While there are plenty of fishing vessels available for anglers to choose from, nothing beats a kayak when it comes to speed, mobility, and stability. They’re also less expensive than standard fishing boats, and yet they give you access to fishing water that is usually difficult to access.
Now, to meet the growing demand for fishing kayaks, a lot of new models with sophisticated features are being released each year, which can make the selection process a little too confusing for someone who’s shopping for a new ‘yak.
That’s why we’ve put together a helpful guide that anyone can use to find the best kayak for fishing, as well as a helpful review of some kayak models that we think are crushing it right now.
Before we get into the Buyers Guide, here's a list of our selected Sit-on-Top and Sit-In Kayaks
Fishing kayaks come in all types and sizes, which is excellent news because it means that there’s literally something for everybody.
With that said, all angler kayaks have a similar construction in that they all come with a deck at the top, which could either have bungees or deck lines and a hull at the bottom.
On the front, you have the bow, and at the back, you have a stern, which will either have rudders or loops for you to control the kayak with.
Other similarities that you’ll notice in kayaks is they always have seating and somewhere to put your feet, and some of the more high-end options also come with a back support mechanism.
Now, aside from these essential elements, there are specific factors that distinguish sit-ins from sit-ons, and we’re going to discuss those differences below.
Your choice between a sit-in or a sit-on is not an easy decision, mainly because each option has its advantages, but they both have a downside as well. Check out the pros and cons below.
As the name implies, sit-ons are constructed so that you can sit on top of the kayak. As a result, they’re super easy to get into and comfortable to sit on. That’s part of what makes them an ideal option for beginners and kids who enjoy being on the water.
Also included in the sit-on is a self-bailing feature, which basically refers to its ability to drain itself of water through dedicated “scupper holes.”
However, you can also get scupper plugs if you like to prevent the water from coming in from the bottom as you’re splashing around and traveling from one spot to the next. This makes sitting on top of kayaks ideal for use in places where the climate is nice and warm.
Now, a sit-in has a scooped-in part that covers the lower part of your body so that you can stay warm while kayaking and it prevents water from getting in as well.
There are also two different types of sit-ins, namely touring kayaks and recreational kayaks.
Touring kayaks are generally utilised for saltwater fishing because they’re narrow and slim enough to move really fast. They also feature thigh hooks to help you control the boat’s direction better, but they do tend to have small and slightly restrictive cockpits, which makes it a challenge to maneuver them in certain conditions.
Recreational kayaks, on the other hand, are much wider because of their large cockpits and they offer better stability overall.
The best part is that most sit-ins also feature a “skirt” which you can wear around your waist and attach to the cockpit opening so that the bottom part of your body is completely closed off from the elements, which can come in really handy if you’re fishing in a place with cold water.
As you can see, the kayak style you choose will largely depend on the water and weather conditions which you’ll be using it in, so keep that in mind when you’re exploring the different options out there.
Generally, a longer and slimmer kayak will travel faster and more efficiently than a wider shaped kayak, but the latter does provide better stability. Sit-on-top kayaks usually fit into the latter category, which makes them perfect to use when you’re fishing in the ocean or any large body of water.
Shorter kayaks can also move fast, and you can get them into narrow spaces easier, which makes them ideal for small creeks and ponds.
To figure out what length your kayak should be, think about the type of water you’ll be using it on, and consider your body size as well.
The casing of a kayak is often made from a reliable and robust plastic material that’s built to last and handle different applications and conditions. This material is also very low-maintenance and easy to clean.
Other favorite materials include carbon, fibreglass, and Kevlar. These are a bit more lightweight than the durable plastic, but they’re often more expensive but not as durable as the plastic.
A wide-set and stable kayak is not only reliable, but will enable you to stand when you need to without getting wobbly, and they also come in handy if you’re someone with a big body.
Too much stability, however, can sometimes make it a bit more challenging to move the kayak around, and if you’re going to be doing a lot of trolling, then a smaller model might be your best choice.
