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 decide 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 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.
What Kind of Kayak is Best for Fishing?
Pedal kayaks have become very popular for fishing because they free up your arms for holding a fishing rod. There are several options in pedal-powered kayaks by Hobie, Old Town, Native, Ocean Kayak, Pelican and others. Check out our guide on picking the best pedal-powered fishing kayak. Electric-motor-powered kayaks are also becoming a popular option. Paddle kayaks tend to be less expensive than pedal kayaks, and some anglers prefer the simplicity and lightweight of paddle kayaks.
What’s the most stable fishing kayak?
Fishing kayaks are remarkably stable. In general, wider kayaks are more stable and can support more capacity, which is often advantageous when fishing. However, width is far from the only factor that affects stability. Hull design can have a big effect, so test a fishing kayak before buying.
Is a longer kayak better for fishing?
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.
Can I stand up and fish from a kayak?
Extra-wide and stable fishing kayaks allow an angler to stand and fish. If you are a fly-fishermen, or if you enjoy sight-casting to fish in the shallows, stand-up capability might be very important to you in choosing a fishing kayak.
Do I need a fish finder on a kayak?
A fish finder can be very helpful when fishing from a kayak, but it isn’t necessary. It depends on what types of fishing you will be doing, and if knowing the depth and detecting fish under your kayak would be helpful.
What else should I consider when buying a fishing kayak?
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? Is live-bait storage important to you? Will you be doing any kayak-camping? Many kayak fishermen use milk crate systems to store tackle and extra rods.
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. Test them out to see what you find comfortable.
Best Fishing Kayaks of 2021
Length: 12’3″ | Width: 29.5″ | Weight: 67 lbs. w/seat | Capacity: 375 lbs. | Retail: $999
The “SUV of kayaks,” the Bonafide 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: 10’7″ | Width: 34.5″ | Weight: 84 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 425 lbs. | Retail: $1,349
The compact Bonafide 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: 11’7” | Width: 33.5” | Weight: 77 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 425 lbs. | Retail: $999
The Bonafide 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: 12’7” | Width: 33.75” | Weight: 94 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 475 lbs. | Retail: $1,649
The Bonafide SS127
“sit/stand” fishing kayak is designed for stability without sacrificing performance. The ultra-high-back seat allows you to sit with your knees bent, taking pressure off your lower back. Whether lake, inshore, or offshore fishing, the SS127 is ready. Check out a Bonafide Kayak in person
Length: 12’/13’8” | Width: 36”/38” | Weight: 132.5 lbs./148.5 lbs. (rigged) | Capacity: 500 lbs./600 lbs. | Retail: $4,799/$4,999
With the MirageDrive 360, you can effortlessly spin and move the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 360
in every direction. And Hobie’s Kick-Up Fins immediately retract on impact, so even shallow areas are now entirely navigable. It’s packed full of features, including rod holders and stain-resistant EVA padding.
Length: 12’ | Width: 34” | Weight: 83 lbs. (rigged) | Capacity: 400 lbs. | Retail: $1,699
The Hobie Mirage Passport 12
takes you where you want to go with ease, world-class authority, and pedal propulsion. The Passport’s wide cockpit with EVA floor padding provides a stable platform for standing and stretching your legs or casting a lure. It’s powered by the MirageDrive with glide technology and Kick-Up fins.
Length: 12’ | Width: 34” | Weight: 87 lbs. (rigged) | Capacity: 400 lbs. | Retail: $2,349
The Hobie Mirage Compass
combines a blissfully simple hull with Hobie’s new MirageDrive 180 pedal system and 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.
Length: 9’5”/10’8” | Width: 40”/40” | Weight: 36 lbs./44 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 350 lbs./400 lbs. | Retail: $2,199/$2,499
High-performance lightweight construction boosts the speed, stability, and tracking of a rigid kayak without the extra weight. the Hobie Mirage iTrek
features a rugged inflatable dropstitch hull with triple-chamber construction and it packs away in a roller duffle bag. Powered by the MirageDrive GT with Kick-Up fins and integrated rudder for dual steering, the iTrek 11 is fun, nimble, and lightning-fast.
