Kayak angling is exciting, challenging, fun, and it allows you to do a little exploring, reaching many tight inlets that were simply impossible for you to fish before in a traditional fishing boat. But not all kayaks are created equal, and unless you have some experience using a kayak then you’re going to need a little help learning how to pick one out.
Of course, there are many pros and cons that come with using a kayak for fishing, but many anglers have found that while it’s a different fishing experience compared to traditional boat fishing, it can also be more beneficial in a number of ways.
If you spend most of your free time fishing, then you know that the key to bringing in a bigger haul is getting to where the fish are. The best fishing kayak offers plenty of important advantages that you just can’t get from using the average small fishing boat.
Additionally, kayaks are a more affordable option, they’re highly portable, versatile, and definitely budget-friendly compared to standard fishing boats.
Searching for the Right Kayak
Now, if a fishing kayak sounds like the perfect solution for you, your next step should be researching the different makes and models out there. You can’t just buy the first standard kayak you see. Angling kayaks are equipped with a ton of storage space, built-in rod holders, and plenty of rigging so you can bring along a ton of gear.
You’ll need to first determine the type of kayak you need, such as a solo or tandem, and what type will work best for you. If you do plenty of fishing out on the ocean, then you’ll want a fishing kayak that’s specifically designed for those types of water conditions. If you normally fish at the local lake, then you can get away with a standard kayak that does well on flat water. The choices really are endless.
As you can see, researching your options can take some serious work. This is especially true if you’ve never even used a kayak before. If that’s the case, then you have no idea what type of features to look for, or how to determine what style you need based on where you want to fish. Fortunately, we’ve created an extensive kayak buying guide that outlines all of the important features to look for including rigging, size options, styles, seating options, and more.
On our site you’ll also find plenty of information that can help you learn more about the exciting sport of kayak fishing, including articles on how to start kayak fishing, how to keep a kayak from tipping, and everything you need to know about how to fish out of a kayak, including changing your casting method.
Aside from teaching you more about the features and the exciting benefits that come with kayak fishing, we’ve also reviewed the four best fishing kayaks on the market including the best ocean fishing kayak, the best tandem fishing kayak, and a model that’s been rated as the best choice for beginners.
It’s our goal to help you find the right fishing kayak that will meet both your fishing needs and your budget and we’re confident that you’ll find the model you’ve been looking for, right here.
BKC UHTK181 Tandem Fishing Kayak:
Solidly built, loaded with features, and a kayak that offers excellent tracking and maneuverability, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better tandem ocean-ready fishing kayak in this price range. Additionally, it offers a higher weight capacity, comfortable seating, and a variety of color options and it’s a great choice for anglers of all skill levels.
Advanced Elements Straitedge Angler Kayak:
Convenient, easy to use, and inflates and deflates quickly, this is the perfect inflatable kayak to take with you on your next trip. It’s also a good option if you love to fish but don’t have the room to store a rigid kayak. Priced affordably and equipped with some great extras, this model is at the top of its class.
Elkton Outdoors Tandem Kayak:
This is a great tandem fishing kayak that’s packed with extra features and a ton of storage options, making it a great choice if you enjoy long fishing trips. Priced reasonably and extra-wide, you and a buddy can spend a relaxing day out on the river in total comfort.
Lifetime Fishing Kayak:
This is a great entry-level, budget friendly model that comes with a few extras features that you won’t normally find on a kayak in this price range. The kayak is built tough, sturdy, and incredibly slow. Overall, it’s a great choice for the beginner who enjoys flat water fishing.
Sevylor Coleman Colorado Fishing Kayak:
This is the type of kayak that gives inflatable angling kayaks a bad name. A shoddy design, poor valve system and air chambers that easily wear out, you’ll be lucky if this kayak lasts one season.
BKC isn’t a major player in the fishing kayak industry, but their latest line of solo and tandem fishing kayaks have helped to spread the word that this is a growing company worth keeping your eye on. Their extensive line of fishing kayaks are a little on the pricey side, but considering this model is packed with features, including multiple rod holders and storage compartments, we felt that it was well worth the higher price tag.
