In this Guide
Kayaks are a growing trend in the world of fishing, offering anglers an inexpensive and fun way to venture out beyond the shore.
Before manufacturers started designing kayaks specifically for fishing, it required quite a bit of skill and practice to get the hang of snagging fish without tipping over. Modern fishing kayaks, however, are designed for stability. Many are so stable, in fact, they allow the user to fish while standing up!
As with any vessel, though, fishing kayaks aren’t a one-size-fits-all product. There are a range of hull shapes, lengths, and formats to choose from.
In this guide, we’ll introduce you to all our favorite kayaks in the fishing category. We’ll help you choose between the thin, longer models that are better for long journeys, and the wider models that are more stable, but aren’t as fast or easy to paddle. We’ll also explain why we picked our recommendations over the competition!
Keep reading to find out the winners:
Best on a Budget
Top Fishing Kayaks Reviews: The Best for Rivers and Oceans
1. Perception Pescador
As anybody who knows Spanish can guess from the name, the Perception Pescador is made for fishing! It’s a fantastic all-purpose vessel and our recommendation to those who want to fish on a budget. While this isn’t the cheapest fishing kayak available, it’s the cheapest great fishing kayak we’ve found.
It’s a nice midsize craft that suits both experienced and new paddlers alike! At 12 feet, it’s pretty manageable to move by yourself (if you’re strong) or with one helper. It’s roomy enough to be comfortable, without making it hard to transport. Overall, we think it makes a good compromise between compactness and roominess, and between quality and price.
It’s very affordable for what it is. This is actually a rebranded Wilderness Systems Tarpon, which was a much more expensive vessel popular for a few years. The Pescador keeps the same stellar design, quality, and performance, but is much, much cheaper.
It performs well in any conditions. The hull profile and shape give you excellent tracking for a relatively compact vessel. It’s also speedier than other small fishing kayaks, but it retains the stability you need for angling. You can use this on lakes, rivers, or coastal waters without any issues.
Despite not being as deluxe as our pricier recommendations, it includes all the basics for fishing. It has day hatches at the bow, stern, and center for storing tackle. There are also two flush-mount rod holders, plus a caster rod holder.
It’s both a great first kayak, and a compact alternative for experienced anglers who prefer something smaller. It’s affordable and user-friendly enough for beginners to enjoy, but if you’ve got some leagues under your belt, you won’t feel as if you’re missing much aside from room and some extra amenities.
While our more expensive fishing picks are larger and have more amenities, they don’t offer substantially better quality. This is as rugged as you could want, and has a spotless track record for the long term. It can handle bumps and scrapes without issue.
Despite the fact that it’s much cheaper than our other recommendations, this is still not a small purchase. We think you get a lot of value out of it, since you can paddle it absolutely anywhere and
It’s a bit bare-bones compared to our other choices below. For instance, it doesn’t have all the dry compartments and bait storage features that you’ll find on the Stealth 14. Nor does it have all the cubby and hatch options we love on the Hobie.
It’s also worth considering that this is a smaller vessel. If you want a bit more room, go for the Stealth 14.
2. Malibu Kayaks Stealth 14
The Malibu Kayak Stealth 14 comes packed with tons of useful features for today’s fishermen, but it truly shines in terms of stability and cargo space. This is the Cadillac of fishing kayaks, and the largest of our recommendations! We recommend it to people who want a large vessel with lots of room, and greater potential for speed than the Pescador.
This is a big, deluxe kayak. The Stealth is 14 feet, 4 inches long, and 32 inches at its widest point. The hull shape is supremely stable, and the Stealth tracks well and is relatively easy to paddle. If you’ve ever ridden in a big boat car, this has a similar ride. It’s smooth and steady all the way!
It’s equally at home in rivers, flat lakes, and the choppy surf, like the Pescador. This is a big vessel, so it cuts right through any conditions. Anywhere you want to fish, you can take the Stealth 14!
Thanks to its extra girth, it’s even more stable than the Pescador. You can easily stand on the dedicated platform in the middle of this one, and it’d be extremely hard to roll one of these over.
While many fishing kayaks compromise a great deal of speed and maneuverability for stability, this one finds a solid middle ground. It has superb stability, but it still cuts right through the water and turns easily. That’s another reason the extra length is good: it makes it a much more navigable choice than many clunkier fishing models.
The ample storage space you get on a big boat like this means anglers no longer have to pick which equipment to bring, and what to leave behind. It has ports on both sides for storing supplies, gear, tools and snacks. There’s a Gator hatch in the bow that also doubles as a seat for little ones, and a bungeed well at the stern that can hold a 5 gallon bait bucket.
