Find The Best Fishing Kayaks: Our Ratings & Reviews

If you are a fishing enthusiast like myself, then you know that there’s no bigger thrill than landing your first large walleye or reeling in a gigantic northern pike. In my opinion fishing happens to be one of the most relaxing outdoor sports there is. Unfortunately I can’t say the same thing about shopping for outdoor gear.

When I sought out to find the right kayak for my excursions, I started to get extremely stressed out because of all the choices at every single outdoor store I went to. As a result, I ended up doing tons of research online – and I’m now saving you the countless hours of effort I had to put in to find the right model to fit my needs.

So let’s cut to the chase. You probably want to know, what’s the best fishing kayak? What I found is that there are many pros and cons for each model, but ultimately I had to find what I felt worked the best for my own situation. My comparison chart below will allow you to compare cost, average amazon rating and my overall value grade on an A-F Scale.  For more detailed information on our favorites, continue reading past the chart for our fishing kayak reviews.

Our Comparison Chart:

PictureBrandRatingPriceOur Grade
PictureBrandRatingPriceOur Grade
Lifetime Sport Fisher with Paddles and Backrests (Olive Green, 10-Feet)4.7$$A+
Old Town 10-Feet Vapor 10 Angler Recreational (Camo)4.6$$A+
Riot Escape 12 Angler Sit-On-Top Flatwater(Sand, 12-Feet)4.0$$$B+
Sun Dolphin Excursion sit-in, 10-Feet, Olive4.5$A+
Perception Sport Pescador 12 Angler (Sand) 4.8$$$A
Pelican Castaway 100, Khaki4.0$B
Emotion Renegade XT Forest Green3.8$$B-

Comparison Chart Key:

    • Picture
    • Brand
    • Rating – Average Rating for all users on Amazon.com.  This will help you see if other anglers are buying a model you are interested in or not.
    • Price – Estimated Prices for all users on Amazon.com.  Prices can change on location, inventory and other factors frequently.  Here is how we decided to break it down for you:  $ = $299 – $499, $$ = $499-$599, $$$ = $599 – $699, $$$$ = $700 & Up
    • Our Grade:  This is our total value grade on a scale of A-F.  We assign this value as a direct result of a combination of user ratings, overall value for the cost, and reputation of the brand.  This should give you a very good idea if you will be satisfied overall with your purchase.

So what is a Fishing Kayak and why would you want to use one? A fishing kayak is a boat that’s typically operated by one person, or sometimes two depending on the type of kayak that you are in. It’s specifically made for the function of angling as a sport and nothing else. People that are into competitive kayaking will probably do best by sticking to the models that are manufactured specifically for competition. Those that are looking to spend a lazy afternoon or weekend out on a lake catching largemouth bass – you are in the right place. These small crafted boats are perfect for getting yourself out onto the lake away from all the hustle of where larger boats are at, giving you an advantage over other anglers as you cast your line in an area blessed with peace and tranquil waters. Fish generally seem to avoid noisy and busy areas unless the water is very deep, so any serious angler knows that a having a kayak engineered specifically for catching fish is an absolute must have.

What Type Should I Buy? This is going to depend largely on what your goals are. In a perfect world, you will be purchasing one that exactly fits your needs. There are a few different types I have broken down for you below, so you can figure out what model will suit your goals.

Sit In Kayak: Sit ins are great for long fishing trips. Don’t buy one of these if you plan on standing while you fish, as it will become unstable and extremely difficult to balance due to the way they are manufactured. There is less space to move around in, but they also tend to be more comfortable for longer periods of time. They also have better storage that tends to stay more dry than sit on top kayaks.

Sit on Top Kayak: Sit on tops are awesome for anglers that like to stand. You won’t have the same amount of storage that the Sit-In’s have, but you will definitely have more mobility. These are better for people that may live on a lake, or people that may only spend a few hours fishing instead of an entire day. They tend to be less comfortable when you sit in them and have less storage. But you can also stand, giving you a huge advantage if you are after bigger fish.

Tandem Kayaks: Tandems are great for twosomes. If you plan on heading out and angling at the lake with your friend or significant other, this can be an awesome option to take advantage of. Most Tandem models are sit on tops, giving one person the option to stand, while the other one sits. You could attempt to have both parties standing but I would not recommend it as they will become more unstable with the weight distribution being so uneven.

All of these different types of kayaks serve a different purpose when it comes to serious angling, and it’s important to make sure that you are reviewing each one of them in more detail before making a purchase due to the cost.  It’s generally worth it to pay a little more for a kayak that fits your fishing style rather than just picking one up for the sake of cost.  Next we are going to look at the pros and cons of inflatable kayaks versus molded kayaks before we jump into our favorite models for each type of fishing.

