8 Best Fishing Kayaks of 2020
Kayak fishing is an exciting and fun way to catch fish and spend some time on the water. But regardless of if you’re an experienced angler or are just dipping your toes into this world, there’s a lot of information you need to know. What types of kayaks are best for fishing? What gear do I need? What are the most important terms I should know? Which kayak should I buy?
We know this can be overwhelming, which is why we’ve compiled all of the information you need to know about fishing kayaks, as well as our top eight choices. Happy fishing!
If this is your first time kayaking be sure to check out our how-to guide for beginners.
Best Fishing Kayaks
- Type: Sit-on-top
- Length: 12 ft
- Width: 36 in
- Weight: 76.5 lb
The Old Town Topwater 120 is one of our favorite fishing kayaks. Weighing only 76.5 lb and measuring 12 ft long and 36 in wide, it has a large and stable platform but is still lightweight. It also has an ultra-stable DoubleU Hull that offers the perfect combination of stability and performance, allowing you to comfortably stand up and move around on the boat.
The Old Town Topwater 120 also features a ton of accessory mounts, including three-rod holders, on-board tackle management, a universal transducer mount, a front storage hatch, and tracks for customization. While this kayak is a bit expensive, we think the Old Town Topwater 120 is a worthy investment.
- Type: Sit-in
- Length: 10 ft
- Width: 35.5 in
- Weight: 77 lb
The Jonny Boat Bass 100 Angler Kayak combines the classic ‘Jon’ boat from the good old days with modern technology, offering a simple but high-quality fishing kayak. Measuring 10 ft long and 35.5 in wide, this kayak has a stable platform that allows you to confidently move around on while fishing.
The Jonny Boat Bass 100 Angler Kayak features more outfitting options than you could ever dream of. It comes with an adjustable seating system, adjustable footpegs, two-flush mounted rod holders, front Uni-Track rails for mounting accessories, inspection port, oversized rear tank well storage area with bungee tie-down system, integrated sturdy side and bow and stern handles, a wide, open deck with soft foam standing pads, and a drain plug. This kayak is a steal.
- Type: Sit-in
- Length: 13 ft 5 in
- Width: 36 in
- Weight: 95 lb
If you’re looking for the best of the best of fishing kayaks, the Feelfree Lure 13.5 Kayak is the way to go. Measuring 13 ft 5 in long and 36 in wide, it has an extremely stable and open standing platform. And with comfort in mind, this boat is fitted with a removable multi-level, multi-position extra wide Gravity seat.
The Feelfree Lure 13.5 Kayak also features many accessory mounts, including a wheel in the keel for easy transport, integrated bow, stern and side carry handles, a multi-use console in the front with a cutting board and an insulated lid, two rod holders, a track system, and a removable sonar pod that makes installing electronics easy.
- Type: Pedal
- Length: 13 ft 8 in
- Width: 38 in
- Weight: 144.5 lb
The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 Kayak takes kayak fishing to a new level. It is fitted with the powerful Mirage Drive 180 Turbo motor with a reverse ability that allows you to get to your fishing spot quickly and stay there regardless of wind or current movement. It is also extremely stable, spanning 13 ft 8 in long and 38 in wide. And for your comfort, it has vantage seating with four-way adjustability and lumbar support.
The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 Kayak features more accessory mounts than you could ever need. It has two vertical rod holders, six horizontal rod holders, rectangular hatch with pivoting tackle management system, large front hatch with bucket and tackle boxes, under-seat tackle storage, a tracing keel, a retractable skeg, and a transducer mount with pre-installed cable plugs that make installing fish finders easy.
We’re not going to hide it– this boat is expensive. But if you’re looking for the best of the best, the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 Kayak is the way to go.
- Type: Pedal
- Length: 12 ft 5 in
- Width: 33.75 lb
- Weight: 74 lb
The Perception Pescador Pilot 12 is a more affordable option for a pedal fishing kayak. Designed with performance in mind, it’s Pilot Drive pedal drive system keeps you with the fish at all times and leaves your hands free to focus on catching them. Also, its wide and long platform allows you to comfortably move around on its stable deck.
