Best Fishing Kayaks

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. 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 get out and do. If you are just learning what kayak fishing is, or have been exposed to it and want to learn what kayak would be best to accompany you on some lake or ocean adventures, then this guide is just what you need.

With all of the different manufacturers, types, and models of fishing kayaks on the market today, how do you choose the best one? Well, the answer to that question is to sit back, relax, and read through our guide, because we have already done all of the work for you. We have listed the top ten best fishing kayaks in the market today below. Not all kayaks were created equal, and by the end of this list, you will be a pro in knowing exactly what kayak to go for.

Last Updated: July 20, 2018
By Sarah Roth:

This list has been updated with the most recent and high quality version of each product on the market today. We have added in a new product - the Feelfree Moken. Check it out!

Hobie Mirage Outback
  • Hobie Mirage Outback
  • 4.9 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Equipped with MirageDrive 180
  • Price: See Here
Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12
  • Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12
  • 4.8 out of 5
    Our rating
  • MirageDrive 180 pedal propulsion
  • Price: See Here
Wilderness Systems Ride
  • Wilderness Systems Ride
  • 4.6 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Storage in bow and midship
  • Price: See Here

10 Best Fishing Kayaks

Hobie Mirage Outback

The Hobie Mirage Outback is undoubtedly on of our best picks just looking at it you can be sure that this kayak is not only extremely functional but that it is also super comfortable and perfectly equipped for every fisherman needs.

One of the top feature of this kayak is its MirageDrive system. The mega drive pedal features two flexible fins at the bottom of you kayak that propel your kayak while you peddle, this system lets you use your leg muscles which are stronger than your arm muscles to propel your kayak for longer times. As the fins are centered under the center of your boat there is no drifting on the paddle and provides great tracking.
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Length: 12' 1"
Width: 33"
Weight: 81 lbs.
Type: Sit-on-top
Capacity: 400lbs.
Rigged For Fishing: Yes
Propulsion: MirageDrive system / Paddl

Features

The Outback has 4 for rod holders and lots of storage, bins and pockets are everywhere so you really don't need to even buy rod holders and mount them, and the ones that come featured in the kayak are perfect for use.

The Vantage CT seating system is the piece that adds all of the comfort, it is adjustable and flexible, was designed to give you more comfort while offering great visibility while fishing.

Mirage Drive 180- bluefins pedal drive with a forward-reverse propulsion system, fins pivot 180 degrees instantly with shift cables for hands-free fishing and kayaking. Vantage seat maximizes stand-up space and storage seat back, bottom, height, and lumbar support all adjustable. Two piece paddle with on-hull storage in addition to MirageDrive. The twist and stow rudder is retractable and engaged or disengaged by the pull of a handle. Also, includes four molded-in rod holders.

Also, the Outback features a retractable "Twist and Stow" rudder system to aid in maneuvering and tracking and it includes a two piece paddle that clips onto the gunwale when not needed. In addition, the Hobie Outback features three sealed storage hatches as well as a large, open, storage compartment with bungee cords to hold your gear in place and, like the Pro Angler 14, it also features a built-in Lowrance Ready transducer mount designed work with a Lowrance fish finder unit as well as a sail mount for those days when you would rather use the wind instead of the MirageDrive to propel your kayak.

Although the Hobie Mirage Outback may appear to be similar to the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 to the inexperienced eye, it actually features a very different hull design. In fact, while the Pro Angler 14 somewhat resembles a "flats boat" with its extra-wide, extra-stable, hull design and squared bow and stern, the Outback reverts to a more conventional kayak hull design. In addition, the Outback is somewhat shorter and significantly slimmer and lighter than the Pro Angler 14 but, it does retain Hobie's MirageDrive propulsion system for hands free paddling.

Analysis

Hobie knows fishing and comfort. The combination of the Vantage seat and the
MirageDrive 180 lets you stay on the water longer and more comfortably at that. With the hands-free option of the MirageDrive, you don't have to put down your rod to paddle. Spend less time getting around in the water, and more time fishing it with the Outback.