The keel is like a fin that’s located at the bottom of the kayak, and its job is to improve the yak’s speed and tracking ability. As such, a keeled model is very useful when trolling for fish in open water, but it can also be a hindrance when fishing standing up or when you’re angling in rocky waters.
Most kayaks these days have you covered with all types of different storage options. For example, sit-on top models typically feature a built-in hatch, while sit-in yaks will often feature a more generous space situated in the hull to keep your stuff.
Other storage options include built-in external storage, drink holders, and inserts.
Finding a lightweight and portable kayak these days can be quite difficult thanks to the wide variety of features that seem to weigh them down, including extra storage, stability and so on.
So if you’re going to use your kayak to explore uncharted waters, then you might want to consider purchasing one with a more streamlined design for better portability.
If you mostly fish in areas that are close by then, you can afford to get a model with all the bells and whistles. Another interesting fact to consider in this regard is that sit-on-top yaks are generally heftier than sit-in models.
While an electronic anchoring system comes with a lot of benefits when using your kayak in open water, it can also weigh your boat down unnecessarily, especially if you prefer to just drift with the current.
So, keep your options open and really consider your needs before you purchase a kayak with a built-in anchoring system, as there are plenty of other options that you can explore instead to achieve the same results.
Most angler kayaks also come with rod and reel holders to keep one of your most essential fishing tools safe and visible.
There are deck mount rod holders which are available in different versions to fit different reel types, as well as flush mount rod holders which are quite versatile and cost effective too.
Best All Around Value
You’ll get plenty of compliments when fishing with this kayak from Vibe, as it features a unique “Sea Ghost” camo blue paint and a beautiful streamlined design.
On the water, it’s swift yet stable, and you’ve got two flush mounts to keep your rods safe while you’re paddling, and there are even four integrated gear tracks which allow for customized rigging.
There’s a surprisingly wide range of storage options available on this compact 'yak, including a large center console, hatches on the front and back, and an extra bungee rear hatch for larger items.
It’s worth noting here that Vibe really did well with the dual position seats, which are very comfortable, and the pre-installed toe controller really comes in handy when you’re putting in long hours on the water.
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Most Budget Friendly
This portable one-person kayak is jam-packed with impressive features like four capped flush mount rod holders, four easy-grip handles for you to carry it with, and plenty of storage options for you to choose from including a large bungee rear tank.
Although this kayak weighs 46 pounds, it can support a 300-pound load with ease.
It also comes with a paddle which you can keep secure in the paddle parks when not in use. This kayak is also backed by a lifetime limited warranty which applies to defects that may be found on the kayak, as well as a one year warranty for parts.
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The legendary Ocean Kayak Prowler is still widely popular and one of the best on the market thanks to its simple yet functional design. It’s a single-seater with a reputation for speed and stability, and its compact size means that you can maneuver this through all types of water conditions.
The seat is very comfortable and flanked by two-rod holders, 2 cup holders and paddle keep, as well as a 6" hatch with storage bucket on the front. Plus, there’s an oversized tank on the back for extra storage and scupper plugs to keep the water out.
It weighs just 62 pounds and is an ideal option for the minimalist angler who wants something reliable and fuss-free to get the job done.
This well-made, high-quality kayak from the Brooklyn Rod Company boasts twin paddle seats with nice paddle rests, waterproof storage hatches to fit all of your fishing essentials (and then some) as well as a sizeable inset rear cargo storage area for larger items.
The 34-inch beam makes it ideal for tracking and will keep the ‘yak stable no matter the weather and water conditions, while the 8 scupper holes will help to keep the water out.
It’s relatively lightweight at 85 pounds and fairly easy to carry from your car to the water thanks to the four carrying handles.
This is a great fishing kayak for those people who like to stay prepared by keeping multiple rods on deck, as it features 7-rod holders, plus it’s available in a wide range of colors including Green/Camo, Grey/Camo, Blue, DessertSand, Red/Yellow, and Yellow/Orange.
