February 29, 2024

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2023 Fishing Kayak Buyer’s Guide

Whether you’re a shore-bound fisherman getting into a kayak to reach new waters or a boat fisherman who recognizes a fishing kayak as an exciting way to get out on the water, there’s something in kayak fishing for just about anyone. Will you be fishing small ponds, open ocean, or both? Do you want to paddle or pedal? Do you value the stability of a stand-up platform or is a light and nimble hull more important to you? There are dozens of kayaks built specifically for fishermen, and each one offers a unique combination of stability, size, speed, and fishing features. While there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to fishing kayaks, with all the different models available today, there’s a better chance than ever that you can find one to fit your fishing needs.

Which Fishing Kayak is Right for You?

The bottom line in choosing the best fishing kayak for your needs is that there is no one-size-fits all. Before you decide on purchasing a kayak for fishing, the most important thing you can do is to take stock of where and how you plan to do most of your paddling and fishing. Identify your needs: Will you be fishing in freshwater ponds for largemouth bass? Navigating streams and rivers to catch smallmouth bass and trout? Poking around saltwater harbors, estuaries and flats for striped bass and bluefish? Or do you plan to venture out into the open ocean and launch through surf? Also, will this kayak be strictly a fishing vessel, or do you plan to use it for relaxation and recreation with your family?

Once you’ve thought about what you want from a fishing kayak, it’s time to select a handful that appear to match your desired criteria. At that point, try them all! Always demo a kayak before you buy it!

Before you can evaluate the fishing kayaks at your local paddlesport shop or marina, it’s helpful to understand some of the important characteristics of kayaks. Most fishing kayaks can be used for a variety of activities, but no one kayak excels at every activity. Choosing a kayak, like choosing a boat or a car, means mulling over a long list of specifications and deciding what features are “must-haves” and which ones are compromises. Once you understand your options, you can start down the path of choosing the right kayak for your intended purposes. These are some of the basics to consider before you buy your first, or next, fishing kayak.

What Kind of Kayak is Best for Fishing?

Pedal kayaks have become very popular for fishing because they free up your arms for holding a fishing rod. There are several options in pedal-powered kayaks by Hobie, Old Town, Native, Ocean Kayak, Pelican and others. Check out our guide on picking the best pedal-powered fishing kayak. Electric-motor-powered kayaks are also becoming a popular option. Paddle kayaks tend to be less expensive than pedal kayaks, and some anglers prefer the simplicity and lightweight of paddle kayaks.

What’s the most stable fishing kayak?

Fishing kayaks are remarkably stable. In general, wider kayaks are more stable and can support more capacity, which is often advantageous when fishing. However, width is far from the only factor that affects stability. Hull design can have a big effect, so test a fishing kayak before buying.

Is a longer kayak better for fishing?

In general, the longer the kayak, the faster it will be and the more easily it will cover distances. The trade-off is a loss of maneuverability in tight spaces and difficulty in transporting the kayak to launch sites.

Can I stand up and fish from a kayak?

Extra-wide and stable fishing kayaks allow an angler to stand and fish. If you are a fly-fishermen, or if you enjoy sight-casting to fish in the shallows, stand-up capability might be very important to you in choosing a fishing kayak.

Do I need a fish finder on a kayak?

A fish finder can be very helpful when fishing from a kayak, but it isn’t necessary. It depends on what types of fishing you will be doing, and if knowing the depth and detecting fish under your kayak would be helpful.

What else should I consider when buying a fishing kayak?

Weight: Consider your cartop capacity and what you can carry when choosing a kayak. A heavy kayak might require a wheeled cart to move it down to the launch site.
Storage and Extras: Consider how much storage you’ll need on board your kayak. Will you be keeping fish? Is live-bait storage important to you? Will you be doing any kayak-camping? Many kayak fishermen use milk crate systems to store tackle and extra rods.
Seat: Less expensive kayaks have molded-in seats or basic removable seating pads. More fishing kayaks are now offering adjustable “lawn chair” style seats with excellent back support. Test them out to see what you find comfortable.

Best Fishing Kayaks of 2023

Bonafide EX123

Bonafide EX123

Length: 12’3″ | Width: 29.5″ | Weight: 67 lbs. w/seat | Capacity: 375 lbs. | Retail: $1,099

The “SUV of kayaks,” the Bonafide EX123 is a grab-and-go fishing kayak with a unique sit-inside design perfect for backwater honey holes. Whether it’s a quick after-work trip or a multi-day expedition, the EX123 is a stable, comfortable, and lightweight option. Check out a Bonafide Kayak in person.

