Whether you’re an avid outdoorsman or you occasionally enjoy spending time in the fresh air, there is no outdoor experience that beats kayaking. Unless of course, you pair it with fishing. Many people assume that kayaks are only used for gliding across clear waters or taking on white water rapids. As it turns out, it’s also a handy piece of outdoor equipment for fishing.
Kayak fishing is an amazing way to enjoy the serenity of the water, plus it gives you the chance to catch tonight’s dinner. Many fishing experts consider this to be a much more intimate fishing method when compared to a traditional motorized boat. The best part of all is that you won’t have to drop thousands of dollars on your fishing water transportation.
Purchasing a motorboat requires the buyer to spend big money, and repairs can be costly. Fishing kayaks, on the other hand, don’t have to set you back too much. There are plenty of highly-rated fishing kayaks on the market that cost under $500. Follow this review on the best fishing kayaks under $500 before you set out on the water with fishing poles in hand.
|Lifetime Tamarack Sit-On-Top Kayak,...||191 Reviews|
|Sea Eagle 370 Pro 3 Person...||523 Reviews|
|Intex Excursion Pro Kayak,...||182 Reviews|
|Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person...||103 Reviews|
|SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Excursion...||85 Reviews|
|Perception Kayak Sound Sit Inside...||15 Reviews|
|SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Journey...||144 Reviews|
How Kayak Fishing Works
Kayaking has been around for a long time, and outdoor lovers have been visiting the best kayaking spots in the world for decades. Archaeologists have found evidence proving that indigenous people used kayaks for transportation as long as 4,000 years ago. The concept of fishing from a modern kayak, however, is relatively new.
Kayak fishing is essentially just fishing from a kayak. There are a few methods of fishing that can be done with fishing kayaks, especially when you choose a kayak that comes with all the necessary equipment and accessories.
The main difference between kayak fishing and traditional fishing is the setup of the equipment. While fishing on a kayak, you'll be more limited on space, which means each piece of fishing equipment must be appropriately fitted.
Once everything is fitted properly, it’s time to put the kayak to water and set out on a fishing excursion. You’ll need a paddle to get moving and then settle in a spot with calm waters and (hopefully) lots of fish. Some fishing kayakers choose to use an anchor to remain in place. Others float along the surface of the water with their fishing lines cast.
Types of Fishing Kayaks
The very first consideration is whether to invest in a sit-inside or sit-on-top fishing kayak. Just as the names suggest, the user sits inside a sit-inside kayak, and you can probably guess what happens with a sit-on-top model. There are pros and cons to each type, but the main consideration before choosing between the two is the environment.
For kayak fishing in colder climates with cold water, a sit-inside kayak will provide better protection from the elements.
Although sit-in models offer better protection, paddling.com says that "sit-on-tops are the most user-friendly. They're very stable, easy to get in and out of and there is no feeling of confinement on them...All these features make the sit-on-top kayak a great choice for nervous paddlers, for warm environments and for paddling with kids who love to swim.”
Motorized, Pedal, Paddle
The traditional fishing kayak utilized paddles for movement through the water. Kayak paddles are made of three components: the shaft, the power face, and the back face. Using a kayak paddle properly allows kayakers to glide through the water.
Using a paddle kayak is a great form of exercise, and the same goes for a pedal kayak. With a pedal kayak, the feet are used to pedal and move throughout the water. The main benefit of this design is that the hands are free to do other things, like cast a fishing line.
The newest addition to the kayak fishing world is the motorized kayak. Using a kayak with a motor leads to increased speed, efficiency, and maneuverability. It means no more paddling for hours on end to get to the best fishing spots. Some fishing kayakers dislike motorized kayaks since the noise from the motor has the potential to scare off fish. It also means that there is minimal exercise involved.
A cataraft is something of a cross between a kayak and a raft. They are often used as safety water vehicles by white water rafting guides, but catarafts can also be used for fishing. A cataraft is designed with the user sitting in between two kayak-shaped rafts.
These are much larger than kayaks, which can be both good and bad. A larger boat means more room to store fishing equipment, and it also provides additional stability. However, getting in small water spaces isn’t as easy with a cataraft.
A modern folding kayak has a collapsible frame, typically made from a combination of plastic, aluminum, and wood. The outer kayak skin will be made from some durable fabric with a waterproof coating.
A folding model is the best choice if your main priorities are ultimate portability and easy kayak storage. Since the design is more technical in folding kayaks than hard-shell models, the use of high-quality materials is a must.