The Perception Pescador Pilot 12 features adjustable gear tracks and tension knobs, four molded-in rod holders, two YakAttack accessory tracks, a transducer scupper, and two storage consoles for mounting electronics.
- Type: Pedal
- Length: 11 ft 6 in
- Width: 34 in
- Weight: 96 lb
The Feelfree Lure 11.5 is another great choice for anglers that are looking for an affordable, yet high-quality pedal fishing kayak. With its Overdrive Pedal Drive and hand control rudder, this boat offers the perfect combination of speed, comfort, versatility, and performance. It also includes a variety of features, such as two Fishing rod holders, a track system with numerous outfitting options, a heel in the keel for easy transport and integrated bow, stern and side carry handles, and the Gravity seat, one of the most adjustable seats on the market.
- Type: Sit-on-top
- Length: 10 ft 6 in
- Width: 33.5 in
- Weight: 89 lb
The 3 Waters Kayaks Big Fish is a great choice for those that want something without all of the frills that other kayaks have. It features integrated bow, stern and side carry handles, a removable sonar pod, a seating system with four positions, bungee tank wells at the bow and stern, two molded-in rod holders, and two pairs of accessory tracks.
Because the 3 Waters Kayaks Big Fish is a bit narrower and shorter than other fishing kayaks, it may not be the best choice for beginner anglers. It also doesn’t have a rudder, which may make it challenging for beginners to paddle efficiently.
- Type: Sit-in
- Length: 12 ft 3 in
- Width: 29.5 in
- Weight: 50 lb
If you’re looking for a basic fishing kayak, the Bonafide EX123 is a good choice. This kayak is highly-versatile and to-the-point. It can be used for all styles of riding, from paddling to camping to fishing. While it is narrow, measuring 29.5 in wide, its length of 12 ft 3 in makes up for its lost stability. It’s also very, very light, weighing only 50 lb, which makes transportation a breeze.
The downside of this boat is that it lacks nearly all of the accessory mounts that other kayaks have. It features a removable console with an integrated MiniTub and a stadium seat. So, the Bonafide EX123 may not be the best choice for serious anglers, but for beginners, it does the job just fine.
How to Choose the Best Fishing Kayak – Buyer’s Guide
Choosing Length and Width
The length and width of a kayak have a big impact on how it will perform in the water. In general, the longer and narrower the kayak, the faster it will be. However, it will also be less stable and maneuverable. On the other hand, the wider and shorter the boat, the more stable and maneuverable it will be, but the tradeoff is speed.
When choosing a kayak for fishing, there are two things to consider: first, that it has enough storage space for your equipment, and second, that it is stable for you to move around on. So, you’ll want one that is both wide and long.
Fishing kayaks are designed for steady riding on slow-moving water, such as lakes or calm rivers, not speed. Their lengths range significantly, from 8 ft to 16 ft, and average at around 30 in wide. You’ll want one that measures somewhere in the middle.
Types of Kayaks
Sit-on-top kayaks have, also known as SOTs, have the paddler sitting on the surface of the boat. They’re the more popular type of kayak because they’re very user-friendly, making them great for beginners.
Pros of Sit-On-Top Kayaks
- Stability— SOT kayaks also have a significantly higher center of gravity than sit-inside kayaks do, making them more stable. Some (not all) are even stable enough for you to stand on them
- Comfort— Because anglers are sitting on top of the kayak, rather than inside as is with sit-inside kayaks, it provides for a more comfortable experience. Whether you’re tall or short, you’ll be able to sit comfortably on the kayak and enjoy your experience.
- Capsizing and self-rescue— If you do capsize, anglers feel less confined or trapped when in sit-on-top kayaks. They’re also easier to get into after capsizing because the paddler doesn’t need to re-enter into a deep cockpit.
- Self-bailing— SOTs have small holes called scupper holes that allow water to drain out from the kayak, preventing it from filling up with water. There’s no need to worry if water splashes into the boat.
