Buying Guide: Best Fishing Kayak Models and Features
We all love to fish, who doesn’t? There is nothing like getting away and cracking open a cold one, sitting on the shore, and casting. It’s not just very meditative, as you’ll be able to drift away from thought and clear your mind, but it is also very challenging and exciting. It takes real skill to catch some of those smarter, sneakier fish who’ve escaped their fate for decades, not to mention a bit of coin if you want the right tools for the job, for instance high priced reels or the best fishing kayak.
One of the things I love about this sport however, is that it is incredibly flexible, and there is room for just about everybody no matter what their tastes are. Whether that be saltwater casting on a pier or boat, trout jigging near a stream, or throwing some flys out on a lake that has a legendary 50 year old catfish. It’s this kind of broad availability that generates a ton of interest, and a mass following, allowing me to share my favorite hobby with just about anybody no matter what gender or age group. From amongst all of these broad niches however, by far my favorite way to fish is through kayaking, and I feel like I have enough experience here to make a few recommendations. These make my list if you are looking for the best fishing kayak for the money, I try to include different types, just in case you have different tastes. There are some incredibly expensive models in here such as the Old Town Predator 13 or Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14, but their cost is some people, so scroll down to my “top 5 list”. Or if you are just doing a bit of research, I’ve included a list of attributes to consider when making your purchase. Happy angling!
Top 5 Models
Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem Kayak
One of the more popular fishing kayaks, this is a sit on top model which has space for three, but I’d suggest using two at most. It comes with two paddles, a dry storage compartment, 10 feet of space which is plenty, along with all the rigging and trays you could possibly need. For the money, this is the best fishing kayak on the market. However, it isn’t perfect. The rod holders are not water tight, and this isn’t particularly pretty to look at.
Old Town 10 Feet Vapor 10 Angler Recreational Fishing Kayak
Old Town is one of the better branded kayak retailers, and they have a great bargain model in their 10 Feet Vapor model. This is a 10 foot sit in model designed for one person, but it has a ton of room! The seat is incredibly comfortable, with floor braces and thigh pads, it is one of those models that are way more comfortable than they should be. It has the rigging that you need, including rod holders located near the rear, an anchor, a dash board, cup holder, and paddle pack. Plus, its constructed using polyethylene, so its light yet durable. This is the best sit in if that is your cup of tea, I just like the on top kayaks better, which is why this is number 2.
Sun Dolphin Excursion sit-in Fishing Kayak
The excursion comes in two different models, the 10 foot model, and the 12 foot model. Both of these models are sit in, but we like the 10 foot model the best in terms of bang for the buck. What’s to like? Well, it’s incredibly cheap and well constructed with a polyethylene hull, so if you are just getting into this hobby and don’t want to shell out a lot of money, this might be a good option. It comes with two rod holders which are stationary, and a swivel holder near the front. It also gives pretty good tracking and turning, due to its weight(40lb), and narrow base. Some negatives include a lack of paddles, a small storage area, uncomfortable angle of the seat, and an awkward body style which makes it difficult to lift.
Perception Sport Pescador 12 Angler Kayak
Another nice sit on top kayak is the Pescador by Perception Sport. This has virtually everything you can ask for, including 3 rod holders, paddle parks, and an anchor kit. One of the rod holders is a Scotty baitcaster. Plus it’s 12 feet long, which is incredibly spacious for a one man kayak. This is very similar to the Wilderness Systems Tarpon, which was perhaps the best mid range kayak on the market in 2008, but it comes at a fraction of the price(Perception Sport and Wilderness Systems are owned by the same company).
Sevylor Inflatable Colorado Hunting Canoe
This is sevylors 2-person inflatable canoe model, but it might as well be a kayak due to its maneuverability and steering control. It is extremely well built, with a double hull and raised bow which gives it additional ruggedness for when you are dealing with rugged waters. It has a reinforced bottom as well, for those times that you inadvertently scratch a lake or seabed. Finally, the bucket seats are elevated, so you will get somewhat of the benefit of a sit in kayak, and a sit on top one.
