Fishing kayaks are watercraft designed specifically for open water fishing. They provide a very easy, economical way to gain access to fishing waters that might otherwise be impossible to reach. They can be used on the sea, in slow-moving rivers, on inland lakes, and on reservoirs. Compared to regular fishing boats, fishing kayaks are cheap, portable, and easy to use. Above all, fishing from a kayak is just plain fun!
While you can hire a fishing kayak, if you want to get out on the water more often, it pays to buy your own. That way, you’ll be able to use it whenever you want and modify it to match your needs. Better still, you won’t have to keep paying out to rent a boat. It’ll be yours, and there won’t be any ongoing costs.
There are lots of different fishing kayaks available, and while they all look similar, some are better than others. This guide is designed to teach you what to look for in a fishing kayak, and we’ve also included reviews of the five best kayaks for fishing.
8 Reasons Why You Should Try Kayak Fishing
If you have already tried kayak fishing, you already know the answer to this question. But, if you have never been or aren’t yet sold on the joys of fishing from a kayak, here is a brief list of all the things that make this such an enjoyable pastime.
- If you like kayaking, or you like fishing, you will love doing both these things together. There is something uniquely enjoyable about kayaking out into the water and casting your line.
- It’s relaxing! No noise, no interruptions, no stress – kayak fishing is a great way to unplug from technology and leave your worries behind. It’s also incredibly peaceful. Find an out-of-the-way spot and relax for a few hours. You deserve it!
- It’s comparatively cheap. Buying a powered fishing boat is expensive. And you’ll also need to pay things for like mooring, purchase fuel, and then there is the ongoing cost of maintenance too. Fishing kayaks are much cheaper to buy than boats and have none of the ongoing expenses. Kayak fishing is very budget-friendly.
- You can explore almost any waterway. Fishing kayaks can go where many other boats cannot. That’s perfect if you want to find a secluded spot or just find less-fished areas. Narrow and shallow waters are no problem in a fishing kayak.
- Kayak fishing is easy. You don’t need to be an expert fisherman to enjoy kayak fishing; just watch a few YouTube videos, buy a book, and you’ll be able to start this excellent pastime. With practice, you’ll soon become an expert.
- You won’t scare the fish. Fishing kayaks are very quiet, and that means you can get close to shoals of fish without disturbing them. With the right conditions and bait, the fish will come to you!
- Convenience: Transporting a fishing kayak is much easier than transporting a larger boat. Just put all your fishing gear in your trunk and put your boat on your roof rack or on a lightweight trailer. You can set up your kayak in minutes and be on the water while the boaters are still queuing to launch their bigger watercraft.
- Cover large distances. Contrary to popular belief, you can cover large distances with ease with a fishing kayak. They don’t require a lot of effort to paddle, and you can travel to new fishing spots if you aren’t getting a bite where you currently are.
The 3 Drawbacks Of Kayak Fishing
The truth is there aren’t many disadvantages to kayak fishing. But, so you have the complete picture and can make a fully informed decision, here are the less positive things you should consider before buying your fishing kayak.
- Seasickness. Fishing kayaks are small and light, which means you are at the mercy of the waves. You may find yourself bobbing around quite a lot in even a low swell. That said, being so close to the water often means the symptoms of seasickness are much less severe compared to being on a higher boat.
- No group outings. Most fishing kayaks are built for just one or two people. You won’t be able to go on a group fishing trip with your family or friends unless they have fishing kayaks too. Kayak fishing is not a group activity.
- Exposure to the elements. Fishing kayaks offer no protection from the sun, wind, or the water. You are truly at one with nature. You’ll need to wrap up warm in the winter and slap on the sunscreen in the summer. You may even need to swap one for the other if the weather changes unexpectedly. You’ll also have to accept that getting wet is part of the kayak fishing experience, especially if you capsize.
10 Important Things Look For In A Fishing Kayak
There are lots of different fishing kayaks available, but some are definitely better than others. Here are the features you need to look for in a kayak made for fishing.