Definitely a must have. An extremely powerful unit with lots of possibilities and that will provide you with lots of fun.
Pros

Has Hobie's MirageDrive propulsion system, which has been upgraded to a forward - reverse version in all 2017 models

Maneuvering fins can pivot 180 degrees

Fins can be adjusted for shore landing by simple function of a peddle

Propulsion is hands-free

Cons

Rather expensive

 

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14

The Pro Angler is the dream fishing kayak, and the price reflects that. The features are seemingly endless, what doesn’t this kayak have. The MirageDrive 180 has changed the game on pedal kayaks. It is apparent that they had the angler in mind when designing it, it is not just a recreational kayak with rod holders.
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Features

MirageDrive 180, bluefins pedal drive with the forward-reverse propulsion system, fins pivot 180 degrees instantly with shift cables for hands-free fishing and kayaking. Retractable skeg for tracking, H-Rail for mounting with cup holder. Four standard horizontal and two molded-in rod holders.

Elevated Vantage ST seat with Boa system lumbar support, and under seat tackle storage. A center console hatch conceals a mesh storage pocket with pivoting storage for two included Plano Tackle boxes, with storage underneath. Front hatch has a removable liner, Livewell-ready cargo area. Also, set up with a retractable rudder system. It is very stable for standing paddling and fishing, making it more versatile for different fishermen or fishing spots.

For the kayak angler who wants it all, the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 is the kayak for you! In fact, by combining a sit-on-top hull design with their Vantage ST seat and MirageDrive propulsion system, Hobie has created what may very well be the ultimate fishing kayak!

Making use of the largest muscle group in the human body, Hobie's MirageDrive with dual steering transfers the arduous task of propelling your kayak from your shoulders and arms to your legs; thus leaving your hands free to concentrate on casting your lure to just the right place or landing that big fish. Plus, a tracking skeg and a retractable rudder system help to keep you on course and a sail mount enables you to attach a sail for effortless travel to your fishing destination.

Also, with six horizontal rod holders and molded-in vertical rod storage, two Plano tackle boxes, a Lowrance Ready fish finder mount, and a Large Rectangular Hatch with Pivoting Tackle Management System, the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 is ready to pursue your favorite fish species without extensive customization.

Furthermore, for those of you who like to stand up when you fish, the Angler 14 includes mid-ship rails on the gunwales instead of the stand-assist strap featured on most fishing kayaks to make standing and reseating easier.

Analysis

It should also be noted that at 138 lbs., this kayak literally weighs twice that of a standard, sit-on-top, fishing kayak and thus, it may make loading and unloading the kayak more than some paddlers can handle. But, as long as you don't mind the weight, this fishing kayak truly has it all!
Pros

This model is equipped with both the MirageDrive system and their Glide technology pedal system.

Holds 6 rods, 2 horizontal and 4 vertical

Increased versatility from the addition of their H-rail modular storage system

Will accept mounting of devices such as GPS and fish finders

Cons

This one is pretty heavy

Wilderness Systems Ride 115X

Although somewhat less popular than some of the other kayaks listed here, the Ride 115X made by Wilderness Systems is still a popular kayak among fishermen who are looking for a self-propelled fishing platform with maximum stability and maneuverability.
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Features

Length: 11'6"
Width: 33"
Weight: 79 lbs.
Type: Sit-on-top
Capacity: 500 lbs.
Rigged For Fishing: No
Propulsion: Paddle

Although somewhat less popular than some of the other kayaks listed here, the Ride 115X made by Wilderness Systems is still a popular kayak among fishermen who are looking for a self-propelled fishing platform with maximum stability and maneuverability.

Also, this nimble and highly stable fishing kayak features Wilderness System's "AirPro Freedom Elite" advanced kayak seat which has a contoured seat and backrest that has been specifically designed with increased comfort in mind by incorporating multiple-sized holes in the special foam padding that produce varying densities to provide extra cushioning along the spine and under the legs while comfortably supporting the buttocks.

Another notable feature of the Ride 115X is the removable electronics console that enables you to mount a fish finder and transducer while storing the battery inside the console and then, when you are ready to transport or store the kayak, the entire console is easily removed. Also, the Ride 115X has SlideTrax equipment mounting rails installed on the bow, stern, and under the electronics console so that you can easily mount rod holders, camera mounts, and safety flags on the kayak and a flattened area has been provided on either gunwale to enable the flush mounting of rod holders.

