rig. Where it really distinguishes itself, though, are the design touches that make it a great stand up fishing kayak.

The deck is wide, flat, and open so there’s plenty of room for standing. It’s also padded and textured for extra comfort and better footing.

Besides its width, the hull adds stability by using a pontoon-style design, which is arguably one of the most stable hull shapes around.

The Gravity seat that comes standard with the Lure 10 is another key feature – it has great support and padding and is highly adjustable so you can get just the right fit.

The Lure 10 isn’t going to win you any races but that’s the compromise you make for the exceptional stability that makes it such a solid stand up fishing platform.

If you want something that performs a bit better over longer distances, consider the Lure 11.5. It has all the features of the Lure 10 but is a bit longer and can accept an optional rudder system.

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14

Overall Score: (4.5/5)

Hobie Pro Angler 14 Olive

Specifications:

Length: 13′ 8”

Width: 38”

Weight: 144.5 lbs

Weight capacity: 600 lbs

Performance:

Stability:

Features:

Value:

Features: Adjustable seat, MirageDrive pedal drive, rudder, extra large rear tank well with bungee tie downs, large front storage hatch, small tackle box storage hatch, H-Rail accessory mounting system, two flush mount rod holders

Ideal for: Anglers that want the best and don’t mind paying for it

 $3,649.00

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2018-11-30 at 01:05 – Details)

Review

Hobie has built their reputation on producing exceptionally high quality kayaks that are thoughtfully designed and outfitted with top of the line features. They’re basically the Rolls Royce of kayak fishing and their flagship model is the Mirage Pro Angler.

It’s powered by the MirageDrive pedal drive system, which is arguably the best pedal drive system for shallower water or for moving through vegetation without getting bound up.

The Mirage Pro Angler is wide even by fishing kayak standards so it’s got excellent stability and the open, flat deck is about as good as it gets for stand up fishing. The floor mats are a nice touch and provide some added grip while standing.

It has tons of storage space for gear with a huge front hatch that is ideal for storing your catch and an even larger rear tank well – you’d be hard-pressed to run out of storage space.

It also has a convenient tackle box storage hatch located just in front of the seat for easy access to your gear. The extended accessory rails means you’ve got lots of space to position you accessories just where you want them.

Like everything else on the Mirage Pro Angler, the seat is of exceptional quality and offers great comfort and support and can be adjusted for your desired fit.

There are only two real downsides to the Mirage Pro Angler – weight and price. But if you want the best and don’t mind paying top dollar, it might be just the ticket. Just make sure you have a plan for transporting it.

Perception Pescador Pro 12.0

Overall Score: (4.5/5)

Perception Kayak Pescador Pro Sit On Top for Fishing

Specifications:

Length: 12′

Width: 32.5”

Weight: 64 lbs

Weight capacity: 375 lbs

Performance:

Stability:

Features:

Value:

Features: Adjustable seat, front tank well with mesh cover, large rear tank well with bungee tie downs, small dry storage hatch, center console with fish finder transducer port, under seat tackle box storage, adjustable footrests, two paddle holders, two flush mount rod holders, two accessory tracks

Ideal for: Anglers that want a comfortable fishing rig without sacrificing performance.

 from $703.20

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2018-11-29 at 23:31 – Details)

Review

The Pescador Pro is capable of going toe to toe with the best of them. It’s a performance focused fishing kayak so it’s a solid choice if you want to bounce around from spot to spot and don’t want to feel like you’re paddling a barge.

Despite it’s focus on performance, the Pescador Pro doesn’t skimp on the creature comforts. The adjustable mesh and aluminum seat is very comfortable and offers good support and ventilation for all-day comfort while you’re on the water.

It has tons of storage space for your gear with a mesh-covered front tank well and a large rear tank well that can accommodate a milk crate or cooler with room to spare. There’s a handy tackle box storage spot right below the seat so you can quickly swap out your gear. It does have a small dry storage hatch but it’s behind the seat so it’s a bit harder to access.

The Pescador Pro has two molded rod holders located behind the seat. There are two accessory tracks, so if you want to add more rod holders or other accessories, you’ve got options. Speaking of accessories, the center console is an ideal spot for stashing away the battery and cables for a fish finder if you decide to use one.

The Pescador Pro is a solid all around contender that includes some well thought out features that’ll make you’re time on the water more enjoyable while you’re bringing in the fish.

 

 

Vibe Yellowfin 100

Overall Score: (4.3/5)

Vibe Kayaks Yellowfin 100 | 10ft Angler Sit On Top Kayak | 1 Person Fishing Kayak w Journey Paddle & Hero Seat

Specifications:

Length: 10′

Width: 32”

Weight: 57 lbs

Weight capacity: 375 lbs

Performance:

Stability:

Features:

Value:

Features: Adjustable seat, large rear tank well with bungee tie downs, two dry storage hatches, two tackle box holders, adjustable footrests, two paddle holders, four flush mount rod holders, accessory mounting point

Ideal for: Anglers looking for a throw-and-go rig with all-day comfort

 from $649.99

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2018-11-30 at 01:05 – Details)

Review

The Yellowfin 100 makes for an excellent throw-and-go rig. It’s relatively compact size and light weight means it’s easy to throw in the back of a truck or load on top of your car with minimal hassle.