Inflatable Versus Molded – which is better for fishing?

Inflatable kayaks are a great way to save on cost.  But ultimately will you be happy with an inflatable model over something that’s not?  I personally like molded kayaks for my fishing ventures, but I’m a bit more of a serious fisherman than a lot of folks I know.  I certainly know plenty of people that have purchased inflatables and have been 100% satisfied with their choices.  I picked up a middle of the road priced molded plastic kayak because of the fact that I like to be versatile in my travels and don’t like to be limited to just one style of fishing.

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The Lifetime Fisher Sport we found to be one of the best budget models that will allow you to go to pretty much any lake and mild river that you can think of.  If you plan on just doing some mild lake exploring on lakes where no large electrical boats are allowed, than an inflatable model can be fine.  Personally though, I would not want to limit myself to just one style of watercraft and you shouldn’t either if you are a serious angler.  Inflatables do limit the types of water and terrain you are able to venture into as rocks and stronger currents will become much more of a concern if you plan on heading into some rougher areas.  Spending a couple hundred dollars extra to pick up something that will be able to take the abuse is worth it.

You never know when you will run into some occasional rocks or a have a bad fishing miscast with a hook into the side of the kayak.  Having something durable will allow you to venture into areas that you haven’t explored before.  While inflatable kayaks will get the job done, for anyone that’s serious about fishing, you should probably avoid them.  If you are very casual about your outings, then save the money and find the best inflatable fishing kayak that will be easy to transport wherever you need.  With all that being said, you can absolutely make them work – just take a look at the Grouper that the guy below bagged while on his Hobie Mirage i9S (Single 9′) Sundance.

Let’s go ahead and take a look at some of our top selections in detail depending on what type of water you want to go into.

Our Choice For the Best Fly Fishing Kayak:

If you are a fly fishing angler, then the chances are you will be hitting smaller quiet rivers or small lakes and ponds in search of trout.  More than anything you need to make sure that you are looking at something that will allow you to sit on top and give you the ability to stand up so you can have free range with the technique that fly fishing requires.  You will typically be moving more than you would if you were just throwing out an overhead cast with a floater attached to the line, or if you were reeling in using an actual fishing lure.

Personally, our choice would be the Riot Escape 12 Angler for fly fishing because of the wide flexibility it offers you, especially if you are a solo angler by trade and don’t want to bring anyone else along with you on your adventures.  We give the Escape 12 Angler more accolades below in a more detailed review, but we felt it was important to highlight it here in the top spot if you like to fly fish.  It’s really a great option for the cost and it’s one of the few molded models that comes in under $1,000.00 in total cost which is hard to beat.  You can take a look the very positive user reviews by clicking Amazon the link below.

Our Choice for the Best River Fishing Kayak:

If you are hitting smaller lakes and ponds, just stop reading and take a look at the Riot Escape 12 we just gave you feedback on.  If you are going to be heading into more serious waters that might give you a little bit of turbulence, then this portion of our guide is for you.  If you like to hit the rougher rivers in your angling journeys, then you need something that will take the abuse.  While we generally don’t encourage readers to buy a sit in model for fishing, this is probably the one exception.

Chances are if you are going to be in heavier flowing rivers or lakes that allow motorized boating, you will want something that’s not going to toss you in the water as soon as you hit a rough patch, as well as something that will allow you to take a little more abuse from a terrain perspective.  The Old Town 10 Foot Vapor Kayak fits the bill here extremely well.  Again, we detail some of the feature in more depth below, but the best part about this model is that it’s a sit in with a much larger opening where you sit than most other brands which allows you to bail from the watercraft if the flow gets too rough for your taste.  Take a look at the link below for more great user feedback on Amazon.

Our Top Selections In More Detail: Let’s take a look at our top selections in a little more detail. The 10 listed above in our comparison chart are the best models you can buy, period. The options listed below are the ones that I wrestled with exclusively before finally settling on my purchase of the Lifetime 10 foot sport fisher, which I will get into below.

Old Town 10 Feet Vapor 10 Angler Recreational: This was one of the models I literally almost bought. If it hadn’t been for my wife urging me to look at the tandem options (she loves to fish for bluegill), I likely would have gone home with this one the same day. It’s extremely stable and has a lot of room in the cockpit which is great for single anglers. It has plenty of storage and the seat is extremely comfortable with built in thigh pads and adjustable braces to help with balance. This is extremely important when learning to control the kayak if you are a novice in this area. It has a molded paddle park and cup holder which is awesome for cracking open an afternoon beer on the lake. It also has two rod holders behind the seat as well as a small anchor that gets the job done. I am not the only one that has considered this model from the people I’ve talked to. All you need to do is check the outstanding ratings on amazon.com to see that this model is a winner.

