I'm an experienced angler with a love for kayaking who lives close to the beautiful Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. Over the years I've tested out different types of kayaks - from sit in to sit on tops kayaks; from entry level kayaks to finding out the best fishing kayak under 1000 dollars!
A lot of people don't realize that every kayak is different and one should choose it based on one's need but since you're reading this, then I definitely count you among the more intelligent and sensible lot who likes to plan.
Everyone has their own take on what the best fishing kayak should be like and that's why I decided to create this ultimate resource guide that will help you out through detailed reviews and an objective analysis of the top angler kayaks on the market.
Best Fishing Kayak For The Money
Towards the end of this guide, I'll also explain the major differences between sit in vs sit on top kayaks so that you have a better idea as to what makes a good fishing kayak. Now even though there are quite a few fishing kayaks in the market that are pretty decent, I thought it was best to save my readers the trouble of doing all the research on their own.
That's why you can read below fishing kayak reviews of the top 3 angler yaks chosen by me. Not only will this save you hours of research time but you can be rest assured that these have only been chosen and put on this list after thorough personal testing and discussion with other angler experts. So without further ado, let's move onto these amazing fishing kayaks.
Sun Dolphin Excursion sit-in Fishing Kayak
This was the 1st fishing kayak that I ever owned (the 10 feet one) so I might be a bit biased but for an entry level yak, you don't need to look any further than this. Some people might say that it doesn't compare with the big boys but then you've got to realize the difference between a $2000 fishing kayak and one that is available for under 500 dollars!
The Sun Dolphin now also comes in the 12 feet version and that's the one I recommend to all beginners. Not only is this an affordable single person kayak but is extremely convenient to use and has enough features to keep you happy.
It comes outfitted with two flush mount fishing rod holders and can easily fit into the back of an SUV or small truck. Like the name suggests, it is 12 feet long, has a 30 inch beam and weighs close to about 45 pounds. I have had absolutely no problems lugging this around or carrying it from the garage to the car and fore and aft ends come fitted with carrying handles.
The hull is made from Fortiflex high-density polyethylene and easily breaks through the water and has no problems when it comes to repelling waves that lap up against the gunwale. The cockpit is pretty large with a covered console and allows for good movement when casting and reeling. What I like best is that it comes with padded, adjustable seats so I have absolutely no issues when it comes to leg space. There are also 2 protective thigh pads along the spray deflector collar that protect your knees.
Since this is an entry level fishing yak, the Excursion doesn't come loaded with accessories but there are enough basic features to help you reel in the prefect catch. You have 2 flush mounted rod holders behind the cockpit that allow for multiple lines and a swivel rod holder serves as a third hand for your primary rod. In front of the swivel holder, you also have a small notch covered with shock cord that allows you to store a water bottle. And for those wondering where to keep your camera, fishing license etc, you have a shock cord rigging to take care of all that.
There's no separate mounting area for a trolling motor but I've seen a few fellow anglers use an external mounting system to make up for the otherwise less power and maneuverability. Also, thanks to the wide profile design as well as the 30 inch beam, you don't ever need to fear about the vessel flipping and that's another reason why the manufacturers did not add an additional floatation device - however, if you're the panicky kinds, then you can easily wedge additional USCG approved floats underneath the seat.
If you're looking for the best affordable fishing kayak, you'll be hard pressed to find other kayaks that come close to the Sun Dolphin Excursion when it comes to price, performance, stability, comfort and durability. My advice would be to use this only for calm waters and gentle streams and not so much for rough waters.
All in all, it's a great starter rig for beginner fishers and definitely one of the best fishing kayak under 500 dollars at the moment!
Old Town 10-Feet Vapor 10 Angler Recreational Fishing Kayak
One of my personal favorites that I've been suing for quite some time now is the Old Town 10-Feet Vapor 10 Angler Recreational Fishing Kayak. Extremely compact design wise and very easy to operate, this one brings out the best angler in me.
Since I prefer sit in kayaks that can carry a considerable amount of load, the Old Town Vapor is my trusty guide on every fishing expedition. It weighs in at just less than 50 pounds and can be easily carried out by an average person. A lot of you might wonder that it might not fit your size because of its 10 feet length, but the truth is, even if you're 6.5 feet tall and weigh close to 300 pounds, you'll still fit into this comfortably!
