Best Fishing Kayaks – 2020 Ultimate Guide and Reviews
What is the best fishing kayak?
We’re going to try to help you make that decision! But we need to be clear on this....there is not one kayak that can be recommended for everyone.
Fishing kayaks come in all different shapes and sizes and each type is designed to work better in certain conditions.
Quick Picks: Kayaks For Fishing
(these links take you over to 3rd parties)
- Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 Angler
- Sea Eagle SE370K_P Inflatable Kayak
- Hobie Mirage Pro Angler (pedal)
- Pelican 'The Catch' 120 Kayak
- Lifetime Sport Fisher Kayak
- Perception Pescador Pro 12.0 Kayak
- Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 10
- Feelfree Lure 10
- Sun Dolphin Excursion Sit-In Fishing Kayak
- Old Town Loon 120
- Coleman Colorado Fishing Kayak
- Advanced Elements Straitedge Angler Kayak
- BKC UH-TK181 12.5 ft Kayak
- Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 120T
For example, you might not have much transport space inside (or on top of) your car, so is it maybe worth looking at an inflatable kayak that deflates and packs away into a convenient small space.
Or do you intend mostly heading out fishing alone or with a friend or partner? Then you might want to think about opting for a tandem kayak (or maybe stick with two solo ‘yaks!).
And then there's the question of pedal vs paddle.
ENOUGH QUESTIONS ALREADY!!!
Let's just get started with the most popular type. Sit-on-top.
Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayaks
Sit-on top kayaks are also known as SOT (Sit-On Top). They can also be referred to by some as SOKs.
SOT kayaks are designed for multi-purpose recreational pastimes, including general touring and diving (inc scuba) or swimming off-shore. But they can be great for fishing. They have a molded depression on top and a sealed hull.
Sit-on-tops are suitable for everyone. They are very easy to get into and out of…perfect if you want to get out and do some wade fishing in shallow waters. Having an open top also makes it easy to store and access your fishing tackle and any other equipment you might have.
SOTs are generally quite wide. This is good for stability, so they can be really good if you want a stand up fishing (stand up within the kayak), want to fly cast, are reeling in, or if you have a tendency to get nervous paddling around or when you need to grab anything from anywhere other than your seat.
The disadvantage to having width is that you will travel slightly slower, but this isn’t something that would bother most fishermen, as they aren't in a race!
This kayak angler certainly isn't bothered!
Top Rated Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayaks
Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 Angler (best all-round fishing kayak)
The Prowler 13 Angler is a sit-on-top fishing yak that’s designed for speed and efficiency, with its long and relatively narrow hull.
But despite its narrow hull, it’s also a stable vessel that can be ideal for fishing in lakes or the ocean, with ample secondary stability for handling choppy conditions.
It features a large oval hatch at the bow, as well as a 6 inch hatch with insert, and benefits from a spacious rear tank well that’s ideal for storing your crate or cooler. There’s also a cup holder in the center and molded foot wells for different leg lengths.
The yak benefits from having two flush mounted rod holders conveniently located behind the seat. It also comes with a padded Comfort Plus seat with seat back and features bungee deck rigging for attaching other gear.
Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 (best pedal fishing kayak)
The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 is a pedal kayak that’s built for anglers who want to keep their hands-free. With a huge weight capacity of 500 lbs and plenty of storage, it could be the ideal craft for spending a full day on the water, or even taking on a multi-day fishing trip.
Featuring the MirageDrive 180 pedal system, the foot pedals on deck propel the dual "Kick Up" fins under the hull, so you can reach your destination quickly and without needing to paddle, giving you more time to fish.
You can attach plenty of accessories to this craft with the H-rail and there’s storage for up to 6 fishing rods, as well as a large bow storage hatch, a sealed rear hatch and a tackle tray management system. There's plenty of options for adding a fish finder too.
The seating system lets you sit slightly elevated off the deck for better sight fishing and you can even stand up to fish if you prefer.
Perception Pescador Pro 12.0 Kayak
Ok, so here's another of our favorite sit-on top fishing kayaks on the list.
The Pescador is a 12 footer which features a multi-chine hull design which should help keep you stable and assist with tracking.
To help you sit down for long periods of time, the seat is removable and adjustable into two positions (upright and recline). The seat also slides along rails if needs be, as and when you need to.
So what about storage? Well, there’s a tankwell at the bow end, which is covered by fine mesh. At the rear is a large storage area, covered over with bungee rope to keep your essentials tied down. Towards the front of this well is a hatched compartment which screws on/off. You could store rods in here or whatever else you intend carrying along that needs to stay dry. Just note that the hatch is only five inches wide, so you may be restricted with some items.
