Best Fishing Kayak of 2018 & Buying Guide
Kayak fishing is a sport as old as kayaks themselves: when the Inuit first invented them thousands of years ago, these vessels were used by hunters to fish and sneak up on prey hiding on shore. Today, fishing by kayak is enjoyed as a healthier alternative to fishing via motorboat—it encourages movement in the fisherman, of course, but also leaves far less impact on the environment.
Fishing from a kayak can also be more exciting: the bigger the fish, the bigger they’ll fight—and the more you’ll have to fight back. This requires the right kayak that provides stability, stealth, comfort, and all the room for accessories and gear you’ll require. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll analyze the pros and cons of five popular fishing kayaks to help you begin your search.
What’s better: inflatable or hard shell fishing kayaks?
The question of which is better is largely up for debate, although there are some irrefutable benefits and downsides to each.Inflatable kayaks have less on-board storage, but are easier to store and carry.
They’re usually cheaper, as well. Unfortunately, they do run the risk of deflating or sustaining punctures. To make sure your kayak doesn’t sink if it gets a hole or air leak, look for models that have multiple air chambers; if one pops, the others will stay inflated to keep the vessel on the surface.
Hard shell kayaks, made of specialized plastic called polyethylene, are much more durable, and can be taken in rougher waters due to their strength and improved maneuverability over inflatable models.
They are, however, much heavier and more difficult to store, and tend to cost more. With that in mind, they have more storage than inflatable angler kayaks, and can feature rod mounts, GPS holders, and places for devices, like fish trackers.
What’s a trolling motor? Should I get a kayak that has one?
A trolling motor is a small engine that helps propel your kayak, so you don’t have to paddle. There are pros and cons to consider before adding one—or not—to your watercraft:
- Let you take your kayak to areas that would be hard to reach by paddling.
- Helps you conserve your energy for fishing.
- Faster than paddling; especially beneficial when you notice storms approaching, or have lost track of time.
- Gives the option of moving along at a steady speed to drag or “troll” your bait through the water, enticing certain kinds of fish.
- Heavy; add a bulkiness and weight to your kayak that might make it more difficult to manage.
- Expensive to purchase and sometimes to install; certain states require you to register a watercraft once it has a motor attached, and pay fees or taxes.
- While some can be very quiet compared to other engines, it causes vibrations and noise that can disturb nearby fish.
- Takes away the “great exercise” component of kayaking.
Of course, just because you have a trolling motor, doesn’t mean you have to use it; if you want to paddle for exercise or to avoid spooking nearby fish, you can turn the trolling motor off and switch to a traditional paddle in a matter of seconds.
Whether or not it’s worth installing one (or buying a kayak that already has one) is up to you, and where you’ll be fishing/for how long.
If you like the idea of paddling being optional, you can also consider a pedal-powered kayak .
Top 5 Best Fishing Kayak Reviews
1. Old Town Canoes and Kayaks Twin Heron Angler Tandem Kayak Review
This tandem angler kayak from Old Town is sleek and sporty, with a lightweight hard shell body that’s designed to track and steer just as well as a one-person vessel—which it’s also capable of becoming, simply by removing the front seat. There are two rod mounts, but places to add four more, if desired.
The Heron Tandem Angler surprises us with how well it handles between one- and two-person use, though its design could use a few improvements. The fact the front seat can be removed for legroom or storage (or to bring along your dog) is nice, but the fact neither seat is adjustable is not. Even the seat backs are rigid, which means you’re out of luck if the preset angle just doesn’t suit you. While you’ll have plenty of storage if you’re riding solo and remove the front seat, two passengers might wish for a little more than what’s provided on the stern deck. For tandem use, we imagine this would work best on shorter trips, where you won’t have to haul a ton of gear.
2. NRS Pike Angler IK Inflatable Fishing Kayak Review
The NRS Pike Angler is one of the roomiest fishing kayaks on the market—not to mention, one of the easiest to transport and store. With an inflatable frame and strong PVC floor, it can be deflated and folded to a very compact size, yet expand to the size of a standard kayak in just minutes with an air pump.
