Fishing has been a favorite American pastime for ages. Being at one with nature while enjoying the tranquility of learned patience; what could be more relaxing? For many fishers nowadays, using a fishing kayak makes the ultimate experience.
Fishing kayaks are an affordable way to get yourself and your fishing gear out on the open water, without the purchase of a larger boat. Read our full review here of the 9 best fishing kayaks and why we recommend them.
|Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 130 | 13ft...||20 Reviews|
|Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 110 11 Foot...||26 Reviews|
|Old Town Topwater PDL Angler...||8 Reviews|
|SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Excursion...||85 Reviews|
|Vibe Kayaks Yellowfin 100 10 Foot...||6 Reviews|
|Lifetime Tamarack Angler Sit-On-Top...||32 Reviews|
|Intex Excursion Pro Kayak,...||182 Reviews|
|Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 9 Foot...||73 Reviews|
|Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 120T 12 Foot...||63 Reviews|
How Kayak Fishing Works
Kayak fishing is by no means a new sport, although it has grown in popularity recently. Kayak fishing dates back to the indigenous people foraging for food in the Arctic, nearly 4,000 years ago. Today, there are kayaks specially made for this outdoor sport that include fishing rod mounts, storage, and more to create the fishing setup. Some models even have built-in braces that allow the user to stand-up while fly fishing.
Different Types of Fishing Kayaks Explained
Benefits of Fishing from a Kayak
There are many benefits to kayaking, and fishing while kayaking takes the adventure to a whole other level.
- 1Fishing kayaks are both convenient and economical.
When it comes to purchasing a water floatation, fishing boats are not only more expensive; but they also usually require a trailer to tow them or the rental of a dock to store them. Fishing kayaks are a much cheaper alternative, and they are also easy to transport. Their lightweight design makes them ideal for carrying on top of a car.
- 2Kayaks are easy to maneuver and allow more access.
They often allow the user to squeeze into areas that boaters cannot, and they offer easy movement with the use of your paddles.
- 3Kayaks are extremely quiet.
The fish won't even know that you're there. Besides the minor sounds from your paddles as you navigate through the water, you'll have nearly silent operation.
- 4Kayak fishing is good for your overall health.
Not only does fishing get you outdoors, but kayak fishing can also give you a whole-body workout. The benefits don’t end there, either. According to this article from HuffPost, fishing can reduce stress, improve focus, and help you live longer (when you eat the fish).
Choosing a Great Fishing Kayak (Buyers Guide)
Design & Comfort
The durability and comfortability of your kayak are undoubtedly the most important things to consider when shopping. I recommend purchasing a kayak made from high-density polyethylene, a very sturdy plastic that will hold up to average wear and tear with no problem. I also recommend finding a fishing kayak with a comfortable seat. Fishing can keep you seated out on the water all day, and having a cushioned seat can make all the difference.
When it comes to purchasing a kayak, you will first need to decide what type of fishing kayak that you want. We review six different types of kayaks above, including sit in kayaks, sit on top kayaks, motorized or pedal kayaks, catarafts, folding kayaks, and inflatable kayaks. In addition to these types, you’ll need to decide if you’d prefer a single person kayak or a tandem kayak that seats two.
Size/Dimension & Weight Capacity
The average kayak is 9 to 13 feet long. As a rule of thumb, shorter kayaks are more comfortable to turn and maneuver, and longer kayaks have more storage and are better at going in a straight line. Just like length, the weight capacity of a kayak will also vary greatly. Most kayaks can hold at least 250 lbs., and some can hold upwards to 500 lbs. Keep in mind that the weight limit is meant to include how much you weigh plus how much your fishing gear weighs.
Stability & Safety
Kayaks, in general, are built for balance and are stable out on the water. That said, some kayaks are more stable than others. If you're planning on standing up while you are in your fishing kayak, then look for a kayak with a flat hull. The hardest part will be entering/exiting your kayak, and this will get easier with practice. For safety reasons, make sure to find a kayak that you can easily slip yourself out of, in case of tipping.
Kayak tracking refers to how well a kayak stays on course when you are moving it through the water. Heavier kayaks track very well because they are less susceptible to being blown around by the wind.
