Best Fishing Kayaks Reviewed and Tested
The most effective and exciting way to fish is from a kayak. As an avid kayak fisherman, I have no trouble saying that.
I have fished from beaches, piers, boats and now kayaks for fishing and can say, without a doubt, that I have had more fun and caught more fish from a kayak than any other method.
Our Top 3 Picks
In the last few years, kayak fishing has exploded in popularity. Finally, kayak manufacturers have started making fishing kayaks that are more than just a regular kayak with a fishing rod holder like they were years ago.
Every fisherman has different needs and wants. It’s pretty easy now to find the best fishing kayak for whatever type of fishing you are looking to do.
If you are just learning what kayak fishing is, or have been exposed to it and want to learn which are the best kayaks for fishing for you, then I will guide you through the ins and outs of kayak fishing boats. Armed with this information you will be able to narrow down what you are looking for and find exactly the right kayak for your needs and budget.
Browse through my fishing kayak reviews and find your best option.
1. Lifetime Sport Fisher Single
Solo kayakers will love the extra space that you get in a 10 foot kayak. Most 10 foot fishing kayaks have to give up some space to move around to accommodate lots of gear or features.
If you do use it yourself, you can easily get it on top of your car yourself as it weighs 60 pounds. Less than most single kayaks. Best of all, there is plenty of room to stand up to sight fish or fly fish on this kayak. The tunnel hull gives it enough stability to do so.
The unique design with the upturned bow makes it very maneuverable and easy to paddle.
It’s nice to have options. You can use this alone and enjoy all the extra room. You can bring your kids along to enjoy a day on the water. Use it to fish or just take in a lazy day floating downstream.
No matter how you use it, you will be happy you did.
- High quality
- Water might get into the kayak when paddling
2. Coleman Colorado 2-Person
And if it does somehow get punctured, it has multiple chambers so the whole kayak doesn’t deflate and allows it to continue floating.
It has some really neat features included like rod holders, paddle holders, mesh storage pockets, adjustable seats and d-rings for fastening gear.
It is even fitted for a trolling motor in case you are looking to add some extra power.
Then there is the price. To get the kind of quality material and features, you would likely expect to pay more. And it would still be a bargain even f it did cost more!
- Great quality
- Great price value
- Guage to measure inflation
- Difficult to paddle without hitting the hard plastic mounts
3. Lifetime Muskie Angler
There is a lot to like in this 10 foot fishing kayak.
It isn’t the fastest kayak out there, but it tracks well.
I love how high it sits in the water. That makes for a very dry ride.
You’ve got three spots to keep your rods. Two flush mounted rod holders right behind the cockpit and one top mounted in front of the seat. If you are looking to troll, the front rod holder will get your rod tip out over the sides for easy hands free trolling.
The fact that Lifetime offers a 5 year warranty speaks volumes about the quality of this little vessel. They believe it is a great product and the warranty backs that up.
- Quality build
- Extremely sturdy
- Decent tracking
- Not extremely fast
4. Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 Angler
It’s one of the first kayaks to be outfitted as a fishing platform and has only gotten better with time.
It only has two flush mount rod holder, located just behind the seat. I wish it had at least one more to the side of the cockpit as I like to put my rod in when i am tying a lure or rebaiting, or whatever. But, that’s is just something that you would have to add on yourself. Which is easy enough to do.
At 62 pounds it isn’t a lightweight fishing kayak but it is not too heavy either. One person can load this onto a roof rack.
- Amazing stability
- Easy to transport
- Quality product
- The holders should have been installed a bit more forward
5. Sun Dolphin Journey 10-Foot
If you like an open tank well then just remove the box and put it away. The front of the kayak sports a shock cord secured tank well for easy access to your gear.
Two flush mount rod holders sit right in reach behind the seat are at a nice angle that get them out over the water a bit. Perfect for trolling hands free.
It’s very light, at only 40 pounds, so it is a breeze to load onto a roof rack. Getting it to the launch could not be easier either.
Two things I don’t like about this kayak. One is how low it is in the water. That might be good for speed and stability, but it makes for a wet ride. The other is that the seat is not very comfortable and your backside is wet all day since it takes on water. The solution to that is to buy a better seat.
This kayak might not have all the bells and whistles of the more expensive ones. If there are features you are looking for, then go ahead and make some upgrades. You will still spend less than you would on most other fishing kayaks and you get the chance to set it up exactly as you like.
Remember, this kayak will get you to the same spot in the water as one that costs thousands will!
