Best Fishing Kayak Review
What makes a fishing kayak “the best”?
Good news! 1oo’s to choose from!
To find the best fishing kayak is not easy!
First, there are more than 100 kayak manufactures, who produce multiple models of kayaks. Kayaks come in numerous types, including:
- Fishing (that’s what BassHoles are talking about!)
- Recreational (kayaking for kayaking’s sake)
- Sea (calm ocean areas)
- Surf (for rougher waters)
- Whitewater (shooting rapids)
- Racing (competition)
- Specialty & hybrids (inflatable, folding, pedal, twin hull)
- Stand-up paddling (another type of recreational)
- Military (I would tell you more, but then I’d have to kill you)
So we can certainly simplify the list by focusing on Fishing kayaks, which also includes some of the Specialty & Hybrid kayaks. You’ll see why in a moment.
What are the considerations?
Is your kayak JUST for fishing?
Or will you kayak through whitewater rapids? Or just relax and paddle with other family members in their kayaks?
Where will you be fishing?
In ponds? Streams and rivers? Saltwater harbors, estuaries, and flats?
How do you want to power your kayak?
Strictly by you paddling? Or do you want to be able to use a trolling motor. Or even paddle the kayak with built-in propulsion?
SOK or SIK? That’s sit-on-top (SOK) or sit-inside (SIK). The sit-on-top-kayak is safer (won’t fill with water if they roll over), and provide more room and, for me, comfort. The sit-inside-kayak is better if you are in fast moving waters, are lighter, and will keep a BassHole dryer.
What dimensions work best for your needs?
- Greater length means you’ll be able to cover distance more easily, but you can’t maneuver your kayak in the water and at the launch site.
- The wider the kayak, the more stable it will be. Extra wide kayaks allow a BassHole to stand up and sight fish.
- How much weight can your vehicle, and you, handle? A heavier kayak may require a wheeled cart to move it comfortably.
- How much, and what type, of storage do you need? Are you keeping fish, and so need a live-well? What about clothing? And, of course, fishing gear!
What’s your budget?
Kayak prices range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. You certainly do get more when you spend more, but that doesn’t mean your budget (or spouse) will permit you to buy the deluxe, premium, ideal, dream kayak (at least in my humble opinion!).
A few possibilities
With so many kayaks to choose from, I’m going to simply list my top 5 to begin with. And I’m going to arrange them not from favorite to least favored, but instead leave my TOP recommendation for last. Feel free to scroll down to number 5, but first, a warning: it’s pricey!
If you are an experienced kayaker, then the information presented in these reviews may be enough for your to make an intelligent decision. But if you are starting out, then try to locate a dealer where you can take a test drive on a variety of kayaks. Especially try both SIK and SOK models.
OK, here we go!
Overall Ranking: 4 out of 10
Price: $399.00 Check price at Amazon.com
Maker: Sun Dolphin
Weight: 41 lbs.
Capacity: 250 lbs.
Material: UV-stabilized Fortiflex® high density polyethylene
- 2 flush mount rod holders
- 1 swivel rod holder
- Adjustable padded seat
- Large open cockpit
- Adjustable foot braces
- Water bottle holder
- Protective thigh pads
- Paddle holder
This is an inexpensive but tough kayak. For the money, it is a great choice for a starter kayak. It comes with a lot of terrific features for the fisherman. Should you decide to “upgrade” further down the line, this will be a great “backup” kayak or one for your friends to use.
I personally do not care the the SIK (sit-in kayak), but younger, more limber users find this to be fine.
- Some owners praise the excellent customer service provided by Sun Dolphin — any issues were resolved “no questions asked” for “no charge.”
- Low price.
- Can fit in the trunk of some cars (with the seat folded down).
- Many (not all) users rated the kayak very high.
- Closed cargo area in back.
- Other owners say when asking about
- 250 lb. weight capacity (so I’m too big to use this kayak).
- Consistent complain by users is molded seat made for a sore butt after long use.
- No drainage / self bail (if fills with water, must swim to shore).
- Paddle is not included.
- No capacity for adding a trolling motor.
WHO IS IT FOR?
This is a great kayak for someone who wants to “test the waters.” And it could be a fine kayak for many years, though many users report they decided to upgrade and use the Sun Dolphin for friends and guests.
