Accessing remote waters. Covering more water. Targeting stillwater species.
These are all things you can do with the aid of a fishing kayak. Whether it’s these pursuits that have you interested in purchasing the best fishing kayak available, or if you’re just needing to give rivers and streams a break during the hot summer months, we want to help you find the best fishing kayak for your budget and intended use.
To help you get the fishing kayak for the money–all of our picks below are under $1000. Moreover, we do have several options under $500.
In this article you’ll learn:
- What is the best fishing kayak under $500?
- Best fishing kayak for the money
- Best sit-on-top kayak
- Top ocean kayak
- Kayak accessories
- Best fishing kayak paddle (specialized)
- What to look for in a fishing kayak
- Kayak fishing tips
Let’s take a look at some of the best fishing kayaks on the market!
Best Fishing Kayak Under $500
The Cruz 100 by Lifetime is packed full of performance. You’d be hard-pressed to find an easier to paddle and more stable kayak, especially at its price point.
A sharp bow gives you the speed and tracking to make finding fishy water easier, and a flat-bottom hull gives you the stability to fish the fishy water with confidence.
A tracking skeg on the bottom will keep you paddling straight, and the Cruz 100’s measurables are all on point.
Flat bottom hull
Waterproof storage hatch
Storage options include an oval hatch beneath the deck and bungee shock cords. While it doesn’t come equipped with rod storage options, this is always something you can add on. Do yourself a favor, and start with the kayak that will perform at the top of the game.
This is our top-rated fishing kayak for under $500
Best Fishing Kayak For the Money
Pelican is a trusted brand in the world of recreational watersports. This 10-foot sit-in kayak is a great value. The Maxim 100x is lightweight, clocking in at only 39 lbs.
Stable V Chine hull
This kayak is also great at maneuvering, with a Shallow V Chine hull design that allows you to cut through the water with stability.
It comes outfitted with a storage hatch and bungee cord, as well as a storage platform and mesh cover to store all of your gear for a full day on the water. The Maxim 100x is a great option to start with if you’re new to fishing from a kayak.
If you are looking for the best fishing kayak for the money, give the Pelican Maxim a good look!
Best Sit-On-Top Kayak
Sit-on-top kayaks can provide benefits to anglers, such as easier and more accurate casting. Here is the top pick for the best sit-on-top fishing kayak.
The Sentinel 100X by Pelican has a ton of angler-focused features packed into a tight, easy-to-maneuver space. It’s got a bunch of storage, with the EXOPAK removable storage compartment and a pair of vertical rod holders.
Rod tie downs
Rear and front storage areas
Vertical Rod holders
High profile for easier casting
This kayak is lightweight (44 lbs) and 9.5’ long, resulting in easy transport and storage. It’s designed with a multi-chine flat bottom hull, which provides stability when casting and fighting fish.
A sit-on-top kayak is great for giving you a little extra boost in your cast due to the higher vantage point, and this is a top-of-the-line sit-on-top kayak.
4. Best Ocean Kayak
Note: This kayak is not under $500, but it is a great sit-in option that we felt was a great addition to this article.
If you want to take a kayak out on the ocean, you’re going to need something that can cover more water and handle choppy conditions. The Sprint 120XR by Pelican is a good answer.
Deep V Chine Hull
Rear Storage hatch
This kayak has great responsiveness to shifts in body weight and gives a great return on effort. It weighs only 51 lbs at 12’ long and features carrying handles. Made of durable polyethylene, it will last through saltwater use.
Adjustable footrests, a bottle cage, a bungee cord, and premium knee-pads round out the 120XR’s features.
This is our pick for the best ocean and big lake kayak
Fishing Kayak Accessories
There are lots of desirable accessories to outfit your kayak with. Everything from specialized paddles to anchors to rod storage and comfort-enhancing options are out there.
For the purposes of this review, we’ll recommend a few vital pieces that will make your life easier, and a few specialized nick-nacks that are fun additions to your watercraft.
Best Specialized Fishing Kayak Paddle
While lots of kayaks come with a paddle that’s included in the initial price, there’s a lot to be gained by having a good, lightweight paddle. The Manta Ray Carbon by Aqua-Bound is a lightweight, stiff and strong paddle.
It will elevate your time on the water and allow you to paddle further while feeling less effects on your arms, shoulders, and core.
The lightweight carbon shaft will be a night-and-day difference between your included paddle, and you’ll find yourself going further and faster with each stroke. This paddle weighs only 1.84 lbs and features 18”-long blades. It’s an awesome way to step up your kayak’s performance.