The deck height is almost 17 inches and the wide cockpit (48 inches deep and 20 inches wide) makes it very easy to get in and out. For me, the real winner is the hybrid cockpit and I'm sure other serious anglers will agree with me on this point. You don't need to worry about the water splashing around your legs (or torso) and because it's a sit in yak, you'll be really dry and protected from the wind.
I've also had my 6 year old nephew accompany me on this yak so yes; it's big enough for 2 people but you'll have to compromise on the load factor a bit in such case. Moving onto the seats, it was a real pleasure to slip into a comfortable fishing kayak seat after a long time. The seat is easily adjustable and combined with the huge cockpit space; you can shift your position to almost any combination and avoid fatigue.
For those of you who prefer tracking to be the ultimate test for a fishing yak, you won't be disappointed at all. The Old Town Vapor is extremely fast for its size and you won't feel the need to paddle much when kayaking straight across the lake because it simply glides - in fact, this is an extremely important feature for people new to kayaking because often the fatigue spoils the initial fishing experience.
Other features that I loved about this kayak include:
- Presence of an anchor trolley system
- Convenient drain plug
- Comfortable thigh pads and adjustable seat
- Hybrid open cockpit with enough room for a big tackle box
- Molded carrying handles
- Very good tracking
- Great price
The only point that I have a slight issue with is when it comes to the anchor because it doesn't seem to hold very well in swift moving current. However, the truth is, this one is designed to be used mainly on calm or moderate choppy waters and in those cases, the anchor does a good job - if you're still not satisfied, there's always the option of buying another one.
All said and done, the Old Town 10-Feet Vapor 10 Angler Recreational Fishing Kayak is one of the best fishing yaks in the market at the moment and Amazon usually runs a great deal on them so you might want to check it out.
Perception Sport Pescador 12 Angler Kayak
Completing my roundup of the 3 best fishing yaks 2015 is the Perception Sport Pescador 12 Angler Kayak which is one of the most stable and easy to paddle sit on top yaks available in the market at the moment. There's also a 10 foot version but since I've personally used the 12 foot one, this review will be limited to that.
A lot of people wish they could own a high end fishing kayak and if you're one of those, then you would have definitely heard of the Wildnerness Tarpon. Well, the Pescador 12 is very similar to that in terms of design and features but a whole lot cheaper and extremely good value for money.
This one has a good amount of storage and comes with a large rear tankwell and a bow hatch & stern hatch. There's also a third mid hatch which I don't believe is present in the 10 foot version. Now for an experienced and regular angler like me, a hatch is a sort of necessity to store my luggage, spare clothing etc.
For the price that it's available at, the Perception Sport is a pretty decent tracker and quite easy to control. It might wobble slightly the first time but once you get used to the control, the multi-chine hull is designed to keep you going in the direction you want to go.
Another great feature that I personally loved is that the Pescador 12 comes with a comfort seating system which means you get access to a padded seat pad, padded seat back, and adjustable backrest and this translates into one awesome comfortable ride. Also, unlike other kayaks in this price range, this one comes with an adjustable foot brace system which is very useful in those situations where you need to paddle fast and deep.
Some of the other features that I really liked about the Perception Sport Pescador 12 Angler Kayak are:
- Easy steering control thanks to the multi-chine hull
- Dry storage space because of the large bow hatch
- Foot brace system
- Tracking keel for easy maneuverability
- Tankwell with bungee
- Self bailing scupper holes
- Comfort seating system
Some people might find that it becomes a tad difficult to carry around without a truck because of its length and 60 pound weight. Also remember, one of the disadvantages of any recreational SOT yak is that you'll have to skip those white water or fast rapids.
For those of you who love summer fishing or fishing in inlets, bays, canals or estuaries, then this yak is perfect for you.
Bonus - Malibu Kayaks Stealth 14 Fish and Dive Package Sit on Top Kayak
Some people might consider this expensive but there's no doubt that the Malibu Stealth Sit-On-Top Kayak is one of the best in the market. It has some great features and no wonder that it has one of the highest ratings on Amazon as well.
It comes with a convenient bait tank storage system and regular anglers will love this extra storage feature. With a patented casting platform and a 3 hatch center deck, there's plenty of space for you to store your fishing and diving gear. I love the fact that the cockpit area is extra wide with a cup holder and a foot track system to keep you comfortable. This is definitely a worthy contender for the title of the best fishing kayak thanks to the deluxe hinged Gator Hatch, bungee system and two rod holders.