There’s also a console right in front of the cockpit for easy access. It might be ideal for a battery for any electronics you might want to bring (fish finder or a GPS etc). You can store a drink in the slot directly in front of the console.
You’re going to want to add rods. The Pescador comes with two molded holders just behind the seat. If you want more, you can add rod holders to the GearTrac rails on the sides of the cockpit. You could also add other gadgets to these rails – totally up to you.
Rest your feet on the fully adjustable braces for maximum comfort.
Pelican Catch 120 Kayak
The Pelican Catch 120 is a sit-on-top fishing yak that is designed for stability with a tunnel shaped hull.
It features a spacious deck area that you can stand on while you reel in your catch and when it’s time to sit down there’s a comfortable mesh-backed seat that can be adjusted higher or lower.
The Catch has built-in rod holders, a bow storage hatch, a large rear tank well and a high weight capacity to let you bring along everything you’ll need for your trip.
It features front, rear and side carry handles, which can make it easier to lift. Being just 11 foot 8 inches it may also be easier to transport as it should fit in the back of a full size pickup. Takes up to 400 lbs of weight.
Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 10 (best pedal kayak for sea and ocean fishing)
The Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 10 is a pedal yak that’s geared up for fishing and with a high load capacity, it should be able to handle all the gear you’ll need for a day on the water (400 lbs in total).
It features a rotational pedal drive system that powers a propeller under the hull, meaning you're hands-free for fishing or photography. It comes equipped with a hand controlled rudder system for convenient maneuvering.
It has a large oval hatch at the bow, and storage compartments at the stern with bungee cords and a small dry storage hatch. It also benefits from built-in rod holders and gear tracks to let you add additional gear easily.
The Propel 10 is great on the ocean. There's more sea and ocean kayaks here.
It’s a stable craft that can be ideal for a range of conditions and features a padded deck for standing up, as well as a breathable, adjustable seat.
FeelFree Lure 10 Kayak (best value fishing kayak)
The FeelFree Lure 10 is an old favorite fishing yak that comes with plenty of features to let you enjoy a successful day on the water. It’s compact and stable, with a spacious deck area that can allow you to stand and cast.
It benefits from a Wheel in the Keel, so you can pull it safely along the ground and into the water. The Gravity Seat is designed for comfort and can be adjusted higher or lower to give you the best vantage point or paddling position.
There should be plenty of room for your gear with a rear storage area for your fishing crate and a large oval hatch at the front. It also comes with flush mount rod holders and front and rear gear tracks so you can add extra rod holders or accessories.
Lifetime Sport Fisher (best budget kayak)
This 10 foot PVC fishing kayak can be used for solo or tandem use (in fact 3 can fit on board).
It’s designed to be extremely stable, which makes it a good stand up fishing yak. There’s also scupper holes to drain any water from the cockpit area.
The seats are ergonomic with soft backrests, which makes it very comfortable to sit in.
It has ditty trays and shock cord straps to hold your loose items, a six inch storage hatch and 4 conveniently placed fishing pole holders.
We have more, if you want to learn more about the best sit on top fishing kayaks specifically.
Sit-In Fishing Kayaks
Sit-in, also known as SIK kayaks (or sometimes SINK) have a cockpit (with seat), which sits enclosed within the kayak. Think of your legs being covered over by the shell/deck. Often a spray skirt is also used to cover the cockpit and keep the water out.
Sit-in kayaks are less popular with fishermen in general. Those that do use them tend to use them for fishing at sea. The reason for this is because they are better for keeping dry. So, if you are at sea and the waves are big or it’s very cold, a SIK could be for you as you will be protected from the elements by the cockpit and spray skirt.
Be warned though, you need to be an experienced kayaker if you’re heading out on anything moderate or rougher. Even if the surf is calm, you’ll be surprised how fast things can change. The last thing you want is to be rolled over with wave after wave crashing on top of you and your gear!
Because you are sitting inside the cockpit, stability tends to improve. The lower center of gravity does make a difference. Turning and manoeuvring is also enhanced, as more of your body can pivot against the ‘yak in order to direct more pressure into your strokes. These benefits may not be so important for the fishermen out there, rather for kayak purists.
Anglers find SIKs are more difficult to get into and out of, especially if you're big into wade fishing. It’s not much fun continuously getting in and out of a sit-in kayak at the best of times. Think about what it must be like with having waders on at the same time!
It’s also more difficult to access fishing equipment when on the move.
Overall, we recommend sit-on-top kayaks for fishing. It’s just a whole lot more practical overall. Keep the sit-ins for those who are into more hardcore recreation, like the whitewater. SIKs do have some advantages though, so only you can decide for yourself the best way to go.