Last, the Wilderness Systems Ride 115X also features plenty of storage space with sealed hatches in both the bow and amidships along with an open "tank well" storage compartment in the stern.
Pros

Has a decent balance of both speed and acceptable maneuverability

Adjustable foot braces

The overall outfitting has clearly been well thought out

Decent amount of storage up forward, at midship and in the stern

Rudder system available for this model

Cons

The center console tends to interfere slightly with the limited standing room

Perception Kayak Pescador Pro

Perception Kayak Pescador Pro
The Perception's Pescador offers users a technical fishing experience on a quality built sea kayak that any true man or women of the fish hunt can appreciate. Check out it's features and benefits below.
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Perception's Pescador is an overhauled version of the original, and it is built for the serious fisherman or fisherwoman.

It is designed with premium stability, tracking, as well as many other features. Another bonus of this kayak is the multiple options for storage and rigging that it offers.

The Pescador packs well, so that you can take all that you need onto it and easily find it in the bow tankwell, which is covered with a mesh cover. It also has a rear tankwell.

To keep you fully organized and ready to catch some big fish, there are rod holders that are molded in. Not to mention, there is also an addition of a molded-in tackle box storage with a center console for fish finding electronics.

To ensure that you are fully comfortable, the seat reclines and is adjustable to fit your needs as a comfortable fisherman or fisherwoman.
Pros
  • Great storage
  • Pro Seat
  • 12 ft. in length
  • Durable quality
Cons
  • Some found that it's not so stable 

Old Town Predator 13

Old Town Predator 13
The Predator 13 made by Old Town is a recent model that has proven to be very popular among kayak anglers. Designed by fishermen for fishermen, the Predator 13 was built by the Old Town pro staff to handle larger bodies of water such as lakes, bays, and protected coastal waters.
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Features:

Length: 13'2"
Width: 33.5"
Weight: 86 lbs.
Type: Sit-on-top
Capacity: 425 lbs.
Rigged For Fishing: Yes
Propulsion: Paddle

In fact, one of this kayak's outstanding features is the prominent keel at both the bow and stern to aid in tracking combined with the pontoon-like Tri-Hull design to provide superior initial stability.

Another noteworthy feature is the Element Seating System which incorporates a rigid frame and which enables the paddler to choose either the "Travel" position for increased stability or the "Attack" position for increased visibility and maneuverability or the "Stand-Up" position for poling or sight casting. In addition, many anglers are reporting that the rigid seat fame provides a significantly higher degree of comfort than standard sit-on-top kayak seats.

Two additional handy features of the Predator 13 are the molded paddle rest which provides a convenient place to temporarily park your paddle and the side-mounted paddle storage which provides you with a place to park your paddle when not in use.

Furthermore, if features a large, dry-storage compartment in the bow that is accessible via a large hatch with a click-seal cover that locks with a simple click, a center console with a "mod pod" cover that allows you to customize your gear arraignment along with six, strategically placed, removable, high-strength mounting plates that allow you to customize your craft without drilling holes in the hull.
Pros

Fairly fast and stable

Has a decent amount of dry storage space, both forward and aft

Compatible with many extras such as outriggers and stand-up bar for more stability

The overall outfitting is quite ideal for fishing

Cons

Also a heavier model, weighing roughly 86 lbs.

Feelfree Moken 14

Feelfree Moken 14
The Moken is very highly reviewed, people simply love these kayaks. While it doesn’t come completely outfitted with every bell and whistle, the price allows you to customize your boat.
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Features

Length: 14'8"
Width: 30"
Weight: 76 lbs.
Type: Sit-on-top
Capacity: 432 lbs.
Rigged For Fishing: Yes
Propulsion: Paddle

One noticeable feature that you'll see is the Convenient wheel in the keel for transport, a molded-in paddle park, rod holders, and center console. Set up with a kingfisher seat, quick release modular Uni-track rails, stand up leash, and standing pad to accommodate fishermen and their gadgets.

While perhaps not as well known as the above mentioned brands, the Moken 14 made by Feelfree is nonetheless a popular, fishing specific, sit-on-top, kayak. Specifically designed to be an off-shore fishing craft, the Moken 14 is long and slim and features a Swede Form, "Ocean Angler", double-tunnel, hull with a prominent keel for superior speed and tracking to enable you to reach those distant offshore waters quickly and easily.

