Best Fishing Kayaks In 2020
Picking the best fishing kayak when you can’t physically put your hands on them before you buy can be a tedious process.
So many to choose from, so little time, and so much money, right?
With good fishing kayaks coming in a wide range of styles, sizes, shapes, and price ranges, you quickly realize that a kayak that works well in one environment may fall flat on its face in another.
Here at Tackle.org, we don’t want you wasting money or ending up with a rig that doesn’t work where you need it to work, or falls flat on something you thought it should be great at.
We’ve gone through the latest models of fishing kayaks available in 2020 to help you sift through the weeds and find the perfect rig for what you’re wanting to do.
For instance, sometimes you may be limited on space and may only be able to fit an inflatable kayak but want to make sure what you’re buying isn’t going to leave you stranded on the side of a creek constantly blowing it back up.
Or, you plan on taking a friend, spouse, or a child with you and want to make sure you still have enough room for your gear. For times like those, a good tandem fishing kayak is exactly what you’ll need to accomplish your goals.
Before you start diving in and looking at the different kayaks available, spend a few minutes figuring out exactly what you need with the quick guide below.
Top 4 Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayaks
Now that you know the difference between the 3 main types of kayaks (or, two main types and a third feature that’s almost priceless to have), it’s time to start breaking down what we believe are the best sit-on-top fishing kayaks available today.
- Length: 13 feet 4 inches
- Width: 28 inches
- Weight: 56 pounds
- Max Capacity: 325 pounds
The Ocean Kayak Prowler 13, being 13 feet long, is built for speed. The 28 inch beam gives it plenty of stability while still being able to turn in tight spaces. This kayak is ideal for larger lakes, the ocean, and long creeks where speed and stability are essential.
The large oval hatch on the bow gives you plenty of storage space, along with a 6 inch hatch insert. The rear tank well is large enough for a fishing crate or your cooler. The center features a cup holder and molded-in footwells to help accommodate different heights and leg lengths.
Two flush mounted rod holders keep your gear firmly attached to the boat and are located directly behind the seat, making trolling easy. The included Comfort Plus seat is comfortable and the boat comes with multiple bungee tiedown straps.
|Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 Angler One-Person Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak, Brown Camo, 13 Feet 4 Inches||$855.91||Amazon|
- Length: 12 feet
- Width: 36 inches
- Weight: 105 pounds
- Max Capacity: 500 pounds
The Hobie Mirage is in a class of its own. It is a pedal-powered kayak that is built specifically with anglers in mind. The massive weight capacity combined with more than enough storage makes it a great fishing kayak for full-day excursions.
The Mirage Drive pedal system helps propel the boat and keep your hands free. There are plenty of places to attach gear with the built-in H-rail system, effectively allowing you to store up to 6 rods at a time.
The large storage batches on the front and rear, along with a tacke management system in the middle help keep your gear organized and within reach. The seat is elevated for comfort and the wide beam makes it incredibly easy to stand up for long periods of time.
|Hobie Mirage 180 Pro Angler 12 Kayak Golden Papaya||$3,739.00||Amazon|
Perception Pescador Pro 12.0
- Length: 12feet
- Width: 32 inches
- Weight: 64 pounds
- Max Capacity: 375 pounds
This is one of the most expensive sit-on-top kayaks on our list but it’s also one of the most well-thought out, too. The Pescador 12 features a multi-chine hull that gives you incredible stability without sacrificing speed.
The removable seat is comfortable and lets you stay seated for hours at a time without dancing around in the boat. It’s attached to rails that you can slide around if you need to reposition it.
There’s multiple tankwells, front and rear. The large rear storage area is big enough for a cooler and comes with built-in tie downs. The front hatch compartment is sealed, allowing you to store rods inside of the boat. It keeps everything dry.
The console directly in front of you in the cockpit is easy to access. It’s ideal for any batteries for electronics you’re carrying or other gear and tackle that you need to keep close.
