25 Best Fishing Kayaks in 2021 Reviewed
Planning a kayak fishing trip? Then investing in the best kayak is equally important as picking the right spot and packing the right bait. To help you catch gold, a fishing kayak needs to be stable, ergonomic, comfortable, agile, and high-quality. How to find a recreational kayak that ticks all the boxes? Simple: by using this Best Fishing Kayak overview!
To help you understand the different kayak options on the market, our experts have ensured there’s a match for every type of angler. From ultra-sleek sit-in kayaks that are stealthy in open water, to budget-friendly inflatable kayaks for leisurely paddling in shallow water: there’s a perfect fit for every fisherman.
We’ve also ensured to include an option at every price-point, so whether you want to spend a lot or a little, this Best Fishing Kayak review has got you covered! To make it even easier to choose, we’ve highlighted our 3 favorite designs from this overview in our Editors’ Picks section. Though every kayak on this list is worthy of your time and attention, these 3 stand-out for their respective value at their price points:
Our Top 3 Editors’ Picks for the Best Fishing Kayaks are:
Best Budget-Friendly Kayak: Sun Dolphin Aruba 10-Foot Sit-in Kayak
Best Inflatable Kayak: ADVANCED ELEMENTS StraitEdge Angler PRO Inflatable Kayak
Best Premium Fishing Kayak: Perception Pescador Pro 12 Sit on Top Fishing Kayak
Tip: Need more help when purchasing a fishing kayak? Then don’t forget to check out our Buying Guide section at the bottom of this post. Here, we’re listing the most important buying factors to take into consideration, such as length, drive system, branding, and more.
How to Choose the Best Fishing Kayak in 5 Easy Steps:
Step 1: Determine how much you’re willing to spend
Step 2: Choose a drive system (paddling, foot propulsion pedal-driven, motorized)
Step 3: Choose a kayak length (anywhere from 8- to 16-feet)
Step 4: Decide what additional you want for your kayak (dry storage, seating system, rod holders, etc.)
Step 5: Match your buying requirements to one of the Best Fishing Kayaks included in this review, either by using the Top 3 Comparison Chart or the detailed product descriptions, and purchase your favorite directly on Amazon.
Done! You’ve just hooked a winner from the top-rated, best-value fishing kayaks on the market!
25+ Best Fishing Kayaks – Editors’ Picks
Sun Dolphin Aruba 10-Feet Sit-in Kayak
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly, basic kayak without the bells and whistles, the SunDolphin Aruba is a fantastic choice. This affordable sit-in kayak measures 10-feet in length and is the ideal option for less-experienced kayakers and/or anglers that want a simple yet functional vessel.
The Sun Dolphin Aruba 10-Foot Sit-in Kayak is a lightweight kayak that weighs just 40 pounds: making it convenient to transport to and from your fishing spot. The kayak also comes with carry handles on the bow and stern, making it easier to grip and carry. The design features a high-density polyethylene hull with great durability and agility.
Basic storage and adjustable seating
Other perks are the kayak’s spacious open cockpit with adjustable padded seat with high back support. Further comfort is offered by the kayak’s adjustable foot braces, which help keep you stable and firmly perched. The design is also equipped with a spray-deflector collar to keep you dry on your paddling adventures. That’s not all, because this kayak even features a convenient storage hatch/dry storage compartment in its hull design, shock-cord deck rigging, a recessed water bottle/cup holder, and a flush mount rod holder and paddle leashes to keep your oars/rods secure.
Affordable, great quality, lightweight, and equipped with the essentials such as paddle holders, multiple storage areas, and a comfy padded seat: the Sun Dolphin Aruba 10-Foot Sit-in Kayak offers a lot of bang for your buck! When it comes to budget-friendly recreational kayaks, the Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 is simply one of the best deals you’ll find on Amazon.
ADVANCED ELEMENTS StraitEdge Angler PRO Inflatable Kayak
If you’re looking for the best inflatable kayak on the market, the StraitEdge Angler PRO by Advanced Elements is a prime contender. The big advantage of this design is its ease of transport and portability. When deflated, you can simply bundle it in the back of your car – no roof racks or kayak trailers needed. Granted, it may not be as heavy-duty or rugged as a hard shell kayak, but in the segment of inflatables, the StraitEdge Angler Pro is about as durable and high-quality as it gets.