- Great price value
- Lightweight design
- Comes with paddle holders on either side
- Doesn't track that well
6. Sevylor Tahiti Hunt
Time to get an inflatable kayak! This great inflatable fishing kayak can be folded up and stored in a closet. For those apartment dwellers out there, you can finally get a fishing kayak and keep it in your apartment.
It might seem like sharp hooks and an inflatable kayak don’t mix. The material is a 21 gauge PVC so it is extremely durable and it’s highly unlikely that a hook will cause a puncture. Though, a fishing knife could find a way.
Luckily, there are multiple air chambers so if it does puncture, it won’t sink on you.
The nice thing about it being inflatable is that you can make your seat as firm or soft as you like. The seats are removable. If you want to go out by yourself simply take a seat out. They can be moved to anywhere in the kayak, too.
For an inflatable kayak, not known for their maneuverability, it does handle being on the water very well. Though, with two people it can be hard to get any speed going.
For the price and portability, it is well worth it.
- Good price value
- It is very hard to maneuver and keep in a straight line with 2 adults
7. Hobie Pro Angler 14
I think of it more like a human propelled boat, than a kayak. It has many features of a small one person boat that is powered by foot rather than a motor.
The H-rail system is an easy and efficient way to add on the fishing gear you need. The beauty of that rail is that you can slide the gear to where you like rather than making holes in your hull only to find out you don’t like where you placed that rod holder or sonar.
The seat is as comfortable as it gets. You can sit all day and never feel that fatigue in your back. It looks more like a director’s chair than a seat you would find on a kayak. And it folds up to give more deck space enabling a great stand up platform for those fly fishers.
The compartment in front of the seat is the best I have seen. It is square shaped and big enough to hold two Plano tackle boxes. It closes up into a watertight seal with the twist of the handle.
And with rod holder for 6 rods, you can really go overboard with the gear that you bring along. And, there are tons of options for add-ons. Like, a live well for bait, an H-bar for sight fishing and even an electric motor for if you are going long distances.
Installing a sonar is made easy by a pre-installed through hull transducer mount with cables.
There are a few things to consider that may make you realize that this might not be the kayak for you.
One, it is heavy. It weighs over 130 pounds so it is very difficult to get on a roof rack. In fact, I have never even seen one carried on a roof. I have only seen them trailered or on the back of a pick up.
Two, it is very wide. That is a good thing if you plan to stand a lot in your kayak. It’s not so great when you want it to turn quickly.
Three. The price. It costs as much as a small boat. And with the optional features can really get up there in price.
If you have it in your budget, however, it comes highly recommended. To me, it’s still better than a boat since you can get to places that boats can’t.
8. Useful UH-TK181 12.5 foot
It’s easy to carry around since it has two padded handles. Getting on a roof rack is easy.
There are two compartments that can be used either to store your things like keys or wallet if you get a little bag that inserts. Or you can use the inside of the hull to store your catch if the fish can fit through the hole. They seal up nice and water tight with a twist of the handle.
This kayak is extremely stable, even with 2 large people on board. You will have to try to tip it over. Unless you are in very rough seas and get blindsided by a wave broadside, you shouldn’t have to worry about falling in.
With two people paddling with proper technique, you will make great time getting to your favorite fishing hole.
It doesn’t have tons of bells and whistles, which is a plus in my book. If you want a blank slate to add the items you like, where you like them then it’s nice not having too many add ons.
It’s the kayak that’s important. It’s stable, doesn’t weigh a lot, has great storage space and goes fast. What more could you want in a tandem kayak? Especially for the price.
- Sets well on water
- Can handle heavy gear
- No problems with capsizing
- The overall quality could be better
9. Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Vapor
The cockpit is bigger than most SIK and I was able to move around more than I expected. It even has the option to wear a spray skirt so you don’t get any water in the cockpit.
I loved the addition of the rear, molded tank well. It is on the small side, however. A milk crate will be too big.
The front of the cockpit has a molded cup holder and two small molded trays to put things like a lure, for example.
As far as the ride, it is very smooth. It tracks well, maintaining a fairly straight line. Very easy to paddle due to the low profile in the water.
A small detail that didn’t go unappreciated is the skid plate. I often scrape my own kayak at that same spot when loading it onto my roof rack. Instead of leaving that spot bare, Old Town wisely put a plate there that can take much more abuse than the material used on the rest of the kayak.
All in all, I have to say I enjoyed fishing out of the Old Town Vapor 12 and would recommend it to anybody looking for an economical sit inside kayak.
- Tracks straight
- It's smooth
- Is made of quality materials
Which fishing kayak is best for you?
Choosing the best fishing kayaks is like choosing the right shoes.
There’s no one-size-fits-all shoe just as there isn’t one type of kayak. Before you can decide which fishing kayak you should buy, you need to figure out what kind of fishing you will be doing, what your budget is and what your fitness level is.
