Best Kayak Fishing PFDs
A PFD can be one of the most important accessories you can buy for kayak fishing. But there are many options out there at a range of price points which can make it difficult to choose the right one.
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9 Best Kayak Fishing PFDs
1: Stohlquist Fisherman Personal Flotation Device (best overall)
This Stohlquist Fisherman PFD can be one of the best PFDs out there when it comes to kayak fishing. It’s a US Coast Guard approved Type III life jacket that has multiple pockets and attachment points for accessories so you can keep your tackle within easy reach.
The two zippered front pockets also have EVA foam to help protect your gear and particularly useful if you’re re-entering your kayak from the water. These pockets also double as bridges so you can use them as platforms to help tie hooks and lures.
The PFD features multiple adjustment points to allow for a good fit, and benefits from chest cinching straps to keep the life jacket in place.
Added features for comfort include neoprene padded shoulders and back waistband, high back foam flotation for high back seats, and open sides for ventilation.
2: Kokatat Bahia Tour Personal Flotation Device (great for visibility)
The Kokatat Bahia Tour PFD is a high quality life jacket that features SOLAS approved reflective strips on both the front and back, which can increase your visibility in rescue situations.
This Type III US Coast Guard approved PFD is ideal for kayak fishing because of its high back foam with reduced padding at the lower back and a mesh panel for ventilation.
It features pockets for accessories and pliers, as well as front and back lash tabs. For a more customized fit, there are multiple adjustment points at the waist and shoulders.
The neoprene padded shoulders and the soft Gaia foam helps to improve comfort for all day kayak fishing.
3: Stohlquist Women’s Flo Life Jacket (best for women)
The Stohlquist Women’s Flo is a Type III US Coast Guard approved PFD that is designed for women. It features built-in supportive bust cups to provide more comfort for all day wear and benefits from cinching chest straps to prevent the PFD from riding up.
It’s made using lightweight foam with a durable nylon shell and features a padded neoprene lower back waistband for paddling comfort.
The mesh panel at the lower back also helps the foam to sit above the back of your kayak seat, meaning it shouldn’t force you to lean forward when sitting.
As well as the adjustable chest straps, the life jacket can also be adjusted at the waist and shoulders, so you can get the best fit for your body.
4: Stohlquist Men’s Ebb Life Jacket (best value fishing PFD)
This Stohlquist Men’s Ebb is a high quality life jacket that offers great features and great value.
It features a mesh lower back panel for added ventilation and to allow for a more comfortable sitting position in your kayak, especially in yaks with high back seats. The sides are also open for added ventilation and can be great when paddling in warmer conditions.
The adjustable waist, shoulder and chest straps help to give you a customized fit and the Wrapture foam is designed to fit around your body for optimum comfort and buoyancy.
5: NRS Chinook Fishing PFD (best for comfort)
This NRS Chinook Fishing PFD is built for kayak fishing and long hours on the water.
One of its main features is the soft PlushFit foam, which is designed to mold to the shape of your body, for added comfort. It also features eight adjustment points so that it’s securely and correctly fitted.
There are plenty of pockets and D-rings on this Type III US Coast Guard approved life jacket, meaning it can double as a fishing vest, with enough room to keep small tackle boxes, tools and accessories. It even has rod holder loops.
For extra comfort while you’re kayaking, the PFD also has a mesh panel at the lower back, making it ideal for high back kayak seats.
6: MTI Adventurewear Solaris F-Spec Kayak Fishing PFD (fits great)
The MTI Adventurewear Solaris F-Spec PFD is a lightweight life jacket that’s built for kayak fishing. It has Type III US Coast Guard approval and a buoyancy rating of 16 pounds 5 ounces.
It has six points of adjustment, allowing you to find a comfortable fit and keep the jacket in place when it matters.
The mesh panel at the lower back is designed to make it a little more comfortable for sitting in kayaks with high back seats. This can also make it a little more breathable in warm weather.
When it comes to storing small gear, there are plenty of places to attach accessories. There is also a pocket that doubles as a handy platform for tying lures.
7: MTI Adventurewear Helios 2.0 Inflatable Yoke Style PFD (best rated)
This MTI Adventurewear Helios 2.0 PFD is a Type III US Coast Guard approved inflatable life jacket. It is lightweight and low profile, which can make it a good choice for fishing and other activities.
The PFD features a manual inflation system that activates using the pull cord. This can give you more control over when the life jacket inflates, compared to automatic systems.
There is a window on the front of the vest to let you see that your CO2 cartridge is installed correctly and ready to be used. The neoprene collar is designed to make it more comfortable to wear and the mesh shoulder lining helps to keep it feeling lightweight and breathable.
It has an adjustable waist strap with buckle closure that is designed to fit most adults ranging from 30 inch to 52 inch chest size.
8: Stohlquist Contour Inflatable Life Jacket (best inflatable)
This Stohlquist Contour PFD is a Type V US Coast Guard approved life jacket that is primarily designed for stand-up paddle boarding but can be ideal for recreational boating and kayak fishing.
This is designed to be worn around the waist. It has a universal size with an adjustable waist strap that fits up to 45 inch waists.
It features a manual inflation system with a pull cord that activates the CO2 cartridge and inflates the vest. This means it won’t inflate until you pull the cord. Once inflated, there’s a neck strap that you can put over your head to help keep you afloat and keep your head out of the water.
This PFD also features a small zippered pocket that can be great for storing keys, but it’s not waterproof.
9: Lixada Fly Fishing Vest (best budget PFD)
The Lixada Fly Fishing Vest is designed as a fishing vest but with the added benefit of foam flotation inserts for added buoyancy. The foam inserts can also be removed.