Sun Dolphin received lavish praise from most users for their excellent customer service; one complained that they would offer no advice to replace cords, and doing so would “void the warranty.”
The main pluses of the Sun Dolphin Excursion are the low price and excellent customer service. I’d advise investing a little more (or a LOT more if you’ve got the scratch!) and getting a kayak you will use for a long, long time.
I don’t care for the sit-in kayak (SIK) design, and prefer the sit-on kayak design (SOK).
My greatest regret with my Hobie Float Cat 75 is not being able to easily add a trolling motor, so this kayak not having that capability lowers it in my scoring.
Sun Dolphin does offer higher priced models, including SOKs, so I’ve included a link for those interested in checking those out.
View informative Sun Dolphin Excursion video
If you’re short of cash and have tough buttocks, the Sun Dolphin Excursion is a great deal!
Overall Ranking: 6 out of 10
Price: $467.00 Check price at Amazon.com
Maker: Sea Eagle
Tube Diameter: 10″
Weight: 26 lbs.
Capacity: 500 lbs.
Material: 33 mil Polykrylar / Seam: High Frequency Welded / Floor: Inflatable I-beam Construction
Inflation & Assembly Time: 6 mins.
Whitewater Rating: Up to Class III
The Sea Eagle inflatable kayak Pro Package is even less expensive than the Sun Dolphin (at least at this writing, the package is offered for $239.00, a savings of $228.00!). And like Sun Dolphin, Sea Eagle is a very respected company noted for it’s outstanding customer service. One user reported that his dog chewed the vent caps, and when he called Sea Eagle to purchase new ones, they sent him replacements at no additional charge (but added he should buy better chew toys for the dog).
If you recall from my review of inflatable pontoon boats, I rated the 2 Sea Eagle products highest. And though I will recommend those same products over this one, I felt I owed it to Sea Eagle to list this kayak!
- Stores easily in small spaces.
- Can be transported in a small car.
- Awesome customer service!
- Deluxe One-way valves (air pumped in does not escape) with tethered O-rings and tight cap.
- 2 molded skegs allow smooth tracking.
- 5 tube I-beam floor, supports most of the weight.
- Sea Eagle’s standard 3 Year Manufacturer’s Warranty.
- 4-piece 7′ 10″ paddle.
- Deluxe inflatable kayak seat.
- Foot pump.
- Carry bag.
- Repair kit.
- One reviewer described the paddle as “cheap.” But no one else mentioned that about the paddle.
- Skegs are not removable (glued into place).
- No footrests.
- No rod holders.
- No ability to add trolling motor.
WHO IS IT FOR?
This is another great choice for the budget conscious BassHole. At the time of this writing, there is a deep discount in the Pro Package described above, bringing the total cost down to below$250.00. It is one of the most popular portable kayaks.
It’s easy to transport, and can fit in even a small car. One user says he carries 2 of these in his trunk at all times, and has been able to enjoy many spontaneous kayaking adventures with his family (or solo!).
It can be inflated in just minutes.
It’s tough, durable, and supports a great deal of weight.
Sea Eagle has excellent customer service. It is a very reputable company that you can trust to provide you with the sort of support you would want from any company.
If you’re tight on funds and space, this is a great choice, backed up by a fine company.
Described as holding 2 people, it’s probably better suited for solo use. If you expect to take 2, you would probably be happier with a larger version. See below for those options.
I do wish there was a way to add a trolling motor to the kayak.
Again, I would recommend the Sea Eagle Inflatable Pontoon Boat over the kayak, but this is a fine option!
Here’s a video to explain how to inflate and use the Sea Eagle Kayaks
If money and quarters are tight, this is a nice choice!
Overall Ranking: 7.5 0ut of 10
Price: $844.94 Check price at Amazon.com
Maker: Emotion Kayaks
Weight: 58 lbs.
Capacity: 300 lbs.
Material: UV-Protected high-density Polyethylene
- Ultra lite seat with padded backrest.
- Storage in rear tank well (with cargo net).
- 3 fishing rod holders.
- Self-bailing scupper holes.
- Paddle keeper
- Carry handles on bow, stern, and both sides.