Cons of Sit-On-Top Kayaks
- Less protection from the elements— Because the angler is sitting on top of the deck rather than inside a cockpit, there’s less protection from the elements, such as cold water or wind.
- Less versatile— Less protection from the elements makes these boats less ideal for rough water conditions. You should not take a sit-on-top kayak out on fast-moving, rough waters. They should only be used for calm conditions.
Sit-inside kayaks have the paddler sitting inside the boat in an enclosed cockpit, with their legs under the deck. These are the less popular choice because they’re not as user-friendly.
Pros of Sit-In Kayaks
- Elements— Sit-in kayaks are great for protecting you from the elements, such as cold water and wind.
- Moving waters— These kayaks are better for fast-moving waters, such as rivers or the ocean because the cockpit provides that extra layer of protection.
- Less likely to get wet— Because the angler is sitting inside of an enclosed cockpit, they’re less likely to get wet.
Cons of Sit-In Kayaks
- Restriction— Sit-in kayaks offer you less freedom to enter and exit the boat.
- Self-rescue— Because you re-enter into a deep cockpit, it is harder to perform a self-rescue in sit-in kayaks than sit-on-top kayaks.
- Not self-bailing— If you do flip over, there’s a good chance the kayak will be swamped with water, making recovery much more challenging.
Types of Fishing Kayaks
Hardshell Fishing Kayak
Hardshell fishing kayaks are the traditional type of kayak. They’re commonly made from glass composites, such as mixtures of carbon fiber, Kevlar, and fiberglass, or rotomolded plastic. They also have a hard shell on the outside that is made from durable plastics like polyethylene and can withstand wear and tear, leading to a longer life.
Pros of Hardshell Fishing Kayaks
- Rigid and more durable than inflatable kayaks
- Greater maneuverability
- Offers ample space for gear
Cons of Hardshell Fishing Kayaks
- More difficult to transport
Folding Fishing Kayak
One less common type of kayak is a folding fishing kayak. These boats fold down into a small size, making them particularly great if you don’t have the room to store or transport a kayak. Folding fishing kayaks can be either inflatable or origami, which is made from a flexible, non-inflatable material that can be folded into itself, creating a hard outer shell.
Pros of Folding Fishing Kayaks
- Folds down into a small size
- Easy to transport
- Easy to store
Cons of Folding Fishing Kayaks
- Difficult to re-enter if you’ve fallen out
- Less durable
- Can be difficult to set up
Inflatable Fishing Kayak
Inflatable kayaks, as the name suggests, are filled up with air. They require the boat to be inflated before and deflated after use. What makes these types of kayaks so popular is that they’re easy to transport. Some inflatable kayaks can be rolled up so small to fit into a duffle bag or large backpack. They’re also significantly lighter than rigid kayaks, are compatible with accessory mounts, and usually cheaper. Don’t be fooled by the fact that they’re filled with air, these kayaks are incredibly strong and durable, sometimes even more so than hardshell kayaks.
Inflatable kayaks are made from drop-stitch technology, in which small fibers are woven into the inside of the board. When the kayak is inflated, those fibers are stretched and almost interlock, providing the kayak’s rigidity and making you feel as though you’re standing on a hard surface. When the kayak is deflated, the two layers of the fibers rest almost completely flat, allowing you to roll it tightly.
Drop-stitch technology works in the same way as a bridge. The bridge’s support beams connect the bridge itself to the ground, holding it up. This is the same concept for drop-stitch technology, in which the fibers connect the top and bottom of the board, holding it up.
Pros of Inflatable Fishing Kayaks
- Easy to transport
- Easy to store
Cons of Inflatable Fishing Kayaks
- Less rigid
- Some may not be stable enough to stand on
- Some may not paddle as well as hardshell kayaks
Pedal Fishing Kayaks
Pedal fishing kayaks are a newer introduction into the world of kayak fishing. Traditional kayaks are powered by a paddle, but pedal kayaks use a motor. These have become increasingly popular because they don’t require the use of your hands, leaving them free for fishing. The downside of these kayaks, however, is that they’re less maneuverable and heavier than other kayaks. They also work less efficiently in shallow waters.