Despite it’s compact size, the Yellowfin 100 is 32 inches wide, so it’s still nice and stable on the water. Some anglers manage to stand up and fish from it but it’s not specifically designed for it.

There’s plenty of storage space with a large rear tank well and two dry storage hatches. It’s also got two dedicated tackle box holders on either side of the seat that are designed to fit the Plano 3600 tackle box.

The seat itself offers good support and comfort for longer days on the water. The only adjustment point is the angle of the backrest but should meet the needs of most paddlers.

There’s no shortage of rod storage with 4 capped flush mount rod holders and an additional accessory mounting point in between the paddler’s legs.

Its shorter hull length means it’s particularly maneuverable and is best suited for smaller bodies of water and rivers rather than long distance paddling along coastlines or large lakes.

The Yellowfin 100 offers some exceptional value for anglers that want the simplicity of a compact fishing kayak but don’t want to skimp on comfort.

Old Town Vapor 10 Angler

Overall Score: (4.1/5)

Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Vapor 10 Angler Fishing Kayak, Urban Camo

Specifications:

Length: 10′

Width: 28.5”

Weight: 49 lbs

Weight capacity: 325 lbs

Performance:

Stability:

Features:

Value:

Features: Adjustable seat, rear tank well, forward deck bungee, adjustable footrests, paddle holder, two flush mount rod holders, anchor trolley system

Ideal for: Anglers that prefer a sit-in fishing kayak

 $499.00

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2018-11-29 at 23:31 – Details)

Review

If your going to fish some colder waters or want something that paddles better than your average sit-on-top fishing kayak, it’s hard to go wrong with the Vapor 10 Angler.

The large open cockpit gives you the advantage of being sheltered from the elements without sacrificing too much freedom of movement and access to gear. And the narrower hull helps the Vapor cut through the water and track reasonably well despite being a shorter 10-foot kayak.

The two flush mount rod holders are nicely angled for trolling – a style of fishing the Vapor is suited to due to its ease of paddling.

Dedicated storage space is a bit limited with a single rear tank well, so you should be prepared to stash some gear between your legs.

One nice added touch is the anchor trolley system that comes standard with the Vapor 10 Angler. It allows you to adjust the direction your kayak is pointed while anchored up – a nice feature when you want to stay put when the wind is up or if you’re in a current.

Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS

Overall Score: (4/5)

SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Journey Sit-on-top Fishing Kayak (Sand, 10-Feet)

Specifications:

Length: 10′

Width: 30”

Weight: 44 lbs

Weight capacity: 250 lbs

Performance:

Stability:

Features:

Value:

Features: Adjustable backrest, rear tank well with removable storage console and bungee tie downs, small front tank well, small dry storage hatch, adjustable footrests, two paddle holders, two flush mount rod holders, one swivel rod holder

Ideal for: Anglers on a budget that want excellent value for their money.

 from $275.02

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2018-11-29 at 23:31 – Details)

Review

If you’re on a budget but still want to bag some fish, the Journey 10 could be a great fit. The build quality isn’t the best but it manages to pack in some solid features at a budget-friendly price.

It has both front and rear open storage compartments with bungee tie downs. They should offer enough space for your gear and catch as long as you don’t go crazy. The removable console in the rear may be a bit awkward to reach into while paddling so you may be better off leaving it at home and just using the tank well.

The Journey comes with 3 rod holders – 2 flush mounts behind the seat and a swivel rod holder that sits between your legs just in front of the center storage hatch.

One nice feature you don’t normally see on budget models are the track-adjustable foot rests which offer better control and comfort compared to the standard molded footrests you find in most entry level sit-on-top kayaks.

The Journey’s biggest drawback is arguably its seat, which is really just an adjustable backrest. There’s no bottom section to the seat so you’re sitting directly on the contoured plastic of the deck. If price is a bigger concern than comfort or you don’t plan to fish for extended periods it may not be a huge issue. All the same, you may want to consider bringing a padded seat bottom just in case.

At 10 feet long and 30 inches wide, the Journey is a fairly compact fishing kayak, which makes it light and easy to transport but reduces its overall weight capacity. If you’re much over 200 pounds you may want to consider upgrading to the 12-foot model, which is rated for 395 pounds.

While there are certainly better fishing kayaks on the market, you’d be hard pressed to find one that offers the same features at such a reasonable price.

Wrapping Up

Choosing the best overall fishing kayak is a tough ask – it’s highly dependent on the type of fishing you’re doing and personal preferences. With that caveat in mind, our pick for the best fishing kayak for most people is the Feelfree Lure 10.

It offers a great overall stability and comfort, which are mandatory for any serious fishing kayak. It also packs in some solid features at a relatively reasonable price that allow for a variety of fishing styles without restricting you to any particular one.

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