Top Rated Sit-In Fishing Kayaks
Sun Dolphin Excursion Sit-In Fishing Kayak
The Sun Dolphin Excursion kayak has a UV-stabilized PVC (Polyethylene) body so it is durable and protected against peeling and paintwork fading.
10 feet long (there's also a 12 ft version) and 30 inches wide, and coming in at 41 pounds, it's fairly easy to carry around. And the good news is that it’s another ‘yak that’s difficult to flip over.
It has two flush mount holders as well as a single swivel rod holder. There’s also a storage compartment and it has adjustable footrests, so anyone can fit inside comfortably.
Comes in 3 colors: 2 are different shades of green and a brown sand shade.
Old Town Loon 120
One of the classic kayak brands. Old Town give us the Loon 120, which is a sit-inside recreational kayak that’s been designed with versatility in mind. It has a spacious cockpit to allow for easier movement and more comfort when fishing.
The cockpit also features a removable work deck that can be ideal for storing accessories, a water bottle or tending to your catch. It has features a USB port to let you keep electronics charged up while you’re on the water, although you will need to purchase a battery separately.
There’s a storage hatch at the stern and plenty of bungee rigging on the deck for storing all your gear. The yak also benefits from a comfortable padded seat, thigh pads and adjustable foot braces.
What About Inflatable Fishing Kayaks?
Inflatable Fishing Kayaks are a popular option, suited more towards the recreational user. Yes, you may be thinking “Won’t I puncture the kayak with the fish hook or on a rock?”. Well they wouldn’t sell very well if they weren’t!
Inflatable kayaks are made to be very durable, and are mostly made from a combination of layers including PVC, nitrylon and haypalon. PVC is the most popular material. It’s quite durable, relatively light and cheaper than haypalon kayaks. Haypalon and nitrylon are tougher, but they are heavier and cost more.
Now we’re not going to lie to you. Top end inflatable kayaks are generally not going to track as well as top end hard-shelled kayaks, but for most people out there they are perfectly good enough for tracking and changing course.
As such, they are an option worth considering if you occasionally fish or if you’re just getting into the hobby, but want to start buying your own stuff straight away (we always recommend renting kayaks before buying them).
Video: How To Inflate A Fishing Kayak
One of the big advantages of an inflatable kayak is that they can be deflated, which makes them easier to transport around. The flip side of this is that you have to spend time and effort inflating and deflating the ‘yak every time you use it.
The more you go out on it, the more that pump is going to get used – hence why inflatable fishing kayaks are good options for occasional fishing folk.
Some users find inflatables a pain because ideally, they should be dried before packing away, to help stop corrosion. So depending on your situation, you may need to get where you’re fishing, inflate, use, deflate, then repeat the inflate/deflate process when you get home in order to dry the kayak out. This isn’t always the case, but it might be depending on your location and situation.
Top Rated Inflatable Fishing Kayaks
Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak
Made with 18-gauge PVC, it’s designed to take a battering. The Colorado has a few features that other kayaks lack.
It contains multiple air chambers, which means if you do get a puncture only a section of the yak will deflate.
There are motor fittings, should you wish to add an engine. Yes, sometimes all that paddling can get tiresome!
Customers overall are very happy with this yak. This is mainly because it has plenty of room for equipment and also because of how easy it is to inflate and deflate.
Advanced Elements Straitedge Angler Kayak (best inflatable)
The Straitedge from Advanced Elements is designed for the solo fisherman.
Although it is technically an inflatable kayak, it does have an aluminum ribbed frame that helps give good shape to the kayak when inflated.
This is quite a short ‘yak (measuring in at 9’ 8”) but can carry up to 300 pounds, so it’s perfectly capable of taking the average built person and all the cargo you need for your fishing trip.
Two storage areas are located at the front and rear. The available space isn’t going to be as good as a hard-shelled kayak, that’s the just the nature of the beast. But for an inflatable, it’s pretty good. The removable bar at the front can be used to place any gadgets you may have.
Two fishing rod holders are located right behind the seat.
A nice touch is the adjustable lumbar, which can be inflated to a level of your choosing.
Tandem Fishing Kayaks: Paddling Together
If you want to share the load, you could go for a tandem kayak (also known as a two person fishing kayak). Tandems are a great way to enjoy some company and you don’t have two kayaks at your disposal!
They can make it more fun to paddle along. They are a great way to introduce your kids, or spouse to outdoors fishing.
Beware though, quite often your partner may not be as experienced or willing to paddle along as you are, so bear this in mind. In fact, tandem kayaking can end up being more difficult than using solo kayaks. It really depends on your partner though!