Best Kayak Anchor
The Marine Anchor by Gradient Fitness is our pick for the best kayak anchor.
Having something to hold you in place in a fishing spot is an absolute necessity for a fishing kayak, and this anchor does the job better (and with less weight and size) than the competitors. It folds down into a tiny 12” x 3” size for easy storage and transport.
12″ x 3″ (folded)
Comes with 25 foot rope
If you have a lawn-chair style seat on your kayak (this is the case in most sit-on kayaks) the Perception Kayak Cooler is an awesome way to maximize your storage and keep drinks and lunch within arm’s reach at all times.
5″ x 18″ x 11.75″
Keeping your food and drink on the back of your seat will free up limited storage options for gear and other items. The Perception Kayak Cooler is waterproof and keeps ice well and is a fun and functional addition to any compatible kayak.
This cup holder by Yakattack is compatible with any boat. Keep your cold one close and secure with this accessory.
Compatible with all watercrafts
Fits cans & most water bottles
Check out our other gear related articles:
What To Look For In a Fishing Kayak?
There are a lot of different kayaks on the market, and they’re designed with different purposes in mind. Maneuverability and speed might matter more to people who will be using their kayak for whitewater purposes as opposed to angling pursuits.
The most important feature that a fishing kayak can have is stability. You don’t want to be rocking or rolling with casts, and you don’t want a heavy bass or trout to pull you side-over-side either.
Aside from stability, anglers in the kayak market should also look for comfort and storage ability (wouldn’t be fishing if you weren’t bringing plenty of gear along for the ride).
Tips On How To Fish From a Kayak
To make the most of fishing from a kayak, you’re going to have to be able to cast from a sitting position. The timing of making a cast on a fly rod is a little different when it comes to sitting versus standing.
One of the best things you can do to get a feel for this is to go out on the grass, sit down, and practice casting from there. You’ll find that you’ll need to trust your rod to do the work a little more than normal.
That’s one of the benefits of fly fishing out of a kayak, though—when you get the feel, you’ll soon become an all-around better fly caster because of this.
In addition, you’ll need to get in the hang of fighting fish in a manner that allows you to land them on your own, again from a seated position. Applying side pressure as opposed to over-the-top pressure is paramount in this.
Side pressure will allow you to steer your fish to the net-side of your kayak more efficiently. As before, this is a skill that will pay dividends once you master it. Fly fishing from a kayak will make you a better overall fly angler.
Pros and Cons of Fishing Kayaks
A fishing kayak can be a costly purchase. When done correctly, fishing from a kayak can completely change your fishing opportunities. In order to decide whether a fishing kayak is a good fit for you, here are some pros and cons to consider.
The pros of fishing from a kayak are really enjoyable. It’s a great way to make yourself a better all-around angler, as you can take on fishing in lakes, ponds, and even the ocean.
You’ll have a wider range of species to target, and a wider selection of water to target them on. You can enjoy remote waters and find solitude in the process of paddling.
Fishing kayaks are great to load up your gear, shoot down a river to an otherwise inaccessible stretch of water, and fish from either the kayak itself or from wading. It’s a nice change of pace, and manageable for solo outings where drift boats and canoes wouldn’t get the job done. Fishing kayaks are not just useful tools.
They’re also a lot of fun to use. I’ve found that I feel better connected to the waters I’m fishing if I paddle across and through them, and it’s great to feel the cool water spray in your face in the hot summer months.
The downsides to fishing kayaks are fairly obvious. For one, storing a hard kayak that measures around 10’ (or more) in length is going to require some garage space or other storage space.
It’s possible to overcome this by looking at options for inflatable fishing kayaks, which can be compacted down into much smaller storage space. This solution can also help you overcome another challenge to fishing kayaks, that of transportation.
If you have a hard kayak, you’re going to need to be able to either toss it in the bed of your truck, or strap it down to the rack or roof of your vehicle.
This can be a little cumbersome to set up and take-down on your own, so you’ll need to figure out a method to make things easier. One last downside to fishing from a kayak – it can be tiring.
You’ll be putting some strain on your arms, shoulders, back and core muscles with the paddling you’ll need to do, and making fly casts from a seated position for the duration of a day will take some stamina. If you’re prepared for this (or in need of extra exercise) this isn’t necessarily a downside, but it is worth noting either way.
Fly fishing from a kayak is its own world. You’ll learn to make better casts and fight fish more efficiently, and you’ll do so in remote and beautiful places. Using a kayak to fish is a great way to make the fish finding process a lot of fun.
We hope that this guide has given you some things to prioritize when shopping for a fly fishing kayak, and options to start with based on your budget and intended use.