Best Offshore Fishing Kayak of 2018 & Buying Guide
In offshore kayak fishing, kayakers paddle out in the ocean instead of a small, still body of water, navigating the waves to reel in fish you’ll only find along the coast. It’s become such a popular sport, professional anglers have emerged and garnered sponsors, organized tournaments, and reeled in some incredible catches—including sharks–all from a kayak designed especially for offshore fishing.
In this buyer’s guide, we’ll answer some common questions about offshore kayak fishing, and compare some of the best models to paddle out on the ocean.
What is offshore kayak fishing? Can a beginner do it?
Offshore kayak fishing is just what it sounds like: fishing offshore in the ocean, on a special fishing (or angler) kayak, which is outfitted with rod holders, accessory tracks or mounts, storage hatches, and sometimes motors or pedal systems.Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid offshore kayak fishing if you’re brand new to kayaking in general.
Even if you have experience on lakes or streams, however, keep in mind it’s a different landscape on the water: tracking and paddling can be much more difficult, and you might encounter some wildlife you wouldn’t find in calmer waters.
For safety, it’s recommended that anyone new to offshore kayak fishing—even if they’ve been fishing in a kayak on lakes and such for a while—head out with a guide who knows the area. Even if you’re familiar with a particular beach, it’s not likely you’ve spent much time beyond the breakers.
What are some important things to keep in mind before fishing offshore?
The greatest danger is unexpected weather changes, which can hit offshore even when the beach itself looks sunny and pleasant. Avoid paddling out when a cold front is approaching the coast, even if the storm is predicted to be small or pass by: it doesn’t take much for waters to get rough, and being in a small watercraft makes it all the more dangerous.
A life preserver should be worn at all times, or at least stored onboard within easy reach. Keep an emergency whistle to signal for help if you encounter trouble.
If you fall off your kayak or tip over, you can of course try to right the vessel—but if it ever comes between getting yourself back to shore or risking your life to save the boat, leave the kayak behind. Not even the priciest kayak is worth dying for.
Avoid kayak fishing alone. This is one some people choose not to follow, and isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, of course; there are ways to fish alone and stay safe, but having a buddy along (either in a tandem kayak, or on two separate crafts) will make you both much safer than going it alone.
There is also the risk of shark attacks. Unprovoked attacks to your kayak are rare, but possible—but the more likely scenario is that a shark will try to eat the fish you’re reeling in, because its struggling and blood (from the hook) could attract its attention, bringing it closer to your boat.
If you notice a shark nearby, don’t panic: this could cause you to flip the boat or fall off. Cut your line, then sit quietly and calmly in your vessel until the shark leaves. Most sharks you’ll see will be small, however—three to five feet in length—and are unlikely to bother you, or even give you a second thought if they come close.
Finally, there’s the issue of other boats. Stay out of high-traffic areas with large commercial and personal boats, and consider purchasing a brightly colored kayak to draw attention to yourself so other boats don’t hit you. Even a small speedboat or jet ski could cause a kayaker grave injury or death.
Best Offshore Fishing Kayak Reviews
1. Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 13 Fishing Kayak Review
We’ve featured the Slayer Propel before, but covered the smaller 10’ model. It stands to reason the 13’ could perform just as beautifully, and perhaps even better; that extra 3 feet will help when navigating waves.
This kayak comes equipped with a pedal-propelled motor, so you don’t have to paddle against the tide (or put down your fishing rod when you decide to move). It can even be pedaled in reverse, a feature that’s sure to come in handy out on the open waters.
As predicted, the Slayer Propel 13 is every bit as impressive as the smaller version. It’s designed to hold up well when exposed to the elements, provides excellent tracking and stability, and can get you to the best spot in the ocean faster than a standard paddle. The option to pedal backwards is our favorite element: it makes it much easier to fight the tide, and will help you get to shore that much faster when you’re ready to head in. Another bonus is the mounting tracks, which allow for as many accessories as you need, and the freedom to move them around.
2. Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 Kayak Review
The Tarpon 100 is a sporty kayak with a low profile, and a sit-on design that makes getting in and out easy—so if you feel like going for a swim before you start fishing, you won’t have to roll back into the boat like a fish yourself.
It features two dry storage hatches, as well as a rear tankwell and sliding accessory tracks, which means this tiny boat can still fit a pretty big mountain of gear.
For a lightweight, easy-to-track fishing kayak, consider the Tarpon 100. Its design is smart and versatile, which makes it ideal for fishers who’d also like to use their kayak for standard paddling. When you’re ready to leave the surf, it performs just as well on calm lakes and quiet ponds—and transports there pretty easily, compared to bigger and bulkier fishing kayaks. We don’t recommend this to offshore fishers who prefer paddling out in stronger tides, however, since a sit-on hull might make it harder to brace your body weight properly.
3. Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K. 120 Fishing Kayak Review
Another option from Wilderness Systems, the A.T.AK. (“Advanced Tactical Angling Kayak”) 120 features an open platform and specialized hull that makes navigating moving water a breeze.
It also has plenty of storage and accessory tracks all over the boat (literally), not to mention a mesh seat and foot bracing system—all of which are adjustable—so you can ride with the tide, comfortably prepared for anything to come.
For kayak fishers who love the challenge of some taller waves and stronger currents, the A.T.A.K. 120 offers precision and buoyancy, but doesn’t skimp on the storage, accessory tracks, or relaxation: its highly adjustable seat and foot bracing system will help with any back or leg cramps you get from long days on the water—and with a kayak this great, every day could turn into a long one.
4. Old Town Predator XL Minn Kota Review
Kayaking allows for a stealthier approach when you’re after fish that scare easily, a benefit that’s easy to see in lakes and calm streams—but in the ocean, the game is a little different: fish are more accustomed to movement and noise, thanks to the tide, which means you can probably use a small motor and go unnoticed.
The Old Town Predator XL Minn Kota features just such a motor, which helps fishers go greater distances for longer periods of time—or get back to shore in a hurry, without wearing themselves out.
The Predator XL Minn Kota will get you over those waves at the horizon—and even farther—with its small but powerful motor, nestled in a convenient console so you can turn it on or off without twisting in your seat. While the boat’s a bit heavy, that’s to be expected with the engine system; even pedal systems add some considerable weight to a kayak. The price is high, as well, which will cross this option off quite a few buyers’ lists—but if a motor is one of your must-have features, it’s money well spent.
5. Ocean Kayak Trident 15 Angler Kayak Review
The Trident 15 Angler was created by Ocean Kayak with direct input from professional kayak fishers, so it’s outfitted with everything an angler needs and then some: ample storage, a comfortable chair, and a transducer-compatible scupper for use with a fish finder, which can be attached to the console’s accessory plate for easy access. Flush-mounted rod holders, a paddle holder, and rod rest complete the convenient layout.
Ocean Kayak has gone above and beyond industry standards with the Trident 15: they seem to have listened to their consulting anglers’ advice and put every bit of it into practice. This kayak boasts a design perfect for offshore fishing, complete with dry and exposed storage and accessory mounts everywhere you need them, and a compact design that can handle the waves without a problem. The downside is that a rudder isn’t included, although Ocean does sell them for self-installation.
Fishing from a kayak on a lake, river, or stream affords a unique opportunity: you can approach fish that would be startled too easily by a traditional boat’s motor and size, navigate tighter areas, and get a healthy dose of exercise while you’re on the water.
Offshore kayak fishing, though, is a little more extreme (or a lot, depending on the waves and what you’re hoping to catch). It’s not for everyone—but for those eager to paddle out past the breakers and explore the ocean, it can be an incredible experience. The right kayak will keep you safe, prepared, and comfortable, no matter what nature throws at you…or what you throw at nature.