Also, the Moken 14 includes the brand's KingFisher Seat which features an internal skeleton that causes the seat to retain its shape hour after hour so that it will not sag or collapse with continual use while also controlling the degree of flex laterally without putting pressure on the sensitive lower areas of the body.

In addition, it features a dedicated conjure lumbar cushion that provides extra support to the lower back. Plus, the bilge of the Moken 14 features a "standing platform" molded into the hull for a comfortable stance while sight fishing.

Furthermore, it also features a Center Console which provides an easy-access storage area as well as a place to mount electronics in addition to the Oval Hinge hatch located in the bow which also allows for quick access to your gear while on the water. For mounting accessories such as rod holders, the gunwales are fitted with Feelfree's UniTrack system which also works in conjunction with their Uni-Bar to turn your cockpit into a fishing command center.

This exclusive accessory is designed to mount to your Uni-Track system to create an accessible dashboard for all of your electronics and other rigging accessories and, because it uses the Uni-Track system, the Uni-Bar easily slides backwards and forwards.

Also, it includes easy access lure hangers along with an integrated ruler that measures up to 15”. Furthermore, it has a Paddle Keeper system to allow you to park your paddle out of the way while fishing.

Last, for easy transport, the Moken 14 features a Wheel in the Keel which consists of a hard, plastic, wheel mounted in the keel so that in order to transport your kayak from your vehicle to the launch and back again, all you have to do is lift the bow and pull.
Pros

Though the beam is more narrow, that combined with the length gives this one decent speed 

Plenty of area for topside storage

Has a stand assist strap to aid in standing up much easier

The wheel in the keel is a great feature that really makes a difference when transporting

Cons

Being a longer model, the maneuverability isn't as easy as a shorter version

Wilderness Systems Pungo 140

Wilderness Systems Pungo 140
Now for a sit-in model. By its design, at only 60 lbs this is one of the lightest models listed here and thus, it is also the easiest to load and unload from your vehicle which is an important consideration for smaller individuals. This also makes it a dream to bring to and from the shore line, especially if you don't have direct vehicle access.
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Features:

Length: 14"
Width: 28"
Weight: 60 lbs.
Type: Sit-on-top
Capacity: 350 lbs.
Rigged For Fishing: Yes
Propulsion: Paddle

When you think of the Wilderness Systems Pungo 140 Angler, think Porsche, think Maserati, think Lamborghini because this kayak is FAST! With a Swede Form, multi-chined, hull and a sit-inside cockpit, this kayak will get you where you are going in a hurry while keeping you dry along the way as well as providing you with some protection from the elements.

In addition to thigh and knee padding, the Phase 3 AirPro seating system provides ergonomic comfort and easy adjustability and is widely considered to be the Mercedes Benz of kayak seats because it features a contoured seat and backrest that has been specifically designed with increased comfort in mind by incorporating multiple-sized holes in the special foam padding that produce varying densities to provide extra cushioning along the spine and under the legs while comfortably supporting the buttocks.

Also, the generous cockpit opening includes a removable Kayak Konsole which easily attaches to the cockpit rim for convenient access to your gear while fishing and which features a universal cup holder, a mesh pocket, gear trays that can hold a Scotty rod mount, and dry storage space for tackle boxes, sun glasses, cell phones, wallets, and other important gear.

In addition, it also features sealed bulkheads in both the bow and the stern which creates dry storage space that can be easily accessed via Orbix hatches.
Pros

Has quite a bit of storage space

Though it is a clean design, there is actually quite a bit of rigging ability topside

Their console system gives you easy access to dry gear

Cons

This one can be a bit tough on the knees of taller anglers

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120
The Tarpon tends to lean towards a recreational kayak gone fishing. The boat does cut through water fast, with turning on a dime. However, fishing styles may be limited by stability. If you are the standing type, this boat is not the best option for you. While it may not be a fishing machine, the Tarpon is versatile for fishing or recreation, and at the end of the day, it is still a great boat.
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Features:

Width: 30”

Length: 12’3”

Height: 13.75”

Weight: 67 lbs.

Capacity: 350 lbs.