Some kayaks come with built-in fishing accessories, like rod mounts and additional mounts for your other accessories (like a fishfinder).
Storage & Portability
Finding a kayak that is easy for you to move and transport is essential. You will need to think about where you will store your kayak when it is not in use (small apartments and outdoors are not ideal). You will also need to consider how you will move your kayak from place to place. Additionally, you'll want to consider how much storage is on the kayak itself for your fishing gear and other accessories.
Some kayaks come with pedals or rudders that will aid in propulsion. With pedal kayaks, you won’t need to use a paddle at all as you pedal your way through the water. A simple rudder will help you steer in the correct direction. Other high-end models might even have a small motor, so you can seamlessly move along without any effort.
Budget & Warranty
Fishing kayaks come in a vast price range, from several hundred to several thousand dollars. If you have a tight budget, you might want to consider which features are most important to you and find a kayak in that range. Additionally, the warranty is essential. I would not recommend purchasing a kayak that doesn't have any warranty, especially since (because of their size) they sometimes get damaged in transit, and you don't want to be responsible for that. All of the kayaks in our guide have at least a limited warranty.
9 Best Fishing Kayaks Reviewed
1. Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 130
Best For Oceans & Open Water
Sit on Top
13 Feet Long / 33” Wide
Rotomolded single piece high-density polyethylene
Yes, Limited Lifetime
One look at this camouflaged beauty, and you will know why this kayak by Vibe Kayaks is called the "Sea Ghost." With all the bells and whistles you could possibly hope for, including seven different colors available, we find that this is the best fishing kayak on the market.
One of the things that immediately stood out to us was the massive capacity. The kayak can hold up to 550 lbs. of person and cargo, which means you'll easily be able to bring along all your favorite fishing gear. There are four generous storage areas onboard, as well as 2 flush-mount rod holders, so you'll be able to have a few lines going at once.
Perhaps the best feature, though, is that the Sea Ghost 130 comes with the Vibe Hero Seat preinstalled. This chair will provide premium comfort for long days out on the water.
Also make sure not to miss our complete guide to ocean and sea kayaks.
2. Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 110
Best for Rivers & Lakes
Sit on Top
11 Feet Long / 33” Wide
Rotomolded single piece high-density polyethylene
Yes, Limited Lifetime
Our second pick from Vibe Kayaks is the Sea Ghost 110. It shares many of the same features as the Sea Ghost 130 but is a full two feet shorter. Its smaller frame makes it not only the best sit on top fishing kayak, but it is also the perfect kayak for navigating rivers and streams.
Its maneuverability is unmatched. With a sleek hull design ensuring rapid movement through the water and toe-controlled rudder system, you'll have just as much fun paddling to your destination as you will fishing.
The deck of the Sea Ghost 110 is incredibly stable and lined with a slip-resistant covering, which makes it possible to fish while standing up. If that’s not your style, though, this Sea Ghost also comes with the Vibe Hero Seat for superior comfort.
3. Old Town Topwater 106 PDL Angler
Best Pedal Fishing Kayak
10 Feet 6” Long / 36” Wide
Single Layer Polyethylene
Yes, Limited Lifetime on watercraft / 5-year on PDL system
Pedal kayaks are growing in popularity, especially in the sport of fishing, because they offer a hands-free way of maneuvering and controlling your position. The best pedal fishing kayak on the market is the Old Town Topwater 106. We love this kayak for its high-quality PDL system, which is backed by a 5-year warranty.
According to the company, “Operating the drive is intuitive - simply pedal forward or reverse instantly. No additional expense or upkeep required since the PDL drive is saltwater safe and maintenance-free.”
Docking is typically a tricky task with pedal kayaks, but the Old Town Topwater takes the guess-work out and makes docking extremely easy with their quick-tip-up pedal system. The kayak can also be used with a paddle if that’s your preference, but paddles are sold separately.
The Old Town Topwater allows you to bring up to 4 fishing rods, with 2 flush-mount holders and 2 horizontal holders. We were also surprised at how much cargo it can hold, considering its compact size. There is a large stern-tank and also plenty of storage room on the hull. Storage was well-thought-out, and it will be easy to reach your gear while you are out on the water.