Pros of Pedal Fishing Kayaks
- They don’t require the use of your hands, allowing you to focus more on catching fish
- More efficient
- Can cover longer distances faster
Cons of Pedal Fishing Kayaks
- More expensive
- The loud sound of the motor may scare away fish
Important Fishing Kayak Accessories
The most important accessory you’ll need to have are rod holders. Unless you have a motor-powered kayak, you need to use a paddle to move the boat, and this requires the use of two hands. It would be nearly impossible to paddle to your destination while holding onto your fishing rods, so you need a place to store them.
Also, if you’ve already cast your line and would like to move to another location, are doing trolling fishing, or come across less than ideal conditions, being able to mount your rod is very, very helpful. Some fishing kayaks come with pre-installed rod holders, others do not. It depends on the particular board.
Kayak fishing requires more equipment than other types of kayaking. In addition to standard items, such as your food and water, you’ll also need to bring fishing gear, such as rods, lines, bait, etc. So, these things must be properly stored in a dry and secure area.
Most kayaks have some sort of built-in storage space, but they’re not always large. For fishing, given the amount of gear you’ll be bringing, you want to choose a kayak that has a large dry storage area. If your kayak doesn’t have built-in storage space, you can purchase a floating storage container that can be placed inside of the kayak or towed behind in the water to free up space on the deck.
Despite often being overlooked, paddle holders are a crucial accessory for kayak fishing. These serve a similar purpose as rod holders. When you cast your line, both hands will be occupied and you won’t be able to hold onto your paddle. So, it’s important that you have a place to put it while you’re busy fishing.
Paddle holders are almost always located horizontally next to the cockpit. They look like an indent in the hull with a cord to hold the paddle when stored. Most kayaks have paddle holders built in, but it’s always a good idea to double check that yours does too.
A rudder is a blade at the back end of the kayak (the stern) that moves from side to side. It’s controlled by the foot pedals on the inside of the cockpit. Most understand the rudder as being the nautical device that steers the kayak. While yes, this is true, it’s more commonly used for keeping the kayak moving in a straight path.
Trolling motors are motors at the stern of the boat that offer greater levels of speed, efficiency, and maneuverability. Kayaks with trolling motors are pedal fishing kayaks (the ones we went over before).
As the name suggests, a fish finder is a device that allows you to locate fish in the water. These devices use sonar technology to detect pulses of sound and movement in the water below you. Their findings are projected on a little screen. Some allow you to see deeper in the water than others, but that depends on the particular device you have. However, all devices will tell you a location that’s best for fishing.
While fish finders are not a mandatory piece of equipment, they are highly recommended. They make finding fish easier and more efficient, meaning the likelihood of you catching fish will be higher. They’re definitely a worthy investment.
Kayaking has many, many terms, and a lot of them can sound similar. In fact, many of them also serve similar purposes. Not only can it be difficult to remember all of them, but they can also be very confusing. The most important fishing kayak terms you should know are keel, skeg, scupper holes, beam, and footrests.
The keel is the ridge along the outside of the hull that runs from the front to the back of the kayak, or in this case, from the bow to the stern. It is the first point of contact to objects in the water and serves as a layer of protection for your kayak against them.
Like rudders, skegs are also designed to provide the paddler with control over the direction of the boat. What differentiates them is that the rudder is an adjustable flip-down fin whereas the skeg is a static drop-down fin.
Scupper holes are small holes on the sides of sit-on-top kayaks that drain water from the boat. These little holes are important, as they stop your kayak from filling up with water and make it less prone to capsizing.
A beam is a fancy term for the width of the kayak. As we mentioned before, the kayak’s width has a big impact on its stability and speed. In general, the wider the beam is, the more stable but slower it will be. Conversely, the narrower the beam, the less stable but faster the kayak will be. It’s best to have a fishing kayak with a wide beam that allows you to comfortably stand up and move around on the surface of the boat.
Footrests, also called footpegs, are a small but important feature of kayaks. They are plastic footrests located on the rails inside the kayak that give the paddler greater leverage and stability.