- 8″ locking hatch.
- Easy-roll skeg wheel (help transport and tracking).
- Molded footwells.
Once you break the $500.00 barrier, the quality of the kayak begins to increase. It is a sit-on-top kayak, and users report that the seat is very comfortable. The solid plastic construction allows for adding many accessories, including a trolling motor.
- Rugged enough to add a trolling motor.
- Can also add fish finder, extra straps, etc.
- 3 rod holders.
- Sit-on-top kayak.
- Very stable when seated.
- Good price.
- Reasonable weight.
- Not stable enough to stand up in.
- Scupper holes under seat seat wet your butt.
- Skeg wheel is small and sometimes the kayak rolls over.
WHO IS IT FOR?
This is a very nice kayak that’s not too expensive and offers many advantages. It needs some room for storage, so it’s best for someone with their own home, or access to a garage or shed to store it in.
It can easily accept a trolling motor, which vastly increases mobility and distances able to be fished.
Of the first 3 models featured here, this would be the first choice I would recommend. It costs a few more dollars than the previous listed, but it’s ability to accept a trolling motor makes it my recommendation. It’s not the best fishing kayak (see #5 for that, in MHO!), but it’s a durable and serviceable fishing kayak.
Here’s a video to demonstrate the Emotion Stealth 11 Kayak
Price: $1,799.00 Check price at Amazon.com
Maker: Wilderness Systems
Length: 14′ 1″
Weight: 86 lbs.
Capacity: 550 lbs.
- Extremely comfortable AirPro MAX seat
- Open deck walk space w/ traction pads
- Enclosed bow storage and additional storage throughout
- Wind shedding hull
- Integrated paddle park
- Self-bailing scupper holes
- Paddle keeper
- Oversized metal grab handles on bow and stern; molded-in side handles
- FlexPod OS electronics console
- Wilderness Systems’ tri-hull design
- Wilderness Systems’ lifetime warranty
The Wilderness Systems ATAK — Advanced Tactical Angling Kayak — was designed for fishing. It includes a number of features specifically developed for your fishing adventures.
- Seat keeps you in the water longer.
- Very stable.
- Carries heavy loads.
- Rod storage system.
- Spacious storage.
- Built in handles.
- Accepts trolling motor.
- Great resale value.
- Easy to paddle.
- Heavy for one person.
- Rod holders are extra.
- Replacement parts can be difficult to obtain.
- FlexPod not watertight, will electronics be affected?
- Cup holder doesn’t drain (issue reported by one reviewer — seems like a tiny issue, but wanted to report what I learned!).
WHO IT IS FOR
The Wilderness Systems ATAK — Advanced Tactical Angling Kayak — is a great choice for the angler serious about fishing and requiring a kayak that will carry tremendous loads.
It has a comfortable seating system, which allows you to fish longer than some other kayaks. That maximizes the time you can stay out on the water!
You can add a trolling motor for greater distances, and a fish finder to locate your quarry.
The ATAK is certainly not cheap, but there are more costly kayaks out there. Generally speaking, the more you pay, the more you get! At this price, it certainly makes sense to check it out carefully, and take a test float if possible.
This is the best fishing kayak I’ve mentioned thus far.
However, given the price for the ATAK, I would want to save up a bit longer and shoot for the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler. But if that’s not possible, then this is a great choice.
AND, it is sometimes possible to get great deals on last year’s model.
==> Check Wilderness Systems fishing kayaks at Amazon.com <==
Check out the ATAK!
Overall Ranking: 9.5 0ut of 10
Price: $3,149.00 Check price at Amazon.com
Maker: Hobie Kayaks
Weight: 98 lbs. (Hull); 120 lbs. (Fully Rigged)
Capacity: 350 lbs.
Material: Rotomolded Polyethylene
- MirageDrive with Glide Technology
- Vantage ST Seating w/ Boa® system lumbar support
- Dual steering
- 6 rod holders (2 vertical & 4 horizontal)
- Tackle storage under seat and pivoting system in large rectangular hatch
- Retractable Rudder
- Front and rear carrying handles
- Replaceable mounting boards
- Sail mount
OPTION READY FEATURES
- Lowrance® ready
- eVolve™ electric motor slot
- Livewell-ready cargo area
- eVolve™ electric motor kit
- H-Bar stand up assist
Here is my number one, no holds barred, tip-top, pinnacle, absolute favorite, no questions asked, best recommendation for a fishing kayak.