The Perception Pescador has multiple rod holders, two molded behind the seat, with the rail system that lets you easily attach more if needed. The adjustable foot braces move in and out to help you stay comfortable.
Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 10
- Length: 10 feet
- Width: 34 inches
- Weight: 62 pounds
- Max Capacity: 400 pounds
Native Watercraft have made their name in the fishing industry by building kayaks tailored specifically to what an angler needs. The Slayer Propel 10 is no different.
With a 34 inch wide beam, it’s the most stable kayak on our list. It has been designed for you to stand and sight fish without losing stability.
The 400 pound load capacity makes it easy to stow days worth of gear without sitting too low into the water.
The Slayer Propel 10 features a rotational pedal drive that utilizes a propeller, like a trolling motor, to help move you through the water. This keeps your hands free for fishing or photography, depending on what you’re doing for the day.
While most 10 foot kayaks are hard to maintain speed in, the pedal system in the Native makes it easy to pick up speed and stay there.
It has a large bow hatch and a square storage area in the rear. The bungee cords help keep your gear onboard and within reach. Built-in rod holders and additional gear rails let you easily add gear and adjust it as needed.
This is an incredibly stable fishing kayak that works in a wide range of conditions.
2 Best Sit-Inside Fishing Kayaks
Sit-inside fishing kayaks are amazing in cooler weather, windy weather, and when the water temps are starting to dip down. They keep you dry and out of the elements and many anglers are figuring out they’re easier to fish from than a sit-on-top.
While they may be harder to get into and out of while you’re on the water, they are usually faster to paddle and can be just as stable in choppy water. We don’t necessarily recommend standing up in them but it isn’t impossible to do.
Below are two of the best, most affordable sit-inside kayaks that can be outfitted for fishing.
Sun Dolphin Excursion
- Length: 10 feet
- Width: 30 inches
- Weight: 41 pounds
- Max Capacity: 250 pounds
The Sun Dolphin Excursion Sit-Inside Fishing Kayak is one of the few sit-insides that are actually designed for anglers.
It’s incredibly durable and doesn’t face the same issues that other “cheap” kayaks face. Even though the price is lower than everything else on the list, don’t immediately discount it.
This is a kayak that is small and light enough to toss into the back of the truck and head down to the water for quick trips. For longer day trips we recommend a longer boat. A 10 foot long sit-inside kayak can be a bear to paddle for more than a few miles at a time.
The Excursion has dual flush mounted rod holders and a single RAM-style holder in front of the cockpit. The seat is comfortable and the boat has plenty of storage space both inside the kayak and the large rear compartment.
Old Town Loon 120
- Length: 12 feet
- Width: 30 inches
- Weight: 54 pounds
- Max Capacity: 375 pounds
The Old Town Loon 120 is a classic sit-inside kayak that has been around for years and hasn’t really needed to be changed much. It is a great fishing kayak for sea fishing. When you need to stay dry and warm, the Loon 120 is the boat you need.
It has the largest cockpit of most 10 foot and 12 foot sit-inside kayaks we’ve seen, with a large dashboard directly in front of you. This dashboard makes it easy to store the tools and tackle you use most often while also doubling down as a mount for your fish finder or GPS.
One unique feature is that the Loon 120 has a built-in USB port to help you keep electronics charged while you’re underway. However, you do need to purchase a battery pack separately.
The kayak has a large hatch on the stern with plenty of rigging on the deck to help tie down any gear that you need to bring with you. It also has one of the most comfortable seats and seating positions of any sit-inside kayak we’ve seen.
Adjustable foot braces and thigh pads round out the console, making this a great kayak you can easily rig for fishing and longer multi-day trips, if that’s your agenda.
Are Inflatable Fishing Kayaks Worth The Money?
Before you jump on board thinking that an inflatable fishing kayak is a good deal…
..stop for a second and think about what all you’re going to have onboard.
