Best Fishing Kayaks – Angler’s Buying Guide For 2021

When I first took my fishing kayak out on a pond, it surprised me how stealthily it approached bass and didn’t scare them. It was amazing to learn that the kayak could carry me and my tackle up the Chickahominy without worrying about the tide. This really opened up my options for fishing.

A kayak can be a great fishing platform, as many anglers will attest. The right kayak is stealthy, seaworthy, and packed with storage options.

We can help you find the right fishing kayak for you!

Below is a comprehensive buying guide and reviews of some of our favorite products:

  • Old Town Predator PDL
  • Wilderness Systems Radar 135 The Most Versatile Fishing kayak
  • Jackson Kayaks Big Rig FD – Most stable fishing kayak
  • Vibe Sea Ghost 130 Best Fishing Kayak for Budget
  • Jackson Kayak May Fly Fly Fishing
  • Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 –Fastest Pedal Drive Fishing Kayak

Best Fishing Kayaks Reviewed

Old Town Predator PDL

Length13′ 2″

Beam:36″

Weight:117 lbs.

Maximum capacity:500 lbs.

The Old Town Predator PDL is a testament to the company’s vast real-world experience in building the most popular line of American canoes. The Predator PDL is a well-designed hull with the right storage options and a pedal drive that’s exceptional.

The Predator PDL’s stability while seated is outstanding. It would only take very rough surf or a large wake to cause any problems. This kayak is a great choice for anglers who fish in bays and estuaries. It’s easy to stand and you have plenty of space to move your feet and get in the right place.

The non-slip surface underfoot improves traction, even when wet or slimy.

The Predator’s stability is invaluable in rough water. It can be used to fight big fish or lean over the gunnel to catch a snag.

Although the hatch storage is ample, it’s not as user-friendly for me as I would like. You will find a small, watertight compartment in the front and a larger hatch at your bow. There are many mounting points and two holders for molded rods behind the seat.

A transducer scupper is included that will accept most major brands of fish-finding devices. There are also two-rod holders built into the back of the chair. You can slide a few tackle boxes out of the rear wall, which is large and offers many options.

Old Town provides a comfortable seat for the Predator, so you won’t have any problems.

Old Town’s PDL drive equips this ‘yak. It’s powerful and reliable and will get you there in no time. The Predator has enough power to handle wind and current, cuts water well, and features an easy-to-use rudder.

This is an excellent combination of thoughtful engineering and elegant design that will not disappoint.

Pros

  • Stable and exceptional
  • Non-slip deck
  • There are many storage options
  • Good hatch design and placement
  • A comfortable seat that maximizes storage
  • Excellent pedal drive

Cons

  • Hatch design is a little behind the rest of the competition
  • Heavy!

Wilderness Systems Radar 135- The Most Versatile Fishing kayak

Length13′ 6″

Beam:34

Weight:95 lbs. (without drives)

Maximum capacity:475 lbs.

Wilderness Systems engineers have probably forgotten more about kayak design than most people will ever realize. Their solid experience and a keen eye for detail are evident in Radar 135.

As you would expect, stability is great and this ‘yak will stay upright even in the most difficult conditions. It’s incredibly confident-inspiring in normal swells and almost feels like you’re sitting on a heavy, deep keel. The ATAK 140 is stable enough to sight fish from your feet but not strong enough to be used for standing.

It’s all about deck design and space.

The Radar 135’s hatch design and placement are where it shines. A large rectangular hatch is located right in front of your seat. It’s both easy to use and secure. You can use the hatch to store your radio or cell phone, and you can rely on the gasket’s design to keep it dry even after you drink water from a wave.

Further forward, you’ll find another hatch at the bow.

There are many options with two pod systems. Both systems can be used to carry electronics such as fish finders. This makes sense for paddle-minded anglers. Each can be swapped with a drive system. The Helix PD has the smaller switches, while the Helix MD has the larger ones.

The other pod can be used to mount electronics, so it’s a versatile system with a clear design.

The Helix PD pedal drive is a propeller-driven, pedal-driven unit that delivers plenty of power and easy-to-use. The Helix PD will turn your Radar 135 into an amazing rocket. It is almost essential for long trips against wind and current. The Radar 135 can be paired with an excellent rudder system that is actuated by a hand lever to the left. It’s very easy to track in any condition, even the most severe.

The Helix MD motor is propeller-driven and has an onboard battery. This motor has the power to propel you as fast as a 1 HP outboard. The Helix MD can reach speeds of almost 6 mph with a maximum running time of 8 hours.

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Let’s take a closer view.