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Riot Escape 12 Angler Sit On Top Flatwater: The Riot Escape is the Cadillac of all the brands that we looked at. It’s the most expensive and it also comes with the most bells and whistles. It has 5 different places to stash your rod, and it has a rudder system that the cheaper models do not have. Like the Old Town 10, it has a molded cup holder which is great for convenience. For me it was not as comfortable as the Old Town 10, but it’s also not a sit-in. It does balance EXTREMELY well when you are standing up though, which is a huge deal if you are someone that really likes to stand when you are angling. There is also tons of storage on this model, which others are lacking. If you have a big budget, then this model is a good way to spend your hard earned money.

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SunDolphin Excursion Sit-In:  The Sun Dolphin is what I would call one the “easiest on the budget” for the quality you get. The going rate at Amazon.com is typically under $500.00 and that’s a huge bargain when coming from a reputable manufacturer like Sun Dolphin. Like the Old Town 10, it comes with two flush rod holders, and it has the extra perk of coming equipped with a swivel mount as well. The cockpit is a very good size which is great for bigger guys, and it also has a storage area with a latch and cover that protects the contents of whatever you put inside it. It has adjustable foot braces, and the Hull’s design makes it extremely easy to maneuver. The one thing it does not have is the thigh support for longer trips like the Old Town 10 does. The seat does support your upper back very well though, and for the cost, this model is one of the better choices you can make.

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Perception Sport Pescador 12: This is hands down one of the best models you can buy. What I loved about the Perception Sport Pescador is the fact that it has a HUGE storage area behind the seat. It’s also extremely open giving you a huge range of mobility for a sit in, and unlike most sit ins, it is open across the top to give you a stand on top type of feeling to it even though you are hunkered down inside the kayak. It has paddle parks and comes with a Scotty Baitcaster Rod Holder equipped as well. The 64 pound anchor kit does a great job keeping you centered and anchored in place. This is one of the better “high end” choices you can make as an angler. If your budget is up to the $600 range, than this model should be something you strongly consider picking up.

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Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem: This is the model I ended up purchasing myself. For me as a single angler it probably would have been a toss-up between the Old Town Vapor or the Pescador. The main reason I went with the Lifetime 10 sport is plainly because my wife likes to fish with me, and this gave us the option of going out together. It allows me to stand if I feel the need while my wife sits. Technically it fits up to 3 people, but the other 2 would need to be pretty small to make it work. It’s not quite as comfortable as the  Pescador, but it does the trick for what we use it for. We rarely go out for more than a few hours a day and for us this meets our comfort level enough for us to have made the choice as a tandem option. It came equipped with 2 piece sport paddles and it has a dry storage compartment which is great if you accidentally flip which we have already twice.

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The Pelican Castaway 100:  The Pelican Castaway 100 is a very solid choice if you are looking to spend under $400.00 for something very simple that fits just one person.  It comes fully equipped for the basic fishing trip with carrying handles that allow you to carry it with ease down to the water.  Comfort is also decent as it comes with a padded backrest and molded footrests to keep you satisfied for hours at a time on the lake.  It has a swivel rod holder and stern storage with bungee cords that allow you to carry along enough for a basic day trip at the river or lake.  It does not come with paddles but it does come with the tie down accessories for easy paddle storage.  This is a very good choice if you are on a budget and need to keep the cost down.  It’s also good from a size perspective as it’s smaller than most of the other models we’ve given our feedback on.

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The Emotion Renegade XT Angler Kayak:  The Renegade is probably our least favorite on the list but it makes our list due to t he sturdy construction.  It comes with a lot of grit and it’s extremely stable.  It can handle rougher waters and rocks very well.  It’s also molded from extremely durable UV protected Polyethylene which is where it gets a lot of the sturdiness from.  Like the Pelican, it comes equipped with a decent amount of storage and it also has a cargo net to keep all your fishing gear in one place.  It’s a bit wider in layout than the Pelican making this a good choice if you are north of 200 pounds.  It has two mount rod holders which make this optimal for someone that likes to setup shop with multiple rods and floats to see what they can catch.

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Wrap-Up: Hopefully my research has paid off in helping you find the right choice. It was extremely tough to narrow down so many options when putting together our fishing kayak reviews. I know I was happy to do the research and I’m glad I made the choice I did and I look forward to using it every time I go out on the lake. Overall, there are many options to choose from, so hopefully we have given you enough insight you can find the right model for you. It took me a while, but I’m happy I was able to do the research I did when I was trying to find the best fishing kayak. Now all that’s left is for you to make a choice, and get out there to enjoy the great outdoors!