Whether you’re a shore-bound fisherman getting into a kayak to reach new waters or a boat fisherman who recognizes a fishing kayak as an exciting way to get out on the water, there’s something in kayak fishing for just about anyone. Will you be fishing small ponds, open ocean, or both? Do you want to paddle or pedal? Do you value the stability of a stand-up platform or is a light and nimble hull more important to you? There are dozens of kayaks built specifically for fishermen, and each one offers a unique combination of stability, size, speed, and fishing features. While there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to fishing kayaks, with all the different models available today, there’s a better chance than ever that you can find one to fit your fishing needs.
Which Fishing Kayak is Right for You?
The bottom line in choosing the best fishing kayak for your needs is that there is no one-size-fits all. Before you make a decision on purchasing a kayak for fishing, the most important thing you can do is to take stock of where and how you plan to do most of your paddling and fishing. Identify your needs: Will you be fishing in freshwater ponds for largemouth bass? Navigating streams and rivers to catch smallmouth bass and trout? Poking around saltwater harbors, estuaries and flats for striped bass and bluefish? Or do you plan to venture out into the open ocean and launch through surf? Also, will this kayak be strictly a fishing vessel, or do you plan to use it for relaxation and recreation with your family?
Once you’ve thought about what you want from a fishing kayak, it’s time to select a handful that appear to match your desired criteria. At that point, try them all! Always demo a kayak before you buy it!
Before you can evaluate the fishing kayaks at your local paddlesport shop or marina, it’s helpful to understand some of the important characteristics of kayaks. Most fishing kayaks can be used for a variety of activities, but understand that no one kayak excels at every activity. Choosing a kayak, like choosing a boat or a car, means mulling over a long list of specifications and deciding what features are “must-haves” and which ones are compromises. Once you understand your options, you can start down the path of choosing the right kayak for your intended purposes. These are some of the basics to consider before you buy your first, or next, fishing kayak.
SIK or SOT: Most fishermen prefer self-bailing sit-on-top kayaks (SOT), especially for saltwater fishing. They are inherently safer, since they can roll over without filling with water, and they give the angler more room to move around or even throw a leg over the side for stability when dealing with a fish. Sit-inside kayaks (SIK) are preferable for moving waters and in situations where a lighter-weight craft is desirable. They also provide a drier ride than a sit-on-top kayak.
Propulsion: Most basic kayaks are propelled with paddle power, but pedals are an option in several kayak lines now. The Hobie Kayak Mirage Drive line has been the standard in leg-powered kayak, which are popular with anglers because they free up the hands for fishing. Old Town entered the market this year with the Predator PDL, which is a pedal/propellor drive. They also offer an electric-motor-powered kayak, which is an increasingly popular option.
Length: In general, the longer the kayak, the faster it will be and the more easily it will cover distances. The trade-off is a loss of maneuverability in tight spaces and difficulty in transporting the kayak to launch sites.
Width: In general, wider kayaks are more stable and can support more capacity. However, width is far from the only factor that affects stability.
Weight: Consider your cartop capacity and what you can carry when choosing a kayak. A heavy kayak might require a wheeled cart to move it down to the launch site.
Storage and Extras: Consider how much storage you’ll need on board your kayak. Will you be keeping fish or a change of clothing? Is live-bait storage important to you? Will you be doing any kayak-camping?
Seat: Less expensive kayaks have molded-in seats or basic removable seating pads. More fishing kayaks are now offering adjustable “lawn chair” style seats with excellent back support.
Stand-and-Fish Capability: Extra-wide and stable kayaks allow an angler to stand and sight-cast to fish in the shallows.
Best New Fishing Kayaks of 2020
bonafidekayaks.com – $999
The “SUV of kayaks,” the new EX123 is a grab-and-go fishing kayak with a sit-inside design perfect for backwater honey holes. Whether it’s a quick after-work trip or a multi-day expedition, the EX123 is a stable, comfortable, and lightweight option. Check out a Bonafide Kayak in person.