Bonafide RS117

Bonafide RS117

Length: 11’7” | Width: 33.5” | Weight: 77 lbs. w/ seat | Capacity: 425 lbs. | Retail: $1,099

The Bonafide RS117 gives budget-conscious kayak anglers an authentically designed fishing kayak that’s made in the USA. With a hybrid catamaran hull, the RS117 is a very standable platform that offers an excellent combination of stability and paddling performance. Check out a Bonafide Kayak in person.

Bonafide SS107

Bonafide SS107

Length: 10’7″ | Width: 34.5″ | Weight: 84 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 425 lbs. | Retail: $1,399

The compact Bonafide SS107 is a portable beast that boasts premium fishing features with a small footprint. It was designed for maximum stability without sacrificing paddling performance, and it comes loaded with angler-friendly features. Check out a Bonafide Kayak in person.

Bonafide SS127

Bonafide SS127

Length: 12’7” | Width: 33.75” | Weight: 94 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 475 lbs. | Retail: $1,749

The Bonafide SS127 “sit/stand” fishing kayak is designed for stability without sacrificing performance. The ultra-high-back seat allows anglers to sit with knees bent, taking pressure off the lower back. Whether lake, inshore, or offshore fishing, the SS127 is ready. Check out a Bonafide Kayak in person.

Bonafide P127

Bonafide P127

Length: 12’7” | Width: 34” | Weight: 120 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 475 lbs. | Retail: $3,099

With its roots in the best-selling SS127, the new Bonafide P127 achieves ultimate fishability with a Propel pedal-drive system on a proven sit/stand fishing platform. Check out a Bonafide Kayak in person.

Bonafide RVR 119

Bonafide RVR 119

Length: 11’9” | Width: 35” | Weight: 85 lbs. | Capacity: 425 lbs. | Retail: $1,649

The all-new Bonafide RVR 119 is a river-specific kayak designed to access and fish hundreds of miles of overlooked rivers and creeks. The hull’s unique upturned bow and stern give it a rocker profile for moving upriver and a drop-down skeg aids in tracking. Check out a Bonafide Kayak in person.

Feelfree Moken 10 V2

Feelfree Moken 10 V2

Length: 10’ | Width: 33” | Weight: 69 lbs. (hull only) | 440 lbs. | Retail: $799

Updated with an adjustable seat, the Feelfree Moken 10 V2 is designed for paddlers who want the comfort, stability, and features of a larger fishing kayak in a smaller, yet fully capable package. It’s ideal for smaller waters or for anyone with limited storage space.

Feelfree Lure 11.5 V2

Feelfree Lure 11.5 V2

Length: 11’6” | Width: 34” | Weight: 87 lbs. (hull only) | 425 lbs. | Retail: $1,299

The Feelfree Lure 11.5 V2 offers the perfect balance of comfort, deck space, mobility, and stability. It’s not too long or too short, but still fully capable for those longer distances and days on rivers, lakes, oceans, and small waters alike.

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 360 Series

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 360 Series (12/14)

Length: 12’/13’8” | Width: 36”/38” | Weight: 109.5 lbs./124.5 lbs. (rigged) | Capacity: 500 lbs./600 lbs. | Retail: $5,599/$5,799

With the MirageDrive 360, you can effortlessly spin and move the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 360 in every direction. Hobie’s Kick-Up Fins immediately retract on impact, so even shallow areas are now entirely navigable. It’s packed full of features, including rod holders and stain-resistant EVA padding.

Hobie Mirage Lynx

Hobie Mirage Lynx

Length: 11’ | Width: 36” | Weight: 47 lbs. fitted | Capacity: 350 lbs. | Retail: $3,299

The Hobie Mirage Lynx’s flat-bottom design provides confidence-inducing stability and ultimate maneuverability. Weighing in at only 47 lbs. and equipped with rear-loading skid pads, you can easily throw it on the roof of your car for uncomplicated transport.

Hobie Mirage Passport 12 R

Hobie Mirage Passport 12 R

Length: 12” | Width: 34” | Weight: 83 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 400 lbs. | Retail: $1,999

With an all-new rotomolded hull construction, the Hobie Mirage Passport 12 R has a sleek aesthetic, delivering ultimate stability while still maintaining performance and speed on the water. It comes loaded with fish features including two rod holders, two accessory tracks, and gunnel tackle storage.