Material: High-density polyethylene

Options: Optional rudder system

Other sizes: The tarpon family of kayaks includes: Tarpon 130X, 100, 100 Angler, Tarpon 120, 120 Ultralight, 140, 160, 135T

Slide traxTM accessory system, new Phase 3 AirPro sit-on- top seating system
comfortable with full adjustability, keepers XL foot brace system. Paddle holder, self-billing scupper holes, gear storage pockets, cup holder. Paddle holding bungee, storage hatch right in front of the seat. Seat not hi/lo but slightly raised off the bottom of the boat.

The YAK ATTACK angler package includes two mighty mounts, Zooka tube, and VisiCarbon pro that Cuts water well, is very fast and agile with quick turning. A versatile kayak for fishing and recreation, it is not super stable so it is not a great option if you prefer to stand for fishing or paddling.
Pros

Their Air-Pro seat offer good back support and decent breathability

Adjustable leg length

Accepts available rudder system

Don't worry too much about taking on a bunch of water, with the built in self draining scuppers

Cons

The optional rudder system must be purchased separately, which adds to the overall cost

Ocean Kayaks Trident 13

Ocean Kayaks Trident 13
Another model that we have on our list is one which is pretty popular is the Trident from Ocean Kayaks. The brand has rightly earned a solid reputation as a well designed and well built fishing craft among avid kayak fishermen but they have really hit the mark with the Trident 13 Angler.
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Features:

Length: 13’6?
Width: 29.5?
Weight: 67 lbs.
Type: Sit-on-top
Capacity: 475 lbs.
Rigged For Fishing: Yes
Propulsion: Paddle

Although this model will paddle well on still or protected waters, it was specifically optimized for off shore fishing and thus it performs exceptionally well in breaking surf and rough seas.

Designed by professional kayak anglers with the intent of maximizing features in a 13 ft. hull, the Trident 13 Angler features Ocean Kayak’s Comfort Hybrid seat back which has a tall backrest with lumbar support, two flush-mounted rod holders, Paddle Keepers paddle storage systems on either side of the kayak, a Sonar Shield storage compartment specifically designed to store a fish finder out of the way when traveling with a hatch cover that doubles as a sun screen, a scupper hole molded into the hull that is specifically designed to hold a fish finder transducer.

There is also a Cross Lock Hatch in the bow that is both water tight and easy to access, and last but not least, the Trident 13 Angler features Ocean Kayak’s Modular Fishing Pod which is a unique, center-mounted, hatch system that allows you easy access to your fishing rods and which has seven, uniquely positioned, portals that can accept Scotty and Cannon rod holders and RAM mounts and a series of pilot holes for mounting GPS units, fish finders, water bottle holders, ect.
Pros

If speed above maneuverability is your thing, the Trident is fairly quick

At around 67 lbs., This model is lighter than many others, allowing easier transportation

Available with an optional rudder system

Cons

The beam is a bit narrow

Native Watercraft Slayer

Native Watercraft Slayer
The Slayer 14 fishing kayak made by Native Watercraft is another very popular kayak specifically designed for fishermen. Featuring a sit-on-top hull design to provide the paddler with the greatest ease when entering or exiting the cockpit, it also features a rudder-ready, hard-chined, hull with a prominent keel to aid in tracking.
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Features:

Length: 14’6?
Width: 30?
Weight: 70 lbs.
Type: Sit-on-top
Capacity: 450 lbs.
Rigged For Fishing: Yes
Propulsion: Paddle

In addition, it includes Native Watercraft’s First Class Seating which features a rigid, aluminum, frame with HiFlo 3D suspension mesh that can be adjusted to either a high position for a dry ride or a low position for greater stability along with incredible back support and the ability to recline the seat.

Another unique feature found only on Native Watercraft kayaks is the Tag Along Wheel. This feature comes in the form of a hard, plastic, wheel permanently attached to the stern of the kayak so that all you have to do to transport the kayak from the car to the launch and back again is grab the padded bow handle, lift the kayak, and pull.

Another nice feature of the Slayer 14 is the molded-in electronics console which works in conjunction with their Groove equipment rail mounting system. The Slayer Electronics Console provides a dry storage area for your batteries when running depth or fish finders and thumb screws eliminate the need for tools when accessing the console.