You won't be disappointed in the accessories department because this come equipped with a drain plug, side carry handle, nylon hooks, bow handles, stern handles and eyelets. And the best part is that it comes with a lifetime warranty.
Yes, the initial price might be a deterrent for some people, but if you're serious about buying an awesome angler kayak, then this is a very good investment that will serve you for years to come.
Types of Fishing Kayaks - SIT & SOT
When I started kayak fishing, the first question and the most important one I faced was over the choice of a sit on top or sit in kayak and that's why it's extremely important to understand the difference between the two because each type is designed for a different purpose.
I own both types of yaks and from my experience over the last 10 years, I personally prefer a sit on top (SOT) when it comes to fishing, surfing and scuba diving. And when I'm in the mood for a recreational paddling or camping trip, that's when I bring out my Sit in kayak (SIT). Of course, the final choice depends on which one you prefer and that's why I always recommend people to go to a local rental place and try out both of these types in the water - not only will it help you get a feel of the two types but this way, you'll be able to make a better informed decision!
Check Out My Detailed Fishing Kayaks
Even though you've already gone through the above fishing kayak reviews that I personally recommend, I do understand that there are other angler yaks in the market that also deserve a mention. That's why I've compiled a huge tabular guide that compares all the top fishing kayaks on the market at the moment. This guide and fishing kayak comparison chart will help you make an informed choice on which kayak to choose based on your needs and will also help you narrow down to the best fishing kayak for you.
This table includes both sit in and sit-on-top kayaks and although a lot of angler experts tend to prefer the sit on top variety, I would suggest that you try out both before coming to any conclusion because everyone has their own preference.
Note - I've now added a Price column as well. Usually prices change frequently based on availability and promotions (especially on Amazon where you can get some great discounts). But generally speaking, this is the criteria I've followed: $ = under $200, $$ = $200 to $400, $$$ = $400 to $600, $$$$ = $600 - $1000, $$$$$ = $1000+
What is a Sit On Top Kayak?
Sit on Tops are very popular nowadays and are specially designed for fishing, surfing, touring and scuba diving. These kayaks allow the paddler to sit on top of the kayak deck (and hence the name) and there is little to no access to inside the kayak (mostly the access is through storage hatch openings).
Because it allows the paddler to sit on the deck, it's becomes extremely popular with regular anglers because it allows for more freedom to cast lines and set up rigs. They're great for warm weather fishing and recreational activities because they allow you to easily slide into the water for a quick swim and back up again.
Advantages of an SOT Kayak
They are virtually unsinkable - this is one of the biggest advantages that SOT's offer and even if they get tipped over, you can simply flip them over and drain out all the water via the scupper holes.
You have quick access to gear and storage equipment - You get quick access to storage space with this type of kayak and you can quickly access your fishing and swimming gear through the multiple storage hatch openings.
More Comfortable for Taller and Larger Folks - Sit on top angling yaks tend to be wider and because this (combined with the open air cockpit), it's much more comfortable for larger folks. I'm 6.3 in height myself and yes, it sure feels more comfortable!
Sit-On-Top kayaks are less expensive when compared Sit-In Kayaks - SOTs are made with fewer materials than SIKs and are easier to ship. This usually cost a hundred dollars less than their sit in counterparts.
What is a Sit In Kayak?
Sit in kayaks or SIS for short are traditional style yaks with an open cockpit in which the paddler can climb in and sit inside the hull of the kayak with his feet under the deck. If it's power and performance that you want, then this is the right type for you.
Sit-ins come equipped with a host of features designed to make your ride smoother and comfortable and usually come included with adjustable footrests, backrests, armrests and cup holders. Some tall people might feel a bit cramped for space but it all depends on the length of the kayak that you choose. Any sit in kayak over 10 feet is more than comfortable enough in my personal opinion.
Advantages of A Sit In Kayak
Keeps the Paddler Dry - Thanks to the enclosing cockpit, the paddler remains dry and away from the splashing of water. Also, unlike an SOT, there are no drain holes at the bottom which means that the inside compartment also remains dry.