Length: 12’3″ | Width: 29.5″ | Weight: 67 lbs. w/seat | Capacity: 375 lbs.
bonafidekayaks.com – $1,299
The compact SS107 is a portable beast that boasts premium fishing features with a small footprint. It was designed for maximum stability without sacrificing paddling performance, and it comes loaded with angler-friendly features. Check out a Bonafide Kayak in person.
Length: 10’7″ | Width: 34.5″ | Weight: 84 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 425 lbs.
Bonafide RS 117
bonafidekayaks.com – $999
The RS117 offers budget-conscious kayak anglers an authentically designed fishing kayak that’s made in the USA. With a hybrid catamaran hull, the RS117 is a very standable platform that offers an excellent balance of stability and paddling performance. Check out a Bonafide Kayak in person.
Length: 11’7” | Width: 33.5” | Weight: 77 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 425 lbs.
bonafidekayaks.com – $1,599
The SS127 “sit/stand” fishing kayak is designed for maximum stability without sacrificing paddling performance. The ultra-high-back seat allows you to sit with your knees bent, taking pressure off your lower back. Whether lake fishing, river fishing, inshore or offshore fishing, the Bonafide SS127 is an incredible fishing kayak ready for all water environments. Check out a Bonafide Kayak in person.
Length: 12’7” | Width: 33.75” | Weight: 94 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 475 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 360 Series (12 and 14)
hobie.com/kayaks – $4,599
With the all-new MirageDrive 360, you can effortlessly spin and move in every direction. And Hobie’s new Kick-Up Fins immediately retract on impact, so even shallow areas are now entirely navigable. Packed full of features including rod holders and stain-resistant EVA padding.
Length: 12’/13’8” | Width: 36”/38” | Weight: 132.5 lbs./148.5 lbs. (rigged) | Capacity: 500 lbs./600 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Passport (10.5 & 12)
hobie.com/kayaks – $1,399 | $1,599
The Mirage Passport takes you where you want to go with ease and world-class authority with pedal propulsion. When you’re not relaxing in the Passport’s breathable mesh seat, a wider cockpit area with EVA floor padding provides a stable platform for standing and stretching your legs or casting a lure. Anglers will be happy that the Passport has a transducer cavity and scupper for simple fishfinder install, two fishing rod holders, accessory tracks, and under seat and gunnel tackle storage.
Length: 10.5’/12’ | Width: 34”/34” | Weight: 75 lbs./83 lbs. (rigged) | Capacity: 325 lbs./400 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Outback
hobie.com/kayaks – $2,999
Hobie’s redesigned Outback is a fully-loaded fishing machine built for every conceivable fishing expedition. The extra-wide standing deck offers an improved casting platform and convenient vantage point for sight fishing, while the new seat design provides extra width for unmatched comfort.
Length: 12’9” | Width: 34” | Weight: 103 lbs. (rigged) | Capacity: 425 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Compass
hobie.com/kayaks – $2,099
The Mirage Compass combines a blissfully simple hull with Hobie’s new MirageDrive pedal system with Kick-Up Fins. Outfitted with a breathable mesh seat, the Compass offers maximum stability, an oversized cockpit, and a flat deck for standing. Fishing features include molded-in rod holders, H-Track accessory mounts, and a transducer cavity ready for a Lowrance fishfinder.
Length: 12’ | Width: 34” | Weight: 87 lbs. (rigged) | Capacity: 400 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Revolution 13
hobie.com/kayaks – $2,779
This offshore-capable hull is designed for quick moves and chasing down schools of fish, making it one of the most popular kayaks among striped bass fishermen. The Vantage CT seat allows for comfortable all-day fishing, and the MirageDrive with new Kick-Up Fin Technology allows hands-free fishing and full-power reverse propulsion. It is also available in an 11-foot hull and a 16-foot hull.