1. You Need A Comfortable Kayak
Unless you live right on the water’s edge, going fishing with your kayak will take time and effort. You probably won’t go out unless you are going to spend at least a couple of hours on the water.
Because of this, your kayak must be comfortable. Look for padded seats and also the ability to replace and upgrade your cushion for even more comfort. Adjustable footrests can also make your kayak fishing experience a whole lot more comfortable.
The more stable your fishing kayak is, the less likely you are to capsize it accidentally. It’ll also be better in rougher water. Kayaks automatically become more stable when you are padding but, with kayak fishing, you’ll often be stationary. You may even want to stand up. A narrow racing kayak is not your best choice! Make sure you’re your fishing kayak is wide and stable and won’t tip over, dumping you and all your gear into the sea.
You’ll need plenty of space for all your fishing gear. Make sure your kayak can hold everything you need for a potentially lengthy fishing trip. Look for bungee storage areas, as well as sealed-in storage compartments. A good kayak for fishing should comfortably be able to support you and all your gear, so look for boats with a high weight capacity.
Are you a solo fisherman, or do you anticipate going out with a friend? Make sure your fishing kayak is big enough for your needs. It’s better to buy a bigger boat than one that’s too small and that then needs to be replaced, just because you want to go out fishing with a new crew member! Bigger boats are heavier and harder to lift and carry but, if you aren’t on your own, this isn’t really much of a problem.
In all probability, you are going to have to transport your fishing kayak from your home to the water. This can be a tough job, especially if you are going out on your own. Make sure your fishing kayak is portable and has handles to make lifting and carrying it easier. Also, consider the weight of your boat; will you be able to lift it onto your roof rack or trailer, even after a hard day out on the water? Again, this is especially important if you expect to do mostly solo fishing trips.
6. Rod holders
It’s unlikely that you’ll want to hold your rod for the entire time you are fishing, and you may even want to use several rods at the same time. Fishing kayaks have rod holders, and, in most cases, more is better. Make sure the fishing kayak you are thinking of buying has enough rod holders, or there are ports that will allow you to add more. Holders for cups, fish finders, and GPS receivers may also be useful.
All fishing kayaks can be propelled with traditional paddles, but some can also be retrofitted with small, electric motors. Motors leave your hands free for fishing but usually make fishing kayaks heavier and more expensive. If you think you might want to add a motor at a later date, make sure your boat can accommodate one.
8. Rigid vs inflatable Fishing Kayak
Most fishing kayaks are rigid. Rigid boats tend to be more stable, hardwearing, and won’t puncture if you accidentally poke it with a fishhook or filleting knife. However, rigid kayaks can also be hard to transport and store, especially if you live in an apartment or have a small car. Inflatable fishing kayaks are not as stable, or as hardwearing, and can puncture if you are careless, but are much easier to transport and store. However, you’ll need to allow extra time to inflate and deflate your boat. An electric pump will make that laborious process much easier.
9. Sit-on vs sit-in Fishing Kayak
Most fishing kayaks are sit-on. This means you’ll have lots of space and can move around comfortably. They have self-draining scuppers and won’t fill up with water. They are ideal for slow-moving, calm waters. However, it also means you are open to the elements. Sit-in kayaks aren’t as roomy, but they are better for rougher water. Paired with a spray deck or skirt, they won’t fill with water. But you’ll have to stay in your seat in a sit-in kayak, and there isn’t as much easy-access storage space. You’ll also need to master the Eskimo roll in case you capsize.
Fishing kayaks are made from a wide range of materials. The type of material used will affect things like rigidity, toughness, weight, and price. Popular materials used for making kayaks for fishing include:
- Single-layer polyethylene: durable, light, and cheap, this is a good choice for budget fishing kayaks.
- Double and triple-layer polyethylene: heavier, thicker, and more expensive than single-layer polyethylene, but more robust and likely to last longer.