More of our favorite pedal operated kayaks can be found here.
4. SUNDOLPHIN Excursion
Best Sit in Fishing Kayak
10 Feet Long / 30” Wide
UV-stabilized High-Density Polyethylene
Yes, Limited Lifetime with Registration
The SUNDOLPHIN Excursion looks like a very basic kayak at first glance, but it has all the elements you need for a successful fishing trip. Its lightweight, shorter design makes it not only the best sit in fishing kayak, but the ideal choice for your first fishing kayak.
If you're new to the sport, the SUNDOLPHIN Excursion will allow you to acclimate to the game without an overwhelming amount of "extras." It won't devastate your wallet, either. You’ll still be able to bring along up to 3 fishing rods and have plenty of room for storage.
This sit in fishing kayak offers plenty of legroom for users up to 6' to sit comfortably. Taller users may still be able to fit with a bit of a knee bend, but we recommend this kayak for fishers under 6' tall. There are built-in footrests for added stability and comfort.
Weighing in at 42 lbs, the SUNDOLPHIN is ideal the calmer waters. I would not recommend bringing this one out on choppy waters or the ocean, as you’re going to risk tipping over.
We review more SUNDOLPHIN Kayaks here.
5. Vibe Kayaks Yellowfin 100
Best Fishing Kayak Under $1,000
Sit on Top
10 Feet Long / 32” Wide
Performance Crafted Ultra Stable Rotomolded Single Piece Polyethylene
Yes, Limited Lifetime
Vibe Kayaks has done it again with their Yellowfin 100 10-Foot Kayak. This amazing fishing kayak has all the features that you could expect from a Vibe fishing kayak, including the Vibe Hero Seat. It truly is the best fishing kayak under $1,000 that we could find, and with the Vibe brand name, you know you’ve got a winner on your hands.
What I love about this kayak is its versatile platform. It not only comes with a comfortable sitting area, but the wide platform has nonslip grips to make this kayak also ideal for stand-up fishing. There are 4 flush-mounted fishing rod holders, as well as 4 gear tracks for mounting your accessories, like a fishfinder. Vibe aims for your fishing experience to be completely customized, and they have done it with this model.
6. Lifetime Tamarack Angler
Best Fishing Kayak Under $500
Sit on Top
10 Feet Long/ 31” Wide
Durable High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Yes, Limited 5 Year
Lifetime is a company known for creating high-quality outdoor products. Their Tamarack Angler Sit-on-Top Kayak is no exception, and we have rated this basic kayak the best fishing kayak under $500. If you simply want to get out on the water and fish, this is the kayak for you, as it doesn’t have many of the flashy upgrades that more expensive models have. It comes in the lovely olive color shown here, or you can also get it in tan.
This Lifetime model is great for beginners who are learning the art of kayak fishing. Its flat-bottomed hull makes it incredibly stable. There are four different footrest positions, which make it ideal for users of all heights. I only wish there was a flatter surface to stand upon because the stability of this model would make it ideal for practicing balance.
One the Dick’s Sporting Goods webpage, user NettieLamb praises the Tamarack Angler, stating
It is so stable and easy to handle you could use it like a paddle board. Tracks well and plenty of storage for fishing, etc. Well made with super tough material, comfortable seat/back rest and easy for me to transport and handle by myself. I use it almost every day June-August--canals, harbor and Albemarle Sound in NC. Lifetime backs their product. I definitely made the right choice. Very happy.
The only downside to this kayak is that many customers purchased it, assuming that it would come with a paddle, which is sold separately.
7. Intex Excursion Pro
Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak
12 Feet 7” Long / 37” Wide
3-Ply Laminate with Polyester Core
Yes, 90 Day
Intex is a company that is well-known for its high-quality pool floats and air mattresses, and the Intex Excursion Pro Kayak lives up to those same standards. This inflatable kayak is made up from an incredibly sturdy 3-ply laminate that has a polyester core. It comes complete with 2 fishing rod holders, adjustable seats, footrests, and two paddles.
One of the great features about this kayak is that it can be customized to be either a single person kayak or tandem. This is great if you want to bring a fishing buddy along once in a while, but don’t want to invest in a more expensive tandem kayak. The seats can be adjusted so that you can find the perfect comfortable fit.