Length: 13’5” | Width: 28.5” | Weight: 88 lbs. (rigged) | Capacity: 350 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12
hobie.com/kayaks – $3,739
Now with all-new Kick-Up Turbo Fins, the super-stable Mirage Pro Angler is designed to handle fishing conditions from small ponds to the open ocean. It allows for easy stand-up fishing, ample storage, and comfortable pedaling from spot to spot. Also available in a 14-foot hull and a 17-foot tandem model.
Length: 12’ | Width: 36” | Weight: 129 lbs. (rigged) | Capacity: 500 lbs.
Jackson Bite FD
jacksonadventures.com – $3,739
Jackson’s Bite is an affordable pedal-kayak that doesn’t cut corners. It performs well whether paddling or standing, and the open-concept deck allows for ample storage with a system of touring-style bungie cords.
Length: 11’6” | Width: 35” | Weight: 91 lbs. (rigged) | Capacity: 400 lbs.
Jackson Big Rig FD
jacksonadventures.com – $3,499
One of Jackson’s most popular fishing kayaks has been upgraded with the addition of Flex Drive 3D pedaling power. It’s compatible with the Flex Drive E motor, giving users a truly hands-free fishing experience. Unique Big Rig rod troughs are doubled up with two rod tubes on both sides of the bow.
Length: 13’3” | Width: 40” | Weight: 125 lbs. (hull only) | Capacity: 550 lbs.
Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 12.5 MAX
nativewatercraft.com – $2,599
One of Native’s most popular designs, the Slayer Propel 13, has been updated with elevated seating, an extended rudder, more fishing storage, and electronics-ready recesses and mounts.
Length: 12’6” | Width: 34” | Weight: 125 lbs. (fully rigged) | Capacity: 500 lbs.
Ocean Kayak Trident 13 Angler
oceankayak.johnsonoutdoors.com – $1,399
The Trident 13 has the perfect balance of speed, maneuverability, performance, and stability. Its 13-foot hull performs especially well in breaking surf and rough seas, making it ideal for chasing stripers, bluefish, and false albacore in coastal waters. It’s also available in Trident 11 and Trident 15 models.
Length: 13’6” | Width: 29” | 79 lbs. | Capacity: 355 lbs.
Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game II
oceankayak.johnsonoutdoors.com – $1,449
The Prowler Big Game II was designed for the angler looking for a high-capacity fishing kayak that’s big on stability and comfort. Its six strategically placed mounting brackets allow the user to outfit the boat without having to drill into the hull.
Length: 12’9” | Width: 34” | Weight: 70 lbs. | Capacity: 600 lbs.
Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot 120|136
oldtowncanoe.com – $3,799/$3,999
The Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot 120 motorized kayak leverages Minn Kota’s Spot-Lock technology; motoring you to your fishing spot faster, and holding your position over the hole. Command the kayak with a touch of your thumb using the Bluetooth connected i-Pilot remote.
Length: 12’/13’6″ | Width: 37”/37” | Weight: 143 lbs./148 lbs. (with Motor Console) | Capacity: 558 lbs./660 lbs.
Old Town Sportsman BigWater PDL 132
oldtowncanoe.com – $2,599
Get to your spot, then stay there without paddling, on the Old Town Sportsman BigWater PDL 132 pedal kayak. With instant forward and reverse, maneuverability and stability, you’ll enjoy precise boat control while your hands remain free to fish. Old Town’s award-winning PDL Drive is the most reliable and easy-to-use pedal drive on the market.
Length: 12′ | Width: 37” | Weight: 117 lbs. | Capacity: 500 lbs.
Old Town Sportsman 106 Powered by Minn Kota
oldtowncanoe.com – $2,499
The Old Town Sportsman 106 Powered by Minn Kota motorized kayak is simple and intuitive, getting you on the fish faster in a compact, low-profile kayak you can car top.
Length: 10’6″ | Width: 37” | Weight: 121 lbs. (with Motor Console) | Capacity: 525 lbs.