The inflatable kayak features built-in aluminum ribs that define the bow and stern and abrasion pads in high-use areas for maximum durability. The Advanced Elements Straight Edge Angler PRO is stable enough for stand-up fishing, thanks to its wide beam and drop-stitch floor construction. The kayak is made of multi-layer high-density material and features multiple air chambers throughout its silhouette, which provide durability and security even in challenging conditions like whitewater rafting.
What makes the Advanced Elements Straight Edge Angler PRO stand out from other inflatable kayaks, is its special ‘Accessory frame System’, which offers anglers a variety of mounting options for your fishing gear. For example, you can add rail-mounts to fully customize your kayak with rod holders, a fish finder, and other fishing accessories.
Comfort padded seat and bungee lace storage
The Advanced Elements Straight Edge Angler PRO is also very comfortable, thanks to its high-back, adjustable seat. This AirFrame Pro seat is also padded and comes with mesh panels for breathability and flexible support: enabling hours of comfortable padding. The Advanced Elements Straight Edge Angler PRO also has your storage needs covered with front and rear bungee deck lacing with stainless steel D-rings. Additionally, the kayak comes with paddle holders, keeping your oars secure and organized. The Angler Pro by Advanced Elements even allows for the addition of an ElectraFin Motor (trolling motor) via its designated fin box.
When it comes to inflatable fishing kayaks, the Advanced Elements Straight Edge PRO Angler is a prime contender for the title of ‘the best’. Durable, premium quality, and special features for fishermen: this model gets a big thumbs up from us. We’d normally prefer a hard shell kayak, but for the superb Straight Edge Angler Pro, we’d be inclined to make an exception!
Perception Pescador Pro 12 Sit on Top Fishing Kayak
The Perception Pescador Pro 12 is a best-selling 12-feet fishing kayak with high-end performance and premium features. When we compare this model to similarly-priced kayaks on Amazon, it becomes instantly clear that the Pescador Pro delivers outstanding value-for-money. This best-selling is equipped with all the bells and whistles a kayak angler can dream of, and scores top marks on comfort, maneuverability, and durability. The sit-on-top kayak has built-in buoyancy for maximum stability, whilst its efficient hull tracks straight to stay on course and cover lots of water with minimal effort.
The Perception Pescador Pro 12 Sit-On-Top Kayak was specifically designed with your angling needs in mind. In contrast to regular recreational kayaks, this silhouette is packed with perks to make your fishing trip more enjoyable, and comfortable. For example, this fishing kayak comes with integrated accessory gear tracks, a fish-finder console, and 2 molded-in rod holders for hands-free rod storage. Further storage areas on this best-selling fishing kayak include large front and rear open storage with bungee lashings, ideal for storing your cooler, tackle box, and other fishing gear.
Removable Pro Seat for extra functionality
Another premium feature of the Perception Pescador Pro 12 is its fantastic seating system. The kayak features a removable Pro Seat, which features 2-levels of seat adjustment – allowing for a custom fit. The seat is also equipped with breathable mesh paneling for ultimate all-day comfort. A clever perk is that you can fully remove the seat and use it as a camp chair, or fishing stool, when onshore. Double the functionality! (Do note that there are 2 scupper holes underneath the seat, which do not include a scupper plug, so we would advise you to plug these to keep a dry bum when paddling.)
The Perception Pescador Pro 12 is made of heavy-duty materials with a lightweight appeal, such as high-density polyethylene with UV- and impact-resistance. Though durable and rugged, the entire kayak weighs just 57 lbs (weight capacity: 325 lbs) – making it relatively easy to transport using the integrated carry handles. This quality fishing kayak also comes with a replaceable skid plate, which adds protection when dragging a gear-loaded kayak to the water.