Every kayak out there excels in some things and comes up short in other aspects. Come up with a list of must-haves, would-like-to-haves and can-live-without items. Check out the list of the top rated fishing kayaks later on in this article and see which boxes get ticked.
By the time you are done reading you should have a good idea of which one will best suit your needs.
Let’s go through the basics of what kind of fishing kayaks are available and what to look for in a kayak.
Sit Inside Kayak (SIK)
SIK are the original kayak. They have an open cockpit where you are sitting with the level of the water.
Sitting at the level of the water makes paddling much more efficient. You don’t need to paddle hard to go fast. With the right paddling technique, you won’t exert too much energy and will be able to stay on the water longer and keep fishing.
SIK are also great at keeping you warm and dry. Since your cockpit comes up almost to your armpits, there is much less splashing of water. And being enclosed somewhat, your body heat is trapped in the cockpit keeping you warm.
Most SIKs are made of lightweight material so are easy to carry around.
Negatives to consider are that they are more dangerous than Sit On Top kayaks. If you flip over, your kayak will fill with water and will be difficult to get back into.
Many SIK are fitted with inflatable tubes inside the hull to keep them floating is they do capsize. Carrying a bilge pump is required so if it fills with water you can pump it out before you get back in. Deck space is also limited so you have to be very efficient with the space you have to maximize how much gear you bring with you.
Sit On Top Kayaks (SOK)
The most common fishing kayaks are Sit On Top or SOK. They are rotomolded and hollow inside with no open cockpit. You literally sit on top of it.
Since they are hollow and sealed they won’t sink. If capsized, they are easy to turn over and climb back on top of.
You have more room to move around with much more space to carry your gear. In some cases, too much room! Some kayak anglers like to bring all the stuff they have!
The negatives are that you are exposed to the sun and wind and can end up too hot or too cold sitting on top. They are also much slower than their SIK brethren. Since they don’t go much below the surface of the water, they don’t glide as well. Even with proper paddling technique, you will have to work harder to go the same distance as a SIK. Unless you have a pedal propulsion kayak like a Hobie, which we will get into later on.
SOK tend to be much heavier than SIK, since they are made with polyethylene and are often made in multiple layers for strength. It’s not unusual for a SOK to weigh over 50 pounds, making it a challenge for some to mount on racks.
The longer the kayak, the faster and straighter they travel. Longer kayaks, however, are less maneuverable. They also are usually heavier than the shorter ones and are more difficult to lift into a car rack or carry to the water.
Wide kayaks usually offer more stability than narrow ones. This isn’t the only factor in stability, though, so don’t always assume that a wide kayak will automatically be more stable. What they do offer, though is a wider cockpit area thus more room to move around and more room for your gear.
How much a kayak weighs is an important factor to consider. Not so much because of how it will affect its performance on the water, but, for portability.
Will you be able to get a heavy kayak onto it’s rack by yourself? How easy or difficult will it be to get it to the launch? If you capsize, how easily can it be turned upright so you can quickly get back in?
How much storage space you need on your kayak will depend greatly on what you plan to do and how you plan to fish. Will you need a live-well on board? Will you be camping and need to store your camping gear in addition to your fishing gear? Will you need to store your fish somewhere?
You will be sitting for hours at time in your kayak. It’s really important that you stay as comfortable as possible. If you have back issues then you really need to consider what type of seat would be best for you. A bad seat in a kayak shouldn’t be a deal breaker, however.
You can always find a seat you like and mount that on the kayak. Keep the seat it came with for back-up, just in case.
Benefits of fishing from a kayak
Out on the kayak, it’s just you and the water. No chattering fisherman, no boat motors, just the sound of the water lapping against your hull. Total peace of mind and tranquility!
Besides the benefit of the quiet to your mental health, there is a more practical bonus.
Fish can’t hear you coming like they can on a boat.
My favorite thing in the world is to come upon a blitz of feeding fish, with birds diving into the fray and fish jumping clear out of the water while they chase the bait to the surface. In the kayak, I can paddle right into the heart of the maelstrom!
Countless times I have had a blitz all to myself with fish jumping all around me, literally splashing me in the face. Catching dozens of fish is not unheard of during a blitz like that. Then, the boats show up and drive the fish away. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted!
Lots of access
I have caught many fish in less than 2 feet of water. Especially when I fish the river inlets for Spring stripers as they forage for small bait on the edge of the water. Try doing that in a boat! With many potential great fishing spots being inaccessible by foot, you are severely limited when fishing from shore.