This kayak is designed for ocean fishing, measuring in at an impressive twelve and a half feet. It comes with two seats, seven rod holders, waterproof storage compartments, a couple of paddle rests, and four carrying handles.
The size of the kayak makes it the perfect choice for longer fishing trips, allowing you to bring a fishing buddy and a ton of gear. It can handle rougher waters like a champ, yet it’s pretty easy to maneuver despite its larger size.
The kayak is available in four color options including green camo, blue, gray, and red and yellow.
Weighing in at sixty-eight pounds, the kayak is well-built, sturdy, and can handle rougher waters or flat water.
It’s also equipped with a thirty-four-inch beam which works to improve the kayak’s overall stability and tracking performance, however, many anglers noted that the kayak is easier to handle if there are two people.
This set also includes a couple of adjustable aluminum paddles that will work for anglers of all sizes.
• Onboard, you’ll find a total of three adjustable rod holders and four flush-mounted rod holders.
• The two waterproof storage compartments will keep your tablet, smartphone, wallet, clothing, and any other important gear dry.
• The carrying handles make it easy to transport the kayak in and out of the water.
• This tandem kayak comes equipped with all the bells and whistles you could want in a serious ocean-ready fishing kayak
• This model comes with a great five-year product warranty on all parts.
• The paddles are highly adjustable, so they should work well for anglers of all sizes.
• The kayak does offer better than average tracking, but you may find yourself struggling to navigate the kayak if you’re fishing solo.
• This is a heavy kayak, which can make it difficult to haul in or out of the water if you’re fishing alone.
A well-built fishing kayak that can handle a wide range of water conditions, and one that offers excellent tracking, you really won’t find a better deal on an ocean-ready fishing kayak. While the kayak can be difficult to navigate if you’re heading out for a solo fishing trip, if you bring along enough supplies to compensate for the lack of weight from a second passenger, the tracking is still better than average. Overall, we loved all the free added extras including the waterproof storage and adjustable paddles, making this kayak a good choice for the beginner or seasoned angler who loves using a ton of rod holders and bringing along plenty of gear.
This inflatable angler kayak is built extra tough with its aluminum rib frame and multi-layer construction that makes it abrasion and puncture resistant. The kayak is also equipped with abrasion pads for improved durability and a wide beam for better stability and tracking.
It also comes with one seat, featuring a high-back design for better back support, and two built-in rod holders.
The kayak measures in at a little over nine and a half feet, which is a great length for a solo kayak because a shorter kayak will be much easier for one person to maneuver.
Additionally, it features a lightweight design that makes it easy to put it in or haul it out of the water.
Offering fast and easy setup, the spring valves make this model fast and easy to inflate or deflate.
This kayak also comes with a repair kit, carry bag, and a fish ruler.
The kayak’s open cockpit design will allow you to stretch out or easily hop in and out of the water quickly when you’re fighting a fish.
This model comes pre-assembled, so all you need to do is inflate it and you’re ready to hit the water.
As soon as you’re in the water you’ll notice the kayak’s impressive tracking abilities and easy handling. This is mainly due to the aluminum rib frame. This added rigidity to the rear and front of the kayak will allow you to expertly turn and maneuver the kayak, even in rougher waters.
The kayak also comes with self-bailing port caps, which will come in handy if you’re fishing on a fast-moving river or in the ocean. When the water comes up and over the boat, these holes work to drain the water out quickly and efficiently.
• Weighing just forty-one pounds, this lightweight kayak is easy to transport.
• Highly portable, this inflatable kayak can be deflated or inflated in just ten minutes.
• The seat features inflatable lumbar support for improved comfort.
• The aluminum rib frame is designed to improve tracking
• A removable mounting rail allows you to add rail mounts so you can install extra rod holders.
• This model by Advanced Elements doesn’t come with a hand pump or a paddle, both of which you must purchase separately. Most anglers felt that both components should have been included in the package considering the price.
• The kayak takes a long time to dry, but failure to give the kayak an appropriate amount of time to dry out can lead to mold growth. To dry, leave the kayak out flat, or you can inflate it, wipe it down and leave it outside for an hour or two.