Old Town Sportsman PDL 106|120
oldtowncanoe.com – $3,799/$3,999
The Old Town Sportsman PDL 120 pedal kayak provides hands free fishing in a performance kayak that’s both nimble and stable. With instant forward and reverse, the award-winning PDL Drive is the most reliable and easy-to-use pedal drive on the market.
Length: 10’6″/12′ | Width: 36”/36″ | Weight: 94 lbs./106 (with Pedal Console) | Capacity: 450 lbs./500 lbs.
Old Town Sportsman Salty PDL 120
oldtowncanoe.com – $1,899
If you fish and play Coastal areas, the Old Town Sportsman Salty PDL 120 pedal kayak is the craft for you. Outfitted for fishing; at home in the waves having fun! With instant forward and reverse, the award-winning PDL Drive is the most reliable and easy-to-use pedal drive on the market.
Length: 12′ | Width: 34.5” | Weight: 104 lbs. (with Pedal Console) | Capacity: 450 lbs.
Old Town Sportsman 119 Discovery Solo
oldtowncanoe.com – $999
Combining the best of both worlds, Old Town delivers the ideal grab-n-go watercraft for anglers and hunters alike. Offering the simplicity and utility of a classic solo canoe with the agility and sleek handling of a kayak, the Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman hybrid canoe is a stable, lightweight boat that is easy to handle on and off the water. Enjoy new and unique features like tackle and rod storage, comfortable seating, and an accessory track, all with the iconic hull durability that is the hallmark of the Discovery series. You’ll have a hard time leaving home without your new favorite sporting craft on top of your roof rack.
Length: 11’9″ | Width: 32.5” | Weight: 104 lbs. (with Pedal Console) | Capacity: 56 lbs.
Old Town Topwater 120 PDL
oldtowncanoe.com – $2,199
The newest member of the best-selling Topwater series, the 120 PDL offers big fishing performance in a hands-free, easy-to-maneuver 12-foot size. Thanks to the ultra-stable DoubleU Hull, it quietly glides through any water conditions while providing a stable hands-free stand-up fishing platform. It’s also available in a paddle-kayak version as the Topwater 120.
Length: 12′ | Width: 36” | Weight: 106 lbs. | Capacity: 500 lbs.
Old Town Topwater 106 PDL
oldtowncanoe.com – $1,999
The Topwater 106 PDL is a comfortable, hands-free performance fishing kayak that’s easy to maneuver and even easier to transport. At only 10.5’ long and weighing only 100 lbs. fully outfitted, The Topwater PDL offers large fishing kayak performance, in a compact, lightweight, nimble package. It’s also available in paddle-kayak versions as the Topwater 106.
Length: 10’6” | Width: 36” | Weight: 95 lbs. | Capacity: 450 lbs.
Old Town Predator PDL
oldtowncanoe.com – $2,599
The Predator PDL got a facelift for 2020 that includes the addition of EVA foam deck pads for safe and comfortable stand-up fishing and a new composite rudder for better control. The PDL system provides hands-free forward and reverse propulsion with a pedal drive that installs quickly and tips up instantly for shallow-water docking.
Length: 13’2” | Width: 36” | Weight: 117 lbs. | Capacity: 500 lbs.
Old Town Predator 13
oldtowncanoe.com – $1,449
Engineered above and below the waterline to be the perfect platform for fishing, the Predator series can tackle everything from small-pond largemouths to rough-sea stripers. The Predator comes loaded with features including a slip-resistant deck and comfortable Element Seating System.
Length: 13’2” | Width: 33.5” | Weight: 86 lbs. | Capacity: 425 lbs.
Pelican Catch 130 HyDryve II
pelicansport.com – $1499
Pelican’s HyDryve system brings pedal-drive technology within reach of budget-minded anglers on this rudder-controlled fishing kayak. Made with RAM-X Premium, a multi-layer polyethylene with an advanced resin in the top layer imparting a glossy finish and providing significantly more rigidity than standard polyethylene, it remains light, stiff, strong, and easy to move.
Length: 12’6” | Width: 34” | Weight: 78 lbs. | Capacity: 425 lbs.