Length: 12’9” | Width: 34” | Weight: 103 lbs. (rigged) | Capacity: 425 lbs. | Retail: $3,149
The Hobie 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. Powered by the MirageDrive 180 with Kick-Up turbo fins.
Length: 13’5” | Width: 28.5” | Weight: 91 lbs. (rigged) | Capacity: 350 lbs. | Retail: $2,899
This offshore-capable hull is designed for quick moves and chasing down schools of fish, making the Hobie Mirage Revolution 13
one of the most popular kayaks among striped bass fishermen. The Vantage CT seat allows for comfortable all-day fishing, and the MirageDrive 180 with Kick-Up fins allows full-power reverse propulsion. Also available in an 11-foot hull and a 16-foot hull.
Length: 10’6” | Width: 32” | Weight: 43 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 315 lbs. | Retail: $2,899
The popular Skimmer 116, Hurricane’s lightest sit-on-top model, has been paired with Native’s First Class frame seat. The result is a extra stable, super comfy platform for fishing and cruising. Best of all, the Hurricane Skimmer 116 First Class
only weighs 43 pounds with the seat installed.
Length: 11’6” | Width: 35” | Weight: 91 lbs. (hull only) | Capacity: 400 lbs. | Retail: $2,199
The Jackson Bite FD
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: 12’1” | Width: 34” | Weight: 82 lbs. | Capacity: 400 lbs. | Retail: $1,399
The Jackson Liska
is the modern version of Jackson’s best-selling Cuda series. It’s wider, more stable, and updated with features that novice kayak anglers are looking for and anglers demand. A versatile inshore/lake kayak fishing platform.
Length: 12’6” | Width: 34” | Weight: 125 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 500 lbs. | Retail: $2,599
One of Native’s most popular designs, the Slayer Propel 13
, has been updated to the max with ultra-comfortable elevated seating, an extended rudder, more fishing storage, and electronics-ready recesses and mounts. The hands-free pedal drive goes easily from forward to reverse, and the rockered bow gets up and over chop.
Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 10
Length: 10’ | Width: 34” | Weight: 62 lbs. (w/o drive) Capacity: 400 lbs. | Retail: $2,199
The Slayer Propel 10
is a super-light, pedal-drive fishing kayak. The armchair-comfortable seat, rock-solid stability, and clutter-free cockpit empowers even an xxl angler to stand and sight-cast or to just relax and sip the beverage of the day. The rail mount system means easy on-and-off for rod holders and purposely-positioned rails for mounting cameras.
Length: 10’9” | Width: 37.5” | Weight: 121 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 500 lbs. | Retail: $2,499
The Native Watercraft Titan
(10.5, 12, and 13.5) has proven itself to be a bass-fishing kayak extraordinaire. The shortest kayak in the lineup can more easily be transported in a truck bed while offering many of the same features as the 13.5’ model. All Titan models feature Plastifoam technology that adds flotation for safety and increased stiffness for performance. The stable platform is optimal for sight-casting and features easy-to-reach horizontal rod storage with rod tip protection.
Length: 12’3” | Width: 33” | Weight: 55 lbs. | Capacity: 300 lbs. | Retail: $799
The Versa Board
is a hybrid fishing paddleboard built with extra volume for added stability, which you’ll appreciate when the big one bites. Optional seating means you can paddle it like a conventional sit-on-top kayak, making it Ideal for flat water or slow rivers.
Length: 11’6” | Width: 30.5” | Weight: 71 lbs. | Capacity: 305 lbs. | Retail: $1,299
Length: 13’6” | Width: 29” | Weight: 79 lbs. | Capacity: 355 lbs. | Retail: $1,399
Length: 15’6” | Width: 28.5” | Weight: 91 lbs. | Capacity: 455 lbs | Retail: $1,599
The Ocean Kayak Trident is available in three lengths. The Trident 11
offers a convenient, compact hull built for agility and easy transportation. The Trident 13
has the perfect balance of speed, maneuverability, and stability, performing especially well in breaking surf and rough seas. The Trident 15
is the choice for big excursions that cover water.