Also, the console cover has a Groove Track insert that allows equipment or rod holders to easily be added or exchanged. Plus, the gunwale-mounted Groove equipment mounting system enables you to easily add or remove components at your leisure and to lock them down anywhere along the rail.
Pros

New design offers increased helm response

The seating and foot brace systems are fully adjustable to allow anglers of different sizes to equally enjoy this boat

The installed track rails allow secure mounting of electronic gear

Cons

This one has a bit of a narrow beam for some

 How we made our selections

The first step is to figure out your desired position of the seating, as well as access to any gear that you will need to get to easily. You’ll need to take into account factors such as your particular skill and familiarity with boating, or more specifically kayaking. It’s a good idea to really consider how long you go out for, as well as how far, and also the potential catch. You will need to carry it all back. Also think about what tackle gear you need, and even think about how much you will need to easily access. The answer is usually “all of it”. Most fishing specific models have a sit-on-top configuration. That way you won’t be confined inside the craft, allowing you to move more freely. Some anglers, however, prefer the more traditional sit-in models.

Like any other piece of gear that is used for specific purposes, these too have certain features and attributes which will prove necessary, to some point, for the mission at hand. Knowing just what to look for, as well as what might matter the most in an ideal product could save you some time, frustration and disappointment, getting you out on the water where you really want to be. While we did our research, we really focused on some key factors that are really some of the important ones to pay attention to if you want to find an option which best suits your own needs. Here are some of those points that we paid close attention to.

Stability

Stability is pretty important in any type of watercraft, but it really counts when you are moving around more, casting, accessing gear, bringing in your catch and even tossing nets. When it comes to the stability needed for fishing, the clear winner in many cases tends to be the open top or sit-on-top models. The hull design is usually a bit wider with less draft than a model that you need to climb into.

in whole this is an important aspect of a suitable choice, but it becomes a factor which matters even more when you head offshore, which is getting more and more popular with anglers of different skill levels. Once you leave the protection of lakes, semi-closed inlets and other bodies of water where there tends to be much less current or motion, You will definitely want to be in something that doesn’t feel like it will capsize at any moment from leaning too far or reaching too fast for some gear.

Design

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, so let’s go through the basics of what kind of fishing kayaks are available and what to look for in a kayak.

The two main fishing kayak styles are Sit-on- Top (SOT) or Sit-in. SOT types don’t typically flood or take on as much water, and can drain through scuppers. Although scuppers can be noisy because of drag or catch on things underwater. More flexible storage options are available. Sit-In gear can’t fall off the boat, it’s more stable to stand in because it is in the water not on top of it. The Gear will also be more protected inside the boat.

Ocean, rivers, and lakes all are very different fishing environments and require different kayak features and design. Oceans will need longer boats for paddling longer distances and be able to handle the waves and the wind. Rivers typically see shorter kayaks with great agility for changing currents. Lakes may need a mixture of speed and agility.

If you choose to sit and fish, snag-ables on the deck of the kayak may become an issue, and chair comfort will be more important. For standing, stability is the biggest factor with room to stand, a wider kayak with flatter bottom will reduce tipping. Also useful are a good standing pad for traction and comfort, and a hi/lo seat to stand and sit with ease.

Sit-on-top Models

Sit-on-top fishing kayaks differ from sit-in fishing kayaks mainly in that they have large, open, cockpits. Also, all sit-on-top fishing kayaks feature a high degree of initial stability and their extra-large cockpits make them easy to enter and exit in the event of a capsize. Plus, sit-on-top kayaks are constructed using a double-hull construction such that there is an enclosed air space between the inner and outer hulls which traps air inside and therefore, sit-on-top kayaks are literally unsinkable. Plus, they are designed with scupper holes in the bilge which allows any water that may enter the cockpit to escape; thus keeping the cockpit relatively dry.

Furthermore, as a general rule, sit-on-top fishing kayaks usually range from 10 to 14 feet in length and have relatively wide beam and thus, they have a high degree of initial stability. Last, due to their wide, open, cockpits and extreme initial stability, they are the most popular type of fishing kayak available.

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.