This budget vest is designed with a universal size to fit most adults. However, the buoyancy of the PFD is only for adults under 209 pounds, so if you’re a larger person this may not be adequate for floating.
The Lixada is built for fishing and has plenty of pockets and pouches for you to store all your small accessories. There are also several attachment loops for clipping on other items.
Buying Advice For Kayak Fishing Life Jackets
Do I Really Need To Use A PFD For Kayak Fishing?
Whenever you take your kayak out on the water, you should be wearing a PFD. This should be the case whether you’re paddling, fishing or a passenger.
In some states and areas, you may be required by law to wear a PFD in a kayak, such as New York (between November and May) and New Mexico.
In the United States, it’s the law to have a correctly sized PFD for every person on board all types of vessels, including kayaks. In order to comply with the law in these circumstances your PFD should be approved by the US Coast Guard.
Children under the age of 13 are required to wear a USCG approved PFD at all times while they are in a kayak or other open deck vessel.
What Type Of PFD Is Best?
There are five types of PFD, with four of them being wearable types.
- Type I is generally the most buoyant and often the bulkiest. It’s designed for offshore and rough water and is designed to turn you face up if unconscious.
- A Type II PFD is designed for day cruising or fishing in inland waters close to shore. These can be either standard or inflatable, with the standard (inherently buoyant) option sometimes able to turn you face up if unconscious.
- A Type III PFD is probably the most common type of life jacket used for kayaking. It’s recommended for recreational boating and near shore activities. This type can be either inflatable or standard.
- Type IV PFDs are throwable devices that are used alongside marinas and pools, as well as on vessels longer than 16 feet.
- Type V PFDs generally include specialist PFDs, such as inflatable belt packs.
Inflatable vs. Standard Foam - Which To Choose?
Inflatable PFDs can be more comfortable to wear because they tend to have a lower profile than standard ones. This could make it easier to move your arms for fishing and paddling.
However, inflatable PFDs will only become buoyant when they’re inflated. This means you will usually have to pull a cord to inflate it. There are PFDs with automatic inflation that inflate when in water but these may not be suitable if you plan to get wet, as they could inflate when they’re not needed.
Inflatable life jackets will generally have less storage options than standard ones because of their low profile nature, meaning you may not have anywhere on the PFD to keep your fishing accessories.
You might also want to consider the additional costs of using an inflatable PFD. Once the life jacket inflates, you will usually need to purchase and install a new CO2 cartridge so that it’s armed and ready for your next kayaking trip. This could become expensive if you frequently need to inflate your PFD.
A standard foam life jacket is an inherently buoyant PFD. This means it’s designed to float instantly and provide you with buoyancy to keep your head out of the water without having to pull any strings. The foam material is what makes the PFD float.
These types of PFDs can be beneficial for kayak fishing because they will often have pockets or loops to attach your gear. This can be especially useful in a kayak where you might not have a lot of room for additional accessories or you want to make sure your fishing tackle is within easy reach.
What Features To Look For When Buying A Fishing PFD
Many PFDs will often have pockets, which can come in handy when you’re kayak fishing, especially for stowing smaller accessories, such as spare lures, lines or pliers.
Some life jackets will also have D-rings or attachment points that can let you clip on other accessories. Attachment points can also be useful in a rescue situation, allowing you to secure a rescue rope to your PFD.
Size is important when it comes to choosing a fishing PFD. Your life jacket should fit you correctly so that it can work as intended if and when you need it. If it’s too big it may come off and if it’s too small, it may not be able to hold your weight.
Video: How To Fit A Life Jacket
It can be a good idea to opt for a PFD that has multiple points of adjustment, as this can give you a better, more secure fit than one that only has one or two adjustable straps.
If you’re a woman, you might find that a women’s specific PFD might be more suitable, as these can better accommodate your body and be a more appropriate length and width.
High Back Float
Some PFDs that are designed for kayaking have high back flotation, often with a mesh panel at the lower back. This is so that the PFD remains comfortable while you’re seated in your kayak with the bulk of the PFD resting above the back of your seat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Adults And Kids Have To Wear PFDs When Kayak Fishing?
Children under 13 must wear a PFD when in a kayak. Some states have different laws that could include children up to 16. Adults are required to have a correctly fitting PFD on board but it doesn’t necessarily have to be worn, except in some states.
What Exactly Is Coast Guard Approved?
The US Coast Guard is the maritime law enforcement agency that approves life jackets for use in the US. It approves PFDs based on their use and buoyancy. If a PFD is Coast Guard approved it means it meets US standards for use as a life jacket.
How Do You Care For And Clean Your PFD?
Rinse it in clean water after each use, using mild soapy water beforehand if needed. Hang it up to let it air dry somewhere with good ventilation.
Are Life Jackets And Vests Comfortable When Fishing?
Your life jacket should be comfortable if it fits well. However, there are some lower profile options you can choose if you want less bulk.
If you’re after the best PFD for kayak fishing then the Stohlquist Fisherman PFD has just about everything you could want from a life jacket. It has plenty of places to keep your gear, is comfortable to wear and can offer a great fit.
However, if you’re a woman, the Stohlquist Women’s Flo is also a great option, with a range of sizes and a comfortable, adjustable fit.
A customizable fit can be one of the most important features in a PFD but you might want to look for one that also has a higher back to accommodate your kayak seat.
Wearing a PFD can be essential when you’re kayak fishing and in some cases it could be the law. But it’s always better to wear one just in case.