Top Rated Tandem Fishing Kayaks
BKC UH-TK181 12.5 ft Kayak (best fishing tandem)
The Brooklyn Kayak Company UH-TK181 is the perfect kayak for all the avid anglers out there wanting to go out fishing with some company. It is of course a 2 person kayak, capable of carrying up to 450 pounds in weight.
Word of warning – it’s not the lightest kayak in the world (68 lbs), so it will probably need 2 persons to lift up any great height or carry any great distance. It does have carry handles at the bow, stern and sides (the side handles double-up as paddle holders).
This twelve and a half foot kayak has open storage space at the rear with bungee cords as cover. Then there are two covered hatches, each in front of a seat. There are dedicated inserts that slot into each hatch to keep your water hating valuables free from getting wet.
Fishing-wise, the UH-TK181 comes with adjustable 3 rod holders which can be placed in front of the paddlers. Any of these holders can be removed, giving you the option to fit other gadgets instead. There are a further 4 flush rod holders on the deck – so plenty of options here.
This one does come with 2 aluminum paddles, and two seats. There is the option to fit a trolling motor to the rear, if you wish.
Note that this isn’t the most stable kayak for standing on. So, if you enjoy fishing while standing up on your ‘yak, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.
Comes in 4 different colors: Blue, green, sand and gray.
Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 120T
The Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 120T is a tandem sit-on-top vessel that can be ideal for fishing with a friend in tow.
The Skipjack 120T benefits from having two adjustable seats, each with storage pockets, as well as two sealed hatches to keep smaller items safe and dry. There’s also a rear storage area with bungee cords and two flush mount rod holders behind the rear seat.
It’s a stable yak that can be ideal for a range of conditions, including rivers and bays. There are three seating positions, which means you can paddle it on your own from the middle or you can bring along a smaller third person or your dog.
This craft also comes two paddles included.
Sea Eagle SE370K_P (best inflatable tandem fishing kayak)
This inflatable is an extremely lightweight and portable fishing kayak, weighing only 32 pounds. It can hold up to three people (650 pounds total) and has plenty of room for your fishing equipment and/or camping gear.
Customers report that it is a very solid and well-made yak that can be set up in around 30 minutes, and taking it down takes considerably less.
Can be used as a single or tandem boat.
Read our full guide to tandem fishing kayaks
How To Choose A Fishing Kayak: Features To Consider
How stable is your kayak?
The last thing you want to be worried about is tipping over when your mind is on grabbing the line or net as you’re reeling in bass. This is particularly the case if you prefer standing up. There are fishing kayaks that are made for prolonged periods of standing as well as sitting.
Wider kayaks are generally going to be more stable. Also consider the hull. Flat and pontoon types are generally more stable.
We have a whole article dedicated to hull designs if you want to learn more!
Try to choose a kayak that at least has the storage options that you require. A lot of kayaks have front and rear storage, as well as hatches that can be used to store equipment that needs to be protected from water.
You’ll also want to store bait, tackle and possibly your rods as you paddle (unless you just leave them in rod holders). Just have a good think about what you might need before you purchase.
All the kayaks listed here feature at least one rod holder, which are a must-have (the more expensive ones have more). Some holders are ‘flush’ mounted, meaning they are molded into the kayak, while others have adjustable rod holders, that often are detachable from the ‘yak.
Pimp My ‘Yak
Ok, this follows on from storage just nicely. Some kayaks can easily be upgraded or you can add on cool accessories.
Check out this video to see how imaginative you can get.
For example, some kayaks have options for rail storage. With these you can attach fish finders or extra rods, GPS, or anything else that you need to have fastened and that you can get your hands on fast. You might even want to film your day out, so why not add your GoPro?
Want a break from paddling? If your kayak supports a trolling motor, you could add one to the stern and get from A to B without breaking a sweat. Or you could add a sail instead.
A sail can be a handy addition to your kayak as it can let you harness the power of the wind to move your yak across the water, meaning you could save your energy for more fishing when you reach your destination.
There are several types of sails, including smaller kayak sails that look like parachutes that are attached close to the front and help to pull you along. As long as you have enough of a breeze you could find you move much faster than paddlers without a sail.
One way you can update the look of your yak is by adding some LED lights to it. This can help keep you visible while you’re fishing at night or in low light conditions and it can look pretty cool too. You may even find that you can get lights that are designed to repel bugs, so you can keep on fishing without getting bitten.
Video: Adding LEDs To A Kayak
If you’re yak’s not tricked out enough, you could add some outriggers to it to add some extra stability for when you’re fishing. This could let you stand up more easily to fish and could help you feel a little more at ease on rougher water.