Inflatable/Hard Shell Kayaks
Hardshell kayaks are made from a combination of plastic, wood, fiberglass, and composite materials like Kevlar. Inflatable kayaks use synthetic rubber and plastic polymers. Inflatable kayaks cost less, weigh less, and they are much easier to store when not in use. They are great for traveling since they can be carried around in a large duffel bag. However, hard-shell kayaks are considered safer and more durable by many fishing kayakers.
In the past, the majority of kayaks on the market were made from hard-shell materials. Nowadays, more and more kayak manufacturers are coming out with inflatable models. Although many people still consider the hard-shell model to be more durable, this is up for debate.
Manufacturers of inflatable kayaks are using more durable materials than they did in the past. The only potential downside of investing in an inflatable model is that you’ll have to inflate and deflate the kayak with each use.
All of the types of fishing kayaks mentioned so far have the option for single-person or tandem use. It should be fairly easy to decide between a one or two-seater kayak. Do you prefer fishing on your own, or do you plan on catching fish with a friend or family member?
A tandem kayak will be more limited on deck space and heavier than single-person models since there are two seats instead of one. But if you intend on fishing with a buddy, the tandem model is a great choice.
Benefits of Kayak Fishing
Did you know that fishing is good for your health? Canal River Trust says that “by going fishing your main muscle groups, heart and lungs are all getting a good work out...It boosts your immune system and has been linked to fighting depression.” On top of that, fishing has also been proven to improve concentration, reduce stress, and boost self-esteem.
There are even more benefits if you choose to engage in kayak fishing rather than use a traditional fishing boat. Using a kayak is a much quieter alternative, and every fisher knows the importance of remaining quiet on the water. Kayaks won't scare away the fish like a loud motorized boat, so you'll have better luck at catching something by the end of the day. Here are a few more benefits of using a kayak for fishing:
Choosing a High-Quality Fishing Kayak
Design & Comfort
Fishing is by no means a fast-paced outdoor sport. It's all about patience, which means you could be spending hours on the water at a time. For this reason, the comfort of your kayak is a key consideration. A few things determine comfort, but mainly it has to do with the kayak seat. If you're spending long hours on the water, you'll want a padded seat, preferably one that has a seatback for added comfort.
Another essential thing to look into is the design of the kayak's hull. The hull is essentially the kayak in its bare-bones form without all the fancy additions. Hull shapes vary from kayak to kayak, and each design serves a different purpose. For example, a rounded hull is ideal for speed, whereas a flat hull offers better stability and maneuverability. Think about the hull type early on in the buying process.
Level of Paddling Experience
The kayak you choose has a lot to do with your kayaking experience. If you consider yourself a beginner-level kayaker, you need a beginner-level kayak. It's much easier to learn the ropes of kayak fishing on an easy-to-use kayak. Then you can work your way up to a model that is meant for experts. Beginner kayaks will be easier to paddle, offer more stability, and should be reasonably easy to maneuver.
There's a lot to think about when it comes to kayak type, like sit-in vs. sit-on, inflatable vs. hard-shell, or single vs. tandem. Use the above guide on kayak types to decide which type of kayak is right for you. Just remember that there are plenty of fishing kayaks under 500 dollars, no matter the type you’re looking for.
A larger kayak will offer more stability, more space, and higher weight capacity. However, larger kayaks won’t be as easy to maneuver through the water, and fishing in hard-to-reach places can be difficult. But if you’re a larger individual, you’ll need to find a kayak that can cater to your weight. Sit-on-top designs can hold the most weight, usually between 350 to 400 pounds.
Stability & Safety Features
When climbing aboard a kayak, safety should always be the primary consideration. A safe kayak is a stable one, one with minimal rocking and a low likelihood of tipping. It is vital to not only consider stability on calm waters but stability when waters start to get rough. In other words, how does stability rank when kayaking through waves of rapids?
Because sit-on kayaks are wider and shorter, they are usually more stable than sit-ins. Some fishermen will even be able to comfortably stand on a sit-on kayak as they cast a line. Think about other safety features as well, like a large cockpit for sit-in models that is easy to get in and out of. When heading out to fish, bring additional kayak safety items, like a personal flotation device, a paddling whistle, and a first aid kit.
Tracking & Fishing Accessories
A fishing kayak that has good tracking will be able to hold its intended course, even after you stop paddling. There is only one drawback to great tracking, and that is that kayaks with great tracking are often less maneuverable. This means that you won't be able to make quick turns with your paddle strokes. Something called a skeg can help keep a kayak on track, as can a rudder.