I appreciate that this inflatable kayak comes with both a hand-pump for inflating and a heavy-duty storage bag.
8. Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90
Best Fishing Kayak for the Money
Sit on Top
9 Feet Long / 32” Wide
Ultra-Stable Rotomolded Single Piece Polyethylene
Yes, Limited Lifetime
For unmatched maneuverability in tight creeks and around vegetation, you’ll want a shorter kayak. The Skipjack 90 by Vibe is the shortest kayak on our list at only 9 feet long, and at under $600, we find that it is also the best fishing kayak for the money. You're not going to find a comparable kayak, especially with the high-quality you can expect from Vibe.
Even though this kayak is on the shorter end, you will still find yourself sitting comfortably with plenty of legroom and room for your accessories. There are 4 fishing rod holders, a V-Wave storage compartment (which boasts waterproof storage perfect for your cell phone), and a built-in ergonomic seat with padding.
On the Vibe Kayaks website, user Jon Sather had nothing negative at all to say about the Skipjack 90. He says,
It is very stable, the chair is quite comfy as well. There is a ton of storage for my plethora of fishing gear and 4 rod holders. The color is so vibrant and fun. It is a very sturdy kayak, the paddle works well, this is a great kayak for a beginner or a fisherman.
9. Vibe Skipjack 120T
Best Tandem Fishing Kayak
Sit on Top, Tandem
12 Feet Long / 35” Wide
Ultra-Stable Rotomolded Single Piece Polyethylene
Yes, Limited Lifetime
The Vibe Skipjack 120T has many of the same features as the Skipjack 90 that we listed above. But at 12 feet long this kayak is made to support two or even three fishers at a time, making it the best tandem fishing kayak on our list. I personally find this kayak to be ideal for the outdoors couple who likes to bring their dog along for the ride, as well.
All of the features are thoughtfully placed, with each person having easy access to their own personal V-Wave hatch and cupholder. There are also two comfortable seats, two flush-mount fishing rod holders, and two paddles included; and all for under $1,000.
This 12-foot kayak is 75 lbs. and can be awkward to move when out of the water. I would recommend purchasing a kayak dolly along with this tandem kayak.
For all of our top fishing kayaks, make sure to check out this link.
Top Kayak Fishing Brands
When it comes to fishing kayaks, the top brand that we like to go to is Vibe Kayaks, because we know their performance and integrity exceed all expectations. Their kayaks are also backed by a limited lifetime warranty, and their customer service is outstanding.
Fishing Kayak Accessories
Rod holders hold your fishing rods so that you can be hands-free in your kayak. All of the kayaks in our review come with at least one rod holder built-in, but additional pieces can be purchased separately to fit all of your fishing gear.
Anchor trolleys are a system designed specifically for kayaks. They are a rope pulley system that allows the kayaker to move the anchor from the stern to the hull with ease, making it easy to stay in one position during particularly breezy weather. This short video shows you how to use an anchor trolley.
Dry storage can come in a couple of different varieties for your kayak. In general, it is a storage compartment with a tight seal to protect your items from water damage. This could be a small cooler that you strap onto your kayak when you go fishing, or a built-in dry storage unit, like this deck hatch, which would be ideal for storing your cell phone or snacks.
Many kayakers choose to balance their paddle across the kayak when they aren’t using it, but if you’re fishing, you’re going to want as much space to move around as possible, without risking losing your paddle. Paddle holders are often accessories that allow you to clip your paddle to the side of your kayak.
Some people like to install a rudder on their kayak to help with directional steering. Some of the kayaks on our list come with a rudder preinstalled, like the Old Town Topwater. If the kayak you’re interested in does not come with one, they are pretty easy to install with guided kits that can be purchased on Amazon.
Transom Trolling Motors
These small motors are known for their ultra-quiet operation, and you might consider one for your kayak if you’re looking for a break from paddling. Transom trolling motors are also excellent for helping you to navigate through waters that are thick with weeds and other vegetation.
Global positioning systems used to be quite a bulky accessory, but in today's world, they are standard on all smartphones. For GPS locating while kayak fishing, most sportsmen choose to use a GPS watch or a GPS fish finder.