Weight Is Important Too
This is important. You need to consider how much weight capacity the manufacturer recommends. Then deduct your own weight (and partner’s if going tandem) as well as any fishing tackle you intend taking.
Also remember to add weight for any gizmos, food or extra clothing you want to take. Heck, some people kayak for days, so you might even want to bring tents and camping equipment. In any case, just make sure you have done your sums when it comes to weight.
Kayak Fisherman Skills - Stats: americancanoe.org
Speed vs Turning
As a rule of thumb, you should consider the following:
1) Longer kayaks are more efficient through the water which makes them faster.
2) Shorter kayaks can manoeuvre and turn better.
Also consider the keel of the kayak. If looking from the side, the keel is more rounded, it should turn better. We don’t want to go too much into this now, as well pronounced rounded keels are moving into the territory of whitewater kayaks – which are certainly more in tune with pure kayak fun, rather than fishing!
Types Of Fishing Kayaks
Before you choose a fishing kayak, you need to decide which type is right for you.
There are two basic types:
Two Basic Types: Sit-on-top & Sit-inside
The paddler(s) sits on top of the kayak. They are not enclosed and as such, access in and out of the kayak is made easier.
SIK (Sit-In Kayak)
The paddler(s) are enclosed within the kayak. Spray skirts can be used to keep the water away from the lower body.
US stats courstesy: americancanoe.org
What About Pedal Kayaks?
We lumped the pedal kayaks in with the sit-on-top fishing kayak reviews above. But here's an explanation of what they're all about...
Pedal kayaks can be useful for fishing as they offer hands-free fishing and allow you to focus more on the rod rather than worry about trying to paddle around.
A pedal kayak can also be easier to use, as you don’t necessarily need to learn paddling skills or know particular techniques. This means almost anyone can operate a pedal kayak.
Not only that, but it's much easier to go forward and reverse with a pedal drive system (if it allows).
With a pedal yak you use your feet and legs to power you across the water, which can mean you can go faster than you might be able to with a paddle and with perhaps less effort, as your legs are usually naturally stronger than your arms.
5 Very Basic Kayak Fishing Tips That Beginners Should Know
Here are five tips for successful kayak fishing…
1) Go Prepared!
Aside from having some good fishing gear, make sure you have plenty of water, some food and sunscreen for those exposed parts of your body (it’s very easy to underestimate how strong the sun can be, particularly when it’s breezy). If for any reason you get stuck out away from dry land, it’s good to have these essentials should your excursion last longer than anticipated.
2) Stay Balanced
Sounds so obvious, but always keep your head up and be wary of where you are situated within the kayak and look out for any waves or obstacles that you might inadvertently run into. This is especially the case when you are standing!
3) Everything Should Float
Another obvious one, but so easy to forget. Basically anything that doesn’t float and falls out of the yak….sinks! For valuables, like phones, GPS etc, get yourself a waterproof bag that floats and secure within the kayak
4) Keep An Eye On The Weather
Make sure you know what the weather forecast predicts for the day. The last thing you want to happen is suddenly get caught in atrocious conditions when you are the one trying to do the catching!
5) Be Confident
This is especially true if you are a beginner. Make sure you are 100% confident in your kayak before you venture out catching fish. As you get comfortable with your new kayak, stay close to land initially and gradually build up the distances you paddle, away from land.
What fishing kayak you go for is going to depend where you fish, your budget and how much experience you have as an angler.
In our opinion, the best all-rounder is the Old Town Prowler. It manages to be stable and fast through the water. The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler is a great pedal kayak, for those who want their hands-free for better fishing.
The Sea Eagle SE370K is a budget all-rounder for casual kayak anglers. Inflatable convenience, tandem, and it won't break the bank.
And that's it....
We hope that we’ve covered off the basics to help you make a more informed decision.
If you still aren't sure before making your final decision:
- Can you rent one from your local kayak club?
- Is there an outdoor pursuits store that has demo kayaks for you to try out?
If you aren't sure where the local kayak rental spots are, simply use your favorite internet search engine. For example, if you're looking for rentals at Rainbow river in Florida, just search for 'kayak rentals rainbow river'. When we tried it, the top site was 'Rainbow River Canoe & Kayak'
Overall, we recommend trying out as many kayaks on the market that you can, based on your needs. Take advantage of these if they are an option in your area. They will help to reduce the likelihood of buyer’s remorse!
You're still with us, we'll take that as a compliment! Do you enjoy fishing? Perhaps you have one of these kayaks or are thinking of getting one?
Why not let us know about it below...