The forward pod can now be replaced by the Helix MD. You can expect to charge the battery from zero to full in 12 hours. All-day power can be achieved with reasonable throttle settings. However, engineers warn that wind, current, and tide can cause battery life to decrease by making the motor work harder than you might think.

The Helix MD is quiet enough to use in big water, but a bit louder than a trolling motor. I am a huge fan of this unit.

But…This is huge! This motor is almost 40% more expensive than the kayak! The Helix PD motor is about the same price as this boat.

This is a huge sticker shock but the price of the ‘yak and these options keep it in line with the Old Town, Jackson Kayak, and Hobie prices. Bottom line: If you are looking for a pedal drive, it will cost you roughly the same price. The price goes up if you go for an electric motor.

The Radar 135’s seat is extremely comfortable and provides all-day comfort. This system is known for its versatility and ease of adjustment.

The rear well is large and offers plenty of storage options.

Overall, the Radar 135, I love it. It is well-designed, thoughtfully designed, and packed with useful features. The pedal and motor drive work well and there are no complaints other than the cost of the additions.

Pros

  • Stable and exceptional
  • There are many storage options
  • Removable, modular electronics pods
  • Good hatch design and placement
  • Easy to adjust, comfortable seat
  • Amazing pedal drive
  • Excellent motor drive

Cons

  • Extremely expensive drive options! These are the best!
  • Heavy!

Jackson Kayaks Big Rig FD – Most Stable Fishing Kayak

Length13′ 3″

Beam:40

Weight:145 lbs.

Maximum capacity:550 lbs.

Jackson Kayaks is a leading manufacturer of high-end ‘yaks. You can count on quality from stem through the stern. The Big Rig FD is specifically designed for anglers. It can be used on saltwater or large lakes and will maximize your fishing opportunities.

This kayak is extremely unstable and you would need to flip it to have any chance of stability. The engineers at Jackson Kayaks clearly spent a lot of time designing the hull. Given the huge beam, I would trust this boat for sight-fishing without any second thought. You’d feel confident rocking to the side in rough swells.

Two-rod guards on either side are a great detail. This is an example of real-world experience you won’t see often, and it allows for easier launching in surf areas where a roll could mean broken tackle. They are a great “docking system”, for changing and holding rods.

The two excellent hatches (one fore and one behind) provide plenty of access to the deck below, which will keep your gear dry no matter what. A removable bin is included in the front hatch that can be used to store phones, radios, and lunches high up.

This ‘yak’ is powered by the Flex Drive system, which is an extremely powerful pedal drive. It’s smartly designed and reflects real-world experience, just like the rest of Big Rig. It is powerful and efficient, and it can swivel upward to allow you to access tight spots and shallow draughts.

The rudder control is on the right. This combination makes it easy to track currents or winds.

The Flex Drive E motor option is available, just like the Wilderness Systems Radar 135 but it is very costly and has been increasing in price recently.

You must choose either the motor or pedal, unlike the Radar 135. This is my opinion, but it’s not the best option.

The Flex Drive E can draw power from any 12 or 24 V lithium marine batteries. This cost is not included in the price of the drive. This will add cost to your already costly purchase if you are not familiar with battery technology. You will also need to locate the space needed for the battery and connect the cables to it.

Contrary to the Helix MD this means that there is less space, more weight, and more hassle.

Many factors affect the charging times and discharge rates. This is where your mileage will differ. The battery that you use to power this motor is just as important as the battery used to power a trolling engine. Your battery will also run down faster at higher throttle settings, with more current and wind, and with more tide to fight.

The Big Rig’s seating system is amazing. It feels almost like sitting in a comfortable chair on dry ground.

This kayak is a great choice. The Wilderness Systems’ competitor’s motor option is a bit more expensive than the standard model, but it’s still a great choice for anglers. It’s a great choice for big water because it’s fast, easy to steer, and loaded with features.

Pros

  • Stable and exceptional
  • There are many storage options
  • Amazing rod protection system
  • Excellent hatch design and placement
  • Easy to adjust, comfortable seat
  • Great pedal drive

Cons

  • Extremely expensive drive options! These are the best!
  • The Flex Drive E is dependent on an additional aftermarket lithium battery
  • Heavy!

Vibe Sea Ghost 130 – Best Budget Fishing Kayak

Length13

Beam:33.5″

Weight:92 lb.

Maximum capacity:550 lbs.

For angling, a motor or pedal drive is not necessary. Many fishermen can’t afford kayaks with these options. Vibe understands this and the Sea Ghost 130 is an excellent option for those who are unable to take out a second mortgage to purchase a nice ‘yak.