Knives, hooks, pliers, and other tools floating around, waiting to leave you stranded in your life vest hoping and praying another boat will come by or you’re close enough to shore.
In our experience, it’s nearly impossible to avoid puncturing them and there’s a weird set of physics that happens with an inflatable.
As the water temperature lowers the air temperature inside of the kayak, the kayak begins to deflate. That means you’re going to be spending more time trying to keep it buoyant.
On top of that, as soon as it starts deflating, you are spending more time trying to get comfortable and paddling the brick through the water than you are actually fishing.
Inflatable kayaks move slow, they require a ton of maintenance, and all it takes is one hook in the wrong place to make your day worse than you can imagine.
Do us a favor, stay safe, and avoid fishing from an inflatable. If you really must use one, get a smaller model you can put into a pond or creek and stay close to shore. Float tubes for fly fishing are a better bet, in most cases.
What About Tandem Fishing Kayaks?
While not nearly as bad as fishing from an inflatable, fishing from a tandem kayak is a recipe for disaster waiting to unfold.
Stop, again, and think about what’s going on in a fishing kayak when you’re on the water.
You’re constantly moving around from side to side, trying to reach gear, casting sharp hooks overhead and sidearm, and working to keep the boat positioned exactly where you want it.
Unless you intend to have one person fishing and the other person paddling, fishing on a tandem kayak is more frustration than it is worth.
We know it seems like a great idea but you don’t realize how rough it can be until you’ve plunked down hard-earned money on a tandem kayak and tried fishing from it the first time.
Tandem kayaks are called “divorce boats” for a reason — and that’s without including fishing gear. If you want to have a good trip, go in a solo kayak and buy two. Tandem kayaking is designed for leisure and camping, not fishing.
So What’s The Best Fishing Kayak In 2019?
After sifting through a few dozen kayaks, most being designed specifically for anglers with a few able to be adapted to fishing, we have found there are a couple clear winners.
If you have the money in your budget, the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 won’t let you down.
If your budget is a bit tighter but you still want amazingly quality for the price you’re paying, the Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 10 will be in your stable for years to come.
For more budget-minded anglers, the Pelican Catch 120 is a great way to get on the water and avoid spending too much money until you figure out whether or not kayak fishing is your flavor.
How To Choose The Best Fishing Kayak For You
There’s a few factors that affect every fishing kayak. It’s why there are so many different kayaks to choose from. Each one is usually designed for a specific purpose.
To figure out what you need, go through each of the factors below. This will help guarantee you’re enjoying your time on the water instead of wishing you had bought a different boat.
Stability is priority number 1.
The last thing you want to do is end up tipping over in the water, losing all of your gear, and leaving you trying to figure out how to get back on the kayak.
If you ever see yourself wanting to stand up in the kayak (trust me when I say you will want to stand up), stability becomes that much more important.
There are a few models of kayaks that are designed specifically to give you the ability to stand up inside of them and remain standing for hours at a time.
This is a gamechanger compared to the kayaks of old — those skinny boats that were ready to tip as soon as you started paddling.
The difference between a fishing kayak and a paddling kayak is how you store your gear.
Fishing kayaks are designed to keep your gear where you can reach it. Since you’re fishing, you are going to be storing a lot more gear than you would if you’re just paddling for the day.
Everything from your tackle boxes, rods and reels, lunch box, water bottles, even your fish finder and trolling motor (on some models) has a spot.
The kayaks we’ve featured all come with at least a single rod holder, which is a requirement on a fishing kayak. As you go up in price the number of rod holders goes up, too.
Some of those rod holders are RAM style and adjustable while others are mounted into the boat. Figuring out what you need really comes down to personal preference and what you see yourself carrying onto the water.
This is around the time kayaks start shifting gears and getting more specialized.
Some fishing kayaks will include rail systems you can use to adjust where your gear is being stored. If you need to move the gear so it’s within reach, the rail system lets you quickly choose exactly where you want it.