Sit on Top versus Sit In
This is one of the huge differences between fishing kayaks and others, and the preference is roughly split down the middle. Sit on top kayaks are just as the name suggests, kayaks which allow for you to it on top. These are very advantageous for fishers because it allows for easy access to poles and tackle, and gives you the ability to use your legs a bit more in the case that you have a particularly strong fish on the other end. There is also the rare chance that you have to get out and wade through the water, so most anglers overall choose this type.
Sit in Kayaks aka (SIK)’s, are also exactly what the name describes, and you sit inside of them. The amount of cockpit room here is vital, as the more room that you have available, the more room you have to fix bait and maneuver. There are a few advantages to this style as opposed to the sit on top style. The first and most obvious, is that you will have a lower center of gravity, allowing you to paddle, or pedal easier. The second advantage is comfort. I like my sit on top kayak but I’ve been in one of these before, and I wanted to fall asleep. The third advantage is that they protect you from the elements, water can get cold, and the air out on open water can be particularly cold, so these have a distinct advantage in that regard. Just make sure that you check inside the cockpit before entering, snakes like to make these their home.
Paddle versus Pedal
All kayaks come with paddles, however not all come with pedals. For 95% of us, non-pedal kayaks work just fine, however if you are particularly lazy, you can purchase one of the more expensive paddle varieties. These cost about double the price. I’m not going to lie, they are much easier to use, and are quicker, but you’ll have to carry a paddle with you just in case they break down for some odd ball reason. Maybe I’m just biased because I love my sit on top kayaks(all pedal kayaks are sit in), so you may prefer pedals, I just don’t believe they are worth the extra price.
Ocean versus Fresh Water Design
Lakes are usually nice and calm, unless there is a storm. Oceans are never calm, and if there is a storm they can be a nightmare to navigate. Recently here in Florida a couple of kayakers went out into the gulf right before a storm, and were never heard from again. The main difference between these is their construction. Ocean kayaks require a much wider base in order to withstand the choppiness from the rise and fall of the ocean wave crests. The bottoms of these kayaks must also be nice and smooth, and the hull has to have a U-shaped design in order for you to maintain stability in rough waters.
Freshwater kayaks on the other hand, you can get away with just about any design, including the use of an ocean kayak. However, the wider bases of the ocean styled variety tend to slow you down and greatly reduce maneuverability. For this reason, fresh water varieties are made to have a narrower base and a little extra length, which allows for additional turning capacity in narrow curvy waterways. Finally, fresh water kayaks have a V-shaped hull, which allows for additional stability in still water.
The biggest difference between your standard kayak, and angler varieties, is the rigging. You will need a rod older and additional rigging if you plan on casting, so whatever you choose to go with keep in mind that it will eventually need attended to. If you are trying to save some coin, you can go with stock kayaks, and attach rigging yourself, however there are plenty of angler models available so if that isn’t your thing, you can pay the little bit extra and buy it standard. This is what I would suggest if your new, however if you’re a bit of a handyman, it’s always better to customize your stuff the way you like it.
Tandem versus Single
If you have a fishing buddy, you don’t have to worry about going it alone, as there are models that are particularly made with this in mind. Tandem fishing kayaks are a bit more expensive to accommodate for the additional space, but you will definitely save money in the long run as opposed to purchasing a second kayak. Plus, who doesn’t like an additional set of hands to paddle your way back to shore?
Inflatable versus Hardened Flat Surface
These are very niche, but can be very advantageous for many. Inflatable’s are usually cheaper than standard models, although some can be incredibly expensive if they are designed to handle rapids and such. Not just that, but if you live in an apartment or lack space to transport the real thing, these can be a god send. There are a few problems however. The first, is that they can be damaged easier, obviously. The second issue with these is that they can only carry so much weight, and the cheaper models won’t support enough weight to allow for paddling, which defeats the purpose of the design completely. Do your homework before purchasing one of these, but they can end up being the best fishing kayak for your circumstance.