Best Fishing Kayaks for the Money in 2023
Once upon a time- and it’s not such a long time ago, really- an angler who wanted to get into kayak fishing had a problem finding a suitable kayak which had the features anglers need. Now, kayak anglers have another problem. The kayak fishing game has exploded in the past ten years and now so many companies design and build suitable fishing kayaks that it is a big problem for anglers to search through the hundreds of fishing kayak offerings to find the best fishing kayaks to suit individual needs.
To be truthful, before an angler spends money on the best kayak for fishing, it is much wiser for a potential kayak angler to spend some time studying the multitude of kayaks offered. Evaluation of specific fishing styles, locations, conditions and equipment can make buying a new fishing kayak a much easier and more enjoyable process.
We have decided to help in the evaluation process by providing this quick buyer’s guide for new kayaks for anglers. This is by no means an exhaustive listing of all fishing kayaks out there.
By the way, we’re limiting this look at the best fishing kayaks to those kayaks that are paddled or pedaled. We’ll look at powered kayaks in another review soon.
Features to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Fishing Kayak
#1 – Seat
There’s no element of any fishing kayak that contributes more to the pleasure or pain of a fishing trip than the seat. Some kayak seats are just plain bad. Some kayak seats are wonderful to spend long periods of fishing time in.
The thing is, not every seat works for every angler.
Before an angler spends money on a new kayak, he or she needs to spend some time actually sitting and paddling or pedaling in the seat.
All modern fishing kayak seats are elevated to give a higher point of view for anglers, and all modern kayak seats should allow anglers to twist and reach gear stored behind the seat.
There’s nothing short of actual seat time to tell an angler if a particular kayak seat is acceptable.
#2 – Propulsion
However, for those kayak anglers who plan on doing a lot of off-the beach fishing or long-distance trips, we would strongly suggest a pedal system. There are a multitude of pedal drive systems, and they all work well. Here again, a good trial period actually using a pedal drive system is the best bet. Pedal systems are good for open water, long distance travel for kayak anglers.
#3 – Add-on Ability
Each and every new fishing kayak is not a finished product. The basic kayak is just the starting point for most anglers. Most modern kayaks offer lots of accessory mounting rails where rod holders, video cam mounts, and fish finder mount arms can be firmly attached. It is impossible to have too many accessory mounting rails on a fishing kayak.
Also, some fishing kayaks now come with fish finder transducer “ports” built into the hull. These built in ports can make life much simpler for anglers who want to use electronic gear on their kayak.
#4 – Stand up Stability
Although most of any angler’s time spent in a kayak will be seat time, there will come times when the angler will want to stand up and cast. This is a very important factor for inshore anglers to keep in mind. A standing position is much superior for sight fishing and reading water conditions.
Many modern fishing kayaks have a lot of stability built into their hulls, but anglers will need to again try a kayak out to see if a standing position is comfortable and secure. Some kayaks work great for some anglers, and other anglers just can’t stand up in these kayaks at all. Standing up comfortably in a certain kayak is a matter of individual preference.
Best Fishing Kayaks around $500
No one would argue that a small, lower-priced kayak will do all of the things that a higher end kayak can, but there is much to be said for smaller, simpler, lower cost kayaks. I greatly enjoy my cheap little boats that I can toss in the back of the truck and go to some small water and go fishing. Cheap and small are not always bad things.
Pelican Castaway 100
The Pelican Castaway 100 is an open cockpit kayak is one of the smallest kayaks to offer stand-up stability for sight fishing. The multi-chine hull is stable and moves easily under paddle There are several attachment points for accessories. This is a 9’6″ long hull with a light weight of 44 pounds.
Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5
The Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 is a sit-in cockpit kayak which offers anglers a great deal of security without being cramped. The seat back is adjustable, and there are several mounting points for add-ons. This little kayak is 9′ 6″ long and weighs only 38 pounds for easy transport to the water.
Lifetime Tamarack Muskie 100
Complete with a paddle, comfy seat and rod holders, the Lifetime Tamarack Muskie 100 angler kayak delivers plenty of features for your next fishing outing. Multiple footrest options accommodate all size anglers, and the T-handles aid in your travels from your vehicle to the shore.
Best Fishing Kayaks Around $1000
In this price range, we get into some excellent, very effective and comfortable fishing kayaks. Kayaks in this price range offer lots of equipment, lots of options, and they can be superb fishing craft for not too much money.
Perception Pescador Pro
The Perception Pescador Pro is a very reliable and stable kayak has several storage areas, and there are many accessory mount options. The seat in the kayak is all-day comfortable, and the hull design makes entry and exit for anglers very easy and secure. This kayak provides solid stand-up fishing, and there is good front and rear storage. This kayak is 12 feet long and weighs 64 pounds.
Old Town Topwater 120
A very stable double U hull construction and universal transducer mounting system makes the Old Town Topwater 120 a good fishing machine. The ElementAir seat with high and low positioning makes long fishing days pleasant. There are large storage tanks and stand-up fishing stability built in. This kayak is 12 feet long and weighs 85 pounds.
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105
The reliable Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105 has excellent stand-up stability, and the Phase 3 Air Pro seat makes long days on the water much more comfortable. There is a large rear storage area. Slide Trax accessory rails allow plenty of gear additions to the basic kayak. This kayak is rudder capable. At ten feet, six inches long and 55 pounds, this kayak is easy to transport to launch sites.
Best Fishing Kayaks Over $1000
Here we’re getting into the top end of kayaks for fishing, and we’re getting into some money spent, too. These kayaks should be, and they are, superior in most ways.
Ocean Kayak Malibu PDL Kayak
This kayak is a great offshore big water fishing kayak. The shining feature of the Ocean Kayak Malibu PDL Kayak is its advanced PDL Drive System that makes for a zippy, high-performance ride between fishing spots. This boat is 12′ long and weighs 100 pounds.
Wilderness Systems Recon 120 Premium
The Wilderness Systems Recon 120 Premium is a wonderful fishing machine that can be ordered in either paddle or pedal configurations, and it is stand up stable for sight fishing. There are rod storage troughs for secure rod placement in transport. The Air Pro ACE seat is quickly adjustable to high or lower positions. There’s a large rear tank well for storage, and there’s a rear-mounting transducer area built in. The Helix PD Pedal Drive makes this a big-water kayak. This kayak is 12’2″ long, and it weighs 95 pounds.
Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12
Here’s the real deal for those who want the top-end fishing kayak. The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 features Mirage Pedal Drive kick-up fins propulsion, and the elevated Vantage ST seat is excellent. The Hobie H-Rail system makes accessory addition quick and secure. The hull has a built-in Guardian Transducer Shield for fish finder application. Of course, this kayak is very stand-up stable for anglers. At 12 feet long and 105 pounds, this is a big, solid kayak.
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