Tired of fishing from shore and wishing you were out on the water? A kayak may be the right choice. Kayaks are environmentally friendly, healthy, and generally less expensive than motorized boats. But there are so many options out there that it’s hard to know what the differences are, let alone which model to buy. Our fishing kayak buying guide below will help you learn what to look for in the best fishing kayak for you, and the following reviews outline the features of each model.
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- 1 Choosing the Best Fishing Kayak – Buying Guide
- 2 Best Fishing Kayaks 2018 – Reviews and Comparison
- 3 I. Best Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayaks
- 3.1 1. Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game II – Best for High Capacity, Spacious All-Day Fishing
- 3.2 2. Eddyline C-135 Yakatakk – Best for High-End Kayaking Professionals
- 3.3 3. Feelfree Moken 12.5 – Best Mid-Level Sit-on-Top Kayak
- 3.4 4. Lifetime Tamarack – Best Entry-Level Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayak
- 3.5 5. Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 – Best Technical Kayak For Professional Anglers
- 3.6 6. Pelican Premium Strike 120X Angler – Best Recreational Fishing Kayak with Minimal Features
- 3.7 7. Old Town Predator MK – Most Versatile Sit-on-Top Kayak
- 4 II. Best Sit-In Fishing Kayaks
- 5 III. Best Tandem Fishing Kayaks
- 6 Fishing Kayak Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ)
- 6.0.1 I’ve never kayaked before. Can I fish from a kayak?
- 6.0.2 What if I tip over?
- 6.0.3 But I can’t swim!
- 6.0.4 Don’t big fish pull you?
- 6.0.5 Are kayaks uncomfortable?
- 6.0.6 Where do you put the fish you catch?
- 6.0.7 Should I buy a tandem?
- 6.0.8 How can I test a kayak I’m interested in?
- 6.0.9 How can I get started with kayak fishing?
- 6.0.10 Are there other options than the ones reviewed here?
- 7 Conclusion
Choosing the Best Fishing Kayak – Buying Guide
Here’s what to look for when buying a fishing kayak:
1. Design – All but one of the fishing kayaks we’re reviewing are sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks, not sit-inside (SINK) boats. They shed water easily through holes called scuppers and allow for more flexibility with storage space and body position. In other words, they’re made for fishing. You might get wet from water coming up through the scuppers, especially if your weight is close to the boat’s maximum capacity. You can also buy or make scupper plugs.
2. Comfort – More comfortable kayaks will have adjustable footrests. The seat(s) won’t simply be a cushion or molded plastic, and it will be elevated off the hull to avoid sitting in the water that comes up through the scuppers. Many boats have removable seats, meaning you can exchange them for more comfortable ones. For the molded plastic seats, add a cushion or two. You’ll thank us later.
3. Stability – The more you’re going to stand in your kayak, the more stable boat you want. A good indicator of stability is the width, although the boat’s design also contributes to stability. For fishing offshore or in high winds, you may need a large boat or an outrigger.
4. Tracking – Longer, thinner boats move faster and track better, that is, they more easily stay in line rather than spinning in a circle. Some boats come with a rudder, while others have a keel or skeg, which are fins that extend into the water below the boat and help it track straight and maintain stability.
5. Fishing Accessories – Kayaks rigged for fishing come with rod holders (“cupholder” flush mounts and swiveling deck mounts), anchor systems for attaching coolers and live wells, and even mounts for GPS receivers and fish finders. Watch that the fishing gear doesn’t get in the way of paddling, and that it’s mounted in an accessible place.
6. Storage – Higher-end boats have quality above-deck shock cord rigging and plenty of anchor points for tackle systems and coolers, as well as large, sealed dry-storage compartments. Maximum weight capacities range from 250 to 500 lbs. If you weigh more than 200 lbs or plan to carry live bait or a lot of gear, perhaps on a multi-day trip, look for a larger boat with a high maximum capacity.