Kayaks specifically meant for fishing often come with a few fishing accessories. These accessories not only boost the likelihood of catching a fish but also promote safety. Accessories like integrated fishing rod holders and GPS mounting brackets aren’t just helpful, but also fun to use for avid anglers.
Storage & Portability
Not having enough storage space for fishing gear is a common problem for fishing kayakers. Kayaks are fairly small, and fishing gear can be bulky, so where does it all go? This isn’t a problem when you invest in a kayak that has the right amount of storage space. Many kayaks come with built-in storage that makes it easy to tuck away fishing gear when not in use.
The best sit on top fishing kayak under 500 will come with hatches and compartments with the sole purpose of storage. Along with storage, consider portability. You have to get the kayak into the water somehow, and this will prove to be difficult if it is extremely heavy and bulky. The lightest fishing kayaks are inflatable, so you might consider investing in one of these for optimal portability.
Propulsion is the act of driving of pushing forward. It doesn’t just have to do with speed, but also with kayaking in a straight line. This is where a kayak rudder can help. The rudder of a kayak can be compared to the steering wheel of a car.
It is a blade at the stern (back) of the kayak that pivots from side to side, ultimately allowing the kayaker to steer. Not all kayaks come with a rudder, but the ones that do will have foot pedals to control the rudder movement.
Budget & Warranty
Fishing kayaks range drastically in price. Luckily, it’s possible to find top fishing kayaks under 500 dollars these days. $500 is still a good chunk of change, so it’s a good idea to purchase a kayak that comes with warranty coverage. The warranty depends on the specific manufacturer; it can range anywhere from no warranty at all to a 5-year warranty period. If you’re lucky, you might even get a limited lifetime warranty with your fishing kayak purchase.
7 Best Fishing Kayaks Under $500 Reviewed
1. Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100
Our #1 Choice
Our top pick for the best fishing kayak under 500 dollars is the Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100. This kayak was built specifically with fishing in mind; it’s got 3 fishing pole holders (1 adjustable and 2 flush) as well as 2 storage hatches for fishing equipment. The sit-on-top design is comfortable with its cushioned seat pad and adjustable padded seatback. This means you’ll be able to fish for hours on end with no strain on the body.
The Tamarack Angler 100 is constructed of durable UV-protected high-density polyethylene. There are several footrest positions to choose from, making it so that anyone of almost any height can comfortably use this kayak. The main drawback is that the maximum weight capacity is just 275 pounds, which is a bit lower than some of the other models on our list.
This 10-foot kayak cuts through the water with ease and was built for ultra-stability. For ultimate portability, you’ll find the front and rear T-handles extremely helpful. While you fish, you’ll never lose track of your paddle since this kayak comes with a paddle keeper with bungee cords to keep it in place.
If the color of this kayak doesn’t suit you, there is another option for the Lifetime Tamarack Angler. This one comes with all the same features, but some kayakers prefer its army green color.
For more of our Lifetime kayak reviews, click here.
2. Sea Eagle 370
Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak Under $500
10 ft, 8 in
If you’re looking for a lightweight inflatable kayak that doesn’t skimp on durability, the Sea Eagle 370 is the fishing kayak for you. This kayak holds 3 people, a maximum weight capacity of 650 pounds, so it’s perfect if you want to go fishing with your buddies. What’s even better is that the kayak itself weighs only 32 pounds, making it easier than ever to transport.
When fully inflated, the Sea Eagle 370 features two comfy seats that can be positioned to your liking (the third person must sit on the kayak floor). The kayak comes with 2 paddles that can easily be broken down into 4 parts each for optimal portability. It’s NMMA certified with a self-bailing drain valve, front/rear rope handles, and a bow/stern grab line. Even in class III white water rapids, the Sea Eagle is the epitome of safety.
Inflatable fishing kayaks aren’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for something sturdy, portable, and safe, the Sea Eagle gets the job done.
3. Intex Excursion Pro
Best Lightweight Fishing Kayak Under $500
12 ft, 7 in
Laminate w/ Polyester Core (PVC)
For fishing kayakers who know that they need a lightweight kayak, the Intex Excursion Pro is our top pick. This is the best lightweight fishing kayak under $500, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less durable than the other guys. It weighs just under 40 pounds, but can still hold up to 400 pounds. Although light in weight, you can count on the super-tough laminate material to withstand the test of time.
Similar to the Sea Eagle 370, this model is inflatable. It uses a high-pressure inflation system that ensures the kayak remains rigid and stable. When you want to inflate or deflate, it can be done quickly in a matter of minutes thanks to the high-pressure spring-loaded valves.