• The removable rail is designed for mounting gear, but some anglers found that it’s placement in relation to the cockpit made it difficult to easily access their gear.
• In order to avoid leaks, you must take extra care to close the valves. The poor valve design is among the top complaints about this model.
This is a great solo angling kayak designed with convenience in mind. It offers easy handling, comfortable seating, and great tracking ability. You can deflate it or inflate it within minutes, and it folds down to a small package, making it a great choice if you don’t have the room to store a rigid kayak.
It’s a great buy for the traveling angler or for those who don’t have much storage space at home.
This top-selling tandem by Elkton Outdoors features a roto-mold injected body that significantly improves the kayak’s durability. The kayak’s built-in handles make it easy to transport.
Both of the air-tight compartments give you the perfect place to store important gear such as your wallet and smartphone.
This package comes with the kayak, two seats, two paddles, two rod holders and a bungee cord system that you can use to haul and secure more gear.
Measuring in at three feet wide and twelve feet in length, the kayak offers excellent tracking and easy navigation and maneuvering.
The kayak is specifically designed for fishing in the ocean and fast rivers, but it also works well on flat water. The tough, yet lightweight construction combined with the built-in handles, bungee cord system, and storage compartments make this kayak perfect for longer fishing outings because it offers all the bells and whistles you could want and is highly portable.
Constructed from tarpaulin and a thousand denier PVC, this kayak can handle rough waters like a champ. The PVC is eighteen gauge and highly resistant to abrasions, punctures, and rips.
The kayak is equipped with a couple of Velcro seats that are highly adjustable.
Thanks to the mounted adjustable rods, the angler can pick and choose the rod location for the best fishing experience.
Also included are three removable air chambers which allow convenient, easy, and quick deflation and inflation, not to mention leak repair. In each chamber, there’s an air pressure gauge that can be adjusted based on user preference. However, it’s important that you maintain a balanced amount of air pressure for all of the air chambers. In the event of a puncture, repairs can be made quickly and efficiently.
• The kayak offers plenty of storage, so you can haul more gear, while also keeping important personal items secure and dry thanks to the waterproof storage compartments.
• The kayak is big enough to accommodate two anglers and plenty of gear. It offers a six-hundred-pound weight capacity, which is pretty impressive for a kayak in this price range.
• The included paddles are lightweight, yet built solid.
• Many anglers found the included user’s manual confusing and vague. Fortunately, the customer support team is quick to respond if you have any issues regarding set up.
This tandem kayak offers great value for the money. The comfortable seats, ample storage, and wide design make this a great tandem to use for longer fishing trips. The kayak also offers great tracking and maneuverability, however, because it’s so large it can be difficult to navigate when there is only one user. However, if you’re searching for a large tandem with plenty of features, then this model is worth a second look. It offers the perfect combination of price and value and it’s packed with great extra features that allow you to store more gear. This is a good buy for both beginners and seasoned kayak anglers.
This fishing kayak by Lifetime is a budget-friendly option that won’t set you back thousands of dollars. Instead, it’ll get you out on the water to enjoy a leisurely day of fishing for a fraction of the price you’d normally pay for a kayak of this size and one that’s loaded with features.
Weighing in at fifty-two pounds, this solo kayak has a weight limit of two hundred and seventy-five pounds and a length of ten feet long. The kayak won’t crack or fade, due to the sturdy high-density polyethylene UV protected materials used. The flat bottom of the kayak is designed to provide plenty of stability when you’re paddling through a faster churning river. The deep hull is also designed for improved tracking and allows for better maneuverability, allowing you to reach those out of the way fishing hot spots.
It also comes with a highbacked, highly adjustable seat, a top-mounted rod holder, and two flush-mounted rod holders.
On both the rear and front of the kayak you’ll find shock cord straps, which will allow you to bring along more fishing gear. The two storage compartments in the center and rear of the kayak are designed to keep personal items safe and dry as you fish. This kayak package also comes with an adjustable paddle and two paddle cradles.