Hobie Mirage Compass

Hobie Mirage Compass

Length: 12’ | Width: 34” | Weight: 87 lbs. (rigged) | Capacity: 400 lbs. | Retail: $2,749

The Hobie Mirage Compass combines a blissfully simple hull with Hobie’s new MirageDrive 180 pedal system and Kick-Up fins. Outfitted with a breathable mesh seat, the Compass offers maximum stability, an oversized cockpit, and a flat deck for standing. Fishing features include molded-in rod holders, H-Track accessory mounts, and a transducer cavity.

Hobie Mirage iTrek

Hobie Mirage iTrek (9/11)

Length: 9’5”/10’8” | Width: 40”/40” | Weight: 20 lbs./28 lbs. fitted | Capacity: 350 lbs./400 lbs. | Retail: $2,599/$2,979

High-performance lightweight construction boosts the speed, stability, and tracking of this rigid kayak without the extra weight. The Hobie Mirage iTrek features a rugged inflatable dropstitch hull with triple-chamber construction and it packs away in a roller duffle bag. Powered by the MirageDrive GT with Kick-Up fins and integrated rudder for dual steering, the iTrek 11 is fun, nimble, and lightning-fast.

Hobie Mirage Outback

Hobie Mirage Outback

Length: 12’9” | Width: 34” | Weight: 85 lbs. (fitted) | Capacity: 425 lbs. | Retail: $3,649

The Hobie Outback is a fully-loaded fishing machine built for every conceivable fishing expedition. The extra-wide standing deck offers an improved casting platform and convenient vantage point for sight- fishing, while the new seat design provides extra width for unmatched comfort. It’s powered by MirageDrive 180 with Kick-Up turbo fins.

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler Revolution

Hobie Mirage Revolution (11/13)

Length: 11’6”/13’5” | Width: 29”/28.5” | Weight: 64/70 lbs. fitted | Capacity: 275/350 lbs. | Retail: $3,149/$3,399

This offshore-capable hull is designed for quick moves and chasing down schools of fish, making the Hobie Mirage Revolution one of the most popular kayaks among striped bass fishermen. The Vantage CT seat allows for comfortable all-day fishing, and the MirageDrive180 with Kick-Up fins allows full-power reverse propulsion.

Hurricane Skimmer

Hurricane Skimmer 116 First Class

Length: 11’6” | Width: 30.5” | Weight: 43 lbs. rigged | Capacity: 300 lbs. | Retail: 1,449

The popular Skimmer 116, Hurricane’s lightest sit-on-top model, has been paired with Native’s First Class frame seat. The result is a extra stable, super comfy platform for fishing and cruising. Best of all, the Hurricane Skimmer 116 First Class weighs only 43 pounds with the seat installed.

Jackson Bite FD

Jackson Bite FD

Length: 11’6” | Width: 35” | Weight: 82 lbs. (hull only) | Capacity: 400 lbs. | Retail: $2,849

The Jackson Bite FD is an affordable pedal-kayak that doesn’t cut corners. It performs well whether paddling or standing, and the open-concept deck allows for ample storage with a system of touring-style bungie cords.

Native Watercraft Slayer Propel MAX 12.5

Native Watercraft Slayer Propel MAX 12.5

Length: 12’6” | Width: 34” | Weight: 95 lbs. fitted | Capacity: 500 lbs. | Retail: $2,899

One of Native’s most popular designs, the Slayer Propel 13, has been updated to the max with ultra-comfortable elevated seating, an extended rudder, more fishing storage, and electronics-ready recesses and mounts. The hands-free pedal drive goes easily from forward to reverse, and the rockered bow gets up and over chop.

Slayer Propel Max 10

Native Watercraft Slayer Propel Max 10

Length: 10’ | Width: 34.15” | 75 lbs. fitted | Capacity: 400 lbs. | Retail: $2,299

The Slayer Propel 10will fit in the bed of a truck but has many of the features of its bigger sibling, the Slayer Max Propel 12.5. The Max 10 flawlessly combines features and size, making it kayak like no other on the market.

Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 10

Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 10

Length: 10’ | Width: 34” | Weight: 62 lbs. (fitted) | Capacity: 400 lbs. | Retail: $2,299

The Slayer Propel 10 is a super-light, pedal-drive fishing kayak. The armchair-comfortable seat, rock-solid stability, and clutter-free cockpit empowers even an xxl angler to stand and sight-cast or just relax and sip the beverage of the day. The rail-mount system means easy on-and-off for rod holders and purposely-positioned rails for mounting cameras.