I can also get in really close to rocks and reefs that a boat can’t risk. With waves churning over some rocks that the big fish really love, I can get within a few feet and place some casts right into the boil. I have seen many captains eye me with envy as I deck a big one while they can only watch!
While some kayaks can get very expensive, with costs running into the thousands, the typical costs associated with kayak fishing are much lower than buying a boat. Cheap fishing kayaks are available on the market.
For a fee hundred dollars you can get yourself a very nice fishing package that will get you on the water and catching fish. That simply isn’t possible if you want a boat.
You also won’t be paying the high costs of fuel. The only fuel you might need are some carbs to keep your energy up to paddle all day!
And then there are the mooring costs. You have to pay to moor your boat all summer but a kayak can be kept in your backyard, a shed, basement or garage at no cost.
You won’t be paying insurance or for any kind of maintenance. There’s no motor that needs to be serviced every year before you get on the water and nothing to break down midseason that needs repair.
When trolling for fish, you need to go the speed of a fish. In a kayak, it is very easy to maintain a slow troll. Sometimes in boast, you really can’t get your trolling speed under 2 knots an hour. In a kayak that is about the speed you would do at a normal pace. And you can get it even slower.
Getting out on the water for a day of fishing is as simple as throwing your gear in the back of your car, topping your kayak in the rack and driving over to a good spot to launch.
Most days it would take me no more than a half hour to get from loading my gear to when I got the kayak wet. It may take you that long just to get your boat into the water when you get to your launch. Especially if there is a line of boats waiting in front of you.
No need to worry about taking turns launching from a kayak. Simply find a good spot where you can park your car and still get your kayak to the water and you are done. I live near the water and within 5 minutes of my house have infinite possibilities to launch a kayak. There are only 3 public launches for boats in my town. You do the math!
Being more or less level with the water makes for a better cast and retrieve. You may not get the casting distance as you would standing on a boat, but as I already wrote, you can get closer to the fish in a kayak anyway.
When you retrieve at water level, you can get much more natural action from your lure than you can when standing on a boat high above the water.
FAQ about fishing kayaks
Q: How safe are fishing kayaks?
A: They are very safe. As with anything that floats, you need to do your part to ensure that it stays a safe activity.
Allows wear a life vest. Don’t just keep it handy. Keep it on since you don’t know if you will be able to get to it in case of an emergency.
Always inspect your kayak before you take it on the water. Look for cracks and check that the storage hatches seal well. You don’t want to capsize and then find out the hatch didn’t close.
Check the weather forecast before you venture out.
Use common sense and your outing in a kayak will be a safe one. Before you head out in your kayak for the first time, I highly recommend talking to your local Coast Guard and ask about how to keep safe on the water.
The most important thing to keep in mind for safety is to know your limits. Don’t get yourself into a situation you are not able to get out of.
Q: Where do you keep your catch?
A: I usually bring a stringer along. I slip the line through the gill and mouth and then tie up my fish to the kayak and let them drift. Of course I don’t do this if there are sharks around! Sometimes I put a small bucket in my rear well and throw them in there if they are small enough. If it isn’t too hot out I will put them inside the hull by throwing them in the hatch.
Q: What if I fall in? How do I get back on top/inside?
A: There are a lot of videos on the internet that you should check out to see how it is done. You may even find one specific to the type of kayak you own. One thing you should definitely do after you watch some tutorials is to practice. If you have a pool or a shallow spot with calm water, you can fall in and try out your technique to get back in without risking your safety.
Q: Do you need a license to use a kayak?
A: There is no license required to use one. You may need to register it as a boat in some states, however. Check your local regulations.
Q: How do I take care of my kayak?
A: If you bring your kayak in salt water, make sure you spray it down after every use. Keep it out of direct sun as it will heat up the kayak and may cause it to weaken where the joints are. Don’t stack anything heavy on top when it is being stored. Use a trolley to wheel it around to avoid dragging it over a rough surface.
Q: Do I have to be in good shape to fish from a kayak?
A: Technically, no. But, the fitter you are, the safer it is. I am not exactly the fittest guy out there and I have no trouble spending a day out on the water.
Maybe you are an avid fisherman who is looking to try something different. Maybe you are new to fishing. Maybe you have been wanting something to keep you in shape and moving around.
Whatever your reason for wanting to get into kayak fishing, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is the only way I fish these days unless the weather doesn’t permit it and I have to go fish from a pier or beach.
It is an extremely fun, affordable, and effective way to catch many fish.
There is a good fishing kayak out there for everybody. Whatever your skill level, budget or prefered fishing method, you can find the right one.
I hope this guide helps you pick the right fishing kayak. Believe me, you will not regret it!