If you’re looking for a premium fishing kayak at reasonable, mid-budget pricing: the Perception Pescador Pro 12 offers superb value. Packed with design perks for anglers, stable and easy to maneuver, and made of durable yet lightweight material: the Perception Pescador Pro 12 is worth every penny.
25+ Best Fishing Kayaks – Best of the Rest
Wilderness Systems ATAK 120 Sit on Top Fishing Kayak
Wilderness Systems Pungo 125 Sit Inside Recreational Kayak
Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135 | Sit Inside Recreational Kayak
Wilderness Systems Tempest 165 Sit Inside Touring Kayak
Wilderness Systems Kayak Tsunami 140 Rudder Touring Kayak
Lifetime Cruze 100 Sit-in Kayak
Riot Kayaks Enduro 12 Angler Kayak
Old Town Topwater 106 PDL Angler Fishing Kayak
Pelican Sit-on-top 10 Feet Fishing Kayak
Pelican Sentinel 100X Sit-on-Top Kayak
Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
BOTE Deus Aero Inflatable Kayak & Stand Up Paddle Board
Perception Flash 9.5 Sit Inside Kayak with Rod Holders and Rear Storage
Perception Conduit Sit Inside Touring Kayak
Perception Hi Life 11 Sit on Top SUP/Paddleboard Hybrid Kayak
Vanhunks Boarding Black Bass 13ft Single Fishing Kayak
Malibu Kayaks Stealth-14 Ultimate Fishing Kayak with Seat Tray
ADVANCED ELEMENTS PackLite Kayak
ADVANCED ELEMENTS StraitEdge Angler Inflatable Fishing Kayak
Intex Challenger Kayak Series
Intex Explorer K2 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set
Lifetime 90806 Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak
Each kayak included in this overview could be crowned ‘The Best’, depending on which buying factors are most important to you. Whilst one angler may favor a lightweight, inflatable kayak as its easier to transport – another may swear by a heavy-duty hard-shell design with maximum durability. Similarly, one fishing enthusiast may prefer a sit-in kayak, because it’s more insulated for cold-weather fishing, whilst another in a warmer climate may want a sit-on-top kayak because they want maximum airflow. Though there isn’t a one-fits-all solution, there are dozens of high-quality options to fit every scenario and fishing situation.
To find out which fishing kayak is the best purchase for you, our reader, we recommend you to determine your most important buying criteria. Do you want a hard-sell or inflatable kayak? Would you prefer a sit-in or sit-on-top model? Do you want all the bells and whistles, or will a basic kayak suffice? And let’s not forget: how much are you willing to spend? Once you’ve determined the essential buying factors, simply match them to one of the top-rated kayaks in this overview, and you’ve found your best buy!
If you don’t fancy browsing through all the options, you could also select one of the products from our Editors’ Picks section. We’ve selected 3 different kayaks that stand-out based on their value-for-money and superb Amazon review scores. One is inflatable, one is budget-friendly, and one is equipped with all the perks for avid anglers. Discover them in our comparison chart below:
If you need further help in determining which buying factors are most important to you, don’t forget to consult our buying guide below. In this section, we’re highlighting the basic factors to take into consideration, helping you make a well-informed choice in the best fishing kayak for your fishing adventures. Get inspired about the options, find your match, and take your angling to the next level with a best-value fishing kayak!
Fishing Kayaks: How To Find Your Perfect Fit
Choosing a kayak type
When shopping for a fishing kayak, step one is to determine what type of kayak you prefer. Kayaks come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, but most common are: sit-on-top kayaks, sit-in kayaks, inflatable kayaks, and motorized kayaks. Each has its specific appeal, and all can keep you firmly perched on your angling adventures. That said, we would recommend choosing a kayak that comes with features aimed at fishing, for example, rod holders, a sturdy mount for your GPS or fishfinder, a built-in cooler, or even a built-in tackle box. Though these aren’t strictly necessities (your main priority is a stable kayak), a fishing trip becomes a lot more comfortable a kayak is already equiped with some fishing aids and/or storage.
