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 2019
bonafidekayaks.com – $1,599
The American-made 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.
Bonafide RS 117
bonafidekayaks.com – $999
The RS117 sets a new standard for budget-conscious kayak anglers, providing 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 – $1,299
The compact SS107 is a portable beast that boasts premium fishing features with a small footprint and a serious payload. 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.
Hobie Mirage Outback
hobie.com – $2,799
Hobie has given their best-selling Outback its first major redesign in over a decade. This fully-loaded fishing machine is built for every conceivable fishing expedition, from offshore ocean to freshwater ponds. 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. Check out a Hobie Kayak in person.
Length: 12’ | Width: 34” | Weight: 87 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 400 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Compass
hobie.com – $1,949
The Mirage Compass combines a blissfully simple hull with Hobie’s time-tested MirageDrive pedal system. Outfitted with a breathable mesh seat, the Compass offers maximum stability, an oversized cockpit, and a flat deck for standing. A sharp turning radius makes this fishing kayak nimble in tight quarters, yet it’s able to speed over open water in stealthy fashion. Fishing features include molded-in rod holders, H-Track accessory mounts, and a transducer cavity ready for a Lowrance fishfinder. Check out a Hobie Kayak in person.
Length: 12’9” | Width: 34” | Weight: 103 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 425 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12
hobie.com – $3,499
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. It is also available in a 14-foot hull and a 17-foot tandem model. Check out a Hobie Kayak in person.
Length: 12’ | Width: 36” | Weight: 129 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 500 lbs.
Hobie Mirage Revolution 13
hobie.com – $2,599
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 use, and the MirageDrive 180 allows hands-free fishing and full-power reverse propulsion by pulling the shift cable to pivot the fins 180 degrees. It is also available in an 11-foot hull and a 16-foot hull. Check out a Hobie Kayak in person.
Length: 13’5” | Width: 28.5” | Weight: 91 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 350 lbs.
Jackson Kayak Cuda HD
jacksonkayak.com – $1,899
Jackson Kayak has taken all the recent improvements in hull design and deck staging, and added them to the popular Cuda. A new longer and slightly wider size gives the Cuda HD additional stability plus increased tracking and speed. The deck has been reworked with padding, a hinged center hatch, tubular tip covers, gear tracks in all the convenient places, and comes Raymarine-ready. Check out a Jackson Kayak in person.
Length: 12’10” | Width: 33” | Weight: 85 lbs. | Capacity: 425 lbs.
jacksonkayak.com – $799
Jackson Kayak’s new Bite is an affordable option that doesn’t cut corners. With an 11’3” hull and 35” width, it performs well whether paddling or standing. The open-concept deck allows for ample storage with a system of touring-style bungie cords. Find a Jackson Kayak in person.
Length: 11’6” | Width: 35” | Weight: 72 lbs. | Capacity: 400 lbs.
Native Watercraft Titan Propel 12
nativewatercraft.com – $2,799
Native’s award-winning Titan is now offered in a 12-foot model, allowing easier transport with many of the same features as the 13.5-foot model. It offers a stable platform for fishing, horizontal rod storage, and elevated seating designed for a comfortable transition between standing and sitting. The Propel Pedal Drive System provides hands-free forward to reverse, and the Titan can be purchased with a transom-style motor mount.
Length: 12’ | Width: 39” | Weight: 109 lbs. | Capacity: 500 lbs.
NuCanoe Frontier 12
nucanoe.com – $1,599
The Frontier is an ultra-stable hybrid kayak designed for standing, sight-casting, and fly-fishing with confidence on its 20-inch-wide deck. A customizable design lets you go solo or tandem, position seats where you want, and outfit the deck just how you like it.
Length: 12’ | Width: 41” | Weight: 77 lbs. | Capacity: 650 lbs.
Ocean Kayak Caper Angler
oceankayak.com – $749
The easily-stored, easily-transported Caper Angler packs a lot of fishing potential into a small package. Stable and easy to maneuver, its compact size will comfortably get you to that sweet fishing spot or remote campsite. Check out an Ocean Kayak in person.
Length: 11’ | Width: 31” | Weight: 47 lbs. | Capacity: 325 lbs.
Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game II
oceankayak.johnsonoutdoors.com – $1,399
The Prowler Big Game II was designed for the angler looking for a high-capacity fishing kayak. Its six strategically-placed mounting brackets allow the user to outfit the boat without having to drill into the hull. Check out an Ocean Kayak in person.
Length: 12’9” | Width: 34” | Weight: 70 lbs. | Capacity: 550 lbs.
Ocean Kayak Trident 13 Angler
oceankayak.johnsonoutdoors.com – $1,299
The ideal size for inshore and inland angling, with Trident’s legendary ease of paddling. The Trident 13 Angler balances size with agility, making it the most versatile kayak in the fleet. The Trident 13 performs well in almost any water application but you’ll notice the superb performance in breaking surf and rough seas. Check out an Ocean Kayak in person.
Length: 12’9” | Width: 34” | Weight: 70 lbs. | Capacity: 550 lbs.
Length: 13’6″ | Width: 29” | Weight: 79 lbs. | Capacity: 355 lbs.
Old Town Topwater PDL
oldtowncanoe.com – $1,999
Old Town sacrificed nothing, delivering 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. Check out an Old Town Kayak in person.
Length: 12’9” | Width: 34” | Weight: 70 lbs. | Capacity: 550 lbs.
Length: 10’6” | Width: 36” | Weight: 95 lbs. | Capacity: 450 lbs.
Old Town Predator PDL X
oldtowncanoe.com – $2,799
The new limited edition Predator PDL X is a fresh new take on Old Town’s award winning Predator PDL series. The PDL X comes in two fresh new colors with orange bungees and features like froward/reverse drive, rudder control knob, premium seating and built in rod holders that put Old Town Fishing on the map. Check out an Old Town Kayak in person.
Length: 13’2” | Width: 36” | Weight: 117 lbs. | Capacity: 500 lbs.
Old Town Predator 13
oldtowncanoe.com – $1,399
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. Check out an Old Town Kayak in person.
Length: 13’2” | Width: 33.5” | Weight: 86 lbs. | Capacity: 425 lbs.
Pelican Catch 130HyDryve
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: 425lbs.
Pelican Sentinel 100X Angler
pelicansport.com – $369
Designed for the experienced fisherman looking to try kayak fishing, the Sentinel 100X Angler is incredibly easy to transport and store. A multi chine flat-bottom hull ensures the stability needed when casting lines and reeling in fish. Plus, it has a center console with compartments molded into the cover, two paddle/rod tie-downs, two accessory eyelets, and two flush-mount rod holders. Check out a Pelican Kayak in person.
Length: 9’6” | Width: 30” | Weight: 45 lbs. | Capacity: 275 lbs.
Pelican Premium Argo 100XP Angler
pelicansport.com – $469
With ergonomic carrying handles and only 41 pounds, you will be able to easily carry the Argo 100XP Angler wherever you decide to go. It’s constructed from a durable high-molecular-weight polyethylene that contains a top layer of advanced resin, which provides more rigidity while keep the kayak conveniently lightweight. Check out a Pelican Kayak in person.
Length: 10’ | Width: 29” | Weight: 41 lbs. | >Capacity: 300 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 maximum load capacity of 575 pounds, and is completely self-bailing.
Length: 11’6” | Width: 39” | Weight: 51 lbs. | Capacity: 575 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: 325lbs.
Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K. 120
wildernesssystems.com – $1,849
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.
2019 Stand-Up Paddleboards Buyer’s Guide
Sea Eagle FishSUP 126
seaeagle.com – $799
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.