7. Propulsion – The age-old debate: paddle versus pedal. Pedal propulsion systems keep your hands free for fishing and steering, and they keep a shorter boat tracking better. They’re less fatiguing over long distances but also heavier and more expensive. It’s possible, with many kayaks, to add a light trolling motor for the long hauls. All but two of the kayaks we review below are paddle propelled, the only pedal systems being part of the nicest models.
8. Portability – Long, heavy boats will be more difficult to store and transport, especially if carrying them on a roof rack rather than on a trailer. The more carrying handles that come on a boat, the better. Two is typical for cheaper kayaks, while higher-end models have four or more.
Best Fishing Kayaks 2018 – Reviews and Comparison
|Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game II||Sit on top||12' 9" x 34"||650 lbs||4.9|
|Eddyline C-135 Stratofisher YakAttack||Sit on top||13' 5" x 34"||450 lbs||4.9|
|Feelfree Moken 12.5||Sit on top||12' 8" x 32"||419 lbs||4.8|
|Lifetime Tamarack||Sit on top||10' 0"x 31"||275 lbs||4.7|
|Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14||Sit on top||13' 8" x 38"||600 lbs||4.9|
|Pelican Premium Strike 120X Angler||Sit on top||12' 0" x 30"||350 lbs||4.7|
|Old Town Predator MK||Sit on top||13' 2" x 36"||600 lbs||4.9|
|Old Town Vapor 10 Angler||Sit-in||10' 2" x 28.5"||325 lbs||4.7|
|Perception Sound 10.5 Angler||Sit-in||10' 6" x 29.5"||335 lbs||4.8|
|Jackson Realtree Kilroy||Sit-in||12' 3" x 31"||375 lbs||4.9|
|Sun Dolphin Aruba 10||Sit-in||10' 0" x 30"||250 lbs||4.8|
|Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 17T||Tandem||17' 0" x 43.5"||900 lbs||4.9|
|Old Town Twin Heron Angler Tandem||Tandem||13' 6" x 31.5"||500 lbs||4.8|
|Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL Tandem||Tandem||12' 0" x 34"||425 lbs||4.8|
|Jackson Kilroy DT: Delta Tango||Tandem||14' 8" x 33"||550 lbs||4.9|
I. Best Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayaks
1. Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game II – Best for High Capacity, Spacious All-Day Fishing
The Ocean Kayak Prowler II Big Game kayak is one of our favorite kayaks to take out on the water. This kayak is 12’9″ long, 34″ wide, and comes in either a beautiful Brown Camo, White Camo or Orange Camo finish to ensure that you’ll be blending in wherever you decide to take it.
This model was Amazon’s highest selling high-end fishing kayak in 2016, and it’s easy to see why. At a pretty reasonable price, it gives a lot of great features that will keep both amateur and seasoned anglers happy. One such feature is its spaciousness. It is one of the most roomy single kayak models on today’s market. This makes it effortless to store all your necessary (and unnecessary) gear, perfect for all-day fishing.
The Prowler II features a large bow hatch with a simple click seal, a huge rear hatch, and a middle hatch in between your legs, to store rods and other fishing gear. It offers variability by offering six accessory mount plates anchored in strategic places across the kayak.
Overall, this was a very spacious sit-on-top kayak, and we could easily spend all day out on this one.
2. Eddyline C-135 Yakatakk – Best for High-End Kayaking Professionals
The Eddyline C-135 Yakatakk Edition kayak is a serious force to be reckoned with. As showcased on its website, it won both Best Boat and Best of Show at ICAST 2015, which is the largest sport fishing trade show in the world.
The C-135 Yakatakk is 69 pounds, polyethylene, and extremely stable in strong winds. And for how sturdy it is, it is surprisingly comfortable. Eddyline’s Cloud 10-integrated seating system allows anglers four different positions in which to place its waterproof seat, as well as the option to take the seat out altogether. These options allow for precise casting based on personal preference, which is a main draw to our Eddyline selection.