Native Watercraft Titan Propel

Native Watercraft Titan Propel (10.5/12)

Length: 10’9”/12’ | Width: 37.5”/39″ | Weight: 97/109 lbs. fitted | Capacity: 500 lbs. | Retail: $2,799/$2,999

The Native Watercraft Titan has proven itself to be a bass-fishing kayak extraordinaire. All Titan models feature Plastifoam technology that adds flotation for safety and increased stiffness for performance. The stable platform is optimal for sight-casting and features easy-to-reach horizontal rod storage with rod-tip protection.

Native Watercraft Falcon 11

Native Watercraft Falcon 11

Length: 11’ | Width: 32.5” | Weight: 60 lbs. fitted | Capacity: 325 lbs. | Retail: $1049

The Native Watercraft Falcon 11 is the ultimate grab-and-go paddle-fishing kayak. With solid stability, high/low seating, and electronics-ready features at an affordable price, it is tough to beat.

Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot

Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot 120/136

Length: 12’/13’6” | Width: 37”/37” | Weight: 152 lbs./158 lbs. (assembled) | Capacity: 558 lbs./660 lbs. | Retail: $4,349/$4,849

The Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot motorized kayak leverages Minn Kota’s Spot-Lock technology, motoring you to your fishing location faster and holding your position over the hole. Command the kayak with a touch of your thumb using the Bluetooth-connected i-Pilot remote.

Old Town Sportsman BigWater PDL 132

Old Town Sportsman BigWater PDL 132

Length: 13’ 2” | Width: 36” | Weight: 96 lbs. hull only | Capacity: 500 lbs. | Retail: $3,249

Get to your spot, then stay there without paddling, on the Old Town Sportsman BigWater PDL 132 pedal kayak. With instant forward and reverse, maneuverability, and stability, you’ll enjoy precise boat control while your hands remain free to fish.

Old Town Sportsman 106

Old Town Sportsman 106 Powered by Minn Kota

Length: 10’6” | Width: 37” | Weight: 121 lbs. assembled | Capacity: 525 lbs. | Retail: $3,349

The Old Town Sportsman 106 Powered by Minn Kota motorized kayak is simple and intuitive, getting you on the fish faster in a compact, low-profile kayak you can fit on your car top.

Old Town Sportsman Salty PDL

Old Town Sportsman Salty PDL 120

Length: 12’ | Width: 34.5” | Weight: 104 lbs. assembled | Capacity: 450 lbs. | Retail: $2,449

If you fish and play in coastal areas, the Old Town Sportsman Salty PDL 120 pedal kayak is the craft for you. Outfitted for fishing, it is also at home having fun in the waves. With instant forward and reverse, the award-winning PDL Drive is the most reliable and easy-to-use model on the market.

Old Town Sportsman PDL

Old Town Sportsman PDL 106 | 120

Length: 10’6’/12” | Width: 36”/36” | Weight: 107 lbs./116 lbs assembled | Capacity: 450 lbs./500 lbs. | Retail: $2,449/$2,749

The Old Town Sportsman PDL 120 pedal kayak provides hands-free fishing in a performance kayak that’s both nimble and stable. With instant forward and reverse, the award-winning PDL Drive is the most reliable and easy-to-use pedal drive on the market.

Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman

Old Town Sportsman Discovery 119 Solo

Length: 11’9” | Width: 32.5” | Weight: 56 lbs. | Capacity: 354 lbs. | Retail: $1,249

Offering the simplicity and utility of a classic solo canoe with the agility and sleek handling of a kayak, the Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman hybrid canoe is a stable, lightweight craft that is easy to handle on and off the water. Enjoy unique features like tackle and rod storage, comfortable seating, and an accessory track on this grab-and-go canoe.

Pelican Catch PWR 100

Pelican Catch PWR 100

Length: 9’9” | Width: 39.75” | Weight: 75 lbs. | Capacity: 450 lbs. | Retail: $1,249

Pelican’s Catch family is growing, with a personal watercraft that is ready to take your choice of gas or electric motor. The Pelican Catch PWR 100 is pre-wired so you can stow the battery in the front compartment while easily connecting your motor in the back.