- Fiberglass: light and rigid, but also prone to damage if you hit a rock, coral, or anything else hard. Fiberglass can be repaired, but repairs can be expensive. Fiberglass boats usually cost more than those made from polyethylene.
- Kevlar carbon: the lightest material for making fishing kayaks, it’s stronger than fiberglass, but it’s usually more expensive.
The 5 Best Fishing Kayaks Reviewed
Still not sure how to choose the right fishing kayak for you? Here are our top five recommendations:
1. Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Inflatable Fishing Kayak
Most fishing kayaks are rigid, which means they are durable and virtually unsinkable. However, that makes them hard to transport and store. The Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Inflatable Fishing Kayak is a good alternative if you need a boat that’s easier to transport and store.
- Made from three-ply heavy-duty puncture and abrasion-resistant laminated PVC
- Removable inflatable seats with adjustable footrests
- High-pressure I-beam air deck
- 2-person capacity
- Two built-in rod holders
- Handles for easier transportation
- Interchangeable skegs for better tracking
- Supplied with a manual pump and two paddles
- Comes with a handy carry bag and pressure gauge
The Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Inflatable Fishing Kayak is a breeze to transport and inflate. It has a high-pressure deck to help keep it rigid, and the large side tubes make this boat very stable, even in rougher water. It is supplied with two skegs, one for deep water and a small one for shallow water. There is a removable and adjustable mounting bracket for additional accessories, such as GPS systems, fish finders, swivel fishing rod holders, etc.
- Large capacity and will hold up to 400 lbs.
- Easy to transport and inflate
- Big enough for two people
- Stable and easy to paddle
- Supplied with everything you need to get out on the water
- Plenty of D-rings for tying down additional equipment
- Only two built-in rod holders
- Takes 15 minutes or more to inflate
- Could be holed by fishhooks or sharp rocks
- Quite heavy
If you are an occasional angler or don’t have the space to store or the means to transport a rigid fishing kayak, this INTEX inflatable is worth your consideration. Despite its budget price, this is a perfectly fine kayak for fishing.
2. Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak
The Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak has everything you need for a successful day of kayak fishing. Unlike a lot of kayaks, which add fishing accessories almost as an afterthought, this boat is made specifically for fishing.
- Made from ultra-durable high-density polyethylene
- Molded, padded seat with five footrest options
- Twin fishing rod mounts
- Two bungee storage areas
- Two waterproof hatches
- Built-in paddle holder
- Flat bottomed hull for increased stability
- Molded skeg for straighter tracking
This fishing kayak has everything a solo fisherman needs. Everything is within easy reach, and there are two of everything important. The Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak is a compact fishing kayak that is designed to make your fishing trip as enjoyable as possible.
- Small, light and easy to transport
- Large capacity
- Stable but built for speed and easy paddling
- Plenty of fishing-specific features
- Very budget-friendly
- Only big enough for one person
- Available only in one color
- Quite heavy at 52 lbs.
The Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a cheap but well-equipped kayak for fishing. It’s ideal for first-timers and anyone with a small to medium budget.
3. BKC RA220 11.6′ Single Fishing Kayak
If you want a fishing kayak with plenty of features, the BKC RA220 11.6′ Single Fishing Kayak could be an excellent choice. It really does have everything a solo angler could ever want on a fishing kayak.
- Foot-operated rudder for hands-free steering
- Twin rod holders
- Wide, stable hull
- Three waterproof storage areas
- Maximum load capacity 450 lbs.
- Cut out cubbyholes for fish finders, GPS, etc.
- Upright back support with aluminum frame
- Multiple drain ports
- Three carry handles for easy transportation
This fishing kayak has everything you need to a great day out on the water. With lots of storage space, you’ll have no problem carrying everything you need for even multi-day trips. It’s also wide and stable enough for those who prefer to cast and fish while standing.