Now, this is a really versatile kayak for fishing; with a straightforward design that features two seats, including a detachable one that makes for added comfort during solo trips.
It also comes with 2-rod holders, 6 cannon mount receivers, a Glide Track foot brace system and some nice cup holders.
The feature you'll like best about this kayak is its lightweight design, and even though it weighs just 62 pounds, it can handle up to 500 lbs. of weight.
Best Overall Value
This lightweight Sun Dolphin ‘yak has a low profile, lightweight design that makes it easy to carry and maneuver around rivers and lakes.
Although small in size, the manufacturers of this ‘yak have really covered their bases with the storage options, as it comes with a sizeable storage hatch and a bottle holder, as well as two flush mount rod holders and an additional swivel rod holder as well as a large open cockpit.
It’s also quite stable and tracks like a dream, while the adjustable padded seat, foot paddles, and protective thigh pads are nice additions as well.
Most Budget Friendly
This ultra-luxe 2-person kayak from Elkton Outdoors inflates in just 2 minutes to reveal a super comfortable vessel with two adjustable seats, double-sided oars, 6-rod holders and an 18-Gauge rip resistant 1000D PVC construction that is resistant to tears and hooks alike.
For storage, it features six mesh pockets and a large detachable mesh compartment that you can easily strap onto the back of the kayak to keep your clothes and other larger items dry. This kayak also comes with 2 paddles, a carry pack, 1 pump and 1 skeg to fasten the kayak with.
It’s also very lightweight, weighing only about 27 pounds, with the capacity to handle 450 lbs of weight, and it comes with a 5-year limited warranty.
Although small and compact, this sturdy kayak features 3-rod holders, including 2 flush mount and 1 deck mount, an oval hatch and shock cord straps on the bow and stern to keep your gear safe, as well as a ledge lock for the paddles.
It weighs only 48 lbs and has a carrying capacity of 275 lbs., and the hull is very well-designed to allow for excellent tracking and stability.
The seat is also quite comfortable, and the footrests work great too. Available in two beautiful colors, namely sandstone, and pink.
This vibrantly designed fishing kayak is constructed from tough wearing rot molded polyethylene, and it comes with nice features that include an adjustable plush seat with pull straps and an adjustable foot brace system with thigh pads.
It also has plenty of storage options including a storage bungee and two round clamshell hatches, in addition to a paddle rod holder and yak attack mounts.
The spray skirt is a life saver when paddling in cold water, while the side handles are reinforced with cushy padding.
This sleek and streamlined kayak is a minimalist’s dream and maneuvers easily in currents that would otherwise be unreachable.
It features one comfortable seat, 3-rod holders, 2 flush mounts and 1 swivel rod holder, as well as a track-rite retractable skeg system.
It also has an anchor trolley system, two sealed storage compartments, and a beluga skirt to keep you warm too.
Well, there you have it! A helpful guide on how to get the best fishing kayak for the money.
Just keep in mind the type of water you’ll be fishing in before you purchase a kayak, as well as the storage options offered, its size, whether it comes with pedals or not, and its level of stability.
In addition to your budget, all the factors as mentioned above will play a huge role in the type of kayak that you end up with.
If we were to recommend our top pick from the sit-on-top fishing kayak options presented above, we’d have to choose the Vibe Sea Ghost which has plenty of storage, comfortable seating, paddles, great tracking ability, and maneuverability.
For a more budget-friendly sit-on, the Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90, is a our choice. It is portable, easy to maneuver and includes versatile storage options.
Moving on to sit-in kayaks, we’d recommend the Sun Dolphin Excursion as best overall value, as it comes with all the basics of a stable kayak with a great price range.
Our most budget friendly choice for the sit-in is the Elkton Outdoors Cormorant. A very well-made, lightweight and super affordable kayak.