Its chair is adjustable and removable, so you can position it further forward or backward, for ideal weight distribution with the rest of your gear.
While the kayak itself gets no complaints from us—in fact, we think it’s one of the best single-person fishing kayaks out there—the company, NRS, is a different story. It’s odd that they’d stand behind their product with a 3-year warranty (something not all manufacturer’s offer), yet refuse to provide a clear answer on the Pike Angler’s weight capacity. It’s a shame, since the Pike would otherwise be one of the few products we’d recommend to all shoppers—but without a standard number to work with, there’s just no telling what the craft can or can’t handle.
3. Sevylor Tahiti Hunt and Fish Kayak Review
The Tahiti from Sevylor is completely inflatable, which means it’s easy to store and carry—especially since you’ll have a helper: this kayak is a tandem model, built with room for two in its ultra-comfortable cockpit.
The downside of the all-inflatable design is, of course, a lack of storage and accessories: you won’t be able to load this one down for a long day on the water, but might find it perfect for quick casting on the lake before dinner.
We recommend the Tahiti for short fishing trips on lakes and easy going rivers, but not longer trips where you’ll need more gear—there’s just not enough on-board storage, although there are places along the hull for bags. The lack of rod holders will limit trip lengths, as well, but won’t be a problem for most fishers just looking to paddle out, relax, and cast for an hour or two. The Tahiti’s all-inflatable design makes it easy to fold up and store, which is great for hiking, camping, or vacation homes where it’ll get occasional use—and its low price is affordable for any kayak, let alone a fishing kayak for two people.
4. Native Watercraft Slayer 10 Propel Kayak Review
The Slayer 10 Propel is the priciest fishing kayak in this buyer’s guide, but for good reason: Native Watercraft has outfitted this vessel with a pedal system, so users don’t have to paddle at all.
The rudder is controlled with the left hand, leaving the right free to hold the fishing rod—not that you have to hold it if you don’t want to: a bow-to-stern accessories track fits multiple mounts at once, to hold as many rods, cup holders, or GPS units as you want.
If your budget will allow it, the Slayer 10 Propel is a must-consider. It has a smart hull design, built for stability and tracking from its overall shape to its durable rudder system. Native Watercraft seems to have thought of everything a fisherman could want from his kayak: ample room for mounts, plenty of storage, a comfortable seat, and the ability to pedal instead of paddle at speeds up to 3.5 mph, depending on conditions. For those who prefer some company, Native Watercraft also offers tandem fishing kayaks…if you don’t mind giving up the pedal feature.
5. 2017 Perception Pescador Pilot 12.0 Pedal Drive Kayak Review
If the Slayer 10 Propel catches your eye, but is just a tiny bit out of budget, this model from Perception might suit your needs. It’s still pricy, of course; anything with a pedal drive system will be, after all.
It is cheaper, though, and puts the notion of hands- and engine-free propulsion in the realm of possibility for some buyers.
If you can’t quite swing the price for other pedal-drive models, the Pescador Pilot might be your answer. With all the features of the Slayer 10 Propel (and a few extras), it’s an excellent choice and possibly the strongest contender in this guide, depending on your needs. Of course, the biggest downside besides its price is the fact it can’t fit multiple passengers…but then again, some fishers = would prefer the excuse for a little alone time on the water.
Kayak fishing combines the thrill of fishing with the relaxation and immersive nature of kayaking, and has risen in popularity more and more every year. These vessels are cheaper, lighter, and easier to maintain than traditional fishing boats of any size, and can help when catching easily startled varieties, such as flounder. Whether they’re outfitted with every piece of gear known to man, or if you’re paddling out with little more than your tackle box and rod, the right fishing kayak is the one that’s comfortable for you (and your budget) and helps you enjoy the sport to the fullest.