Pelican Catch PWR 100
pelicansport.com – $999
Pelican’s Catch family is growing with a personal watercraft that is ready to take your choice of gas or electric motor. It comes pre-wired so you can stow your battery in the front compartment while easily connecting your motor in the back.
Length: 9’9” | Width: 39.75” | Weight: 75 lbs. | Capacity: 450 lbs.
Pelican Catch 100
pelicansport.com – $699
The Catch family features a tunnel hull for amazing stability, making it easy to stand while casting. Well-planned out accessories help keep everything conveniently stowed, and yet it is light enough for most people to carry and launch on their own. The Catch 100 is ideal for the smaller angler looking to access new waters.
Length: 10’ | Width: 34” | Weight: 54 lbs. | Capacity: 350 lbs.
Sea Eagle Fishing Explorer
seaeagle.com – $999
Designed by and for avid fishermen, this inflatable kayak features nearly indestructible 2000-denier reinforced protective layers, 6 built-in rod holders, and a fully adjustable foot brace. It offers a huge max load capacity of 575 pounds and is completely self-bailing.
Length: 11’6” | Width: 39” | Weight: 51 lbs. | Capacity: 575 lbs.
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120
wildernesssystems.com – $999
A legendary original in the fishing-kayak realm, the Tarpon has been revamped with improved comfort, stability, speed and paddler interface. Equally at home on rivers, lakes or oceans, the new Tarpon delivers a dynamic on-water performance with enhanced agility and stability, while well-executed and innovative features elevate the overall experience. It is also available as Tarpon 105.
Length: 12’3” | Width: 31” | Weight: 63 lbs. | Capacity: 350 lbs.
Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K. 120
wildernesssystems.com – $1,499
The award-winning design of the A.T.A.K. 140 is now available in a compact package for increased manageability both on and off the water. The A.T.A.K. 120 has an open, customizable platform and a wind-shedding deck. An optional Helix MD Motor Drive is sold separately.
Length: 12’3” | Width: 35” | Weight: 86 lbs. | Capacity: 400 lbs.
Wilderness Systems Pungo 120
wildernesssystems.com – $999
The best-selling sit-inside recreational kayak of all time has been redesigned to deliver a dynamic on-water performance with superior stability, speed, comfort, and intelligent outfitting. It is available in three sizes: The Pungo 105, Pungo 120, and Pungo 125.
Length: 12’2” | Width: 29” | Weight: 49 lbs. | Capacity: 325 lbs.
2020 Stand-Up Paddleboard Buyer’s Guide
Sea Eagle FishSUP 126
seaeagle.com – $899
This incredibly stable, bow-to-stern tapered, swallowtail inflatable stand-up paddleboard is designed specifically for fishermen. The removable transom gives you the ability to run it with an electric motor. It stows in your car trunk and sets up in under 10 minutes.
Length: 12’6” | Width: 40” | Weight: 45 lbs. | Capacity: 500 lbs.
boteboard.com – $3,499
The Rover was designed as a paddleboard first, with a channeled, deep-V nose design that quietly slices through the water and paddles efficiently through a variety of water conditions. However, add on a Moto Rac and a 6-horsepower outboard, and suddenly you own an incredibly efficient backwater micro-skiff. Whether you’re fishing by paddle or power, you’ll have all the stability you need to fish hard.
Length: 14’ | Width: 40” | Weight: 105 lbs. | Capacity: 500 lbs.
livewatersports.com – $2,299
The breakthrough design of the L2Fish allows paddlers to enjoy the most demanding stand-up paddle activities from fishing to hunting, windsurfing, yoga, and even camping. With its catamaran-style hull and hollow-core construction, the L2Fish maximizes buoyancy and greatly reduces the weight-to-volume ratio. The large tunnel in the hull minimizes the surface area on the water, allowing the L2Fish to slice through the water with speed.
Length: 12’6” | Width: 34” | Weight: 51 lbs. | Capacity: 500 lbs.