This kayak is propelled by the MirageDrive with Glide Technology pedal drive system. Seeing is believing.
Mirage Drive Introduction
You use your big, strong, BassHole LEGS to glide you (and you can go fast!) through the water, as opposed to your arms.
Besides, aren’t your arms and hands busy fishing? Casting, hauling in that big bass, casting again. You can’t do all that while you’re paddling with an oar!
Hobie offers incredible customer service. Though their products are nearly indestructible, I read 2 reviews that reported a crack in the hull, which Hobie replaced! And 1 was a Hobie purchased second hand! They back their products.
- Again, hands free kayaking.
- Very stable, you can even stand up to fish.
- Awesome Hobie customer service and support.
- Adjustable seat supports even large BassHoles.
- Sit-On-Top (SOT) kayak.
- Accepts trolling motors.
- You can mount a fish finder.
- Great storage and tackle systems.
- Useable in both fresh and salt water.
- Combines fishing and exercise!
- HEAVY! At 120 lbs., this boat requires some means to transporting it to the water.
- Trailer (see below for one person loading on car top).
- PRICEY! I don’t have one because I don’t have the bucks. Yet.
- Mandatory minimum $189.00 freight charge (but at this price, what’s another couple hundred bucks?)
- All options are also pricey. But with Hobie’s excellent customer service, “you get what you pay for.”
- Hobie eVolve Torqeedo trolling motor is $2,149.00! It’s a great addition, but wow!
WHO IT IS FOR
Compared to watercraft costing $20,000.00 to $50,000.00 and more, the Hobie suddenly becomes very affordable. Even equipped with all the accessories.
Make no mistake, it’s a premium priced kayak, but a premium product.
Hobie Fishing has it’s own FaceBook page, and it’s fun to read about all the fun BassHoles (and other fisherfolk) are having in their Hobies.
Here’s a video to show how to set up your Hobie Pro Angler, and explains the many bells and whistles.
Hobie Mirage Pro Angler
Despite it’s weight, it is possible for a solo BassHole to load the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler onto a car top:
As mentioned above, Hobie’s customer support is legendary!
It’s a lot! But compared to a fishing boat, well, a bargain?
I have a pontoon craft made by Hobie, and have had it for 20 years. It’s still going strong! The only issue I had was the seat posts broke after years and years and years of use. Luckily I was able to add a clip in stadium seat, and keep on fishing!
It takes a lot of money to get a Hobie. But if you CAN afford it, it’s a great value.
They seem to retain their resale value as well. Used Hobie’s are offered for not much less than new ones, at least for a few years.
If you can arrange a test ride at a local kayak dealer, I greatly recommend that before laying out thousands of dollars for the Hobie. But I haven’t found any buyers who reported regrets!
There are other Hobie Mirage Drive kayaks, so:
I’m currently debating between a kayak or an inflatable pontoon boat (read that review here) to upgrade my fishing vessel.
If I had the money (or WHEN I have the money?), I would most certainly buy the Hobie MirageDrive Kayak. It is a fishing machine!
- Safety. Stable, plenty of floatation
- Comfort. As I said, I prefer sitting on top as opposed to with my legs straight forward.
- Growth Potential. Even if I can’t get a trolling motor to start, eventually I will want to be able to add that feature.
- Customer Service. As far as I can tell, all these kayak and inflatable pontoon boats are backed with stellar customer service (let me know if you’ve have a poor experience!).
- Range. I love my Hobie Float Cat 75, but my range is quite limited. With these upgrades, I believe my range would be significantly increased, especially if I mounted a trolling motor!
- Fishing Craft. Of course you can buy great kayaks that aren’t designed for fishing, but that’s all I want them for, so whatever I buy will need to be designed for a fishing BassHole!
Finally, as I stated earlier, if possible take a “test float” in whatever type of craft you think you want. Compare and contrast! Get the one that fits your needs best. And then come back and tell your fellow BassHoles everything you learned!
Until then, Tight lines!
Roger, The Smiling bassHole