Fishfinders are devices that help you locate fish within the water. These are often water-resistant devices and can be mounted directly to your kayak so that you can view the screen with hands-free operation.
A lifejacket is the most vital item for a kayak fisher. These vests can provide not only safety but also work as a utility vest to store all of your small, essential items.
Other fishing gear you might consider bringing on your next kayaking adventure include tackle, bait, net, safety whistle, etc. And don't forget any amenities to keep you comfortable, like a thermos of hot coffee and a stash of granola bars.
How to Fish from a Kayak
Kayak fishing will often come very naturally to the experienced fisherman. The fishing aspect itself won't be any different at all. The main differences in fishing from a kayak are the entering/exiting of the watercraft, as well as the paddle techniques.
It's recommended that you practice taking your kayak out a few times before you bring along all of your fishing gear so that you can become more comfortable with your kayak.
This helpful video goes over three techniques that every angler should know when it comes to kayak fishing.
Care & Maintenance of Kayak
Taking care of your kayak doesn't have to be a huge chore. The most important thing is to spray down your kayak after each use so that it doesn't have algae or saltwater build-up on its body. You will also want to make sure that you store your kayak in a safe space.
If storing your kayak outdoors, make sure to shield it from the sun, as the UV rays can damage the color and integrity of your kayak. You will also want to cover the cockpit, as they often become a desirable place for outdoor critters to make their nests.
Kayak Fishing Safety Tips
Kayak fishing can be a safe and fun experience when you have caution in mind. The most important thing to remember is to wear your lifejacket. Often, it's illegal to be out on the water without one. I love this fishing vest from ONYX sports that has room for all my smaller fishing accessories.
If you’re new to the sport of kayak fishing, I recommend that you check out our tips and information for beginners. Here we go over all our safety tips in-depth, as well as the 5 Golden Rules of Kayaking.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much storage do I need?
The average, full-sized kayak is about 12 feet in length and between 27 to 36 inches wide. Inflatable kayaks, like the Intex Excursion Pro, will obviously take up much less space when they are fully deflated.
What do I need to take with me when kayak fishing?
The basic gear that you will need for kayak fishing includes a life vest, your fishing rod (or rods), bait, tackle, and paddle. Many kayaks have storage spots for this purpose, but you may also want to bring along a small cooler for your catches.
How should I determine when to get a single or tandem kayak?
Tandem kayaks are for seating two people. If you know that you will have a fishing partner most of the time, then a tandem kayak may be the ideal choice for you. However, even couples that go kayak fishing together often choose to have their own fishing kayaks so that they can reduce the risk of tangled fishing lines and cover more area.
Does the color of the kayak matter for fishing?
There is much debate whether or not the color of a kayak matters when it comes to fishing. Mark Maule recommends a yellow fishing kayak, as he believes the color will not only help other kayakers/boaters to find you, but the golden color will also attract fish.
What is a tank well on a kayak?
A tank well is an on-deck storage area of the kayak that most fishers will use to hold their bait or their catch.
Is it safe to go kayak fishing in the ocean?
While it is definitely easier to kayak fish on calm waters, there are the adventurous types that prefer to take their fishing to the next level – the open ocean. We advise using extreme caution when taking your kayak out on the ocean. Check out this safety guide from Kitty Hawk Kites.
Do kayaks tip easily?
Kayaks are generally pretty stable watercraft that are built with balance in mind. You will really only need to worry about tipping over if you are on extremely choppy waters or if you are standing up and applying more weight to one side of the kayak.
What is the best length for a kayak?
The length of your kayak will depend on several factors, including your personal preferences. Generally, kayaks that are longer are faster and glide more smoothly in a straight line. They also have more area for storage and longer legs. Shorter kayaks are better at sharp turns and are great for maneuvering in tight places.
When it comes to kayak fishing, we think that the kayak is just as important as your fishing gear, if not more important. After all, you want a kayak that will keep you comfortable for a long day out on the water and has plenty of storage for all your supplies.
We think all of the kayaks on our list are great, but we particularly love the Vibe Sea Ghost. It has all the bells and whistles that any fisher would want on his or her wishlist.
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