You can mount your fish finder, extra rod holders, your GPS system, or anything else that you need to keep attached to the boat but still within arm’s reach.
Say you want to film your time on the water, a good rail system will let you mount your GoPro camera so you can turn it on and off when you’re ready to start filming.
Other boats make paddling easier. Let’s assume you hit a honey hole and want to stay put. A good anchor trolley will let you tie down in place and straps will help you keep your paddle attached to the boat so you can spend time fishing.
Some boats will have a built-in transom where you can mount a trolling motor so you can keep your paddle stored and save energy between point A and B.
One of the biggest perks of fishing kayaks is that the rigging is completely up to you.
If you want a bimini to block the sun, you can mount it. Want to use a sail and harness the power of the wind? You can mount it, too
Planning on fishing at night? You can mount LED lights to the boat so you can stay visible and still see where you’re going. Some lights are designed to keep the bugs off you so you aren’t constantly dealing with them when you’re trying to catch lunkers in the dead of night.
If you’re worried about your kayak being stable, you can add outriggers to the side of the boat to help increase the stability and never have to worry about getting into rougher waters.
The sky truly is the limit but before you buy a boat you’ll want to think about how you’re planning on rigging it.
Weight is one of the most important factors you need to consider.
Some boats are rated for carrying a ton of gear but you’re going to need to account for your own body weight in that equation. You’ll also need to think about the weight of your gear.
Food, clothes, water, you name it — it all needs to be accounted for.
Weighing down your boat just because you can is usually a bad idea. If you do intend to carry large amounts of gear, you’ll want to get a boat that is rated for at least 100 pounds more than what you intend to load on it.
Loading the boat down with too much weight makes it harder to paddle and can even decrease your stability, so make sure whatever you’re getting can handle what you’re throwing at it.
There’s a bit of a caveat when it comes to a kayak’s speed.
Faster kayaks are usually harder to turn. A “fast” kayak is going to be longer and skinnier than a kayak that is easier to turn.
There’s a balance in the 10ft to 12ft range where you can still get enough speed to keep a steady pace through the water but still be able to quickly turn and reposition the boat.
The keel, or hull design, plays a major role in the speed you can maintain, too. This can be an entirely different topic all on its own so we’re not going to dive too deep on it here, but a fishing kayak’s keel is going to balance stability with speed.
Different Types Of Fishing Kayaks
On top of all that, there are also two different designs of fishing kayaks.
One is a sit-on-top, where you’re sitting above the water. These work great in warmer climates.
The other is a sit-inside, where you’re, literally, sitting inside of the kayak. For colder water and weather, a sit-inside can keep you warm and comfortable.
Sit On Top (SOT) vs Sit Inside (SIK)
Choosing between a sit-on-top and a sit-inside comes down to your personal fishing style, where you’re going to be fishing, and what all you need from the kayak.
Sit-on-top kayaks give you the freedom of being on top of the boat, making entry and exit significantly easier. SOT kayaks are also more stable than most SIK boats. Sit-on-top kayaks also make it easier to access your gear while you’re on the water.
However, with those perks comes a few downfalls. Sit-on-top kayaks are generally slower than a sit-inside. They also tend to get you wet while you’re paddling, because of their design. You don’t get soaked, but it’s something to think about.
Sit-on-top kayaks are wider than most sit-inside boats. That’s great for stability and storage, especially when you want to stand up while you’re fishing.
For fishing purposes, you’re always going to have a better time on a sit-on-top than you will in a sit-inside boat. There may be some exceptions to the rule, but the best fishing kayaks available today are 99% sit-on-top boats.
Introducing Pedal Kayaks
Around 10 years ago, a company broke the mold and made getting around on your kayak significantly easier
While most guys were trying to figure out how to fit a trolling motor onto their boat, Hobie decided pedal power was better and built the first pedal-powered fishing kayaks.
Just like your bike, you can use your feet to steer and keep you moving while your hands are busy catching fish.