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For the best ocean fishing kayaks, check out our buying guide.

Vibe has carefully designed this boat for angling enthusiasts. You’ll be able to find everything you need for your next adventure.

Although stability is excellent, it’s not quite as good as the Big Rig or Hobie. This is fine in my opinion because you will be paddling the ‘yak and would find it difficult to widen the beam.

Although this boat is smaller than others, it offers excellent storage options. The seat has a dry-storage console that can be hinged and with electronic mounting options. This is a great feature that I love. There are mounting rails for your fishfinder, space for a radio or phone, a cup holder, and additional spots for other essentials such as a knife or pin.

You can even use the magnetic tackle holder to open it with a lure or two!

This console is a must-have for every fishing kayak. You’ll be amazed at how common it is. It is almost game-changing.

Just behind the seat, there is a larger watertight hatch in front and one in the back. These allow you to access the below decks for dry storage. However, I love the bungee-secured tackle boxes slots on either side of this chair.

Accessory rail slots run down both sides of the cockpit. This gives you plenty of mounting options. There are two rearward-leaning rod holders built into the seat.

Sea Ghost’s seats are very well-designed, making them easy to adjust and providing all-day comfort. There are no complaints.

The included rudder system is controlled by the foot braces and keeps you on track in wind, tide, current, or both.

This kayak is a great choice for those who are experienced paddlers. The Sea Ghost 13 is an effective, stable fishing platform, whether you are looking for reds inshore, or hunting bass on your local lake.

This is a great choice if you don’t want to lift a heavy kayak high overhead to unload it at the water

Pros

  • Very stable
  • Amazing seat
  • Amazing storage options
  • Excellent hatch design and placement
  • There are many accessory mounting options
  • Reasonably priced
  • Relatively lightweight!

Cons

  • There are no drive options–only paddle only

Jackson Kayak MayFly -Best Kayak for Fly Fishing

Length12′ 8″

Weight:94 lbs. (no seat)

Beam:35

Capacity450 lbs.

Anglers who fish from a boat need to be able to stand. A clear, clean deck that is easy to navigate is another important feature. This is what Jackson Kayak designed, and the MayFly boat is hard to beat.

Fly anglers who are experienced know the difficulties of long lines waiting for their casts. Although not as snag-prone as a standard fishing line, the fly line still has a perverse attraction towards cannon-style protrusions and mounts.

MayFly’s deck is extremely clean and offers plenty of space. This deck allows you to move around during fights and virtually guarantees smooth casting. A nonstick coating is also a great option for sight fishing.

As you would expect from Jackson Kayak’s strong commitment to standing, stability is excellent. A wide beam and good hull design provide primary stability and inspire confidence. This ‘yak is also very stable, with no wave to assist you.

However, you can expect slightly slower handling than what you would get with tippier, trimmer designs. Hydrodynamics is all about making trade-offs. To get the stability you have to sacrifice speed.

The storage is plentiful and easy to access, with a large bow hatch that can be removed and two fly box storage panels on either side of the cockpit. Jackson Kayak has addressed the concerns about leakage from hatch seals and has strengthened the gaskets.

You’ll find long, curved gear rails on each side of your cockpit that allow you to modify the layout and add whatever you want to it.

MayFly’s seat is comfortable and cool, providing all-day comfort. You can also mount Molle accessories to its back, which adds even more storage potential.

Standard equipment includes one YakAttack Omega rod holder and a large Stern hatch that allows you to store more below deck. Although the stern well is larger than it should be, it is large enough to store a cooler or live well.

Overall, I love this kayak. With the front cannon mount removed, it is the best for fly casting.

Pros

  • Stable and exceptional
  • Non-slip deck
  • Fly casting is possible on a clean deck that has no snags
  • There are many storage options
  • There are many options available
  • A comfortable seat

Cons

  • The hatch seal issue was present in earlier versions.

Heavy!

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12, Fastest Pedal Drive Fishing Kayak

Length12

Weight:132.5 lbs.

Beam:36″

Capacity500 lb.

The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler is a unique combination of real-world performance and innovative design. It’s well worth the high price. This ‘yak will cost you a few hundred more than the Jackson Kayak Big Rig.

The Mirage Pro Angler is a great choice for sight fishing from your feet. The Mirage Pro Angler’s wide beam and stable hull contour provide remarkable stability. Standing casting and fighting are easy. You have plenty of room to move your feet and the deck is covered in non-slip matt that improves traction.