Along with a rear hatch, bow hatch, and power hatch to store gear, this kayak has comfortable leg room, and is a great option for anglers concerned with stability and great options for add-ons.
3. Feelfree Moken 12.5 – Best Mid-Level Sit-on-Top Kayak
The Feelfree Moken 12.5 (a 12’8″ long kayak), is one of the better mid-range kayaks to have come out last year. Its front-facing Uni-Track rails line the sides of the kayak, allowing you to mount a fish finder, GPS, phone, or whatever gear you may have to the sides with ease.
This kayak comes with a bow hatch and center console, along with a bungee-protected rear hatch. Even for a mid-level kayak, this has many features that we like, and is very well-built. It comes in at 72 pounds, features a comfy King Fisher seat, and is stable in moderate winds.
This is a good option for those not looking to break the bank for a great fishing kayak, but for more features and a similar price, we would look toward the Ocean Kayak Prowler II instead.
4. Lifetime Tamarack – Best Entry-Level Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayak
With a cheap sticker price and features intended to appeal to those who love recreational kayaking rather than fishing, the Lifetime Tamarack is a decently good kayak for those who may use it once or twice a year. The Tamarack does have two hatches; one located in the rear, and one located in the center, for easy storage of smaller or lightweight gear. It also has two flush fishing pole holders and a top mount rod holder as well.
One downside: this kayak has only a 275 pound weight limit, compared to the 400+ weight limit that fishing kayaks usually carry. This limits serious anglers who may have more gear than the average kayak fisher. For this one, we suggest purchasing it as a first fishing kayak, and then upgrading if you get more serious.
5. Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 – Best Technical Kayak For Professional Anglers
Coming in at the most expensive single fishing kayak in our list, the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 is an amazing watercraft, and has all the best features that money can buy.
It is 13’8″ long, 38″ wide, has a total capacity of 600 pounds, and comes with a load of different options and perks. It has a front, center, and rear hatch, all with easy twist and seal lids. The most roomy single kayak on our list, this also has horizontal storage for four rods and vertical storage for two!
Other great features include cup holders, gear rails galore, and – most importantly – the MirageDrive 180 pedal system. This propulsion system unique to the Hobie Mirage line proves to be extremely easy to jet forward, maneuver, and reverse on a dime. This allows for anglers to be in better control of their craft, making better and more presentable casts, and having better chances at landing fish. To top it off, the Mirage had one of the more comfortable seats on our list!
Overall, we think this is absolutely the best fishing kayak on the market – whether or not the price is worth the features we’ll leave up to you.
6. Pelican Premium Strike 120X Angler – Best Recreational Fishing Kayak with Minimal Features
At a very fair price, Pelican Sports has built a great kayak in the Premium Strike 120X Angler. While it is very short, coming in at only 10 feet long and 30 inches wide, it has great features and is an all-around well-built kayak.
The Premium Strike weighs only 53 pounds and has multiple carrying handles, making it easy to transport to and from a day of fishing or recreational kayaking. The paddles also tie down into the kayak, making your time spent fishing a little more smooth and stress-free. This kayak also has standard features that make it great for amateur anglers. These include a hatch at the bow, a quick-lock bow hatch, and a swivel rod holder.
This is definitely a budget kayak, and for those who think they may need more features, we suggest spending the couple extra hundred dollars to secure a longer-lasting boat. However, if you’re just starting to get into recreational fishing, this kayak may be a good introductory choice for you.
7. Old Town Predator MK – Most Versatile Sit-on-Top Kayak
If you look at any list of top fishing kayaks, you’ll most certainly find the Old Town Predator MK somewhere on that list.
This kayak boasts hands-free fishing in the form of its state-of-the-art electric motor and foot-controlled rudder. The electric motor allows for ease of steering and the option to charge your phone, camera, and more on-the-go! These features alone makes this kayak a real game-changer for those looking to focus on fishing, while being able to maneuver and navigate with their feet. It features six mounting plates, rod tip protectors, and a great moveable seat. Add the multiple color options for the Predator MK, and this becomes one of our favorite kayaks on this list. This is an extremely versatile kayak, and allows for both small river fishing and large open lake fishing.