The built-in carry handles will make it a little easier to get this kayak in and out of the water. Weighing only fifty-two pounds, one person can easily manage this task.
• The low pricing is a huge plus for this kayak, which comes loaded with great basic features.
• Very sturdy and tracks well in calmer waters.
• The kayak is designed to easily withstand impacts and abrasions.
• This model offers plenty of storage options, which makes it perfect for longer outings.
• The paddle is adjustable, so it can be used by anglers of all sizes.
• This kayak may handle well in calm waters, but it’s very difficult to maneuver in a fast-moving river.
• There are scupper holes, but no scupper plugs so expect to get wet. Of course, you can always purchase plugs separately. Most fishing kayaks use the same size of plugs.
• There were plenty of complaints regarding how uncomfortable the included seat is, so you may need to upgrade or bring along a cushion.
• You may also have issues with the lid for the larger compartment located in the center of the kayak. Many anglers noted it repeatedly came off.
• The lower weight capacity can be limiting to anglers who enjoy bringing along the family dog and a ton of gear.
This is a great kayak for the angler on a budget, however, if you’re a seasoned kayak angler, you may feel that it’s a little too entry-level for you. But if you’re budget is tight and you’re new to kayak fishing, it’s a great bargain, just keep in mind that it can’t handle ocean fishing or especially rough waters.
Sevylor Coleman has a reputation for producing lower-priced inflatable kayaks that can handle some serious wear and tear, but their latest model left many anglers angry and frustrated over a cheaply made kayak that can only be used for just one season. While in the past the manufacturer has produced some decent entry-level kayaks, they’ve really taken a hit with their production of the Colorado.
The Colorado is a tandem kayak that’s made from eighteen-gauge PVC that’s designed to handle rough water conditions. The bottom is made of one thousand denier tarpaulin, with an 840 denier nylon cover that’s designed to provide protection against punctures.
The multi air chamber system will keep the kayak afloat in the event that one of the other air chambers is punctured. Additionally, you’ll find built-in rod holders, trolling motor mount, and paddle holders.
While this kayak sounds great on paper, unfortunately, many anglers had nothing but problems when it came to putting the kayak to the test.
On average, many anglers reported that about ten to twelve months after purchase the air chambers will begin to deflate and change shape. Obviously, this will have a major impact on the kayak’s performance, with one angler stating that the kayak can only be used for about an hour after properly inflating the air chambers.
Unfortunately, the manufacturer doesn’t sell the chambers separately, which would totally solve this issue.
Despite being marketed as puncture resistant, there were several complaints regarding ongoing issues with punctures. The manufacturer may claim the kayak is puncture resistant, but buyers will argue that the kayak’s main downfall is a lack of durability.
For some, another problem was the valve system. This inflatable kayak features Boston valves, which leak constantly.
Aside from these issues, there’s one big problem with tracking. Maneuvering and navigating the kayak is difficult in any type of water conditions.
Additionally, the rod holders are described as flimsy and unusable.
So, what’s the bottom line? This is a kayak designed for the entry-level kayak angler searching for an affordable, portable kayak, but unfortunately, the kayak’s design was severely compromised in order to keep the price down. While the kayak may do fine during its first season out on the water, the following year you may as well throw it straight in the garbage. The manufacturer doesn’t cover repairs and will instead recommend purchasing a new model. But for the price, paying for a new kayak each season just doesn’t seem like an acceptable solution to us. So, save your money and shop around for an inflatable kayak that won’t leave you hanging the following season.
Kayak Buying Guide
Kayak fishing is a fun and affordable way to enjoy fishing, and one that has more to offer anglers who prefer fishing in hard to reach fishing spots. But it can also be a good choice if you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford the high initial cost and the ongoing costs that come with boat ownership. Aside from the cost, owning a boat may not be an option for you if you have nowhere to store it or you don’t have a boat trailer. With the higher cost and transportation issues, buying the best fishing kayak that fits your budget can be a great solution that will allow you to enjoy many of the same benefits you would if you had a large fishing boat.
The fishing kayak has come a long way over the last few years, offering designs that are not only highly portable, but the kayaks themselves are easier to navigate and maneuver.