The MirageDrive 180 pedal drive from Hobie is a great choice. It offers more torque and speed than the competition and folds easily to handle shallows and obstacles. This is a powerful pedal-driven drive and worth considering if you make long trips to reach your destination for fishing.

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The 28-inch beam will not slow down this kayak. The big fins at the working end of the drive generate so much power that even the beam can’t stop it from moving!

The storage is excellent, with hatches fore- and aft that can be used easily and are watertight. A built-in tackle organizer is located in the hatch directly adjacent to your seat.

Accessory rails run from the cockpit to each side. They offer plenty of places to store electronics, rod holders, and other accessories. There’s also plenty of space at the stern for a cooler, tackle, or any other items you may have in mind.

This ‘yak’ seat is very comfortable and you won’t need a chiropractor for all-day excursions.

The Hobie Mirage Pro angler 12 is a great pedal-driven kayak that can be used to fight the tide, wind, and current. It is stable, well-equipped, and extremely capable in saltwater or freshwater.

Pros

  • Stable and exceptional
  • Non-slip deck
  • There are many storage options
  • Great hatch design and placement
  • A comfortable seat
  • Amazing pedal drive

Cons

  • It’s expensive!
  • Heavy!

How to Buy a Fishing Kayak

Stability

It’s important to think about stability when buying a kayak. However, angling is the best place to start. Fishing requires a lot of you and your ‘yak. You’ll have to prove your stability if your line breaks or your fish throws your lure out during a fight.

  • Stability is crucial fishing kayak is a platform that allows you to do more than just paddling. You will be casting, retrieving gear from hatches, and fighting fish. Fly fishermen and some anglers prefer to sight fish or cast while standing. You can see how your kayak will be challenged by all this movement.
  • Primary stability –This indicates how difficult it is to lift a kayak onto its side. You will feel solid feet if your boat has high primary stability, while a less stable boat will feel unstable.
    Low primary stability is a positive for whitewater kayakers and touring. It allows them to lean into waves. For angling, however, you need to have a solid feeling underfoot.
  • Secondary stability –This indicates how difficult it is to flip a kayak after it has lost its primary stability. This tells you how difficult it is to roll your kayak after it has rocked up on its edge.
    High secondary stability is essential for angling. It is not a good idea to load your ‘yak with tackle.
  • Expand your expectations because they are hydrodynamically efficient, sea kayaks can be long and sleek. For fishing, however, a wider kayak is better. This may slow down your kayak and make it more difficult for you to paddle, but the extra beam will give you greater stability.
    The purpose-built angling kayaks are often a little prickly, but they can be used to tackle any situation.

Portability, weight, and encumbrance

Every time you go to the water, you’ll have to lift and load your ‘yak, which can be quite strenuous for many of us. You must be able to lift the weight.

  • Transporting While you won’t feel the extra weight on the water, when you lift and transport a kayak, you will feel every ounce. Remember, too, that the heavier your ‘yak, the less it will be able to carry at a given weight.
  • Portaging –Sometimes you will need to get out of your ‘yak and transport it over solid ground or shallow water. Portaging is a process that can be dangerous for your entire body. If this is something that you are concerned about, keep in mind the extra weight you will be adding to your boat by hauling gear.
  • Before you buy to get an idea of how you handle a given length and weight, we recommend you lift and load a few kayaks. You can get a good idea of how much you can handle and what your fitness level is by starting to experiment now.

Propulsion: Paddle or Motor? Pedal vs. Motor

Although any angler can paddle a long distance to their fishing spot, it’s almost impossible to do so on large water. Speed is essential when conditions turn sour, such as in bad weather.

There are three options for propulsion available for kayaks. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

Paddles There are many benefits to this:

  • Inexpensive –Although paddles come in a variety of prices, they are easy to find affordable, reliable options.
  • Low-to-no-maintenance these are easy to grab and go.
  • Indispensable –A kayak paddle is more than a tool to help you get your kayak moving. A paddle can be used as a push pole, lure retriever, or anchor if you know how to use it.
  • Stealthy –Although not all fishermen agree, many fishermen believe that a paddle can be used to sneak up on fish.

They also have their downsides. You will need to be able to move your rod in the wind and current.

As needed, paddle. It has happened to me on breezy sunny days.

If you aren’t strong enough to paddle hard, it can be really difficult to escape a storm and fight the tide.

Don’t ask me how I know!

Remember that a paddle regardless of your propulsion system is vital equipment. Motors and pedal drives fail, but paddles work.

Take a paddle with you to ensure safety.

Pedal drives – These are an option for some premium kayaks and, unsurprisingly, don’t come cheap.

Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.