It's more stable when compared to an SOT - From my experience, I've found that an SIT is a more stable machine than an SOT kayak and is less likely to tip over. Although in case it tips over, it's more difficult to set straight then.
You can store more in a Sit in Kayak - There's definitely a lot more storage space in SIT's and for those who love to take long kayaking or camping trips, then this should be your kayak of choice as it gives you more space to store your gear, supplies and food.
Factors To Consider When Buying a Fishing Kayak
I've already discussed the most important factor to consider while buying a kayak which is to decide between a sit in or sit on top kayak. Apart from that, there are a couple of other factors that you should take into account but always remember, go for something that you're going to be using frequently. Upgrades can always be done and you can always switch over to a more expensive fishing kayak at any time.
1. Comfort - Try Before You Buy
Always try and visit a local kayak shop in your area to test out the thing firsthand. Get a feel of how comfortable it is to sit in and if possible, take it for a test ride in the water. Get help form an expert if you must.
2. Speed or Stability
This is one trade-off that you're going to have to make. Normally, you'll get a better speed with a longer kayak as compared to a shorter one and also wider kayaks will offer more stability than their narrower counterparts. So don't go blaming the manufacturers!
Also, with experience, you'll soon find that kayaks that appeared to be stable in the beginning now appears to be slow and that's because as a paddler, your balance and confidence improves with every trip so yes, that ways it's quite similar to learning how to ride a bike.
The Benefits of Kayak Fishing
A lot of people ask me why I'm so passionate when it comes to kayak fishing - if the end result is catching a bucket load of fish, then why don't you just buy a boat! Well, although they are technically correct but there's a whole lot of advantages and benefits that kayak fishing provides such as:
1. The peace and tranquility that a kayak offers
I just love the amount of peace I get when I go kayak fishing and other than the soft sound of my paddles, there's no other sound and that's another reason why I'm able to fish well. With no noise such as the loud rumbling of a motor, the fish tend to stay at one spot and this serves my purpose well.
2. Better Access thanks to kayaking
A motor boat has its limitations when it comes to moving in small places and there are a lot of places where you can easily get to with the help of a kayak rather than a large boat. Often it's in these small, hard to reach areas where you'll find spots loaded with fish and as a kayak angler; this gives me a big advantage over others.
3. Quiet and Better Speed when compared to small trolling boats
A lot of people are under the impression that kayaks are slow but the truth that any regular kayaker will attest to is that not only do you get a much quieter speed but it's often faster than small trolling motor boats.
4. Economical and amazing Value for Money
I'll be the first one to admit that I can't afford a lavish lifestyle and that's why one of the biggest benefits when it comes to kayak fishing is that is extremely economical. There's no way that I would have been able to enjoy my love for fishing if I had to pay for expensive gas all the time. In fact, the only cost that you bear is while purchasing a kayak and after that there is very little to no upkeep - you don't need to pay for the big repairs or storage fees or boat registration fees or insurance fees for that matter!
Moreover, I personally believe that we should all do our little bit for the environment and paddling a kayak is one of my ways to contributing towards a greener planet.
5. You can cover large distances easily
Like I've mentioned before, I live close to the beautiful Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and thanks to my trusty kayak, I've been able to cover a large part of it without feeling the fatigue that comes with long distance travel.
6. Convenience is your biggest Asset
Which one do you think is easier to transport and store - a large boat or a kayak? I usually tie my yak to the top of my trusted SUV when I need to get to the shore and it's very easy to do so. For all those who own an inflatable kayak, the job is even easier since you can easily pop that into your transport vehicle and can also be easily dried out, deflated and then packed away.
There's no way I would have had so much convenience with a small boat and that's why I always prefer a yak over a boat!
Top-rated Fishing Kayak Brands On The Market
- Perception Kayaks
- Old Town
- Vibe Kayaks
- Sun Dolphin
- Native Watercraft
- Sea Eagle
- 3 Waters Kayaks
- Wilderness Systems
After going through my detailed reviews of the top 3 fishing kayaks and seeing the detailed ultimate fishing kayak comparison chart above, I'm pretty sure you would have made up your mind on what the best fishing kayak is for you.
However, because a lot of new models for yak fishing keep coming out in the market, there might have been a really great fishing kayak that I might have missed. If that's the case, please do let me know via the comments box below so that I can continuously update the comparison chart from time to time.