Fishing and kayaking are immensely enjoyable activities alone and a whole other experience when combined.
Fishing from a kayak is immersive, engaging and can provide quite a thrill. Just imagine paddling gently down a river channel to a fabled fishing spot or out to sea and being able to prepare your rod, cast, catch and store your fish in your kayak.
Maybe you’re a fisherman who wants to try paddling or an avid kayaker who’s taken an interest in fishing, regardless, we’ve compiled a list of our top 7 fishing kayaks for the money and some tips and tricks when purchasing.
The Top 7
- Our personal favorite, this kayak comes fully equipped with both side and rear storage, multiple carry handles, an adjustable and comfortable seat, as well as two holding tanks for fish or beer. It's pronounced edges on the side of the boat provide extra stability, so much so that standing and casting is quite feasible in this kayak.
- Dimensions : Length : 9ft. / Width : 32in. / Weight : 46lbs. / Carrying Capacity : 300lbs
- This kayak is on the smaller end making it really easy to maneuver, light to portage (carry) and tracks excellently in the water. It’s really got it all going on.
#2 Lifetime Tamarack Angler
- Coming in at a close second, this kayak is ideal for comfort, stability, and straight forward effectiveness. Its flat bottom provides excellent tracking, and it's chine rails are made for extra stability. Its main storage container is also easy to reach for those drinks, snacks or hopefully at the end of the day, fish.
- Dimensions - Length : 10ft. / Width : 31in. / Weight : 52lbs. / Carrying Capacity : 275lbs.
- It comes with fishing rod holders (one of my favorite things), paddle securer to hold your paddle when your fishing and plenty of storage space making it a very well rounded kayak for the money.
#3 Sun Dolphin Excursion 10
- The first sit-in kayak on the list, this boat offers a distinct approach to kayak fishing. Sit in boats make the paddler feel more a part of the vessel rather than just perched on top. It is made with durable high-grade polyurethane plastic, equipped with shock cord storage and water bottle holder making this boat is great for long day trips on the lake or mellow rivers.
- Dimensions - Length : 10ft. / Width : 40lbs. / Weight : 40lbs. / Carrying Capacity : 250lbs.
- Included in the design are two-rod holders that sit directly behind you making trolling a breeze and adjustable padded seat as well as thigh and foot braces which provide comfortable while on the water.
#4 Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 110
- Fully loaded is an understatement with this kayak. It has tracks installed for custom gear rigging, two-rod holders, multiple storage containers placed throughout the boat, is quite stable and is known for tracking across the water smoothly.
- Dimensions : Length 11ft. / Width : 33in. / Weight : 62 / Carrying Capacity : 425lbs.
- A great part of this kayak is its integrated rudder system which helps you save energy when paddling against strong currents and wind. Oh, also has a cup holder which always comes in handy.
#5 Sun Dolphin Journey
- Simple and functional kayak for the money. This boat comes with everything you need for a day on the water either just paddling or setting out to fish. It has a large seating area with padded seat and thigh rests which provide a high level of comfort and adjustable foot braces to make sure you are positioned as you desire.
- Dimensions : Length : 10ft. / Width : 30in / Weight : 44lbs. / Carrying Capacity : 250+lbs.
- This kayak also comes with easy to reach storage for your waterproof devices or a dry bag, two fixed rod holders, a swivel rod holder giving you a solid variety in rod placement/storage and as is standard in pretty much all kayaks it also comes with shock cord storage areas on the deck.
#6 BKC UH-FK184 Sit On Top
- One of the smallest kayaks on our list, this boat provides ultra mobility through tight channels while still offering all the needed add-ons and equipment for kayak fishermen and fisherwomen.
- Dimensions : Length : 9ft. / Width : 33in. / Weight : 44lbs. / Carrying Capacity : 330lbs.
- For being on the smaller end, this kayak really packs a punch. It comes with 5-rod holders (4 fixed, one articulating), waterproof storage for camera, phone, food or clothes and it is equipped with paddle holders making it a breeze to grab a rod and cast without having to worry about our paddle falling into the water.
#7 Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 130
- Quite similar to the Vibe Kayak Sea Ghost 110, this boat brings a lot more to the table. It’s bigger in every way, comes complete with a few extra add-ons and is the most stable kayak we have on our list. It comes with adjustable padded seating, cup holder, two sealed hatches, rear holding tank, a variety of mounting points for accessories and a paddle holder.
- Dimensions : Length : 13ft. / Width : 33in. / Weight : 75lbs. / Carrying Capacity : 550lbs.
- If you want to have extra room for yourself and storage for a day or multi-day trips, be confident in the stability even when paddling through surf or smaller rapids and even a rudder system controlled by your feet this boat is ideal. As mentioned before though, it's massive, but that does come with its advantages and disadvantages.
Sit In vs. Sit On Top Kayaks for Fishing
So before we delve into the pros, cons and my personal opinions lets first focus on what makes them unique. A Sit-In kayak is where the paddler is sitting inside the boat itself with feet, legs, hips, and waist covered by the outer shell of the kayak. The seat of the kayak is only a few inches above the water line, and once you're in the seat on the water, it's near impossible to get in and out the of the kayak unless you have dry land or a dock like surface to pull yourself out.