There are no closed-off storage compartments, but there is plenty of storage space onboard in the bow and stern. For tying down your equipment and drybags, use the included stainless steel D-rings.
Within the kayak, you’ll find 2 floor-mounted footrests, 2 paddles, 2 fishing rod holders, and 2 adjustable bucket seats. If you’re hoping to use your high-tech fishing gadgets, you’re in luck.
4. Sevylor Coleman Colorado
Best Tandem Fishing Kayak Under $500
10 ft, 9 in
1 Year Limited
If you know that you'll be embarking on tandem fishing excursions most of the time, you'll need the best tandem fishing kayak under $500 - the Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Kayak.
The design is a combination of sit-in and sit-on-top; you won’t be sitting within a compartment like traditional sit-in kayaks, but you’ll be sitting low in the boat. Whether you want to call this sit-in or sit-on, this kayak is safe, comfortable, and can easily hold 2 people.
Out of all of the inflatable fishing kayaks on this list, the Sevylor Coleman is the most durable. Its 18-gauge PVC construction is built for rugged waters. The 1000D tarpaulin bottom and 840D nylon cover provide lasting protection from punctures. It is designed so that even if one chamber is punctured, the other will stay inflated. On top of that, the Airtight System is guaranteed to never leak.
Hands-free fishing for both passengers is easier than ever with the adjustable Berkely Quick Set Rod Holders. There are also paddle holders to keep the paddles out of the way while you fish, but unfortunately, this kayak does not come with paddles included. The mesh pockets located on the inner kayak wall are a nice addition for storing fishing equipment and personal items.
A Sevylor Coleman Colorado reviewer says that this kayak is “easy to set up and easy to deflate and transport. Very stable for lake use. You will get many compliments and questions when people see you with this boat. 100% satisfied.”
Another reviewer with a nearly-perfect experience says that this kayak is “the only inconvenience was the seat keeps folding backwards, so I ended resetting the chair multiple times to avoid laying on my back.”
5. Sun Dolphin
Best Sit-In Fishing Kayak Under $500
Limited Lifetime Warranty
There’s no doubt that the Sun Dolphin Sit-In Fishing Kayak is the best sit-in fishing kayak under 500 dollars. No other fishing kayak we've covered has featured the true sit-in design, mainly because fishing kayakers opt for sit-on-top for its added stability. The Sun Dolphin is perfectly stable, though, and it tracks through the water with ease.
Since this is a sit-in kayak, you’ll be able to maneuver into those excluded fishing spots better than ever. You’ll sit within the kayak’s cockpit, which is large, open, and easy to get in and out.
Within the cockpit are the padded seat, adjustable foot braces, and holders for fishing rod storage. It is great for lakes and rivers and light enough to one-person to drag into the water. This kayak is made from high-density polyethylene, which is the most durable kayak material used to date.
There are 3 rod holders throughout this kayak, 1 swivel, and 2 flush. The kayak is equipped with a dry storage compartment at the rear with shock cord deck rigging for added security.
Make sure to check out our complete guide to Sun Dolphin kayaks.
6. Perception Sound
Best for Beginners
10 ft, 6 in
Even if you’re an expert at fishing, if you don’t have the proper skills for kayaking, you'll need the best fishing kayak for beginner kayakers. The ultimate choice for beginners is the Perception Sound Sit-Inside Kayak. The sit-in design of this kayak means that you’ll remain protected within the kayak, especially if you’re hoping to fish in cold weather.
The Perception is great for fishing on slow-moving rivers, lakes, and ponds. The stabilizer hull allows for straight tracking and smooth steering. On top of that, you’ll have access to 2 rod holders and a small storage compartment at the kayak’s stern. The cockpit is spacious enough for large individuals, holding up to 335 pounds. Many fishing kayakers are surprised by how much weight this little boat can hold.
Not every reviewer is enthusiastic, but overall, the consensus is positive. Perception believes in comfort, safety, durability, and stability, which is exactly what you get with the Sound Sit-Inside Kayak.
7. Sun Dolphin Journey
Best Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayak Under $500
Limited Lifetime Warranty
It can be challenging to decide on the best sit-on-top fishing kayaks under 500 dollars since there’s a lot to consider. You’ll need a kayak that is safe, comfortable, has tons of storage, and is lightweight. The Sun Dolphin Journey Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayak meets all these criteria and more. In addition to everything already mentioned, this kayak comes with 1 swivel and 2 flush-mount swivel rod holders.