- Great for longer trips
- Very comfortable seat
- Suitable for rougher water
- Built to last
- Available in eight attractive colorways
- A little on the heavy side at 68 lbs.
- Only suitable for one person
The BKC RA220 11.6′ Single Fishing Kayak is a high-quality watercraft. It’s not the cheapest kayak around, but, for solo anglers, it really does have everything you need for an enjoyable fishing trip. It should also last for many years.
4. Elkton Outdoors Tandem Fishing Kayak
While fishing is often a solitary pastime, it doesn’t have to be. If you want the option of taking a partner with you on a fishing trip, you’ll need a tandem fishing kayak. Bigger than a single-seater, a tandem boat is also ideal for solo paddlers who want more storage space. The Elkton Outdoors Tandem Fishing Kayak is an excellent choice for anyone looking to fish with a friend.
- Ultra-durable rotomolded body
- Wide, stable hull
- Twin adjustable seats with padded PVA backrests
- Four rod holders
- Two waterproof storage areas
- Two large open storage areas
- 650 lbs. carrying capacity
- Lots of built-in cubbyholes for things like GPS, fish finder, etc.
- Supplied with two paddles
Kayak fishing is more fun with a friend. With the Elkton Outdoors Tandem Fishing Kayak, there is more than enough space for two people to paddle and fish in comfort. The boat is stable enough to stand up in, and it’s got more than enough storage space to accommodate all your equipment. This sturdy boat is built to last.
- Ideal for families
- Suitable for one or two paddlers
- Enough storage space for extended fishing trips
- Very comfy seats
- Designed specifically for fishing
- Big and bulky – will be hard to carry alone
- Quite expensive
The Elkton Outdoors Tandem Fishing Kayak is a good choice for those who want company when they fish or just want more space when paddling alone. This fishing kayak is not the cheapest, but you get a lot of boat for your money.
5. Vibe Skipjack 90 9 Foot Angler
Fishing kayaks come in all shapes and sizes but, if transportability is important to you, smaller is better. Small kayaks are also easier to maneuver. The Vibe Skipjack 90 9 Foot Angler is a light, compact boat that is ideal if you don’t want to have to wrestle a larger kayak on and off your roof rack on your own.
- Very compact design
- Four rod mounts
- Waterproof storage hatch
- Twin storage areas with bungees
- Molded seat with PVA backrest and cushion
- Four molded carry handles
- Molded pockets for a fish finder, GPS, drink bottles, etc.
- Slip-resistant deck
- 6 drainage/scupper holes
Fast, light and stable, the Vibe Skipjack 90 9 Foot Angler is a great little boat for solo use. Despite its compact size, you won’t feel cramped in this small fishing kayak, and there is more than enough space for all your gear. If you are looking for a grab and go kayak for fishing, this is an excellent choice.
- Very easy to paddle and steer
- Stable even in rougher water
- All-but unsinkable
- Plenty of features to make for a comfortable fishing trip
- Sleek, fast design
- Available in three colorways
- Only one waterproof storage locker
The Vibe Skipjack 90 0 Foot Angler is the perfect fishing kayak for anyone who wants a really light, compact, but still well-equipped and stable boat. It’s small enough that most people should be able to lift and carry it with ease, but still has everything you need for a comfortable and successful fishing trip.
Final thoughts: Picking The Right Fishing Kayak For You
When it comes to buying the best fishing kayak, it’s important to remember that it’s often better to buy the best boat you can afford in the first place than buy a cheap one and then have to try and sell it later when you realize you want to upgrade.
Some features may seem unnecessary when you are trying your fishing kayak. Still, you may realize those features offer a lot of advantages once you’ve been out on the water a few times.
That doesn’t mean you should automatically go for the most expensive fishing kayak around, but cheaper is not always the way to go either. After all, you want your fishing trips to be as enjoyable as possible, and your choice of kayak will have a big impact on that.
Whichever option you choose, remember to enjoy your new fishing kayak safety and always wear the best personal floatation device (PFD).