II. Best Sit-In Fishing Kayaks
1. Old Town Vapor 10 Angler – Best Mid-Level Sit-in Kayak
In addition to Old Town’s fantastic sit-on-top Predator MK, we love the Old Town Vapor 10 Angler for a sit-in kayak option. Its polyethylene build makes it both lightweight and sturdy, and the kayak comes with additional features such as thigh pads, adjustable foot braces, and a comfort flex seat.
Old Town equips their kayak to be for all-day use, as the Vapor 10 includes a cup holder, cockpit tray, and a storage well at the rear. The cheaper model comes in a brown camo finish, which we prefer to its other color options anyway.
Overall, a great option for those who need a decently cheap but well-built sit-in fishing kayak.
2. Perception Sound 10.5 Angler – Best Sit-in Kayak for All-Day Fishing
The Perception Sport Sound Angler comes in at 10.5 feet long, with a weight of 46 pounds and weight capacity of 335 pounds.
Like the Old Town Vapor 10, it is a UV, abrasion and impact-resistant polyethylene model, and is pretty durable for a kayak in its price range. The Sound features a stabilizer hull to enhance tracking, and help stabilize the boat when getting in and out of it.
The kayak has a rear-access well and a cockpit tray for gear, and has two built-in rod holders. It also features a 3.5 pound anchor, for those looking to stay in one fish-friendly area.
The Perception Sound comes in a couple different sizes, but we prefer the 10.5 as it is the most portable, while still being sturdy and making paddling easy.
3. Jackson Realtree Kilroy – Most Versatile Sit-in Kayak
We feel that the Jackson Realtree Kilroy is the best sit-in kayak available today.
Their Realtree Kilroy kayak aims to bring you right into action with a hunting-inspired camo design, blending both the kayak and you right into your setting. It features a comfortable and supportive Ergo seat, and a standing platform inside the hull. This allows you to either sit comfortably, or stable casting while standing. The main perks of this kayak come from its partner companies, including Therm-a-rest, SealLine, and Nalgene.
Therm-a-rest converts the lumbar support into a comfortable pillow, the water-resistant SealLine pouch at the rear is great for gear storage, and is removable if you need more free space. Jackson partners with Nalgene to make cup holders specific to durable wide-mouth Nalgene bottles, and even includes a Nalgene with the kayak! The Realtree Kilroy also features drain plugs, rod holders, built-in line cutters and fish grips.
Ultimately, this kayak could be a real option for seasoned anglers who aren’t completely happy with the sit-on-top options on the market.
4. Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 – Cheapest & Best (Very) Entry Level Sit-in Kayak
If you plan on doing more recreational kayaking than fishing, the Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 comes at a steal of a price.
We will tell you up front – this kayak has no major fishing-related features; however, it has a strong polyethylene hull that provides anglers and kayakers with a cheap and sturdy option. It is a light 40 pounds, comes with carrying handles, a water bottle holder, and has adjustable foot braces. It also has an adjustable seat; however, it is one of the least comfy seats in our list. If you do decide to take it out for fishing, it has a gear storage well at the stern.
These basic features appeal more to recreational kayakers who are simply looking for a good time out on the water; if you’re looking for something cheap to go out in this may be a good model for you. However, if you’re looking to actively improve your fishing, we suggest going with another model that may have more fishing-related features.
III. Best Tandem Fishing Kayaks
1. Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 17T – Best Sit-on-Top Tandem Kayak
The Hobie Mirage line excels again when it comes to their tandem kayak, the Pro Angler 17T. It is 17 feet long, 43.5 inches wide, and is by far our favorite tandem sit-on-top kayak. Feature-wise, this kayak is extremely reminiscent of the earlier Mirage model in our list.