Like many of the kayaks mentioned on this list, the Sun Dolphin Journey is composed of durable UV-protected polyethylene. Within the polyethylene shell, you’ll have access to a large open cockpit, adjustable seatback, storage compartment, adjustable foot braces, water bottle holder, and protective thigh pads. The hard seat bottom is the only drawback, but this is easily remedied by adding your own seat cushion.
Best Fishing Kayak Brands
Three of the most well-known and respected fishing kayak brands are Sea Eagle, Lifetime, and Sun Dolphin. This is especially true if you’re looking for the best fishing kayak under 500 dollars. Sea Eagle has been creating sport kayaks since 1968, specializing in lightweight design, efficiency, and kayaks that are easy to handle.
Lifetime, another reputable fishing kayak manufacturer, receives high scores from fishing kayakers for a few reasons. The main one is the fact that Lifetime puts a significant emphasis on stability with their sit-on-top designs.
According to the Lifetime company, all of their kayaks “are built from high-density polyethylene plastic, which makes them durable and lightweight.”
Last but not least, Sun Dolphin is a fantastic fishing kayak brand that has several top-rated models for less than $500. Sun Dolphin offers a variety of both sit-in and sit-on models, each one providing a safe and comfortable fishing experience.
"Whether alone or with the family, we want to make it easier than ever for people to reconnect with nature and create memories that will last a lifetime,” says Sun Dolphin. “No matter what your size or skill level, we have a kayak that will help you get back to the outdoors.”
Fishing Kayak Accessories
Care & Maintenance of Fishing Kayaks
Proper kayak maintenance is essential, especially if you plan on using this fishing kayak for years to come. A major aspect of kayak maintenance has to do with storage. During out-of-season fishing months, you’ll need to store your kayak in a safe place protected from the elements. If you choose to store a fishing kayak outdoors, be sure that it is completely covered and keep it raised off of the ground.
If you’re able to, the better option is to store your kayak indoors during offseason. A garage or climatized storage unit is the perfect place for this. You might even consider hanging it on the wall for optimal protection (just make sure it’s secure). Apart from properly storing your fishing kayak, follow these helpful care and maintenance tips:
Kayak Fishing Safety Tips
Staying safe while kayak fishing should be your primary concern. Generally speaking, this is an extremely safe sport as long as you stick to calm waters and use the kayak properly. Before you head out, always be aware of weather and water conditions.
Once you know about the expected weather patterns, you’ll be able to dress appropriately to protect you from the sun, rain, and cold/hot temperatures. Here are a few more helpful tips for staying safe while fishing on your kayak:
Watch this kayak fishing safety video for some additional tips on staying safe while out on the water.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do fishing kayaks come with anchors?
Most of the time, no, fishing kayaks do not come with anchors. They will, however, feature a design that is compatible with anchor use. You can purchase a kayak anchor separately, just be sure that you still adhere to the fishing kayak’s weight limitations with the anchor on board.
Which kayak is best for beginners?
The best fishing kayak for beginners is the Perception Sound Sit-Inside Kayak. It’s easy to use, lightweight and portable and equipped with everything you need for a day of fishing. This kayak features a stabilizer hull that makes tracking and steering easy.
Should I get a sit-in or sit-on kayak? Which is more stable?
This depends on your preferences. A sit-on kayak is known to be more stable since it is larger in size, but a sit-inside also has its perks. Sit-inside kayaks offer more protection from the elements, and its smaller size means that it can fit in the most excluded fishing spots.
What is an angler kayak?
An angler is a person who uses a rod and line while fishing, so the term angler kayak is the same thing as a fishing kayak.
How do I determine what size of a kayak to buy?
Your kayak size depends on your size; if you are a larger individual, you will need a kayak that can accommodate your weight. Always look at the kayak’s weight limitations before purchasing.
Do kayaks tip easily?
No, as long as you use them properly in the right water conditions, tipping is unlikely. Tipping is always a possibility, though, so you can take additional measures to prevent this. Always evenly distribute the weight evenly throughout the kayak by sitting in the middle. This is more difficult for tandem kayaks, but do your best to keep the weight evenly distributed throughout the boat.
What should I wear when going kayaking?
What you choose to wear depends entirely on the weather and water conditions. A kayak fisherman in Alaska is likely to wear different clothing than one in Florida. However, neoprene clothing is the #1 choice for fishing kayakers. This material will keep you reasonably dry, and you can choose the thickness based on weather conditions.
If you’re still in doubt about the right fishing kayak for you, you can’t go wrong with the Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100. Lifetime is one of the most reputable brands in the kayak fishing world, and this becomes obvious with their Angler 100 model. It’s durable, safe, and equipped with everything an angler could ever need. You can enjoy all this and more for under $500.
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