Sit-on-top kayaks versus sit-in kayaks
For the fishing enthusiast, sit-on-top kayaks and sit-in kayaks are the most popular options. Though an inflatable kayak can be a budget-friendly alternative, it lacks some durability, stability, and isn’t suitable to stand up and cast. Additionally, an inflatable kayak may be prone to puncturing, which – with a lot of sharp hooks and fishing accessories around – can be a big hazard. That is why we, and most other anglers, prefer a sit-on-top or sit-in kayak. Let’s quickly summarize the differences between these two recreational kayaks:
A sit-on-top kayak features a fully sealed hull and requires you to sit-on-top of the deck, instead of sliding your legs under. This model often comes with a pre-molded seat (or padded seat) and footrest, with optional storage space in the kayaks hull (via storage hatch openings). A sit-on-top kayak is often wider in silhouette, which adds to its stability. Some are even wide and stable enough to encourage stand up fishing, which could be just the thing some anglers are looking for.
Do note that a sit-on-top kayak means your whole body is exposed to the elements and the water. This means you’ll either have to wear a wetsuit or waterproof clothing (or be prepared to get wet). In calm weather and mild conditions, you probably won’t suffer too much, but in choppier waters or high-winds, staying dry in an open-top kayak is quite a challenge. That is why we’d either recommend this type of kayak for warm weather conditions, or for anglers that want a maximum range of movement (this kayak does not constrict you in any way.
A sit-in kayak has a seating cockpit that requires you to slide in your legs below deck. The advantage is that a sit-in kayak covers a larger area of your body, and keeps your legs dry. This makes it an ideal choice for cold weather kayaking and usage in chilly waters. Whilst a sit-on-top kayak exposes you to spray and the elements, a sit-in kayak keeps you protected and often a bit better insulated. Do note that a quality sit-in kayak should come with a spray skirt around the seating cockpit. This spray skirt ensures water can’t enter the interior, keeping your backside dry and comfy.
Equally important to deciding on the type of kayak you prefer, is determining whether you want a regular recreational kayak, a pedal-powered fishing kayak, or a motorized kayak (for example with a trolling motor). The difference is simple: a regular kayak requires you to paddle, a pedal-powered kayak features a foot propulsion system that lets you ‘cycle’ your way forward – keeping both hands free for angling, and a motorized kayak uses a small motor to move.
Each has a specific appeal. A regular recreational kayak for paddlers is cheaper and less prone to parts breaking since it doesn’t involve many technical parts. A kayak with foot propulsion, such as the Hobie Mirage Drive – the original pedal-powered kayak – enables you to glide through the water without using your hands. And a motor-powered drive system allows you to generate enough speed for trolling – or cross larger distances on open water without draining all your physical energy. Though we’re big fans of a drive system like the Hobie Mirage Outback or Hobie Mirage Pro Angler (pedal-powered foot propulsion), this type of kayak can take some getting used to – and we know many anglers that prefer a basic setup with simply a paddle.
Take some time to figure out which type of propulsion you prefer, and match your preferences to one of the 20+ top-rated fishing kayaks in our extensive overview (listed at the top of this post).
Other Important Buying Factors
When shopping for a fishing kayak, deciding on the type of kayak and drive system is step one, but there are plenty of other buying factors to take into consideration. Whether you settle on a sit-on-top kayak, a sit-in kayak, an inflatable kayak, or perhaps a hybrid model: there are various other aspects to consider. These are the buying factors we recommend to pay attention to when buying a vessel for kayak fishing:
Kayaks come in all shapes and sizes and their length can range anywhere from 6 feet (white water kayaking) to 16 feet (ocean touring kayaking). The most common size for recreational kayaks is between 10-13 feet: which is what we would advise for recreational fishing and amateur kayakers.
When it comes to kayak performance, size truly does matter. The longer and narrower a kayak, the less drag and the higher the speed. The shorter and wider a kayak, the more stability, and maneuverability, but also more drag – resulting in a lower speed. For saltwater and open water fishing, you may prefer a longer silhouette (14-16 feet) due to its ability to cover more area in less time, whilst on lakes and in dense areas such as mangroves, a short and more agile (8-10 feet) kayak is a more obvious choice.