Based on your budget, you can opt for a fully rigged, feature-packed model, or go for something basic that will get you to those out of the way, hard to access fishing spots you’ve always wanted to explore.
Aside from the features, there are also a number of styles to choose from ranging from the best tandem fishing kayak to the best ocean fishing kayak. Ultimately, you’ll want to go with a model that’s designed for the type of fishing you enjoy the most.
So, let’s learn more about the different style options and features available so you can choose a model that works well for your style of fishing and your budget as well.
Fishing in a kayak will give you more options in terms of where you can fish, allowing you to enjoy a wide range of water bodies. You can use the same kayak to fish in the backwaters where you’ll find plenty of largemouth bass, or take the same kayak to fish for drop shot deep bass on a lake or fast river.
There are many models that are stable and wide enough to allow you to stand while you fish, which will make casting much easier, especially when it comes to underhand casting.
But if you want a kayak that’s designed for ocean angling, you’ll need to search for a model that can withstand waves and offers excellent tracking.
If Portability is a Priority
As far as transporting a kayak goes, it’s much easier to load one up and get it off the roof of your vehicle and into the water than it would be to haul a boat and boat trailer. But if you have a compact car, then even hauling a kayak can pose a problem. These days, manufacturers have made it easier for anglers to enjoy kayak fishing, even if they don’t have the right vehicle or roof rack. Enter the best inflatable fishing kayak. Inflatable models can be quickly aired up once you reach your destination and can be easily deflated in minutes, so you can tightly fold the kayak and store it in your trunk. You’re probably thinking that an inflatable kayak won’t be very tough or sturdy, but surprisingly, some models will even beat out basic rigid tandems.
Determining Your Fishing Needs
This is important to do before you buy. Consider the type of water you normally fish in or the areas you’ve always wanted to fish but haven’t been able to. Do you prefer farm ponds or saltwater fishing? Will you be fishing in a tiny opening in the shoreline or a slow-moving river?
Aside from water conditions, consider what your average fishing trip is like. If you spend several hours out on the water, you’ll probably need a kayak that can haul more gear. If you enjoy fishing for just an hour or two in the early morning hours, you may only need a basic model.
Stability or Speed?
The kayak’s design will come into play in terms of how fast and stable it is. A wide kayak will obviously be more stable than a narrow model, while the narrow kayak will be much faster. A kayak with a upswept bow will work best for ocean fishing and can easily handle some waves but it will struggle in flat water conditions. It’s common for beginners to choose stability over speed, but often, they’re left disappointed at how slow their kayak is. Because of instances like this, it’s important that you take your time and do a little research regarding what you really need in terms of speed, stability, extra features, etc.
Sit-on-top or Sit Inside Kayak Designs
When it comes to kayak angling, most anglers will tell you that a sit-on-top model is the way to go. This design allows the angler to quickly get out of the kayak and wade in the water, and it’s also much easier to add accessories to this style. It’s also more likely that you’ll get soaked with a sit-on-top model, but most anglers feel that it’s an even trade.
The sit inside fishing kayak features a cockpit. It’s basically like a traditional kayak, but the cockpit will feature a much larger opening. This is definitely a drier option and it’s also a good choice if you enjoy fishing during the colder months of the year. This design offers better stability compared to a sit-on-top model because the angler will actually be sitting down inside the kayak, which makes their center of gravity lower. However, sitting in this position can also make it more difficult to get in and out of the kayak quickly.
When you get right down to it, the only real feature that separates a fishing kayak from a basic one is the rigging. Basic kayaks are a much more affordable option, but they don’t come equipped with rod holders, a feature that’s essential for the avid angler.
Just like a standard kayak, regular fishing kayaks and inflatable fishing kayaks both come in a single or tandem style. If you’re big on fishing with your buddies, then a tandem can be the way to go. If you prefer fishing solo, buying a tandem will allow you to bring more gear or even the family dog.