Sit-in Models

Sit-in fishing kayaks differ from sit-on-top fishing kayaks in that they have large, enclosed, cockpits. Also, all sit-in fishing kayaks feature extra-large cockpits make them easy to enter and exit and yet also provide a dry ride due to the ability to add a nylon spray skirt. In addition, they usually range from 8 to 14 feet in length and they generally have more efficient hull designs than sit-on-top kayaks and thus, they are a good choice for those paddlers who prefer a little faster hull design and dry ride.

The more popular models for rowing and sport, sit-in models, are less popular for fishing, but are still preferred by some who like the fit and function better. Beside the position in which you ride, the most noticeable difference is the topside layout. Fishing specific sit-on models tend to be set up more to accommodate gear and tackle.

Comfort

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.

Easy Entry & Exit

Do you really want it to be a chore to get in and out of the thing? Most people don’t. This is another area where the SOT models really come out on top, literally. They are much easier to access, simply requiring you to hop on.

Another reason why this is something to think about, is in a situation where the craft might capsize. Getting out and righting the boat can be quite a challenge for some, especially with a sit-in model where the inside will fill with water. this will require some skill and knowledge on the best way to expel the water while setting the boat right.

One more thing that may add to the challenge will be in the case where you have a bunch of gear stored inside with you. Since sit-inside kayaks typically have less accessible exterior storage, many tend to jam much of the gear down around their legs inside. Add that factor to needing to exit in a hurry if capsized, then getting the water out and worrying about losing some of your stuff that was inside.

Storage

You need to have a place to store your stuff. Something that will just matter even more when heading further out, offshore. Many brands are releasing boats that have track systems. These modular type systems allow the angler to have a custom setup, having the ability to place storage and accessories where it best suits them.

With storage also comes the need for reasonable accessibility. It doesn’t do too much good to have what you need, if you then get easily get to it. You don’t want to have to crawl to the front compartment to reach your bait whenever you need more. It probably doesn’t even need to be said that the best way to do it, is to have what you need within reach, and also enough space to keep it all.

Length

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.

Width

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.

Weight

It isn’t really a factor when floating, but weight is definitely something to think about when you need to get the kayak on your vehicle, then off again, then from the car to the water. Maybe you have direct access to the shoreline, but then maybe you don’t. These are all things to consider. Many models weigh in around the vicinity of 60 to 70 pounds, depending on the size and construction.

But there are other factors that will add weight, such as accessories like mounted storage systems, modified or enhanced rudder systems and trolling motors or propulsion features. Remember, you can add what you want or need to the boat, but everything you put on, you will eventually have to carry.

Price

Although you can certainly find an option for different budgets, the price you pay should really be based on needs, skill level, frequency of use, and of course, what you can really afford to pay.

The more specialized a model is however, the more you can expect to pay. Like many other things, price will often reflect the product’s overall quality as well. Though it isn’t the case 100% of the time, this is a true factor more often than not, and should be taken into consideration before going too cheap with what you pick.

With that being said, The same can sometimes go for the super expensive products as well. Just because a brand claims some amazing features, that doesn’t always mean that you will necessarily benefit from them all. If you tend to only go out on the water every once in a while, well then you probably aren’t going to be at a level where those features that are targeted for more professional levels will truly benefit.

 

Food for thought

Though many are similar in overall design of the structures, there are obvious differences between the brands and models. However, there are standard requirements and features which are found on these that are intended to make them more effective and efficient for the angler. Here are some key features to look for when trying to make your choice.

  • Standing room and standing pads, boat wider and less rounded bottom with a strong keel for tracking.
  • Livewells
  • Fish finders and Transducers, or at least a solid attachment area where they can be effectively mounted.
  • Adjustable seating.  Able to raise you up enough for easy standing or sitting, faster paddling and better reach and maneuverability of arms and upper body.
  • position for longer distances, and of course comfort and customization through adjustability.
  • Rod holders
  • Drive Systems- pedal, paddle, rudder, optional motors.
  • Specialized gear storage, and enough of it for your needs.
  • Track systems for additional gear mounting and accessory mounting.

Some things to think about when deciding what type of fishing kayak to purchase: What style of a kayak? Where will you be fishing? What kind of fishing, standing or sitting? What drive system suits you, pedal, or paddle?