The weight of a fishing kayak is another important buying factor. You’ll need to transport your kayak to and from the waterside (whether that’s by car, via a rooftop rack, or with a kayak trailer). When shopping for kayaks, make sure your vehicle and/or trailer can support the actual carrying weight of the kayak. Furthermore, keep in mind that you’ll probably have to pull the kayak onto the shore, or over short-distances by hand. Though a heavier kayak tends to be more stable in the water, it also can be a hassle to transport. Similarly, a lightweight kayak is easier to carry, but may not offer sufficient stability in the water. When in doubt, compare different models that you like and go for a weight somewhere in the middle of the lightest and heaviest model.
Tip: for easy transport, choose a kayak with carry handles – it’s a minor feature that can make a major difference to your fishing trip!
Another hefty matter is the kayak’s weight capacity. Whilst most recreational fishing kayaks should be more than adequate in weight capacity to support you, and your gear, we do recommend double-checking the specs. If you’re carrying a few more pounds (whether that’s on your midriff, or in a well-stocked tackle box), weight capacity can become an important buying factor. Choose a kayak with a weight capacity that can easily support your body weight, the weight of your fishing gear, and some extra margin to spare (for example, if you decide to bring an extra cooler, rod, or have dressed in extra layers for cold weather fishing). You simply don’t want to risk it, because a kayak overloaded in weight is prone to tipping and losing balance.
The type of seat in a kayak can drastically influence your fishing comfort. A seat with a backrest or high-back rest provides extra support, whilst an adjustable seat lets you customize the fit to your exact needs. The type of seating system differs from kayak and brand. Some sit-on-top kayaks will only come with a molded backrest, whilst high-end fishing canoes and kayaks can feature a full seating system with a padded seat or swivel seat, and even shock absorption. Alternatively, you can also purchase separate seating systems for your kayak, which can be clipped on or inserted for extra comfort. Whichever you choose, make sure it provides sufficient support to keep you comfortable perched and stable! For full support, also consider whether the seating system comes with adjustable foot braces and/or adjustable footrests, as this helps both your comfort and your stability when seated.
Also, consider how much storage space you want to have on your kayak. Fishing kayaks that are longer (13+ feet) tend to offer more storage options and/or storage compartments than compact, 10-feet models. Furthermore, asks yourself whether you’ll require dry storage below deck, or if on-deck storage is sufficient. Some fishing kayaks even come with special built-in storage space, catered especially to fishing and angling. For example, built-in tackle box storage that offers plenty of room for bait and lures, built-in cooler boxes to keep your catch fresh, and more. Your kayak will have to accommodate you AND your fishing gear, so don’t forget to think about the storage area you’ll need before you settle on your favorite kayak!
In addition to type, size, weight, storage space, and the seating system, kayaks can vary greatly based on the number of bonus features they have. Whilst all kayaks should tick the above-mentioned buying factors, the bonus options are negotiable, though this, of course, depends on your personal preferences. Bonus features on kayaks include:
On-Deck Rod Holders / Fishing Rod Holders
- Submerged Rod Holders (Hands-free Fishing)
- Paddle Holders
- Pedal Drive / Pedal System
- Trolling Motor (motorized kayaks)
- Rudder System
- Sun Shade Cover
- Cup Holders
- Built-in Tackle Box
- Fishing Platform
- Bungee Cord/Shock Cord Gear Holder
- Cooler Box / Ice Box
Though branding is not a leading deciding factor for us, it is something you should still take into consideration. A fishing kayak can be quite an investment, which is why some anglers prefer buying from an established, well-recognized brand. This gives you the peace of mind you’re buying from an authentic source, with expertise and great customer care. That said, some lesser-known brands on the market have equally good products and service, so don’t disregard these from your review. It’s also worth doing a bit of research on kayak brands and comparing customer reviews and other factors such as product warranty and replacement options.
Established kayak and canoe brands that get our expert seal of approval are Hobie, Ocean Kayak, Pelican, Perception Kayaks, Sun Dolphin, Wilderness Systems, Native Watercraft, Sevylor, Old Town, and Advanced Elements.