If you are a fishing enthusiasts like we are, then you know that there’s no bigger thrill than landing your first large walleye or reeling in a gigantic northern pike. In our opinion fishing happens to be one of the most relaxing outdoor sports there is. Unfortunately we can’t always say the same thing about shopping for outdoor gear.
When we sought out to find the right kayak for our excursions, we started to get extremely stressed out because of the multitude of choices out there on the market today. As a result, we ended up doing the research on our own in order to save you time, energy and effort in your buying journey.
So let’s cut to the chase. You probably want to know, what’s the best fishing kayak? What we found is that there are many pros and cons for each model, but ultimately we had to find what we felt worked the best for each situation. Don’t feel like a lengthy read? Take a look at our three favorites below, or continue on and use the quick jump menu below to get more information on each kayak.
- Fishing Kayak Basics
- Our Favorite Fly Fishing Kayak:
- Our Favorite River Fishing Kayak:
- Our 7 Overall Favorites:
Fishing Kayak Basics
A fishing kayak is a boat that’s typically operated by one person, or sometimes two depending on the type of kayak that you are in. It’s specifically made for the function of angling as a sport and nothing else. People that are into competitive kayaking will probably do best by sticking to the models that are manufactured specifically for competition.
Those that are looking to spend a lazy afternoon or weekend out on a lake catching largemouth bass – you are in the right place. These small crafted boats are perfect for getting yourself out onto the lake away from all the hustle of where larger boats are at, giving you an advantage over other anglers as you cast your line in an area blessed with peace and tranquil waters.
Fish generally seem to avoid noisy and busy areas unless the water is very deep, so any serious angler knows that a having a kayak engineered specifically for catching fish is an absolute must have.
1. Kayak Types
This is going to depend largely on what your goals are. In a perfect world, you will be purchasing one that exactly fits your needs. There are a few different types I have broken down for you below, so you can figure out what model will suit your goals.
• Sit In Kayak: Sit ins are great for long fishing trips, like spending a day crappie fishing on a lake. Don’t buy one of these if you plan on standing while you fish, as it will become unstable and extremely difficult to balance due to the way they are manufactured. There is less space to move around in, but they also tend to be more comfortable for longer periods of time. They also have better storage that tends to stay more dry than sit on top kayaks.
• Sit on Top Kayak: Sit on tops are awesome for anglers that like to stand. You won’t have the same amount of storage that the Sit-In’s have, but you will definitely have more mobility. These are better for people that may live on a lake, or people that may only spend a few hours fishing instead of an entire day. They tend to be less comfortable when you sit in them and have less storage. But you can also stand, giving you a huge advantage if you are after bigger fish.
• Tandem Kayaks: Tandems are great for twosomes. If you plan on heading out and angling at the lake with your friend or significant other, this can be an awesome option to take advantage of. Most Tandem models are sit on tops, giving one person the option to stand, while the other one sits. You could attempt to have both parties standing but we would not recommend it as they will become more unstable with the weight distribution being so uneven.
All of these different types of kayaks serve a different purpose when it comes to serious angling, and it’s important to make sure that you are reviewing each one of them in more detail before making a purchase due to the cost. It’s generally worth it to pay a little more for a kayak that fits your fishing style rather than just picking one up for the sake of cost. Next we are going to look at the pros and cons of inflatable kayaks versus molded kayaks before we jump into our favorite models for each type of fishing.
2. Inflatable Versus Molded
Inflatable kayaks are a great way to save on cost. But ultimately only you can answer if you will be happy with an inflatable model over something that’s not? We favor molded kayaks for our fishing ventures, but while our group tends to be more casual on the fishing side, we still do it more frequently than others. There are plenty of people that have purchased inflatables and have been 100% satisfied with their choices. We usually recommend molded plastic kayak because of the versatility that they allow and the abuse that they can take. You won’t be as limited with a molded plastic frame, although it may slightly limit where you can take it.
The Lifetime Fisher Sport we found to be one of the best budget models that will allow you to go to pretty much any lake and mild river that you can think of. If you plan on just doing some mild lake exploring on lakes where no large electrical boats are allowed, than an inflatable model can be fine.
Personally though, we would not want to be limited to just one style of watercraft and you shouldn’t either if you are a serious angler. Inflatables do limit the types of water and terrain you are able to venture into as rocks and stronger currents will become much more of a concern if you plan on heading into some rougher areas. Spending a couple hundred dollars extra to pick up something that will be able to take the abuse is worth it.
You never know when you will run into some occasional rocks or a have a bad fishing miscast with a hook into the side of the kayak. Having something durable will allow you to venture into areas that you haven’t explored before. While inflatable kayaks will get the job done, for anyone that’s serious about fishing, you should probably avoid them.
If you are very casual about your outings, then save the money and find the best inflatable fishing kayak that will be easy to transport wherever you need. With all that being said, you can absolutely make them work – just take a look at the Grouper that the guy below bagged while on his Hobie Mirage i9S (Single 9′) Sundance.