One of the best features of the Stealth 14 is the patented “live bait tank” in the center. This container has a plug that lets in water to filter in and flush out, allowing the fisherman to store live bait in the console.
Alternatively, you can leave the plug in and use the center container as another water-tight storage space. Whichever way you use it, it’s a convenient and innovative feature.
Both experts and beginners love the Malibu Stealth. The stability and smooth ride make it easy to get the hang of, but the quality and performance means that beginners may never need to purchase another. If you’re an advanced/experienced boatsman, this could be the last kayak you ever buy!
Like the Pescador, the Stealth 14 is a rock-solid investment. The hull is rugged, everything’s well-made, and it has a great track record of performing perfectly for years of regular use. It’s also covered by a lifetime warranty, so you’re guaranteed to have it work as long as you want it!
We don’t have any complaints about the Stealth 14. It’s simply a superb vessel. With that said, if you poke around online for reviews, a few previous buyers note that the cargo hatches on their 14’s had a tendency to leak. Apparently, this is an issue with the older models that Malibu fixed, and many of these complaints came before the update.
The only downside of this compared to the Hobie is the lack of pedals, which may or may not even be a downside for you.
3. Hobie Mirage Outback
If you’re able to invest more of your funds in your fishing kayak, and want something deluxe, our other favorite high-end model is the Hobie Mirage Outback. It’s not necessarily any better than the Stealth 14, but it suits a different type of fisher.
What makes this one interesting is its “Hobie Mirage Drive”—a unique pedaling feature not seen in many other models. While the Mirage Outback can be paddled like any other fishing kayak, users can also opt to use a set of pedals located in front of the seat to steer and move around.
The Mirage Outback has a smooth ride, it’s well-equipped, and it’s a pleasure to use. We think it’s better for river fishing than the Stealth 14, and the most deluxe compact fishing kayak on the market.
While there are some other standout features, it goes without saying that the Hobie’s distinguishing feature is the pedal-drive system. We know: the thought of pedals on a kayak might conjure up visions of slow-moving and cumbersome paddle boats, but we’re big fans of the MirageDrive feature.
It’s a speedy and convenient way to get around that that leaves your hands free for fishing. After all, you can hardly cast a line with a paddle in your hands!
The pedals make this one an excellent choice for people who want to fish a river without drifting steadily downstream. You can pedal yourself in place while you fish. They can also be a more convenient way to move against high winds.
The seat on this model is another well-designed feature we love. It’s adjustable, allowing users to set the most ergonomic position for paddling or pedaling. The seat also has lumbar support—great news for fishermen with bad backs! It’s a much more comfortable design than other models on the market, as well as many aftermarket seats you can buy.
As with the Pescador and Stealth 14, the Mirage Outback is impressively stable. Despite the pedals, it’s still a sit-on-top design, so it can handle currents and wakes with ease. Its extra weight also comes in handy there.
Like our other picks, you use it anywhere, although most people don’t find pedals useful at sea. It tracks well enough to handle the surf, and isn’t too bulky for longer lake jaunts. What’s particularly helpful in rough waters is the retractable rudder for better tracking and maneuverability.
It’s as well-outfitted as the Stealth 14, only in a smaller frame like the Pescador. The Mirage Outback comes packed with tons of excellent features, including rod holders, a gear bucket and a cargo area. If you feel like changing up your boating routine a bit, the Mirage Outback also comes with a sail mount!
We love the amount of accessible cargo space that the Outback provides. With pockets, rod holders and storage space, this model allows you to bring absolutely everything you need for the ride. It’s even wider than the Stealth 14, which is why it’s roomier than other 12′ options.
It has all sorts of different storage options, as well as ample room. There are cupholders of different sizes, cubbies on the top of the hull, bungee pockets, and some additional hatches throughout the body. You’ll also have the rear well and long running shelves for general storage.
The price of this model will likely be the main drawback for customers. Though few owners regret the purchase, the Mirage Outback is by no means an inexpensive model. You could get several Pescador’s for the price of one Outback.
For some, the non-traditional pedaling option may not be appealing. It’s only a must-have feature if you regularly fish in rivers, or if you simply enjoy the leg workout. However, if you’re not going to use it, you could easily save money by going for the Pescador or even Stealth 14.
The Mirage Outback is on the heavier side, thanks to the heavy-duty hull material and pedal-drive mechanism. So, paddling long distances can be something of a chore. The weight also makes it more difficult to move on land by yourself, so some kayakers may need to enlist the help of a friend .
Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem
The sturdy, balanced Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem kayak is a respectable little fishing kayak if you’re on a very tight budget. While its quality control issues and cheaper build quality keep it out of our top three, we think it’s by far the best thing for fishing under $500.
The simple and stable design of this kayak is perfect for beginners and recreational anglers. It’s designed for maximum stability, allowing anglers to stand up while they cast or sit sidesaddle. Take a look at this if you’re not sure you can justify the expense of the Pescador!
It’s also sold at an extremely low price point, and is even more affordable than the Pescador. This is one of the cheapest kayaks we recommend in any category!
For a small craft, it’s roomy and comfortable. The Sport Fisher is a shorter tandem kayak that can hold up to three people, though it can also be paddled by a single person. The seats are higher up off the water than other kayaks, allowing users to stay drier and more comfortable out on the water.
It comes with padded backrests, 3 rod holders and a 6 inch storage hatch. The Sport Fishers also features paddle clips and cradles for when you aren’t paddling.
The stable and sturdy Sport Fisher is ideal for less experienced kayakers—steady enough to not tip over, and small enough that it turns rapidly away from danger. Families in particular will appreciate having a safe, multi-person kayak for their children to enjoy trying fishing out.
The stability isn’t just ideal for beginners and families with little ones, however. Any angler, experienced or otherwise, will enjoy being able to stand up in their fishing kayak. Although many fishing kayaks allow the user to stand up, that level of stability is difficult to come by within the entry-level price bracket.
While our main picks above beat the Sport Fisher in every performance category, it’s hard to argue with the safety factor of this one. With a weight capacity of 500 pounds, the Sport Fisher accommodates a variety of body types with comfort and ease. Plus, it stays very steady with multiple people onboard.
The Sport Fisher is a pretty heavy kayak—-roughly 80 pounds when empty—which will make it difficult for many users to carry alone. It’s also a bit more awkward in the water than our sleeker, lighter main picks. This is a case where you definitely get what you pay for in the design department!
Additionally, the design of the Sport Fisher isn’t built for speed or tracking. The Sport Fisher is best suited for bodies of flat water or slow-moving currents, and will not perform well as a touring kayak or most recreational models. It’s not so good an all-purpose vessel as our other recommendations.
Persistent quality control issues affect some units, and that’s not something to take lightly when you buy a kayak. With something this large and expensive, you shouldn’t have to deal with cracked hulls or leaks out of the box. That’s unfortunately an issue for the Sport Fisher.
It also has pretty light build quality compared to our other recommendations. While the Pescador is practically indestructible, for instance, we’ve heard enough reports of damage to Sport Fishers that we can’t recommend it with full confidence.
Which Fishing Kayak is Perfect for You?
Our Top Pick for most folks offers a lot of value to beginners and expert kayakers alike. The Malibu Kayaks Stealth 14 is roomy, stable, and still reasonably affordable. It’s the fastest of the three on the water, and also the most spacious. If you’re a dedicated boater looking for a stable, versatile fishing kayak with lots of available space, we recommend the Stealth 14.
Buyers with a bigger budget may also want to check out the Hobie Mirage Outback. This one’s a bit of an oddity, since it has pedals built in. MirageDrive makes fishing on rivers a breeze, and the ample storage space, speed, and stability of this kayak makes it a favorite of many experienced anglers. It improves on many aspects of the Malibu, but it does cost significantly more. We don’t recommend it to casual anglers. This one’s a better choice for someone who will get a lot of use out of it, and enjoy the option of pedals.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to save money, prefer a smaller craft, and have no need for pedals, the Perception Pescador is an excellent and affordable option. It’s not as spacious as the Malibu or as well-outfitted as the Hobie, but it covers all the basics and performs extremely well in all conditions. It’s of no lesser quality than our other recommendations, and the only limitations are the size and storage options.
As you’re comparing different boats for angling, here are some things to think about:
-Do you need room for a cooler?
-Do you want mounts for your rod, or will you be doing everything manually?
-How many lines will you be using at any given time?
-Are you fishing alone or with a partner?
-Will you have room for lunch, or need room for a dog?
-Where will you keep your baits and supplies?
-Do you have a convenient place to store the boat near your fishing location, or will you need to think about transport options?
-How often will you be out on the water?
-Will you want to use your boat for recreational jaunts, or just for catching fish?
If you’re looking for more kayaks that are great for fishing and recreation, check out the Amazon best sellers page for fishing kayaks! You can also visit our homepage for more of our top kayak reviews.