Pelican Catch 100

Pelican Catch Classic 100

Length: 10’ | Width: 34” | Weight: 58 lbs. | Capacity: 350 lbs. | Retail: $599

The Pelican Catch Classic 100 features a tunnel hull for amazing stability, making iteasy to stand in while casting. Well-planned-out accessories help keep everything conveniently stowed, yet it’s light enough for most people to carry and launch on their own. The Catch 100 is ideal for the smaller angler looking to access new waters.

Pelican Catch 110 HyDryve II

Pelican Catch 110 HyDryve II

Length: 10’6” | Width: 34” | Weight: 67 lbs. | Capacity: 350lbs. | Retail: $1,499

Pelican’s HyDryve system brings pedal-drive technology within reach of budget-minded anglers on this rudder-controlled fishing kayak. Made with RAM-X Premium, a multi-layer polyethylene with an advanced resin in the top layer imparting a glossy finish and providing significantly more rigidity than standard polyethylene, the Pelican Catch 110 HyDryve II remains light, stiff, strong, and easy to move.

Sea Eagle 350fx Fishing Explorer

Sea Eagle 350fx Fishing Explorer

Length: 11’6” | Width: 39” | Weight: 51 lbs. | Capacity: 575 lbs. | Retail: $1,099

Designed by and for avid fishermen, this inflatable kayak features nearly indestructible 2000 denier reinforced protective layers, 6 built-in rod holders, and a fully adjustable foot brace. The Sea Eagle 350fx Fishing Explorer offers a max load capacity of 635 pounds and is completely self-bailing.

Sea Eagle 385fta FastTrack Angler

Sea Eagle 385fta FastTrack Angler

Length: 12’6” | Width: 36” | Weight: 45 lbs. | Capacity: 635 lbs. | Retail: $1,199

The Sea Eagle FastTrack Angler is a rugged fishing kayak you can take wherever the fishing is happening. The patented, state-of-the-art, external, rigid, inflatable NeedleKnife™ Keel makes for a faster, smoother paddling experience. The sharper, narrower, tapered bow allows for faster entry through wind, waves, and current.

Sea Eagle FishSUP 126

Sea Eagle FishSUP 126

Length: 12’6” | Width: 40” | Weight: 45 lbs. | Capacity: 500 lbs. | Retail: $999

This incredibly stable, bow-to-stern tapered, swallowtail inflatable stand-up paddleboard is designed specifically for anglers. The Sea Eagle FishSUP‘s’ removable transom gives you the ability to run it with an electric motor. It stows in your car trunk and sets up in under 10 minutes.

3 Waters Kayaks Big Fish V2

3 Waters Kayaks Big Fish V2 105 | 120

Length: 10’5”/12′ | Width: 33’5”/35 | Weight: 89 lbs./100 lbs | Capacity: 380 lbs/400 | Retail: $799/$899

3 Waters Kayaks Big Fish 120 V2 offers all the features you expect from a high-dollar kayak at an affordable price. It’s designed with a focus on stability due to its cathedral tri-hull. The Big Fish 105 V2 offers all the same features in a 10-foot version.

3 Waters Kayaks Big Fish 103

3 Waters Kayaks Big Fish 103 | 108

Length: 10’6” / 11’ | Width: 35” / 38” | Weight: 110 / 135 lbs. (without seat and drive) | Capacity: 397 lbs / 450 lbs. | Retail: $1,899 / $1,989

The Big Fish 103 and 108 were specially designed to accommodate the Pro Fish pedal drive for hands-free propulsion. 3 Waters’ cathedral trimaran hull design provides stability for fishing or pedaling with friends and family.

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120

Length: 12’3” | Width: 31” | Weight: 63 lbs. | Capacity: 350 lbs. | Retail: $1,229

A legendary original in the fishing-kayak realm, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 has been revamped with improved comfort, stability, speed, and paddler interface. Equally at home on rivers, lakes or oceans, the new Tarpon delivers a dynamic on-water performance with enhanced agility and stability, while well-executed and innovative features elevate the overall experience. It is also available as the Tarpon 105.

Wilderness Systems Recon 120

Wilderness Systems Recon 120

Length: 12’2” | Width: 38” | Weight: 95 lbs. | Capacity: 450 lbs. Retail: $1,409

The Wilderness Systems Recon 120 is a factory-loaded boat that you can rig your way. With a fully customizable open platform, a lineup of revolutionary new features, and the freedom to choose the preferred mode of propulsion – paddle, pedal, or power. Recon pedal drive is sold separately.

The post 2023 Fishing Kayak Buyer’s Guide first appeared on On The Water.

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