Our Favorite Fly Fishing Kayak:
If you are a fly fishing angler, then the chances are you will be hitting smaller quiet rivers or small lakes and ponds in search of trout. More than anything you need to make sure that you are looking at something that will allow you to sit on top and give you the ability to stand up so you can have free range with the technique that fly fishing requires.
You will typically be moving more than you would if you were just throwing out an overhead cast with a floater attached to the line, or if you were reeling in using an actual fishing lure.
Personally, our choice would be the Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 for fly fishing because of the wide flexibility it offers you, especially if you are a solo angler by trade and don’t want to bring anyone else along with you on your adventures.
We give the Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 more depth in the review below, but we felt it was important to highlight it here in the top spot if you like to fly fish. It’s really a great option for the cost and it’s one of the few molded models that doesn’t break the bank which is tough to beat.
Our Favorite River Fishing Kayak:
If you are hitting smaller lakes and ponds, just stop reading and go back a step for to look at the Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 we just gave you feedback on. If you are going to be heading into more serious waters that might give you a little bit of turbulence, then this portion of our guide is for you.
If you like to hit the rougher rivers in your angling journeys, then you need something that will take the abuse. While we generally don’t encourage readers to buy a sit in model for fishing, this is probably the one exception.
Chances are if you are going to be in heavier flowing rivers or lakes that allow motorized boating, you will want something that’s not going to toss you in the water as soon as you hit a rough patch, as well as something that will allow you to take a little more abuse from a terrain perspective. The Old Town 10 Foot Vapor Kayak fits the bill here extremely well.
Again, we detail some of the feature in more depth below, but the best part about this model is that it’s a sit in with a much larger opening where you sit than most other brands which allows you to bail from the watercraft if the flow gets too rough for your taste.
Our 7 Overall Favorites:
Let’s take a look at our top selections in a little more detail. The 7 listed below in our comparison chart are our favorites, and almost all of them should allow you to hit your next kayak outing with piece of mind.
You’ll want to keep several things in mind, and make sure to plan ahead if you are going to be fishing alone or in a party, as that may impact the type of kayak you’d end up with. You’ll also want to think through if you primarily fish on lakes, streams or bigger bodies of saltwater like bays or even out in the ocean.
1. Old Town Vapor 10 Angler:
- Stable and efficient polyethylene hull with roomy...
- Adjustable padded Comfort Flex seat, thigh pads,...
- Cockpit amenities include molded-in cockpit tray,...
- Additional features include molded carry handles,...
- Angler features include two behind-the-seat...
This was one of the first models we looked at due to the positive user reviews and cost. The only disadvantage this model has is that it’s not a twin kayak so it limits you there. It’s extremely stable and has a lot of room in the cockpit which is great for single anglers. It has plenty of storage and the seat is extremely comfortable with built in thigh pads and adjustable braces to help with balance.
This is extremely important when learning to control the kayak if you are a novice in this area. It has a molded paddle park and cup holder which is awesome for cracking open an afternoon beer on the lake. It also has two rod holders behind the seat as well as a small anchor that gets the job done.
If you are into angling by yourself out on a lake and don’t frequent your fishing adventures with friends, this is an excellent model to take a look at.
2. SunDolphin Excursion Sit-In
- Great for lakes and rivers and to get to those...
- Lightweight, easy to carry
- Tracks and paddles with ease while offering...
- Two flush mount rod holders and one swivel rod...
- Rugged UV-stabilized Fortiflex High Density...
The Sun Dolphin is what we would call one the “easiest on the budget” for the quality you get. It’s reasonably priced, making it a huge bargain when coming from a reputable manufacturer like Sun Dolphin. Like the Old Town 10, it comes with two flush rod holders, and it has the extra perk of coming equipped with a swivel mount as well.
The cockpit is a very good size which is great for bigger guys, and it also has a storage area with a latch and cover that protects the contents of whatever you put inside it. It has adjustable foot braces, and the Hull’s design makes it extremely easy to maneuver. The one thing it does not have is the thigh support for longer trips like the Old Town 10 does.
The seat does support your upper back very well though, and for the cost, this model is one of the better choices you can make.
3. Ocean Kayak Prowler 13
- One of the original and still most popular kayaks...
- Performance hull is fast, stable and quiet and is...
- Large front hatch with easy access to bow to stern...
- Comfort Plus seat, 2 rod holders, 6" hatch with...
- Rear oversized tank well designed to easily accept...
As listed above, this is one of our favorite choices for fly fishing. It has ample storage and is one of the most popular kayaks you can buy that’s specifically made for fishers in mind. It has a performance hull which tracks extremely well and makes this one a great choice for both calm and rougher waters alike. It’s slightly longer which will make it more stable but also make it harder to steer in rougher waters, which is why we recommend the Old Town 10 if you are thinking of using your kayak as a double for some mild whitewater rivers.