A Sit On Top kayak on the other hand in a hollow boat where you sit on top in a drop down seated section. None of your body is covered by the kayak, and you are usually sitting 6 inches to a foot above the water.
Now to the comparison….
A Sit-In Kayak does have a bit control and overall stability since the center of gravity is closest to the water and an experienced kayaker can use hip and body movements much more effectively to control the boat. A Sit-In also allows for lower body protection against sun, wind, cold and rain while on the water which can be game-changing depending on the environment. The Sit-In also focuses on comfort and usually has armrests, leg or thigh cushions, and sturdy backrests.
Personally, I recommend these kayaks for intermediate to advanced paddlers for a variety of reasons. First, getting in and out of a Sit-In is a process that at first takes some practice and usually helps to have another person there for balance or a sturdy surface to make it easier. Another reason is if you have happened to flip the kayak, it will inevitably fill with water requiring you to pull it ashore and drain it. I've done this more times than I can count and while it always gets a laugh from your friends, it's not the most fun thing in the World. Also, if you happen to keep the kayak upright but you fall out it is really difficult to slip yourself back into the boat.
Time for the Sit On Kayaks, which are the majority of the boats we chose for our list! The Sit On is really the all-around favorite in the recreational fishing community for many reasons including ease of entry, ability to jump in and out of the water and ability to access storage and holding tanks. Unlike the Sit In Kayaks, Sit On's are incredibly easy to get into (you just sit down) whether you're on shore or in the water since you can easily pull yourself up, plop yourself on the deck of the kayak and maneuver around until you're back in your seat.
The ease of access to storage and holding tanks is also an immense help when trying to grab something quickly since everything is on top and in reach. Sit On kayaks are beginner friendly making it ideal for getting friends or family to paddle around or even bring along a pet with a lifejacket for the ride (I’ve seen many riverdogs perched on the front of a kayak). My personal favorite is the Sit On’s since it provides a high-quality fishing kayak with the ability to easily access any needed item on the deck as well as be able to enter and exit in a smooth fashion.
We have a variety of top-tier sit-in and sit-on kayaks that we recommend checking out. View the main page to see our in-depth reviews.
Things To Consider When Buying a Fishing Kayak
How Will You Use It?
The first thing I suggest when choosing a fishing kayak is what do you want out of it and where are you mostly going to be paddling? If you want a kayak that will power through the surf and handle rough water, I would suggest the bigger, the better, but if you are looking to sneak through mangrove channels or have high maneuverability in lakes and rivers, I would suggest a generally smaller kayak. Size is also key because you have to be prepared to transport the kayak by car or by hand to the launching point and it's amazing what a difference few extra feet and 20+ lbs make.
Another key component to consider is comfort. The last thing you want when you go out for a few hours to fish from your brand new kayak is to be shifting in your seat constantly trying to find a good position, legs cramping from lack of use or feeling the deck of the boat pushing into your body. So, before buying a kayak just because it has 5-star ratings and looks badass it would be wise to check out the seats, extra cushions or padding if included and how your body would fit into the kayak.
Next and highly relevant is storage. Do you just want to go fishing with an extra leader line and a knife or do you plan to bring a picnic lunch, change of clothes, a bottle of wine and a drybag? Also, ease of access to storage is key as well, take a look at the kayaks you like and imagine yourself sitting in one and how it would be to reach all of the storage units, holding tanks and rod holders.
Last but not least is features/add-ons and of course style/color. Most of the fishing kayaks we chose include paddle holders for when you’re reeling or casting, adjustable foot braces, shock cord storage, carrying handles, a mounting spot for fishing technology accessories, cup holders and little pockets close to the seat for quick access. Not all the fishing kayaks will have all of these so make sure to do some research and compare the options to see what exactly fits your needs.
What is the best fishing kayak for beginners?
I recommend a sit on top kayak without a question since it is easier all around to get in and out, fish from and if you do happen to fall off all you do is hop back on whether you're near the shore or out on the water.
The Vibe Kayaks are my personal favorite since they are tried and tested thoroughly, come with all the needed features, look pretty sweet and have both larger and small kayaks depending on what you desire.
How to store a kayak?
The best way to store a kayak is inside or under sufficient cover so that the sun and weather can not touch it, ideally in a garage-like space. Make sure all of the water is drained out of the kayak (prop it up against a tree, building, car...etc and open the drain plug closest to the ground) and if you are paddling in salt water it is recommended to wash the kayak with fresh water after.
Once the fishing kayak is ready to be stored to best way is either upside down resting on cross beams or standing straight up with a pad (cardboard works) in between the hard ground surface and the kayak. If you chose to stand the boat up, you can attach hooks to the wall and run a bungee cord across securing the kayak into place.
Final Thoughts - Which Should You Get?
Simply put you should get a fishing kayak that meets your needs; has a variety of features, is comfortable, stable, looks snazzy and medium to small size for portaging/transporting to your destination.
The Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 is by far the kayak that checks all those boxes — measuring only 9ft. and 46lbs.
This kayak is it easy to carry, especially with the four easy grip handles and the overall size makes it possible to maneuver in the water as you wish.
The seat is surprisingly comfortable, and the main waterproof storage tank is right in between your legs when seated, so there is immediate access when needed.
It's my personal favorite fishing kayak on the market today, and for the price, it's an amazing deal that will hopefully bring you many happy days on the water.