Paddles: They are typically more versatile, types of paddles can be double or single, and can be used sitting or standing. However, distances and time on the water may be limited by arm strength. These paddlers tend to be lighter than pedal kayaks.

Pedals: Foot pedals control propulsion (fins or propeller etc.), but a rudder is used to track and turn by hand. They resemble recumbent bicycles and allow your legs to do the brunt of the work, but limits you to only sitting and pedaling. You will not need to put down your rod and pick up a paddle to adjust the position. With a pedal kayak, you do still have the option to paddle if you would like to.

Rudders: These are helpful if you are paddling large open water exposed to wind and waves. The length of the kayak is important, longer kayaks utilize a rudder for tracking and being less susceptible to wind.

But wait, before you can choose the most appropriate fishing kayak for your particular needs, you will first need to determine what type of kayak fishing you intend to pursue because some fishing kayaks are better suited for a particular purpose than others.

Therefore, you should first be aware that kayak fishing is divided into two different and distinct categories which consist of fishing in freshwater and fishing in saltwater. Consequently, it is also important to understand that each type of kayak fishing presents the angler with different paddling conditions and thus, different types of kayak hull designs are required to meet the needs of those particular conditions.

Ability To Accessorize

Everyone likes it when you have a vehicle or a piece of gear that you can add some nifty enhancements to. Kayaks that are meant for fishing aren’t any different. With track systems for storage attachment or modular designs that accept accessories and gadgets such as GPS and fish finders, many brands present their product as being able to be customized to fit your needs.

It gets even better when you have a product that accepts the so called universal accessories and attachments, those extras that often time aren’t all as universal as they were probably originally intended. But, sometime you end up with a product that takes a proprietary attachment system which interferes, or all together doesn’t allow aftermarket or universal add-ons to be used. That is one thing that you may want to look into before making a purchase. All it really takes is a little time spent searching for additional accessories that you might want, which will properly fit the model that you are thinking about getting.

Benefits of fishing with a sea kayak

Quiet

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!

Access To More Areas

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!

Economical

best fishing kayaks

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.

Better trolling

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.

Convenience

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!

Better casting

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.

FAQs

Q: Is it OK to buy a cheap kayak?

Models that are designed to be used for fishing will have those extra built-in features which are important to making it an effective tool for the sport. Regular models, or the cheaper ones, won’t have any of those specific features.

Q: What is the best kayak for a beginner?

Sport kayaking takes some skill, which is developed over time. There are a few things that beginners won’t necessarily be used to at first such as keeping the craft upright in active waters, getting used to the feel while paddling, maintaining stability, getting in and out easily, and of course, what to do if you happen to capsize.

A sit-in model will immediately fill up with water when capsized, so knowing how to to handle that situation is something you will need to learn. A stand-up model is probably the way to go when getting started. To begin with, if capsized you won’t have as much to worry about, especially if your gear is all well secured when it happens. These models don’t really fill up, as there isn’t that internal portion for sitting.

Another good reason the start with a stand up model, is the fact that they are way easier to get in and out of, as well as being a bit more stable.

Q: How much storage space should my kayak have?

Well, the answer really lies in your personal needs. It depends on the amount of gear and tackle you typically haul with you, plus what kind of catch you are planning on going after. The answer to this question can found in your preferences of how much you like to bring along added with what you typically catch.

Q: Are fishing kayaks safe?

They are very safe. As with anything that floats, you need to do your part to ensure that it stays a safe activity. Always 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?

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 into the water while using a sea kayak?

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: How do I take care of my kayak?

If you take your kayak into saltwater, 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: How can I know if I can use a kayak in the sea for fishing?

There are specific models that are designed for that type of use. Although there are some design features to look for if that is what you want. Look for features such as a flared bow, which will help you get over those waves, instead up going through them. That will help alleviate form needing to perform that extra work to keep upright and heading forward.

You’ll also want something that offers solid stability in rougher water, a decent amount of storage for going further away from shore, and also enough room for for whatever you plan on catching while you’re out there.

Final Thought

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 enough.  It is an extremely fun, affordable, and effective way to catch a decent amount of fish. Now that you have read our top ten best fishing kayaks review you will have a better idea which one suits your needs best. There is a good fishing kayak out there for everybody. Whatever your skill level, budget or preferred fishing method.

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