Length: 12’9” | Width: 34” | Weight: 70 lbs. | Capacity: 600 lbs. | Retail: $1,449
The Ocean Kayak 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’/13’6” | Width: 37”/37” | Weight: 143 lbs./148 lbs. (with motor console) | Capacity: 558 lbs./660 lbs. | Retail: $3,799/$3,999
The Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot
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: 13’ 2” | Width: 36” | Weight: 96 lbs. | Capacity: 500 lbs. | Retail: $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.
Length: 10’6” | Width: 37” | Weight: 121 lbs. with motor console | Capacity: 525 lbs. | Retail: $2499
The Old Town Sportsman 106 motorized kayak is simple and intuitive, getting you on the fish faster in a compact, low-profile kayak you can fit on your car top.
Length: 12’ | Width: 34.5” | Weight: 104 lbs. with pedal console | Capacity: 450 lbs. | Retail: $1,899
If you fish and play in coastal areas, the Old Town Sportsman Salty PDL 120
pedal kayak is the craft for you. Outfitted for fishing, it is also at home in the waves and 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: 10’6’/12” | Width: 36”/36” | Weight: 94 lbs./106 with pedal console) | Capacity: 450 lbs./500 lbs. | Retail: $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: 11’9” | Width: 32.5” | Weight: 56 lbs. | Capacity: 354 lbs. | Retail: $999
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 craft that is easy to handle on and off the water. Enjoy unique features like tackle and rod storage, comfortable seating, and an accessory track on this grab-and-go canoe.
Length: 9’9” | Width: 39.75” | Weight: 75 lbs. | Capacity: 450 lbs. | Retail: $999
Pelican’s Catch family is growing, with a personal watercraft that is ready to take your choice of gas or electric motor. The Pelican Catch PWR 100
is pre-wired so you can stow the battery in the front compartment while easily connecting your motor in the back.
Length: 10’6” | Width: 34” | Weight: 67 lbs. | Capacity: 350lbs. | Retail: $1,299
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, the Pelican Catch 110 HyDryve II
remains light, stiff, strong, and easy to move.
Length: 10’ | Width: 34” | Weight: 54 lbs. | Capacity: 350 lbs. | Retail: $649
The Pelican Catch 100
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’s 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: 12’6” | Width: 36” | Weight: 45 lbs. | Capacity: 635 lbs. | Retail: $1,099
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. The Sea Eagle 350fx Fishing Explorer
offers a huge max load capacity of 575 pounds and is completely self-bailing.
Length: 12’6” | Width: 40” | Weight: 45 lbs. | Capacity: 500 lbs. | Retail: $1,149
The Sea Eagle FastTrack Angler
is a rugged fishing kayak you can take anywhere the fishing is great. The patented, state of the art, external, rigid, inflatable NeedleKnife™ Keel makes for a faster, smoother paddling experience. The sharper, narrower, tapered bow allows for faster entry through wind, waves, and current.
Length: 12’6” | Width: 40” | Weight: 45 lbs. | Capacity: 500 lbs. | Retail: $999
This incredibly stable, bow-to-stern tapered, swallowtail inflatable stand-up paddleboard is designed specifically for anglers. The Sea Eagle FishSUP
‘s’ 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: 12’3” | Width: 31” | Weight: 63 lbs. | Capacity: 350 lbs. | Retail: $999
A legendary original in the fishing-kayak realm, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120
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. Also available as Tarpon 105.
Wilderness Systems Recon 120
Length: 12’2” | Width: 38” | Weight: 95 lbs. | Capacity: 450 lbs. Retail: $1,099
The Wilderness Systems Recon 120
is a factory-loaded boat that you can rig your way. With a fully customizable open platform, a lineup of revolutionary new features, and the freedom to choose the preferred mode of propulsion – paddle, pedal, or power. Recon pedal drive sold separately.