The seats that come with the single or tandem style kayak are often uncomfortable. Some will lack adequate back support and others are so thin that you might as well be sitting on a hard bench. Fortunately, you can purchase a kayak seat separately, if you decide you could desperately do with an upgrade. There are plenty of seat options to choose from, all of which offer varying degrees of back support and padding. If you do decide to upgrade the seat or seats later down the line, make sure the seat you choose is compatible with your kayak.
Some kayaks will come with a motor, and some basic models won’t. Whether or not you need one depends on where you fish and how far you’re willing to go based on your paddling strength alone. At the end of a long day on the water, a motor can save you from the trouble of an exhausting journey paddling back to land. On the other hand, if you’re into ocean fishing, a motor is more of a necessity than a luxury. If you’re out on the open water and all of a sudden, you’re hit with a storm or serious waves, a motor will work hard to get you back to dry land quickly.
In terms of quality, like most things in life, you get what you pay for. There are several options to choose from in terms of motor size and power. Higher priced kayaks will come with more powerful motors, while stock kayaks often have weak motors that can’t handle tough waves. Again, this is another feature you can choose to upgrade down the line. If your main love is fishing out on the ocean, we recommend paying special attention to this feature.
While there are many different types of materials used for both inflatable and rigid kayaks, there are approximately four types of material that are used more commonly. These materials include three-layer polyethylene, single layer polyethylene, Kevlar carbon, and fiberglass.
Polyethylene: Models made from just a single layer still offer plenty of durability and protection against damage, abrasions, and tough weather conditions. Many pros claim single layer polyethylene is actually much more durable than three-layer.
Three-layer: This type of polyethylene consists of three layers of glossy, tough material that makes a kayak easily glide over the water. This thicker material is said to improve a kayak’s buoyancy and thermal insulation.
Fiberglass: A lightweight material, even when compared to polyethylene. Fiberglass offers improved gliding and sliding abilities on water, yet it doesn’t hold up quite as well as polyethylene when it comes to impact.
Kevlar carbon: Much more durable and even lighter than fiberglass, kayaks made out of this material are pretty pricey.
How to Rig Your Fishing Kayak
Basically, the main difference between a fishing kayak and a standard one is the kayak’s rigging capabilities. Some models already come equipped with rod holders and nets, and tons of storage space designed to hold all the gear you need and more. If you can only afford a standard kayak, and you’re pretty handy, you can always outfit a basic kayak with all the accessories you need. However, if you don’t have much experience in this area, then you’ll want to stick with a fishing kayak because it can be all too easy to accidentally damage a kayak when you’re installing the rod holders.
When it comes to the rod holders, how many you need will all depend on personal preference. There are some anglers who feel that the more rod holders the better, but on average, you should only need two or three.
Flush mount and deck mount are the two basic styles of rod holders used. Usually, a rod holder will have a four-inch rectangular or square base. Dedicated fishing kayaks will come with rod holders already mounted. As we have mentioned, with a basic kayak, you’ll need to install your own.
Depending on the size of the kayak, you may have some room to add more gear and accessories, or you may be working with a really tight space and you’re searching for gear that can help you stay organized out on the water, such as coolers or waterproof storage compartments. But keep in mind, kayaks have a max weight limit. You’ll need to account for your weight and the weight of your gear. When it comes time to load up your kayak, be sure to prioritize and go with the bare minimum your first few times on the water. A loaded kayak will sit lower in the water, will be slower, and can be very difficult to maneuver.
Final Thoughts on Buying a Fishing Kayak
Ultimately, the kayak you choose should work with your budget and suit your fishing needs. Keep in mind, you can always upgrade certain components later down the line, such as the seats, paddle, and motor.
Accessories aside, your main focus should be the kayak’s stability, width, weight limit, and speed. If you enjoy exclusively fishing in the ocean, then the motor will be another important feature you research more carefully.
Remember, your choice should also be based on the type of water conditions you fish in the most, whether it’s flat water or saltwater. This can have a huge impact on the model that will work best for you.
We hope our reviews of the best fishing kayaks on the market have helped to narrow down your choices, so you can purchase a great model that will last for several years to come and one that allows you to enjoy the sport of kayak angling like never before.