The Ocean Prowler 13 has a large hatch which gives plenty of room for storage. This is great if you decide you want to try your hand at fly fishing and traditional fishing all in the same kayaking trip. It also has 2 rold holders, cup holder and paddle keeps. Behind the seat, the tank is big enough to handle a cooler so you can eat your packed lunch or toss the days catch in the back.
Overall, this kayak is a little on the pricier side, but is very well worth the cost. It will last a long time and allow you to use it for more than one type of fishing occasion.
4. Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher
- Blow molded from High Density Polyethylene for...
- Designed to seat up to 3 people; 500 lb. weight...
- Hull design provides ultra stability and great...
- Multiple footrest positions for different size...
- Includes: 2 double-sided paddles, paddle clips, 2...
As as a single angler it makes more sense to consider the Old Town 10, Sun Dolphin 10 or the Prowler 13. The main reason the lifetime 10 foot sport fisher is on our list is because if you have a partner that likes to fish with you, it gives you the option of going out together with ease. It allows you to stand if you feel the need while your fishing partner sits. Technically it fits up to 3 people, but the other 2 would need to be pretty small to make it work.
It’s not quite as comfortable as the the others, but it does the job better than the rest for twin kayak excursions. If you rarely go out for more than a few hours a day and frequent the outdoors with a partner on your kayak, this model makes a great choice as it’s budget friendly and it “just works.” It typically comes equipped with 2 piece sport paddles and it has a dry storage compartment which is great if you accidentally flip, even though you don’t intend to.
5. The Coleman Colorado:
- 18-gauge PVC construction is rugged for lake use
- 1000D tarpaulin bottom and 840D nylon cover...
- Multiple air chambers allow another chamber to...
- Airtight System is guaranteed not to leak
- Berkley Quick Set Rod Holders are adjustable for...
The Coleman Colorado is a very solid choice if you are looking to watch your budget for something very simple that fits two people and are comfortable with using an inflatable model. It comes fully equipped for the basic fishing trip and is made from 18 gauge PVC Plastic for rugged lake use. It is not recommended for rougher rivers, but will work great on quiet lakes.
Comfort is also decent with adjustable seats to keep you satisfied for hours at a time on the lake. It has Berkley quick set rod holders to allow you to maneuver your fishing rod on the fly. It’s also unique that you can purchase a trolling motor to throw on the back of the kayak and go trolling for fish if you tire of paddling. It’s flexible and allows you to use it more than one way, which we do like.
For an inflatable Kayak, this one has more durability features that will keep you safe and dry even if it suffers a puncture. For the money, this is a fantastic kayak that will allow you the flexibility that you need for multiple uses.
6. The Lifetime Tamarack SOT:
- Constructed of UV-Protected High-Density...
- Multiple Footrest Positions for Different Size...
- Two Flush Mounted Fishing Rod Holders. One Top...
- Two 6" Storage Compartments in Rear and Center....
- Durable High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)...
The Tamarack is a great budget option for a molded kayak for shoppers looking to save a little money. It’s constructed out of UV protected Polyethylene and has a flat bottom that’s built for stability. It’s not as comfortable as some of the other models on our list, but for the price range, it’s a great option if you are looking for something that will get the job done for a few hours a week on the lake. You can always use seating pads if you feel it’s not as comfortable as you like.
It has two rod holders that are adjustable and has plenty of storage in the rear. Like some of the other models, it has paddle countours that are built in. Paddles are sold seperately so make sure you plan appropriately.
This kayak has a 275 pound weight capacity and is primarily designed for safety and stability for people on a budget. At 52 pounds it’s not too difficult to carry down to the lake from your vehicle and has enough bells and whistles to make it worthy of being on our list.
7. Riot Escape 12 Angler SOT:
- Sit-on-top fishing kayak
- Features five rod holders
- Pilot rudder system
- Integrated console with molded-in cup holder
- Measures 12 feet by 30 inches and weighs 72 pounds
The Riot Escape is the Cadillac of all the brands that we looked at. It’s the most expensive and it also comes with the most bells and whistles. It has 5 different places to stash your rod, and it has a rudder system that the cheaper models do not have. Like the Old Town 10, it has a molded cup holder which is great for convenience.
Some people claim that it’s not quite as comfortable as the Old Town 10, but it’s also not a sit-in. It does balance EXTREMELY well when you are standing up though, which is a huge deal if you are someone that really likes to stand when you are angling. There is also tons of storage on this model, which others are lacking. If you have a big budget, then this model is a good way to spend your hard earned money.
Hopefully our research has paid off in helping you find the right choice. It was extremely tough to narrow down so many options when putting together our fishing kayak reviews. We were happy to help out and do the research to make your purchasing journey a little bit easier.
Overall, there are many options to choose from, so hopefully you now have enough insight to make a more educated purchase. While this guide is by no means “all inclusive” – it should help you find the best fishing kayak for your next angling excursion. Now all that’s left is for you to make a choice, and get out there to enjoy the great outdoors!