Like the earlier model, it runs on the MirageDrive 180 Turbo, so you can easily get to a good fishing spot while your partner gets the gear ready to cast out. This is extremely easy to maneuver for both anglers or even one angler at a time, and its well-built hull is strong and sturdy enough to even take on strong ocean currents.
The features unique to the tandem model include pivot seats, so the anglers may fish either away from each other or facing each other. The kayak also features a mind-blowing TEN horizontal rod holders, and large center and front hatches to store both parties’ gear.
While it comes at a high price, the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 17T is our choice for the all-around best tandem fishing kayak.
2. Old Town Twin Heron Angler Tandem – Best Entry-Level Fishing Kayak
Those looking for a great cheaper option for a tandem kayak should look to Old Town’s Twin Heron Angler. This is a tandem sit-in kayak, which allows for a sturdy ride close to the water.
This kayak has a removable front seat, for those looking to use it as either a tandem or large single kayak. If one chooses to ride solo in this kayak, Old Town’s auto trim hull ensures that the bow will stay low to the water, making for a smooth trip. Both seating positions give easy access to gear hatches, and the kayak can hold up to 500 pounds – plenty enough to store the gear for one or two anglers.
This is a great cheaper option for those looking to go out fishing with a friend, but do not want to make a commitment to a technical, expensive tandem kayak.
3. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL Tandem – Best Recreational/Family-Friendly Kayak
Ocean Kayak’s sit-on-top kayak is a great recreational kayak for two, but can also be used for fishing if one does not need some of the advanced features that the other three tandem options have.
The adjustable seats allow for one, two, or even two people and a child – to sit atop the kayak safely and securely (up to 375 pounds). It is self draining/self bailing, which means less time hassling with the upkeep of the kayak, and more time out on the water. While this kayak does not have gear storage options that would be necessary to take it out on most fishing trips, the comfortable seats made this a fun time for recreational day-time use. Like we specified in our review of the Sun Dolphin Aruba 10, this kayak is not one of the more technically savvy models.
Ultimately, we recommend using this more for recreational kayaking rather than fishing. However, this kayak would be a good option to get your family or young child out on the water, introducing a whole new set of anglers to the world!
4. Jackson Kilroy DT: Delta Tango – Best Tandem Sit-in Kayak
The Jackson Kilroy DT, much like the sit-in Realtree Kilroy, is a sturdy, well-built kayak that will appeal to seasoned tandem kayaking fishers.
The seats are adjustable and removable, making it easy to go from tandem kayaking to spacious solo kayaking. Its custom molded floor and comfortable seats make this one of the more comfortable sit-in kayaks. It comes with mounts and rod holders all along the sides of the kayak, and a GoPro-specific mount in the front thrown in for good measure.
The Jackson Kilroy DT is great for open water fishing on a lake, but can also be used for small banks and ocean as well. While not quite as technologically advanced as the Realtree Kilroy, this is definitely still our favorite sit-in tandem kayak.
Fishing Kayak Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ)
Tip: when you’re in the water, flip the boat back over from the end, not the side. See here for how to do it.
Yes. If none of the above boats fit the bill, ask people who know kayak fishing, either on the internet or in person. On forums, provide your height, weight, fishing style (or desired fishing style), and other pertinent information like limited storage space. People will be more than happy to help you. Kayak fishermen are happy people, because they go kayaking all the time!
Don’t overlook the value of going to your local boat shop. They’ll know what kind of fish are in your area, where to go for them, what you need to catch them, and special considerations for your area that will be tougher to find on the internet. If you don’t have a local shop, contact a paddle club in your area. Check out this website to find a paddle club in your area of the U.S.
Unless you’re a professional fisherman or a very advanced amateur, one of the cheap or intermediate kayaks reviewed above will fit your needs. A test paddle (or pedal) should tell you a bit about what will work for you. A width of 33 versus 31 inches doesn’t matter if the narrower one feels more stable to you; the feel is what’s going to keep you happy time after time out there on the water. Now get out there and catch some fish!